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Wine Under $20

Sparkling Wine For your Valentine, That’s Amore

Amore, Italian for Love. That is what Valentine’s Day is about. It’s not about gifts, or fancy dinners out. Those things are nice, but Valentine’s Day is about love. And wine.

Valentine's Day Sparkling Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Valentine’s Day Sparkling Wine

You can make a bold statement with a bottle of sparkling wine. From dry to sweet, there’s an Italian sparkling wine that’s perfect for you and your amore.

From Northern Italy and founded in 1887 by Francesco Mionetto in the village of Valdobbiadene,  Mionetto Prosecco Brut DOC is a great way to say I Love You. Made with 100% Glera grapes from the Veneto region, the Mionetto Prosecco Brut is ever so slightly sweet. The Italian sparkling wine is rich yellow color, with an aroma of white peaches.

Mionetto Brut Prosecco - a great sparkling wine for Valentine's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Mionetto Brut Prosecco – a great sparkling wine for Valentine’s Day

There are lively bubbles in the glass, and you first notice the minerality of the wine, followed by delicious notes of pear and white peach. Mionetto Brut Prosecco is widely available, and can be found in retail stores for approximately $14.

Pink and Valentine’s Day sometimes seem synonymous, so a rosé sparkling wine will suit your amore perfectly. From the Veneto region of Northern Italy,  Lamberti Rose Spumante is made with 34% Pinot Bianco, 33% Pinot Nero, and 33% Raboso. A soft, light pink color, you will notice an aroma of sweet red raspberry and strawberry wafting from your glass. The tiny, fine bubbles are persistent, but not too firm, just a beautiful, delicate sparkle.

Lamberti Rose Spumante Sparkling Italian Wine for Valentine's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Lamberti Rose Spumante Sparkling Italian Wine for Valentine’s Day

A touch sweeter than the Mionetto, the Lamberti Rose Spumante has a light, delicate palate of ripe red fruits. The hint of sweetness is brief, and the dry finish leaves you wanting another sip. Another $14 Italian Sparkling wine that can be found in stores and online.

As unique and interesting as the love of your life, Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Vigna del Cristo’ is an Italian Sparkling wine from the Modena region of Northern Italy. Lumbrusco is a wine that has different characteristics according to where it comes from, and there are  five Lambrusco DOCs, each with it’s own variety of Lambrusco grape. This affordable red sparkling wine is made with 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara, which is thought to be the highest quality Lambrusco grape since it is one of the more difficult ones to grow, having the lowest yields of grapes per vine, and thus more concentrated flavors.

Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara 'Vigna del Cristo' Sparkling Wine from Italy - agoodtimewithwine.com

Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Vigna del Cristo’ Sparkling Wine from Italy

The Cavicchioli Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Vigna del Cristo’ is a dark pink color in the glass, with an inviting aroma of dark raspberries. Those dark raspbery scents belie the dryness of the palate, however. Soft dried red berry, cranberry and raspberry make up the flavors of this quite dry but fun sparkling Italian wine. It retails for $17, and paired with some dried salami, would be a delightful way to start your Valentine’s Day celebration.

Our fourth Italian sparkling wine, the sweetest of the group, is also from Cavicchioli. The Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling Lo Spumante is made with 100% Malvasia grapes, and the beautiful bottle hints at the flavors inside.

Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling Lo Spumante italian sparkling wine for Valentine's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling Lo Spumante

An inviting aroma of white peach and white jasmine, the Cavicchioli 1928 sparkling lo spumante is a burst of white honeysuckle, white peach, and floral jasmine on the palate. It’s a very soft approach and mid-palate, the finish is medium in length, leaving a touch of sweetness lingering on your tongue.  Available in retail shops for only $14, this sweeter Italian sparkling wine is sure to please your Valentine.

Four Italian Sparkling Wines Perfect for your Valentie's Day - agoodtimewithwine.com

Four Italian Sparkling Wines Perfect for your Valentie’s Day

Any of these affordable Italian sparkling wines would be a perfect way to toast to the love of your life. So, pop a cork, and toast to another beautiful year with your amore! Cin-Cin!

 

Wine, Chicken Wings, and Sriracha score a Superbowl Touchdown

superbowl snacks made with Sriracha Chili Sauce

Sriracha Chili Sauce

Sriracha is the hottest thing on the internet now. No, really, it’s hotter than Matt Cutt’s rant on Guest Blogging Is Dead. And, with the Superbowl coming up, every food blogger is talking about their Sriracha Appetizers for the big game. My favorite Superbowl finger food is chicken wings! So, I found three chicken wing recipes perfect for the Superbowl, two of which are made with Sriracha. I then, of course, paired wine with them, because that’s what I do. Touchdown, Sriracha!

