Thursday, July 24, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - California Zinfandel - 2012 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel Earthquake

A wine whose label seemingly promises to make the earth move is very intriguing.   Plus, a wine to go with a spur of the moment summer grilling extravaganza - what more could you want!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Tempranillo

Tempranillo Grapes
Up until now, there is a good chance that you've seen most if not all of the grapes I've written about in my "Get to Know Your Grapes" series. You may have seen them on a wine label in your favorite wine shopping spot, or seen a writeup about the grape in Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, or your local newspaper's food and wine section.  Most of the ones I've written about so far, such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are considered "international" varietals in that they are grown in many parts of the world.  For today's effort to get more acquainted with our fruit - I turn to a grape whose name you may not have seen on a wine bottle or even heard of before - Tempranillo.  Tempranillo may not be well know in all parts of the world, but I can tell you it is very well known in it's native Spain. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Hamburgers

Burgers are a pretty basic concept - some type of ground meat (sorry I'm not including anything prefixed with "Veggie" in this discussion!) served in a bun.  A basic concept yes, but then come the toppings. Condiments of all shapes and sizes, fresh and cooked produce, mushrooms, fried eggs, cheese from plastic wrapped American singles to intense blue cheese, BBQ sauces, chilies, peppers... the list goes on and on.  This variety makes pairing wine with your burger a bit of a challenge, but today we'll tackle three very different  burger configurations.

Eating this?:
  • "Basic" Hamburger. with classic condiments and toppings: mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles or pickle relish, and a slice of american cheese.
  • Mushroom Burger. Sautéed mushrooms with a slice of a mild cheese like swiss.
  • Greek Lamb Burger. One of my favorites, with feta cheese, a garlicky tzatziki sauce, black olives, and some raw baby spinach.
Drink this:
  • For the Basic Hamburger - Drink a lighter bodied Zinfandel or Syrah. You don't want a huge tannic monster, but these wines will pair nicely with all the different flavors on a classically dressed burger.
  • For the Mushroom Burger - Drink Pinot Noir.  With a lighter taste profile, this burger needs a lighter bodied wine. Plus, Pinot does a great job picking up the earthy taste of mushrooms.
  • For the Greek Lamb Burger - Drink Rioja or Ribera del Duero. With the higher acid level from the sauce, you need a wine with a good level of acid that will also go nicely with lamb. Tempranillo based wines like this are very food friendly.
Avoid this:
  • For the Basic Hamburger - ABC - Anything But Chardonnay! Red wine is needed to accentuate the char of a good burger... so save the Chardonnay for another day (maybe a lobster day!).
  • For the Mushroom Burger - Avoid big tannic reds that will overpower the subtle tastes of this great burger creation.
  • For the Greek Lamb Burger - Avoid light bodied whites like Pinot Grigio. A light wine will get lost in the big flavors of this epic burger.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Pinot Noir

“Uh, I don't know, I don't know. Um, it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet. ”
- Miles from the movie Sideways when asked why he is so into Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir Grapes
In my personal experience,  Pinot Noir is a grape that can be used to make some very outstanding wine,  as well as some very disappointing wine, with not too many wines in between.  Although you may see some cheap - sub $10 bottles of Pinot Noir on the market, this is one wine where I highly recommend spending a bit more to get something truly special.  Pinot Noir is a high maintenance grape - highly susceptible to frost, rot, and Pierce’s disease (spread by a nasty little bug called the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter). It needs a fairly cool climate to grow, but also needs enough time on the vine to fully ripen in order to develop the complex flavors needed for a great wine.  Land where good Pinot grows is not cheap - it takes a lot of labor to tend to the grapes, and much care is needed during the winemaking process. All of these factors cost money... big money.  These costs to make Pinot Noir get reflected directly in the price you end up paying for a bottle.  Not to beat a dead horse, but some of the worst and the best wines I’ve ever tasted are Pinot Noirs.

Weekly Wine Review - Washington State Syrah - 2010 Otis Kenyon Syrah

The story of Otis Kenyon wines is one I really like.  Stephen Otis Kenyon is a native of Walla Walla Washington and lived for a time in Chateauneuf du Pape in France was encouraged by his wife to follow his passion and start making wine.  In fact, she secretly arranged to buy some Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and basically told her husband to go forth and make wine!  This story reminds me to give a big thanks to Wino4life wife, who similarly encouraged me to follow my passion with wine and I've never been happier!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Don't Dismiss Something Different

I am a big believer in trying new things, and heartily recommend exploration in the world of wine and food. With so many types of wines, and wine of the same type made in different styles - it's important not to dismiss a wine just because it is different than what you have enjoyed in the past.

Levels of Toasting of Oak Wine Barrels
A recent example of this for me was when we were out for dinner and enjoying a tasting menu with wine pairings.  For one course a Chardonnay was poured that was quite different than any I've had.  It was definitely a wine that spent time in oak, but oak that must have been toasted more toward the heavy side. The aroma of the wine was what I can only describe as apples and burnt biscuits.  It would have been easy for me to dismiss the wine as too "different" and not made like the typical oaked Chardonnay.  But then came the dish paired with the wine. A piece of salmon with a wonderfully charred skin, some charred brussels sprouts and a beet juice sauce.  Wow - the char of the dish and the super toasted oak element of the wine was a knockout pairing!  I need to remind myself sometimes as well... but don't dismiss something just because it's different. Different can be good, or even great!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2012 Macchia Petite Sirah Bodacious

I had not perused the "other red" section of my Total Wine & More recently, so was on the hunt for something interesting to try. I have become a fan of Petite Sirah when looking for a nice big fruity red wine.  With a word like Bodacious on the label - I just had to give it a try! Also I don't recall having any wines from Amador County which is located southeast of Sacramento, California.  All the more intriguing!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Chardonnay

Chardonnay Grapes
Chardonnay grapes are used to make wines with a variety of incarnations. Since Chardonnay is a very “neutral” grape, the decisions of the winemaker throughout the winemaking process have a significant impact on the finished product. 

