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Wine for Super Days – Valentine’s and Super Bowl

Intense battles will be won, or lost, in both love and football. With The Super Bowl today, and Valentine’s Day next week, having the right wine will help you be on the winning side for both special days. I visited CBS 12 WPEC this week to offer a few wine options to make sure you’re scoring on the big day. In the following clip, we’ll first talk about two Valentine’s Day selections, and then, two Super Bowl Sunday selections.

Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine for Valentine's Day

Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine for Valentine’s Day

The first wine is a delicious sparkling wine from Biltmore Estate in NC. A sweeter option, in the Sec style, this wine has a fruity nose of pears and dried apricots, and a fruit forward palate of ripe and fresh fruit. Almost as sweet as your Valentine, this option will be perfect as an aperitif before dinner, or with desserts such as fresh fruit, strawberry cheesecake, or even chocolate truffles. I’ll have an easy recipe for Chocolate truffles at the bottom of this post.

The Biltmore pas de Deux is made with 100% Muscat Canelli grapes, which are sourced from Monterey CA, Arroyo Seco AVA. It retails for around $19, and can be purchased from Biltmore Estate directly, or at your local wine shop.

J Vineyards Nicole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

J Vineyards Nicole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Looking for a wine for your Valentine’s Day dinner, whether out at a fancy restaurant, or with a delicious home cooked meal? Look no further than J Vineyards Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008. Available at “White Tablecloth” restaurants nation wide, or direct purchased from their website, this $50 option is spectacular. The wine has soft and silky palate, with complex layers of fruit, chocolate, and light smokey notes. The winemaker suggests pairing with venison, bison burgers, wild pig or salmon. I paired it with a horseradish crusted brisket and it was fantastic. I’ll have a separate post in the coming days on this wine and the brisket itself.

Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja

Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja

When it’s time to pair your big, bold flavors at your Super Bowl party, you may want to look for Valserrano Crianza 2006 Rioja. Made from the Tempranillo grape, this old world style wine has a little new world flair to it. Crianza means the wine was aged for at least two years, with at least six months in oak. It will appeal to fans of dry wines, with earthy flavors of tobacco and leather, and a bit of red berry fruit as well. Perfect for roast dishes, whether a roast pig or a roast beef, this wine is definitely food friendly. It should also do pretty well with your chili or even wings at your party.  It cost about $15 at your local wine store, and is an interesting wine to try. It will appeal to fans of dry, earthy wines, Super Bowl game or not.

Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

The final selection can be enjoyed on either special day, or any day. It’s Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel, and for about $16 it’s awesome. Their grapes are farmed organically, and wine megastore Total Wine often features Sobon Estate wines in their “Green and Earth Friendly” category of wines. It’s bouquet is somewhat floral, and the palate is pleasant ripe, round berries, dark plums and raisins. I love the backbone of spice this Zinfandel has, and it makes this wine perfect for everything you serve at your Super Bowl party. We enjoyed it with just burgers and grilled Italian sausage, but it’ll go nicely with everything from wings to chili to steaks and cheeses. Sobon Estates Rocky Top Zinfandel is available nation wide, and is part of a family of red wines I’ve recommend in the past.

If you’re even remotely coordinated in the kitchen, these chocolate truffles are easy to make, and delicious. I added just a small amount of ground cinnamon and loved the flavors. It worked nicely with the Biltmore Pas de Deux, but also worked lovely with the Sobon Estate Zinfandel. I’d love to hear your thoughts

Decadent Biltmore Truffles

Winemakers Suggestion: Enjoy with Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs or Pas de Deux sparkling wines for a festive and decadent treat. 

Ingredients:

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder or semi-sweet chocolate, as needed
Optional additions: 2-3 tablespoons liqueur, roasted chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, toasted coconut, fruit jam, peanut butter, sweet potato, caramel topping, chopped toffee or cookie pieces, extracts or flavorings.

Method: To make the ganache, place chocolate into a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir together until all is combined and chocolate is melted. Mix in any additions (see above for suggestions) to the ganache you desire. Let the ganache set and scoop into portions and place onto parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate for 10–15 minutes then take out and round into balls. Roll into cocoa powder or coat in semi-sweet chocolate and serve.

Makes about 20 truffles.