I went with three red wines for the Superbowl appetizers this year. I’ve previously written about Wine and Wings, and stand by my pairing of Riesling with hot wings. Riesling is the perfect white wine to pair with spicy foods, as the fruit flavors and residual sugar balances the heat perfectly. However, some people don’t want balance, they want heat. And lots of it. So, I picked red wines that keep the heat hot. We’ll look at those wines after the wings.

Sriracha Oven Fried Chicken Wings from Honestly Yum Blog

Sriracha Oven Fried Chicken Wings

The first Superbowl appetizer hails from Honestly Yum’s Sriracha Oven Friend Chicken Wings recipe. Her complete hot wing recipe calls for Sriracha, butter, jalepenos and cilantro for the sauce, and cooking the wings on wire racks in the oven. She has this nifty method for making the skin crisp while baking, and it would have been cool if I was patient enough to try it!

Unfortunately, I was cooking three different types of wings at once, and had no patience for wire racks. I threw all of my wings on a cookie sheet, cooked them for 20 minutes, drained the fat, flipped the wings, and cooked for 15 more minutes, all on 475 degrees. They may not have been as FABU as Honesty Yum’s wings, but they were darned tasty. My son absolutely loved these wings, as did I. We didn’t garnish with jalepeno or cilantro, and they still rocked. These wings are not for the faint of tongue however, because they’re seriously hot!

harry and david blood orange marmalade and sriracha hot sauce chicken wings

Strange Bedfellows – Sriracha and Blood Orange Marmalade

The second Sriracha Chicken Wing recipe comes from The Little Kitchen. She puts together a sweet and spicy sauce for her oven baked wings that I liked. While I enjoyed it, I felt it was a tad light on the heat. Had I had time, I would have messed with the ratios a little, upping the Sriracha a touch, and reducing the Harry & David Blood Orange Marmalade a touch.

Sriracha Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings

Sriracha Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings

You definitely want to check out her blog, because she prepares the wings by boiling them first, then oven baking them. She claims it makes an awesome, crispy skin, and I am sure it does! Again, I didn’t do that, since I was pressed for time.

Though any old orange marmalade will do, I was very glad that I had a jar of the marmalade left over from my 2012 visit to Harry & David in Oregon. The quality ingredients made these Sriracha Spicy and Sweet chicken wings rock.

Garlic and Olive Oil base for Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings

Garlic and Olive Oil base for Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings

The last recipe that I made tonight was From Gate to Plate’s Parmesan and Garlic Boneless Chicken Wings. Oh. My. GAWD! Hands down, these were everyone’s favorite wings tonight. It wasn’t just the fact that they were boneless wings, because I used the same chicken in all three sauces. The sauce just rocked, and everyone agreed.

Roasting Garlic in Olive Oil for Chicken Wing Sauce

Roasting Garlic in Olive Oil for Chicken Wing Sauce

The Parmesan Garlic sauce required you to bake 8 cloves of garlic for 20 minutes, then mix together a number of ingredients with that garlic, like mayo, corn syrup, apple cider vinegar and more. I short circuited the process by using a small disposable aluminum baking pan, instead of a big cookie sheet for roasting the garlic. Worked perfectly. The house smelled AMAZING, like my Italian grandmother was cooking for the family. If I was Italian, that is.

Frying Chicken Breast Chunks for Boneless Chicken Wings

Frying Chicken Breast Chunks for Boneless Chicken Wings

This recipe has you frying boneless chicken breasts that you coat in flour, rather than actual chicken wings. I was a bit skeptical at first, because I don’t fry things. Ever. Not even eggs. Sunny side up, sure, but not fried. I digress!  I don’t have a deep fryer like she recommends, so I filled a cast iron skillet about 2/3 of the way with vegetable oil, put the burner on medium high, let it warm for 8 minutes, then began frying my chunks of chicken. I turned them once or twice, and cut into one after about 8 or so minutes frying. PERFECT! I call it beginners luck. So, after you fry up the boneless chicken breasts, toss them in the sauce, and mangiare. That’s Italian for EAT!

Pairing Wine with Parmesan Garlic chicken wings

Pairing Wine with Parmesan Garlic chicken wings

Now, what about the wine? I went with three very different red wines. One was a Garnacha from Spain, another was a Petite Sirah from California, and the third was a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend from the Southern Rhone in France.

Spellbound 2012 Petite Sirah paired with spicy hot chicken wings

Spellbound 2012 Petite Sirah paired with spicy hot chicken wings

Though perhaps not the best example of Petite Sirah in the world, the Spellbound 2010 Petite Sirah from California was the best wine to pair with the hot wings. The fresh California fruit really balanced the heat from the Sriracha hot wings perfectly. The Spellbound Petite Sirah was a “Grocery Store Wine” that cost around $15. The aroma is ripe red raspberry, with hints of chocolate, and is very inviting. The palate is soft silky red fruit, not super complex or super structured. It’s definitely a California porch sipper, but I think it’s a nice wine and the hot wings are perfect with it – all fruit balances all heat!

