The Perfect Salad for the Perfect ‘Salad Wine’

It was my turn to fix dinner the other night, but with sweltering temperatures extending into the evening, I did not feel like cooking.

Instead, I put a bottle of 2014 Martin Ranch “J.D. Hurley” Sauvignon Blanc in the refrigerator, and assembled a salad out of ingredients we had on hand. Fortunately, we had been to a farmers market over the weekend, so we had everything I needed to make a cool and refreshing — and Sauvignon Blanc friendly — Grapefruit and Papaya Salad.

I’m a big believer in matching flavors in food to some of the aromas and flavors in wine, and I selected the Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc because grapefruit and papaya are among the impressions it exudes. Its “grassy” quality, common to many Sauvignon Blanc wines, complements the flavors of the baby greens we had on hand.

Some of the best food-and-wine pairings are the simplest, and most of the time involved in the preparation of this meal was devoted to chilling down the wine and salad. I could have had the wine at the proper temperature more quickly by using a bucket of ice and cold water, but I also wanted to chill the salad for a while. Plus, I enjoyed the process of chopping, peeling, slicing and sectioning.

When you’re looking for an easy-to-prepare meal with no cooking necessary, try this salad — there was plenty for both Michelle and me — along with a bottle of 2014 Martin Ranch “J.D. Hurley” Sauvignon Blanc.

GRAPEFRUIT AND PAPAYA SALAD

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pink grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 large papaya, peeled and sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 5 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Add avocado, grapefruit, papaya and scallions.
  3. Toss to combine.
  4. Cover and place in refrigerator for 60-90 minutes.
  5. On two separate plates, split the baby greens. Add mixture, and sprinkle with the cilantro.
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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

It’s Okay to Blush: The Enduring Appeal of Rosé Wines

Do you have a guilty pleasure? I have a few, and one of them is rosé wine.

Truly, I shouldn’t feel guilty about it at all, because a nice glass (or two) of rosé on a warm spring or hot summer day provides just as much pleasure as a glass of (more “stylish”) Cabernet Sauvignon with a thick, juicy steak.

The Delicate and Delightful Rosés Collection proves my point. These are wines that quench my thirst while treating my taste buds to a wide array of enticing fruit flavors, most notably strawberry.

Rosé wines got a bad rap when they were lumped in the same category as White Zinfandel, which is a much sweeter wine made in a much different way. Most rosé wines range from bone dry to lightly sweet, which means they make not only exceptional quaffing wines, but also sublime companions to food.

The range of flavors experienced stems from the fact that rosé wines are not restricted to any region or any grape variety. The three wines featured in the Delicate and Delightful Rosés Collection come from three different countries and are made from a total of six different grape varieties.

The 2016 Seacrest Rosé hails from the Central Coast region of California, and is a 50:50 blend of Sangiovese and Malbec.

The 2016 Coeur de Cardeline Rosé comes from one of the style’s strongholds, the Provence region of France. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah — three of the grapes used in crafting the exceptional red cuvees of Provence — were utilized in making this light and lovely wine.

And the 2015 Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Rosé is made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon.

As the weather warms up, these will be my go-to wines. They’re great for sipping, wonderful with picnic fare and a nice complement to barbecued food.

And when I’m in the mood for a double-guilty pleasure, I’ll pour a glass to enjoy with a slice of strawberry shortcake.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes, Wine in the Glass

Toasting America’s Vets With a Wine Made by Vets

Memorial Day isn’t just an excuse to fire up the grill at our house — although we WILL be grilling on May 29.

During the day, we’ll be taking time out to honor the men and women who have served our country through the years, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. And we’ll be toasting them with glasses of the 2014 Purple Heart Red Wine, a Napa Valley cuvee that was crafted by veterans.

Ray Coursen, who served in Vietnam, and David Grega, who served in Iraq, combined their winemaking skills to make this wine. And they did it under the close stewardship of the Peter Mondavi Sr. family, whose patriarch was a proud veteran of World War II.

It’s a wine that’s not only delicious, but also benefits the Purple Heart Foundation, dedicated to serving the unmet needs of military men, women and families.

Anyone who has had family members serve our country understands that veterans are special people. My father-in-law served (and was badly wounded) in Vietnam. I have a cousin who flew rescue helicopters in Vietnam, and saw things nobody should ever have to see.

My late parents were not in the service, but they did build airplanes for the war effort during World War II. In fact, they met while working together at Douglas Aircraft (before it became McDonnell Douglas). Dad was a foreman, and Mom was a “Rosy the Riveter.” A case could be made that were it not for World War II, I would not be here.

