I’ve always been of the opinion that two things enhance the enjoyment of drinking wine, food and friends. The mission of my writing has always been to make wine more approachable, which includes helping my friends make well informed choices in their wine selections. When my twitter friend Richard Auffrey issued a call to action for wine writers to step up our game in 2011, my response was to post more relevant food and wine pairing to help you have a good time with wine.
A tweet from the folks at Food Network inspired a mid-week quick and easy meal of sauteed shrimp. Their idea was to saute shrimp with garlic, and deglaze the pan with Champagne. A simple enough idea, and one that included wine or Champagne, so I was quite excited. I knew I had a host of wines to pair with such a dish, so I prepared the following recipe:
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup of Sparkling wine (you can use a California Sparkling Wine or Italian Prosecco, Cava, or a Champagne)
In a large saute pan, I heated the olive oil on medium for about 4 minutes, then added the chopped garlic to saute for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring the entire time. I then added the cleaned shrimp, and sauteed them until pink, about 5 minutes. You want to ensure you don’t over cook the shrimp, or they’re rubbery. Cut one open and ensure the inside is pink and no longer the translucent white. Once they’re done, take them out of the pan and put them in a serving dish. Pour the sparkling wine into the pan, and deglaze, ensuring the crusty bits come off the bottom of the pan. Stir for about three minutes, as the wine will reduce and thicken, mixing nicely with the flavors in the pan. Pour over the shrimp, serve over pasta, rice or on it’s own, and pop a cork.
This dish could have gone with quite a few wine options, but I selected a bottle of Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay, which cost around $24. After giving the bottle a few minutes to open and breathe, the bouquet of ripe pears pops out of the glass, followed by a little creme brulee. There are even scents of sweet white floral mixed in with those pears, and it’s a great nose. The palate is light to medium body, and is a good mix of buttery and crisp. Some of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation, which will produce the buttery, heavy mouth feel in a white wine like chardonnay. However since not all of the wine went through “malo”, it retains some of the crispness chardonnay can show. There is good fruit, apples and pears, and spice right up front, with some nice toast, but not over done as you can find in “Over Oaked” chardonnay. There’s a lingering smokey spice flavor on the finish, but it’s warm and inviting, not overbearing.
There are some great examples of Napa chardonnay on the market, and I truly believe that this Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonny is one of them. Winemaker Joe Shirley, head winemaker since 2007, is a California native who’s doing some nice things at Napa Cellars. He worked at Sonoma Cutrer in the late 90′s, which almost typifies buttery California Chardonnay. At $24 for the Napa Cellars 2009 Chardonnay, it’s quite nice when compared to chardonnay in the same price range, such as Paraiso’s Chardonnay, which I also enjoy and have brought to various TV segments to recommend.
Don’t think that chardonnay only pairs with foods prepared with Shrimp. I love chardonnay with chicken, from baked to fried to roasted. As a matter of fact, this Napa Cellars Chardonnay sample came with a recipe for Chicken Saffron Brochettes with Spanish Chorizo. YUM, we’ll have to make that and discuss in the future! And of course, lobster, whether boiled and dipped in drawn butter, or in a lobster roll, is a natural pair for most California chardonnay. What is your favorite food and wine pairing with chardonnay? Leave a comment below, I’m dying to know.
With Thanksgiving approaching, you may be scrambling to find some wines to go with everything you serve. As I’ve said before, there’s no one wine that will pair with everything you serve, and more importantly, drink what you like on Thanksgiving. That being said, if you rather focus on your family, friends and the meal itself, you can leave the wine selections to me. I’ll offer two more options that I recently tasted as part of a sample review from Frederick Wildman’s various offerings. I’ll also point you to some wines I’ve recommended in the past, because they’re tried and true.
Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007
I’ve always thought that Riesling is a great grape for the holidays. I mentioned a few different producers in the past, though I do always think that a Dr Loosen wine makes a great showing. From the $12 Dr Loosen Dr L to the $25 Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen, they offer great flavors alone, or paired with food. I’ve enjoyed them with ham or other pork dishes, as well as poultry. Many of my family members love the easy drinking, fruit forwardness of the Dr L, especially with it’s crisp, clean finish. It always makes an appearance on our holiday table.