Pairing Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay with food

Passaggio 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay with Shrimp Scampi

Passaggio 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay with Shrimp Scampi

Philosophers will debate endlessly whether food enhances wine, or wine enhances food. Frankly, I don’t care which enhances the other, I just know the two together are worthy of many words. My focus this year is definitely on the best food and wine pairings I can create, usually within a reasonable budget and amount of time. When Robin, my better half, decided to make Ina Garten’s Shrimp Scampi recipe from her Food Network selections, I knew just the wine in the cellar to pair with this simple, but delicious meal. I’ve held on to a bottle of Passaggio 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay for several weeks, a sample from winemaker Cynthia Cosco, and was excited to serve it up! Was this $16 white wine palatable, and did it work with the recipe?

The first answer is of course it was palatable, as I rarely share bad wines with the world.  Cynthia’s philosophy at Passaggio is quite simple, Follow Your Passion, and that clearly shows in her wines. Currently Passaggio’s passion extends to the Unoaked Chardonnay, and a Pinot Grigio that I’ll be tasting later in the week. There’s insider information that perhaps we’ll see a Passaggio Rose in the future. Yum! Cynthia sources her grapes for the Chardonnay from Lodi, California, and uses the Crushpad custom wine making facility to work her magic!

In making the Chardonnay, Cynthia chose to veer away from the “typical” oaky, buttery chardonnay we see out of many California wineries, and let the fruit express itself, rather than the wood. Therefore, the wine is fermented in stainless steel, rather than in oak, and it does not go through malolactic fermentation. “Malo” will provide the heavier, buttery mouth feel that you find in some Chardonnay wines, such as Chateau Montelena of Bottleshock fame. To get a bit of a heavier mouthfeel, Cynthia stirred the wine, which was aging sur lie for six months, every other week. Aging sur lie, or aging on lees, means that the wine stays in the same tank or barrel with the yeast that helped ferment the wine. Often this provides a bit of richness and complexity to the wine, which was very noticeable in the Passaggio chardonnay.

Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay 2009

Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay 2009

Right out of the bottle, the nose was a little buttered popcorn with pears, and the palate was crisp, with tropical fruits and a little spice, all of which took me by surprise. Usually spice comes from the oak, not the chardonnay, and this was unoaked, right? RIGHT!  After about 5 or 10 minutes of breathing, the nose opened up to be a lot less butter popcorn and a lot more pear and fresh fruits. The palate also changed, with a very nice tropical pineapple and pear flavor, with no spice or butter in sight, or taste. Many wines can really benefit from a little air, or breathing. I already went to the “Geek Side” with Sur Lie, so just trust me on this one. Opening the bottle, pour a quarter of a glass, and let oxygen get into the bottle and glass for 5 or 10 minutes for a fabulous glass of wine.

So I’ve told you that the wine rocked my socks, but what about the food and wine pairing? Well, first of all, Ina makes great food, so you know the meal on it’s own was going to be amazing. Easy to make, with fresh flavors of garlic and lemon that enhance the flavor of the shrimp, not mask it. The pasta was al dente and not over sauced, making it a participant of the meal, and not a casualty. We changed the recipe and omitted the red pepper flakes so that the fresh flavors stood out more, and not the heat. However, I’m tempted to make this recipe this weekend with the red pepper flakes, and see how it goes. While I’ve linked to the recipe above, I’ll post it here (without permission, I’m a rebel, huh) for your convenience. Please, Food Network, don’t be mad!

Shrimp Scampi from Ina Garten's recipe

Shrimp Scampi from Ina Garten’s recipe

The pairing was, of course, spectacular. Chardonnay and shrimp is usually a fool proof food and wine pairing. However, the tropical flavors of the Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay complimented the lemony zip of the shrimp scampi so wonderfully, each mouthful beckoned another sip, and each sip, another mouthful. The Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay is a great wine for $16, and paired with this dish that will run you about $15 to serve 3 or 4 people, you’ve got a great meal for about $30.

A few other wine writers have tasted and shared their thoughts on the Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay. Check out what Frank Loves Wine and The Iowa Wino had to say. I’d love to hear what YOU have to say! Leave a comment below about Chardonnay, Passaggio, what food you’d like me to pair and post, or what you had for lunch! I don’t care, just leave a comment!

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi by The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten from Food Network

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
3/4 pound linguine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (we skipped, but give it a go!)
Directions

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

Grilled Buffalo Burgers and Shiraz Food and Wine Pairing


The video has all the information about making the grilled buffalo burger, as well as the tasting notes on the wine. Let me know what you think of it, by leaving a comment below, or rating it on YouTube!

What are we drinking?

