Category Archives: Pairing Wine With Food

Food & Wine Friday: Beef & Bordeaux – it’s what’s for dinner

For many people Bordeaux is a collectible, a wine for old-fashioned wine drinkers. It wasn’t that long ago that Eric Azimov wrote in the New York Times, “Bordeaux, once the world’s most hallowed region and the standard-bearer for all fine wines, is now largely irrelevant.” This great red wine from the Atlantic coast of France is, however, more affordable and more accessible than ever. Whether it is a cheeseburger on a Tuesday night or the finest filet mignon, there is a Bordeaux for every occasion.beef

Wines with the general appellation of Bordeaux are famous for being great values. The 2010 Saint Sulpice represents one of the best wines this level of Bordeaux has to offer. Located near Saint Emilion, this winery has some prime vineyard land to make great red wine. This easy drinking red has aromas of tea and black currants with soft, round cranberry and currant flavors on the palate. Enjoy the St. Sulpice with a flat iron steak and mashed potatoes.

Looking to the North, we have the region of Saint-Estephe. Wines from the cooler zone have a brambly and earthy character, which make them a great accompaniment to any hearty meal. One of my favorite go-to wines over the years has been the Chateau de Pez. This 2008 is dark and brooding with aromas of cedar and cigar box. The cassis fruit is supported chunky tannins. The big, chewy de Pez would be great with a rib eye steak.

Pessac-Leognan is the most southern region of Bordeaux. The creative and innovative winemakers of this growing area are making great wines for a very fair price. Ch. Haut Bergey is a great example of this innovative spirit. Purchased in 1991 by Sylvaine Garcin-Cathiard, every effort is made to create a hand-crafted wine of high quality. All of the improvements and hard work have paid off in this amazing 2010. In a vintage full of great wines, the Haut Bergey is a shining example of high quality for a fair price. Aromas of roasted coffee, vanillin, and tobacco lead to ripe black currant fruit on the palate. The sumptuous flavors are supported by fine tannins and bright acidity to the finish. Keep this wine in the cellar for another 5-10 years. I would pair the Haut Bergey with a standing rib roast…now that’s a great Sunday supper!

makingbeefAll this talk of Bordeaux has me yearning for some beef. One of my favorite local places to shop (in the Bay Area) is Schaub’s Meat, Fish, & Poultry in the Stanford Mall. They are famous for their “Fred steak,” which is a special dry cured beef that is amazingly delicious. Don’t be alarmed by the dark and blackened exterior— it’s just covering the yummy, beefy inside. Below, is an example of a top sirloin roast that my friends and I shared with a bottle of 2000 Grand Mayne, St. Emilion.

Kicking off California Wine Month with Zin!

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Though Zinfandel is often called the “California grape,” its origins are slightly further away. Where is origin of Zinfandel? In 2000, Carole Meredith, co-proprietor of Lagier-Meredith and American grape geneticist, published findings that suggested Croatia was the origin of this varietal.  Before this, many in the industry believed Zinfandel was possibly a descendant of Primitivo, the Southern Italian grape. It’s true that Zinfandel and Primitivo are related, but they are both clones of Crljenak,  a native variety of Croatia.

Zinfandel has become “California’s own.” Since the early 1970’s the state’s wineries have produced some of the world’s finest red wines from our beloved Zinfandel. While the research continues, it is clear that California producers have made a stake in the Zinfandel sweepstakes. Whether it is called Primitivo or Crljenak Kaštelanski, California Zinfandel is the prize that is finding itself more often at the dinner table.

“The name Zinfandel was first used in 1832 and established a separate identity for the grape and one unique to America.” (Source: Zinfandel, Producers and Advocates, April 2002). It was not until the early 1970’s that Zinfandel emerged to become the superstar varietal that it is today. Ushered into the limelight by the 1968 Sutter Home Deaver Ranch, a flood of marquee players from the outstanding class of 1973 Chateau Montelena, Ridge Geyserville, Dry Creek Vineyard and others changed the varietal’s place in history forever. Zinfandel was now becoming one of the prizes on the runway.

