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zinfandel

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!

Wine and Dine: Napa Cellars 2009 Zinfandel and Stacey Ribs

Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009

Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009

Cooler weather typically means people find themselves reaching for cozy food and wine pairings. While you may not live in a cool climate, you still may change your eating and drinking habits in fall and winter. One dish that really works in warm or cool climates is BBQ baby back ribs. They’re hearty and delicious, and can be made indoors or out. And, since Zinfandel works so nicely with barbeque, I’d recommend pairing BBQ ribs with Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009.

Napa Cellars is part of the Trinchero Family Estates portfolio. They own or market a host of labels, from Sutter Home to Newman’s Own to Napa Cellars, and even Fre alcohol free wines. I received several samples from this past vintage release of Napa Cellars wines to review. Since I’ve already written about Napa Cellars Chardonnay when pairing with shrimp,, I thought I’d take this opportunity to focus on one of their reds.  Coming in at $22, this Napa Zinfandel has powerful, big fruit without being over the top jammy.

The Napa Cellars 2009 Zinfandel is 88% Zinfandel and 12% Petite Sirah, and is aged 14 months in French and American oak, 10% of which is new. The bouquet and palate are very similar, with chocolate and raspberries on the very inviting nose. The palate is fresh red berries surrounded by baking spices, cinnamon and a herbaceous note as well. The finish is very long, with a predominantly spice and pepper note. There’s a little cocoa that dances around that fruit and spice, adding a layer of complexity that was nice. Letting it breathe for 15 or 20 minutes did not tame this powerful wine, which was 14.7% ABV. However, it’s big without being jammy or hot, and that makes it worth trying.

Stacey Ribs on my Traeger Smoker

Stacey Ribs on my Traeger Smoker

Now, the ribs part requires a story. Our family loves to grill, smoke, and cook in general. I respect vegans and vegetarians, and apologize to my plant eating friends. This recipe is not going to please your palate.  However, PLEASE feel free to post your favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe below, and I’ll try it, pairing it with some delicious wines.

One thing that makes it to the table at almost every cookout is ribs. I have several recipes, from a 6 plus hour smoke, to a 1 hour grill, to baking them in the oven. All of them are tasty, but Stacey Ribs have all but cemented their place as our favorite. Stacey is Robin’s cousin, who is an amazing hunter. The man lives to hunt. And he’s apparently equally as good at cooking what he hunts. In eight years, Stacey has only been to two or three events at the same time as us, but this year at the lake house was the best. He rolled out his trailer barbeque and fired up the coals. He then cooked some of the best baby back ribs I had ever had, earning the name “Stacey Ribs”. The preparation was simple, and the results were divine.

Cousin Stacey Queing Ribs

Cousin Stacey Queing Ribs

While the coals were heating the BBQ pit up to 325 degrees, Stacey peeled off the silver membrane from the ribs, and seasoned both sides with Everglades All Purpose seasoning, salt, and pepper. He tossed the ribs onto the grates, indirect heat, and let them cook for an hour and a half, turning two or three times. Then, during the next 20 minutes he basted each side with some BBQ sauce, mentioned below. He pulled the ribs off the grill, let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then cut and served. They were tender, moist, and flavorful. The simple preparation was very exciting, and the sauce was some of the best I’d had in ages.

Smoked Ribs on my Traeger SmokerI did the exact same preparation with my Traeger grill, and it was incredible. The Trager holds the heat constant, and produced a nice smokey flavor. I used apple wood pellets, as I light a lighter, sweeter smoke. And while the seasoning and smoking are important, I think the finishing touch was the sauce that Stacey used. He picked it up at  gas station in Kenansville, FL. From what I gathered, the company was small and just sold locally to the gas station. Stacey picked up a bottle while driving by once, and swore by it. I looked the shop up online, ordered a few small bottles, and the rest is culinary history.

