Pairing Wine With Chocolate

Warning! You have just six days to finalize your plans for Valentine’s Day 2018.choh

Valentine’s Day is always one of the busiest restaurant nights of the year, which isn’t exactly conducive to a nice, quiet, romantic dinner. I think it’s a much better idea to stay at home, prepare a nice meal or have one delivered, and whisper sweet nothings to your Significant Other rather than constantly yelling, “What did you say?”

If you think staying at home this year might be something you’d like to try, I have prepared a six-point checklist to help guarantee a romantic experience…

1. Make sure you have a bottle of Zinfandel on hand. Make sure it’s red Zinfandel, not White Zinfandel. More on the wine in a moment.

2. Buy a romantic (or funny — whichever fits your personality and relationship) card.

3. Decide how you’re going to handle the dinner. (My choice would be to bring something home or have something delivered.) Get the order placed and the delivery time set up several days in advance.

4. Buy a box of your sweetie’s favorite dark chocolates.

5. Drink your favorite red or white wine — whichever goes best with the main course — with your meal.

6. Open the bottle of Zinfandel when you hand over the box of chocolates.

Each item on the checklist is important, but item No. 6 is the key to a successful Valentine’s Day.

Here are a few other wine-and-chocolate pairings we’ve enjoyed in the past:

* Dark chocolate with Merlot.

* Milk chocolate with a sweet dessert wine.

* White chocolate with Moscato d’Asti.

* Chocolate-covered strawberries with Pinot Noir.

But in my experience, nothing goes better with dark chocolate than a fruit-forward (red) Zinfandel.

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Organic Wines: Are They Worth Seeking Out?

Some called them flower children. Others called them hippies. I can vividly recall myFotolia_79431036_XS (1) father watching the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite one day during the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco and just shaking is head.

“Look at all of those hippies,” he said incredulously. “Every one of them needs a haircut and a bath.”

I presume he was speaking only of the young men… but I can’t be absolutely sure.

My Dad and those hippies defined the Generation Gap of the time, but as I grew older, I came to realize that there are “Gaps” between virtually all generations; how they are manifested depends in large part on world affairs, technology and other factors of the moment.

But here’s something positive about the hippies of the 1960s that even my Dad would have to acknowledge: They were among the first people to emphasize and popularize the notion that we needed to start doing a better job of taking care of Mother Earth.

Today, many of those hippies are wine aficionados, and they are joining modern environmentalists in embracing wines that are crafted using Earth-friendly methods in the vineyard as well as in the cellar. Vinesse even has a club, the Earth-Friendly Wine Club, devoted to such wines.

Every year, more and more vineyard owners are embracing farming that ranges from simple-but-effective organic methods to ultra-focused Biodynamic practices. There are stringent certification programs for both vineyards and wineries, and those that participate in such programs are helping to protect the earth in a variety of ways.

Do these techniques and practices change the flavor of the finished wine? To a degree. The perfectly healthy grapes that are produced tend to be flavor-intensive, and that can help a vintner produce truly expressive… and delicious… finished wines.

I’m thinking my Dad might even forgive the hippies if he could taste the wonderful organic wines being made today.

Posted in Wine Buzz

Wine Glasses: How Many Types Do I Need?

A wine glass does more than simply serve as a holding vessel for wine. The founders ofglasses Riedel stemware viewed the wine glass as an instrument to bring together:

* The personality of the wine.

* The smell of the wine.

* The taste of the wine.

* The appearance of the wine.

The shape of the glass is responsible for the quality and intensity of the bouquet and the flow of the wine. The initial contact point depends on the shape and volume of the glass, the diameter of the rim, its finish (be it cut-and-polished or rolled- edge), as well as the thickness of the crystal.

As you put your wine glass to your lips, your taste buds are on the alert. The wine flow is directed onto the appropriate taste zones of your palate, leading to different taste “pictures.” Once your tongue is in contact with the wine, three messages are transmitted at the same time: temperature, texture and taste.

The size of the glass also is important because it impacts the quality and intensity of the aromas. The breathing space has to be chosen according to the “personality” of the wine. Red wines require large glasses, while white wines require medium-sized glasses.

