About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!
Website: http://agoodtimewithwine.com
Matt.mmwine has written 193 articles so far, you can find them below.

About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!

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Here are my most recent posts

Gramercy Cellars and DeLille Cellars Washington State Syrah

The non-profit group Hospice du Rhone endeavors to educate about and promote the Rhone grape varietals. Rhone varietals include Grenach, Mouvedre, and today’s topic, Syrah, along with other lesser known grapes such as Bourboulenc and Camarese. Syrah is a grape that offers many expressions, from the peppery Shiraz you’ll find in Australia, to the round and fruit focused Syrah you’ll find in California. It’s a grape that takes on the characteristics of the terroir, the earth that the grapes come from, and will be different whether from France, California or Washington. A group of wine writers received four Washington Syrah samples from Hospice du Rhone, and taste the wines together, using twitter to discuss our notes. I fired up the grill, cooking some mild Italian sausage and some hamburgers, and set out to taste the first two of the four wines.

Gramercy Cellars 2007 Syrah

Gramercy Cellars 2007 Syrah

The first wine of the night was from Gramercy Cellars which was founded in 2005 by Master Sommelier Greg Harrington and his wife Pam. The 2007 Lagniappe Syrah is co-fermented with 2% Viognier, which will add floral notes to the wine, and is then aged 15 months in neutral French oak. It’s made with fruit sourced from neighboring vineyards in Columbia Valley, while their own two vineyards mature.  Initially tight on the nose, displaying some “meaty berry” notes after about 30 minutes of air, the palate was subdued black fruit with some leather and pepper. However, paired with grilled Italian sausage, the wine began to shine, showing additional complexities including layers of mocha under the fruit.  With food, the pepper finish eased and the berry and mocha flavors come through, and the wine became a well balanced accompaniment to the meal.

The team at Gramercy indeed specifically makes their wines with a food pairing focus, and I found it all too easy to enjoy another sip after a bite of grilled hamburger or sausage. At $38, the wine not only complimented the meal, but it stood up well the next day. On the second day, the Lagniappe Syrah’s bouquet opened a bit more, showing dark fruit on the nose. The palate seemed a bit rounder, with a jammy berry focus, similar to grabbing handfuls of fresh blackberries and shoving them in your mouth, until it overflows. The finish, however, retained it’s white pepper component and was still screaming for some food to help tame it. All in all a nice wine which is definitely made with food in mind.

DeLille Cellars Doyenne 2007 Syrah

DeLille Cellars Doyenne 2007 Syrah

Next up was DeLille Cellars 2007 Doyenne Syrah from Yakima Valley, WA. This Syrah was blend with 2% Viognier as well, though aging and fermentation information were not available. The nose was not very fragrant after being open 45 minutes, and it could have decanted over an hour and a half to reach full potential. It had that “meaty fruit” bouquet, but nothing stood out as “wow”. The palate was dark fruit and cocoa, similar to the Gramercy, with a soft silky approach and a powerful finish. However, the Doyenne Syrah really screamed when paired with food. Sipping after a bite of the grilled sausage brought out a cascade of flavors, especially spicy chocolate.

The second night found the Doyenne still smooth and silky, as the wine opened up in the bottle. There were great blackberry and black raspberry flavors, with the oak showing a little bit on the finish. At $50, I would have a hard time just plunking this wine down on the table to sip on. However, with a meal, such as grilled meats of any sort, I wouldn’t hesitate a second to pop open this bottle! I’d like to see how this wine matures over 3-4 years, and the DeLille Cellars website has an aging chart for their wines, which noted this Syrah as a “Hold”.

Have you had a Syrah from Washington, or anywhere, that really stands out? Let us know about it, leave a comment below. Next up, we’ll talk about the other two Syrah we taste that evening, including one from Charles Smith, the Food and Wine 2009 Winemaker of the Year.

Introducing you to organic and biodynamic wines

I am not naive enough that you hadn’t been introduced to organic wines or biodynamic wines before we (digitally) met. I’d like to think that after watching my short segment from CBS Daybreak above, and reading the information here, you’ll go forward into the wine world a tad more enlightened about the methods the grapes are grown, and wines are made. Three minutes was hardly enough to scratch the surface of this topic, plus tell you about the three fantastic wines I brought on the show, so please read on.

