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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!

Talking Turkey – and Wine

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

Wine Ideas For Thanksgiving

With the cornucopia of food on your Thanksgiving table, finding one wine that works with everything being served is impossible. As I mentioned in my previous Thanksgiving wine article, drink what you like is a popular response to “what’s the best wine for Thanksgiving”. However, I have some additional recommendations that will work not only with a typical holiday meal, but any food or occasion. In the video that follows, I chat with CBS12 anchors Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby about three wines, with more detail on each below the video.

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewurzstraminer Hugel 2009

Gewürztraminer is a grape often recommended on Thanksgiving. The palate is typically light to medium bodied, and the flavors work well with not only Turkey, but much of the side dishes you’ll find at a holiday feast. While grown around the world, I prefer gewurztraminer from the Alsace, such as the Hugel 2009 Gewürztraminer. For about $15, this white wine offers fantastic value. What I love about this wine is its light palate, dominated by white floral notes such as jasmine and honeysuckle. The finish brings a nice spice flavor, and leaves soft peach and apricot notes that linger. However, the acidity is firm, lending a tiny citrus note to the palate, and that works perfect with turkey, yams, and even fresh fruit. It is important to note that this wine will change as it warms and gets air while in your glass. You’ll notice the flavors more prominent and it becomes a little less crisp and a little fuller bodied. I recommend popping the cork 5 or 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, and letting it breathe just a little bit.

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Pinot noir makes an appearance twice in my holiday recommendations, as I feel it’s a versatile, food friendly wine. Rodney Strong 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir delivers a stunning red wine for only $20. A beautiful, light garnet color in the glass, this is a wine that wasn’t over extracted or over concentrated. With fruit from estate vineyards, meaning the fruit is from Rodney Strong Vineyards or from vineyards they control, manage the growing practices, and have long term contracts with, this Pinot is every bit old world in style as it is new. There is big flavor in the bottle, with tons of raspberry and dried strawberry. However, the palate is a mix of California and Burgundy, as it delivers the right amount of new world fruit perfectly balanced with old world earth and tobacco. This pinot noir will benefit from some breathing time, so pull the cork and let the bottle sit for about 20 minutes before serving, or decant and let aerate for 10 minutes. This will allow the wine to open a little, allow you to more fully enjoy the wine. While I was quite happy sipping this on it’s own, look for this wine to pair with almost any meat you put on your thanksgiving table. From turkey to pork to beef, this Pinot rocks them all.

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas Cru Beaujolais

Finally, though I have absolutely no love for Beaujolais Nouveau, I’m a fan of wines from many of the 10 Cru Beaujolais areas. These areas are designated due to their superior conditions for growing grapes in comparison to other areas within Beaujolais. While both are made from the gamay grape, Cru Beaujolais wines are more structured, typically aged before release, and are nothing like their bubblegum Nouveau wine cousins. Each of the 10 Crus brings something different to the wines, and this wine from Julienas is no exception. The wines of this area tend to have a rich, spicy character coupled with fruity qualities of gamay. The palate of the  Potel Aviron 2009 Julienas had notes of dried dark cherry, with an old world, earthy component as well. This wine definitely needed to decant for about an hour before serving, and could age for a year or two and still show nicely. For fans of old world wines, created to pair with a meal, this $25 wine will be a treat.

Dr  Loosen 2006 BA

Dr Loosen 2006 BA

At the end of the TV segment, Eric and Suzanne ask about dessert wines. I’m a big fan of port, but believe beerenauslese riesling is a better pick for Thanksgiving. This riesling is a little lighter than a port, and after a big meal, is the right wine for that touch of sweetness you may crave. A lover of Dr Loosen wines, their 2006 Beerenauslese will offer the rich, sweet honeyed apricots and nectarine flavors that end the evening perfectly. It will pair with many of the fruit pie desserts served during Thanksgiving, or be perfect on it’s own. This high quality, low quantity wine will fetch about $25 for a 187ml bottle or $50 for a 375ml bottle, which is half the size of a “normal” wine bottle. There are many late harvest riesling option available at a lower price, but they won’t necessarily be the same the quality of Dr Loosen’s BA.