I once attended a gathering of Napa Valley and Sonoma County winemakers at which Georg Riedel provided a demonstration that clearly illustrated how a wine can taste very good in one glass and not good at all in another — simply because of the shape and volume of the glass.

At various intervals, winemakers sat in stunned silence as they experienced aromas and flavors either disappearing or becoming vegetal as a wine was transferred from a proper glass to an improper glass for the particular varietal.

Noted one winemaker: “It’s kind of scary to think that our wine may taste like this when it’s presented to the public in our tasting room. This wine doesn’t taste anything at all like it did right out of the barrel, or like it did in the correct glass we had just a moment ago.”

Winemakers are skeptics by nature, so to see such an esteemed group react in this way proved that when it comes to wine glasses, size… and shape… do count.

Does this mean that one must invest in a full set of multi-sized and multi-shaped glasses? No. We get by quite nicely with two:

* A Chardonnay glass, which in addition to Chardonnay works just fine for other dry white wines, as well as for dessert wines.

* A Cabernet Sauvignon glass, which has a much wider bowl and works just fine for other dry red wines.

We also have a few Champagne flutes on hand, but we just as often use our Chardonnay glasses when drinking sparkling wine. The bubbles may not be as intense, but the flavor of the wine is not impacted.

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Help! Which Wines Do I Serve at What Temperatures?

Have you ever been standing in line at Starbucks (or your preferred coffee house) andtherm heard someone order their latte at 180 degrees?

They’re not showing off. There’s actually a good reason for it. Most hot coffee drinks are prepared at between 145 and 165 degrees, but many believe that the optimum temperature is 180 degrees. Beyond that, if you’re going to be carrying the cup outdoors in cold weather for more than a few minutes, that drink is going to cool off quickly.

So, it makes perfect sense for one to specify a higher-than-normal temperature, or to simply order the drink “extra hot.”

But what about wine? Is there an optimum temperature for serving wine? Most experts would tell you yes, and I agree. But it’s a bit more complicated than coffee.

For instance, there are different recommended temperatures for white wines than for reds. As a general rule, reds should be consumed at room temperature, while whites benefit from a little bit of a chilling down.

That’s a good general rule of thumb. But if you are a perfectionist, you’d probably prefer to have a specific temperature for a specific type of wine. The website Cooler Wines to the rescue with this comprehensive temperature guide.

Remember, these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. For example, I will sometimes chill down a red wine a little bit if the weather is hot and I’m serving the wine with barbecue. Considering cold beer is the typical beverage of choice with barbecue, I see nothing wrong with that.

I’ll also occasionally “break the rules” with white wines. Keep in mind that the colder a wine is, the more its flavor is muted. So, if I really want to experience the full flavor of a white, I won’t chill it at all; I’ll simply take it off the rack and open it.

I do follow one rule, without exception, when it comes to wine-serving temperatures. I never, ever, drink it at 180 degrees.

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Your Guide to the King: Cabernet Sauvignon

Ever since Prince William got together with Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry popped cabthe question to Meghan Markle, there has been renewed affection for British royalty.

It’s part of a cycle that has seen the British throne both revered and reviled through the centuries, depending on the personalities.

But when it comes to royalty in the world of wine, there always has been and probably always will be only one king: Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. It can be grown successfully in both warm and somewhat cool climates, as demonstrated by the great renditions from California’s Napa Valley (warm) and France’s Bordeaux appellation (cool).
  2. It can be made in a variety of styles. While we most often think of Cabernet as “big and bold,” requiring a certain amount of aging to reveal itself, it also can be crafted for immediate enjoyment. When blended with Merlot and/or other red varieties, it even could be described as “smooth.”
  3. Wine drinkers can choose between Old World and New World renditions. Old World Cabernet Sauvignon, like that from France, tends to be more subtle and savory. New World Cabernet tends to offer an impression of sweet fruit.
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon reacts extremely well to aging in oak barrels. The oak may add nuances of vanilla, spice and smoke to the fruit flavors, enhancing the overall complexity.
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon can be a tremendous companion to food. Because of its tannin structure, Cabernet is not an extremely versatile food-pairing partner, but when it comes to grilled or roasted meats, it’s tough to beat. It also pairs nicely with aged Gouda, aged cheddar and firm blue cheeses.

All hail Cabernet Sauvignon — the king of wine!