I tend to shy away from marketing hype, and feel all too often people will toss words on labels to influence your buying habits. Make it “Eco Friendly” and suddenly you switch everything from vegetables to dish washing soap, regardless of it being a better product or not. I shied away from organic wines for that reasons, and one other; historically organic wines were lousy.  Whether it was just poor choices on my part, the lack of sulfites to qualify for the organic labeling, or my disposition to the hype, up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t consider recommending an organic wine.  Actually, I still rarely recommend organic wines, but rather recommend wines made from organically grown grapes.

For a wine to be labeled an “Organic Wine”, it must be made from grapes that are grown organically and have no added sulfites. The sulfites act as a preservative, prohibit fermentation in the bottle, and allow for production of consistent wines over time. The Organic Wine label doesn’t mean sulfite free, however.  In fact, all wines contain sulfites, and though most people tell me they have “Red Wine Headaches” from sulfites, white wine contains a slightly higher amount of sulfite than red. It’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation process, and can’t be eliminated (practically) from wine. Speaking of wine, lets cover those first, then the details on the growing practices.

Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

In Marlborough, New Zealand there is a winery making wines via organic and biodynamic principles that rock. The Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from their two certified organic vineyards, Home and Tatou, and is made from 95% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillon. I positively disagree with the winemakers tasting notes, who says it displays grass on the nose with chalky mineral complexity. This wine is quite straightforward, taking a tangerine, and sprinkling it with lemon juice. It’s bright, flavorful, with a bursting bouquet to match the palate. I think of sunshine in a bottle, and promise you a bottle of this on your spring and summer table, with a few different types of goat cheese will have your guests thinking you’re a wine guru! The Seresin Estate 08 Sauvignon Blanc is about $21.

Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling

Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling

Globe trotting over to the US from New Zealand, we land in Oregon, where we are enjoying Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling. Labeled as grapes organically certified by Stellar Certification Services as well as Demeter Certified Biodynamic grapes, this bottle delivers a wide range of wine experiences. The nose has an incredible petrol scent, laced with sweet apricots. The palate is semi-sweet stone fruit, but crisp, not cloying. It has a medium mouth feel, and also sings when paired with goat cheese, but this wine can be paired with salads, seafood, or drank on it’s own quite nicely. This delicious white wine is available for under $15.

Odfjell - Orzada - Malbec

Odfjell - Orzada - Malbec

The last leg of our World Wine tasting takes us to Chile, which I’ve written about often. I firmly believe South America offers some fantastic values on great wines, and think Chile leads that charge. Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipping magnate, settled in Chile after falling in love with it, and began planning vineyards about 15 years ago. Odfjell makes a number of different lines on their 85 hectacres, and have vineyards in the Colchagua and Maipo Valley where their Carmenere comes from, as well as organically farmed vineyards in Cauquenes and Curico, where the Orzada Malbec comes from.

Malbec is typically an Argentine grape, but Odfjell does a great job with it. This wine has a bouquet of violets, and a palate of berries with the violets coming through as well. It’s a medium mouth feel and dry, while being delightful to just sip as the tannins aren’t too firm. Pair the Odfjell Orzada Malbec with some roasted or grilled meats, steaks or lamb chops for example, and it is fantastic. Definitely give this wine a good 30 minutes to decant and open up, or it’s a bit jammy on the palate and not it’s true potential. You can find the Odfjell Orzada Malbec for about $20.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets talk about the three types of “green” winemaking, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic.

Kris O’Connor, Executive Director of the Central Coast Vineyard Team pointed out that Sustainable farm practices “look at the whole farm – energy, water quality, habitat, water conservation, integrated pest management & people. Several of these issues aren’t necessarily specifically addressed in organic or biodynamic certification standards.” Some Central Coast Vineyard Team member vineyards are “Sustainability in Practice” certified, who’s wines I’ve enjoyed and written about such as Hahn Estates, Baileyana-Tangent, and Paraiso Vineyards.