Domaine de la Maurelle 2010 Gigondas red wine

Domaine de la Maurelle 2010 Gigondas red wine

The Domaine de la Maurelle Gigondas 2010 was a very nice, but very different wine to pair with the chicken wings. This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre has a spiced black and blueberry aroma. The palate is medium mouth feel, dominated by earthy leather on the palate with dried red and black fruit, with firm tannin, as well as some menthol rounding it out. Old world wine all the way, yet nice with the wings. This Southern Rhone red wine cost $25.

Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha red wine from Spain

Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha red wine from Spain

Finally, we had Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha. Disappointed. This was a wine that in 2008 I was singing praises of. Now, I’m just going to say, skip it. The aroma is subdued red raspberry with hints of a leather bound book. The palate is fresh and ripe fruit, with some earthiness. However, there’s a green celery component that really is NOT pleasant. The $15 wine was too simple and yet too awkward to really get behind. However, I believe a nice Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) would be perfect with the Sriracha chicken wings, or the parmesan and garlic wings.

So, there you have it, three, well two wines that pair perfectly with chicken wings for the Superbowl. Whether you go for Parmesan Garlic or Sriracha hot wings, you’re sure to score with the three recipes I linked above. So, tell me, what’s your favorite wine for the Superbowl? And what are you pairing it with? Let me know below, just leave a comment! 

 

Wine, Steak and The Godfather Part II

review wine pairing napa cellars merlot 2007 and steak

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007

On Sunday night, we like to get ready for the work week ahead, have a comfort meal, and watch some TV. This weekend, AMC ran a Godfather marathon, which seemed perfect to watch while eating steak and drinking red wine. With The Godfather Part II as a backdrop, we grilled some delicious porterhouse steaks, and popped the cork on a wine that’s been in my cellar for a few years. Sipping the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 with Michael Corleone was a perfect way to end the weekend.

How Do We Grill Our Steak?

We’re steak purists. This is not to imply we don’t like interesting and exciting preparations for our steaks. I’ve have some amazing steaks with sauces that could blow your hair back. However, when we pull out the Weber charcoal grill, we only season our steak with two ingredients. Those ingredients are salt, and pepper. We grill the steaks over a high heat for about 5-7 minutes per side, and pull them off medium rare. Then, we pour the wine.

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms paired with Merlot  red wine

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms paired with Merlot

Tasting the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007

Part of the Trinchero Family Estates portfolio, I’ve written about Napa Cellars wines in the past. This bottle was a sample that I received in 2010, so it’s been sitting in my cellar a while. I opened the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 about 30 minutes before we were ready to eat, and poured 2 ounces or so into a glass. This allowed the bottle to open up a little, and I was able to sip on some of the wine while grilling the steaks. The wine was an opaque purple to garnet color in the glass, with an aroma of fresh blueberry and brambles. The palate was full, having great layers of blueberry and vanilla, with wonderfully integrated oak in the form of warming cedar and spice that is noticed on the mid-palate and finish. This wine really benefited from the 30 minutes of air, and certainly evolved over the next hour as it was slowly sipped.

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 Pairs Perfectly With Steak

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 Pairs Perfectly With Steak

Wine Pairing With Steak

We do tend to eat a lot of red meat, steak being on the menu at least twice a month. While we usually pair a Cabernet Sauvignon, we’ve been known to break out an Italian red wine for steak before. Merlot does not make it into our glass often, but not because we aren’t fans. Rather, it’s a wine we just don’t seem to grab from the shelves often enough. However, as the Napa Cellars Merlot shows, Merlot a great wine time and time again.

At $22, the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 is aged in new and 1-year old American Oak barrels, is 100% Merlot and is 14.5% ABV. When Fred from Norcal Wine reviewed the wine in 2010, he recommended it, saying it would drink through 2013, though it’s doing fine in 2014 in my opinion. While you’re not likely to find the 2007 vintage in stores, I would not hesitate to try the current, 2011 vintage of this wine. Napa Cellars wines deliver time and time again, and at a price that’s more than reasonable.

What are your thoughts on Merlot? Let me know below!

 

Quick Sip: Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Matthew Horbund Reviews Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

My sipping the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc during the nationwide Polar Vortex freeze had very little to do me taunting my frozen friends. Ok, maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was in shorts and flip flips while you were in a parka, and your tears froze before they dripped down to your nose. However, it was mostly due to the fact that I am not a seasonal drinker. I happily drink white wine in winter and red wine in summer. In the end, my sipping this delicious white wine really had everything to do with the fact that for $19, the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc was darned good.

