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Wine under $30

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: Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition

“People talk dry, but drink sweet.” The first time I heard that, I was interviewing the winemaker of Barefoot Wine, Jennifer Wall. It came up again during a twitter conversation yesterday, regarding a newspaper wine review saying a wine was dry, when it was technically off-dry. (Yes, splitting atoms for most wine drinkers, I know…) It seems that while we would like to think we like dry wine, in reality, many of us prefer a little sweetness in the glass. And that’s why this Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition is a perfect quick sip for today’s article.

A Little History of Weingut Robert Weil

The historic manor house at the Robert Weil estate in Kiedrich.

The historic manor house at the Robert Weil estate in Kiedrich.

Founded in 1875, the Weingut Robert Weil estate is located in the village of Kiedrich. Even at over 130 years old, it is considered one of the Rheingau’s younger wine estates. The village of Kiedrich itself has been traced back as far as the year 950. The estate is still in the Weil family, and the founder’s great-Grandson, Wilhelm Weil, is currently continuing the family tradition of making excellent German wine. The Robert Weil estate cultivates about 222 acres (90 hectares) of vineyards, which are 100% Riesling. Weingut Robert Weil was part of Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the year 2012 and 2013. If you’re wondering what Weingut means, it’s definition is winemaker and indicates that the wine was grown, made, and bottled on the premises. It’s similar to the French use of Chateau.

This wine was a sample sent to me by the team at Loosen Bros USA back in 2011. I was curious how it would taste with two years of age on it. Well made Riesling can last quite some time if stored properly. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine visited the Dr Loosen estate in Germany in 2012, and said that Ernie Loosen pulled out a bottle from 1973, and it was fantastic.

Tasting Notes for Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition

In the glass, the color of the wine was a clear, day bright pale hay. The Robert Weil Riesling Tradition had an aroma of dried apricot and dried apples, and it really wasn’t a very expressive nose. With a medium to full body, flavors of crisp nectarine and white peach filled the palate, with a little honey, and hints of white jasmine appear on the finish.  The wine is quite balanced, it finishes crisp and clean, and even has some nice acidity.

 

Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition wine review tasting notes

Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition

Back to what I said earlier about drinking sweet even though we like to talk dry, the website speaks to that. “Produced exclusively for the U.S. market, the “Tradition” series offers the traditional range of Rieslings with sweetness, balanced by a crisp mineral structure. The Tradition QbA has a delicious array of fruits and is a pure pleasure to drink.” The Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition has only 10% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), and residual sugar of 29.1 grams/liter.

At $25, I think the Weingut Robert Weil 2010 Riesling Tradition is a very good wine. If you’re a fan of sweet fresh fruit, you’ll love it. However, even if you talk dry AND drink dry, I think this is a Riesling worth trying.

What are your thoughts on German Riesling? Do you talk dry, but drink sweet? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

I Vasari – An Italian Red Wine Worth 20 Bucks

Italy

Italy

One of my goals for 2014 is to focus on Italy. Not only wine from Italy, but food, architecture, travel, and culture. Some of those things I’ll write about, and others I’ll just enjoy quietly. Of course, I love food and wine from around the world. However, a new collaboration with Lora from Cake Duchess has me thinking about Italy more than anyplace else right now. I started this Italian goal on New Year’s Eve by sipping a very nice Italian red wine, the I Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 Old Vines from Fratelli Barba. Winner of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri award in 2012, this Wine Spectator 90 point,  $20 wine has a lot to offer.

italian wine review I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Old Vines from BARBA

I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Old Vines from BARBA

What is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?

Dissecting the label on this bottle of wine, the name of the wine is I VASARI, it was produced in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC region of Italy. The Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC region spans from the Central Apennines foothills down to the Adriatic coast. It’s one of Italy’s most mountainous regions. The grape Montepulciano is a red Italian wine grape variety that is widely planted in central and southern Italy. It’s rarely found in cooler northern Italy, as it typically ripens later, and needs the warmer weather to ripen sufficiently. To carry the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC designation, the wine must be at least 85% Montepulciano, the rest can be the same or Sangiovese. The I Vasari is 100% Montepuciano grapes. Finally, the producer is BARBA, which you find on the bottom of the label.

I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Tasting Notes

After decanting about 30 minutes, the I Vasari 2008 had a bright purple color in the center of the glass to a purple/garnet outer ring. The nose was not very expressive, dried cherries and tobacco. The palate was dry, a medium body with medium to firm tannins. There were flavors of leather, dried cherries, and a tiny hint of white pepper. The finish was a mix of dried cherries and pine needles.

