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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!

Amazing appetizer to serve with Champagne

Dats Stuffed With Goat Cheese Best Appetizer for Champagne

Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese

If you’re like us, you have a ton of cookbooks that you sift through before every party. And if you’re like us, there’s one or two recipes that you always go to for those parties. Maybe they are easy recipes, or maybe they are amazing recipes to pair with wines. Or, perhaps they’re just great appetizers that get the party off on the right foot. I’d like to share one of our favorite recipes, taken from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese, that fits all of those categories. This recipe is easy, makes great appetizers, and those appetizers are perfect to pair with Champagne.

This delicious appetizer is so easy to make, my 12 year old son was the chef. He had a tiny bit of help from us, but in general, he did everything from preparing the dates, to stuffing them, topping them, and baking them. Therefore, even if you have no cooking skill, you can make a perfect appetizer to impress your guests.  We’ll cover the recipe step by step, and recap at the end.

Dates Stuffed With Goat Cheese

The Williams-Sonoma Entertaining book recommends you use Medjool dates, however, our grocery store just had “dates” and they worked fine. I don’t like to discriminate. Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking dish that is just large enough to fit your dates in a single layer

making goat cheese stuffed dates Coat Pan With Oil

Coat Pan With Oil

Take a paper towel and use it to wipe the oil on the pan, removing excess. You want your dates to not stick to the pan, but you aren’t deep frying them. That’s for Paula Dean!

Put 1 TBS of olive oil in a small fry pan and warm on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Warm Oil in frying pan for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Warm Oil in frying pan

Once the oil is warmed, you’ll pour 2 TBS of plain breadcrumbs (or panko)  into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

cooked breadcrumbs for goat cheese stuffed dates

Golden brown breadcrumbs

Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to a plate, letting them cool. While the breadcrumbs cool, start pitting your dates. Using a sharp paring knife, slit the top of each date lengthwise, and carefully pry the pit out.

remove pits for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Pit the dates

Be careful not to make the slit on top of the dates too long, or your goat cheese will ooze out when baking. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get it. You want to make a little pocket in each date to stuff the goat cheese into.

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

Once all of your dates are pitted, you’ll begin filling them with the goat cheese. Using a small spoon, gently fill each date with enough goat cheese that it just crests the top of the date.

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Once all of your dates are stuffed, arrange them in a single layer in your lightly oiled pan. Top each date with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Once all of your dates are stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs, you’re ready for the bake. Bake dates on 375 until warmed, about 10-12 minutes.

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Remove from oven and carefully transfer to serving dish. The dates will be hot, so use a spatula or tongs.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

These dates are simple to make, and delicious. They’re a surefire appetizer to serve at any party. The dates also  pair perfectly with Champagne or sparkling wine.

We paired our dates stuffed with goat cheese with an excellent Champagne from Vilmart & Cie, the NV Grand Cellier Brut, Premier Cru.

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

The Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Brut Premiere Cru is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The Brut NV Premier Cru Grand Cellier is the first in a line of specialty and Tete de Cuvees in the Vilmart line up. The blend is aged 3-5 years on the lees before degorgement, which helps create a full and rich mouth feel. This is a great NV Champagne incredible length, sophistication and mineral strength that is not usually found in non-vintage Champagne. The high percentage of Chardonnay provides a fresh apple and light tropical fruit note that is a beautiful and harmonious balance between crisp and full. Alder Yarrow from Vinograpy rated this $73 Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Champagne between 9 and 9.5 out of 10.

If you make these dates, let me know what you think. And more importantly, let me know what Champagne you pair them with.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fine dried bread crumbs or panko
  • 24 large dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1/4 lb soft fresh goat cheese

directions

  • Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold dates in single layer.
  • In a small frying pan, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs (or panko) and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to plate, let cool.

  • With a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Stuff 1 t of goat cheese into cavity left by the pit.

