Thursday, August 28, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Australian Red - 2010 Rubus Shiraz-Viognier Low Yield

I love browsing the aisles of a good wine shop looking for a new gem to try. Part of this activity is naturally deciphering the wine labels to figure out what may await me in the bottle. This particular bottle attracted me partly because the wine label is more informative than most. The front label alone tells me 1) the vines are low yield which means more concentrated flavor 2) the grape varieties and exact percentages (a touch of viognier is sometimes added to add floral aromas and can impart a silkier taste to the wine), and 3) the region - Barossa in Australia.  Sounds good to me... let's try it!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Don't Forget About the Food!

You take a sip of a red wine. Wow - mouth puckering tannins, that one is not for me! But wait, what are your plans for this wine? To sip on its own or to serve with a beautiful steak marbled with the right amount of tasty fat?  Look beyond those tannins - is there a good level of acidity, how are the flavors on the finish?  If you are picking a wine to serve with food, remember that the food and wine will interact and hopefully both will be better from the pairing.  The tannins in the wine will interact with the char, the fat and the protein (cooked mid-rare please!). The tannins will be tamed and the flavors of the steak will be heightened. Without those tannins, the pairing would not have been as successful.  A white wine that may seem too acidic when tasting, may be just what you need to cut through a dish - perhaps something deep fried. Without the acidity to cleanse your palate, the dish may seem too heavy and not as enjoyable.

Something to keep in mind while you are looking for the right wine - a nice fruity low tannin wine is great for sipping, but you must keep in mind what food you may serve with the wine and look for the characteristics in the wine that will team up nicely with your food selection.  It is not always easy to determine from tasting a wine what are characteristics that will accentuate a food pairing, and what are the characteristics of the wine that may just be shortcomings. It will take some time and some hits and misses, but practice makes perfect!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish (Basque) White - 2010 Bodega Iturrialde Bizkaiko Txakolina Gorka Izagirre

After the labor intensive process of shelling and cleaning a bunch of great shrimp from Whole Foods for my first ever attempt at making Spanish style Garlic Shrimp, I wanted a great wine to enjoy along with the garlicky goodness.  Commemorating our upcoming trip to Spain which will include a stop by the Basque Country in San Sebastian - I picked the most consumed white wine of the area - a Txakoli (Choh-co-lee).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Wine Glass Storage

As you progress towards becoming a wino, you might find your inventory of wine glasses starting to grow. As you begin to appreciate the need for different glasses to serve and enjoy red wine vs. white wine. vs sparkling wine, you may find yourself running out of place to store all this glassware!  
 I have a couple of tricks to help you out. You will need to dedicate some cupboard space for your wine glasses, but the first way to limit the impact is to figure out how much glassware you will need on a regular basis.  Find a primo spot for this glassware, and keep your extra glasses (you do have extras for breakage and those big dinner parties right???).  Another trick is to store the glasses one up, one down - this way you can fit more glassware into a single space.  I'm sharing some pictures of my readily available wine storage. In only two fairly small shelves I have 8 very big red wine glasses, a wine decanter, 6 white wine glasses, 4 sparkling wine flutes, and 4 small dessert wine glasses (plus 3 martini glasses and two Scotch glasses for those non-wine moments...shhhh don't tell anyone!).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Malbec

When people find out how "into" wine I am (translation - I'm a wino!), the first question is often "what is your favorite wine?" The questions makes perfect sense to ask - but is very difficult for me to answer... so invariably I end up answering "it depends."  What is the weather - hot, cold, sunny rainy? What am I eating, if anything? What am I doing - relaxing, socializing, cooking, hanging outside by the pool? How am I feeling? What time of day? What day of the week? Is it my first, second (or third) wine of the day? There are so many great wines that I love, and (hopefully) more great wines I find with each passing week - it is difficult for me to say my favorite.  I have been lucky to try a few once in a lifetime wines that were monumentally good - but to declare them my favorite would be frustrating as a favorite to me is something you enjoy regularly.

When I do think about the wines from grape varieties I most enjoy, there is also no real overall favorite, but the red wine grapes that come to my mind immediately are:
  • Syrah/Shiraz - The depth of flavor and variety of aromas (including such epic aromas as raw bacon) lead me to try a lot of this grape.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - With a well cooked steak, can't be beat.
  • Tempranillo - Spanish Rioja's are a go to to pair with food, or just to sip (or gulp!).
  • Grenache - Grenache based blends from the Rhone or California, and wines from Spain (called Garnacha there) are also very complex and interesting.
I could probably name several more here, but my overall point is that it would probably take a while before I would mention Malbec on this list, but quietly...slowly, secretly, Malbec has become one of the wines that I enjoy regularly.  In the history of wine, Malbec is one of the blending grapes used to make French Bordeaux (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot to make up the big Bordeaux five).  I do enjoy Bordeaux and Cahors which is a Malbec based wine from another region in France. But this use or old world style of wine is not the Malbec I'm talking about so fondly. I am talking about the grape that rocketed to a primary spot when it was taken to South America, primarily in Argentina.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Washington State Red - 2010 Kestrel Tribute Red

Pop quiz - I selected this wine because:

a. I have been experimenting more with blended wines
b. I have very much enjoying the wines of Washington (taste and value)
c. I was looking for a wine for a Hunger Games viewing party
d. All of the Above
e. Nothing I hate more than a Pop Quiz

(Hint: the answer is between c. and e.!)