Sustainable winemaking means that growers don’t use man-made chemicals to fertilize the vineyards to improve crop results. The growers will use natural fertilizers, composting and other cultivation methods to attract beneficial insects to the vines while feeding the plant. Additionally, sustainable farming practices will enrich the surrounding habitat, such as providing grazing areas for animals away from the vineyards so they don’t eat the crops, or restoring  nearby streams or rivers to enhance the entire local ecosystem. There are of course standards to be met, and upheld, to be certified sustainable by organizations such as SIP, much like in organic wine making.

Organic winemaking takes the basic premise of sustainable farming, and goes a step further. Organic vineyard management eliminates the use of not only chemical fertilizer, but any chemical pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide in the growing process. The vineyard will employ natural methods of controlling pests and vine threatening diseases, as well as promoting vine growth and health. However, just because the grapes are grown organically does not allow a wine to be labeled as organic. As I mentioned previously, the wine can have no added sulfites in addition to having organically farmed grapes to earn the “Organic Wine” label. Additionally, many wines will be produced organically, but not mention it on the label. Rather, they just let the quality of their wine speak for itself. There was an interesting piece on wines labeled as Organic, or Eco-Friendly, which sell for less.

Biodynamic winemaking takes sustainable, and organic farming to the next level. That next level does include a little bit of voodoo and witchcraft, with burying a cow horn full of cow manure on the Autumn equinox, and digging it up six months later on the Spring equinox to spread the contents in the vineyard. No, really. Biodynamic farming has it’s roots back in the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Quite a complex science and way of thinking, I can only summarize the biodynamic farming ideology by saying that it takes into account the spiritual forces of earth, animal, plants and brings them in line through a holistic, and natural approach to keeping them all healthy and in sync.

The crux of the methodology is the vineyard is a living system that is closed, and self-sustaining. It shares many of the attributes of organic farming; no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers or other chemical preparations in the earth or vine.  Grapes are harvested by hand, and much if not all of the vineyard work is done manually without the use of powered machines. It then takes into account the rhythm of the universe, such as the use nine types of preparations to dynamize soil quality and stimulate plant life. The preparations are a mixture of extracts from minerals, plants, or animal manure. Furthermore, the farmers only sow and reap harvests according to principles they believe control the cosmos. For instance, wine is only racked under a new moon because sediment is at its most compact at this time. The tidal pull of a full moon causes it to puff up, insiders say. I could go on forever, talking about wines that are Demeter certified Biodynamic and what that means, but I think we’ve gotten the jist of it all.

What do you think about organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines? Do they impact your buying decisions? Now that you know about the differences, will it impact your buying decisions? Leave a comment below, I’ll be sure to reply, and possibly follow up via email! Cheers!

Great Wines for your Grilling Times

The weather is perfect to fire up the grill, invite some friends over, and have your first backyard BBQ of the season.  As you saw in the short video above, I brought three wines into the CBS12 WPEC studios today to offer you suggestions to make your grilled food and wine pairing perfect this summer season.

Huber Hugo - Gruner Veltliner - 2008

Huber Hugo - Gruner Veltliner - 2008

Our first wine, a versatile white from Austria, comes from Weingut Huber. The 10th generation to work the winery, Markus took over the reigns in 2000, after a stint in South Africa where he really learned about wine making. Gruner Veltliner may not be a wine you’re familiar with, but you’ll thank me for introducing it to you.  Crisp and clean, it’s a wine that will range from citrus driven with great minerality and acidity (as this one is), to soft peach and apricot flavors and floral notes.

Gruner Veltliner, or GruVee, is a wine that will pair with nearly any food you put with it. Starting with the cheese plate, it’ll play wonderfully with any rich cheese, and even “Stinky” cheese! You dont stop there, however, and try it with grilled chicken, fish, lobster, pork, as well as spicy Thai or even sushi. The video has great descriptive tasting information, so be sure to watch. The Huber Hugo Gruner Veltliner is available for about $12.

