Thursday, October 30, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Red Blend South Africa - 2011 Neethlingshof Estate Caracal

Tried any wines from South Africa? They do have a bit of history making wine, actually dating back to 1659 - when the Dutch East India Company established a supply station in the area now known as Cape Town. Today's wine is a Bordeaux style blend from one of the most famous South African regions - Stellenbosch.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: What to Eat with your Big Cab

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the red wines that people new to red wine often try - mostly because of familiarity with the varietal. Hey - it is the red that put Napa (and some parts of  Bordeaux, France) on the map right? 

I believe that some mishaps with food pairing and Cabernet Sauvignon may tragically scare some newbies away from the fantastic wonders of red wine. So here are some dos and don'ts for your consideration to help make sure you get the most out of your wine.  Cabs can be VERY expensive, but no matter how great the wine - team it up with the wrong food and it's not fun...it's not funny!

Cab Pairing Dos.  Cabs tend to be big and bold - tannic, high alcohol, and typically made with plenty of time in oak barrels.  With bitter tannins you need food with a bitter element to fight fire with fire.
  • Grilled red meats - cooked to no more than medium rare.  The char from grilling adds a bitter taste for the tannins. The bigger and more tannic the wine - the rarer the meat should be. Like your meat closer to well done - go for a Pinot Noir or other lighter bodied red.
  • Bitter side dishes - some bitterness in your side dishes, will also go nicely with your big cab - think bitter greens like mustard or collard, radicchio, or a grilled vegetable that will also get a good char - like eggplant.
  • Black Pepper - on almost anything will provide a bitter component to go with your Cab. Have a companion that doesn't like bigger Cabs but you do? Have them order something like a pepper crusted steak, or a Steak Au Poivre and the wine will taste less tannic to them. Cool right???
Cab Pairing Don'ts. These are food pairing don'ts that could ruin the flavor and balance of your wine or overpower the food - and none of us want that!
  • Hot and spicy foods - the capsaicins that create the heat in dishes will accentuate the alcohol and tannin levels in your Cab and make a good wine taste just gross!
  • Delicate fish dishes - Cab can work with heartier fishes like swordfish or shark, but you are better off with a lighter red or a heavier white like a Chardonnay.
  • Cheeses - Cabs can pair with some cheeses, and various experts disagree on what cheeses go well. With the right Cab, I absolutely love a reasonably strong blue cheese - but others say this is blasphemy.  My advice is to stick with Pinots, Spanish Reds, and other lighter style reds for your cheese - just in case.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Wine for Halloween Party

October is slipping away but there is still enough time for a fun filled Halloween party.  Of course you'll want to serve some great wine, but how about some wine with that Halloween theme built right in the name?

Here are just a few!


Owen Roe Sinister Hand
Rhone Blend from Colombia Valley, Washington State

Charles Smith Velvet Devil
Merlot from Washington State


d'Arenberg The Dead Arm
Shiraz from Mclaren Vale, Australia

My Personal Fav for this Year...
True Blood Pinot Noir
from Carneros, California


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Australian Shiraz - 2013 Mollydooker The Boxer

I decided to try a couple of Mollydooker wines during my last shopping excursion. Today we'll take a look at "The Boxer" Shiraz and later I'll be tasting "Two Left Feet" - their blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  First up, let's put the gloves on...although it does make swirling the wine quite a challenge!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wine Tip - Some Leisurely Reading Material

Looking to read up a bit to jump start your wine knowledge? A trip to your local bookstore (you should visit while there is still such a thing!) or searching through Amazon will provide you with a multitude of choices.  While I have not read them all - there are two recommendations I have for good reads.

Recommendation #1 - Don't be Afraid to be a Dummy.

The first book I picked up when I wanted to learn more about wine was Wine for Dummies.  I have read other "Dummies" books and really like how they are organized - easy to read from front to back or to skip around and read up on specific topics.  After polishing off Wine for Dummies, I went right for Red Wine for Dummies and White Wine for Dummies.  I highly recommend books from this series - there are other titles I haven't read, but I would guess they are as useful as the titles I have read.  From a quick search I just did, it looks like you can still get Wine for Dummies, but the others may be out of print.  A quick check on eBay and I found all these titles.  The iTunes store also had a "All in One" edition that appears to combine Wine for Dummies with some of their regional wine titles (e.g. French Wine for Dummies).  

Recommendation #2 - Food and Wine Pairing.

There are not so many books out there about Food and Wine Pairing. My recommendation for the first book you read is the first book I read - called Red Wine with Fish by by David Rosengarten and Joshua Wesson.  It is a great book because it tackles some of the legendary rules of wine tasting, explains why the rule came about, and identifies great pairings that break these legendary rules (e.g. Red Wine with Fish!).  The bad news is this book is out of print. Years ago I had to find one on eBay, and it was not cheap. If you are interested  in this book, shop around before you buy to make sure you get a reasonable price.  A second choice that is more available and maybe more affordable, but also an awesome book - is Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food by Evan Goldstein and Joyce Goldstein.  Lots of great advice on wine and food pairing, examples, recipes - including red, white, sparkling, and dessert wines.

I have just started to read the follow up book Daring Pairings: A Master Sommelier Matches Distinctive Wines with Recipes from His Favorite Chefs.

