The future of Australia… it’s bright indeed!

Yesterday, Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) gathered at the Press Club  in San Francisco, showcasing wines from twelve different firmly-established wine-making families of Australia.

AFFW logoAs a history major, I love First Families.They get things started, they blaze trails and begin an era. They create “tradition.”

And Australia has tradition. In an effort to highlight this tradition and history as it relates to Australian wine, and put to rest any idea that Australian wine might be a “fad,” Australia’s First Families of Wine are going global!

What can we say about Australian wine & tradition? Quite a bit. First, Australians are funny. They are off-the-cuff, good sense of humor funny. Of the 12 representatives from the AFFW, not one was dry and boring. Second, they are all a bunch of dudes. Seriously, 12 men standing there talking about their wines. BUT, the majority of offspring from these 12 men are females.  In fact, three of them have three daughters. As they talked about the next generation, they explained that many of their children left the “nest” to explore, but then returned to the family business with a deeper passion for it. So we expect these first families to stay family-oriented as it moves to those fourth, fifth and sixth generations. The most exiting thing I discovered at the tasting with this group on Monday, was the diversity of these wines and how well they can age! Sure, I knew Australia was diverse – I already drink a lot of Australian wine. But the ageing potential… from a 15 year old Marsanne to a 18 year old Cabernet to the most luscious “sticky” I’ve ever had, the wines here were tremendous. Both for sipping and storing in your cellar.

Despite these families being the “first” and the “traditional” Australian wines, they are not opposed to change and innovation. In fact, they embrace marrying the old and new. Over the last century, wineries, like those part of the first families, have been experimenting with varietals and pruning and sorting and winemaking. They have worked hard to find out what works best.

The future of Australian wine is certainly bright. I had a chance to sit down with Alistair Purbrick of Tahbilk Winery, Robert Hill Smith of Yalumba Winery, and Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg Winery.  AFFM2   All three believe this is a perfect time for Australian wine. The cheap Australian wine craze has died down, and it is time to re-introduce the world to Australian wine from those who do it best.

Whether you love  jammy Shiraz, bone-dry Riesling, cool-climate Pinot Noir, aged Semillon or some creamy Chardonnay, Australia’s diverse climate and wine selection can satisfy nearly any palate.

Wine-Australia-logo-300x150

 

 

 

There has never been a better time for rosés

15_04_28 0900 Wine Sets_3000_Blog

So it seems that when one counts all of the numbers, and sees the dollars that flow in, it is still red (as in red wine) that drives the numbers and brings home the bacon. It seems the higher in the food chain wine drinkers go, the more they go to Cabernet Sauvignon, especially that valley along highway 29 called Napa. While Pinot Noir is still the Holy Grail, Cabernet is and will always be king. But must we only bleed red? While I will rarely turn down a chance at a fine Oakville or Rutherford Cab, I would never like to be remembered as a “one trick pony” wine lover.

Where does my pink wine experience begin? Not so gloriously. I have to admit, my first pink was not even the first straw colored, “dry” Sutter Home, but must have been a Carlo Rossi Pink Chablis (out of a four-liter jug) at a party in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Though possible it was a syrupy sweet Ripple Pagan Pink. Memories that began my wine journey, kind of on the yuck side, but one that I had to take. They often say that one never makes it to the top unless one knows what the bottom is like.

Years later when I found “sophistication,” I discovered Rosé Champagne and learned how incredible that can be. While a lot of American wine drinkers did not understand the category, I learned over time that one should never turn down a glass of Dom Pérignon Rosé, ever! But the road to rosé credibility failed to materialize in the world of dry rose; these wines were left in the hands of a minuscule number of wine geeks. In the mid to late 1970’s, the category called blush took the market by storm. The industry pushed and succeeded to make a kind of kool-aid wine that they hoped would transform generations of cola drinkers into wine drinkers. It worked, but it also sent mixed messages about the color pink (orange, salmon, eye of the partridge, etc.). True students of wine struggled with this phenomenon because it devalued highly prized wines such as Tavel from the Rhone, Clairette from Bordeaux and of course, the aforementioned Champagne Rosé. The wine world created a mixed category that lumped the dry rosé with the  more popular sweet blush, and the view most sophisticated wine drinkers had was rosé =sweet. So where are we today?