  • Arrange the dates, with goat cheese side facing upward, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. (The dates can be prepared up to this point 24 hrs in advance. Store, tightly covered in refrigerator.)

  • Bake the dates until warmed through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Ideas for New Years Eve

Champagne and Sparkling Wine For New Years Eve

Champagne and Sparkling Wine For New Years Eve

There will be no shortage of recommendations for Champagne for New Year’s Eve celebrations. I visited CBS12 and chatted with Suzanne Boyd about four options, three sparkling wines and one Champagne, that I’ll be serving at my own party. You can serve them with confidence at yours. The video talks about the four sparkling wines for New Years, plus some other tips to make your party awesome.

I mention it in the video, but the difference between Sparkling Wine and Champagne is the area in which it’s grapes are grown. The region of Champagne, France, fights hard to protect the name “Champagne”. In fact, with few exceptions, most sparkling wines no longer will call themselves Champagne if they aren’t from one of the five wine producing districts within the Champagne administrative province: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Enough education, check out the video!

Now that you’ve watched the short video of the TV segment, and know what sparkling wine or Champagne you want for your New Year’s Eve Party, what about food that pairs with it? Appetizers is the quick and easy answer, and almost all of them you serve will pair. Specific favorites are lightly salted mixed nuts, shrimp cocktail or fried shrimp, potato chips and popcorn, hard and salty cheeses, french fries or tater tots. However, if you are going outside of finger foods, I love Champagne with white fish prepared almost any way, crab anyway, especially crab cakes, ham and many pork preparations, and chicken almost any way you can make it. A quick recap of the wines follows, and you’re ready for New Years Eve!

Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee

Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee

The first selection was the Barefoot Bubbly Rose Cuvee. Coming in at $8 in most of the US, this inexpensive sparkling wine will appeal to those who prefer sweeter wines. Sweet ripe cherry and strawberry dominate the palate, and the bubbles were persistent and lively. This budget bubbly surprised me, as it was sweet without being syrupy and is a fun, inexpensive sparkling wine. While they use the word Champagne on the label, I assure you this comes from California!

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry

Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry

The second selection was Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry. While Extra Dry is more sweet than a Brut, our next two selections, the Lamberti is not a syrupy sweet sparkling wine. Instead, it has notes of honeydew and lemon, with fantastic bubbles that make it a great option at $15. The price on this prosecco makes it inexpensive enough for any time, not just New Year’s Eve. It’s a fun wine to pour at the start of an evening, while guests are arriving at your party, or as the main wine for your party.

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine

The third sparkling wine option hails from the Alsace region of France. While you may see the label as Jean Albrecht in stores such as Total Wine and More, but it’s the same great bottle of wine for $20. I love the notes of nuts, warm baked bread and green apple in this wine. It is dry yet has great fruit and other flavors that makes it a perfect Sparkling Wine for New Years. Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blanc is not 100% Chardonnay, but rather a blend of  80% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Blanc and 10% Chardonnay, and is made in the traditional Champagne method. Blanc de Blancs means White of Whites, and while many cases it’s 100% chardonnay, it means that red skin grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Pinot  Munier aren’t used.

Pol Roger Non-Vintange Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne

Pol Roger Non-Vintange Brut Reserve White Foil Champagne

The final option for Champagne on New Year’s Eve is Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut Reserve White Foil. I’ve enjoyed and written about this Champagne previously, and believe it’s excellent at the price.  This is a classic Champagne, with a long history, including being the Champagne of choice for Sir Winston Churchill. It’s a blend of the three grapes typically found in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier, and they offer vintage Champagne in excellent years, which is a treat to have. The palate of the Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut has amazing notes of brioche, yellow and green apple and the most delicate, tiny bubbles, which makes it an excellent choice to serve as you ring in the New Year.

Regardless of what you select, I hope you have a very happy, safe, and prosperous New Year. I hope 2012 brings you everything you need, and a lot of what you want.