Have a Favorite Wine Book? Share with us in the comments below.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2006 Muga Aro Rioja

In May 2013 this little beauty traveled in the relative luxury of a suitcase full of dirty clothes back from Spain after we purchased it at the Muga winery (an excellent winery tour that I always recommend, especially since they make their own barrels!). This baby could probably age 10 more years in the wine fridge, but I'm just not that patient. So let's decant for 8-ish hours and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Halloween Your Wine

In other Halloween tips I've suggested wines that are great to serve at an (adult) Halloween party like POIZIN Zinfandel.  But what if you have wine you want to serve your guests that doesn't have a "scary" name or come from a "scary" winery?  How about do-it-yourself?

Check out this site for labels you can download for free. You will need to get some labels at your local office supply store - but then boom! (or boo!) you have you own Halloween wine!


Here's an example:


There are more to choose from, most of which aren't as gory as this one - but this was my favorite.

How about these from Amazon?


Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Pairing Wine with Fish

The classic recommendation to serve white wine with fish is for the most part a good one - but far too general to be of any help at all.  There are many, many types of fish and many, many, (many) types of white wines so the classic recommendation is not as straightforward as it may sound.  Here are some simple rules to remember based on what I call the "fighting class" of the fish you will be eating.

Lightweight Class.  
Fish: Light and flakey fish with a mild flavor. Examples - Tilapia, Bass.
WIne Pairing:  Light and crisp wines - Sauvignon Blanc (some NZ and CA examples may be too flavorful - try Washington or Loire). Spanish Whites such as Albariño, Spanish Cava or Verdejo, and the über food friendly Grüner Veltliner. (Yes - double umlaut sentence - I am a wild man!). Stay away from Chardonnay (unless very light and unoaked), and Viogner, both would overpower your lightweight contender of a fish.

Middleweight Class.
Fish: Flakey fish, but with more pronounced flavors. Examples - Trout, Catfish, Halibut.
Wine Pairing: These fish can take a wine with a bit more flavor. Try Chardonnay (can be oaked, but be careful with super oaky, buttery, high alcohol versions). Riesling (Washington or Dry German Kabinett level). Sauvignon Blanc (more flavorful versions from California, New Zealand or Pouilly Fume). Italian Soave is another very food friendly white with a bit bolder flavor.

Heavyweight Class. 
Fish: Meatier fish such as Salmon, Mahi Mahi, Shark, Swordfish, Tuna, or Monkfish.
Wine Pairing: Bring on the flavor! Oaky Chardonnay, Viognier,  Dry Rośe, Champagne, White Rhone (France). You can even start to introduce light bodied reds at this weight class - stick with lightweight, fruity versions of Pinot Noir, Rioja, or Cotes du Rhone.

Small but Powerful. 
Fish: Oily, "fishy" ones such as Anchovies, Sardines, Herring, or Mackerel.
Wine Pairing: Acidity will help cut through the oil. Whites:  Oaky Chardonnay, fuller bodied Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp, dry Rośe.  Reds - Lighter, fruitier Pinot Noir, Rioja, Chianti.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - California Red Blend - 2012 Dirty Pure Project F-Bomb

I will admit that what made me pick up this bottle at our local gourmet grocery store was the name - The F Bomb.  What made me want to try this wine was that the wine is listed as a "California Red" which means the grapes could come from anywhere in California, and you will see this designation on many cheap and not so good wines. This wine however was listed as a small batch project with only 3,000 cases made which wasn't consistent with a bulk producer of low price/low quality wines. Hmmm.... let's give this a try!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Taste the Wine, But Don't Forget to Experience the Wine

While perusing the Fall 2014 edition of Wine & Spirits magazine I came across a quote that I really liked and decided I needed to share it.  On the cover of this issue is "Nose, Tongue, & Cheek, The Art and Science of Wine Tasting," and the magazine is chock full of articles about various aspects of wine tasting. One article "Learning to Taste" consisted of wine professionals sharing their experiences of learning to taste wine.  The quote that most caught my eye came from Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chief of Punch, an online wine and spirits magazine.  She shared her story of staring to learn more about wine and shifting from collecting her impression of wine for the more structured analysis that is typically taught when you learn to evaluate wine.  In the article she says "In a way, approaching wine from a purely evaluative standpoint is like wandering through a neighborhood with your face buried in a GPS, never looking up to experience where you are."

What a great analogy! It is necessary to learn about the components that make up a wines aroma, taste, and structure, so it is important to understand the role of acid, sugar, and tannins as well as the different aromas of different wines. All these elements help us in selecting food and wine pairings,  and help us in suggesting wines for others based on their personal preferences.  But knowledge of these elements are just the GPS of the wine world - they will help you along the way, but your goal should not only to be to arrive at the final destination,  but to enjoy the ride and truly experience the destination once you arrive.  For different people the destination may be different things - finding a great wine, buying a great wine for a gift for a picky drinker, creating a great food and wine pairing... the list goes on.  So, taste the wine - but please, please don't forget to also experience the wine.  On your next vacation would you ever dream of driving for hours under the guidance of your trusty GPS, only to arrive, and immediately head back home? No way! The same for wine, don't forget the element more important that acid or tannin levels or if the wine smells more  like red apples or green apples...is pure enjoyment!