Category Archives: Food + Wine

Crisp weather = warmer wines

SA fall vinesSome people are seasonal drinkers, choosing wines that match the weather. I tend to be one of those people. Summer = crisp whites; Winter = hearty reds. Granted, I mix it up a bit as there is never a bad time for most wines. This past couple of weeks, it’s clearly become a new season. Fall is here – the changing colors, the blowing leaves, the brisk winds and of course, college football. For all but the last, which I still love to watch with a good beer, this means a change in my wine choices as well.  Out with the summer wines – I need something to go with this sudden chill down. Nothing too hearty, but a little something to take the cool nip away.

A few of my favorite fall wines and why:

Pinot Noir Okay, so this is a year round favorite, but it’s especially great for fall. Pinot Noir is like the light jacket of wine – bright fruit and smooth tannins vermonte pinotslowly ease you into this cooler weather. Right now some favorite Pinot Noir include:
Pessagno Winery Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir 2007 – delicious silky smooth Californian Pinot – ripe and rich, yet elegant. Awesome value right now at $28.00
Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva 2007 – a bit of spice and earth quality match well with the bright cherry fruit. Great Pinot from Chile for $13!

 

Tempranillo – Spicy and earthy, but lighter bodied, Tempranillo is perfect to celebrate the change of season. Spain is the go-to country for this grape, which is extremely food friendly. Lots of values these days, including:
Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2003 – More traditional style of Rioja, with the typical age notes of tobacco and toasted oak. But also still full of delicious fruit. $20
Abadia Retuerta Rivola 2007 – This is the more modern style of Tempranillo, with ripe fruits and smooth, silky tannins. Still great with food, though! $17

Italian Blends – Italy has so many

varietals, regions and styles, you can certainly find a wine to fit any season. For fall I love fuller bodied Barberas and the viettigems of Southern Italy. A few favorites include:

Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne 2006 – medium-bodied, concentrated red fruits, a bit of and spice, great acid, mild tannins and a lingering finish. A perfect food wine. $19

Nero d’Avola – Try a wine made from this grape, because it’s got depth and character. Kind of like what you want in a friend or colleague. Typical descriptors include: dark berry fruit, exotic

spice, licorice, pepper, long finish. The grape has potential to age, but depends on the producer.

Carmenere – A Chilean specialty! With a smoky and meaty quality, this grape makes wine that is a lovely match to fall foods. Or just sitting by the first fire of the season.  Also, South America is known for its value, and these two well-priced Carmeneres are excellent. 
Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere 2008 – Easy-drinking, full of dark plum and smoky character typical of Carmenere – and under $10
Chono Carmenere Reserva Maipo Valley 2006 – Recently tasted this wine and thought, wow. THIS is a good Carmenere. While I love the smoky, meaty characteristics of Carmenere, sometimes they can also have a green pepper edge that is overpowering. Not in this wine! Balanced and focused on the fruit, a great value at $13.

Enjoy the wines, enjoy the leaves and the changing colors… and enjoy the crisp air before it gets frigid and you’re longing for summer already!

Date Night at Home


Saturday night – date night! Time to let the stress of the previous week go and enjoy good food, good wine and lingering conversation with your significant other. Restaurants are commonplace to do this, though these days, trying to cut costs has led us to stay in a bit more. But date night can still be full of delicious wine and food, even if you’re enjoying it at home.

Last Saturday, my husband and I decided to do restaurant style food and wine at home and price compare – what did we pay vs. what we would have paid by going out.

The Food
Nothing like a good, juicy steak to go with a big, tannic red from the cellar. We picked up 2 medium-sized New York steaks from our local market on sale at $13.99/lb. A loaf of crispy bread, some red potatoes for roasting and mixed green salad made up the remainder of the meal.

The gosset grand reserveWine
To start the evening, we had some roasted, salted almonds and a glass of Gosset Grande Reserve. This is one of my favorite non-vintage Champagnes. It offers delicious crisp apple, brioche and yeast aromas. Richly textured for non-vintage and just delicious. Runs about $60 retail. Probably $20 – $30 per glass at a restaurant (if they even had it by the glass). I think Champagne is too often skipped when it’s just two people, as you can rarely finish the bottle and you don’t want the bubbles to go flat. Invest in a Champagne stopper! A good one will preserve those bubbles for a few more nights.

