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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!

 

Tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Planet Bordeaux Wine tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

I believe many people in the US are afraid of French wine! I feel this fear is the product of three factors, the inability to pronounce the wine’s name easily, the inability to identify the grapes readily, and the inability to be comfortable with the previous two factors given lofty prices of some French wines. Of course, the first factor, the language, is the most difficult to get over. I’ll give you that one. The second factor is changing, and you’ll see that on at least one of the three wines below, the grape varieties are right on the front of the bottle. The last fear factor of price for French wine given the uncertainty of what’s in the bottle can be overcome by learning that nice French wine can be had for $12.

When I was asked to participate in a recent virtual wine tasting on Twitter by the team at Planet Bordeaux, a group charged with educating consumers about wines from Bordeaux, I was of course interested. I’ve been doing these virtual wine tastings since 2008, and think they’re a great opportunity. It gives me the chance to try wines, and share the results with you. This increases both of our exposure to wines that perhaps we otherwise would not have tried. I knew this event, tasting three wines from Bordeaux, France under $20,  would be a hit.

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012 wine review

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012

The first wine of the evening was a crisp white wine from Chateau de Bonhoste, the 2012 Bordeaux Blanc with a suggested retail price (SRP) of only $12. A blend of three grapes, 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle, the wine is pale straw in color. It’s bouquet is a soft, pink grapefruit, light floral scents, and a touch of honey. The palate is light, crisp and refreshing. There is nice fruit on the approach, a blend of tree fruit, stone fruit and a good bit of grapefruit that comes and wraps itself around the other fruits quickly. The wine has nice acidity, firm and zippy. This is a pleasant, inexpensive white wine, especially if you like citrus and acidity. There is a little hint of spice that seems to come on the finish, rounding out a very nice palate. For $12, it’s definitely worth trying this value focused white wine from Bordeaux. For the record, you pronounce the name Chateau de Bone-oste.

Tasting notes on Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France wine review

Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France

The second wine of the evening was a rosé from Chateau Bonnet (Shah-toe Bone-nay) Bordeaux 2012. The wines of Chateau Bonnet are made by Vignobles Andre Lurton, where vines were first planted in 1744. Made with merlot and cabernet sauvignon, two of the most prominent grapes of Bordeaux, France, this simple rosé wine cost only $15. With a dark, rich pink color in the glass, the bouquet is soft strawberry with a spicy floral floating on top. The palate is light and very soft, this is a very relaxed, laid back wine. The fruit isn’t explosive, it’s subdued strawberry and a tiny bit of dried cranberry.  The wine was a tad soft and subtle, but did show a bit more power as it opened.

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos Bordeaux Superieur 2009 red wine

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos 2009

The third wine in this tasting was the Chateau Majoureau (mah-zhohr-oh) “Hyppos” Bordeaux Superieur 2009. A big, bold Bordeaux red wine with 55% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon, we decanted the Hyppos for over an hour, and sampled it every thirty minutes for over three hours. There were scents of dark black fruits on the nose, as well as a cedar box component and mixed spice scents. The palate is a lot like the nose – the cedar box and spice is powerful up front, the fruit is really hidden behind the rest of the tastes. Not a “sipping wine”, we paired this with a pot roast, and with the food there is a little more harmony to the Hyppos. However, ultimately, this wine was a bit big, with a zealous amount of oak showing, and it really didn’t have the finesse I was hoping to find. This is a $20 Bordeaux red wine that will appeal to those who really enjoy the nuances that bold oak gives to red wine.

Let’s get back to those three factors that I believe cause Americans to shy away from French wine: language, unable to discern the grapes in the bottle, and price. Again, there isn’t much I can do about the language. As a matter of fact, I had to reach out to the PR firm who supplied these wines as samples, to ensure I was pronouncing them right. I wasn’t, for the record. It’s a matter of learning a different language, to whatever extent you are comfortable with. However, the second item, the grapes in the bottle, that’s changing.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

It used to be the case that unless you studied the wine regions of France, you had no idea what grapes made the wines. If you didn’t learn that Burgundy reds are largely pinot noir, and Bordeaux left bank is predominantly cabernet sauvignon while right bank is predominantly merlot, you had no idea what you were drinking. That, of course, could cause  someone very particular about what they’re drinking to steer clear of these enigmas. However, recent changes in french wine labeling laws are allowing the grape variety to be printed on the label. While you probably won’t see them on all of the wines of France any time soon, you’ll definitely see them more often. And, if you’re ever wondering what grapes are in a bottle, feel free to ask me! I’ll do my best to answer right way!