I Vasari grapes are from a single vineyard called Colle delle Corte, which is at 230 feet above sea level. The vineyard overlooks the Adriatic sea in the Colline Teramane, some of the finest growing area for Montepulciano in the entire region. The vines in this vineyard are, on average, 30 years old. The wine is aged 14 months in French oak, 50% new and 50% used, though it’s well integrated in the flavors of the wine.

Wine Pairings for Surf and Turf I Vasari montepulciano d'abruzzo and pol roger champagne

Wine Pairings for Surf and Turf

We sipped this wine while enjoying our New Year’s Eve dinner of Surf & Turf. The meal was a slow one, and over the hour or more that we savored each bite and sip, the wine opened up rather nicely.  The dried cherry flavors became much more prominent, while tobacco and new found graphite or mineral notes seemed woven into the fruit. The last sips were indeed savored, and I would give this wine 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the decanter before serving. The I Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 is a nice, old world wine that for $20, works very nicely with a steak dinner.

What part of Italy would you like to visit? Leave me a comment, and perhaps we can explore it together! Cin Cin!

 

 

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!

Crockpot Carnitas And Red Wine

Robin Travels to Isla Mujeres Mexico

Robin Travels to Isla Mujeres Mexico

Robin loves Mexico. Before we met in 2005, she traveled to a small island off Cancun called Isla Mujeres for 10+ years in a row. She loves everything about traveling to Mexico, the sun, the beaches, the margaritas and definitely the food. Robin loves Mexican food so much, that she’ll want to book a trip just to have delicious tacos or guacamole. So, when I found a crockpot carnitas recipe on Eat, Live Run, I figured I could bring Mexico to Robin.

Jenna really put together a super easy recipe. Since the full ingredient list is on her site, I’ll just run through the preparation, so we can get to the wine. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.

prepare the dry rub for the crockpot carnitas

prepare the dry rub for the crockpot carnitas

Mix the rub well, and coat both sides of the 2 pound flank steak with it. While the steak sits in the bottom of the crockpot, chop up the red pepper, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, and onion.

Season the Flank Steak for the Crockpot Carnitas

Season the Flank Steak for the Crockpot Carnitas

Chop the peppers to cook with the carnitas

Chop the peppers to cook with the carnitas

The rest of the preparation is pretty simple. The meat is already on the bottom of the crockpot. Take the chopped peppers and onion, and then cover the meat with them. There’s no liquid going into the crockpot, so I tried to keep the peppers on top of the steak, that way they wouldn’t burn on the sides.

Peppers and Onions on the Flank Steak

Peppers and Onions on the Flank Steak

Set the slow-cooker for 8 hours on a low setting, and go relax. That’s all it takes to make this pretty easy dish. For the last 45 minutes or so, I took the wine for dinner out of the cellar, and pulled the cork. I decided on a Grenache blend, something that had red berries and spice. While my twitter friend Elizabeth DeHoff suggested gewurztraminer to pair with this dish, I wanted something that would keep the spices going, rather than balance them out. Elizabeth’s idea was a good one, and if you want a nice refreshing white, then gewurztraminer will do nicely.

Hecht & Bannier 2009 Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Hecht & Bannier 2009 Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Hecht & Bannier 2009 Cotes du Roussillon Villages is a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and carignan grapes. At $25, this is a French wine to have on hand, as it works well with or without food. Think dark cherries and dark raspberries, doused with a nice firm shaking of pepper. The wine has a nice, silky palate, and the fruit is fresh and prominent. This wine works well with beef, roasted or grilled. And it did fairly well with crockpot carnitas. Though provided as a sample, it’s a wine I wholeheartedly recommend.

Slow-cooker Carnitas and French Red Wine

Slow-cooker Carnitas and French Red Wine

Once the meat is done, take it out of the slow-cooker using two spatulas under each side of the meat. It’ll fall apart easily, but we used two forks to shred the meat. We put it back in the slow-cooker to soak up the juices, and prepared the fixings. We heated the flour tortillas on a warm skillet, then topped each with a little of the meat, some sour cream, some cheddar and some avocado. Jenna has the exact recipe on her site, and recommends a slightly different finish for the taco.

Robin and I in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Robin and I in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

While the scenery was nothing like Mexico, the food was pretty darned close. These slow-cooker carnitas tacos will definitely be made again! The preparation was simple, and the flavor was fantastic. The wine, of course, was perfect. The beef carnitas were not that spicy, and I’d probably add a little chipotle powder in with the rub, to give the peppers some depth and smoke. That said, it was a great taco dinner.

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

What’s your favorite Mexican meal? Let me know, leave a comment below!

