Drink These 3 Wines All Winter — You’ll Kick Yourself If You Don’t

winterIn case you hadn’t heard, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day.

As we know, that means we’re in for more winter. Six more weeks, as of February 2.

In my mind, I imagine a legendary cartoon character, Bugs Bunny, commenting, “Now isn’t that a revolting development!”

As far as your wine collection is concerned, are you ready for this “revolting development”? Do you have enough winter wines on hand just in case Punxsutawney Phil is correct?

For me, a “winter wine” is full-bodied in style, and usually red — although Chardonnay can be a yummy full-bodied choice among white wines.

But for the most part, when the days and nights are cold, I gravitate to red wines, like those included in this specially curated Winter Collection.

The collection features a nice mix of wine types and places of origin. There’s a complex Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile… a fruit-forward red blend from Argentina… and a plush Shiraz from Australia.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s a kangaroo equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil in Australia…

Regardless, once I got the word from Phil, I immediately re-stocked my wine rack with this Winter Collection.

It should help me get through what’s left of the winter with a smile.

If you like the idea of wine selected especially for each season, you can receive them four times a year in our Four Seasons Wine Club.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass

British Fizz: The Next British Invasion?

Flute con vino biancoI have to admit it: When I first heard the phrase “British Fizz,” the first thing that came to mind was that Alka-Seltzer must be undertaking a brand extension in England.

Remember that antacid product’s iconic theme song? If not, you can view it here:

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is…”

Well, it turns out British Fizz has nothing to do with settling one’s stomach. It’s the name that the United Kingdom Vineyard Association is seeking to register for protected geographical indication (PGI) status — similar to the status that Champagne enjoys in France and that Prosecco possesses in Italy.

Interestingly, the U.K. association did not come up with the name. It’s believed that it first appeared on the menu of a New York bar. Two members of the U.K. association, Bob and Sam Lindo, spotted the name and jotted it down.

If you’ve ever seen Parliament in action, you know that the Brits love to debate, and so it is with this proposed umbrella phrase for sparkling wine made in the U.K.

Some think it sounds trendy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in an industry that would like to see its demographics skew a bit younger. Others suggest it sounds too much like “British Wine,” a cheap concoction made from reconstituted grape must that’s imported — and really couldn’t be considered wine at all.

I’ve had a few renditions of sparkling wine made in Britain, and it’s pretty good. Whether it really needs to be rebranded as “British Fizz” is a marketing question that only those who make the wine can decide — and in Britain, that’s a debate that likely won’t be settled anytime soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll be perfectly content to enjoy the bubbly personalities of the Champagnes of France and the Proseccos of Italy.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

Prepare Your Own ‘State Dinner’ for Presidents’ Day

Serving beautifullyPresident Barack Obama hosted his first state dinner in March of 2010.

Guest Chef Marcus Samuelsson joined White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford in creating an Indian-inspired menu that featured wine with each course. More on that in a moment.

With a new administration in place, led by a President who does not drink, it will be interesting to see what types of menus are developed for the next round of state dinners. President George W. Bush also was a non-drinker by the time he took office, but that did not stop wine from being served to White House guests.

Back to the first Obama state dinner, which we examine here in recognition of Presidents’ Day: It was a meal with some intense flavors, yet prepared with ingredients that would make it fairly simple to emulate, if not duplicate, at home.

Let’s take a look at the dinner, course by course, and I’ll suggest some presently available wines to substitute for those served at the time…

• Potato and Eggplant Salad, made with White House arugula and topped with an onion-seed vinaigrette. Wine: 2008 Modus Operandi Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California.

Substitute wine: 2014 Osseus Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, California. This is a zesty wine showing some varietal “grassiness” that melds perfectly with arugula.

• Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese. Wine: 2006 Brooks “Ara” Riesling, Willamette Valley, Washington.

Substitute wine: 2015 Carl Zuckmayer Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany. You need a crisp and juicy wine when pairing with a flavorful soup, and this one would work very nicely.

• Roast Potato Dumplings with Tomato Chutney, and Chick Peas and Okra or Green Curry Prawns, served with collard greens and coconut-aged basmati. Wine: 2007 Beckman Vineyards Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley, California.