The last factor, the price of French wines being prohibitive, is likely no longer a concern. Sure, you’ve heard of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild going for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. And I’m sure you’ve walked into a store and seen the bottle of Petrus for $2,500 and more. However, you’ve now seen how French wine can be found under $20.  There is a wide array of wines coming from France, and they span the price spectrum. And  I hope we can explore that wide world of wine together! Let me know the last French wine you had by leaving a comment below, as I’m very curious about your experiences!

Cheers!

Funk

Wine Music and Funk

Wine Music and Funk

Funk is all around us. It’s in music, as a funky bass line. It’s in wine, as the funky, barnyard scent found in some wines. And of course, it’s in our head. We all get into a funk from time to time. For some, it’s mere moments in a day, while for others, it can last weeks, months, even years. Some would say “Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it.” Yeah, thanks for that sage advice. Remind me to put you on the next suicide prevention call rotation. I don’t know if there is a sure fire way to break yourself out of a funk, but I’ll explain how I broke out of mine. However, before I talk about my funk, and why there’s been no content on the site for a while, I’m going to talk about the funk in wine.

There is no doubt that some wines just smell like funk. The wet band-aid or even barnyard scent can be subtle or strong, and you can love it, or hate it. I’m in the later camp, and really do not enjoy the scent when sipping wine.  The technical term for that funky smell is Brettanomyces, or Brett. It’s considered a flaw in wine, and while some people will hardly notice it, others, like me, are very sensitive to it and can smell it in a bottle is uncorked across the room. (Ok, slight exaggeration!) People can enjoy it, of course, feeling it adds complexity and a certain nuance of terroir (tehr-wah, French for the earth or where the wine is from, the locale and it’s essence). However, I’ve experienced first hand that funk is not always considered good.

Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

I was in Bordeaux in April, and had the most amazing two days visiting the vineyards and a chateau or three. The last stop was Chateau Cantin, where my wife Robin and I met the winemaker, Mr. Vincent Cachau. Sipping on some of his wine, and enjoying small talk, I started to compliment him on the wine. I had said a number of complimentary things, but added the word “barnyard” to my notes. The winemaker’s reaction to the mention of “barnyard” is forever ingrained in my mind. He looked aghast, and took a sharp breath in. He said “No, really?” I said “Oh, not that funky barnyard, but more like an earthy, organic scent.” With relief, he said “Ah good, because the term for that barnyard is…” and he thought of how to say the word in English. “Brett, or Brettanomyces, and it’s terrible.” I offered. Smiling, he said “Brett, Yes. It’s a flaw. I hope you never experience it in my wines.” And we continued to sip happily.

Now, I am sure some people will disagree, stating that Bret is not a flaw, or they find it charming or interesting in a wine. And, I can clearly remember a tasting of some wine from St Joseph where the “barnyard” was tame, and it indeed was an interesting trait of the wine. However, as controlling the level of Brett produced making the wine is difficult, and guaranteeing those low levels is near impossible, Brett in wine is typically considered a flaw. All of that leads up to this: The next time you’re sipping on a wine, and you think you’re rolling around in Trigger’s barn stall after a wet day, don’t be ashamed to say the wine isn’t for you, and ask for something different. You don’t need to like that Funk!