Some winemakers choose to use oak barrels to ferment and age the wine, others prefer to forego oak and stick with stainless steel, while others may choose a combination of fermentation in stainless and aging in oak. Since it can be manipulated so much as part of the winemaking process, Chardonnay is typically bottled without blending it with other grape varieties.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Summertime Grilled Fish

Summertime grilling isn't always about steak, burgers, and hot dogs. It is also a great time to enjoy fish prepared on the grill. The charring of the grill adds a bitter taste element to the fish that makes the flavor profile all the more interesting. In picking a wine for your grilled fish, ask yourself what do you typically do to fish before serving or eating it? Whether sautéed, deep fried, or grilled, a squeeze of lemon is a typical finishing treatment. The lemon adds acidity that works to brighten the flavors of the fish.  A good acidic wine will have the same impact as that squeeze of lemon.  For my pairing suggestions today I am going to avoid the typical choices like Sauvignon Blanc (which is a great pairing), but point you to some lesser known grapes that will perfectly complement your meal.  Why not try something new!

Eating this?:
  • Grilled Fish.
Drink this:
  • Albariño. This Spanish white is very versatile, and is one of my go-to white wines for food pairing.  
  • Torrontes. The white wine of Argentina is another excellent pairing option with a nice amount of balanced acidity, and typically very aromatic.
  • Gavi. The white wine from Piedmont, Italy which doesn't get much attention because the reds of Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, and Barbera steal the spotlight. 
  • Grüner Veltliner. Austria's white wine is another very versatile wine for food pairing. Stick to Austrian versions for your pairing, as experiments with this grape in other areas do not seem to produce a product quite as good as the original.
  • Assyrtiko. Perhaps a bit tougher to find, this wine from Greece is a great option.  This grape is able to maintain acidity even as the grape ripens, so will produce a tasty, fruity wine that still has the acidity level you want.
Avoid this:
  • Avoid big reds.  The char level of the fish, and heartier fishes may hold up to a lighter red, but save the big reds for the steaks and burgers.
  • Avoid low acidity wines. Wines like Gewürtztraminer may not have the acidity level you want, and the perfume-like characteristics may clash with the flavors of your fish.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - California Zinfandel - 2010 Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel

Summer + Burgers for Dinner + 20% off Total Wine & More coupon = A great bottle of Red Zinfandel.  That's my kind of math! Let's see if my calculation worked...
 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Hot Dogs

An american classic meal that can be made better by the right wine pairing. In deciding what to pair - it's really all about the toppings.  So right after singing a chorus or two of "Who Let the Dogs Out...Who...Who?" check out my pairing advice.

Eating this?:

A hot dog in one of three configurations:
  • A simple hot dog with mustard, and maybe a touch of sauerkraut to add a nice acidic bite.
  • The delicious, topping packed Chicago dog with mustard, neon green relish tomato slices, pepper, pickle spear, and celery salt.
  • The chili dog - topped with a great chili (no beans please!), cheese and onions.
Drink this:
  • A simple hot dog can be paired nicely with a simple white wine, but I believe the way to go is a dry but fruity Rosé - just make sure it is a lighter colored wine which will tend to be lower in bitterness.
  • For the Chicago hot dog, a lighter white wine is best. A fruity Riesling from Washington State or Australia is a nice pairing. Sauvignon Blanc is another good choice with a good amount of acid, plus the grassy notes of the wine pair nicely with the various toppings.
  • A chili dog and a beer is always a good pairing, but a good hearty chili is also a nice partner with a fruity Red Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. 
Avoid this:
  • The Chicago dog's peppers, and spice from the chili on our Chili dog will not play nicely with big tannic red wines. The spice will accentuate the alcohol and throw the wine off balance.  This also goes for big oaky Chardonnays as well.
  • For the simple hot dog and the Chicago Dog, the acidity of the toppings needs a wine with a good amount of acidity. Avoid a Gewürtztraminer that may be too low in acid to hang.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Central California White - 2011 Zocker Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner, that white wine from Austria is one of my go-to white wines for food pairing. With aromas and flavors of citrus and herbs, it's like a squeeze of lemon and some fresh herbs to accentuate a dish.  My local Total Wine & More only carries a few brands of this wine - so I was intrigued when walking by the tiny Austria section and saw a new brand - Zocker. Wait... Edna Valley? Is there also an Edna Valley in Austria? Nope, this is a Grüner Veltliner from Central California, but stuck in the Austria section by the folks at Total Wine instead of getting banished to the "other white wines" section of the store. This island of misfit whites is home to such cast outs as Chenin Blanc, Viognier, and Torrontes.  So, after considering switching to Hugl, my usual Austrian brand, I decided to be adventurous.