For the main meal, we decanted a bottle of Pine Ridge Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. You’ll find this on many steak restaurant wine lists at about $100 – $120. It runs around $45 retail. The nose was quite lovely – licorice, some dried herbs, repine ridged & black cherry. Nice structure on the palate, with dark fruit, oak spice and integrated tannins. Nothing under-ripe about this wine, but nothing over-ripe either. We served it with our grilled steak and it was a beautiful match. Decanting definitely helped bring out the layers in this young wine and the protein & fat from the steak tamed the tannins.

We ate outside on the patio, enjoying the wine in good glassware, taking in the setting.

Adding up the food, we had about $25 of grub. Wine was about $105, but we had 3/4 a bottle of Champagne left for the next few days. $130 total for the evening, including some very nice wines. At a restaurant, this may have added up to $250+. Granted, we had to do some prep and some clean-up, but totally worth it for what we had back in our pocket – and the added fact that we did not have to drive anywhere afterwards! So splurge on that really good bottle and enjoy it at home!

The remainder of the Gosset will be enjoyed with some popcorn this evening.

Pairing Wine with Fireworks

As with all fun, festive celebrations, beverages are key to your Fourth of July party.  And because you’re celebrating our nation’s birthday, keeping the wine American is a nice tribute. After all, our wine industry has come a long way since Mr. Jefferson’s attempt at vine growing in Virginia. As we gear up for the grill and what will go on it, I’ve been pondering the question – What to pair with it all?

Here are some wine picks for some typical 4th of July grills – some are common matches, but that’s because they work so well!


Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah – my pick for meat

So these choices are slightly typical. But We’ve got a great deal on the Rubicon Cask Cabernet Sauvignon ‘05, and it’s one of my favorite California Cabs (organic grapes, too!) – it’s perfect for a small gathering as it’s a more pricey wine. It would be amazing with a grilled ribeye with just a little salt & pepper. Yum…

For larger get togethers, you’re going to want fun AND affordable – stock up on Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon ‘06 – good producer for under $20.

Love Syrah with meat. I’m often torn between peppery, spicy Syrah vs. Juicy, fruit-concentrated Syrah… It’s great to find a wine with both and the Havens Hudson Vineyard Syrah ‘04 does just that. But it’s also on the more pricy side, at the $40 mark – but SO worth it! If you’re really adventurous, try pairing it with grilled leg of lamb.

For the everyday (under $20), crowd-pleasing Syrah, try Bonterra’s Organically Grown Syrah ‘06 or Bonny Doon’s Le Pousseur Syrah ‘05.


Oregon Pinot Gris– my pick for chicken and/or veggies

Oregon Pinot Gris is so delightful in the heat. It’s refreshing, but also so aromatic and lovely to sip over a summer evening. It’s hard to recommend producers as I have not yet had an Oregon Pinot Gris that I didn’t like! Some favorites include Adelsheim, Elk Cove, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Eyrie, Willakenzie Estate and King Estate. Most are on the ‘07 vintage, which was a cool vintage so the wines are nice and crisp. 2006 was warmer and that vintage produced a richer style of wine.


Rosé My pick for pork, chips & salsa or anything with a spicy kick!

Rosé can be a great aperitif before the dinner, but a hearty one will go great with pork or another meat, especially if you have some spice on it. From lighter style to heavier style & from dry to sweet – Etude, Bonny Doon & Red Truck’s Pink Truck are nice matches. Note that the Pink Truck is off dry, so some spice is nice (try salsa on the pork).


ZinfandelMy pick for burgers

The great American grape. With the great American food. The sweet fruits & spice are a great match to a juicy burger. Bogle Old Vines or Gnarly Head are great value Zinfandels. If you want to go a bit higher, try the Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice – it’s got some kick to it. Ravenswood is a reliable producer with lots of different single vineyard wines to try and Ridge is a classic – the Three Valleys is a great burger pick.