In a Funk

In a Funk

Now, the funk in our head, that’s a flaw as well. Things can set us off, whether a life altering event or a minor change in our routine that throws us off. I have definitely been in a funk for the last year or so. My funk came about due to a number of odd factors, none terribly bad. My sister, who had been in the hospital since May 2011 and near death a few times, was finally doing well and getting ready to leave the hospital and go “home”. A good thing, you say – except family for me is sometimes stressful. While I was overjoyed with her health returning, the stress from logistically situating her was a bit overwhelming, especially regarding our extended family. Additionally, while work was good, I knew there was trouble brewing. A project or two was postponed or cancelled, ultimately ending in a 60 person layoff, which I was part of. Those factors, with a few other small things going on, added up to a funk that kept me from doing the things I enjoy, and just grinding day after day away.

So, how did I break out of the funk? I think getting laid off was part of it. After getting my resume together, and focusing on new opportunities, I started to get excited for the possibilities ahead of me. I started doing some more consulting in the wine field, which I absolutely love. I began networking with some great people, who helped me stay focused on the positive things. I also started to donate my time to a few charities that need my help, helping those who couldn’t help me. And, finally, after being together for eight years, Robin and I were able to get married, since we no longer worked together due to my layoff! All very little things that helped me get out of my own way and get back on track.

For me, I enjoy wine most when I’m sharing it with people. Therefore, I plan on getting back to sharing it more often with you. I may be sharing a few shorter posts at first, giving you some of the wines I’ve had recently, along with simple tasting notes. Once I get the words flowing again, we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled ramblings.

And all that said, I leave you with some GOOD funk….. Open up a big bold red, dim the lights, and let the bass transport you!

Delicious White Wines From France

As the weather warms up, I wanted to highlight three cool, crisp wines that you can enjoy all spring and summer long. Often, my friends avoid wines from France, for fear of butchering the pronunciation of their names. While the names are often difficult to pronounce, a little information will have you ordering delicious French wines in no time.

Chardonnay from Chablis, France

The first wine we tried was Gilbert Picq (gill-bay peek) Chablis (sha-blee). It’s made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, and has a crisp minerality that isn’t typical of New World Chardonnay. I enjoy sipping on Chablis with oysters and other fish and shellfish. I also enjoy it very much with goat cheese.

Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, France

Next, we enjoyed Chateau la Rame Sauvignon Blanc. A blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillion grapes, this is a delicious French white wine. Flavors of pink grapefruit and lemon are followed by a big wave of acidity on the finish that makes this a great food wine. Pair it with fish and shellfish, grilled chicken, or cheeses, especially goat!

Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, France

Chenin Blanc is the predominant grape grown in the Vouvray region of France. The La Craie Vouvray is a slightly sweet medium bodied wine with tame floral aromas and a thick, honeyed fruit or even honeydew palate. It’s great to sip on around the pool, or with a cheese and fruit plate at a party. It pairs with charcuterie, and goes well with a host of cheeses like Camembert, Crottin, Derby, Aged Gouda, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Saint-Nectaire, and you can even try Cheesecake!

What’s your take on white wines from France? Leave a comment below, and let me know if you’ve had any of the wines I’ve discussed, or similar ones. And, as always, I love constructive criticism of the blog and tv segments. How can I make it a good time with wine for you?

Cheers!

Food and Wine Pairing – Grilled Grouper

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

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

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

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

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

Paraiso Chardonnay

Paraiso Chardonnay

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

Ch Les Maines Bordeaux Blanc 081

Ch Les Maines Bordeaux Blanc 081

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

Jean Francois Merieau Touraine

Jean Francois Merieau Touraine

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

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

Brilliant Bordeaux

Bordeaux Matchmaking

Bordeaux Matchmaking

In addition to introducing you to new grapes to try in 2010, I’d like to help make wine more fun and approachable.  A great opportunity to do that was the wine event I went to in Miami, where the wineries of Bordeaux were showcasing delicious wines that were great for every day. I hope the below write up helps take some of your fear of France away.

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was probably the worst storm in 2009, but nothing would keep me from making the trip from West Palm Beach to Miami. The almost two hour drive during a torrential downpour was worth it, as I was on my way to one of the most hottest parties of the year. Part of the “Life Goes Better with Bordeaux” campaign, an effort to educate people on the quality and value associated with wines from Bordeaux, France, this event was going to be spectacular.