I look forward to hearing what wines you pick for your Thanksgiving day meal. And no matter what you drink, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

 

-These wines were provided as media samples for review. However, my opinions are my own, and not influenced by samples or the people who provide them -

St Patrick’s Day – It’s not just for beer anymore

Irish Clover for St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Though St. Patrick’s Day is a religious celebration, enjoying a drink has long been a part of that celebration. And while it’s customary to have a beer or cocktail on St Patrick’s Day, enjoying a glass of wine is certainly an option. To put together a food and wine pairing piece,  I asked an Irish friend what she would eat on St Patrick’s Day. With Irish Eyes Smiling, she said “Mum would fix corned beef and cabbage, Irish lamb stew, and bread pudding.” I took Mum’s menu, and went to pairing wines perfect for Irish food and St Patrick’s Day.

Since I didn’t have Mum here to cook for me, and I was short on time to create the dishes myself, I went over to Oshea’s Irish Pub on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. It’s been recommended for it’s food before, and it’s  menu was just what I was looking for. I picked up two main dishes, as they didn’t have bread pudding, and scurried home.  The food was still hot when we plated it, which wasn’t surprising since I live only 2 miles away. We started with the corned beef and cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patrick's Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patrick’s Day

Valckenberg Madonna Riesling Kabinett 2009

Valckenberg Madonna Riesling Kabinett 2009

The briny flavors of the corned beef and cabbage worked very nicely with the German wine I selected. I wanted one with a little sweetness, and the Valckenberg Madonna Kabinett 2009 was perfect. From the Rheinhessen, the largest German wine region in both area and production, the Madonna is a blend of the grapes riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Kerner.  The bouquet on the Valckenberg Madonna  initially was tight, though it opened to a sweet, fruity bouquet. The palate was delicious ripe honeydew melon, with just a touch of acidity. The wine paired perfectly with the corned beef and cabbage, and for about $12.00 it’s a nice value.

Your St Patrick’s Day party may not consist of corned beef and cabbage. Or, white wine may not be your preference, and you’d like an alternative idea for your festival. I’d highly recommend finding a recipe for Irish Lamb Stew, or a Irish Beef Stew if you prefer. And then I’d recommend pairing it with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.

Irish Beef Stew from OSheas for St Patrick's Day

Irish Beef Stew from OSheas for St Patrick’s Day

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Frank Family Vineyards has a history dating back to 1884 in Napa Valley, California. They produce a wide variety of wines, from Zinfandel to a Sparkling Rouge, and their Cabernet Sauvignon. The Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 is a big Napa Cab. Right out of the bottle, the nose of the Frank Family Cabernet was tart cherries with notes of spice and leather. The palate was silky, with nice fruit and firm tannins, showing the tart cherry all over the palate. After about about 30 minutes decanting, the nose is more a stewed cherry and baking spice, with blackberry and bramble notes.  The palate was a full, rich red berry with warming spice. There was a green note as well, such as bell pepper, but it was a undercurrent and not a prominent taste.

However, the wine really shined when it was paired with food. With each bite of the stew, the wine took on this soft, silky approach and gained complexity. The fruit was less tart, and took on a black cherry note with cocoa flavors and warm baking spice. The wine spends 24 months in french oak, about 35% new, the remainder 1 and 2 years old. The oak is well integrated, though the tannin is firm as I said. You can order the wine from the Frank Family website as well as select stores, and it comes in at $45 from the winery, though you can find it for less shopping online.

If you want to skip the main course and head right to dessert, I have some great options for you. Rich and heavy, bread pudding is not only perfect St Patrick’s Day dessert, it’s delicious. It can be served hot, or cold, and with any number of toppings from whipped cream to a bourbon sauce. We served it cold, and paired it with an Italian white wine that can only be described as beautiful. The Saracco Moscao d’Asti is an amazing wine on it’s own, and really harmonized with the bread pudding.

Bread Pudding for dessert on St Patrick's Day

Bread Pudding for dessert on St Patrick’s Day

Saracco Moscato d'Asti

Saracco Moscato d’Asti

Moscato is all the rage now, being one of the trendy wines that people ask for in restaurants, clubs, and of course, wine shops. I don’t reach for Moscato often, as many expressions are just a bit too sweet and syrupy for me. However, the Saracco Moscato d’Asti is fantastic. The wine in the glass is a beautiful light yellow hue, and you’ll immediately notice it’s slightly frizzanti, or sparkling.  The nose is a wonderful white floral and peach bouquet, and it’s just gorgeous. The palate opens up with a sweet floral and apricot or peach note, and I can only describe it as delicious, refreshing, and sweet without being sugary. You can find it for around $16, and it’s worth buying! I’d serve this alone as an aperitif, or with dessert, or to sip on during a lovely evening with friends.

