Archives for 

Chardonnay

Behind The Wine: Lunch with Sequoia Grove Director of Winemaking Michael Trujillo

Wine is about the story. It’s not about tart cherries and blueberries wrapped in a blanket of cedar and sprinkled with generous amounts of pepper. Likewise, it’s not about making sure you’re pairing Merlot with lamb shank and Chardonnay with lobster. Sure, those things are nice, and work their way into most of my articles. However, in the end, wine is about the people behind the juice, who they are, as well as where and why they do what they do. I had the chance to meet, and have lunch with, the man behind Sequoia Grove, President and Director of Winemaking, Michael Trujillo.

Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo Talking Napa Red Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting barrel samples with Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo

The son of a Colorado rancher, Michael has been in the wine industry for over thirty years. While in college studying architecture and engineering, Michael took a spring break vacation in California, and it changed his life. Leaving his college studies in his 20s, Trujillo packed his belongings and moved to Napa, landing a job at a vineyard that would eventually become Domaine Carneros. There, he had the chance to learn from wine industry legends such as Tony Soter and Mike Grgich, helping shape his ability to craft excellent wine.

Michael soon transitioned to working in the cellar at Sequoia Grove with founder Jim Allen, as well as consulting winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Here, Michael Trujillo learned quite a bit about making wine. So much so, he started his own side project in the 1990s, Karl Lawrence, using the Sequoia Grove winery as a custom crush facility. In 1998, Trujillo was appointed as assistant winemaker of Sequoia Grove, and in 2001, when founder Jim Allen retired, Michael got his call to the big leagues.

Wines From Sequoia Grove - Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay - agoodtimewithwine.com

Wines From Sequoia Grove – Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay

In 2001, the Kopf family, which had acquired 100% of Sequoia Grove, brought Michael to New York for a meeting. Meeting with “the three sisters”, Michael was rather relaxed and aloof when they started asking him questions about how he would change Sequoia Grove. He was quite candid, discussing things like improving the quality of the winemaking equipment, elevating the quality of the grapes sourced, and the fact that the winemaking facility was “like cooking for an army on a Coleman stove.” The Kopf family was impressed with his vision to improve the brand, and handed the reins over to Michael, who was made President and Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove. He began immediately putting into place the improvements he outlined.

By the end of 2002, the winery was buying and using only “A” quality grapes, where it had previously been sourcing “C” quality grapes. Vineyard Manager Steve Allen began replanting the winery’s estate vineyards, including the purchase of an additional 48-acre vineyard in 2006. The goal was to eventually provide 80% of the fruit for Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon and Cambium, and have that fruit be top quality. Michael brought on UC Davis grad Molly Hill as Assistant Winemaker in 2003, who was promoted to Winemaker in 2008. All of these measured steps elevated the wine from an average California wine at a good price, to an excellent Napa wine at a good price!

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws

Back to our lunch together, which started with the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. Beautiful aroma of vanilla and pear, with a crisp palate of Granny Smith apple, vanilla, rounded out by warm baking spice. The wine is crisp while being full bodied, seeing oak aging but no malolactic fermentation. The oak is well integrated, however, and there are no splinters in your glass, I assure you.  The acidity of the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay, which is excellent for the $27 price, worked perfectly with our Florida stone crab claws, as well as the Alaskan king crab legs.

We then took a pause from the serious look at Sequoia Grove wine, to play with… wine. Michael brought two barrel samples from the newer Sequoia Grove vineyards, 100% Petite Verdot, and 100% Cabernet Franc. These two wines show a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing what Sequoia Grove does with them once they’ve aged.

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip

Lunch was served, and I chose a barbecue tri-tip sandwhich to pair with my two red wines. However, Michael encouraged all of his guests to order fish or lobster, in typical “Drink what you like” fashion. Several orders of fish tacos and lobster rolls were soon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and a blended red wine, and no one was disappointed.

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The first red wine, the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, had aromas of blackberry and black cherry, and sweet vanilla scents.  The palate was beautiful red fruit, sweet spices, with a hint of vanilla and soft tannins, which were “sweet”, as opposed to dry and astringent. The  Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2o10 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple appellations, aged in 100% American oak for 22 months, with 40-50% of it new oak. Absolutely lovely wine, and for about $38, definitely one to  have with food. It paired perfectly with my well seasoned barbecue beef sandwich.

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008 red wine blend - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008

The proverbial icing on the cake was tasting the Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008. Michael said that when blending wine, his goal is to create the perfect blend, “where you smooth out the peaks, and fill in the valleys”. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, there are only about 400 cases of the Cambium made, and it’s sold mostly in restaurants. Aromas of soft raspberry and vanilla with soft baking spice waft from the glass. The palate is a wave of spice, start to finish, with tart cherry and cranberry mixed with mocha and espresso flavors.