Cheers!

Thanksgiving Holiday Wines on By The Glass Show

Guest Appearance on By The Glass Radio Show

Guest Appearance on By The Glass Radio Show

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

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

Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

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

Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 from Georges Duboeuf

Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 from Georges Duboeuf

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

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

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

Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis

Domaine Chatelain 2010 Petit Chablis

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

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

Seven Peaks 2009 Pinot Noir

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

Sobon Estate 2009 Hilltop Zinfandel

Sobon Estate 2009 Hilltop Zinfandel

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

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

Stepping Stones 2010 ROCKS! White Wine

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone 2010 ROCKS! White Wine

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone 2010 ROCKS! White Wine

A good white wine has it’s place in your glass, regardless of time of year. It may be fall, and temperatures are dropping, but we’re enjoying a nice white wine with dinner tonight. Living in Florida, we still eater lighter meals in autumn, and roasted chicken makes it’s way onto our plate at least once a week. I went to the cellar and looked for a white wine to serve, and a bottle of Stepping Stone 2010 ROCKS! white wine was my choice.

Stepping Stone is a second label from Cornerstone  Cellars, producers of some excellent Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve received media samples of their wines previously, and this bottle was part of a tasting of various Stepping Stone wines, red, white and rose. An entry level wine, the Stepping Stone costs $15, and is available on their website. It’s a proprietary blend, but other bloggers disclosed it’s made of chardonnay and muscat. Definitely meant to be an easy back yard sipper, the wine has a pleasant bouquet and palate that makes it easy to drink alone, or pair with food.

Lighter in color than a typical California chardonnay, the Stepping Stone ROCKS! offers a bouquet of soft citrus and white flowers. It’s reminiscent of a sauvignon blanc and vigoner on the nose. The palate is light to medium bodied, very soft and gentle on the approach. The first sip gives way to a little spice, making me think of a gewurztraminer with nice soft floral notes and spice on the mid-palate and finish. I let the wine sit a little, to breathe as well as warm a tad. The flavors opened up a little, and soft lemon  became a little more prominent, and coupled with the white flowers, honey suckle and jasmine, coated the palate.

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone ROCKS! with roast chicken

Matthew Horbund Sips Stepping Stone ROCKS! with roast chicken

Though the palate is very smooth, and the acidity is barely noticeable, the Stepping Stone ROCKS white wine worked wonderfully with dinner. The palate held strong, even with asparagus on the plate, and the citrus and floral flavors complimented the roast chicken and potato dinner very well. An affordable wine, good on it’s own or with food, definitely a wine to try.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, and share this article with your friend!

 

Sipping Chardonnay – Franciscan 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

Franciscan Napa Chardonnay 2009

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

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

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

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

Rodney Strong Vineyards – Changing the world one bulb at a time

Rodney Strong Vineyards Green Light

Rodney Strong Vineyards Green Light

Earth Day was April 22nd, 2011, and leading up to it was a wine blogger tasting of Rodney Strong Vineyards wines. The idea behind the tasting, besides trying four of their wines, was to learn about the earth friendly initiatives Rodney Strong Vineyards have been participating in. As part of their Rodney Strong Vineyards Green Light program, which I’ll talk a bit about below, the folks at Rodney Strong Vineyards provided each of with with a CFL blub to start our own earth friendly initiatives. Oh, and the wine was pretty good too.