The Rutherford AVA is Home for Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc

The 2012 vintage marks the 8th bottling of Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit for this crisp white wine is from their Rutherford Estate vineyard. South of St Helena, and north of Yountville, the Rutherford AVA is smack in the middle of the Napa Valley wine region. More prominently known for it’s excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford is home to some notable wine names, including Quintessa, Frog’s Leap, Mumm Napa Valley, St Supery and Cakebread, to name a few. On the Napa valley floor, on the Rutherford Estate, Long Meadow Ranch farms a total of 74 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvingon vineyards. The Long Meadow Ranch vineyards are farmed using organic practices certified by California Certified Organic Farmers. In addition to wine, Long Meadow Ranch sells olive oil, grass fed beef, eggs, honey and heirloom fruits.

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Tasting Notes For Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012

The color of the Long Meadow Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is a pale yellow, bright in the glass, with a medium viscosity. The aroma of grapefruit, lime, and a little salt is very refreshing. The palate is light bodied and crisp, with more lime than grapefruit, candied lime peel, and a little “zip” on the finish from the medium+ acidity. There is a slight smokiness on the finish of the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012, and the length of it’s finish is moderate and enjoyable.

The Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is definitely a white wine worth trying! Are you a fan of Sauvignon Blanc? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Seven Wines To Sip While Gnawing On Jerky

What Wine Pairs With Venison Jerky?

What Wine Pairs With Venison Jerky?

I love pairing wine with food.  When Janie from House of Jerky asked if I would like to sample their jerky products to pair with wine, I jumped at the chance. Thirteen different types of jerky arrived! A variety of meats- boar, buffalo, venison, turkey, beef, as well as seasonings from black pepper to sweet & spicy to HOT. There is so much to cover, I’ll talk about the specific jerky and wine pairings in a separate post. Here, we will take a look at the seven wines I selected to sip while enjoying  jerky.

WHAT RED WINE DID WE PAIR WITH THE JERKY?

Four Red Wines To Pair With Beef Jerky

Four Red Wines To Pair With Beef Jerky

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011:

I was drinking the heck out of the 2005 vintage of this wine back in 2008. Dark garnet in the glass, the bouquet of the Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011 is mixed black and red berries, with some spice scents. A jammy palate up front, with bold fruit flavors of blackberry and raspberry. The mid-palate turns to cooking spice and pepper, but they disappear on the finish rather quickly. Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011 is big jammy fruit, though there is good spice to balance, followed by a little menthol on the finish. For $16.99, it was a decent wine.
review Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2011

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011:

Zinfandel works nicely with smoked meats and Bar-b-Que. The Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011 has a dark garnet to purple color, and a bouquet of  blackberry and licorice with subdued vanilla, raspberry, and strawberry scents. The palate is full, with the spices and red fruit come on fairly powerfully at the approach. There is a great spice and pepper on the mid palate to the finish, with a very long lasting christmas spice/baking spice component. There are great notes of vanilla from the oak aging, as well as cola flavors throughout the palate. For $20, a very nice wine.
review Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma 2011

Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma 2011

Eberle Syrah 2011:

Hailing from Paso Robles, California, but very French in style, the Eberle Syrah 2011 has a dark garnet color, with a very subdued nose; spice and tobacco along with raspberry blueberry on the bouquet. The palate has great depth, earthy tobacco and leather wrapped around dried spiced berries. There is a beautiful warming spice on the palate that offers a very lengthy finish. Another very nice wine at $20.

review Eberle Syrah 2011 Steinbeck Vineyard

Eberle Syrah 2011 Steinbeck Vineyard

I was fortunate to meet Gary Eberle when I visited Paso Robles in 2011. He is a bear of a man, in size and in presence. His stories captivated the group, from bringing French vines to California in the 1970s to flying his own plane. It was an honor to meet him, as well as Steve Lohr of J Lohr, Ken Volk of Kenneth Volk Vineyards, and Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure.

Chatting with Gary Eberle About Wine

Chatting with Gary Eberle About Wine

Domaine Mas Du Bouquet Vacqueyras 2010:

The fourth red is from Vacqueyras, an appellation in the southern Rhone Valley of France. Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 Vacqueyras is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre, or GSM.  A soft bouquet of dried red and black berries, the palate is very soft, dried blueberries, and violets. This $19 wine was given a  90 point rating by Wine Spectator, though I don’t find it as intense and racy as their notes suggest. I find it a bit more floral and feminine, and perhaps there is a bit of bottle variation to consider.

review Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 Vacqueyras

Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 Vacqueyras

 

After trying some of the spicier jerky from House of Jerky with the red wines, I decided we needed a bit of white wine in the mix. The red wines would often keep the heat going, which is great if you LIKE heat. I, however, like to balance the heat with the fresh fruit and florals of the white wines I selected. The white wines in this article were provided as samples. As always, my reviews of wines are not influenced by the fact they were provided to me.

WHAT WHITE WINE DID WE PAIR WITH THE JERKY?

