Malbec: Did I find God in the vineyards?

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Did I find God in the vineyards? That must have happened because I can’t even explain it normal terms. On January 16, 2012, in a little town called La Consulta, my colleagues (Thane, Neil, Peter, Brett) and I tasted something magical. We flew in from the US on a Tour de Argentina and Chile to meet with some of those countries’ superstar winemakers. But no moment of this trip was greater than the time with we spent with Karim Mussi Saffie, Proprietor and Winemaker of Altocedro in La Consulta, Mendoza. The plan was to check out the winery, the vineyards, taste wines, eat food and drink, but what transpired was more than we had expected.

It began innocently enough, I had already spent many quality moments with Karim in previous (both in the United States and in Argentina) we even rode horses together once in the Andes. Now we were here. At one moment, Karim was looking at me with his intricate and sometimes devilish grin. I had no idea what he was up to but knew he was super excited to pour this wine for me. I was just taking notes and photographing everything in sight. Then he served it: The 2009 Altocedro Gran Reserva Malbec. My brain spun into another space and time. I found myself in a corridor of Bordeaux varieties. Where was I? In the Médoc, the Napa Valley, Walla Walla Washington? The wine’s intense dark fruits and sweet earth took Malbec to another level. When I came back, I just saw Karim grinning from ear to ear. This is only an example of where a good Malbec can take you.

Where is Malbec going? For decades it was known mostly as the grape from Cahors. More learned wine folks also knew the grape from the Southwest of France, where it is called, Côt. But as the world spins, most consumers saw Malbec as that “value” red wine from Argentina. If one just needed a Cabernet-like wine in the $10 to $20 range, Argentina Malbec was the answer. But somewhere in the night the grape was screaming, “There is more to my existence than being the wine at cocktail parties and barbecues.” Yes, in addition to being a great value red wine, Malbec has scaled the mountain to become one of the world’s great varietals.  It takes the Bordeaux blends from the region to a new level, producing wine that is complex and balanced. Age-worthy? Definitely – just check out an older vintage from Catena.  Malbec has spoken. Enjoy it’s possibilities and most definitely taste the 2013 Altocedro Año Cero Malbec and get a glimpse of the Mussi magic!

Food & Wine Fridays: National Grilled Cheese Month

Does anyone really need an excuse to celebrate the joys of the ooey gooey goodness that is a grilled cheese sandwich? In my house, everyday is grilled cheese day! I love good old American cheese and white bread. For a change of pace, try one of these “big kid” sandwiches that are great as an entrée with soup or salad or cut up in bite-sized pieces for hors d’ouevres.

Pro tips:

  • Always put the cheese side down in the pan first. The sandwich will hold together well when you flip it.
  • If you are making several sandwiches, always have your ingredients prepped ahead of time.
  • Have patience. Once the sandwich is in the pan let it brown. Try to resist the urge to peek or flip too much.

 


 

Truffled Grilled Cheese

I had these wonderful little tapas at Commerc 24. They call them “bikinis” and they are neatly cut into triangles with the crusts cut off. My version here was made with a buttermilk bread and truffled Italian cheese. You can also achieve a similar taste using a creamy, easy-melting cheese and some truffle oil.

Truffled Grilled Cheese

Wine Pairings:

 


 

Grilled Cheese with Apples and White Cheddar

I love Irish cheddar in this sandwich and a granny smith apple. Slice the apples super thin and get some good crusty bread.

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Wine Pairings:

 


 

Manchego Grilled Cheese with Fig Jam

I’ve often had salty creamy Manchego with sweet figs after dinner with a glass of wine. Grilled with some crusty bread is a perfect foil for this Iberian classic.

Cheese and Fig Jam

Wine Pairings:

 


 

Havarti and Sautéed Mushrooms Grilled Cheese

I make a big batch of sautéed mushrooms to keep in the fridge for quick weeknight suppers. Smooth, creamy harvarti is the perfect compliment to this earthy mixture.

 Wine Pairings:


 

MONTE CRISTO

The king of all grilled cheese, there are as many versions of this sandwich as there are characters at Disneyland. I like using a buttermilk white bread, while some people use brioche. Spread Dijon mustard on each slice of bread. Top each slice with a slice of Swiss cheese. Add some sliced ham and put the sandwich together. For the batter per sandwich you will need 1 egg, 2-3 tablespoons of milk, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk the ingredients together in a shallow dish. Dip the sandwich in the egg mixture, making sure that the bread soaks it up well. Griddle in a warm pan. You do not want the heat too high or it will burn and the cheese won’t melt. When it’s done, dust the top with powdered sugar. Serve hot!

 

Monte Cristo

Wine Pairings:


 

 

Gérard Bertrand: Story behind the Wine

Gerard Bertrand@Wine.com_5100_BlogIt’s always exciting to meet the actual human who bears the name of a winery, particularly one that has become a household name. In this case, it was Gérard Bertrand. This may not be a household name in every house, but it is in mine. Our affinity for Rhone wines certainly extends to the rest of Southern France, where there is a unique style and value to be found. Gérard Bertrand wines combine just that: style & value.

The Story
Bertrand is tall, so tall that it has earned him the nickname, le Grand. Now nearing 50, Bertrand’s father got him started in the winery and cellar at age 10, allowing him to claim nearly 4 decades of experience. And that experience has gotten him far! The line of Gérard Bertrand wines includes dry and sweet; sparkling and still; red, white and rose… It includes values and collectibles and just about everything in between. He speaks passionately about his wine, and even more so about where his wine comes from: the South of France. Though that particular region needs little help to sell its virtues, Bertrand’s goal is not to sell people on the south of France, but rather to show people that the South of France is unique and distinct in it’s terroir, it’s wines and it’s culture. His wine is meant to represent the lifestyle and soul of the region.