Rodney D. Strong founded the winery in 1959 as the 13th bonded Sonoma County winery. The Klein family, a fourth generation California agricultural family, are the current private owners. The family has implemented some environmentally friendly initiatives, such as installing a solar electric system on the top of their barrel warehouse in 2003. The system generates enough energy to power 800 homes, and their dependence on the power grid decreased by 35%. Additionally, they have installed a lighting system that uses motion sensors and energy efficient light fixtures to reduce energy use, minimizing heat output, and optimize light quality. They also own the distinction of becoming Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery in 2009.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc

Rodney Strong Vineyards Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc

While the environmentally friendly projects are exciting, we were equally excited to taste the wines. The wine tasting was a mix of two white and two red wines. First up was the Rodney Strong 2009 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc. With a retail price of $13.50, this crisp white is all estate fruit, from a vineyard planted in 1971 in honor of Rodney Strong’s wife, Charlotte. This white wine, as well as the chardonnay I will talk about next, needed time to open up. I’m finding more white wines lately that need to sit and breathe, or aerate, to really express their nuances. Initially the wine was very grassy and green on both the nose and palate. However, after 15 minutes of opening in the glass, the nose was still a bit grassy, but tropical and grapefruit notes began to show. The palate of of the Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and light, with grapefruit and a touch of herbaceous or grassy note.  About 10% of the wine sees French oak when fermented, with malolactic fermentation giving it a rounder, more full mouth feel. The remainder of the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks with no malolactic fermentation, retaining it’s crisp taste. An interesting wine, especially if you don’t want a fruit salad in your glass.

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009

Next up was the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Chalk Hill Chardonnay. In 1965, Rodney Strong was the first to plant chardonnay in what would later be recognized as the Chalk Hill American Viticultural Area (AVA). Made from 100% estate chardonnay, 86% of the wine sees malolactic fermentation and French oak aged 10 months. This gives it the rounder mouth feel and buttery quality while still retaining a portion of crisp chardonnay for balance. The nose is a buttery tropical fruit salad, and the mouth feel was indeed round, fully and silky. Up front, the palate was a subtle papaya with a tinge of oaked vanilla and spice on the finish. After over 20 minutes in the glass aerating, the palate was a bit more fruit forward, and the spice well integrated, with vanilla highlighting the fruit, rather than competing with it. Again, the Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay benefited from opening and breathing, just like the sauvignon blanc. Right out of the bottle, I would have passed on both of these whites. However, with time to open, they became very interesting and enjoyable.The Rodney Strong 2009 Chalk Hill Chardonnay retails for about $20, and while this isn’t necessarily a budget white wine, it’s certainly interesting enough to try.

Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

This brings us to the red portion of our program, starting with the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. With a suggested retail of $40, this red wine needed about 30 minutes of decanting, or really aerating, to show it’s full potential. The nose has great dark strawberries and a hint of cocoa on it. I loved the complexity of the wine’s bouquet. There is delicious red fruit on the palate, a burst of it at first, followed by dark and earthy on the midpalate. It was not sweet, but it was just beautiful and fresh fruit. There were secondary notes of smoke as well, which added to the complexity and enjoyment. The Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir had great acidity as well, and I would happily pair this wine with anything from salmon to steak, as it truly would work with that range. The wine is aged 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, has 14.9% Alcohol by Volume, and is certainly a big, but delicious RRV Pinot Noir.

We finished up the evening of wine tasting strong, pun intended, with the Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage. First, meritage is pronounced similar to heritage. The inclination is to add some French accent to the word, but don’t. Wine geeks will quickly point out the error. Second, meritage is a proprietary term used to denote red and white Bordeaux-style wines without infringing on the Bordeaux (France) region’s legally protected designation of origin. The Rodney Strong 07 Symmetry is a blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 3% merlot, 1% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. It’s aged 26 months in French oak barrels, and has 15.1% ABV.

Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage

Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage

Now that the wine geekery is behind us, this wine was fantastic. At a suggested retail price (SRP) of $55, it’s hard for me to say you must try this wine, as it may be outside of the budget of many wine lovers. However, if you find yourself looking to splurge, or if $55 is in your wheelhouse, swing for the fences and try this wine, you’ll thank me. The bouquet of the Rodney Strong 07 Symmetry Red Meritage at first is perfume and floral, which blows off shortly and shows dark red cherries and briar or brambles on the nose. The palate shows complex layers of blackberry, coffee, dark chocolate and spices. Tim Elliot of Wine Cast reviewed the wine recently and felt the oak was a bit generous and made a strong appearance. However, he mentions that with aging, the oak will integrate well. Perhaps our palates are different, as I felt the oak was nice on this, and didn’t need to pull any splinters from my tongue.