Rosé is now a legitimate fine wine category. Producers have globally begun to craft superior wines that pair incredibly well with food. Over the last two decades, countries from below the equator (where the seasons are opposite from the northern hemisphere) have begun to supply the global market with some of the world’s best rosés and ensuring that this category’s pipeline never runs dry (of dry super premium wines so to speak). Among my recent favorites: the brisk, bright minerally 2014 Red Car Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, the charming and aromatic 2014 Belle Glos Oeil de Perdrix (eye of the partridge) from Sonoma County and the 2013 Sierra Cantribria from Rioja, Spain. Take it from one who loves wine, there has never been a better time than now to step into the world of pink wines, your palate will be happily satisfied and your soul will gain insights into the world of rosé!

Happy Moscato Day!

When I was a little kid, everyone got a glass of sparkling wine for celebrations. All the adults would get a glass of champagne, and the kids got tiny cordial glasses filled with moscato d’asti. Fast forward to today, when a liquor delivery truck covered in a giant ad for pink moscato tried to run me right off the Bay Bridge! Moscato has come a long way from those fun family occasions to mega buck in the wine business. What has happened to moscato in all this time? It’s flavored and colored and sweetened beyond what I remember. Let’s take a look at some of the traditional styles of muscat and moscato and the foods that pair with them.


Muscat is thought to be one of the oldest wine grape varieties, and is planted in every major wine country in the world.  The dry style of muscat is commonly grown in Alsace and some regions in Spain. With it’s orange blossom and tropical fruit aromas and crisp finish, dry muscats are a great match for spicy foods or difficult to match Pan-Asian cuisine. I love these wines with Thai green curry shrimp, grilled fish with mango salsa, fish tacos, or Morracan-style chicken made with preserved lemons. Here are some great examples of the dry-style of Muscat:

Muscat


Moscato d’Asti, or any other fizzy moscato, has exploded in popularity. Since 2011, sales have grown by 70+% and show no signs of slowing down. While there are all kinds of flavored moscato or moscato colored red or pink, nothing beats a traditional Moscato d’Asti. With it’s lively aromas of peach and nectarine, gentle bubbles, and softly sweet style, this fizzy wine is a charming and pleasing wine. Many people use this wine as a cocktail, but I enjoy it with many foods. Moscato d’Asti is an awesome match with any fruit and cheese platter. Try it with a grilled pear & blue cheese salad that is dressed with a champagne vinaigrette.  A Waldorf salad with grilled chicken, grapes, and apples is another great match for Moscato. Here are some of my favorite Moscato d’Asti:

Winelist1


Dessert-style muscats are awesome wines especially for you folks that love chocolate. The rich and aromatic wines from the South of France, Sicily, or Australia are a great way to finish any dinner party with a bang. You can match them up with a blue cheese and fig cake cheese course or even something simple like store-bought pound cake with peach sauce. A chocolate cake soaked in Grand Marnier has a best friend in dessert-style muscat. A warm peach & blackberry cobbler with or without ice cream is another delicious pairing. Here are a couple great examples of a dessert-style muscat:

winelist2


As you can see, the centuries old muscat grape is as versatile and fresh as ever. It is more than a pool-side sipper or something the kids drink while at the club. Have this wine throughout the meal, and enjoy it with your favorite summer fare. As they say in Italy “Faciamo brindisi!” with a glass of Moscato!

Food & Wine Fridays: Mother’s Day Brunch

Ok… How many times have you made pancakes for Mom on Mother’s Day? Surprise her this year with sophisticated brunch that pairs up well with wine or mimosas. These dishes are easy to prep ahead to time so that you can enjoy a glass of wine, too!

 

The Croque Madame

The Croque Madame

This variation on the classic Croque Monsieur is a wonderful brunch sandwich. I have simplified it a bit to make it easier to cook for your hungry family. Served with home fries of a light salad and you have a meal fit for the Madame of the house!

Pro Tips: You can make the Mornay Sauce the night before. It’s easier to scoop and spread when chilled. First thing in the morning, prep the sandwiches on a cookie sheet to save yourself some time, then all you need to do is broil them and fry eggs at brunch time. This recipe makes 2 sandwiches, but it multiplies easily to feed a crowd.