I’ve made a lot of great friends on Twitter, and quite a few have asked for food and wine pairing advice. I recently started collaborating with Robyn Medlin from Grill Grrrl, a website all about grilling some fantastic meals. We’ve discussed quite a few projects, which we’ll be rolling them out to you in the next few weeks. Robyn and I got on the topic of her grilled buffalo burgers, and I decided to make them for lunch and pair with a nice shiraz, the 2007 Vinaceous Snake Charmer.

Where does the wine come from?

McLaren Vale Australia

McLaren Vale Australia

McLaren Vale, one of Australia’s renowned wine regions, is located in Southern Australia. It’s famous for Shiraz, which accounts for 50% or more of it’s production annually. Vinaceous does not have it’s own vineyards, but rather sources it’s fruit from various vineyards in the area.

What does the wine taste like?

The video has all of the tasting notes you’ll need, but there’s definitely some nice berry fruit coupled with a great peppery finish. It’s a wine that changed from the time I opened it, until we finished the meal. I preferred it after 20 to 30 minutes of air, as you’ll see in the video.

What to pair it with?

If you saw my short writeup about the Syrah/Shiraz grape, you’ve seen some of the things that can pair with the Vinaceous Snake Charmer Shiraz. Grilled meats, whether lamb, beef, sausage, or obviously buffalo, are a natural food and Shiraz wine pairing. It does well with aged and hard cheeses such as Gouda and Parmesan.

Recap

Coming in at around $20, the Vinaceous Snake Charmer 2007 Shiraz is everything you’d expect from a McLaren Vale wine. Big fruit flavors with an aggressive pepper finish out of the bottle, it mellows nicely with air, and compliments almost anything you throw on the grill. However, don’t take my word for it! Grab a bottle of the Snake Charmer, pop the .. screw top .. and come back and comment on it below! And as always, Cheers!

Wine and Wings

It’s common knowledge that buffalo wings and beer go well together. They’re a staple in nearly every sports bar in America. What you may not know is the right wine will pair perfectly with hot wings, allowing you to enjoy your next Superbowl party with wine, instead of brews. A well structured, semi sweet wine, such as a Washington or a German Riesling, cuts the heat in spicy food nicely. And while it’s no secret that I’ve been talking about hot foods with Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling a lot recently, I haven’t shared with you my Grilled Hot Wings recipe to make that food and wine pairing awesome.

Grilling at the Lake

Grilling at the Lake

During our lake house vacation this year, we decided to fire up the grills and make some snacks for an early afternoon meal. We had to feed the 15 people with us, and had one grill with oysters on it, another with ribs, and two with my hot buffalo wings. Most everyone has had wings that are fried, and a few of you health conscious wing lovers have had them baked, but you haven’t enjoyed them until you’ve had them grilled. It takes a good hour toiling over hot coals to make this spicy snack, but they absolutely rock, and your guests will thank you for taking the time for them.

This recipe takes about 15 minutes of prep time, between mixing the ingredients below, washing and cutting the wings, and pouring a glass of wine while you get to cooking. You’ll end up cooking the wings for about 50 minutes, give or take 15, and it’s hands on the whole time. First, you’ll want to get your ingredients together

  • 3 pounds of chicken wings – you can separate at the joints or just buy drummetts
  • 1 1/2 cup hot sauce (12 oz) – Louisiana style. I used “Cristal” last time, and Louisiana before
  • 1 cup of Cola soda (8 oz)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (little less if you don’t want the heat as rockin!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

I experimented with 4 or 5 different ratios of hot sauce to cola before I was happy. You’ll find your “sweet spot” with the mixture and people will RAVE about the wings.  Additionally, I double the sauce recipe because it does reduce down, and I like to make sure the wings are submerged for their time in the sauce.

Grilled Hot Wings

Grilled Hot Wings

Preheat your grill to a medium heat. I always cook these wings over direct heat, but you may want to set it up indirect.

Using a large dutch oven or sauce pot, mix the ingredients, adding the chicken last. Place the pot to the back corner of the grill and allow the sauce to simmer.

Add wings and let them sit in the simmering sauce for approximately 8-10 minutes. Then using tongs like in the picture, take them out and grill them for 5-8 minutes. turning mid way to avoid burning.  Return the wings to the simmering sauce, which will be reducing and thickening, and allow them to simmer again for 8-10 minutes. Repeat this process 4-6 times until the wings are done. Approximately 50 minutes in all. I usually finish the last 5 minutes in the sauce, to leave them “sloppy”. However, you can finish them on the grill for dry wings. (edit note, my family now prefers them dry, and the past two times I finished them on the grill and they were awesome!)

