Have Your Wine for Dessert

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The makers of Wine Cellar Sorbets

Bret Birnbaum and David Zablocki love wine so much, they freeze it and eat it for dessert. But they're sharing it, too — through their new business, Wine Cellar Sorbet.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Oh, if Bacchus could be in our studio right now.

BILL WOLFF, host:

Yeah, Laura, you ought to get it.

STEWART: You absolutely have to.

LAURA CONAWAY: Yeah. Turn off my mic. I'm coming.

WOLFF: Yeah, this is important.

STEWART: Bottle of red, bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of rose tonight for dessert.

WOLFF: Yeah. Not wine - not dessert wine either, wine as dessert. This is cold, sweet, delicious scoopable alcoholic sorbet. It's billed as the adult dessert for sophisticated palates. Wine Cellar Sorbet, one of the only desserts for which you must show ID, Alison.

STEWART: The pint-sized containers say they have only five percent of alcohol in them, compared to 11 to 14 a bottle of the pure stuff, but it is, we're told, fully capable of giving you a heady rush, same as a glass of Trevino(ph), which is probably why you shouldn't, you know, cradle a pint, spoon in hand, and knock it out like chunky monkey.

WOLFF: Or maybe you should.

STEWART: Or maybe you should, if you don't have to drive anywhere.

WOLFF: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Bret Birnbaum, one of the creators of this cool confection is the co-founder of the Wine Cellar Sorbet. Bret, thanks for bringing in the wine.

Mr. BRET BIRNBAUM (Co-Founder, Wine Cellar Sorbet): Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

STEWART: You seeing that our staff is assembled because I actually said, hey, could somebody come in and do a taste while we're talking to Bret?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: I always think it's me that's drawing crowds, but it's usually the sorbet.

STEWART: Pull up the microphone just a little bit, so we can hear you.

WOLFF: Sure. Yeah. We announced that there was some form of alcohol - I haven't seen half of these people before in my life. I don't know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BIRNBAUM: I'm going to check that each.

WOLFF: They're running in from 43rd Street.

STEWART: So, what are the - I mean, where did the first idea come that you guys really wanted to make a sorbet that is purely out of wine, as opposed to just being one component?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Sure. Well, I grew up in Queens with my best friend, Dave Zablocki, who couldn't be here today.

STEWART: Hi, Dave.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Dave is an amazing chef and - long story short, he and - we're going to start a restaurant together, you know, back in Brooklyn. I was going to grad school back in 2002 and '03 in Brooklyn. In the city, but I was living in Brooklyn, I was like, Dave, we got to start a wine bar, and all that. And Dave was all on board. And one day he called me up and said, hey Bret, how about we put this wine sorbet on the menu. I learned how make it when I was chef out in California and it's delicious, it's perfect for a wine bar. And I was in business school at the time, I'm like, oh, my God, there's the marketing idea that I've always dreamed about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BIRNBAUM: I said, forget about a wine bar, let's be the Ben & Jerry's of the wine world. So, we started a label called Wine Cellar Sorbets and here we are.

STEWART: Was there any reason in terms of when you did your business model, I'm sure you did your planning that someone hadn't tried this before?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: You know, that was fascinating to me. I mean, when you do your research and you're like, Google and wine sorbet and your heart's pounding, like, did anyone do this before? And amazingly, to me, no one did it and that's when I was like, Dave, you know, we were doing our research. Should we really do it? And I was like, oh, my goodness, no one's really done it. And I guess there's no real hard and fast - reason why, but what I've come back to is that it's really hard to make.

STEWART: Yeah.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: It's really difficult to make and it's difficult to make well. It took us a while to get our formulations correct, our recipes right. And it's an art about what finding the right wine rather than a science, as opposed to making ice cream, which is, you know, you put this much cream, you put this much sugar. It's very exact. Wine sorbet, it's all about that wine.

WOLFF: So, are you making the wine, are you selecting wines?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Well, actually, Dave is - his title our sorbet sommelier.

WOLFF: Oh.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: And…

WOLFF: Bonjour.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: WOLFF: Pardon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Trademark.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: And Dave…

STEWART: He's a business guy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Don't ever say that again.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: But I'm really finally got to be heard. You know, Dave's sorbet sommelier and really, what he does - being part of his job is to work with the vintners to find the correct wine. We buy wines by the barrel, we don't buy bottles of wine. We buy barrels of wine, directly from the vineyards. And we literally go out and find the right vintage, the right varietal that we know is going to translate well into the sorbet, because when we put it through our processing, things - you know, you concentrate, you wash out others, it's all about making sure that the wine's varietal characteristics are shining through in every bite of that wine. For example, when you eat our Cabernet Sauvignon, you know you're eating cab versus Pinot Noir.

WOLFF: I have some right here.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Yeah.

STEWART: Oh, explain it. Wait, is it going to have a chocolaty finish with under tones of oak and something else?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: It's absolutely, well, I mean, I defy anyone - when you eat our cab, it's bone dry on that finish. You're getting a tone - you know, earth, you're getting some tobacco, but you're getting a big block cherry start, too - so it's like, whoa.

WOLFF: Well, let's just see.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Yeah.

WOLFF: I'm going to put it to the test here.

STEWART: All right.

WOLFF: Stand by. You can't hear this but I'm eating ice cream.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Sorbet.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Sorbet, no cream.