I’d love to hear how you celebrate St Patrick’s Day!

White Wines from the Alsace – Helfrich

Helfrich Wines from Alsace, France

Helfrich Wines from Alsace, France

While the rest of the country digs out from snow, spring has sprung in Florida. The weather reached a high of 84 degrees, and after a day in the sun I was looking for something refreshing to drink. I decided to open white wines from the Alsace region of France that I have had in my cellar for a number of months. While information about the producer is nearly non-existent on the web, and various articles site different longevity information about the producers, one thing remains constant. The riesling, pinot blanc and gewurztraminer from Helfrich are pretty darn good.

Several writers have met with Anne-Laure Helfrich the sister of Frederick Helfrich and note in their writeups that she is the sixth generation Alsatian, while others note her father is third generation in the wine business.  Regardless of how long they’ve been in Alsace, or the wine business,  Helfrich offers two levels of wine, the noble variety (entry level) which all retail for $15 and the Grand Cru which are single Vineyard offerings which retail for $25. The Alsace wine region, which is in France on the border of Germany,  is one of the smaller wine producing areas in France. The region typically produces dry riesling, while the other notable varieties pinot gris and gewurztraminer are typically off-dry, with some residual sugar left after fermentation.

Helfrich Riesling 2008

Helfrich Riesling 2008

The first offering that I tried was the Helfrich noble variety Riesling 2008. The nose, or bouquet is stone fruits and petrol, with mineral notes. The palate comes across as tart green apples, citrus and is very mineral driven. Though not very acidic, some acidity is definitely noticeable on the mid-palate and finish.  With some time, and air, the wine opens up nicely. The flavors round out a little, becoming a little less tart green apple, and more focused on citrus flavors. The wine comes across very dry, and can remind you of a sauvignon blanc. The winemaker’s suggested food pairings are sushi, white meats, Alsatian tarts and smoked salmon.

Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2008

Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2008

The second wine from Helfrich was a the 2008 gewurztraminer, which I just popped and poured. The nose is a little floral, with melon notes coming through as well. On the palate, it’s a medium weight with white flowers upfront followed by a burst of sweet stone fruit. There is a sprinkling of white pepper on the finish, but it’s lost amongst the flavors of flowers and peach. Typically, gewurztraminer has a nice spicy component, and the name actually means Spicy Traminer (a grape). However, after 20 minutes in the glass, the wine warmed up a little and with air has opened a lot. The palate is much more white flowers now, with a nice vein of spice on the finish. I really enjoyed this wine, especially as it opened up. It has a nice bit of sweetness that will appeal to many, while the structure and balance make it a good buy at $15.

Helfrich Pinot Gris 2008

Helfrich Pinot Gris 2008

Finally, the Helfrich pinot gris 2008 rounded out the tasting for the day. With a mineral driven nose of stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches, this white wine from the Alsace region of France has a delicious bouquet. Slightly viscous with a medium mouth feel, the initial approach of this wine is super ripe stone fruits, particularly apricots. There is a honeyed fig component as well, and this wine is very reminiscent of the late harvest semillion I had from Apex recently. The Helfrich pinot gris comes across a little sweet, however its finish leaves crisp and clean and purely fruit driven. Again, aerating this white wine opened it beautifully. After 15 minutes in the glass it’s become a bit more balanced, the sweetness is a bit more tame, though prominent, and the spice little bit more noticeable throughout the palate.

The Helfrich gewurztraminer 2008 and pinot gris 2008 were both off-dry wines, what most people would think of as “sweet”. The sweetness, and fruit forward nature of both of these wines make them a perfect pairing for spicy foods, as well as the typical “Asian” food pairings. The pinot gris may go well with pork, perhaps slow cooked with onions. All of these white wines were refreshing on a hot day, perfect summer sippers, and food friendly. At $15 each, there’s no reason to avoid them, so let me know what you think.

These wines were provided as trade samples for me to taste and review honestly.

Introducing you to organic and biodynamic wines

I am not naive enough that you hadn’t been introduced to organic wines or biodynamic wines before we (digitally) met. I’d like to think that after watching my short segment from CBS Daybreak above, and reading the information here, you’ll go forward into the wine world a tad more enlightened about the methods the grapes are grown, and wines are made. Three minutes was hardly enough to scratch the surface of this topic, plus tell you about the three fantastic wines I brought on the show, so please read on.