Map Courtesy of: Gérard Bertrand
Map Courtesy of: Gérard Bertrand

 

The Wines
I’ve drunk the wines plenty of times before, but I’ve never had a chance to have them side-by-side as we did with Monsieur Bertrand. I admit that I would typically clump together Fitou, Minervois and Corbieres under $20 when describing a style. But a delightful surprise came in tasting the wines and seeing a distinct difference. One offers lots of ripe berry fruit, another is all about dried cherries and dark chocolate. Not to mention they have a sparkling wine that is a Thomas Jefferson Cuvee (hello UVa alums! this is for you!), and a rose called “Sauvageonne,” which translates to “wild woman.” Seriously, that’s a rose. In addition, Bertrand has just launched the first vintage of Clos d’Ora, what he terms the first “grand cru” of the South of France. We had a chance to taste this wine and I can attest, it’s a damn good wine.  Better than any other I’ve had from the Languedoc/Roussillon.

Biodynamic
For 25 years Bertrand has been following and working towards biodynamic estate wines. Many are, many are on their way, but be assured that his wines are doing their part in reflecting the earth and terroir from which they come.

The Winery
Visit this place. It’s gorgeous! And they have a jazz fest every summer.

Photo Courtesy of: Gérard Bertrand
Photo Courtesy of: Gérard Bertrand

 

Whether you prefer fruit bombs, a load of earth & spice, or easy-drinking picnic wine, you will find a wine from the Gérard Bertrand assortment. You can’t be in the south of France, but that does not mean you cannot drink like you are! Cheers!

 

Women in Wine: Joy Sterling

Joy Sterling, the beautiful mind and soul currently running Iron Horse Vineyards, is one of our favorite women in wine. Her parents, Barry and Audrey Sterling, built this amazing property and winery decades ago, and it continues to flourish under Joy’s leadership.

Name: Joy Sterling

Role/Position: Partner/CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards

How did you get into wine? Thanks to my family.

What is your favorite part about working in the wine industry?  The people! The wine world is wonderfully generous. Iron Horse is my passport. It takes me to many exciting places and is my introduction. Everyone is fascinated about wine. If you want to make friends, bring the wine. I also love that we are fundamentally farmers. That’s what keep us real.

Who is your role model?  My mother, Audrey Sterling, who co-founded Iron Horse with my father, Barry Sterling. She is so elegant, gracious, strong, bold and accomplished, warm and welcoming, fun and funny. Every day, I look in the mirror and wish that I will “grow up” to be just like her.

What is your best wine story?  One of my favorites dates back to the 1960s when my parents, my brother and I were living in Paris. My father became a Chevallier du Tastevin and at a black tie dinner at Taillevent, he shocked the French by winning the blind tasting. It was written up in The Herald Tribune. It was “news” that an American could be so knowledgeable and discerning. That was a turning point, when my parents first started thinking, “Hmm, this is something we could possibly do.”

Favorite Restaurant:  I can’t name just one. I have so many!

Favorite wine region to visit:  We are so lucky. We are so beautifully welcomed all over the world.

Favorite wine (other than yours) to drink:  I admit it. I have a cellar palate. If I had my druthers, I would only drink bubbles. I am lovingly known in my family as a bubble head. And I have to say, I think Iron Horse sits at the same table as the best in the world.

Advice for women going into the wine industry?  Dive right in. The wine world is a real meritocracy. You can start in a tasting room and become president of a winery. There is a long history of women who have succeeded in wine … especially in Champagne. Think of all those widows.

Iron Horse Vineyards

 

 

Why do we swirl wine?

Just Somme Stuff I Think About:  Why do we swirl wine?

Everyone does it – people at restaurants, wine bars, tasting rooms -even the Sommelier at that fancy restaurant does it.

We all know it makes you look like you know what you are doing, a clear cry of, “no newbie here!”

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But swirling wine is not just a way to look important; the action of swirling a wine in the glass does several things.

  • First off, the non-obvious: swirling the wine in the glass enables some evaporation to take place and the more volatile compounds will dissipate; these include sulfides (matchsticks), sulfites, (rotten eggs) or even some rubbing alcohol Why Do We Swirl?smells.
  • Second, it allows the wine to breathe. Swirling allows oxygen to attach itself to the compounds that make up tannins, and rounds them out, giving them a softer nature; this is also why a young wine should be decanted or run through an aerator: Oxygen helps it open up!
  • Third and most important, the swirling of the wine glass activates esters and aromatizes them, which allows you to smell more of the wine, and thus enjoy it more! This is why having a tulip shape glass helps – it concentrates those aromas up to your nose.

But of course, the most important thing to know when swirling wine is to look good while doing it. Make sure you practice at home and when you get to the restaurant you will look like the ultimate pro!


The 2 best ways to look like a pro:

professorThe Professor: Hold by stem with base firmly situated on a flat surface and give it a swift swirl for 4-5 seconds, then breathe intensely while using the phrase “that will do” repeatedly with a seriously academic look on your face. (bonus points for glasses near the bridge of your nose)

Wine visualThe Sommelier: Hold by base with thumb and forefinger lean ever so slightly so that the wine spreads out toward the rim; evaluate the color while making non-verbal low volume grunts of approval or consternation. Bring the wine up and in front of your face change grip to thumb and forefinger around the stem, and swirl counterclockwise for at least 10 seconds. Then breathe in audibly, and say the phrase, “ok, you can pour it,” but pretending that you are doing the server a favor by not sending it back.


All kidding aside, swirling is a good thing and helps you enjoy a great glass of wine!

Cheers!

 

 

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