Morande Reserva Pinot Noir 2008

Morande Reserva Pinot Noir 2008

The next wine that should be at any back yard BBQ this season is a Pinot Noir from Chile.  Yes, Chile. I know you have enjoyed Pinot Noir from France, California, and Oregon; now it’s time to try one from Chile. Morande, founded in 1996, makes some delicious wines, including a Carmenere in their Pionero line that has this fantastic eucalyptus note that rocks! The grapes come from the Casablanca Valley, and the maritime influence on the weather provides cool enough growing conditions to make a great Pinot at a great price. You can get the Morande Reserva Pinot Noir for under $12

Pinot Noir is a red wine that has a very wide sprectum of expressions. It can be light to medium bodied, and from fruit focused to earthy and smoky. It really picks up the characteristics of where it’s grown, the terroir, and that is what I think I enjoy about the Morande Reserva Pinot Noir the most. It’s light enough, and has enough great strawberry fruit on it, with showing the earthy, smoky notes that you not only see in Pinot, but that you may expect from a Chilean red wine like a Carmenere.  It’s light enough to pair with grilled salmon, but has enough body to stand up to burgers, grilled pork chops, and even steaks.  We grilled some portobello mushrooms, paired it with this wine, and had our guests in heaven!

Bennett Lane Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon

Bennett Lane Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon

The last wine, which we didn’t get to talk about in the segment is Bennett Lane Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you watched the video, I botched the name trying to get out something about the wine in those 5 last seconds! It’s a nice Napa Cab for only $20, made by a winery that has earned several high scores on it’s various wines over the past few years. The fruit is sourced from multiple vineyards, in Calistoga, Oakville and St Helena, is aged 10 months in French oak, and is just a nice wine.

The Turn 4 Cab is definitely a Napa cab all the way, with a heavy mouth feel, and a lot of dark cherry fruit up front. There’s a nice transition to a Christmas spice component, and a finish with some pepper. It’s perfect with grilled steaks, or throw a lamb chop that is brushed with olive oil and rosemary on the grill, and you’re going to enjoy the way the flavors work together with the wine.

What will you be grilling next? I’d love to hear how you prepare some of your favorite backyard BBQ foods, and we’ll talk about the wine pairings together!

Pork and Pinot – A Perfect Pairing

Leave a comment on the video and let me know what you want to see next!

There are some days you just don’t want to slave over a hot stove, yet yearn for a delicious, home cooked meal. Managing your time between meal prep and other tasks, work, play, whatever, couldn’t be easier once you master the art of the crock pot! Toss four ingredients in the pot, let it cook for half the day while your attention is elsewhere, and the end result is a perfectly prepared, hot meal that’s delicious. All that you have to do is pop the cork on a nice wine to make this meal fabulous. That’s where I come in, taking this crock pot pork loin recipe and pairing a delicious red wine with it, a Pinot Noir from California.

As you saw in the short video, placing a 2-3 pound pork loin in the crock pot with about 3 cups of beef broth, eight thyme sprigs, and 4 or 5 whole cloves of garlic makes an amazing meal. While we cooked it, on a low setting, for 10 hours, it would have been ready after 6-8. The meal was positively delicious, but what really set it off was the wine pairing.  Pork goes famously with white wines, like Riesling or Gewurztraminer, but we really enjoy this dish with a Pinot Noir. I selected the $30 offering from Russian Hill, their Russian River Valley 2006.

Russian Hill has been family owned and operated since 1997, and produces a number of estate Syrah offerings in addition to their estate Pinot Noir wine and an estate grown Viognier. They also offer a Chardonnay sourced from a neighboring Dutton Ranch vineyard, numerous Pinot Noirs sourced from individual neighboring vineyards, and of course, the RRV Pinot Noir discussed in the video. Winemaker Patrick Melley, who is the nephew of proprietor Ed Gomez, is largely a self taught winemaker. His online biography mentions that mouthfeel is what he loves about wine most, and that indeed translates to his wines. Silky and soft, they dance on the palate.

The Russian Hill RRV Pinot Noir is sourced from multiple vineyards, selected from several small hands-on growers who offer fruit the team at Russian Hill feel creates a wine that represents the appellation as a whole. The summer fog provides moderate temperature during the day and cool nights, which results in wines with a bright acidity and full fruit flavor as the fruit ripens slowly. I thought this wine had great fruit that was beautifully balanced with smokey and earthy notes and a wonderful acidity that finishes softly.  This Pinot Noir is aged for 10 months in 100% French oak, 25% of which was new, which contributes those toasty, earthy notes. There were 2,000 cases of this wine produced, up from 1,370 in 2005. The wine has a velvety mouth feel, rich and supple, without being flabby. While it’s wonderful to sip on it’s own, it’s great with food. The video captures the tasting notes perfectly when this wine is paired with the right meal.