For the Mornay Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1Ž4 salt
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 4 ounces grated gruyere cheese (I have also used emmanthaler or white cheddar)

For the sandwiches:

  • 4 slices of good white bread ( The traditional bread is the French pain mie, but I use buttermilk bread or potato bread also)
  • Dijon mustard
  • 3 ounces of thinly sliced deli ham ( I love black forest ham)
  • 2 ounces grated gruyere (or 2 thin slices)
  • 2 large eggs fried sunny side up
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the sauce:

  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour to the butter and whsk well to make a roux.
  2. Cook for a couple of minutes at medium heat to cook out any floury taste, but do not brown.
  3. Whisk in the milk and continue cooking until the sauce can coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Season with salt and nutmeg.
  5. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cheese.
  6. Cool the mixture and keep in the refrigerator over night.

Sandwich assembly:

  1. Heat your oven to broil.
  2. Toast the bread.
  3. On a baking sheet, lay 2 of the slices of bread and spread a thin layer of the mustard.
  4. On each slice of bread with 1.5 ounces of the ham, 1/4 cup of the mornay sauce, and 1 ounce of the grated cheese.
  5. Top each sandwich with the remaining slice of bread and then 1/4 of mornay sauce.
  6. Broil the sandwiches until they are golden brown and delicious.
  7. Place the sandwich on a plate, top with a fried egg, and season with the pepper. Stand back and watch your favorite Madame say, “oooh, la, la!”

Wines to go with:



Shrimp and Asparagus Omelet with Avocado

Shrimp and Asparagus Omelet with Avocado

This a super omelet with an easy “make ahead” filling. The avocado adds the lush richness of a hollandaise sauce without the trauma of trying to make it.

Pro tips: Remember, asparagus is a basically a flower. The tightest and most closed spears are the freshest.

For each omelet you will need:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 6-8 u 25 shrimp
  • 4-5 asparagus spears cut in pieces
  • 1/3 of an avocado sliced
  • butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

The night before, blanch the asparagus in salted water and drop into ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and store in the fridge. Blanch the shrimp until they just turn pink in a mix of water, white wine, a couple lemon slices, and salt and pepper. Drop them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and store in the fridge.

The next day, in a pan with butter, heat up the shrimp and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk 3 eggs in a bowl with a tablespoon of water to keep them loose. Heat a sauté or omelet pan on medium, and add a pat of butter to the pan. When the butter is melted and foamy, add the eggs. Keep them moving in the pan to create a nice round base. To the side of the pan opposite from the handle, add your filling. Hold the handle firmly and tip the omelet onto the plate flipping the empty half over the filling. Garnish the top of the omelet with a shrimp, slice of avocado, and an asparagus spear. This is also a great dinner omelet!

 

Wines to go with:

 

Tartrates in Wine

The definition of a tartrate (according to dictionary.com) is, “a salt or ester of tartaric acid.” But in the wine world, we know tartrates as “those little pieces at the bottom of your bottle that look like glass shards.”

tartrates2For those not familiar with tartrate crystals, seeing them at the bottom of your wine bottle or wine glass could cause alarm. But not to fret, tartrate crystals are a natural occurring substance in some wines and are totally harmless.

How do tartrate crystals form?
When tartaric acid and potassium combine under very cold temperatures, they create a compound known as potassium bitartrate, which is basically a salt. Typically this happens during fermentation and the crystals attach themselves to the fermentation vessel walls, not in the wine.  But in some wines, more complex ones, the crystals may form at a later state, such as in the wine bottle.

Do all wines have tartrates?
Nope. There is a method called “cold stabilization” that can separates the tartrates from the wine and then the wine is filtered to remove them. Actually, higher end wines are more likely to have tartrates since many are not fined or filtered in order to preserve the nuances and complexity of the wine. Though they are found in both red and white wines, they are typically more noticeable  in white wines.

So what do I do with them? 
Most tartrates settle to the bottom of the bottle, so unless you have the last glass, you’re unlikely to get any. But you can certainly pour the wine through a fine mesh sieve to remove them should they be nuisance. Otherwise, put them to good use as salt on your meal :)

 

The Official Wine.com Blog