A few edit notes – it’s an active recipe, so you really want to watch them cook.  The first time on the grill, you will likely get a char on the wings. Just be sure not to burn them. Most people, even my 10 yr old son, prefer the chared ones, they have a nice flavor.  Also you CAN do the wings in the oven, if you cant grill. Just heat the oven to 350, and simmer the sauce on the stove top, going from oven to pot the same as you would the grill. You wont get the charred and grilled flavors, but they still rock!

You should test a wing before you take them off, making sure it’s cooked through, pulls off the bone easily, and if you use a meat thermometer, the temp should be about 170 degrees. Additionally, the USDA says the thighs and wings of poultry should be cooked “until the juices run clear.”  I did make these in the oven once, using two cookie sheets in a 350 degree oven while i had the sauce on the burner. It works just as well as the grill, though the taste is a little different, and your stove may get messy!

Grilled Hot Wings

Grilled Hot Wings

Now, I know this is a wine blog, so why the recipe? Well, as you read before, I’m all about Rieslings with spicy food. When @DolceDebbie and I did the Cabot cheese event, she created these KILLER Habanero Shortbreads using Cabot Hot Habanero Cheese, which I paired with the Dr L Riesling. The sweetness, or the Residual Sugar (RS), helps offset the heat from the food, and really brings out nice, ripe fruit. When we served this at the lake house, we opted for Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling which is a nice, value driven wine for this dish. Both Dr Loosen and Chateau Ste Michelle have Riesling in the $10-12 range, which go perfectly with this recipe.  Dr Loosen and Chateau Ste Michelle have a joint venture, Eroica Riesling, which, while a little bit more expensive at around $20, worked just as nicely. The Eroica was rated 91 points by by Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, and is a great option for a “Grocery Store Wine” if you prefer sweeter, fruit driven whites.

Let me know what you think of the wings. And of course, give the wines I mentioned a try, and let me know what you think of them alone, as well as paired with this dish. I’m confident you’ll enjoy as much as we did!

Viva Italia Feb09

Lynn, Thea, and Liza

Lynn, Thea, and Liza

My favorite part of twitter has most certainly been meeting the people that I’ve connected with there. I have met over a dozen people, from FL to CA, and many points in between. I was even able to fly out to California, meet Jeff Stai from Twisted Oak Winery, enjoy a dinner for the release of their Spaniard wine, meet Thea, Liza and Lynn, and well, just have an amazing time with wine and twitter friends.

Goat Cheese Torta appetizer

It seems that while people like wine, they LOVE goat cheese appetizers.  Perhaps because the flavors are just so exciting, and they do pair well with wine. Or perhaps because their friends can’t cook, and they want to impress their friends with a great lead-in appetizer. Regardless of the reason, Robin and I love goat cheese, and this appetizer is one we really enjoy.

For the November Twitter Taste Live wine tasting event, my twitter friend Beth G Sanders offered me the below goat cheese recipe. She felt it would make a great addition to the food lineup I had to go with with 5 Hahn Estates Wines and 4 Grocery Store Zinfandels. Robin and I have made this three other times for company, and it’s a hit each and every time. It’s got a great tart flavor from the goat cheese, with some awesome tomato and pesto flavors to make it a wide ranging appetizer.

Grocery Store Zins

Grocery Store Zinfandels

Grocery Store Zinfandels

If you tuned in live to the TTL 05 event, you know that after the Hahn Estates wine tasting, I went on to my own Grocery Store Zinfandel tasting. My idea was to find 4 zinfandels in the grocery store, all under $20, and taste them live with you.  A lot of people look for cheap, or at least inexpensive red wine, and I though Zinfandels would be fun for that.

The wines i selected were:

Zen of Zins 06 Old Vines Zinfandel (Ravenswood) $10.50

Cline Ancient VInes 07 Zinfandel $16.50

Estancia Paso Robles 05 Zinfandel $13.50

7 Deadly Zins 06 Old Vines Zinfandel (Lodi) $18.50

goat cheese appetizers

Robin and I love to entertain. We don’t do it enough, maybe once every month or two. We’ll have a bigger party, maybe 20-30 people, once or twice a year, then we’ll have 2-4 other people over now-and-then. We always try to plan out a fun and exciting menu, complimented by fun beverages.  You all know I’m a big fan of wine, and now you’ll see I love to cook!