I tend to shy away from marketing hype, and feel all too often people will toss words on labels to influence your buying habits. Make it “Eco Friendly” and suddenly you switch everything from vegetables to dish washing soap, regardless of it being a better product or not. I shied away from organic wines for that reasons, and one other; historically organic wines were lousy.  Whether it was just poor choices on my part, the lack of sulfites to qualify for the organic labeling, or my disposition to the hype, up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t consider recommending an organic wine.  Actually, I still rarely recommend organic wines, but rather recommend wines made from organically grown grapes.

For a wine to be labeled an “Organic Wine”, it must be made from grapes that are grown organically and have no added sulfites. The sulfites act as a preservative, prohibit fermentation in the bottle, and allow for production of consistent wines over time. The Organic Wine label doesn’t mean sulfite free, however.  In fact, all wines contain sulfites, and though most people tell me they have “Red Wine Headaches” from sulfites, white wine contains a slightly higher amount of sulfite than red. It’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation process, and can’t be eliminated (practically) from wine. Speaking of wine, lets cover those first, then the details on the growing practices.

Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

In Marlborough, New Zealand there is a winery making wines via organic and biodynamic principles that rock. The Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from their two certified organic vineyards, Home and Tatou, and is made from 95% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillon. I positively disagree with the winemakers tasting notes, who says it displays grass on the nose with chalky mineral complexity. This wine is quite straightforward, taking a tangerine, and sprinkling it with lemon juice. It’s bright, flavorful, with a bursting bouquet to match the palate. I think of sunshine in a bottle, and promise you a bottle of this on your spring and summer table, with a few different types of goat cheese will have your guests thinking you’re a wine guru! The Seresin Estate 08 Sauvignon Blanc is about $21.

Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling

Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling

Globe trotting over to the US from New Zealand, we land in Oregon, where we are enjoying Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling. Labeled as grapes organically certified by Stellar Certification Services as well as Demeter Certified Biodynamic grapes, this bottle delivers a wide range of wine experiences. The nose has an incredible petrol scent, laced with sweet apricots. The palate is semi-sweet stone fruit, but crisp, not cloying. It has a medium mouth feel, and also sings when paired with goat cheese, but this wine can be paired with salads, seafood, or drank on it’s own quite nicely. This delicious white wine is available for under $15.

Odfjell - Orzada - Malbec

Odfjell - Orzada - Malbec

The last leg of our World Wine tasting takes us to Chile, which I’ve written about often. I firmly believe South America offers some fantastic values on great wines, and think Chile leads that charge. Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipping magnate, settled in Chile after falling in love with it, and began planning vineyards about 15 years ago. Odfjell makes a number of different lines on their 85 hectacres, and have vineyards in the Colchagua and Maipo Valley where their Carmenere comes from, as well as organically farmed vineyards in Cauquenes and Curico, where the Orzada Malbec comes from.

Malbec is typically an Argentine grape, but Odfjell does a great job with it. This wine has a bouquet of violets, and a palate of berries with the violets coming through as well. It’s a medium mouth feel and dry, while being delightful to just sip as the tannins aren’t too firm. Pair the Odfjell Orzada Malbec with some roasted or grilled meats, steaks or lamb chops for example, and it is fantastic. Definitely give this wine a good 30 minutes to decant and open up, or it’s a bit jammy on the palate and not it’s true potential. You can find the Odfjell Orzada Malbec for about $20.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets talk about the three types of “green” winemaking, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic.

Kris O’Connor, Executive Director of the Central Coast Vineyard Team pointed out that Sustainable farm practices “look at the whole farm – energy, water quality, habitat, water conservation, integrated pest management & people. Several of these issues aren’t necessarily specifically addressed in organic or biodynamic certification standards.” Some Central Coast Vineyard Team member vineyards are “Sustainability in Practice” certified, who’s wines I’ve enjoyed and written about such as Hahn Estates, Baileyana-Tangent, and Paraiso Vineyards.

Sustainable winemaking means that growers don’t use man-made chemicals to fertilize the vineyards to improve crop results. The growers will use natural fertilizers, composting and other cultivation methods to attract beneficial insects to the vines while feeding the plant. Additionally, sustainable farming practices will enrich the surrounding habitat, such as providing grazing areas for animals away from the vineyards so they don’t eat the crops, or restoring  nearby streams or rivers to enhance the entire local ecosystem. There are of course standards to be met, and upheld, to be certified sustainable by organizations such as SIP, much like in organic wine making.