Substitute wine: 2013 Clefs des Legats, Cotes du Rhone, France. This is a Grenache-based blend that is fragrant, spicy and Indian food-friendly.

• Pumpkin Pie Tart with pear tatin, whipped cream and caramel sauce. Wine: Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia.

Substitute wine: Almost any sparkling Brut wine will work. Because pumpkin is such an assertive flavor, the wine needs to be fairly neutral in flavor, but possessing bubbles to help soften the pumpkin filling’s mouthfeel.

There you have it — a DIY state dinner. Happy Presidents’ Day!

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes, Wine Buzz

How Better Science Produces Better Wines

Harvest of bunch of chardonnay grapesIt’s truly amazing to see how far “sustainability” has come since the 1960s, when a group of people my parents labeled “hippies” first brought widespread attention to the concept.

Today, we take recycling for granted, both when preparing our trash for pick-up and in many of the restaurants we frequent. In countless businesses, “going green” has become a mantra, sometimes motivated by law, but in most cases by a sense of wanting to do the right thing for Mother Earth.

The wine industry — and despite the romance we associate with wine, let’s not forget it is an industry — has done a remarkably good job in this area. Not only are individual wineries embracing earth-friendly practices in their cellars, but they’re extending those practices to their vineyards.

In fact, in terms of meaningful scientific advancements over the past two decades, a vast majority have taken place in the vineyard.

Part of the science revolves around matching the proper varietal clone to the right vineyard site. Part of it involves making sure each grapevine receives the right amount of nourishing sunshine it needs to produce perfectly ripened grapes.

But most of it has to do with embracing age-old farming methods that enable weeds and pests to be controlled sans pesticides, and the soil to be enriched by recycling the natural byproducts of winemaking.

The Earth-Friendly Wine Club was founded to shine the spotlight on wineries and vintners who take their environmental responsibility seriously.

It also was founded to give wine lovers who embrace “green” practices in everything they do an opportunity to support like-minded people.

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Posted in Wine and the Environment, Wine Buzz

Wine-Related Desserts That Are Sure to Impress

Grilled peaches, mascarpone & mint  leavesYou know how they say that the first time is always the best?

The first time I ever tried to make a Valentine’s Day dessert, I searched the family cookbooks (this was before every recipe ever concocted could be found online) for something appropriate.

Nothing.

So I decided to check my Mom’s recipe box, and was surprised to come upon a recipe — handwritten on a 3×5-inch index card, as all her recipes were — for “Peaches With Riesling.”

That sounded good, and better still, the instructions indicated that it was super-easy to make. So I decided to give it a try.

These are the ingredients:

  • 2½ cups Riesling
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 5 sprigs tarragon
  • 4 peaches (ripe but firm)
  • Whipped cream

Here’s what Mom wrote on the card…

  1. Put Riesling, sugar, vanilla bean and one tarragon sprig in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat.
  1. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Add peaches to saucepan and let them simmer. Turn every so often, checking on how tender they are. (Water temperature should be just below boiling.)
  1. When peaches are tender, remove from heat and allow them to cool completely. When cooled, refrigerate for 90 minutes.
  1. Top each peach with whipped cream, and garnish with a tarragon sprig.

My Mom’s recipe card did not mention the following, so I will add it here: This dessert is delicious with a glass of Riesling.

Here are a couple other wine-related desserts I’ve heard good things about, and will be trying soon:

Almost any sweet treat is appreciated on Valentine’s Day. When wine is part of the recipe, it adds to the enjoyment. And when you make the dessert with your own hands, you’ll score big-time romance points.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

A Novice’s Guide to Pairing Chocolate and Wine

Valentine's Day CelebrationThere are those who will tell you that there is no chocolate that pairs well with wine, and no wine that pairs well with chocolate.

These are not “bad” people. They simply are people with whom I strongly disagree. There actually are a number of wine-and-chocolate pairings that work quite nicely… which means you need not skip one in favor of the other this Valentine’s Day.

Here’s a look at some of the pairings my fellow wine lovers embrace, from milder chocolates to more intense renditions…

  • White Chocolate

Technically not chocolate by definition (because it contains no cocoa), we’ll include it here because, hey, we’re not big on technicalities. Because its flavor is so mild, white chocolate benefits from a wine with sweet fruit flavors — a wine like the Moscato d’Asti from Il Conte d’Alba.