El Coto Rioja Rose
If you are looking for an easy drinking “welcome” wine, look no further than El Coto Rioja Rosado 2009. This rose is a blend of 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha, and is 100% great. With a fresh fruity nose of bright, brilliant strawberries, this $12 wine will be greatly appreciated by your guests as they settle in for the day. The nose carries through to the palate, with fresh strawberries and raspberries and mild acitity, making this wine a fun, light to medium bodied wine to sip on, or pair with appetizers and cheese.
Christian Moreau Chablis
Another interesting wine sample from Frederick Wildman was the Domaine Christian Moreau 2008 Chablis, which retails for about $24. I love Chablis for it’s crisp, pure expression of Chardonnay, and the opportunity to have my “I hate Chardonnay” friends eat those words, or swallow them. There’s a crisp, steely nose with apple laced scents, which is followed by a medium bodied crisp palate of tart apple. There’s a bit of a citrus note, attributed to the firm acidity, but it’s a nice refreshing wine. This wine will certainly drink well with any fish or poultry dishes on your holiday table.
Ponzi Pinot Noir
If you’re a fan of red wines, don’t forget a bottle of Pinot Noir. Whether it’s from California, Oregon, or Burgundy, a glass of Pinot Noir will go well with much of your holiday fare. It can be light enough to pair with your turkey, and full bodied enough to pair with any beef dishes. We had a bottle of Oregon’s Ponzi 2008 Tavola Pinot Noir with lunch last week, and it immediately made my “Thanksgiving Wine” recommendation list. Great fruit mixed with an earthy smokiness that everyone at the table enjoyed. It paired with everything from croque monsieur to a french dip to a salad with grilled chicken. We’ll probably be serving a bottle of J Christopher Pinot Noir, also from Oregon, and a bottle of Hahn Estate SLH Pinot Noir, since we have them both stocked in our cellar.
By no means should you reserve these wines for holidays alone. And of course, this is not a definitive list of wines you can serve on Thanksgiving. Make a statement with dessert wines, whether a Sauternes or a Port. They will satisfy your sweet tooth without making you feel that you ate more than you should have. I’ll have some recommendations in the next few days, and add them for your sipping pleasure.
I’d love to know what you are serving for Thanksgiving! Do you have any annual traditions? Share them in the comments below!
Wine Experts are bombarding you with the perfect Thanksgiving wine ideas right now. You’ll see them on TV, you’ll read about them in the newspapers, and probably get an email or tweet about them. While I did indeed visit Kara Kostanich and the folks at CBS12 here in West Palm Beach to talk about wines that you can serve with your Thanksgiving Cornucopia, I rather point out a few wines that go well with the various dishes you may find on your table this holiday season, and let you pick which one you believe is perfect.
Thanksgiving is about, well, giving thanks, whether it’s for family, freedom, or the bounty we call our daily lives. It’s one time a year that everyone stops and takes stock of what they have, and celebrate with friends or family or strangers in doing so. That celebration often takes the form of a large meal, and undoubtedly some libations. For us, that libation is wine, and pairing wine with food is one of my favorite parts of the feast. Food and wine pairing is intimidating for some, and fascinating for others. While some may break out into a sweat trying to pick a wine that will go with your steak, I always love pairing food and wine and coming upon one that reminds me of a waltz, two parties dancing gracefully together in close proximity. This short video will talk about three of the wines, and I’ll have more information below about them, as well as three other options for you to choose from in another post.
Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45 Rose
The first wine in the segment was Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45 Rose, from the Rhone in France. This $15 wine is made from three different grapes, Grenach, Cinsault, and Syrah. It’s light enough to have as an aperitif, but weighty enough to stand up to your cheeses, appetizers and even your main course, should you prefer rose wines. The nose is great strawberry with a light floral aroma. There is good acidity on this wine, which as I mentioned in the clip, lends itself to pairing well with food. There is a nice fresh fruit forward palate, strawberry and raspberry, with an almost citrus feel from the acidity. The finish is great white pepper and spices, and it balances the fresh fruitiness of the wine wonderfully. As an aside, you pronounce Cinsault as San-Soh , not sin-salt as I mentioned in the video. Pair this wine with turkey or ham if that’s what’s on your table, as well as the various cheeses and appetizers you may have. Or, just sip on it and enjoy!
