Category Archives: Wine Recommendations

Malbec: Did I find God in the vineyards?

12_01_16 1030 Altocedro La Consulta_5020_Blog

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!

Top 10 “Suggestive” Wines For Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is all about sending clear and defined messages to those we love….

  • In a new relationship?  Keep the message basic and sweet
  • Been married for years?  Spice it up with something fun
  • Asking out your latest crush?  Time to be BOLD

Nothing says “Be Mine” more than a cleverly crafted wine label.   If all else fails, you at least get to enjoy the wine!  Here are our top 10 wines to give your loved one when

# 10  – Alexander Valley Vineyards – “Temptation”

Nothing gets to the root of human nature like an Adam and Eve themed wine label.  Sending this to someone is asking for trouble!  Or is it??

Tempation

#9 – Monogamy  “Truly Madly Deeply”

Ready to take your relationship to the next level?  Why not ask for a serious commitment with this love-and-cuddles themed wine!

Monogomy

#8 – promisQous

Leaning more toward flirtation… Giving this wine to someone you are into is the adult equivalent of handing them a soda can of Orange “Crush”

PromisQous

#7 – Ménage à Trois

The name says it all… Just be prepared for a variety of responses!

Menage a Trois

#6 – Peirano  “The Other”

Nothing says “Thanks for being my ‘other’!” than this sexy wine and seductive wine.

The Other

#5 – Michael David Winery “Freakshow”

For those of us who like things a little freaky, break open this offering when in the privacy of your own home!

Freakshow

#4 – Taken Wine Company “Complicated”

Facebook has an “It’s Complicated” relationship status.  Time to say it with wine and make it “Facebook official”!

Taken Complicated

#3 – The Prisoner Wine Company “Prisoner” & “Blindfold”

Even your “slaves” need a little wine & love on Valentine’s Day.

3-Prisoner

3-blindfold


#2 – Two Hands “Sexy Beast”

This label essentially screams “I want you now!”  Oh, and the wine itself is deliciously seductive, too!

Sexy Beast

#1 – Mollydooker “Carnival of Love”

Rated #2 on Wine Spectator‘s Top 100 List.  We thought we’d show this wine a bit more love by making it #1 on our list.  Not only is this wine label amazing, but the wine is spectacular!

1-Carnival of Love

 

 BONUS: 50 Shades of Grey

Ready to head to the theater?   Why not sip on some Fifty Shades wine first to put you in the “mood”.   Cheers!

50 Shades

 

Happy Homemade Soup Day!!!

Soup is one of the most satisfying and simple meals. Easy to make, it’s possible to have fresh homemade soup anytime, even on a weeknight. Here are a few recipes with some easy short cuts. Add some warm French bread, a big salad, and a lovely glass of wine, and you have a feast for a king.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle SoupThis is a staple in my house. I always have individual portions in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. A few pro tips…. When you roast chicken for dinner, always make 2. Cooked chicken is always great to have on hand for soup. It’s great to make a big pot of chicken stock once a month. You can keep it in the freezer for a quick soup anytime. I always have frozen peas on hand for soups or rice pilaf.

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts homemade stock or low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 4 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 2 cups dried noodles or pasta… my favorite is ditalini
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Sweat the onion in butter until translucent. A pinch of salt will help with that.
  3. Add the carrot and celery and cook until tender.
  4. Add the stock, dried herbs, and chicken and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the noodles or pasta and cook until al dente.
  6. Finish with the peas and cook until they are heated through.

Wine Pairings:

 

 

Turkey Orzo Soup

Turkey OrzoI don’t wait for Thanksgiving. I roast turkey all year long. It’s great for soups, sandwiches, and casseroles. I love this soup with its touch of lemon to brighten the flavors. If you don’t have turkey, it’s great with turkey, too. Pro tip: if you are making homemade stock, use turkey necks for flavor and extra richness.

