How to Host a Swirl Party

  • 0

The business of food and wine is surely the “Golden Ticket” of a Willy Wonka dream come true. Forget all the poundage that comes with the tastings and samplings, (average food writer gains 40 lbs. during their career) we just tend to dive in with fork, knife, or in this case wine glass. Sarasota Magazine was fortunate to receive numerous cases of wine this past spring, no doubt the vineyards hoping we would write about their grape varietals and tannins. Well, it worked! Pam Daniel organized our first “Swirl Party” a few weeks back. So, with 30 odd wine glasses and a host of some of my favorite editors (or wine drinkers) in town- we swirled.

Of course when you host a swirl party- most importantly besides the art of swirling is the designated swirl afficianto- aka Robert Fottler. Now Bob is one of those wine geniuses. Have know Marsha and Robert for at least 12 years and Bob has never steered me wrong in his wine selections. So, no wonder when we gave him the task of teaching our staff the ins and outs of swirling and the background of the wines- Robert taught as though he were at UC Davis. We swirled, we pondered and we did not spit (waste of a good wine, and besides it was past 5:00 pm- a respectable hour indeed). So, without further adu- I pass the cork screw to our Sommelier du Sarasota Mag swirl Party guru- Robert Fottler

Swillfest 2008


(Bless the Robb Report for this Opportunity)

“The common denominator of these wines is that they represent Southern Hemisphere (New World) expressions of Northern Hemisphere (Old World), specifically French, grape varietals. The wines produced by the Chilean producer Viña Calina make use of grapes brought to Chile from the Bordeaux region of France; while Yangarra is an Australian producer whose wines are made from grapes most often associated with the Rhone Valley of France.

1. Viña Calina is a Chilean vintner, located in the Maule Valley (from which Santa Rita also hails), between the Andes Mountains and the Costal range. It is owned by Kendall-Jackson. Calina produces wines under three different labels:

a. Calina Reserva which sells in the $7-10/btl range

b. Alcance is in the $15 range ( This mid-level wine was a gosod example of this grape)

c. Bravura their flagship Bordeaux blend. If it was produced in Napa, it would be called a meritage wine (80% Cab, 15% merlot, 5% carmenere). It lists for c. $50/btl. Using 100% French barrels (40% new), it has only made this wine since 1999.

Calina emphasizes the production of red wines made from grapes originally imported from Bordeaux. The grape of greatest interest for Americans is Carmenere, which is no longer favored in Bordeaux. Calina’s 2005 Calina Alcance Carmenere was a gold medal winner last year in Chile and its 2003 Carmenere won Best of Red blends in Chile. Ideally, its flavor should reference blackberries, blueberries, and cassis. It most closely resembles merlot.

2. Yangarra is an Aussie producer, located in McLaren Vale. The Vale is c. 40 miles from Adelaide in South Australia and has enjoyed grape and wine production for more than 150 years. Yangarra is an aboriginal word for “from the earth,” an attempt to emphasize a sense of terroir as well as political correctness, in an era when people have become concerned with their carbon footprint.

While Calina’s wines emphasize Bordeux’s grapes, Yangarra produces a variety of wines whose grape origins are in the Rhone Valley of France. Their 2005 High Sands Grenache ($80)spent 24 months on Fr oak and received a 93 in the Wine Advocate. The other grapes of the Rhone Valley that are emphasized in Australia are Syrah (called Shiraz down under). and Semillon often blended with chardonnay in Australia but used to make sauternes in France.

Two wines are worth special attention, but for different reasons:

a. Yangarra Viognier: 2007 was the 1st year of this wines release ($25). It should taste of apricots and have a somewhat floral aroma, full body with low acidity.

b. Yangarra Cardenzia: the name is actually taken from the musical term cardenza (a vehicle for brief solo improvisation). It is, in fact, a classic blend of the Southern Rhone Valley consisting of 68% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 55 Mouvedre. It also retails in the $25 range.

(We tasted Yangarra’s Grenache and Syrah. Both were smooth and finished versions of these grape varieties.)”

A few ideas for your swirl party:

Get tasting notes and then decide what foods would pair best

It is both fun and cost effective once you know the tasting notes to have people select a dish to bring that matches a wine

When serving all red wines, bring teeth whitener- by the end of the night we all had a cabernet blend on the pearly whites

Culinary Director

As the Culinary Director for ABC 7, I whip up cooking segments on ABC 7 News at Noon, along with recipes, cooking tips, reviews and great food finds on MySuncoast Dining at