Jimmy Bear's BarBerQ Sauce

Jimmy Bear’s BarBerQ Sauce

The sauce is Jimmy Bear’s Original BarBerQ sauce. They sell it online, and accept paypal. I ordered two of the 16 oz bottles, and cooking two racks of ribs used about 1/3 of a bottle. I didn’t dissect the flavors, but it seems to be a mustard base with honey flavors. The spices are excellent, and it’s a great balance between savory and sweet that worked perfectly on the pork ribs. I think the sauce, the ribs, and wine all made a perfect pairing for a good time with wine.

In addition to your favorite vegan or vegetarian recipes, what foods do you find yourself making and eating more of as summer ends? What’s on your table these days? I’d love to know, so comment below.

What do Kiss and Keyshawn have in common?

Kiss Wine

Kiss Wine

What do Keyshawn Johnson and rock legend Kiss have in common? Well, considering Gene Simmons won’t be running a 4.4 40 any time soon, I’m going to have to answer “Wine”. It’s not new for celebrities to “come out with” wines, cashing in on their goodwill. However, what’s behind the wine, and is it worth pouring?

I’ll start out by saying I have not gotten samples of either celeb bottle of wine, nor have I tried either. I don’t propose this to be a review of either, but rather a question about transparency and marketing.  There’s no doubt that Gene Simmons is a marketing genius. His show Family Jewels often portrayed him as a media mogul who was able to parlay a decent sounding band with a cool concept in the 70s to a top grossing band. A band that is still making money from those dolls and cards and everything else that he could stick a long tongue on. However, does that make for a good glass of wine?

In most, if not all cases, celebrities aren’t actually buying wineries and managing grapevines and alcohol levels.  They’re selling their names, earning royalties on each bottle sold, and being the face of the wine.  I actually remember the show where Gene Simmons went to a winery interested in him representing the wine. It made for an awkward moment because Gene doesn’t drink alcohol. For him, it was all about the numbers. If it would be profitable enough, he’d do it. He’s a business man. Keyshawn Johnson is the same.

KEYSHAWN JOHNSON WINE

KJ1 – KEYSHAWN JOHNSON WINE

For Keyshawn, there’s no doubt he hooked up with a half decent winery to put his name behind, or in front of. Master Sommelier, and Palm Beach county resident Virgina Philips gave the wine a pretty favorable review. While she didn’t rate it, her comment of ” The wine tastes well on its own; pairing suggestions include” leads the reader to believe that someone who knows more than a bit about wine is recommending it. And at $125 a pop, you’d want it to taste at least ok.  Johnson paired with R.C. Mills, a Los Angeles wine business expert who’s been in the wine biz since 1996, and was a chef and caterer. However, neither KJ1 or Kiss wine tell you who is behind the wine. It was impossible for me to find out who’s grapes and who the vintner was for either wine.

What I want to know from you is how prone are you to buying wine based on the label, or marketing? Are you more inclined to buy Mommy’s Time Out for it’s kitchy cute name, or KJ because Keyshawn is hawking it on NFL Countdown each week? Or are you more prone to finding good quality wines, where you know who the winery is behind the label?  Does it matter that Gene says “If you like wine, this is the one for you?” Or is that a hard sell from a guy who doesn’t drink wine? Sound off below!

A late edit – it seems that in August, JK1′s name was changed to XIX. No, it wasn’t an Ocho Cinco moment. Here’s what the facebook page for KJ1 says:

After having a long conversation with the Kendall Jackson Winery & Enterprises, we have decided to honor their request and change the name of our wine from KJ1 by Keyshawn Johonson to XIX (nineteen) by Keyshawn Johnson.

A smart move, respecting Kendall Jackson and founder Jess Jackson’s memory.

Another late edit – It seems that the wine for XIX comes from Echo West. Sadly, Google doesn’t seem to recognize “source of grapes for Keyshawn Johnson’s wine”, or about 30 variants. So, even though we know that

harvested in October 2007 of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all produced on Echo West’s 25 acres of Cabernet stock overlooking Oregon’s Umatilla River.

I still want to know your thoughts on Celebs marketing wine! Sound off!