The Sequoia Grove Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are two wines that are well priced, and fairly available. They offer great quality, and are definitely worth trying. You should be able to find them where you live, as I saw them in both Total Wine and Publix here in South Florida. I told Michael these were “Put your money where your mouth is” wines…. wines that I may have had the chance to taste for free, but I’m happy to spend my own money on. You’ll be happy you did too.

As for the rest of Sequoia Grove’s story, it’s still being written. Michael’s goal of elevating the quality of the fruit continues, with a focus on building the estate vineyard program while nurturing the relationships he has with his current grape sources. He tools around with various grapes at the home vineyard, the Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc mentioned earlier, as well as Malbec. He said we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll be waiting, Michael!

Nine Wines For Your Thanksgiving Feast

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

Wines to Pair with a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a scant few days before Thanksgiving, have you finalized your menu yet? Of course you have, and you’ve paired the perfect wine with the meal, right? Well, most wine writers and sommeliers will argue that there is no ONE wine that works perfectly for Thanksgiving. I’ve written about pairing wine with Thanksgiving meals before, as well as brought three wines for Thanksgiving to CBS 12, and maintain that the variety of palates your guests have and range of flavors at Thanksgiving calls for a variety of wines to be served with your Turkey. While there are some “typical or classic wine and Turkey Day pairings”, and I’ll cover them below, there are some addition wine pairing options that you may not have considered. I’ll summarize where I bought the wines and their prices at the end of the article. However, first, let’s take a look at nine different wines, some the same grape from different regions, to offer you some great Thanksgiving wine pairing ideas.

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

Chandon Brut Classic Sparkling Wine For Thanksgiving

If there is one thing you can safely serve at any party or big meal, it’s sparkling wine. There are of course tons of options, a true Champagne from France,  Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or California bubbly like Chandon’s Brut Classic. A non-vintage (NV), budget friendly sparkling wine at $13, there are great flavors of green apples, peach, and a little toasted bread. These flavors work perfectly with appetizers, including cheese, fruit and even stuffed mushrooms. Champagne and sparkling wine love salty snacks, so salted nuts and even pigs in a blanket work perfectly. This is a slightly more fruit forward option, and if you like a traditional Champagne, feel confident that it’s a perfecting wine selection for Thanksgiving as well!

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chateau Megyer Tokjai Furmint 2012

Chances are, you’ll surprise your guests with a wine from Hungary, made with a grape they’ve likely never heard of. Tokaji, pronounced Toke-eye, is a wine that can be dry or sweet, and made with one of six approved grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat (Sargamuskotaly) Zeta, Koverszolo, and Kabar. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint 2012  is a budget friendly dry white wine option at $12. A light, clear yellow color and subdued nose leads to a palate that is reminiscent of riesling. Flavors of soft apricot, coupled with good minerality, this white wine will pair well with appetizers, as well as your turkey.  The sweet versions of Tokjai, Aszu or Eszencia, are perfect dessert wines. They are sweet enough wines to pair with the fruit pies that are common desserts at Thanksgiving.

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse wine for thanksgiving

DeBeaune Les Galopieres 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse

Chardonnay is a grape grown the world over. The wine can be lean and mineral driven, tropical fruit focused, or full of apple and pear ‘tree fruit’ flavors. The French styles of chardonnay are typically less focused on the burst of fruit flavors you’ll find in California wines. Additionally, if there is oak used to age the wine, it’s much more subdued than it’s California cousins. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion of Burgundy in central France. Pronounced Poo-Wee Foo-Say, Pouilly-Fuisse only permits chardonnay to make wine bearing the AOC’s designation. Though there is often oak aging involved with these wines, the $20 DeBeaune Les Galopieres Pouilly-Fuisse 2011 is unoaked. A lean, crisp white wine with flavors of green apples, minerals, and a beautiful finish of spice and smoke, this is a perfect all around wine for Thanksgiving. It will work nicely with your appetizers, your vegetables, your turkey and even your ham.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011 wine for thanksgiving

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011

Another great $20 white wine selection is the Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay 2011. A perfect wine to pair with ham, turkey, potato and stuffing, this oaked chardonnay has notes of vanilla and creme brulee, with a dominant fruit flavor of pear. There is a soft smoke and spice on the finish, but all of the flavors are balanced and none overwhelms the others.