 

White Wine To Pair With Beef Jerky

White Wine To Pair With Beef Jerky

Biltmore Riesling (NV) American

The Biltmore Riesling

The Biltmore Riesling

I’ve paired Riesling with spicy foods in the past, it works nicely. There is a host of delicious riesling available, from all over the world. For the HOT and Sweet & Spicy Jerky pairings I went with The Biltmore Riesling. This wine had a nose of peaches, with slight citrus aromas. The palate was thick, honeyed with gentle peach and nectarine flavors. There was a little acidity on the finish, but not sharp by any means. For $10 at Total wine, it was a pleasant wine. The semi-sweet palate would appeal to those who are not fans of dry white wines. While there was no vintage on this wine, it was harvest in 2010. Wines labels with an American appellation are not permitted by law to carry a vintage date on the label.

review Tenimenti Ca'Bianca Moscato D'Asti 2010

Tenimenti Ca’Bianca Moscato D’Asti 2010

Tenimenti Ca’Bianca 2010 Moscato

I was absolutely enthralled by this $16 bottle of Ca’Bianca 2010 Moscato. I was at first dismayed that the nose was rather non-expressive. However, this slightly frizzante wine has a crushing palate! Cascading flavors of white peach, white flowers, and sweet honey dance all over the tongue. There’s no noticeable acidity, and the frizz is fun. This light and crisp wine is perfect for those who like fresh fruit, or prefer sweet wines. The Ca’Bianca 2010 Moscato was perfect with the spicier jerkys.

Leitz 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Spatlese Riesling

review Leitz 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spatlese

Leitz 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spatlese

The last wine of the wine and jerky pairing is another Riesling, this one from Germany. The Leitz Weingut 2009 Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Spätlese is a brilliant hay yellow in the glass. A zippy nose of petrol and peach/stone fruit. The palate is medium bodied, with ripe peach and apricot, and a hint of acid that’s playing hide and seek with the super fresh fruits in the glass. The Leitz 2009 Riesling is heavier than the other whites, though less sweet, even though it’s a late harvest wine. This $33 wine was cellared for two years, and that likely toned down some of the acidity and freshness.

These wines all work well with a variety of foods, or on their own. Coming up, you’ll see which of the House of Jerky products the wines compliment best.

 

 

Extra Dry versus Brut Champagne – Which Is Drier?

Mumm Champagne in the Desert - Photo: Nick Smith http://nicksmithphoto.wordpress.com/tag/mumm-champagne/

Mumm Champagne in the Desert – Photo: Nick Smith

You don’t like Champagne, I know. You’ve told me before that you don’t enjoy drinking a glass of liquid as dry as a desert. However, it could be that you don’t like dry Champagne, and there are other types of sparkling wines to be had. Don’t let the fact that brut Champagne isn’t your palate stop you from toasting with bubbles on New Year’s Eve.

The question I’m asked most often about Champagne for New Year’s Eve isn’t which to serve. I am always asked “Is extra dry Champagne more dry than Brut Champagne?” It’s confusing, because it’s EXTRA dry, isn’t it? No, unfortunately, it’s not. Another myth about wine dispelled. Extra dry is actually more sweet than Brut Champagne.  HUH?

What Does Dry Wine Mean?

When people talk about a dry wine, they’re talking about how much residual sugar (RS) is in the wine. Therefore, knowing the classifications of sweetness when it comes to Champagne will help you pick the right sparkling wine for your palate. People sometimes confuse the fruit flavors in a wine with sweetness. However, a riesling could be considered “bone dry” because it has no residual sugar, while still possessing flavors of super ripe peaches and nectarines. It can be confusing.

What Are The Sweetness Levels Of Champagne?

From most dry to sweetest the following terms express the sweetness of Champagne

Extra Brut > Brut > Extra Dry > Sec > Demi-Sec > Doux

In terms of Sugar content, Extra Brut has less than 3 grams of sugar per liter of wine, while the more common Brut Champagne has between 3 and 12 grams of sugar/liter. Extra Dry, a bit sweeter than Brut is between 12 and 17 grams of sugar/liter. Sec contains 17 and 32 grams, Demi-Sec between 32 and 50 grams, and Doux has more than 50 grams of sugar per liter. I’ve not found a lot of Doux dessert Champagnes in stores, though the sweet Demi-Sec Champagne can certainly be found.

Can You Recommend A Sweeter Sparkling Wine?

Mumm Napa Cuvee M sweeter sparkling wine

Mumm Napa Cuvee M

There are a host of Champagnes and sparkling wines that will tickle your sweet loving tastebuds! Most recently I enjoyed the Mumm Napa Cuvee M sparkling wine. For about $18, and very widely available, this 90 point Wine Enthusiast rated sparkling wine offered great fruit flavors, and a hint of sweetness.  A slight pink hue, the palate has flavors of baked apple with a little Granny Smith tartness, mixed with a touch of sweet baking spice that makes a brief appearance. The Granny Smith sweetness finishes clean and crisp, and there are excellent, persistent bubbles. While there is a warm toasty finish, this really all about fresh, ripe apples. You could pair this sparkling wine with the Harry & David inspired pear tart I created, or see what blogger Wine Harlots pairs with her Cuvee M.