Do you have a recipe you’d like for me to prepare, then pair with the perfect wine? You can email me at matt @ mmwine.me or leave a comment below and we can collaborate. I’d love to feature your recipe on the blog!

Food and Wine Pairing – Grilled Grouper

Grilled Grouper recipe from Cooking Light http://is.gd/89SKo

Grilled Grouper recipe from Cooking Light http://is.gd/89SKo

My friends frequently ask for wine pairing ideas, and always love to help them out. I often just think about the last few wines I’ve had, and pick one or two of those. I’ve decided to start cataloging those recommendations here, to build a library and resource for everyone to use. There are, of course, dozens of places to find food and wine pairing tips, but I hope to make this your go to resource. Today, my friend Ron asked about pairing a nice white wine with Grilled Grouper for Valentines Day.

Grouper is a white, flaky fish, and is a staple here in South Florida. I’ve enjoyed it many ways, but Robin and I definitely opt for it grilled. It’s a clean flavor, and the grill just gives it the right seasonings. It’s also fairly easy to pair a host of wines with Grouper.

The first wine that comes to mind with Grouper is Chardonnay. While Grouper can definitely stand up to a buttery, toasty Chardonnay, such as Le Crema or Sonoma Cutrer, I would prefer to put it with a unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay. The first option that come to mind is Wente Wines Riva Ranch 2008 Chardonnay. For just $20, this wine offers great fruit, nice oak integration without being a hunk of wood in a bottle, and has great acidity that makes it very food friendly. The nose is bursting with pear and white flower scents, with bosch pear or yellow apple on the palate and a finish of spice that lasts a very long time.

Paraiso Chardonnay

Paraiso Chardonnay

The next Chardonnay that comes to mind to pair with grilled grouper is Paraiso, a Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands, CA. Ripe tropical fruit (pineapple, citrus, melon) is teamed to rich viscosity, bright acidity, and a light overlay of vanilla from the gentle oak aging. For $19, this wine would make your meal rock.  Finally, a value Chardonnay that I have been talking about non stop, Gougenheim 2009 Chardonnay. This delicious white wine from Argentina offers a great balance of fruit and toasted notes from gentle oak aging. An easy drinking wine well worth it’s price of under $9.

Ch Les Maines Bordeaux Blanc 081

Ch Les Maines Bordeaux Blanc 081

If you want to try a different grape, Sauvignon Blanc and Grilled grouper would pair expertly. I have two in mind, as I just discussed them for television segments on Daytime, a nation wide morning show I contribute to. The first is Chateau Les Maines 2008 Cuvee Soleil D’or from Bordeaux, France. The nose is very fruit driven, with pear and “minerals” showing. The palate is crisp, with citrus and a little zip that really delights your tongue. Great acid on the finish, this $15 white wine will definitely work nicely with grilled grouper.

Jean Francois Merieau Touraine

Jean Francois Merieau Touraine

Another French white that I loved recently was Jean-Francois Merieau 2008 Touraine, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, France. Also retailing for about $15, this white wine showed bosch pear on the notes, and had a soft, silky mouthfeel. Flavors of lemongrass and citrus fruits, there was perfect acidity and balance. It was a pleasure to drink, and it would fit in well on the dinner table with a white fish like Grouper. We paired this with shrimp sauteed in garlic and white wine, and it was a fantastic meal.

There are many other wine options to pair with Grilled Grouper, and I’d love to hear your ideas. Let me know which wines would make it to your table by leaving a comment below.

Chillin with Chili and Pairing wine

Best Spicy Chili and Wine Pairing

Best Spicy Chili and Wine Pairing

I have been on a quest to find really good chili for quite some time. I remember, as a child, my mom made a decent chili, but nothing to brag about.  Friends would rant and rave about their secret recipes, but never seemed to produce anything of quality. I’m not a chili afficionado, mind you, I just wanted something other than Sloppy Joes and Hot Sauce. Thankfully, my friend Karen, came through with her award winning chili recipe, which I’ll cook for you in the below video. It’s meaty, spicy, flavorful, and goes well with a host of wines.