So I’ve always felt strongly about respecting and honoring our service men and women. That’s why when Michelle and I got married in October of 2015, we asked for donations to the BVL Fund — an organization that provides recreation-based therapeutic services to vets — in lieu of presents.

And that’s why on Memorial Day, we’ll be lighting the grill, cooking some rib-eye steaks, and opening a couple bottles of Purple Heart Red Wine — a sublime blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot.

We’ll toast America’s vets, and we’ll toast the good work that the Purple Heart Foundation does for vets.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

4 Tips for To-Die-For BBQ and Wine Pairings

Summertime… and the grilling is easy…

Oops. Sorry. Sometimes I subconsciously meld Gershwin and barbecuing. But you’ll never have that problem if you follow these tips for pairing wine with barbecue fare…

  1. Take your time.

Barbecued food attains the height of culinary hedonism when it has been slow-cooked. It’s not unusual to encounter restaurants that cook their brisket and/or pulled pork for upwards of 16 hours. For us home grillers, setting aside six hours for ribs and three hours for chicken to cook can result in some really tasty food. Great BBQ can’t be rushed.

  1. Wood is good.

While charcoal is the preferred heat provider of most grillers, you can add a whole new dimension to the flavors of your barbecued foods by cooking over wood — preferably chunks (as opposed to chips) of oak.

  1. Spice is nice.

Experienced grillers will tell you that the only spices necessary are salt and pepper. But depending on your personal preferences, other spices — including ones that add a little “heat” — can enhance the flavor spectrum and add personality to the meat being grilled. Some markets and butcher shops will even apply a spice rub for you, on request.

When “spicing up” barbecue, the best wine-pairing partner is Zinfandel, like those found in the Zinfandel Country Select Collection. Zinfandel is both spicy and “jammy,” characteristics that complement that spicy quality of the meat and the “char” of the grill.

  1. Sauce it up.

For some people, barbecue isn’t barbecue without some sauce. But keep in mind that there are several different styles of sauce, so making a single wine-pairing suggestion is next to impossible.

That said, certain wines are better suited for pairing with well-sauced BBQ than others, like those in the Unbeatable BBQ Pairings Collection. In each case, it’s the mouthwatering acidity of the wine, comingling with the char of the grill, which creates a chorus of complementary flavors.

The kind of compelling chorus you’ll hear in almost any Gershwin tune.

This spring and summer, I plan to fire up the grill and crank up the music (sometimes Gershwin, sometimes Gaga) as often as possible… and to enhance the experience with some great wines.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

The Perfect Reds and Dazzling Whites of the Pacific Northwest

Whether you get your national weather report each morning from ABC, CBS, ABC, The Weather Channel or some other source, you’re probably never surprised when you hear that it’s going to be stormy in Portland and Seattle.

But not all of Oregon and Washington are rain magnets. In fact, there are numerous parts of each state where the climate is relatively dry, and grapevines dominate the landscapes.

The reds wines of the region — including those in the Perfect Pacific Northwest Reds Collection — garnered lots of deserved attention during the last two decades of the 20th century. In particular, Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington and Pinot Noir from Oregon have become coveted among wine collectors.

The terroir of Washington’s Columbia Valley has proven to be particularly welcoming for Cabernet Sauvignon, as demonstrated by the 2014 Big DeVine Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2015 Pacific Crest McNary Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

While the two wines are slightly different in their aroma and flavor spectrums, both are exceptional examples of how tasty Washington Cabernet can be.

Likewise, Oregon’s Willamette Valley has emerged as a dependable source of world-class Pinot Noir, challenging the best that Burgundy has to offer. The 2013 Aberrant Cellars Confero Pinot Noir is a true “wine of a place” — a place where the soils and the climate provide the perfect setting for growing Pinot Noir grapes.

The terroir is so diverse and accommodating that it also makes possible the growing of several white varieties, two of which have been brought together in the Dazzling Pacific Northwest Whites Collection.

Generally speaking, these special wines are made in much smaller quantities than the reds, mainly because so much more vineyard land has been devoted to reds. Because they’re true artisanal wines, you’d be hard-pressed to find Chardonnay more enjoyable than the 2015 Matchmaker Chardonnay from the Yakima Valley or the 2015 Pacific Crest “Centennial Trail” Chardonnay from the Columbia Valley.

Likewise, the 2015 Del Rio Vineyards Viognier from Oregon’s Rogue Valley is an outstanding example of the variety — engagingly floral, brimming with fruit flavor and just a little bit nutty.

Before the Dazzling Pacific Northwest Whites came on the scene, one could be perfectly content with the Perfect Pacific Northwest Reds. Now, however, choosing between the two can be a real conundrum.

My advice? Choose both.