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts homemade stock or low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 4 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or lemon thyme if available…1-2 sprgs of fresh is perfect
  • 2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 1 and a half cups orzo
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Zest of 1 lemon and lemon wedges for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Sweat the onion in butter until translucent.
  3. A pinch of salt will help with that.
  4. Add the carrot and celery and cook until tender.
  5. Add the stock, dried herbs, and turkey and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the orzo and cook until al dente.
  7. Finish with the peas and lemon zest, and cook until they are heated through.
  8. Serve with lemon wedges.

Wine Pairings:

 

 

Mushroom and Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley SoupThis is a very versatile soup which can be totally vegan for your meatless Monday or rich and beefy. Making vegetable stock is a great way to use those vegetables in the fridge, which may no longer be party fresh of for the meat eaters, left over roast beef makes a great addition to the soup.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 quarts homemade beef or vegetable stock or low sodium broth
  • 3 carrots diced
  • 4 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic mashed and chopped finely
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms (classic button or mixed)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup cubed cooked roast beef (optional)
  • 1 cup barley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped green onion and sour cream for garnish (optional)

 Directions:

  1. Heat a heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Sweat the onion in butter until translucent. A pinch of salt will help with that.
  3. Add the carrot and celery and cook until tender.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook until dry.
  5. Add the stock, dried herbs, and roast beef (optional) and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the barley and cook until tender.
  7. Salt and lots of black pepper to taste.
  8. Finish bowls with chopped green onion and a dollop of sour cream.

Wine Pairings:

Celebrate International Italian Cuisine Day With Wine and Risotto!

Saturday, January 17th is International Italian Cuisine day. I thought we should blog about great food from the “old country”.  While there are tons of great Italian dishes out there, I have been craving that specialty of northern Italy, risotto.  Traditionally served as a first course, this creamy and delicious rice dish can work as a satisfying entrée.

Risotto can range in variety from the exotic Risotto Milanese, which is enriched with saffron, to light and delicate seafood riosotto, to the dark and dusky risotto al Barolo.  Regardless of the condiment or flavoring, great risotto begins with great rice. You need a short grain rice which is high in starch content.  Arborio or carnaroli varieties are readily available in most grocery stores.  It is well worth the effort to search for a specialty store that carries the vialone nano variety.

The next important trick to great risotto is mastering the method.  Instead of steaming, risotto is made by the timely addition of broth or water.  There are 2 tricks to this… First, make sure that the liquid and the cooking rice are at the same simmering temperature. Secondly, gently stir the liquid into the rice, and only stir as much as you need to. If the grains break, your risotto will become gummy and pasty.

Here is a base recipe and some ways to change it up:

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups homemade broth   OR   1 cup canned broth diluted with 4Ingredients cups water.  (I actually heat extra because it would be a disaster to be caught without enough cooking liquid.)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion or shallot chopped very fine
  • 2 cups Arborio OR other imported Italian risotto rice
  • 1/2 heaping cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Salt, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. In a sauce pan, bring the broth to a simmer. Make sure that it is close to the pan where you are making the risotto.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan that has high sides (2” or so) and add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and cook gently until the onion is translucent.Making Risotto
  3. Add the rice to the sauté pan and stir gently so that all the grains are coated with the butter and oil.
  4. Now you will begin adding the broth from the sauce pan to the sauté pan one ladle at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. When the rice absorbs one ladle of broth, add another ladle of broth.  Repeat this process until the rice is tender but al dente. It should take about 20-25 minutes and the rice will look moist and creamy, not runny.
  6. When there is about a minute or 2 to go, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
  7. Remove the pan from heat and add all of the cheese, folding gently in order to even distribute.
  8. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately with additional shavings of parmigiano. Serves 6

Risotto Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Variations:

White Truffle Risotto: Shave a half ounce of white truffle all over the top of the risotto right before serving. For those of us like me who are on a budget, you can always drizzle a bit of white truffle oil over the top.