Chillin with Chili and Pairing wine from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

As far as I know, the recipe for this chili only exists here, and in Karen’s home. I don’t think her blog, GeoFooding, even lists it. Therefore, I’m honored to have the pleasure of sharing it with you. The recipe is rather involved, and takes a tad of work. The video is 13 minutes long, but tries to cover all of the steps taken to make this great dish. And of course, at the end, we talk wine.

There are many wines that could have been paired with this chili. Robin wished I went with a Riesling, similar to my Wine and Wings pairing, to cut the spice. She felt the fruit and slight sweetness would have been a welcome offset to the heat in the chili.  And you may have noticed I mentioned Twisted Oak in the video. While I confused The Spaniard’s Tempranillo with Grenache, I think it would have been a welcome wine pairing. The earthy, peppery flavors would really kick the chili up a notch! I selected a more round, fruit driven red wine, however, to pair with this spicy dish. I’m sure Jeff would call me a wimp!

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2008

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2008

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel is a wine that I’ve discussed previously. It’s an easy drinking, fruit driven wine that is made from vines that range in age from 80 to 100 years old.  These vines produce a grape that has a very concentrated flavor, and offers a taste of plums and raisins, along with nice berry flavors. The high alcohol, 15%, doesn’t impact the flavors of the chili, and the wine compliments it nicely.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know what you think! Did you kick up the heat a bit with some Cabot Jalepeno or Hot Habenero Cheese? Or did you just go with the Seriously Sharp Cheddar, because the chili was already smokin?  Leave a comment below! And without further ado…

Karen’s Amazing Chili Recipe

The International Chili Society prohibits beans, rice or pasta in chili.  If you want beans, I use black beans cooked separately and mixed in at the end.  Slow cook them with smoky bacon.

4 slices, smoky bacon, finely chopped

1 lb fresh ground chuck

½ lb ground pork

½ lb ground lamb

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic minced

2 roasted, peeled poblano chilis, diced (I removed the seeds!)

1 small (2.6-3 oz) can chipotle peppers w/adobo sauce, minced

1 bell pepper roasted, peeled and seeded, diced

2 16 oz cans diced or stewed tomatoes, chopped

1 8oz can v-8 juice

2 tsp epazote or oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground coriander seed

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp ground fennel seed

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 cup dry sherry (not cooking Sherry, go to a store like Total Wine and buy dry sherry)

1 bunch chopped cilantro

½ carrot grated (optional)


In a large pot, brown meats, over medium heat, together until it has a nice brown color.  Pour off any accumulated fat and return to heat.  Add diced onion and garlic and stir until onion is translucent being careful not to burn the garlic.  If garlic starts to brown turn the heat down. Burnt garlic will ruin the dish and there is no saving it after that!

Add sherry and simmer until it is reduced by 1/3rd.  Turn heat to low and add spices, stir well and simmer for about 5 minutes so the meat can absorb some of the spice flavor.  Add all peppers and stir well.  Add, tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and ½ of the v-8 juice.  If you don’t want a very spicy chili, add the shredded carrot at this point to add sweetness.

Simmer, partially covered over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 2 hours to fully develop flavors. Tomatoes should practically be disintegrated.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the V-8 will add salt and the mixture will become saltier and spicier as it cooks down. Add V-8 juice as needed to keep the mixture moist. Stir in cilantro at the end, reserving some for garnish.

Mix with beans of serve over rice, top with shredded cheddar cheese (I like the Cabot habanera or jalapeño), cilantro and sour cream if desired.  It is also nice with a spoonful of queso fresco instead of the cheese and sour cream.

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere – Sparkling Wines for Valentines

Louis Roederer Cristal

Louis Roederer Cristal

If you aren’t a connoisseur of fine Champagne, there’s no doubt you heard of Dom Perignon, Cristal, or Veuve Cliquot from a James Bond movie and rap video.  Indeed, there’s no shortage of expensive Champagne poured each and every February 14th. This Valentines Day men and women everywhere will spend a decent amount of money on good Champagne, often not knowing inexpensive options exist. I’m here to let you know you can pour some fantastic bubbly, and still delight you sweetheart.