Organic winemaking takes the basic premise of sustainable farming, and goes a step further. Organic vineyard management eliminates the use of not only chemical fertilizer, but any chemical pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide in the growing process. The vineyard will employ natural methods of controlling pests and vine threatening diseases, as well as promoting vine growth and health. However, just because the grapes are grown organically does not allow a wine to be labeled as organic. As I mentioned previously, the wine can have no added sulfites in addition to having organically farmed grapes to earn the “Organic Wine” label. Additionally, many wines will be produced organically, but not mention it on the label. Rather, they just let the quality of their wine speak for itself. There was an interesting piece on wines labeled as Organic, or Eco-Friendly, which sell for less.

Biodynamic winemaking takes sustainable, and organic farming to the next level. That next level does include a little bit of voodoo and witchcraft, with burying a cow horn full of cow manure on the Autumn equinox, and digging it up six months later on the Spring equinox to spread the contents in the vineyard. No, really. Biodynamic farming has it’s roots back in the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Quite a complex science and way of thinking, I can only summarize the biodynamic farming ideology by saying that it takes into account the spiritual forces of earth, animal, plants and brings them in line through a holistic, and natural approach to keeping them all healthy and in sync.

The crux of the methodology is the vineyard is a living system that is closed, and self-sustaining. It shares many of the attributes of organic farming; no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers or other chemical preparations in the earth or vine.  Grapes are harvested by hand, and much if not all of the vineyard work is done manually without the use of powered machines. It then takes into account the rhythm of the universe, such as the use nine types of preparations to dynamize soil quality and stimulate plant life. The preparations are a mixture of extracts from minerals, plants, or animal manure. Furthermore, the farmers only sow and reap harvests according to principles they believe control the cosmos. For instance, wine is only racked under a new moon because sediment is at its most compact at this time. The tidal pull of a full moon causes it to puff up, insiders say. I could go on forever, talking about wines that are Demeter certified Biodynamic and what that means, but I think we’ve gotten the jist of it all.

What do you think about organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines? Do they impact your buying decisions? Now that you know about the differences, will it impact your buying decisions? Leave a comment below, I’ll be sure to reply, and possibly follow up via email! Cheers!

Is Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Spatlese Riesling your Thanksgiving white wine?

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007

With October just finished, and people already planning their 2010 Oktoberfest parties, I thought it would be a great time to review a German Riesling. If you haven’t had a Riesling before, or only have had Rieslings from California or Washington, I recommend you find and enjoy a German one soon. There are many great Riesling producers in the Mosel region of Germany, or Mosel-Saar-Ruwer as it was previously named. I’ve reviewed this wine’s cousin before, another Riesling from the same producer, but this one is a bit more elegant and refined. I’m talking about Dr Loosen 2007 Riesling Spatlese from the Erdener Treppchen vineyard in Mosel, Germany.

Video review of Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

The wines produced by Dr Loosen come from various vineyards, which impart their characteristics on the wine. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is actually made from grapes purchased from other growers in the region. However, the wine we’re discussing today is produced from all estate grapes,  grown in the Erdener Treppchen vineyards, the little staircase of Erden vineyards, as the name translates. The E.T. vineyard is comprised of iron rich red slate soil, which creates rich, complex wines and imparts the mineral qualities I describe in the video. This wine is described on the Dr Loosen website as more muscular and rugged, where as wines from their blue slate vineyards of Wehlener Sonnenuhr are described as more graceful, like a ballerina.

Muscular and rugged or not, this wine was delicious. The nose has that petrol scent that is often associated with quality German Rieslings. However, underneath that scent is super ripe apricot and honey suckle, waiting to be savored.  From your first sip, this lush wine has a medium weight to it, and an elegant mouth feel. It’s bursting with flavors of dried apricot, peaches and honey, balanced with nice acidity. It’s certainly a bit young, and will develop in the bottle, if you have the patience to let it age. The Wine Spectator gave this wine 91 points, and said

Bright and tangy, like a brass band. The lime and peach notes gather force thanks to a vibrant, well-integrated acidity. There’s also a touch of vanilla cream and mineral. Drink now through 2032. 250 cases imported. –BS

I could see this wine ending up on many Thanksgiving tables. As I mentioned in the video, friends wanted something to go with their Cajun Deep Fried turkey they plan to make this Holiday season. We’re fairly sure they’ll go with this selection, which they purchased from Zsazsa and Company, a virtual wine store serving Florida since 2008.  It will not only go well with their turkey choice, but I see it going well with any ham you put on the holiday table, as well as pairing nicely with the cheese platter you put out before the meal.  This wine is versatile, and can be on your table throughout the whole meal, playing nicely with fresh fruit for dessert.