Oliver Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles
Next our holiday wine selection takes us to Burgundy, France, where we meet up with an Oliver Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles 2007, $20-25. Made from Chardonnay grapes, this Bourgogne Blanc is fermented in a mixture of 60% oak,10% of which is new, and 40% stainless steel. What does that mean for you and your taste buds? You’ll experience some of the vanilla and spice from the oak, but the pear and apple characteristics of Chardonnay will still shine. There is a harmony of crisp meets creamy in the mouth, and this becomes an exciting and versatile wine. Of course, this would go with your Turkey, but also your fish, fried shrimp or gator tail (hey, we’re in Florida). We did our tasting with roasted chicken and potatoes with rosemary and garlic, and it was fantastic.
Coto de Imaz Rioja
Finally we have Coto de Imaz Rioja 2004 Reserva. This red wine, made from 100% Tempranillo and aged 18 months in oak and another 24 months in bottle comes from Spain, and will certainly grace our holiday table this year. On it’s own, it has flavors of dark fruit and leather, and is quite dry. However, when paired with beef, the palate was a silky indulgence of chocolate and coffee mixed with earthy flavors that just were amazing. For a $20 wine, there was great complexity that beckoned you to take another sip, and another bite, to discover what flavors would show next. If your family has a beef dish, such as prime rib or perfectly grilled steaks, or perhaps serves roasted lamb, this is your go-to wine.
The three wines I discuss were all provided by the folks at Frederick Wildman, importers of fine wines. While they were indeed provided as samples, this in no way influenced what I spoke about on TV, or what I post here. I freely selected the wines, based on what I like and what I support, and there was no influence or pressure to do discuss them.
I leave you this something Richard Auffrey said quite well - dont be merely a glutton. Find ways to not only be thankful for what you have, but also to give freely to others. Regardless of how hard your year has been, or how difficult things may be for you, there is someone, somewhere, who could greatly benefit from whatever charitable act you can muster. Whether it’s a monetary donation, articles of clothing, or your time at a local shelter or soup kitchen, someone needs what you have to offer. Please, offer it this holiday season.
Years of poor quality wine in cardboard boxes have made even the most frugal wine shopper pass them by. However, recent quality improvements as well as a focus on “greener” delivery methods have brought the box back to bearable. With Memorial Day just a few weeks away, in the short video below, I bring four options to CBS12 and chat with Kara Kostanich about them.
What’s good about boxed wine?
Boxed wines are affordable. They typically come in boxes that hold three liters, or the equivalent of four regular 750 ml bottles of wine. You usually pay 1/2 to 2/3 price of the four bottles.
Box wines last longer after opening. Boxed wines typically last about four to six weeks after opening, allowing you to not worry about spoilage if you are just pouring one glass from a bottle.
Box wines are more eco-friendly. The packaging for boxed wines is not only cheaper than the packaging for the equivalent four bottles, it’s also lighter. That allows delivery to be more “green”, using less carbon emissions to transport them.
What’s Bad About Boxed Wine
The quality is still low. While the wines I brought to the show are fine for drinking, they won’t win any awards. They are definitely steps in the right direction, but for me, they’ll be relegated for big parties where the budget is the focus.
They have a shorter shelf life than bottles. Talking with a number of retailers, they all agree that boxes don’t last more than six months. The new Octavin wines, such as the Monthaven in the video, say they last over a year. I’ve not put that to the test, yet.
They are a bit more difficult to keep at serving temperature. The producers of Monthaven say the reds should be served at 57 degrees, the whites about 50. That means having them outside in the summer time requires some thought as to how you’ll keep them cool. Ice may cause the cardboard to soften and break, and you’ll have basically a plastic bag in the ice chest.