Pairing Wine With A Crockpot Chili Recipe

slow cooker crockpot chili and wine pairing

Easy to make slow cooker chili

As the weather gets cooler, people are looking for easy, hearty meals for fall. I’ve seen a lot of people searching for chili recipes, and the wine to pair with them. Chili in our house is a very hot topic, no pun intended. Robin used to make this interesting “tomato soup” that she called chili. I didn’t love it. I was given an award winning chili recipe that I loved, but it made most people cry from the heat. So, when I found this slow cooker chili recipe, I had to make it. And, of course, pair wine.

During my trip to Oregon with Harry & David, I had the chance to meet 12 awesome bloggers. The 11 women and 1 other guy were all super talented at both writing and photography, and have inspired me to amp up my blog! I decided a fun way to do that would be to take their recipes, make them myself, and pair wines with them. This is the first of such projects, and I hope you enjoy it. Brenda’s crockpot (slow cooker) chili recipe on A Farmgirl’s Dabbles is fairly easy to follow and make. She found it in a magazine, played around to make it her own, and it’s been her “Ole Faithful” ever since.

When making her recipe, for the chili powder, I went with 3 Tablespoons from her 3-6 TBS range. I also went 2 chili powder and 1 chipotle powder, since I wanted some smoke and depth to the flavors. I’d probably use 3 TBS of chili powder and 1 TBS of chipotle powder next time. Other than that, the recipe is pretty easy to follow. So, lets talk wine and chili pairing!

clean slate 2009 riesling mosel germany

The Clean Slate 2009 riesling from Mosel, Germany

I know you’re saying “Matt, wine with chili? No way! It’s beer!” I assure you that while a nice craft beer goes well with chili, wine can go equally as well. There are a few wine option for chili pairing, and in general they are zinfandel, shiraz or syrah, riesling, malbec and tempranillo.

The first wine I paired with the chili was the 2009 Clean Slate riesling from Mosel, Germany. This wine was a sample I received over a year ago. It had a screw cap, and I was concerned that after a year, it would be “done.” However, many German rieslings can age for quite some time, and still taste fantastic. This $10 white wine is actually two vintages old now, and was crisp and fresh and full of flavor. The bouquet had feint petrol and river rock scents, and the palate shows nice stone fruit (apricot and nectarines), with really nice acidity. Acidity comes across sometimes as citrus flavors in white wines, and this German riesling had a hint of lime that turned immediatly into peach nectar. However, the finish was a flinty minerality that kept it from being too sweet or syrupy. Well done at $10, definitely a buy, and available in grocery stores (at least in Florida).

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

People often ask “How can I tell a wine is good just by looking at it?” This wine answers that question, “You can’t.” While you can form general ideas about a wine if you know the grape, the area, and the producer, there’s NEVER a guarantee that you’ll have a good wine in the bottle. Forget the fact that wine can be cooked, corked, or dead, it’s a fact that the same grape, from the same area, even in vineyards separated by only a road, can taste completely different. When I grabbed this $22 bottle of Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz at the grocery store, I figured I’d be ok. Penfolds is a fairly big name, Shiraz is a grape that Australia does well, and I’m a sommelier. I know my stuff. Right? Well, sort of. I know my stuff because I taste a lot of wines, and this was one I hadn’t had before.

The Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz nose was sweet spice from the oak, more than any fruit notes. What fruit was there was dark, blackberry and plum. The approach was just dry, sweet wood, without much else to it. Frankly, this wine is a disappointment. Too much oak, not enough fruit, and no spice to speak of. Definitely not what I expect from an Australian shiraz. I pressed on.

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

The third wine I had with my chili was the Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin. This is a grocery store wine I often have on hand. I was turned on to it in 2008 by a twitter friend, Duane, while I was doing an event of 5 other grocery store zinfandels. For the price, which is $10, it offers great fruit, nice spice, and has not disappointed me in four years. Sure enough, this red wine and chili pairing was perfect. The wine had plum, prunes and blackberries with a sweet spice element to it. The finish was a hearty burst of black pepper, and all in all it stood up very well to the chili.

A Farmgirl's Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

A Farmgirl’s Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

Happily, this chili and wine pairing was a success. Even though one wine disappointed, two of the wines absolutely rocked, especially at $10. Brenda’s slow cooker chili is a cool weather meal we can make fairly easily, and enjoy for a few days. And, of course, pair wine with.

What is your favorite beverage to drink with chili? Let me know below!

Mushroom Soup, Red Wine & A Giveaway

using Harry & David soup mix for a great meal

Harry & David soup mix gets doctored

I learned about Harry & David’s new wine collection during a media trip with 12 other food writers. One of them was Sandy Coughlin, of Reluctant Entertainer. While Sandy is anything but a reluctant entertainer, her site and book are focused on helping those who are. Sandy offers tips and tricks to make even the most novice entertainer look like Martha Stewart. Sandy made our first night in Oregon spectacular, since hosting 12 people who write about food or wine can’t be easy. Using products from Harry & David’s store, she threw an amazing dinner party. One of my favorite items of the night was her mushroom soup, and I was blown away to learn it came from a bag, with some added love. I could not wait to come home and make the soup myself, and pair some wines with it. Keep reading, and I’ll show you how Sandy kicked up this soup, talk about the wines that pair, and tell you how you can win a gift basket from Harry & David.