WOLFF: Well, well. I would say that tastes a lot like a Cabernet Sauvignon. And if I knew anything about wine, I'd tell you all about how stemy(ph) or fruity, or casky, or woody, or nutty - whatever it is. But that is what wine taste like. Good wine.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: It's actually a 2005 California Cabernet Sauvignon. And we actually put that vintage and varietal - what should I say, vinicultural information about where that wine comes from on the actual lid.

STEWART: Oh.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: If you look at the lids of pints, it shows you the year of that wine and shows you where that wine came from. And when we run out of that varietal, just like the wines are different from year to year, we're going to find a new Cabernet Sauvignon. This year's from California, next year maybe from Chile.

STEWART: All right.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: And we're going to put it on our label.

STEWART: Caitlin, our producer's got something. What do you have? Where'd you pick up?

CAITLIN KENNEY: Oh, I'm having the cab as well. And I just want to say that we did some blind taste testing before - I know we didn't do quite our best. We do think the sorbet stayed very true to the wine flavors.

STEWART: It did indeed. What do you have, Dan?

DAN PASHMAN: The news has been canceled.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Dan's been - head into that pint. He's licking the lid.

PASHMAN: Yeah. I'm working on the rose over here, Ali.

STEWART: And what it - can you describe it for us?

PASHMAN: I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest wine connoisseur so it tastes like a light red wine or a strong white wine or is it, I guess, what rose is supposed to taste like. I mean, I - when our friend Bret comes back with some Bud Light sorbet, then I can critique that one in a few years.

STEWART: So what do you think, Ian(ph)? What do you have?

IAN: I got the sangria here, which has actual fruit.

STEWART: Yes, oh.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: It does. Actually, we actually put a little orange wedge at the top of the pint…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: …in the tradition of sangria having fruit in it. Our sangria - we're using a dry blend of Spanish red wine and we actually did - that's the only one that we actually combined with some orange juice because it's sangria so it's - supposed to have juice. All the other, all our other five varietals, there is no other flavor. And so in other words, there is no fruit juice, there's no berries, there's no flavoring. We start with the wine, it's the number one ingredient in our sorbet. There's some all natural, it's all natural, a little bit sugar, a little bit of stabilizer and that's it.

WOLFF: It really - it is remarkable.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Yeah.

WOLFF: It tastes like wine.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Yeah.

WOLFF: Really like - well, it doesn't taste like sorbet flavored-like wine. It tastes like wine.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Exactly. We are about the wine world.

IAN: But I'm eating it fast. I don't think it's working.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Well, it's also…

IAN: I'm like half the pint deep here.

WOLFF: It's wine in the form that will give you a cold headache as well…

STEWART: Yeah.

WOLFF: …as a hangover. Fantastic. Do you have…

Mr. BIRNBAUM: ...hangovers.

WOLFF: Now, we have friends. Of course, I think everybody has friends who are insufferable wine snots…

STEWART: Vinofiles?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Absolute.

WOLFF: Well - do you have sorbet vinophiles?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: We're starting to - it's amazing, actually, I get random e-mails every day saying how someone discovers it and they love it. It's interesting, I mean, part of what we're about - we love wine. Dave and I are big wine fans and Dave's trained out in Napa Valley, food and wine pairing. He's excellent but he is the ultimate approachable big chef guy, and he's like, wines should be appreciated by everybody. You don't have to be educated in wine. You just go out, get a bottle, enjoy it, you know. It's so frustrating when people are so intimidated and they don't want to try it. Well, we feel like we really bring the wine in a less intimidating way to folks - people who want to get into wine and just try it out for the first time. It's a nice way to approach it, you know. You can go to the supermarket, pick it up.

STEWART: When am I supposed to have this because I think that sorbet is either a palate cleanser or a light - ends a meal…

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Sure.

STEWART: …unless they have - get a pint before dinner or what?

Mr. BIRNBAUM: That actually, that's the beautiful thing about. We're trying to create more than just the dessert here. Sorbet - most sorbets are - sorbet is a fruit-based ice, very sweet usually, over the top on your pallet. Our sorbet is the - it ranges in, you know, from a sweeter, from the rose - and the rose is sweeter - to a very dry Pinot Noir or the champagne, much lighter on the palate, so it really allows the chef or someone who just loves to cook, you know, a foodie, to really start using it in creative ways for deserts pairing it with - like your tarts or your pies, or your chocolate cakes or use it in before dinner with your cheese because they pair incredibly well with cheese.

WOLFF: I can see that.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Think food and wine.

IAN: Yeah.

Mr. BIRNBAUM:When we do our Whole Foods demos, we'll go to the cheese folks' table: What, what cheese do you want to move today and we'll - they'll cube us up some cheese and we'll pair them.

WOLFF: What, what cheese do you want to move today and we'll - they'll cube us up some cheese and we'll pair them.

STEWART: Well, you're available in specialty stores. We'll write up on our blog a little bit where people can get these wine sorbets. I haven't heard from Pauline for the past eight minutes.

PAULINE BARTOLONE: She's just…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BARTOLONE: Champagne, I just keep on eating it. It's a very good breakfast. Very refreshing.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: It's excellent. Breakfast of champions, I like to say. Or you can order them online and nationally at our Web site at winecellarsorbet.com.

STEWART: Bret Birnbaum..

WOLFF: Congratulations.

STEWART: Thanks a lot.

WOLFF: That was a great idea and I'm impressed that you all followed through.

Mr. BIRNBAUM: Thank you very much.

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