I drink Zin all the time. My favorite match is pairing it with grilled pork chops. Pork tenderloin with a wine sauce reduction has been one another go to combination. But the ever popular grilled steak with fries works well too. Celebrate 10th Annual California Wine Month and pop the cork on the delicious 2012 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel. The golden state, family and friends will be happy you did.

Grilling: Cabernet, Rib Eye of Beef and beyond

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Right now I am thinking that I really would enjoy a perfectly grilled rib eye of beef (a similar cut to entrecôte in France). I can still remember the incredible one I enjoyed with my good friend Peter Chai at Restaurant Saint-Julien in Bordeaux many years ago. The kitchen produced a steak so bloody good that its memory remains indelible in my brain. On that day in the Médoc we drank a whole bottle of Bordeaux at lunch (well, I drank ¾ of the bottle). Now my palate years later is demanding that I re-create that moment from the past. This thought became more intense after I boarded a plane from Bordeaux just a day ago. I had just spent five days with judges from the Los Angeles International Wine Competition at the Bordeaux Le Fete (June 25th to 29th) drinking large glasses of Bordeaux (the Bordelais always pour huge glasses of wine for their guests and themselves) and melting into a blur of grilled meats and Bordeaux rouge.

If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, you have to go for the rib eye. With apologies to my vegan and vegetarian friends, rib eye and Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most perfect food and wine matches. Where is this leading? Grilling and BBQ  goes beyond all borders. While we in the United States have coined the phrase, “Barbecue- the great American pastime.” one just has to travel a bit and realize that this way of cooking can be found the world over.

It is safe to assume that every culture does a little bit of grilling. This popular way of cooking provides all of wine lovers with many pairing options. The choices that quickly come to mind are (and there are many more): Korean grilled (thinly sliced beef, marinated in a sweet soy-like sauce) with a dry to slightly sweet rosé. Argentine indirect grilling of beef- begging for a glass or two of Malbec,  I have enjoyed that many times in the vineyards of Mendoza in Argentina. How about grilled a whole chicken, a worldwide favorite? One could snag a fine California Pinot Noir and just melt into an easy chair in the backyard.

Now that the table has been set: How about a few wines to whet your appetite? Some folks in the wine world contend that I am a Napa boy. Well, yes I am really fond of wines from my backyard (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino), yet my twitter and Instagram handle suggest otherwise. If you go by @willeboysf, you have to be  local and international at the same time. Having said that, one of my favorite wineries in the Napa Valley is Hall Wines and the 2011 Hall Cabernet is one to enjoy for this season’s grilling. A first choice with beef, but well suited with chicken and pork as well. Made from a cooler vintage, the wine’s edginess makes it more versatile than it would have been otherwise. When the super-rich and well-ripened 2012 is released, you will find the wine more suited for beef and heavier meat dishes. For partiers looking for something to dance on their palate and pair with a whole range of entreés, the 2013 Miraval Rosé Côtes de Provence has everything one would want. The wine is pleasing and gentle, with pretty red fruit flavors. Just imagine gnawing on a grilled chicken leg and washing it down with this wine. If you are into a sophisticated BBQ, I’d like to point you in the direction of the 2012 Sojourn Rodgers Creek Pinot Noir. This wine is awesome and delicious. Succulent and pure with lots of wild strawberries, it calls for grilled leg of lamb spiked with rosemary sticks, slathered with garlic and dotted with fresh cracked black pepper. Now take out the grill or buy a new one if you must, this is a good time to get the cooker ready and enjoy! While I am loading up my cellar with Cabernet Sauvignon and the weekly fridge with rib eye of beef, grilling offers so many possibilities. Make your days as yummiest as you can.