 

Wine and Chocolate for Valentines Day

Rodney Strong red wines

Rodney Strong red wines

With Valentine’s Day approaching, wine and chocolate will be bought and consumed in astounding numbers. About 58 million pounds of chocolate will be purchased, and I’m sure more than a few bottles of wine will wash that down. For the past 23 years, the Rodney Strong Wine & Chocolate Fantasy event has paired wines with gourmet chocolate, inviting guests to revel in the sensory delight. The Rodney Strong twitter team asked if I’d participate in a Twitter Tastelive event, pairing three of their red wines with chocolate, and tweeting about it. I admitted that my personal palate preferred food to sweets when pairing wines, but I’d love to challenge my palate.

Rodney Strong 2009 Knitty Vines Zinfandel

Rodney Strong 2009 Knitty Vines Zinfandel

First we taste the Rodney Strong Knotty Vines 2009 Zinfandel, as well as paired it with some grilled hamburgers. Spending 16 months in a mixture of French and American oak barrels, this $18.50 zinfandel displays a bouquet of red berries such as red raspberry and even dark cherry, while the palate offers bright red berry fruit, raspberry on the front, with the flavor getting darker on the mid palate and the finish. There are notes of black pepper on the back end, and the wine has good California fruit, and is big and powerful without being overblown. It’s a perfect wine for a bbq, whether ribs or burgers, and we had to struggle not to finish it with our meal, for the upcoming chocolate tasting.

Rodney Strong Alexander Valley 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Rodney Strong Alexander Valley 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Next we taste the Rodney Strong Alexander Valley 2009 cabernet sauvignon, a $25 bottle of California wine. A full bodied red, the nose shows fresh dark cherry, ceder and baking spice. The palate opens nicely, showing more fruit than wood and spice, while retaining a nice firm tannin structure. With the burger, the California fruitiness of this wine tones down, and the earthy leather notes really show through on the mid and finish. It works nicely with or without food, and I was able to enjoy a glass up to three days after it was opened. It retained it’s fruitiness, while still having integrated tannins lending body to the wine.

Rodney Strong 2007 A True Gentleman's Port

Rodney Strong 2007 A True Gentleman’s Port

Finally we taste Rodney Strong 2007 A True Gentleman’s Port, from Sonoma County. A blend of 39% zinfandel, 30% touriga, 16% malbec, and 15% syrah, this wine is aged 40 months in neutral oak, after being fermented on the skins. This is a very limited release wine, available only to the winery’s Collector’s Circle members and at the winery itself. Without the benefit of air, the nose was hot and spicy, and the palate had a tremendous amount of power behind it, with plum, raisin and spice notes. However, on the second day, the Rodney Strong A True Gentleman’s Port opened to a big, full, round and silky palate, with flavors of dark chocolate, raisin, plum and fig.  There was fine spice on the finish, and it lingers quite a while.  The nose on the third day is dominated by chocolate, and the palate is even rounder, softer, more integrated, like a plum and raisin dark chocolate bar, instead of individual notes. For $30, it’s a very nice way to end a meal.

Dark Chocolate to taste with wine

Dark Chocolate to taste with wine

Now that we’ve taste the wines, how does the chocolate factor in? First, we had five different chocolates to try, including some 72% cocoa bits from Peters’ Chocolates from Sebastopol, CA, as well as 55%, 61% and 72% cocoa dark chocolate from Chocolate By Numbers. I also added a little Brix chocolate later on, which is supposidly chocolate made especially to pair with wine. We’ll cover that after the cover the first four chocolates.

Frankly, I’m still not a dark chocolate fan, and still don’t like chocolate with my wines. I found pairing 72% dark chocolate from Peters’ Chocolates with the Rodney Strong Port was my favorite pairing of the night.  The wine took some of the heat out of the finish, and brought out the chocolate notes in the wine, of course. However, there were tons of oohs and ahhs about the pairings, with other wine writers loving the different wines with different levels of cocoa. Everyone’s palate is different, and there are different sensitivities to sweet, salty, and sour. So don’t let my preferences influence yours too much. You can try some Rodney Strong wines and chocolate and attend the Wine & Chocolate event Feb 4, 2012 at the winery, and form your own opinion.