I know that a lot of people haven’t had Rieslings, and would love to hear what you think once you pick up a bottle. If you’ve been following me on twitter, you may have seen my tweets regarding the Wines of Germany virtual wine tasting events throughout October. If you took part in that, or have had some German Riesling on your own, why not let everyone know what you think of them by leaving a comment below.

Wine and Wings

It’s common knowledge that buffalo wings and beer go well together. They’re a staple in nearly every sports bar in America. What you may not know is the right wine will pair perfectly with hot wings, allowing you to enjoy your next Superbowl party with wine, instead of brews. A well structured, semi sweet wine, such as a Washington or a German Riesling, cuts the heat in spicy food nicely. And while it’s no secret that I’ve been talking about hot foods with Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling a lot recently, I haven’t shared with you my Grilled Hot Wings recipe to make that food and wine pairing awesome.

Grilling at the Lake

Grilling at the Lake

During our lake house vacation this year, we decided to fire up the grills and make some snacks for an early afternoon meal. We had to feed the 15 people with us, and had one grill with oysters on it, another with ribs, and two with my hot buffalo wings. Most everyone has had wings that are fried, and a few of you health conscious wing lovers have had them baked, but you haven’t enjoyed them until you’ve had them grilled. It takes a good hour toiling over hot coals to make this spicy snack, but they absolutely rock, and your guests will thank you for taking the time for them.

This recipe takes about 15 minutes of prep time, between mixing the ingredients below, washing and cutting the wings, and pouring a glass of wine while you get to cooking. You’ll end up cooking the wings for about 50 minutes, give or take 15, and it’s hands on the whole time. First, you’ll want to get your ingredients together

  • 3 pounds of chicken wings – you can separate at the joints or just buy drummetts
  • 1 1/2 cup hot sauce (12 oz) – Louisiana style. I used “Cristal” last time, and Louisiana before
  • 1 cup of Cola soda (8 oz)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (little less if you don’t want the heat as rockin!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

I experimented with 4 or 5 different ratios of hot sauce to cola before I was happy. You’ll find your “sweet spot” with the mixture and people will RAVE about the wings.  Additionally, I double the sauce recipe because it does reduce down, and I like to make sure the wings are submerged for their time in the sauce.

Grilled Hot Wings

Grilled Hot Wings

Preheat your grill to a medium heat. I always cook these wings over direct heat, but you may want to set it up indirect.

Using a large dutch oven or sauce pot, mix the ingredients, adding the chicken last. Place the pot to the back corner of the grill and allow the sauce to simmer.

Add wings and let them sit in the simmering sauce for approximately 8-10 minutes. Then using tongs like in the picture, take them out and grill them for 5-8 minutes. turning mid way to avoid burning.  Return the wings to the simmering sauce, which will be reducing and thickening, and allow them to simmer again for 8-10 minutes. Repeat this process 4-6 times until the wings are done. Approximately 50 minutes in all. I usually finish the last 5 minutes in the sauce, to leave them “sloppy”. However, you can finish them on the grill for dry wings. (edit note, my family now prefers them dry, and the past two times I finished them on the grill and they were awesome!)

A few edit notes – it’s an active recipe, so you really want to watch them cook.  The first time on the grill, you will likely get a char on the wings. Just be sure not to burn them. Most people, even my 10 yr old son, prefer the chared ones, they have a nice flavor.  Also you CAN do the wings in the oven, if you cant grill. Just heat the oven to 350, and simmer the sauce on the stove top, going from oven to pot the same as you would the grill. You wont get the charred and grilled flavors, but they still rock!

You should test a wing before you take them off, making sure it’s cooked through, pulls off the bone easily, and if you use a meat thermometer, the temp should be about 170 degrees. Additionally, the USDA says the thighs and wings of poultry should be cooked “until the juices run clear.”  I did make these in the oven once, using two cookie sheets in a 350 degree oven while i had the sauce on the burner. It works just as well as the grill, though the taste is a little different, and your stove may get messy!