Additionally, I’ve previously written about The Biltmore Pas De Deux sparkling wine. This is another sweeter sparkling wine for those who prefer a sweeter sip of bubbles. 

Now that you’re armed with an understanding of which Champagne is sweet enough for you, don’t be afraid to pop a cork or two this New Year’s Eve. Let me know what bubbles will tickle your nose as you count down to 2014 by leaving a comment below!

 

Mumm Champagne in the desert photo ‘borrowed’ from Photojournalist Nick Smith

Dessert wine paired with Harry & David’s Organic Pears + Giveaway

French Style Pear Tart using harry and david's organic pears

French Style Pear Tart

While any day is a good day for dessert, a holiday is the best excuse to enjoy it with a dessert wine. When Harry & David asked if I’d like to host a giveaway (end of this post) of one box of their organic Royal Riviera pears during the holidays, I knew it would be a great excuse to make an easy but delicious dessert, and pair it with some sweet wines. I asked friends for a pear tart recipe, something to remind me of the one I had when in Paris. My friend Linda gave me this easy, 5 ingredient recipe that came out perfectly. I then paired three different dessert wines, and euphoria ensued.

Harry and David's Organic Royal Riviera Pears are non-gmo fruit

Harry and David’s Organic Royal Riviera Pears

The most important ingredient for the tart, of course, is the pears. They need to be perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy, and healthy. Harry & David’s organic Royal Riviera pears were just the ticket. These pears are included in just about every Harry and David gift basket, and like most tree fruit, they’re not genetically modified (non-GMO). Harry & David’s 80th anniversary is next year, and they still use all natural grafting methods, instead of genetically modifying the seeds. Though Harry & David did provide the pears for this post and the below giveaway, I have been a loyal customer personally as well on a corporate level for years.

To make the pear tart, you just need five ingredients:

2 Harry & David’s Organic Royal Riviera Pears (substitute different quality pears if you MUST…)
1 sheet Frozen Puff Pastry Dough (a rectangle that is about 12 x 8 is ideal)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I improvised and did 3/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp all spice)

Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pasty was perfect

Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pasty was perfect

For the tart “crust”, I went with a frozen puff pastry dough from Pepperidge Farm. It was not the size and shape I wanted, but it worked just fine.

Before you start cutting and layering, mix up the sugar and spice ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Slice the stem and very top off of the pears and then slice the pears in half lengthwise. Then, use a paring knife and cut out the core. Next, place the pear flesh side down, and slice lengthwise about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Slice then core the Harry & David Organic pears

Slice then core the Harry & David Organic pears

 

Slice the harry & david organic pears in 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide pieces

Slice the pears in 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide pieces

Once the pears are cut, unfold the dough, placing it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

The Pepperidge Farm dough was about 9″ square, and I traced a border of about 1″ around it with a butter knife. Be sure not to go all the way through the dough. This 1″ border will cause the ends to puff up around the filling when cooking, and create edges around the pears. I would have preferred the dough’s width be about 8″, and then the 1″ border would have made for a much more narrow tart.

I was a little skeptical at first that tracing a thin border would create the puffed edges, but it really worked. WHO KNEW?!

cooking with harry and david non-gmo organic pears Trace a 1 inch border around the dough

Trace a 1 inch border around the dough

Next, begin layering your pear inside the center of the dough. Be sure the larger end of the pear is closer to the traced line, and have the pears overlap. Try to use the smaller outside pieces of pear first, as a bit of a base. That way, the longer pieces will line up nice and upright. Be sure you don’t leave too much space between the pieces.

Layer your Harry and David pears inside the center of the dough

Layer your pears inside the center of the dough

Once your pears are layered nicely, being sure not to leave too much open space in the middle, while not going over the border, sprinkle the sugar mixture on the top. Place the tart in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 400. It should stay refrigerated about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle your Harry and David pears with the sugar mixture

Sprinkle your Harry and David pears with the sugar mixture

After the 20 minute refrigeration, place your pear tart in the oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, reduce the oven temperature to 350, and set another timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, if the crust isn’t golden brown and crisp, give it a few more minutes. Once finished, remove from oven and let cool. Now, on to the dessert wine!

Dessert Wine Perfect for a Pear Tart!

Dessert Wine Perfect for a Pear Tart!

Pairing wine with sweets has one general rule: your wine must be as sweet or sweeter than your food. If not, the wine may taste muted or bland after tasting the dessert. That said, I’ve selected a trio of dessert wines to pair with the tart. They each come from a different region, and are made with different grapes. I will say that the Sauternes from the amazing Chateau Coutet pictured above was not opened for this tasting. It was a full sized bottle, as opposed to the typical 375ml half bottle you’ll find for white dessert wines. I therefore chose to open another, quite delicious bottle of Sauternes to avoid any waste of the Chateau Coutet, since I was the only taster.