Brix 54% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Brix 54% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Back to the Brix Chocolate. The Brix was 54% cacoa and surprised me in terms of taste, in a positive way. Supposedly made with pairing wine in mind, Brix chocolate claims to pair well with Champagne, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Vintage port. At $10 for 8 ounces, it’s about double the price of a bag of Dove chocolate, which you can get in the grocery store. While I felt it was pretty good chocolate, and I felt it paired really well it with port, I’d have a hard time recommending you buy it just because it pairs with wine.  I’ve not paired it with anything other than port, and have a bottle of Prosecco that I’ll try it with later this week!

What are your thoughts on chocolate and wine? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you want to try it? Let me know your thoughts, leave a comment below!

 

All of these wines, and chocolates, were provided as samples to taste and discuss honestly with you. Nothing affects my opinion of the wines or products I write about, not even getting them as free samples.

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!

Wines for your July 4th Party

July 4th Wine Ideas - July 4th Wine Ideas
July 4th Wine Ideas

There will be no shortage of July 4th parties this coming week. With all the great food, and great friends, you’ll want to pair great wines. This morning I visited CBS12 WPEC in West Palm Beach to offer three suggestions for wines to pair with fun or food this Independence Day!


View Matthew Horbund’s July 4th Wine selections on YouTube directly.

Our first option is a Rose D’Anjou from the Sauvion house, and brothers Yves and Jean-Ernest. The chateau has been in the Savion family since 1935. Made of 70% groslot, pronounced grow-loh, and 30% gamay this is an inexpensive, fun, easy drinking wine. It has a palate of strawberry and red raspberry fruit which is very ripe and even shows a hint of sweetness. It should be served with a good chill, and will pair with a wide range of foods. It can be sipped alone, or with a nice salad with grilled chicken. It’ll go nicely with a fresh fruit and cheese plate as well. For just $9.99 in many stores, it’s worth trying.

Sauvion Rose D'Anjou - a great July 4th and summer wine
Sauvion Rose D’Anjou

If you’re looking for a crisp white wine for your July 4th party, look no further than Duckhorn’s Decoy Sauvignon Blanc. Duckhorn Vineyards has a variety of lines, each with a distinct winemaker and pedigree. The Decoy line draws from the talents of the various winemakers, depending on the grape, and offers good value. The Decoy Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was a delicious blend of tropical fruits, think pineapple and kiwi, balanced with delightful citrus of lime, lemon and pink grapefruit. It’s dry, crisp, and has great acidity, making it very food friendly. From seafood to chicken, this wine will be a hit at your Independence Day party. For $17.99, it’s a great Napa white wine.

Duckhorn's Decoy Sauvignon Blanc
Duckhorn’s Decoy Sauvignon Blanc

From burgers to ribs to pasta, this Zinfandel wine from Ridge Lytton Springs vineyard pairs perfectly. A blend of 71% Zinfandel, 22% Petit Sirah, 7% carignon, this is a rich, complex red wine bursting with multiple layers on the palate. First notes are dark red berries, black cherry, and strawberries. However, they’re quickly followed by notes of chocolate and mocha, and subtle balance of spice. There is a little acidity that’s noticeable when sipped alone, but that makes the Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel very food friendly. We paired this red wine with chicken Parmesan and it was amazing, but look for a delightful food and wine experience when paired with burgers, bbq, steaks, and ribs. It cost about $27.99 at most wine stores, but is a nice wine for the money.

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel
Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel

I look forward to hearing about your food and wine choices for July 4th. What’s your go to Independence wine pairing?

In Harmony – Pasta and Harmony Cellars Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Paso Robles has been getting a lot of attention for it’s wines of late. When Saxum won Wine Spectator 2010 Wine Of the Year, Rhone varietals such as marsasnne, roussane, and of course syrah from the Paso Robles area became highly sought after. During a recent press trip to Paso, I tasted many great Rhone varietal wines from Paso Robles wineries such as Tablas Creek and Denner. However, as Paso Robles is also well known for it’s zinfandel wines, I had to sip a few of them. I was fortunate to have a sample bottle sent home to review of one of those zinfandel wines from Harmony Cellars.