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais wine for thanksigiving

Domaine Pignard 2011 Beaujolais

Beaujolais is not a revolutionary wine pairing idea for Thanksgiving. There is no doubt you’ve heard of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, it’s not the best expression of gamay, and it’s more a marketing ploy than anything else. It is not a wine I recommend or partake in. However, gamay grapes make fantastic wines, and the Domaine Pignard Beaujolais 2011 is a steal at $10. An easy drinking, fruit forward red wine, the DeBeaune Domaine Pignard Beaujolais is a great idea for Thanksgiving, as it will pair with fowl or meat. A soft palate, with flavors of dried fruits like blackberry and bing cherry, there’s a hint of oak as well. There is good acidity, which makes it a great food friendly wine. I did also try a Cru Beaujolais, the Domaine Mont Chavy 2011 Morgon. Less fruity and more earthy, this was another great French wine under $20.

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir wine for Thanksgiving

Forever 2012 Pinot Noir

I’m not the first wine writer/sommelier to recommend Pinot Noir wine for your Thanksgiving meal. I do, however, try to find new and exciting options for you to try. Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is found the world over. This year, my pinot noir Thanksgiving wine comes from California and Oregon, to highlight two different styles. Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 is a budget friendly $11 option. A nose of fresh berries, the palate is a mocha and strawberry mix with a hint of spice. Pork and Pinot are a favorite wine pairing, but of course turkey will work perfectly.

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 thanksgiving wine

While tasting Clos Pepe Pinot Noir with winemaker Wes Hagen, he mentioned how Oregon winemakers are similar to their Burgundian counterparts. Domaine Loubejac offers a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $18 that certainly reminds me of French Burgundy. Dried strawberry and raspberry, with a nice spice on the mid palate and finish, the Domaine Loubejac Willamette 2010 has great acidity and is very food friendly. Your Thanksgiving turkey or ham will enjoy this wine. Feel free to pick up a bottle of Wes Hagen’s Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir as well. At $54, the Clos Pepe 2009 is a well made red wine that will work perfectly with your 2013 Thanksgiving, or sit in your cellar and age nicely until 2010. I’ll feature the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir in an upcoming article.

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

Dr Loosen 2012 Blue Slate thanksgiving wine

I don’t drink a lot of riesling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve tasted a few German Rieslings this year that I really enjoyed. I just don’t reach for them frequently. I’ve recommended the wines from Dr Loosen previously, and will again say that riesling is a great Thanksgiving wine selection. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is a bargain at $12. A perfect wine pairing for ham, turkey, fruit and cheese, the Dr L has fresh apricot and peach flavors with a very subtle minerality through it. For a more mineral and slate focused palate, the Dr Loosen Blue Slate (pictured left) is an excellent riesling selection as well, and cost only $22. It has enough white peach fruit and floral flavor to balance the flinty minerality that is typical from blue slate soils the vines are planted on.

We have already mentioned nine, well ten wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal. However, I recently participated in a tasting of Bordeaux Superieur wine under $15 that had some real great selections. These samples were the second part of the Planet Bordeaux wine series I had previously participated in.  You may think a merlot from Bordeaux would be too overpowering for your Thanksgiving meal. However, the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux is bound to change your mind.

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 merlot wine for thanksgiving

Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

I’ll feature the entire six wine Bordeaux tasting in a future article, but the Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 was my favorite of the flight. An organic Bordeaux red wine that cost only $12, the Les Hauts de Lagarde is a blend of 65% merlot and 25% cabernet sauvignon. Flavors of blueberry and black currant with nice oak integration lend themselves to this soft, elegant red wine. There was a hint of spice on the finish that brought all of the flavors together nicely. A perfect wine to pair with beef, lamb, veal and pasta, it was light enough to enjoy with turkey, stuffing, and the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. As a side note, we decanted this wine for about 1 1/2 hours.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when serving these wines

  • Serve your white wines chilled, but not ice cold. Serving wine too cold mutes the flavors
  • Serve your red wines SLIGHTLY chilled. Room temperature for red is about 60 degrees, not your typical 75 house temperature
  • Decant your red wines for at least 30 minutes before serving. Chill it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, then open and leave on the table 30 minutes before meal time
  • Don’t be afraid to decant your white wine. They’ll open up with a little air. Just keep them cool, perhaps in an ice bucket while doing so. Simply pull the cork and leave them open 15 minutes before serving.

I purchased all of the wines mentioned today, with the exception of the Les Hauts de Lagarde and the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, which were media samples. They were all found easily, and you should be able to pick up one or more for your own party.

  • —Chandon Brut – Publix & Total Wine $13
  • Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint – Total Wine $12
  • DeBeaune Pouilly-Fuisse – Total Wine $20
  • —Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay – Publix & Total Wine $20
  • Domaine Pignard Beaujolais – Total wine $10
  • Forever Vineyards Pinot Noir – Total Wine $11
  • Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir – Total Wine $18
  • Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling – Publix & Total Wine $12
  • Les Hautes de Lagarde Bordeaux – Whole Foods $12

Cheers to you and your friends and family this Thanksgiving season. I’d love to hear what your favorite wine is this Thanksgiving, and what dish you enjoy it with. Just leave a comment below!