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How to Properly Store an Open Bottle of Wine

My bride and I had an opportunity to dine at one of the most romantic restaurants in thewineopen Phoenix area the other night: the Top of the Rock at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes. As you may have gathered from the name of the resort, the restaurant is situated on a hillside overlooking the glimmering lights below.

The restaurant had a good wine-by-the-glass list, but I spotted a bottle that I really wanted because it would pair so perfectly with both of our meals. Only one problem: I knew we wouldn’t finish the bottle in one sitting because we were there for work and I needed to get up early the next day. So I asked our server, “If we order a bottle and don’t finish it, can we take what’s left to our room?”

The answer was yes, so I needed to make sure the leftover wine inside that bottle made it to the next evening in good shape.

In this particular case, it was an easy “process.” I simply put the cork back in the bottle’s top, and placed the bottle in our room’s small closet so no sunlight could reach it in case our room attendant left the shades open.

From a “freshness” standpoint, it’s always best to consume the full contents of a bottle within a few hours of its opening. That said, most bottles will keep just fine for anywhere from a day to a week if you follow a few simple steps…

  1. Re-cork the bottle (or, if the wine came with a screw cap, re-screw it).
  2. If you plan to consume the rest of the wine the next day, place the bottle in a cool place, away from sunlight.
  3. If you plan to consume the rest of the wine between two and seven days later, place it in the refrigerator. (Yes, this applies to both white and red wines.)
  4. On the day you plan to finish the wine, take it out of the refrigerator one hour before serving for whites, and three hours before serving for reds.

Long-term aging requires greater attention to storage, but once a bottle is opened, you have about a week to keep it “fresh” and finish it off.

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16 Soup-and-Wine Pairing Suggestions (It’s That Time!)

It makes perfect sense that January would be National Soup Month. The deep freeze thatsoup much of America has been in this month makes staying home and warming up with a hearty bowl of soup an idea that’s easy to embrace.

Not only is soup the quintessential comfort soup, but many types of soup are good for you. The key, in most cases, is to keep the salt level under control, and that generally can be accomplished by avoiding canned soup and taking the time to make your own.

Yes, some soup recipes are time consuming, but wouldn’t you rather spend time in the kitchen cooking than in the rest of the house cleaning?

My favorite of all soups is beef barley, and the best I’ve ever had was made at a restaurant attached to a winery in Pahrump, Nev. The name of the winery is Pahrump Valley Winery, less than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, and the name of its restaurant is Symphony’s.

Symphony’s takes soup seriously, as the menu includes French Onion (made with sweet onions and melted cheese), Incredible Lobster Bisque (laced with Crème Sherry), and Tenderloin Barley (made with filet beef).

The Nevada Ridge Silver State Red is my go-to wine when I order the Tenderloin Barley (which is every time I visit).

If you’re planning to heat up some soup to help fight the winter cold, here are 16 soup-and-wine pairing suggestions…

* Beef Barley Soup — Red blends

* Butternut Squash — Gewurztraminer

* Chicken Soup — Chardonnay

* Chicken Noodle Soup — Chenin Blanc

* Chicken Tortilla Soup — Gruner Veltliner

* Corn Chowder — Riesling

* Cream of Mushroom Soup — Chardonnay.

* French Onion — Gamay

* Italian Wedding Soup — Primitivo

* New England Clam Chowder — Chardonnay or Sherry.

* Pho — Rosé sparking wine.

* Potato Leek — Chardonnay.

* Pumpkin Soup — Viognier or Verdejo

* Seafood Bisque — Sauvignon Blanc

* Split Pea and Ham — Riesling.

* Tomato Soup — Sauvignon Blanc or Grenache.



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Are You a Beer Drinker? You’ll Love These Wines

Let’s be clear about one thing: Beer lovers can be every bit as “snobby” as wine lovers.beerwine

And I mean “snobby” in a good way. It’s really a perception of others. Perhaps a better word would be: aficionados. Simply put, we know what we like, and we’ve taken the time to learn more about it.

Is it possible for a beer drinker and a wine drinker to find common ground? Absolutely. It’s simply a matter of identifying a type of wine that has some commonalities to a beer drinker’s preferred style.

I have a number of beer-loving friends, and we recently did some experimenting. Following are three “If you like… you might like…” suggestions.