Overall I thought the wines were well done, and enjoyed what they had to offer. I also enjoyed the follow up from the team at Rodney Strong Vineyards, saying that their Compact Florescent Light initiative had tremendous success. They had over 85,000 pledges to switch from an incandescent bulb to a CFL, and caused the program to end over two week earlier than originally expected.  I’m a big believe in CFL bulbs, and have replaced all but 4 bulbs in my house with them. I did not use the CFL that the nice folks at Rodney Strong Vineyards sent me as part of their project, and will instead find a nice home for it in a family member’s home. We all need to do our part!

Backsberg Wines Kosher For Passover or Anytime

Happy Passover

Happy Passover

For years my Jewish friends have been conditioned to drink the “foxy” concord grape wine pumped out by the Manischewitz company during the holidays. During a recent CBS12 WPEC TV segment, while bringing some well made wine for Passover Seder to your attention, anchor Ben Becker asks “Why no love for Manischewitz”? Drink it if you like, but I’m here to offer freedom from the slavery to  high octane grape juice with two more Kosher for Passover wine selections.

I recently received samples from Backsberg Estate Cellars , which was founded by  family of Jewish refugees from Lithuania in 1916. Backsberg is located in Paarl, a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Today, the Back family owns 110 hectares of vineyards located at the slopes of the Simsonsberg Mountains. These vineyards are dedicated to the production of their traditional line, as well as the kosher wine line. Both of the wines below are 100% Kosher Mevushal (pasteurized) and are made under the certifications of the Cape Town Beth Din and OU (Orthodox Union) of the United States.

Backsberg has become the first wine producer in South Africa and one of only three in the world to gain Carbon Neutral status using carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is a process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir. The Back family is committed to preserving the environment through tree planting, conversion to bio fuel, and other initiatives including lighter weight bottles. They are not only stewards of the land, doing their part to ensure the next generation can enjoy the land, they are also humanitarians. In the wake of recent natural disasters they are participating in a program called ShelterBox, which provides emergency supplies and tents to people in need. A good family making good wine.

Backsberg 2010 Chardonnay Kosher for Passover

Backsberg 2010 Chardonnay

The first selection is the Backsberg Kosher Chardonnay 2010. This wine definitely benefited from some aeration and time to open. As soon as it was uncorked, the nose was buttered popcorn. However, after just a few minutes of swirling and aerating, nice tropical notes developed on the nose. The palate was crisp, with great fruit. Pears on the attack, and a mid palate that was a little buttery and a finish that was a bit spicy and toasty.  It has a short finish, but some residual spice lingers. Interestingly, there is no oak on this wine, so the spice and toasty notes are a characteristic of the grape and where they were grown, rather than the barrel process.  Again, with time to open, more tropical notes came through on the palate, and for $14 I would recommend the Backsberg Kosher Chardonnay 2010 for any time, regardless of religious persuasion.

Backsberg 2008 Merlot is a great wine for Passover or anytime

Backsberg 2008 Merlot

For a red wine option the Backsberg Kosher Merlot 2008 is right on the money. Again, for just $14, this wine is perfect for anyone, anytime, kosher or not. The bouquet was rather tight, showing a little dark fruit. The palate showed restrained black fruit up front, with a nice mid-palate transition to a finish of woody smoke and some pepper spice. The wine has nice integrated tannin, not overly dry, this will rock with your brisket, lamb shank, or any other roasted meat meal.

Backsberg has a large line of wines, and I’d love to hear if you’ve had any of them. Kosher or not, Backsberg should find it’s way into your glass.