Harry and David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Gifts For You

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

“What’s in the box?” No, it wasn’t Brad Pitt’s scene from Seven, but the scene unfolding in my living room. A gift had arrived from Harry & David, and Robin was dying to know what we got. Ever since I partnered with gift great Harry & David to review their Fruit and Cheese of the Month club, and pair it with wine of course, we’ve been on pins and needles to see what was coming. We couldn’t wait to try everything out, as well as offer one of their fantastic gifts of fruit and cheese to you as a giveaway.  I’ve always been a fan and customer of their delicious fruits and goodies, but after visiting Harry & David’s orchards and operations in October, I feel even more strongly about the company.

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

It’s no secret that Harry & David offer some of the most delicious pears you’ll ever sink your teeth into. They are not only the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever tasted, but their color and texture is amazing. Their other fruit gifts are equally as delicious, and they’ve partnered with great cheese companies to give you amazing wine pairing options. Couple that with the new line of wine from Harry & David and you’ve got amazing gift options, or a perfect picnic or party delivered right to your door.

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

The gift I received was a sample of what you can expect when you order a gift of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month. The giveaway, details are below, will be three months of their fantastic fruit, paired with an artisan cheese delivered to your door. It’s an amazing gift idea, something new and exciting each month it arrives. From their Royal Riviera Pears to their Honeycrisp Apples, my favorite apples ever, you will savor each and every bite. The cheeses are amazing options like Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese or their own Cheddar cheese which is creamy and delicious.

While this is a sponsored post, I’ve always been a put your money where your mouth is kind of person. I couldn’t in good conscious recommend and write about something I wouldn’t pay my own money for. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, sending their pears and other gifts to people all the time. The nurses who’ve been helping my sister recover for the last year have been delighted to recieve a gift of Harry & David’s fresh fruit, and of course go wild over the MooseMunch. I even sent a bunch of goodies to Robin’s mom this past Thanksgiving, including two boxes of Harry & David’s Royal Riviera Pears.

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

I first paired the Harry & David Honeycrisp apple, topped with a slice of their delicious aged cheddar with the 2011 Rogue Valley Chardonnay, also from Harry & David. Chardonnay pairs so nicely with cheddar cheese, and of course the apples topped with the delicious creamy cheddar is a perfect pairing too. However, the apple was a tad too sweet for the chardonnay! So, I ate the apple, then the cheese separately and finished with the delicious, crisp white wine and was very happy. The Harry & David chardonnay is bursting with fresh crisp flavors of pear and apple, has a nice body and enough acidity to make it food friendly. You can order three white wines from Harry and David, and I think the Gewurztraminer would work perfectly with the sweet apples as well as the cheddar.

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

The Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears were super sweet and super juicy. I put a slice of the Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese on top, and it was an interesting mix of sweet and savory. The pears were WAY too sweet for the chardonnay, and would have gone much better with their viognier, or even the gewurztraminer. The fruit needs a sweeter, more fruit forward wine. The cheese was very smokey, even the tip of it was a dark smoked color. It was very unique, and it paired nicely with the Chardonnay as well.

And now, you have the chance to win three months of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month club! A $130 value, you will receive their Royal Riviera Pears and Mascarpone cheese for the December shipment. Then the January Shipment will be Cushman’s HoneyBells and Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese. Finally, your great gift wraps up with Royal Oranges and Beechers Flagship Cheese.  The Pears and Mascarpone will pair perfectly with a Moscato d’Asti, or even a sweeter, Oregon Riesling. The Honeybell Oranges will also pair well with sweeter wines, riesling, moscato or even Sauternes, while the Seastack cheese should match nicely with pinot noir or chardonnay. Finally, your Royal Oranges pair with the same wines the Honeybell will, and the Beechers Flagship should be nice with Syrah or Chardonnay.

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Entering the giveaway is simple. You have from Thursday December 13th through Sunday December 16th 11:59 pm EST  to enter. Each person can enter up to three times, one for Facebook, one for Twitter, and one for Pinterest. For each entry, you must leave a SEPARATE COMMENT below. Make sure I have your email address, as the winner will be selected at random based on the comments below, and notified by email only.

How To Win This Delicious Fruit and Cheese Gift from Harry & David

1 – Tweet the following then comment below: Winning a @HarryandDavid Fruit & Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadgift

2- Post the following on Facebook and comment: Winning this Harry & David Fruit and Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious  http://budurl.com/hadgift

3- Repin your favorite Harry and David item from http://pinterest.com/harryanddavid/ and comment below where we can see your pin

This contest is open to US residents only, and if you live in a state where Harry & David can not ship wine, an alternate gift will be made available as necessary.