  • Milk Chocolate

Get your hands on a milk chocolate-covered truffle filled with strawberry, cherry or raspberry cream. Then pair it with the Pink Moscato from Atelie. Then smile.

  • Dark Chocolate

The pairing possibilities multiply with dark chocolate, as a number of “bigger” wines pair well with this “bigger” chocolate. A rich, nutty Port works nicely when chocolate is the lone flavor. When you add fillings such as dark cherry or raspberry cream, then you can pair the chocolate with wines like the 2015 Sophie’s “Palm Block” Shiraz from Australia, or the 2014 Criss Cross Zinfandel from Lodi, California, which is just as intense as the chocolate.

One word of caution when it comes to dark chocolate: Stick to bars or truffle coverings that are between 35 and 70% cocoa solids. If you go above 70%, the chocolate will overpower all other flavors, including those of the wine.

And since no Valentine’s Day is complete without chocolate AND wine, that would be a true tragedy.

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TMZ Says Wine Is on the Way from Lady Gaga

Champagne Cork PoppingBased on her performance during half-time of Sunday’s Super Bowl game, one could get the impression that Lady Gaga is capable of pretty much anything.

And that would include making wine, according to TMZ.

“Grigio Girls” was a bonus track on Gaga’s 2016 album called “Joanne.” It was dedicated to a friend who has cancer, and told the story of how a circle of friends would get together, crack open a bottle of wine, and cry for her.

The chorus of the song:

All the Pinot, Pinot Grigio girls
Gather ’round now
Watch your blues turn gold
All the Pinot, Pinot Grigio girls
Keep it real cold
’Cause it’s a fired up world

Now, TMZ says “Grigio Girls” will be the label for a line of wines, wine coolers, wine cocktails and wine punches.

Although not confirmed, TMZ adds, “We’re guessing Pinot Grigio will be the flagship product.”

While we’re waiting for Lady Gaga’s project to officially launch, we’ll be drinking three Pinot Grigio wines from Italy that are outstanding renditions of the variety, all from the 2015 vintage.

The Viaggiatore showcases lemon, lime, green apple and melon notes, and is a wonderful companion to fresh shellfish or oysters mignonette.

The Ca Solare is floral, crisp, fresh and fruitful, and pairs perfectly with lemon-herb chicken.

And the Avito is packed with honeyed fruit flavors; it’s the wine to pour when serving pasta with a white sauce.

How good will Gaga’s wines be? We can’t wait to find out, especially if they’re as good as her Super Bowl performance. Meanwhile, the Viaggiatore, Ca Solare and Avito bottlings could be considered benchmark examples of Pinot Grigio, and certainly worth emulating.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass

How to Be a Romance Hero With a ‘Pretty’ Meal and Wine

Juicy meat with sweet sauce on black platePinot Noir is the wine of romance, and in case you you’ve been watching too much football lately, I should remind you that there’s a very romantic “holiday” coming up next Tuesday.

Pinot Noir often is described by any number of “S” words: smooth, silky, seductive. These are qualities that are ideal for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.

But what if you want to surprise your significant other with a romantic meal at home, and don’t have a lot of time to cook? The recipe that follows is easy to prepare and looks as pretty on a plate as Pinot Noir looks in a glass — and this dish pairs perfectly with Pinot.

PORK WITH RASPBERRY GASTRIQUE

Raspberry Gastrique Ingredients

  • 2 cups ripe raspberries
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Sea salt (to taste)

Raspberry Gastrique Preparation

  1. Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottom saucepan and cook over a medium flame. Mix ingredients with back of a spoon and bring to a low simmer, stirring often. Adjust heat to medium-low, and cook until mixture becomes thick and syrupy (about 13 minutes).
  2. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, then return to saucepan.
  3. Add a sprinkle of salt (to taste).

Pork Chop Ingredients

  • 1 large pork chop
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • Pinch of dry mustard
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Pork Preparation

  1. After allowing pork to sit at room temperature for an hour, preheat oven to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of chop with salt, pepper and mustard.
  3. In a heavy-bottom, oven-proof skillet, melt butter, and immediately add pork.
  4. Sear on one side for about 2 minutes, achieving a crusty brownness.
  5. Cook for 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness of the pork chop. (Note: The pork needs to be cooked to 145 degrees.)
  6. While pork is resting, pour most of the fat from the pan into another pan, then add chicken broth, shallots and thyme. Whisk together with browned bits at the bottom of the first pan.