Pairing Harry and David Pear Tart with Anakena Late Harvest 2008 dessert wine

Anakena Late Harvest 2008 dessert wine

Hailing from Chile, the Anakena Late Harvest 2008 ($20) was the least sweet of the three wines. However, it was still a perfect pair with the pear tart. Made with 85% Viognier and 15% Muscat of Alexandria, the Anakena Late Harvest 2008 was not heavy on the palate, and still a bit crisp. The nose and palate were delicate white floral and dried apricot, with decent acidity. It’s not as  heavy or viscus as a Sauternes, and there are no honey notes that are found in the other two options. However, this is definitely the best dessert wine pairing if you are not typically a sweet wine drinker.

pairing harry and david pear dessert with Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

From the South of France, I paired Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois ($15) with the pear tart. Made with muscat grapes, the Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois uses the noble Muscat a Petits Grains variety of grape, different than the Muscat of Alexandria in the Anakena Late Harvest wine, though from the same family. The commune of Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois was named after it’s famous muscat wines in 1936, and was originally Saint-Jean-de-Pardailhan.  The bouquet of the Les Petit Grains 2011 was unimpressive, and perhaps a little plastic. However, the palate is much different. A very viscous wine, there are delicious floral and honey flavors mixed with spiced orange rind, and laced with dried apricots that dance on the palate. This was an excellent option to pair with the Harry & David Royal Riviera Pear inspired dessert.

Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes with pear tart dessert

Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes

The coup de grâce of this delicious project was pairing of Sauternes with the tart. I selected the Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes ($20), which is part of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild family. The bouquet is amazing floral, sweet honey and ripe apricot. This wine is much more viscous than the previous two, providing a very rich experience. The palate is a sweet savory experience, and each sip makes your mouth water. There are amazing flavors of honey and dried apricot, mixed with hints of flowers. This was the best pairing in my opinion.

Now the exciting part. I’m happy to be giving away some of Harry & David’s Organic The Favorite® Royal Riviera® Pears. One lucky person will win 1 box of beautiful organic pears ($34.95 value)!  H&D invented the fruit of the month club. At least one shipment of these pears is sent to every member. You can savor these delectables yourself, simply enter the giveaway below. There are multiple ways to enter, so be sure to catch them all!
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This contest is open to US residents only. The winner will be chosen Sunday 12/15/2013. I will need to forward a mailing address for the winner by Monday 12/16/2013 to Harry & David!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Exciting Delivery From Harry & David organic non-gmo pears

Exciting Delivery From Harry & David

Remember that Sharing is Caring. You should not only share this post with your friends, but share some wine and pears with them!

 

The Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes and the Les Petits Grains Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois 2011 were both media samples from Pasternak Wine Imports. The pears used to make this dessert, as well as for the giveaway, were provided by Harry & David. However, per my sample policy, I offer no assurances that I will use products that are samples, and that my opinion will always be honest about the products I use. I have nothing but my word and reputation, and no free wine or food will make me compromise that. 

Six Bordeaux Wines Made For The Holidays!

Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, there is usually the need to have a party, or go to a party. And that means either serving adult beverages to your guests, or bringing a hostess gift to a party. If you’re hosting the party, you want to be sure that every detail is perfect, especially the wine you serve. And if you’re bringing a host gift, you want to ensure it won’t be re-gifted, along with the President Obama Chia Pet that someone else brought. A delicious French red is the perfect holiday wine idea! Here, we round up six Bordeaux red wines under $15, four of which are tremendous Quality to Price Ratio bargain wines! And make sure you check out the entire post, as I’m going to announce a giveaway this week, and you won’t want to miss it.

Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays wine tasting

Six Bordeaux Red Wines for the Holidays

As part of a media campaign, Planet Bordeaux engaged several wine writers to taste a selection of six red wines from Bordeaux. Dubbed “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays”, we were asked to taste and tweet about the wines. The wines were all merlot dominant blends, and selected for their food friendly nature, as well as their very budget friendly price.

wine review Moutdon Cadet Bordeaux 2011

Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011

The most budget friendly wine of the tasting was the Mouton Cadet 2011. A scant $10, the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011 is a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc. A dark inky purple and garnet in the glass, the bouquet is black and blue fruit, cranberry sauce and spice. Not elegant or sophisticated, the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2011 palate is medium to full body, and is dusty dry with flavors of black tea and black pepper dominating. There are very subtle hints of black cherry on the palate, but the fruit is barely a supporting character in this play. During the tasting, my friend Melanie of Dallas Wine Chick agreed this is really more a food wine than sipping wine, as this Bordeaux red wine was very cheese friendly, and worked fine with Cabot Cheddar cheese.