In the video I talk about
How to store boxed wine
How to serve boxed wine
A bit about how the wines taste
The prices of the box wines we tried
My next post will talk about each of the wines in a little more detail. Be sure to come back and see what I have to say about the Double Dog Dare and Monthaven box wines, which were purchased from Total Wine and More here in Florida..
I was in the grocery store picking up the ingredients to make a quick dinner of chicken and yellow rice, and spotted the Trivento Reserve Torrontes 2009 as I walked by the wine aisle. Perhaps it stood out as a white among reds, perhaps I was just in the mood for Torrontes. Whatever the reason, I picked the bottle up, tossed it in the cart, and planned on a light, fun white wine with my dinner.
Where does the wine come from?
Argentina is known for many wines, and Torrontes is perhaps their signature white. Trivento Bodegas y Vinedos is located in Mendoza, Argentina, in the northern-central part of the country, located at the foothills of the Andes mountains. This wine comes from their Rivadavia vineyard, and is 100% Torrontes grapes fermented 25 days in stainless steel tanks. The Trivento website does not list this wine as one of their releases, and I believe they have recently re-branded the Select line as Reserve. Trivento is wholly owned by Concha y Toro, one of the largest, if not the largest, producer in Chile.
What does Trivento Reserve Torrontes taste like?
In the glass, the Trivento Reserve Torrontes was a pale yellow and green hue, with a light floral nose followed by orange blossom scents. As it opened and warmed in the glass, those notes mingled with a spiced pear fragrance. The palate, or taste, was crisp citrus and honeysuckle, with a little green grassy note. The acidity was firm, but not bracing, and the finish was short, but pleasant. When paired with the chicken and yellow rice, the green notes all but go away, and the wine becomes more round and a touch more floral.
What to pair it with
Torrontes, whether this Trivento Reserve or almost any other, goes well with shellfish and seafood, as well as chicken dishes. The winemaker suggests pasta, Thai or Indian dishes. I would recommend a pasta with a light butter and garlic sauce, and not a heavy red sauce. Mexican and Spanish dishes will pair with Torrontes as well, and my chicken and yellow rice worked perfectly.
For only $11 in the grocery store, this wine was pleasant enough. It worked fine with the meal, and would be nice on a warm summer afternoon. I wouldn’t, however, let it be the only Torrontes you ever try, as they can vary quite a bit from different areas of Argentina, as well as different producers. The Trivento Reserve Torrontes was almost Sauvignon Blanc like, with a touch of floral, and not quite as dry. However, don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself, and leave a comment here with your thoughts. If you can’t find this Torrontes, get another, and let me know what you think!
Torrontes is a crisp white wine, produced almost exclusively in Argentina. Typically, the bouquet of a Torrontes wine will be aromatic, showing floral notes, often with citrus characteristics. The palate is crisp, ranging in body from light to medium, and is considered to be high in acidity. Citrus and floral characteristics will translate to the palate, though the citrus is not as prominent as say, a Sauvignon Blanc. As with any wine, the bouquet and palate, or scent and taste, will be different depending on where it is produced, how it is fermented, and how it is aged. Torrontes wines are meant to be drank young, and are not typically purchased to age. Torrontes is said to be the signature white wine from Argentina. It pairs nicely with seafood, cheeses, Mexican food, Thai food, and chicken.
It’s not known how Torrontes arrived in Argentina, or how long ago. Once thought to be native to Argentina, there is a bit of speculation where the grape originated. Citations on Wikipedia state “the Torrontes grape has been recently linked, genetically, to the Malvasian grapes, which originates in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is speculated to have come from Spain, perhaps by missionaries”. However, torrontes genetic profiling done in 2003 links it to Muscat of Alexandria, which originated in North Africa,and Criolla chica, or the Mission grape. While I find it fascinating that the origin of the grape can not be nailed down, and the debate ranges in writings by many wine geeks, I think I’ll instead pop a cork, or unscrew a top, and tell you a little about the wines from first hand experience.
Speaking of first hand experience, have you had a Torrontes recently? Or ever? If so, let me know what you had, and what you thought of it! Where did it come from, and would you recommend it to others?
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
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
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
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!
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.