Grilled Hot Wings

Grilled Hot Wings

Now, I know this is a wine blog, so why the recipe? Well, as you read before, I’m all about Rieslings with spicy food. When @DolceDebbie and I did the Cabot cheese event, she created these KILLER Habanero Shortbreads using Cabot Hot Habanero Cheese, which I paired with the Dr L Riesling. The sweetness, or the Residual Sugar (RS), helps offset the heat from the food, and really brings out nice, ripe fruit. When we served this at the lake house, we opted for Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling which is a nice, value driven wine for this dish. Both Dr Loosen and Chateau Ste Michelle have Riesling in the $10-12 range, which go perfectly with this recipe.  Dr Loosen and Chateau Ste Michelle have a joint venture, Eroica Riesling, which, while a little bit more expensive at around $20, worked just as nicely. The Eroica was rated 91 points by by Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, and is a great option for a “Grocery Store Wine” if you prefer sweeter, fruit driven whites.

Let me know what you think of the wings. And of course, give the wines I mentioned a try, and let me know what you think of them alone, as well as paired with this dish. I’m confident you’ll enjoy as much as we did!

An introduction to Finger Lake, NY Riesling

I’ve been drinking wine a long time. I’m from New York. Given those two statements, you’d think I’d be a well versed champion of Finger Lakes wines like  Lenn Thompson. I’m going to say right now, up until this week, I had never tasted a wine from the NY state. I hereby apologize for that, and am quite grateful for the opportunity to try some very interesting wines from my home state.  I was selected as one of a few wine bloggers to receive samples of 12 wines from the Finger Lakes area of New York. Lenn decided to select all Finger Lakes Rieslings, given the heat of summer and his desire to cool us off. With the help of Morgen McLaughlin from Finger Lakes Wine Country, our samples arrived and we were off to the tastings.

I invited a few friends over to taste and discuss the wines we were about to receive, the salesman with the wine distributor that Zsazsa and Company, Inc uses in South Florida, along with his girlfriend, as well as three of the four @Swirlgirls, the wine bloggers for the Palm Beach Post.  We had very little education about the Finger Lakes wine region, and all of us had preconceived notions of what to expect.  The Swirl Girls had just done a German and Alsace wine tasting, and were expecting wines similar to those.  I too was expecting different tasting wines, perhaps a mix of New World Rieslings mashed up with German Kabinett and Spatlese Riesling. I won’t lament that I didn’t do my homework before tasting the wines, but I’ve learned that preconceived notions really don’t do any good. After really not enjoying the wines as much as I had hoped, and speaking with some Finger Lakes wine lovers, I tasted all 12 wines a second time the next night. With my new paradigm, I wanted to try them again to make sure I gave myself an opportunity to experience them without expecting Dr Loosen Dr L in each glass. Robin and I made a few appetizers, and our guests brought various dishes as well. We lined up the wines, and started our event.  First up, Ravines Wine Cellars 2006 Riesling.

Ravines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2006

Ravines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2006

European Winemaker and Oenologist Morten Hallgren and his wife Lisa purchased the 17 acre parcel of land for Ravines in 2000, after working for Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars for 6 years. The tasting room was opened in spring 2003, and they promptly won Best Dry Riesling in the 2003 World Riesling Cup and the Eastern International Wine Competition for their 2002 Dry Riesling. None of us read the bottle or description on their web page, and just tasted away.

In the glass, the Ravines Riesling 2006 ($16 retail 12.5% ABV)  had a light pale yellow color with a nose of lemon zest. There was a little minerals and sharp notes in the bouquet as well. Upon taking the first sip, there was a bit of light citrus, and then a  really big burst of it on the mid palate. This wine, and really most of the Rieslings we had this evening, had a tremendous amount of acidity. So much so, the reaction of most of the tasters was that it was a bit unbalanced.  The finish is really long, and the citrus turns a bit grassy. Most of the tasters really didn’t prefer this wine, and I likened it to a Sancerre, with a lot of grapefruit, but not as balanced and polished.

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling 2008

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling 2008

Next up we tasted the Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling 2008 ($18 retail 12% ABV). Founded by the late Jerry Hazlitt and his wife Elaine in 1984, the Hazlitt family has been involved in Viticulture for 151 years. Hazlitt wines have won multiple awards, and the Homestead Reserve Riesling has been awarded Silver in the LA International, Bronze in the San Francisco International, and a few gold and double gold awards.