Final Steps

  1. Pour some of the gastrique on a plate, top with sliced pork, and top pork with a drizzle of the gastrique and a drizzle of the new pan sauce.
  2. Top that with a few fresh raspberries.
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Rooting for the Falcons? Open a Bottle of Merlot

Fresh homemade burger on wooden serving board with onion rings and glass of red wineI am a life-long Green Bay Packers fan. My Dad was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. But even though they obliterated the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, I will be rooting for the Atlanta Falcons in this Sunday’s Super Bowl.

I have my reasons…

  • Not every sports fan agrees with this, but when my team is knocked out of the playoffs — be it in football, baseball or basketball — I want the team that beat “us” to go all the way. That way, we can always say that we lost to the best team that season.
  • The Falcons have been around for 51 years and have never won a Super Bowl. Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, has been around 38 years and has won four Super Bowl games. I like to root for the underdog.
  • Ann’s Snack Bar. This is the REAL reason I want the Falcons to win — as a tribute to Miss Ann Price, who passed away in 2015 after running her eight-stool snack bar in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta for close to four decades.

Ann’s Snack Bar was (and is — it’s now operated by her sister and three brothers) known for the Ghetto Burger, a double cheeseburger that includes chili, bacon, grilled onions, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. You can see what it looks like, and hear from Miss Price herself, in the YouTube video below.

Miss Price ran Ann’s Snack Bar her way, complete with posted rules such as, “No cursing in the snack bar,” and, “No sitting or standing babies on the counter.” If you were willing to follow the rules, and wait outside until a stool became available inside, you could eat one of Miss Price’s burgers, cooked to order on a very small grill.

There are other places in Atlanta for good burgers — Holeman & Finch’s, Bones restaurant, One Eared Stag — but there’s nothing so sloppily wonderful as the Ghetto Burger from Ann’s Snack Bar. It has been at Atlanta institution for almost as long as the Falcons — and with a much better record.

This Sunday, if you’re a Falcons fan, you may want to try making your own version of the Ghetto Burger. If you do, and as long as the chili you use is not too spicy, I’d suggest opening a nice bottle of Merlot to accompany it.

My choice: the 2015 Bilgola “Estate” Merlot from South Eastern Australia. It’s medium-bodied, food-friendly, and the perfect companion to a flavorful burger.

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

Don’t Waste a Sick Day — Drink Wine on Super Bowl Sunday!

Football SnacksIf you’re a football fan, you know that there’s one more game to be played this Sunday, and you’ve probably been soaking in all the stats and stories that the sports media has been cranking out this week.

I’m not sure whether anyone has reported on it yet, but there’s an interesting “wine story” connected with the game. You may know that the quarterback of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady, was preceded by a QB named Drew Bledsoe. What you may not know is that Bledsoe now is a winery owner.

His estate is called Doubleback. It’s located in Walla Walla, Washington, and it’s not unusual for visitors to encounter Bledsoe in the tasting room. Pretty cool for a football fan.

Now, here are a couple of fascinating “wine numbers” associated with Sunday’s game between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons…

  • $4,800 — Average price for a Super Bowl LI ticket — enough to purchase 22 bottles of 2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, a floral, fresh and fruitful sparkling wine that would be perfect for toasting the winning team — especially if it’s the team you’re rooting for.
  • 1.23 billion — The number of chicken wings that will be consumed this Sunday. Since most wings have at least a bit of a “kick” to them, my wine of choice to drink with them is Zinfandel — the “bigger” the better. The wine we’ll be pouring is the 2013 Grey Wolf Vineyards “Big Bad” Zinfandel, which we’ve already enjoyed with a grilled, marinated leg of lamb.
  • 51.7 million — Number of cases of beer sold on Super Bowl Sunday, which no doubt contributes to the next number…
  • 1.5 million — Number of people who call in sick to work on the day after the Super Bowl.

Don’t be one of the 1.5 million and waste a sick day. Drink wine this Sunday!

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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