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

A small, family-owned winery, Harmony produces about 6,500 cases of various wines each year. Owners Chuck and Kim Mulligan founded the winery in 1989, and winemaker Chuck Mulligan still does most of the work himself. The winery sits on a plot of land that has been in Kim’s family for four generations, and Kim’s great grandfather, Giacomo Barloggio used to make homemade wine in his basement.

Though I don’t know for sure, I will assume based on his name that great-grandpa Giacomo Barloggio was Italian. Perhaps that’s why the Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel is a perfect pasta wine. I’ve been making a simple bolognese sauce for the past six years, and always love pairing it with different red wines to see what works well. I’m positive that the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel is my favorite pairing so far. With a price of $19 for the wine, it makes an for inexpensive pasta meal for two.

Harmony - Pasta and Zinfandel

Harmony – Pasta and Zinfandel

On it’s own, the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel was big and jammy, with plenty of dark cherry, blackberry and a little chocolate note. There’s also a good bit of spice, black pepper and cinnamon on the palate. The wine paired perfectly with the pasta bolognese, enhancing the dark chocolate notes while maintaining a good balance of dark fruit and spice.

Pasta isn’t the only food this wine will pair well with. Zinfnadel works great with almost anything you’d cook on the grill. With Father’s Day coming up, Dad will love putting some burgers and dogs on the grill, and pairing them with a glass of Harmony Cellars Zinfandel. If BBQ ribs are your thing, then zinfandel is for you! I love the combination of a great zinfandel and BBQ ribs, and Dad will too!

Sipping something Un4Seen

Un4Seen Red Blend

Un4Seen Red Blend

Sometimes the adage “You get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily hold true. Sometimes, you get less, but every now and then, you get more. That was the case with a sample of Un4Seen Red Wine I received recently. And while I didn’t actually spend the $10, I’d do so in a second!

With it’s hokey little name and it’s cute little label, I really didn’t expect much from this wine. However, what was in the bottle really impressed me, especially since I hadn’t heard of the ‘new’ winery from Lodi, or the people making it. I did a little research, however, and found out who I think is behind the wine. The folks at Lange Twins winery. I mean, can it be a coincidence that the 2008 vintage was done by Chief Winemaker David Akiyoshi and the 2009 vintage by winemaker Karen Birmingham, both part of the Lange Twins Team? Anyway, I digress.

What strikes you first about the wine is the blend of grapes used to make it. Clearly listed in red on the label, Un4seen is a blend of Zinfandel, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, not necessarily four grapes you’d expect to find in one bottle. The grapes all come from Lodi and Clarksburg, California. The 2009 vintage sees the four different grapes fermented separately, then blended to create the wine in the bottle. Each of the grapes can stand on it’s own, and what happened when they came together was interesting.

Right out of the bottle, with no air, there were restrained red cherries with some leather on the nose. The palate is a dark red fruit, cherries and maybe raspberries. There’s an earthy element and light leather as well, with a slight tart finish, but I enjoy it. The tannins are soft, and it’s an easy drinking wine with some decent complexity. However, after 30 or so minutes, and pairing with a perfectly grilled steak, this wine began to shine.

Suddenly, adding some beef to the equation allowed really nice fruit comes out of the glass. The notes from the wine vacillated back and forth, with a very fruit forward stance with a midpalate of black pepper. The Zinfandel definitely takes center state, with tremendous ripe, red berries. However, the mid palate and finish shows the malbec and merlot, with an earthy finish. From sip to sip, those flavors would show themselves, each battling for center stage, but in a fun, playful way.

For $10, I didn’t expect this wine to rock my socks off. However, it definitely brought some more to the table, or wine glass, than I expected. Worth the money, and then some. Throw a nice steak at it, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good $10 can taste.

What is your favorite $10 and under wine?