You can see more of what Harry & David offer, just

Follow Harry & David on Twitter
Like Harry & David on Facebook
Follow Harry & David on Pinterest

Disclaimer – I was provided a Fruit and Cheese gift to review and a stipend for my time and any materials invested in writing this sponsored post.  I was not asked for a positive review, but for an honest one.  All opinions are my own

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

In the mean time, I have some delicious fruit to enjoy. Cheers!

 

Budget Wines For Everyday

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

Decent Wines For Just A Few Bucks

I’m often asked to recommend cheap wines that can be found in grocery stores. Many people hear about Two Buck Chuck, which now sells for $3 or so, and wonder if it’s any good. During my trip to Oregon, someone asked me about Two Buck Chuck right before the Harry and David wine dinner. I’ve not had Two Buck Chuck in recent years, and my first taste was a long time ago. However, I took a run to the local Total Wine, which has a much bigger selection of good wines under $10 than the grocery store, and have eight wine options that wont break your budget.

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Conte Priola Pinot Grigio Veneto 201

Our first budget wine is a $7 option from Italy. The Conte Priola Pinot Grigio – Veneto 2011 has a fragrant nose of spiced pear and yellow apples. There is a smokey, spicy note that translates from the bouquet to the palate. There is very nice acidity, which comes across as citrus notes. An easy drinking, simple wine. Not very complex, just a back yard sipper.

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Moving to Marlborough, New Zealand, we have the $9.99 Kemblefield 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The bouquet is bursting, big kumquat and tangerine and lime on the nose, mixed with herbal notes. The palate is very refreshing, great citrus notes like pink grapefruit, mixed with tangerine and even apricot flavors. Very fresh fruit, that may come across a touch tart from the acidity. Good structure, and well made for under $10.

Generation Green Chardonnay

Generation Green Chardonnay

Vying with the Two Buck Chuck line is Generation Green Chardonnay, costing a scant $3.99. The nose show scallions and apricots, and the palate is smooth and light. There are toasty apple flavors mixed with toasted breads and vanilla creme. There is a good bit of green and spice on the mid-palate and finish, showing the oak that the wine is aged in. This wine is in a bottle made from lighter weight glass, helping to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Definitely a bit more green than our next option, but also half the price!

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011

Our next white wine also comes from California. The Cloud Break Chardonnay 2011,  costs $7.99 at Total Wine and is one of their big sellers. The bouquet is fresh pears and yellow apples. The mouth feel is fuller, showing toasty bread topped with a nice pear and yellow apple compote. There is a good bit of warming spice on the finish, that shows the oak aging and barrel fermentation. It’s not over oaked, however. Don’t fear splinters when you sip this budget friendly white wine.

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay

For those who love a more fruity, almost sweet tasting wine, this $5.99 bottle is for you. I used to jokingly say “I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine.” That was, until I met Barefoot Cellars long time winemaker Jennifer Wall! She had me taste the Barefoot line again, and I had to retract my comment. The entire Barefoot line is fruit focused, and clearly people like that style. Barefoot sells millions of cases of wine a year. So, while it may not be the most complex wine you’ll put in your glass, for $6 or so per bottle, this is an easy drinking, back yard, feet up and relax kind of wine. The chardonnay will show fresh fruit salad, pears and apples, and have just the slightest hint of spice and vanilla.

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Pepperwood Gove Pinot Noir

Moving on to red wines, our first option is one of Suzanne’s picks. The Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir is $6.99 in Publix grocery stores. This pinot noir has bright fresh strawberries and red raspberries on both the nose and the palate. There is a little bit of tannin, which dries the mouth and offers the slightest hint of smoke.  The finish seems very long. If you are a fan of more fruit forward red wines, this $7 option would be right up your alley.

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010

Moving to France, we have the Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2010 for $9.99. The bouquet shows dried strawberries that are earthy and subdued. The palate is very dry, and the earthiness and old world flavors come through. There may be a little too much oak for some on this wine, which shows in the tannin and spice on the finish. The oak is not overwhelming, as the fruit still shows. However, the spice from the toasty oak definitely makes a firm showing. This could use some food, whether that be a host of cheeses, some nice grilled salmon, or even a breast of duck dish.

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Finally, we have the Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Washington state. The nose is bright red cherry, and highlights the super simple, super fruit forward nature of this wine. Not complex at all, there are fresh ripe cherries and raspberries, with just a hint of spice and tannin on the finish. This wine is all about young, fresh, vibrant fruit, and is a super easy sipper. There is no food necessary for this $8.99 porch wine.