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Posted in Wine Region Profiles

Wine Cuvees of Distinction: The Art of the Blend

Much like 3D technology can enhance the experience of watching a movie, when a vintner uses more than one grape variety, it can enhance the experience of drinking a wine.

Filmmaking and winemaking both are art forms, and the techniques selected will add a layer… or layers… to the ultimate experience.

Every country where wine grapes are grown has a signature blend, and some have more than one. Three countries are spotlighted in the Mind-Blowing Red Blends Collection — France, Chile and Portugal. All told, nine different varieties were used in making the three wines.

The 2015 Chateau Cap de Biolet France Bordeaux utilizes two of the traditional blending grapes of the Bordeaux appellation, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, in a cuvee that is wonderfully fruitful with a lingering sweetness — something that could not have been achieved with either variety individually.

The Chilean wine 2014 Valle Secreto Cachapoal Valley ‘Key’ uses another traditional Bordeaux variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, as its base wine. But it’s the Carmenere component that makes the wine unique as it softens on the palate like few 100% Cabs would.

Finally, the wine from Portugal,  the 2011 Mondeco DAO Portugal Vinho Tinto, utilizes not two, not three and not four… but FIVE different varieties. It’s a magnificently complex yet beautifully balanced wine, with an engaging aroma and almost too many flavor impressions to count.

Single-variety wines can be wonderful, and I drink them all the time. But sometimes I want to treat my palate to an explosion of flavors, particularly when I’ve taken the time to assemble a multi-faceted meal.

That’s when I reach for a bottle that includes more than one grape variety, blended to aroma, flavor and balance perfection by a vintner who is passionate about winemaking and views his work not merely as a job, but as a calling.

The delicious cuvees in the Mind-Blowing Red Blends Collection are calling my name right now.

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Posted in In the Cellar, Wine Buzz

The New Sparkling Wine Taking on Champagne

Spain is about to “take on” France in the realm of world-class sparkling wine.

France has always taken Champagne-making seriously, and has worked diligently to protect the “Champagne” designation in the global wine marketplace. As a result, with rare exceptions, a sparkling wine may not carry the “Champagne” designation on its label unless it was made in France’s Champagne appellation.

Now, Spain is taking steps to elevate its Cava sparkling wine by introducing a “Single Estate Cavas” designation. According to the Wines from Spain Trade Commission, to qualify for this new designation, a Cava must:

  • Be made with grapes grown on vines that are at least 10 years old.
  • Come from vineyards that are harvested by hand (not machine) with a maximum yield of 8,000-kg. per hectare.
  • Be estate fermented and vinified with a maximum output of 48 hectoliters per hectare.
  • Be fermented in bottle and aged for at least 36 months.
  • Obtain certification demonstrating the “path” of the base wine from the vine to the store shelf.

Pedro Bonet, President of the Regulatory Board of DO Cava, says, “The new ‘Cava de Paraje Calificado’ designation is ideal for positioning Cava at the top of the qualitative wine pyramid and for doing justice to this incredible sparkling wine. As far as the Cava category is concerned, this new designation represents a step toward giving visibility to the singular excellence in the production of sparkling wines made in the traditional method.”

In other words, it’s a way of elevating Cava in the minds of consumers. A list of the first producers to embrace the new designation was expected to be released this spring. Within a few years, we should be able to enjoy these exciting sparkling wines — a few of which are already being made, by the way, but simply lack the official designation.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy the wonderful sparkling wines of Champagne, and raise a glass to the success of Spain’s ”Single Estate Cavas” initiative. After all, good sparkling wine, regardless of its place of origin, is always a special treat.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

The Wonderfully Diverse Wines of Chile

Talk about diversity. Chile is home to the driest place on Earth (the Atacama Desert), and some of the tallest peaks in the world (within the Andes mountain range).

That geographic diversity creates climatic diversity, and that translates to numerous regions where perfectly ripened wine grapes can be grown and world-class wines can be made.

As demonstrated Vinesse’s Best of Chile Collection, the sources of delicious renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are by no means limited to the vineyards of France and California.

In fact, the wines of Chile have become so coveted that the country has risen to the No. 9 position on the global wine-producing map.

Chile has been described as an “agricultural island,” with four natural barriers — the Pacific Ocean, the Patagonian ice fields, and the aforementioned Atacama Desert and Andes mountain range — creating microclimates that are conducive to world-class wine production.

The Maule Valley, for instance, brings us the outstanding 2016 Zurdo Maule Valley Chile Merlot. Made from grapes grown in soils that are quite rocky, it’s a wine of lovely purity, elegance and freshness, joined by just a hint of spice.