Mushroom Risotto: In a separate pan, sauté about a pound of your favorite mushrooms in some butter and olive oil. I add a clove or 2 of garlic and some salt and pepper to taste. I deglaze the pan with a bit of wine and continue to cook until the mixture is dry. Before I add the butter and cheese to the risotto, I stir in about half of the mushroom mixture. I pour the finished risotto into a platter, top with the remaining mushrooms and chopped chives.

Butternut Squash Risotto: Cook and finely dice some butternut squash, about 2-3 cups. Instead of adding that last ladle of broth, add a ladle of heated heavy cream and fold in half of the squash. Finish the risotto with the butter and cheese. Top the finished risotto with the rest of the squash and some fried sage leaves.

 

Some WINES to try with these Risottos:

 

 

 

Just SOMME stuff I think about: Oregon

drouhinIt seems to me that Oregon Pinot Noir wines are becoming more and more popular everyday. Larger wine companies are taking interest and buying up properties that were once thought of as novelty. Foley Family Wines recently purchased the Four Graces Winery, following the in-roads that Kendall Jackson and Louis Jadot laid out with their recent purchases. And this got me thinking… what does anyone really know about the Willamette Valley in Oregon? The pioneers David Lett and Dick Erath blazed a trail and proved that amazing and long-lived wines could be made and grown there, but I doubt anyone really knows what any of this juice tastes like. One thing I’m always tasked with as a Sommelier, is telling people what different wines taste like in addition to what you should eat with them. So I am going to greatly generalize the Willamette Valley and the individual AVAs below, so that when confronted with a list you will be prepared to order a wine you love.

downloadDundee Hills:
Light ruby to cranberry in color with perfumed aromatics that will also include raspberry, black cherry and cola. The palate seems to have a sweet fruity core even though the wine is dry with spices, cola, earthiness and truffle.

Food Pairing: roasted porcini mushrooms and polenta

Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2011

Yamhill-Carlton
Deep and dark ruby color with a rich, round mouth feel and silky tannins; this is a big wine. Big aromas of spices like anise or cloves then blackberries, blueberries, and roses. The palate will have the bramble fruit characteristics with espresso and clove developing into tobacco and cedar.

Food pairing: Roasted Duck Breast with berry glaze

Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir 2011

Ribbon Ridge
The most age-worthy of all the wines but bordering on a rustic personality; this Pinot exhibits medium-plus to high acid, fine-grained tannins with a ton of earth and chocolate. What fruit you do find will be black cherries and plums.

Food Pairing: Chicken with Morels and Tarragon Cream Sauce

Bergstrom Silice Pinot Noir 2012

Chehalem Mountains
Due to high variance of soil and elevation this is a little harder to generalize but… they are either lighter and have a lot more red fruits like cherry and raspberry or dark cherries and dark plums. They all tend to have a lot earthy mushrooms and brown spices like allspice.

Food Pairing: Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Eola-Amity Hills
These are full-bodied Pinots yet very elegant and even feminine in nature. Bright red fruits like raspberry or cranberry with plums and dark cherries notably high in acid and minerality but with a good structure that brings balance. These wines tend to be the bright and fruity Pinots of the Willamette, with a spicy finish.

Food pairing: Cedar Planked Salmon

Evening Land Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

McMinnville
These are the big boys on the block: the darkest in color and the most tannins, these wines tend to exhibit huge flavors of black fruits and earth. The fruits on the palate range from fig, cherry, mulberry, plum, olive or any combination thereof. The earthy components range from wet forest floor, mushrooms, truffles and dried leaves. Generally referred to as massive.

Food Pairing: Roasted Pork Loin with root vegetables

Brittan Basalt Block Pinot Noir 2010

Obviously, this doesn’t cover elevation, soil components or individual winemakers. Every wine is different from year to year, too. I only hope that this will serve as a rough guide to help you enjoy the world of Oregon Pinots from the Willamette Valley. Also: don’t forget the whites and Rosés!