This list is by no means a complete resource of budget focused wines under $10. As a matter of fact, I plan on highlighting more options in the coming months. I’m not the only person focusing on these value wines, however. Jay, the store manager at the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Total Wine put up signs in each of the grape variety sections in the store, highlighting their under $10 wine options. The big pink signs are hard to miss, but customers find them very helpful.

What is your everyday budget wine?

Thanksgiving Holiday Wines on By The Glass Show

Guest Appearance on By The Glass Radio Show

Guest Appearance on By The Glass Radio Show

As the holidays approach, more and more people are asking what wine goes best with turkey for Thanksgiving. The standard answer most wine writers are giving is “Drink what you like.”  Indeed, the idea of “Thanksgiving wine pairings” is rather overdone, and for many reasons. First of all, a Google search will bring up thousands of articles from past years, all giving the same wine pairing advice. Secondly, with the large amounts of food on the Thanksgiving table, spanning the taste spectrum from savory to sweet, it’s impossible to say one wine goes best with everything. Therefore, the new stock answer is drink what you like.

That’s all well and good if you know what you like. However, some people may not be sure what wine they like, or perhaps aren’t looking for the wine that pairs with turkey, but rather a new wine to try they haven’t thought about. That’s where I come in. I hope to offer a few different options in this and the next few posts that help  make your wine pairing more fun for the holidays. Under the guise of talking about the 2011 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, I visited Brett Hubbard and his By The Glass radio show to talk turkey, and wine.

Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

The show took a quick look at Beaujolais Nouveau, which is the marketing gimmick from the 1970s designed by négociant Georges Duboeuf, along with others, to generate cash flow and move the wine that wasnt necessarily the best that the Beaujolais region had to offer. It worked, and year after year they pump out around 49 million liters of grape juice, exporting about half, and we buy it. It goes against almost everything France stands for. It’s flashy, with whacky bottle designs, and it’s young, going against all of the age requirements wines are held to in every other region.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 from Georges Duboeuf

Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 from Georges Duboeuf

First was Jean-Claude Debeaune 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. It was horrible. Two of us choked when we took our first sip! It reminded me of a jelly donut with way too much powdered sugar. The only reason you should drink this is if someone is holding a gun to your head. It had no merit, what so ever.

Next up, the Georges Deboeuf 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau. The packaging was pretty funky, with a Parisian cafe scene on the bottle. It was really eye catching, and my photo doesn’t do it justice. And, amazingly, the wine inside wasn’t horrible. It was simple, easy to drink, there was a little structure there, and at the price, which was under $10, it would be good for more than just putting out a fire. While it wouldn’t be a wine I serve for Thanksgiving, or really at all, I wouldn’t turn a glass away.

Now, on to the real Thanksgiving wine pairings. I selected three wines that are all safe holiday pairings, based solely on the grape and the region. I had never tasted them before, but felt they were safe picks. One of them was a favorite region in Burgundy, another was from a producer with a great history with the grape, and the last was a winery that I’ve reviewed and enjoyed for years and it was my failsafe pick, I knew it wouldn’t suck!

Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis

Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis

When people tell me they hate chardonnay, my first response is to pour them a glass of Chablis. Often called the truest expression of the grape, Chablis is typically unoaked, does not see malolactic fermentation that would wine that buttery mouthfeel and palate, and is crisp, clean and mineral driven. The Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis is a great example of that. For $18, this wine offered a great expression of Chablis, with notes of pear and apple, or what we described as orchard fruit on the show, with a medium body and good acidity which comes through on the palate as a citrus note. The wine had a nice, long finish, which meant after you swallowed, you still had some of the flavors in your mouth, and that would interact nicely with your next bite of food. The body of the wine will stand up to the rich Thanksgiving day feast, and the acidity makes it very food friendly. It’s well balanced, and it will be a welcome addition to your holiday meal. I picked this wine up, as well as the next two, at Total Wine and More in South Florida.

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a wine that works well with almost any meal. It’s typically light enough to go with white meats, but acidic and heavy enough to go with beef if you want. The Seven Peaks is produced by Deloach, makers of fine Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The Seven Peaks had good fruit, berry and strawberry, with a little spice on the finish. It probably isn’t going to wow Burgundian pinot noir fans, it was a bit concentrated and jammy for my palate, the weight and acidity, again, make it a great wine for your Thanksgiving feast. Additionally, for only $9.99, this is a wine that not only works for a holiday meal, but also works for every day. It did open and soften a little with air, and I think your experience will change, in a good way, as you sip this throughout the evening.