1. If you like Hefeweizen, you might like Albariño

In the case of both the beer and the wine, the outstanding quality is fruit — primarily citrus, but also including tropical fruit and stone fruit. Also, both are extremely aromatic, much more so than other beers or wines.

2. If you like IPAs, try Sauvignon Blanc

One of the first things you’ll notice about an IPA is its bitter greenness. That’s because the style calls for hops to be at the forefront, and they echo a quality that’s found in virtually all Sauvignon Blanc wines.

The one exception to the “rule” would be Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which has more of a bell-pepper flavor than the citrus, fresh-cut grass impressions common in Sauvignon Blanc from other winegrowing areas.

3. If you like Porters, you might like Malbec

A buddy of mine loves Porters because of their coffee and chocolate-like flavors — which just happen to be flavors you’ll experience in many bottlings of Malbec.

I used my buddy as a guinea pig for this blog, and after he had a glass of Porter during lunch, we served him a glass of Malbec with dinner.

I can report that he was a happy guy at both meals.



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10 Reasons to Pair Wine With Garlic

Ten years ago this month, we featured a recipe that is sure to appeal to anyone who lovesgarlic garlic.

Back then, I simply enjoyed the flavor of garlic and how it elevated so many types of food that I love — everything from bruschetta to osso bucco.

But as I’ve since learned, eating garlic also is good for one’s health. As noted in the Healthline newsletter…

  1. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has potent medicinal properties.
  2. Garlic is highly nutritious, but has very few calories.
  3. Garlic can combat sickness, including the common cold.
  4. The active compounds in garlic can reduce high blood pressure.
  5. Garlic improves cholesterol levels, which may lower the risk of heart disease.
  6. Garlic contains antioxidants that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  7. Garlic may help you live longer.
  8. Athletic performance can be improved with garlic supplementation.
  9. Eating garlic can help detoxify heavy metals in the body.
  10. Garlic may improve bone health.

Enjoy this easy-to-prepare dish with any wine you enjoy with garlic-flavored food. My personal choices would be a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or, when I feel like drinking a red, Sangiovese.



* 1-lb. spaghettini

* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

* 10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

* 1/2-cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

* 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir the spaghettini into the boiling water. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until pale golden. Remove from the heat and add crushed pepper.
  3. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water into the sauce. Add the parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt to taste.
  4. Drain pasta, return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Cook until pasta is coated with the sauce and done. Serve immediately in warm bowls.


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4 Resolutions for a Better Wine Year in 2018

It’s only the second week of 2018, and I’ve already broken virtually all of my New Year’s2018_1 Resolutions.

I’ve added cream to my coffee, selected fries over a side salad, and wolfed down a big slice of chocolate cake.

However, I’m proud to say that I’ve thus far stuck to all of my wine-related resolutions. Perhaps you’ll be enticed to try a couple of them yourself…

  1. I resolve to keep an eye on the 2015 vintage.

Rarely have I seen a year in which quality was so uniformly high across so many winegrowing regions around the world — from California to Chianti, and from Mendoza to the Maule Valley. If you see “2015” on the label, chances are you’re in for an amazing wine-drinking experience.

  1. I resolve to seek out under-the-radar varieties more often.

I’m certainly not going to stop drinking Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, but I’m definitely going to be drinking more Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo, Zinfandel, and Syrah.

  1. I resolve to spend more time in the kitchen.

My lovely wife is a great cook, so my goal is to not only learn a few tricks from her, but to do the best job possible of selecting the perfect wine to accompany each specific dish. Once I know the dominant flavor of the dish, I’ll be better equipped to pinpoint a perfect complementary wine.

4.  I resolve to drink better.

What’s that old saying? Oh, yeah: Life is too short to drink bad wine. Every wine featured by Vinesse has been vetted by a very persnickety tasting panel, and you can get a regular taste of the best of the best by joining the Elevant Society.

If you’re a fan of red wine, this is the club for you. The wines are ready to be enjoyed when they arrive at your door, but also can be used to help build an impressive cellar.

By keeping the 2015 vintage in mind, drinking more under-the-radar varieties, spending more time in the kitchen and drinking better, I know it’s going to be a great 2018.


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Posted in Editor's Journal, Wine Buzz
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