Let’s Barbecue

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May is National Barbecue Month. It’s time to Invite family, friends and neighbors over and haul out the dusty old grill from the garage. While you’re at it, bring a few wines to the party. There are all kinds of choices from Alicante Bouchet to Zinfandel (kidding on the Alicante, I was just playing on the A-Z theme). Back to the topic at hand, how about checking out some different, not-so-typical BBQ reds?

For starters, I really like the non-vintage Lucky Red Wine. Made for everyone to enjoy, this red is a crowd-pleaser, not to mention a fantastic value. A super choice with marinated grilled pork tenderloin, check out Chef Charlie Palmer’s recipe. The soft underbelly of the wine pairs well with the delicateness of the dish.

If short ribs are on the menu, pop the cork on the 2010 Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva. A deep and more complex wine than the Lucky Red, the gentle nuances of Sangiovese balances out the intricacies of grilled beef short ribs.

For the big-time eaters, a perfect match would pit the 2011 Shatter Grenache with prime rib of beef. While some may argue a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon would fit the bill better, I can envision satisfied diners with this Rhône Valley varietal.

No matter how you slice it, there are so many fine choices for BBQ now, or in the coming summer months.  These are my choices, but I am sure you have our own favorites. Browse our Big & Bold reds for more great picks for BBQ season!

Riesling love

Each country has a different way of indicating sweetness levels in wines. Because everything is strictly codified and regulated there, German wines are very easy to learn. On the label, they must have the region where the grapes are grown, the variety, the quality level, and in most cases the sweetness level.  All you need now is a Rosetta stone to crack the code. The most famous German varietal is Riesling, so here is a guide to sweetness levels with that variety in mind.

A QbA wine or Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (isn’t that a mouthful to say!) is the most basic of the 2 major categories of German wines. QbA wines can be grown in one of 13 different regions and the region must be stated clearly on the label. They must use grape varieties that are on an approved list. They must have a minimum alcohol content that is achieved, and they are what most people would call an “off dry” sugar level. For example, Ernst Loosen is considered to be one of the best winemakers in Germany, so his QbA wine is a lot higher quality than the average wine of that category. While the Dr. Loosen Dr. L Estate QbA 2012 is fruity, there is plenty of acidity in the wine to balance it out and make it more appropriate to serve with savory items and not dessert. I love this wine with cheese or roast chicken.

The next level up in German wines is called QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat). These wines have many of the same laws about regions and varieties. In addition, the sweetness levels of the wines are also regulated and must fall within a range that is specified for each level. From driest to sweetest they are Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Berenauslese, and Trockenberenauslese. In special years, grapes that achieve the Bereneauslese or sweeter level and are left to freeze on the vine create a very unique wine called an Eiswein. For the last several years, many German wineries are creating dry or “Trocken” wines. Many of these wines started life with an Auslese level of sugar, but are then fermented to dryness. A great example of a Kabinett level wine is Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Estate Kabinett 2012. It is a blend of grapes from the most famous villages in the Mosel: Graach, Bernkastel, and Wehlen. The bright apple fruit is balanced by flinty, minerally notes and a long crisp finish. I love this wine with grilled fish such as trout or salmon.

Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no special system to rate the sweetness levels in wines, so we have to rely on the winemaker’s description, a recommendation, or tasting the Riesling. Ernst Loosen also makes a high quality Riesling in Washington called Eroica. The Eroica Riesling 2012 is a very high quality wine that has more sweetness than his QbA or Kabinett wines. I love this wine with cheeses or, for an entrée, grilled pork chops with an apple and cornbread stuffing. The Eroica Gold Riesling 2012 is definitely a dessert level wine, which would be perfect with an apple or peach cobbler.

I hope you give Riesling a try. It is a noble grape variety that is very versatile where the wines can be crisp and refreshing to rich and sweet. Trying the wines from a great winemaker like Ernst Loosen is an easy way to learn about Riesling and the sweetness levels in wine. Go ahead and have an adventure tonight with a new wine!