Dips and sips


Professional basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire, who proudly proclaims an ill-defined Jewish heritage and is researching it – has added something called “vinotherapy” to his post-workout recovery program. Sounds like code for simply getting buzzed on wine, right? Well, not in this instance.

Vinotherapy involves immersing or soaking in either a dilution of red wine or winemaking detritus – grape skins, leaves, branches, and vines. After each vinotherapy treatment Stoudemire told reporters that “my legs felt rejuvenated. I felt great, so I’m going to continue to do that for sure.” According to the New York Daily News, the New York Knicks forward has been taking these 40-minute-long vinotherapy treatments on his off days for the last eight months or so.

Sure one can chalk this up to the silliness of the rich and famous, but there is arguably a bit of science to this luxury fad. OK, just a little bit, but still, it merits our attention here.

Red wine contains compounds called polyphenols (of which the most famous is resveratrol) that have some purported health benefits. There is an entire literature related to the health benefits of wine and the so-called “French Paradox” (the 1980s-era catchphrase regarding the apparent anomalous epidemiological observation that the French suffer less heart disease than American despite enjoying a more rich, high-fat diet). There have also been claims that the oils in red wine grape seeds can help prevent wrinkles in human skin.


On the strength of all this, Mathilde Cathiard-Thomas, the daughter of the co-owner of the Bordeaux wine property Chateaux Smith-Haut-Lafitte, founded Caudalie, the skin-care company whose products are based upon grape seed oils. Caudalie later expanded into vinotherapy by first opening a 30-room spa-hotel near a Bordeaux estate, and it now has six other spas in various locations, including New York City, and remains a leader in the vinotherapy field.

All of that said, there is no proof that applying wine or winemaking detritus directly to one’s skin helps with blood circulation or skin wrinkles. If Stoudemire has a productive season, we may see vinotherapy become a more regular accoutrement in professional sports locker rooms.

Our own preferred way to relax after a hard week involves sips not dips.

For the upcoming cooler weather, consider a kosher red blend from the Ramat Negev Winery (formerly known as Kadesh Barnea), the Neve Midbar 2011 ($24). An easy-drinking blend of 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, 35 percent petit verdot and 15 percent merlot, it begins with dark fruit and floral aromas that proceed within a medium frame into plum, dark cherry and leather flavors that are nicely balanced. Certainly worth sipping while relaxing in a hot tub or by a cozy fireplace.

Spirits-wise, our thoughts drifted back, as they inevitably do, to Scotland. In these days of international drink conglomerates, distant and disconnected accountant-driven decision making, leadership by executive committees and marketing by professionals, family-owned-and-operated distilleries in Scotland are few and far between. One of the very best, however, is the pretty Glenfarclas Distillery in Ballindalloch, Speyside, just off the A95 road between Aberlour and Grantown-on-Spey. It provides an excellent whisky, and a fine distillery tour for all you whisky tourists out there.

The name Glenfarclas is Scots Gaelic for “the valley of the green grassland.”

Glenfarclas has a large portfolio of malts and a wide range of high-end limited release expressions, all with elements of the “house style” which is big, complex, nutty, malty and comparatively sweet, with the clear influence of sherry cask maturation (“sherried” in whisky-geek lingo). Here are a bunch of the core Glenfarclas expressions to seek out and taste:

Glenfarclas 10-year-old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $50): this deep, lightly sherried whisky offers rich aromas and flavors of red plums, raisins, ginger, apples, nuts, vanilla and other spices, with just a background hint of smoke. This balanced, stimulating, light but rich dram has a few youthful edges, but tastes more mature than it is.
Glenfarclas 17-year-old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $100): A deliciously playful, rich, big, yet refined and complex, sherried whisky, with notes of butterscotch, custard, honey, ginger, malt, dates, raisins, a touch of char and a long-lasting, slightly drying finish with a hint of spice.

Glenfarclas 25-year-old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $170): Amazing whisky. The usual Glenfarclas elements are all here in this stellar, pungent, absorbing, complex, nutty, tangy and even chocolatety whisky. Aromatically enticing, especially with a little time and a dash of water. While the palate is deceptively simple, though beautiful, it is the lengthy, mesmerizing finish where this whisky really struts its stuff. This is a smooth, balanced, fruity, sherried and simply excellent whisky.


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