When I was asked to visit the CBS12, WPEC studio this week to talk about wines for Valentines Day, I wanted to do something different. Immediately my mind went to Rose wines, something all too often over looked. Once I settled on the Think Pink for Valentines Day segment, I was asked to fill in for a second segment, and came up with three Sparkling wines under $20. I ran into my local Total Wine, with thousands of bottles to choose from, I knew I would find some great options.

Louis Bouillot Perle de Nuit Blanc de Noirs Brut

Louis Bouillot Perle de Nuit Blanc de Noirs Brut

First up was Louis Bouillot (Lou-ee Boo-yoh)  “Perle de Nuit” Blanc de Noirs Brut. Their “Pearl of the Night”, this dry sparkler, made in Burgundy, is a light, crisp and delightful wine. With beautiful bubbles, the palate is light pears and fresh dough, the finish is clean, with a great cherry component. Made of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Gamay, in the traditional method, the Louis Bouillot Blanc de Noirs is aged 24 months, well past the legal requirement of 9 months. This is a great sipper, and I wouldn’t pair it with anything other than good company. I grabbed this at Total Wine for just $16, and it was well worth the price.

You may have watched Kara Kostanich ask on the CBS segment about wines being called “Champagne”. Sparklers not made in the Champagne region of France can not be called Champagnes. The appellation for the Louis Bouillot is Cremant de Bourgogne, which covers France’s Burgundy region and features dry sparkling wines. And while Champagne holds their wines to a high measure of quality, so does the Cremant de Bourgogne appellation.

Rondel Pura Raza Semi-Seco Cava

Rondel Pura Raza Semi-Seco Cava

From France, we jet over to Spain, where a blend of the three traditional Cava grapes; Xarel.lo, Macabeo & Parellada make their appearance. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made by the traditional Champagne method, and includes fermentation in steel tanks, then a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which gives it the bubbles we love so much. Another Total Wine selection, this $8 sparkler is great. The Rondel Brut Cava has been very highly rated by several magazines, however I selected the Semi-Seco, or sweeter, offering. I felt that for Valentines Day, you may want a slightly sweeter wine, one that is fun and easy to drink. With flavors of dried pineapple or pear, it’s a tad sweet, but not cloying. It’s crisp on the finish, and pairs perfectly with Strawberries.  If you’ve ever wanted to try Champagne and strawberries, I highly suggest trying it with the Rondel Pura Raza Semi-Seco Cava!

Our final Sparkling wine brings us back to Europe, Italy to be precise. It’s time to talk about Brachetto, a sparkling dessert wine from Italy. If your sweetheart is a fan of desserts, this bubbly will be sure to hit the spot. I selected the Sant-Orsola Brachetto D’Acqui, a delicious gem for about $16 at Total Wine! Brachetto is a red grape that is found mainly in Piedmont, the northwest region of Italy. The cherry cola red color is brilliant, and the palate of dry raspberry with a slightly sweet note is balanced with a very clean finish. The sweet berry flavors of the Sant-Orsola Brachetto D’Acqui makes it a natural pair for several desserts.

Sant'Orsola Brachetto D'Acqui

Sant'Orsola Brachetto D'Acqui

Pairing this wine with a chocolate cake, or even a piece or two of chocolates from that heart you always bring your beloved, works wonderfully. The chocolate enhances the fruit flavor, and the two  work well together. I brought a chocolate mousse tart to the CBS set, and it was a very nice pairing. I’d also happily serve the Brachetto with fruit, or alone. It’s a very nice sipper, with a fun, fruity flavor.

There are, of course, hundreds of other wine options for Valentines Day. If these Sparklers don’t tickle your fancy, and you aren’t adventureous enough to try the Rose Wines I recommended, leave a comment below and I’ll try to help you find just the right wine for your Valentine.  And, if you do use one of the QPR Wines (wines with Good Quality to Price Ratio) I mentioned this weekend, don’t be surprised if your sweetheart looks at you, slyly, having read this article, and wants a bigger present with the money on the wine!