On the first night of tasting, my notes were very brief. I noticed the bouquet had a bit of pear, there was a lot of lemon with  grassy notes on the palate, and the finish just left you with a gripping acidity that overwhelmed your mouth.  When I revisited the wine on the second night, I smelled a lemon poppy muffin in the glass, but the acidity was actually showing up and burning my nose. There was a light floral thing going on up front on the sip, sort of white flowers, that transitioned into nice stone fruit.  Stone fruit, if you aren’t sure, resembles peaches, nectarines, etc. The finish still is so acidic that it leaves a harsh citrus flavor that wipes away the stone fruit. I do not want to give the impression this is a bad wine, however. You just need to strap yourself in for the acidity on it, and most of the others. This wine, along with one I’ll discuss later, was a favorite of Robin’s 25 year old assistant, who was happy to sample some of the remaining wines on the 3rd day.

After the first two wines, we all started trying some of the food we had prepared. We hoped the food would cut the acidity and perhaps soften the flavors up a bit. Remember, we didn’t understand that the terroir of Finger Lakes would bring flavors that Evan Dawson likens to “wrapping a river rock with a lime peel and taking a bite. Which, to me, is freaking wonderful.” All of the dishes went very nicely with all of the wines, from the Shrimp with Orzo made by Swirl Girl Sweet (Libby) to the shrimp satay sort of thing Joelle created, to mock Shortbread cookies with Cabot Hot Habanero cheese that we emulated. However, they didn’t change the experiences we had with the wines. And that isn’t a bad thing. We pressed on.

Anthony Road Finger Lakes Riesling

Anthony Road Finger Lakes Riesling

The next wine made most of the guests cringe when they sampled the bouquet on the first night. I implored them to let it open a bit, swirl, and see if the odor blew off. I felt it did, showing some fresh made margarita on the nose. It was off dry with medium acidity and body, showing ripe peaches. The finish was called “unsettling” on the first night, but not unpleasant. The Anthony Road Wine Company Semi-Dry Riesling comes in at about $15 retail and 12.6 ABV, and was not a crowd favorite. When I sampled it the second day, I noted it was a tad syrupy, but not overly so. The peaches and nectarines were dominant, but the acidity compared to the others was underwhelming. It was as if I would have liked to cut the acidity from the first two wines, and put them into this one.

Anthony Road Wine Company owners Ann and John Martini moved to the 100 acre parcel of land overlooking Seneca Lake in 1973. They opened the winery doors in 1990 with the 1989 vintage, and they produce a wide range of Finger Lakes wines. The 2007 Dry Riesling & 2008 Semi-Sweet Riesling won Gold at the Riverside International Wine Competition.  I definitely think the wine opened up on the second day, and perhaps just needed to sit for a while on the first night.  It was actually the 4th ranked wine by the wine distributor rep who was with us.

Dr Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

Dr Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

The next wine invoked a good bit of conversation, as Dr Konstantin Frank is credited for not just revolutionizing wine production in New York State and the East Coast, but also producing world class wines. As Lenn Thompson said, “How could you not include Dr Frank in a Finger Lakes Tasting.” The wine distributor was more than excited to discuss how Dr Frank revitalized the New York wine industry after his idea to graft European grape vines on local NY root stock allowed the more delicate grapes to grow in the harsher NY weather, to expand the options available to winemakers.

Of the four wines we had tasted so far during the evening, we all agreed Dr Frank 2007 Dry Riesling at $17 retail was the most enjoyable; the  fruit,  acidity, and minerality are all restrained, balanced, and elegant. While the finish was disappointing compared to the other elements of the wine, it was not bad, just not up to snuff. It was the second favorite wine of the entire night for our wine distributor guest.  Tasting this wine the second night, the bouquet was tight, mostly yeasty scents coming through. The palate is medium weight, and some what elegant. There’s a decent bit of tree fruit here, with an underpinning of yeast, though it’s a bit light on the finish. You get a mixture of citrus and grass with tree fruit and yeast.

If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a hand; this has been a long post. I’ll write up another four of the 12 wines in the coming days. I’ll leave you with this though: Have an open mind and a wandering palate and try some Finger Lakes NY Rieslings when you can. They’re different than what you’d expect, but something you may thoroughly enjoy. Until next time, have a good time with wine!