wine review Chateaux de Camarsac Bordeaux 2011

Chateaux de Camarsac Bordeaux 2011

Maroon and ruby colors in the glass, the Chateau de Camarsac 2011 is a $12 blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. There were some funky barnyard scents on the nose, something I personally am not a fan of, even if they’re not terribly strong. Nothing like the bouquet, the palate was is earthy leather, with dried blueberries from the merlot integrated with earthy mushrooms. There was mild but noticeable acidity and firm tannin, which will almost disappear when paired with beef, lamb, or even cheese.

wine review Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011

The third wine of the tasting really knocked my socks off. At $12, this wine is made with organically grown grapes, and can be found in most whole foods. The Les Hauts De Lagarde 2011 Bordeaux is 65% merlot, 25% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc, with it’s organically grown grapes hailing from vineyards in Saint Laurent du Bois, Bordeaux. The bouquet reminded me of an old, leather bound book, with organic scents mixed with cranberry and currants. The palate was medium bodied, leaning towards full, and was not dusty at all. Fine, well integrated tannin, a little blueberry mixed with black currant, there’s great oak integration on this wine. The wine is almost soft and feminine, with a lingering finish that has hints of spice. This wine will work with almost any holiday fare, and I even recommend this delicious Bordeaux red wine for Thanksgiving. Drink now through 2014.

Speaking of Organic, later this week, Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll be posting about Harry & David‘s organically grown pears. I’ll feature them, as well as a recipe and wine pairing for you enjoy this holiday season. However, the best part is that you’ll be able to enter a giveaway to win a box of the pears! So, make sure you check back later this week to have your chance at a delicious holiday gift from Harry & David. To be sure and not miss the post, subscribe to my blog via email via the form on the top left of this article!

wine review Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011

Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011

The Helfrich family is the proprietor of the next wine, the Chateau du Bois Chantant Bordeaux Superieur 2011.  A blend of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet sauvignon,  the Chateau du Bois Chantant is a full bodied, well balanced Bordeaux wine, and quite a bargain at $13. Similar to the Les Hauts de Lagarde, this budget friendly Bordeaux red wine was quite elegant.  The nose is much more floral than the previous three wines, with violets swirling around the glass, along with notes of cherry cola and soft cinnamon. A deep, dark purple in the glass, the full mouth feel showed elegant plum and cherry with soft, well integrated tannin all around. There was a little black tea on the finish, which leads into a nice, toasty spice which was warming like a holiday fire. While it will work with almost any holiday dish you serve, I felt the Chateau du Bois Chantant would work well with poultry, perfect for your Christmas goose. Drink now through 2014. As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Anne Laure Helfrich earlier this year, and have some of their fantastic Alsatian pinot blanc and riesling to talk about in upcoming articles.

wine review Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010

Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010

The next wine from Bordeaux in this tasting was the Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010. A blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc, this $14 budget wine from France really was excellent for the price. The color was more garnet than purple, with a meaty, gamey nose that showed some fruit. It wasnt a terribly expressive bouquet, but deep sniffs bring blueberries and spice. The palate, however was elegant and refined, with fine integrated tannins. This is the wine to pair with your holiday roast, so bring on the prime rib, as the Chateau des Arras can handle it nicely. Flavors of blueberry and cranberry layered with a dusty earth component, and flavors of cherry intermingled in. This wine absolutely sung with cheddar cheese, as the tannins eased, the dried cherry and blueberry fruit came froward and there was a long, delightful finish. My final tasting note on the Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010 was “loved the last sip, the fruit was swirling around my mouth, the spices were soft and so back stage, there was an earthiness to this that sung, there was nice structure $14 worth of yum.” Drink now through 2016.

wine review Domaine de Courteillac bordeaux Superieur 2010

Domaine de Courteillac bordeaux Superieur 2010

As you end your year on a good note, we end this post (and tasting) on a good note. The last Bordeaux red wine of the tasting was the Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur 2010. The bouquet is teeming with earthy spice, and doesn’t show much fruit. Inky black in the glass, the palate is very elegant and complex. Layers of flavor start with coffee and mocha, with dark cherry and cola flavors as well. Merlot dominant, but blended with cabernet sauvignon, this $15 wine is harmonious and balanced, bringing power, length and flavor. Another very food friendly wine, it loved the cheese course, but will pair perfectly with beef, lamb, and venison as well.  My last tasting note of the evening was “This wine is REALLY so good with the cheese !!! wow!!!” Drink now through 2016.

I hope you were nice this year, and Santa, or Harry Hanukkah, brings you presents as good as these wines. I highly recommend the last four, as they offer the most quality for the price. The Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux 2011 at $12 is a steal, as is the Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur 2011 at the same price. The Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur 2010 is still a budget friendly wine at $14, and a great example of what Bordeaux wines can be at reasonable prices. Finally, at $15, the Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur 2010 may be the perfect wine for your holiday party this year!

I’d love to hear from you! Have you had any value driven wines from Bordeaux lately? Let me know below!