The Colchagua Valley, situated about 80 miles south of Chile’s capital city of Santiago, is home to a winery named Koyle, where Biodynamic farming is practiced. It crafts the 2012 Koyle Colchagua Valley ‘Gran Reserva’ Chile Cabernet Sauvignon which is deep, rich, complex and compelling.

Great Cabernet also is made in the Limari Valey, one of Chile’s northernmost winegrowing regions, as demonstrated by the 2015 Tierra Del Sol Valle Del Limari Reserva Chile Cabernet Sauvignon. Jose Pablo Martin strives to make wines that are in perfect balance, and the 2015 vintage defines “balance” as it is simultaneously complex and elegant.

The history of wine in Chile began with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. It continued when Catholic missionaries planted vineyards to make wine for mass rituals. But it wasn’t until late in the 20th century, when a handful of large wine companies recognized the potential of Chile as a wine-producing country and invested in new vineyard plantings, that things really took off.

Now, the wines of Chile more than hold their own next to those of more famous wine countries. If you haven’t given them a try, now is the time, and Vinesse’s Best of Chile Collection makes it easy.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine Region Profiles

3 Wines That Are PERFECT for Spring

A friend who lives in Chicago says that spring does not officially start until he can take his grill out of storage and fire it up. If the weather forecast holds true, Saturday will be the day.

The temperature is expected to reach 78 degrees, a pair of perfectly seasoned lamb chops will go on the grill, and my buddy and his wife will open a bottle of Braxton Hall Melange Red, a sublime cuvee from California.

That wine is part of the 2017 Spring Reds and Rosés Collection curated specifically for the spring by Vinesse — a trio of wines that speak to the season through their less-intense tannin structures and easy-drinking personalities.

After a long (and we do mean long) winter, during which many of us warmed our souls with “big” wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, spring brings an opportunity to get reacquainted with “smoother” varieties like Merlot and more refreshing styles like rosé.

Personally, I’m already mentally planning our first picnic of the season — a selection of cold cuts, cheeses, crackers and nuts, along with a chilled bottle of Alerys Rosé from Spain. It’ll be like an outdoor version of visiting a Barcelona tapas bar.

Spring is an important season in the world of wine. It’s when the vines awaken after their winter nap, and a new growing season begins. Weather patterns in spring can have an impact on the output of the vines come harvest time.

Likewise, for wine drinkers, spring is the season of renewal — a time to embrace wines that may have been “hibernating” over the winter, and to think about lighter food-and-wine pairing possibilities.

Earl Hull, a media mogul of the 1940s, once suggested that “science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” This Saturday in Chicago, I expect my grilling friend will be in full agreement.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Imagine: Pouring Wine With No Spills

Pouring wine without a spill has long been an issue.  Rogue drops of wine have destroyed countless table cloths, suits, and dresses, but this problem may soon be a thing of the past.

As a steward at wine competitions, I prepared tens of thousands of 3-ounce to 4-ounce pours of wine for judging panels.

Later, as a judge at wine competitions, I was served thousands of glasses with droplets of wine on the outside, ready to stain my hands and clothing. (Not all stewards are as meticulous as I was about serving “drip-free” glasses.)

I’m not casting aspersions. Pouring wine without some of it dripping down the outside of the glass is tricky. Many of my fellow stewards… and a whole lot of restaurant sommeliers… wrap a towel around the neck of a bottle when pouring to catch those droplets.

I’ve seen and tried many pouring methods to eliminate the dripping problem, including giving the bottle a quick twist right at the end of the pour. For me, this has resulted in stains on my shirt as often as a drip-free pour. I don’t recommend it.

There also are various accessories on the market that can help with the problem but, of course, they come at a cost.

Now, a fascinating variation in pouring wine could be on the horizon, courtesy of a renowned inventor who has more than 100 patents and just happens to be a wine lover.

Meet Daniel Perlman, who has spent a lot of time studying this conundrum and developing what he believes is a solution for it.

As Lawrence Goodman reported on BrandeisNOW, Perlman’s idea is not to develop another accessory, but rather to change the design of the bottle itself.

After studying wine being poured in slow motion, and using his extensive scientific knowledge, he determined that the drips could be eliminated by adding a circular groove around the neck of the bottle just beneath the top. After much experimentation, he further determined that the ideal width of the groove is roughly 2 milliliters, and the ideal depth is roughly 1 milliliter.

Taking a look at the video above, you’ll see two bottles of wine being poured side-by-side — the one on the left with a standard bottle and standard spillage, and the one on the right with Perlman’s circular groove and no spillage.

Wine bottle “technology” hasn’t changed much in more than a century, with the main development being the introduction of the screwcap.

But if Daniel Perlman can interest enough bottle makers in his new design, this could be a game changer — for the wine industry, not to mention the dry cleaning industry.

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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