Category Archives: Pairing Wine With Food

Wine Resolution #1: Drink More Bubbly!

Though not my top resolution, or even one that I write down every year, I do try to do this often – drink more bubbly. More wedding bubblyspecifically, drink it with food. Sure, we have it at weddings and on New Year’s Eve, but why don’t we open sparkling wine because we’re having a wonderful meal? We should! My reasons for bubbly’s food matching deliciousness?

– good, crisp acidity
– low alcohol
– varying degrees of body – from light to full

These three reasons are key in explaining why bubbles are a perfect match to food. Acidity and low alcohol are what makes a wine good with food – flabby, high-alcohol wine overpower or mute the flavors of the food. Plus, d epending on your meal, 260x135_HOLchampagnefrom sushi to steak, you can choose light-bodied sparkling wine, like a blanc de blancs, or a full-bodied sparkling wine, like a blanc de noir. I posted a “body” guide to Champagne earlier this season. This is the time to stock up, too. Crazy good deals on Champagne are happening now, not to mention the everyday values of Cava and US Sparkling wine.

I hope that celebrating bubbly with food is a growing trend. Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article on twelve good California Sparkling wines to ring in 2010. What I love most is that each wine he mentions includes food pairing ideas!

So don’t be afraid to pair that bottle of bubbly with a meal. If not that, at least bring out a bowl of popcorn with it – you cannot go wrong with that match!

Holiday Entertaining Tips and Video

Mike and I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen with Chef Ruth van Waerebeek, the Executive Winery Chef at Concha y Toro in Chile. We tasted some delicious wines and cooked some delectable treats for the holidays.

Chef Ruth likes to pair her foods to the wine, so the focus is on finding flavor combinations that bring out the best in a wine.

Check out our videos as we cook with Chef Ruth!

Recipes, pairings & video:

Crispy Fried camembert cheese with nut crust
(Makes 8)

 

Pair with Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere 2008

 

Ingredients:
8 pieces (4-ounces each) of camembert or Brie cheese
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
2 large eggs
¼ cup heavy cream
Oil for frying
Quince or guava paste for serving
Mixed salad greens for serving (opt.)

Method:
Place the cheese in the freezer for 30 minutes.

In the food processor place the walnuts and almonds and process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a shallow plate, add the sesame seeds and combine.

In another shallow plate mix to combine the eggs with the heavy cream. Take the cheese out of the freezer, Dip each piece of cheese in the egg mixture and dredge in the nut mixture, pressing to coat well. Arrange the cheese on a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes or up to 6 hrs.

Before serving, heat the oil in a deep fryer or wok until hot. Add the cheese, a few pieces at the time, and fry, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Serve at once with a slice of quince or guava paste and some mixed greens.

 

Chupe de Jaiva (Creole-style crabmeat pie)
(Makes 6 single servings)

Pair with Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2007

Ingredients
5 cups stale white bread, crusts removed and cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups seafood broth (or bottled clam juice), hot
2 tablespoons canola oil \
¾ cup scallions, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, in small dice
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup corn kernels (defrosted)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika powder
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup milk (or more)
1/3 cup heavy cream
¾ pound lump crabmeat (picked over)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon spicy red chili sauce, or to taste
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method

altPlace the bread in a large bowl, pour the hot seafood broth or clam juice over it and let soak for 15 min. Crumble and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 370°F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet; add scallions and bell pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 min till soft. Add carrot, garlic, spices and herbs, corn, and reserved soaked bread, and stirring, pour the milk and cream into the mixture. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes longer, (if the mixture is too dry, add a little more milk). Take off the heat and stir in the crabmeat. Season this mixture with salt, pepper and chili sauce to taste and mix to combine. Butter 5 to 6 individual gratin dishes and divide the crabmeat mixture evenly over the prepared dishes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake the hot oven 20 to 25 minutes until nicely.

A great dish to enjoy with this elegant, well-balanced Chardonnay – the perfect combination between a rich, buttery mouth feel and a refreshing, crisp aftertaste.

Grilled lamb skewers in merquén marinade,  with a Chilean-style mint salsa
(Makes 4 servings)

From the Northern Andean foothills till the Patagonian grasslands, tender lamb is the meat of choice for the “ Parrilla” or Chilean grill, especially when spiced up with the pungent and exquisite merquén mixture, an unique smoked chili pepper mix from the indigenous Mapuche Indians. Served with a refreshing green mint salsa.

The ideal match for a great Chilean cabernet!

If merquén is not available you can make your own spice mix based on: mixture of ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground coriander seeds

Pair with Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada 2006

Ingredients for the merquén marinade:
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons plain yogurt, preferably whole-milk
2 tablespoons onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon merquén or other smoked chili pepper mix

For the skewers:
1 ½ pounds leg of lamb, deboned and degreased, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
36 fresh bay leaves
4 small firm peaches, quartered
8 12-inch bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

For the Chilean-style mint salsa:
¼ cup scallions, chopped
½ cup fresh mint leaves
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup cold water
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt to taste

Method:
Prepare the marinade; combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a glass oven platter. Add the lamb, mix to combine and let sit for up to 2 hours.

Prepare the Chilean mint salsa: Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, this salsa should be brimming with flavour. Refrigerate until ready to serve or up to 3-4 days.

Prepare charcoal, gas or electric grill to medium hot.

Thread 3 pieces of lamb, 2 quarters of peach and 3 bay leaves loosely on each skewer. Lightly oil grill rack. Grill skewers, turning occasionally, until just cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Serve with mint salsa.

And how does it all taste? Mike and I taste through what we’ve cooked with the wine pairings.

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

Free-Fireworks-Screensaver 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.

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

Rose 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.