Sobon Estate 2009 Hilltop Zinfandel

Sobon Estate 2009 Hilltop Zinfandel

Finally, we looked at the Sobon Estate 2009 Hillside zinfandel. One of the lower priced Sobon wines at $9.99, there is a lot of value in the bottle. A mix of estate fruit and purchased fruit, this zinfandel is rich and jammy, offering big berry fruit, while not being over the top. At 14.5% alcohol by volume, it’s alcohol restrained and balanced, offering a very nice glass of wine for the price. It’s medium to full bodied, and has a nice finish of spices that balance the fruit on the front end of the palate. While not my favorite Sobon Estate Zinfandel, as I prefer the slightly more expensive Cougar Hill or Rocky Top for $16, this red wine is going to work nicely on Thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, Jason from the By The Glass Show team said it was going to be his pick for the holiday meal. It’ll work nicely with turkey, pair with cranberry sauce, and probably stand up to any heavier foods you serve as well. It’s also a very nice sipping wine, and you’ll enjoy it long after the meal is done.

I’ll be back tomorrow with three more wines for Thanksgiving that I’ll be talking about on CBS12. Only one grape is a repeat, and it’s a very different wine, so be sure to come back and check it out! You can also catch my By The Glass Show visit online!

Sipping Chardonnay – Franciscan 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

For over thirty years, the Franciscan Estate winery has been making small lots of wine and blending them together to bring to market what they believe is a fantastic wine. They offer multiple lines of wine, including the Signature Wines, as well as the Limited Selection Magnificat and Cuvee Sauvage lines. Their main line, Signature Wines, offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and the wine I’ll discuss now, the 2009 Franciscan Napa Valley Chardonnay.

I receive many press samples of Franciscan wines, and have thought they were all nice wines. This chardonnay is the first I’ve written about, because I feel for the price, it offers a solid wine. For $18, this offers a taste of a Napa chardonnay without paying exorbitant prices. This white wine needed to breathe, something I’m finding more and more whites can benefit from. As soon as it was uncorked, the bouquet was pears slathered in buttered popcorn, and the palate was light to medium, with a very round mouth feel. The acidity seemed a little off and the fruit seemed over ripe.  However, after about 15 minutes open in the glass, the wine was much different.

After breathing, the palate was much more round, a function of the malolactic fermentation as well as the 8 months sur lie in a mix of American and French Oak. Sur lie means the lees, or expired yeast left after fermentation, stays in the barrel with the wine, which gives it a rounder, softer mouth feel.  There were notes of pear, vanilla and buttered popcorn on the palate, and the acidity was much more subtle.

The Franciscan Napa Chardonnay is fermented in oak barrels, using wild yeast which results in lively, fruit and mineral flavors with some layers of complexity. When fermenting wine, some winemakers use specific yeasts to achieve specific notes. Using whatever yeasts are in the air and vineyard naturally is thought to allow nature to guide the wine’s outcome. If you are a fan of oaky, buttery chardonnays then for $18 this is one to try. However, if you prefer a crisp chardonnay, or one with more fruit, then you’d skip the Franciscan. While the pear and fruit notes are definitely present on the wine, I feel with even such a light oak aging of 8 months, the vanilla, butter, and oak takes center stage.  If you’re looking for a nice chardonnay food and wine pairing, this wine will pair nicely with a roast chicken and side dishes such as mashed potato or macaroni and cheese.

Pairing wine with Easter and Passover meals

wine to pair with easter or passover dinner

Happy Holiday

Easter and Passover are on their way, and that means family will be getting together to celebrate the holidays. Whether your family has a tried and true menu, or likes to change it up year after year, having the right wine on the table makes everything better. Recently, I brought four wines to the CBS12 WPEC station as recommendations for your holiday celebrations.

The segment starts with two kosher for Passover wines. There is not a tremendous difference between kosher wine and non kosher wine. In general, because kosher wine is used in the Sabbath blessing, as well as holidays, it can only be handled by Sabbath observant Jews. Additionally, no animal products can be used in the winemaking process, such as gelatin or egg whites to fine the wine (remove particulates). The difference in Kosher for Passover versus Kosher wine is that they make sure no grain yeasts are used, since during Passover Jews do not eat any grains (no bread, for example). That’s it, otherwise, it’s fermented grape juice, just like any other wine. I’ve discussed kosher Chardonnay previously, and compared to a non-kosher chardonnay.


Click above to watch Matthew Horbund talk Kosher for Passover and Easter wines on CBS12 WPEC

The first wine in the TV segment above was Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay from the Oak Knoll District of Napa, California. This wine retails for $20, and is a nice Napa Valley chardonnay at this price. Irit and Ernie Weir founded the winery in 1979 with their inaugural vintage in 1980. With a total production of only 8,000 cases annually, they produce small batches of various wines including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, chardonnay, and riesling. Their wines are well made, and for this segment I tasted the merlot, cabernet and chardonnay. I selected the chardonnay as I thought it offered a nice rich and full mouth feel, having good pear fruit with the toasty spice from the oak aging. This wine sees malolactic fermentation, which gives it that rich mouth feel, often associated with a buttery quality, and a little oak which gives it the buttery taste, as well as a little spice. This wine will pair well with the appetizers, as well as any lighter fare served at the Seder such as chicken. For the record, the name is pronounced Ha-Ga-Fen, not Hag-a-fen as I said in the above TV spot. Clearly, my Hebrew needs as much work as my French and Italian. In the Hebrew prayer over grape juice or grape wine, the ending words “p’ri hagafen” translates to Fruit of the Vine.

Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay perfect for Passover Seder

Hagafen 2008 Chardonnay

For a red wine option, I selected the Baron Herzog 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Central Coast, California. The Herzog family has a long history of wine making, dating back to Philip Herzog making wine for the Austro-Hungary court more than 100 years ago. Emperor Franz Josef enjoyed the wines so much, he made Philip a Baron! During World War II, Philips grandson Eugene hid the family from the Nazis by moving them around the Slovenian countryside, and at the end of the war came out from a false wall in a friends shed to reclaim his family’s winery. Three years later they were driven from their home, and in 1948 arrived in New York. Eugene toiled in a small store front making kosher wine from Concord grapes, and instead of being paid for some of his work, was given shares in the company. All of the other owners eventually gave up their shares, and  in 1958 he became the sole shareholder. They renamed the company Royal Wines in deference to grandfather Philip, and turned the company into a success. They moved out to California, expanding in 1985, with a focus on making high end quality wine under two labels, Baron Herzog and Herzog Wine cellars.

baron herzog cabernet sauvignon for passover seder

Baron Herzog cabernet sauvignon

The Baron Herzog 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is made mostly from grapes sourced from the Paso Robles wine region. It’s aged 18 months in stainless steel, which helps retain the fruit notes. The nose of the wine has bright raspberry and red fruits, which soften as it opens up. This is a very California wine, showing more fruit than earthy or leathery notes. While a tad dry and mild tannins, the round fresh fruit translates from the nose to the palate. It will pair nicely with your Passover Seder meal, whether that includes brisket, lamb shank, or some other roasted dish. For $13, it’s a nice California Cabernet, Kosher for Passover or not.

There were plenty of other Kosher for Passover wines I could have selected. I tasted the Ben Ami Chardonnay and Merlot, and while both were a bit on the lighter and easy drinking side, they’d make a fine showing at your Passover dinner. I also tried the Hagafen Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which showed a bit more earthy and leather notes on the palate than the Baron Herzog. Any would make a fine showing at your meal. While selecting a Kosher for Passover wine requires a little work, visiting Total Wine will help make that work a bit easier. They’ve got a tremendous selection of Kosher wines, including other US made wines as well as Israel made wines. They’ve also plenty of wines to select for Easter. Selecting a wine for Easter isn’t as restrictive as Passover, so the field is wide open. For Easter, I selected two Argentinian wines for the TV segment, and think for the price, they offer great quality, though they aren’t Kosher for Passover.

Don David Torrontes a great white wine for Easter

Don David Torrontes

With about 1,500 acres of vineyards  5,500 feet above sea level, the Michel Torino Estate is a key player in the Cafayate Valley of Argentina. The winery was founded in 1892 by brothers Salvador and David Michel, and they produce a wide variety of wines from a malbec rose to cabernet sauvignion to pinot noir and more. In the TV segment, select the Don David Torrontes Reserve 2009 as a great white wine for Easter, and for $16, it’s great any time. The nose of this wine is absolutely beautiful, with soft white flowers and a slight melon note.  The palate shows some citrus and melon, and is light and quite delicious. It will pair well with chicken, sea food and shellfish, and as I mention in the segment, Thai food.

Don David Malbec perfect for your easter meal

Don David Malbec

As a red wine for Easter, I believe the Don David Mabec Reseve 2008 will be a fantastic wine selection. Malbec is a versatile wine, and it pairs well with beef or lamb prepared almost any way, as well as ham, which covers most of the meats at traditional Easter meals. Without any decanting this wine has a palate of simple red fruit, with restrained earthy notes. As it opens, the palate is powerful fruit of red cherries and a little chocolate, and shows definitely a bit more new world with it’s round flavor profile. The more this wine opens, the more dark the fruit gets, and the more complexities come out. With a price of about $15, it’s not only worth making an appearance on your Easter table, it may be the best value wine you can get for the holiday!

Of course, everyone is looking for the best wine for Easter, and Passover, and I’ve given just a few selections here. I’ll come back in a few days to offer some more Easter wine pairings, but I’d love to hear what you plan on serving this holiday season. Easter or Passover, what’s in your glass?

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.