Three Great Wines For your Valentines

Valentines Day Wine Selection

Valentines Day Wine Selection

Many guys will admit they’re not the best when it comes to figuring out what women want. Perhaps it’s because women are complex beings, requiring careful time and study, and men aren’t that patient. Or perhaps it’s because men are selfish, hedonistic animals who really only care about their own needs. To help my brethren out this Valentines Day, I’m going to offer three wine suggestions that will make it seem like they understand what their ladies want, all without investing too much time, or too much money. My theme for this year’s Valentines Day wine choices is “Think Pink”, great Rose wines, one a sexy sparkler, that wont break your bank!

Now, I must admit, I had a little help to select these wines. Robin, my better half, made no bones about loving the color pink. My first clue was “Can I paint the house pink”, followed by an onslaught of pink clothes and accessories showing up on her side of the room.  However, the real giveaway was our being at a Champagne event, and her gushing “Ohh, I love pink champagne.” Ding ding, clue number one just dropped, go pick it up boys. Now, Robin didn’t actually help me make the selections, but for some reason, I knew she’d love them. We started off with a Sparkling wine from South Africa, Graham Beck’s Brut Sparking Rose – NV, from Robertson SA. Retailing at only $14, this wine delivers nice quality at a great price.

Graham Beck Brut Rose NV valentines day wine 2

Graham Beck Brut Rose NV

This light and crisp bubbly had a very nice, pale pink hue in the glass. It’s made from 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir grapes, in the Cap Classique method, where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.  This is of course the same method used to make Champagne, the  méthode Champenoise, and is the term used in South Africa since 1992 to denote the traditional time-honoured method of making the sparkler.  Right out of the bottle, there were strawberry fruit flavors up front, with a finish of minerals that is refreshing in a Brut (dry) sparkler. There were tons of bubbles, and it was definitely the perfect way to start off our evening. Giving this bubbly a few minutes to open up is a nice idea, because the minerals and almost tart finish blows off, and you’re enjoying nice round red fruit that is well balanced and fun.  You can serve the Graham Beck Brute Rose NV bubbly with seafood, or even rare beef or lamb, and of course the traditional strawberries will be a smash hit!

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee Valentines day wine

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee

If bubbles aren’t your thing, lets hop from South Africa to Provence, France and enjoy a glass of Saint Andre de Figuiere 2008 Rose Magali Cuvee. That’s certainly a mouthful, especially if your French is as bad as mine! However, it’s worth butchering the name, or saying Saint ANdre Rose if you must, to enjoy this crisp Valentines Day wine. Half of the rose wine made in France comes from Provence, and at $16 this blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache is sure to delight. It’s salmon-pink color gives way to a bouquet of sweet, ripe raspberries. It has a soft palate, very light and crisp with fresh fruit of citrus and red berries, and some beautiful minerality on the finish. Dry and well balanced, this rose will go well with a host of foods, from chicken to fish, or just sipping with a nice cheese plate.

Big Fire Rose valentines day wine 3

Big Fire Rose Wine

Bubbles didn’t blow her away, and dry French wine not her thing, well then lets pop over to the United States, and try a Rose from Oregon! R Stuart & Co’s Big Fire line has a number of nice wines at good prices, and their $12 Big Fire Rose is no exception. A darker shade of pink than the previous two wines, the Big Fire Rose has some cherry scents on the nose, but it wasn’t a very fragrant bouquet. However, the palate was definitely bursting with fruit, strawberry up front, with a medium body that bursts with flavor. There’s definitely some red cherry and other bright fruit on the wine, and the fruit flavors last an incredibly long time.  The Big Fire Rose is a blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Pinot Gris, each grape bringing it’s unique and interesting characteristic to the blend. Definitely a fruit forward wine, you could enjoy this with a lighter dish, whether it’s a salad, or some simple grilled chicken.

Let me know what wine you have on this Valentines Day, and how you enjoy it. If it’s one of the three discussed here, let me know how you like it. And Ladies, don’t be shy! If you want to be sure you enjoy the wine you drink on Valentines Day, select one of these and just tell him to open and pour like a good man should!  Cheers!

You can watch my appearance on CBS12 WPEC talking about these great wines with Daybreak News Anchor Kara Kostanich!