Bubbly –  My pick for fireworks

Okay, so you’re not grilling fireworks, but you definitely need some bubbles when you watch them! At the $20-ish mark, I love the Roederer Estate, Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs and Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose. Also a great choice is the Argyle Brut – best bubbly in Oregon! So pop the cork and watch those fireworks sparkle.


 

Some Wine Notes from the Aspen Food & Wine Festival

The Aspen Food & Wine Festival takes place every year in June. It’s a weekend full of much wine and food (sometimes too much) with seminars by celebrity chefs and wine folks, grand tastings with wineries from around the world and all around imbibing by all. As one chef put it this year, this is the place where people use the term ‘altitude sickness’ instead of hangover. Luckily, after doing this a bit, I’ve learned that the key is pacing yourself. By doing this, I made it to the early seminars, enjoyed some morning runs and hit every grand tasting, where I discovered some cool producers and some even cooler packaging (which I’ll report to you in a future post).

Champagne – One of those early 10am seminars covered Prestige Champagne. Prestige Champagne is the top cuvee of a Champagne house – often the best of the best. As expected, my favorite was Krug. Always said that if Champagne houses were sorority houses, I’d pledge Krug. I was also very impressed with the 1996 Pommery Cuvee Louise. The 1996 vintage was one of the best of the decade and the wine is still extremely fresh and bright, indicating the potential to age further. But the wine that most impressed me came from producer Alfred Gratien. The NV Alfred Gratien Cuvee Paradis Rose Brut was delicious! This brut rose is aged in bottle six years before release and production is under 20,000 cases/year. The nose showed raspberries & strawberries and the palate was full of bright fruit and crisp acidity. Yet the wine is medium to full bodied. This is definitely a food Champagne – would be perfect with salmon, roast chicken, or, as the panel recommended, BBQ! This prestige Champagne retails for about $130, one of the lower prices of the tasting. Later that evening, we tasted the Alfred Gratien Brut Rose NV. This was a lovely wine as well – not as complex as the Cuvee Paradis, but another great food wine and summer sipper (but not out of a plastic cup).

Grand Tastings – Four Grand Tastings, each only an hour and 45 minutes long, hundreds of booths = too little time to do it all! But I was able to do enough to find a couple of gems.

Hall Winery – I’ve long been a fan of Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. While so many Cali Cabs are charging upwards of $150 a bottle, the Kathryn Hall sits at $70. It’s a mix of sweet spice, black fruits and super smooth tannins. Very approachable now, this is a wine for those who like big, fruit-driven California Cabs. Plus, Kathryn Hall herself is gracious and lovely. The discovery wine at the table for me was the Hall 2005 Bergfeld Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh yeah, this was big & smooth. It looks like it’s only available at the winery right now (though I’m looking into that) and retails for $100. I’d still pick the Kathryn Hall Cab, though, as it’s got that great price tag and those sweet fruits & sweet spices – warms the soul…

Benziger – Yes, I’ve tasted Benziger before, and really enjoyed it. But I had not yet tasted the Signaterra brand… WOW. All these wines were really amazing. Benziger is 100% biodynamic, and while some practices may be slightly wacky, the wines are  pretty incredible. The Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River is probably my new favorite SB from California. It’s intense but elegant and so well balanced. The Pinot Noir is also delicious. But the Three Blocks, the Cabernet/Merlot blend, blew me away… This was fantastic. Big with great structure and layers of flavor. Complex. Love this line of wine. Stay tuned as these wines will be in stock shortly!

These are just some of my newer discoveries. A few consistent favorites:

Penley Estates – the Chertsey is a great Bordeaux blend, and the Hyland & Phoenix are excellent as usual – also great values!

Innocent Bystander – Great label, great wine, great value. Cool climate wines (from Yarra Valley) are some of my favorites.

d’Arenberg – I really do love just about every wine they make. Had a chance to taste the Dead Arm. Lives up to the standard – delicious.

Mulderbosch – Yes, love the Sauvignon Blanc, Rose &  the whole line up.

Rhone Valley Wines – the trade organization was pouring quite a few, including D’Aqueria Tavel, Guigal Condrieu and Perrin Vinsobres.

Look forward to hearing your favorites!