A hearty meal of Harry & David mushroom soup and pinot noir

A hearty meal of Harry & David mushroom soup and pinot noir

Mushrooms go well with many dishes, and many wines. People saute mushrooms for burgers or steaks, fold them into omelets, or grill them and eat them on their own. In terms of wines, mushrooms will go well with a host of them, including cabernet sauvignon, unoaked chardonnay, malbec, zinfandel, and of course pinot noir. In fact, there are some who think that the perfect mushroom pairing is pinot noir, whether from Oregon or Burgundy, or even California. I happen to be in that camp, and decided to buy two bottles of pinot noir at the grocery store while picking up the fixings for the soup.

Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut Pinot Noir

Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut Pinot Noir

The first grocery store pinot noir I picked to pair with the mushroom soup was the Francis Coppola 2010 Directors Cut, Sonoma Coast, California. The lighter of the two options for the pairing, the Coppola ’10 Director’s Cut pinot noir has a bouquet of field strawberries, with earthy notes surrounding the red fruit. The acidity was noticeable on the nose, along with some smoky scents. The palate was a bit more fruit forward, more red raspberries on the palate than the strawberries on the nose, with a nice mix of smoke and cooking spices. The soup tames the fruit a little, and works very nicely. For $18.99, this was a well made, fresh pinot noir with nice length and good acid for food without being noticeable.

Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir 2010

The second grocery store pinot noir was the $21.99 Laetitia 2010 Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, California. Not a very expressive bouquet, dusty red raspberries mix with faint scents of cocoa. The palate shows round red raspberries, fresher than the notes on the nose. There is a good bit of sweet spice from the oak used to age the wine, but it’s well integrated. The finish is long lasting, with those sweet spices turning into a dusting of black pepper. There are medium tannins, noticeable but not gripping.  With the soup, the red fruit tastes a little darker, with some earthy notes more prominent.

win a Harry & David cheese and salami basket on agoodtimewithwine.com

win a Harry & David cheese and salami basket

I am a “put your money where your mouth is” kind of person. While my expenses for this trip were paid by Harry & David, I purchased quite a bit of their products before being invited on the trip. I only write about products, wine or businesses I believe in. I’ve long believed in the quality that Harry & David offers, and now Harry & David wants to make a believer out of you. I am excited to offer a giveaway of one of Harry & David’s gift baskets, one focused on pairing with wine. The rules of the giveaway are simple:

  • Giveaway Open to US Residents Only, employees of Harry & David and their relatives are not eligible
  • Giveaway runs from Monday October 22nd 7:00am EST through Wednesday October 24th 11:59:59 pm EST
  • Enter by leaving a comment below stating why you want to win this Harry & David cheese and salami basket
  • Bonus Entries are available for the following (each require a separate comment)
  • Tweet the following then comment below: Wine, Mushroom Soup & a @HarryandDavid gift basket giveaway by @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadsalm
  • Like then comment below: Like both A Good Time With Wine on Facebook and Harry and David on Facebook
  • From the A Good Time With Wine Facebook page, share this post then comment below
  • Limit 4 entries per person

The description of this Harry and David gift basket is fantastic. Two gourmet new world Beehive cheeses and two handcrafted old world Creminelli salamis make this gift a savory delight for any meat and cheese lover. Award winning cheese coupled with some of the finest gluten and dairy free salami out there make for a lovely anytime gift. I’ll post a few wines to pair with it in the near future.

leeks for Harry and David soup

Add most of one leek to the soup

Sandy inspired me to doctor up the soup, not that it needed it. For one bag of Harry & David Wild Mushroom & Leek soup mix, you need two tablespoons of butter (in addition to the package directions), one leek, and two medium portobello mushrooms. Slice and rinse the leek with water, and pat dry. Melt the butter in a large skillet on a medium heat, then add the leek. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until they are tender.

saute leeks until tender

Saute leeks until tender

Slice portobello mushrooms and saute with leeks

Slice portobello mushrooms and saute with leeks

Slice the portobello mushroom in half-inch pieces, and add to the tender leeks. Saute for another 5-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Then, add to the soup mix in your 5 quart pot or bigger, and cook according to the package instructions.

Enjoy Harry & David Mushroom Soup with pinot noir

Enjoy Harry & David Mushroom Soup with pinot noir

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Harry & David will ship the winner the basket directly, and you’ll have a good time with wine!