Wine: 2010 Kestrel Tribute Red
Region: Yakima Valley, Washington State
Grape Varieties: 52% Mourvedre , 44% Merlot
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $20
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Monday, August 11, 2014

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

Raw oysters are not for everyone. To serve at home they take some skills and special tools. They look a little bizarre. You need to buy them alive and very fresh in order to enjoy raw. But if you buy a shucking knife and a protective glove, forget the looks, find a good fresh source to buy from... and WOW! Pure, fresh, wonderful flavors of the ocean.  For a wine pairing, think of the delicate flavor of a raw oyster  how a squeeze of lemon juice elevates the flavor of seafood, especially oysters. The right wine with the right level of acidity and a delicate enough flavor profile will provide you with one of the most epic wine pairings you will ever experience!

Eating this?:
  • Raw oysters - shuck em, being careful not to lose the liquid (liqueur) inside.
Drink this:
  • Chablis. This Chardonnay based French wine is grown in soil that contains fossilized oyster shells. It was literally grown to pair with oysters! Chablis typically sees only a little time in oak, so the wines will be nice and crisp and excellent for this pairing. Cheaper Chablis can be disappointing, so you may want to splurge for a Grand Cru to get the best result.
  • Sauvignon Blanc.  When you are looking for an acidic white wine, Sauvignon Blanc is a great option. California, French or New Zealand versions will go nicely with oysters.  Be careful to not to get a version that is oaked (sometimes bottles as Fume Blanc).
  • Sparkling Wine - but be careful! Champagne or other sparkling wine is often paired with oysters, but you want to be careful to get a crisp fruity version so the taste does not overpower your oysters. A Blanc de Blanc Champagne which is made from all (or almost all) Chardonnay grapes is a good bet.
Avoid this:
  • Avoid Red Wine. You will almost never hear such a generalization in food and wine pairing.  The truth is you could look to a super light red like a Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape for a possible pairing, but there are too many spot on options to mess around with anything in the red world.
  • Avoid Fuller Bodied Whites. Especially avoid big buttery, oaky Chardonnay wines. As fantastic as a Chablis will pair with oysters, the same grape made in a fuller bodied style will destroy the delicate taste of the oyster and will likely end up making the wine taste unbalanced.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2013 Aviva Vino Almansa Niel Santofimia

Great wines at $10 a bottle are one of my lifetime quests. Not an easy find, but Spanish wines are where you can definitely find some great values. I spotted this one when picking up some great steaks at a local gourmet grocery store.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - F*in Merlot

Merlot Grapes
For those of you who have seen the movie Sideways once, or fifty times like me - please don’t judge Merlot wine based on Miles’ legendary statement “I’m not drinking any f*ing Merlot!” This statement from Sideways (whether your a wine geek or not I recommend it - a great flick!) did have a fairly dramatic impact on Merlot sales in the U.S., which before the release of the movie were surpassing Cabernet Sauvignon sales in the U.S (around the year 2000).  In a bit of wine geek irony, during the movie Miles slams both Merlot and Cabernet Franc - yet his prized bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc that he sips from a styrofoam cup at the end of the movie is in fact a blend of both of these grape varieties from Bordeaux, France.  It has been a few years since Sideways, and it looks like Merlot is recovering.
Regardless of the impact of an offhanded comment in a (really great) movie, Merlot is a grape capable of making some really great wine.  Personally, my bucket list includes imbibing in a bottle of Chateau Petrus - which will only be feasible with a very big lottery win - but hey, you never know. (Writer’s note - I seldom buy lottery tickets, as the chances of winning are about the same if you play or not - chances are about the same that someone will walk up me on the street and hand me $100 Million!!).  Merlot can make big and powerful wines just like Cabernet Sauvignon, but Merlot wines tend to be less tannic, have lower alcohol, and more of a bright fruit aroma and taste.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Can you Say "PB&J"?

Decadent dishes with foie gras and truffles are great and all, but sometimes you need to satisfy your craving with a simple classic. What is more classic than a good old Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich? (OK, maybe a grilled cheese, we'll tackle that pairing in another posting!) Perhaps an early harbinger of becoming a wino, my childhood favorite drink for a PB&J was Welches grape soda. A sweet tasting soda is a great pairing, as the salty and sweet mix with the peanut butter is a great mix, plus the sweetness of the drink stands up to the sweetness of the jelly.  But we want to have wine with our sammie!

Eating this?:
  • Food: The PBJ, just bread peanut butter and jelly or jam.
Drink this:
  • Drink something sweet and nutty like a Madiera or Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Be careful of other Sherry styles like Fino, Manzanilla, or Amontillado - these dryer styles will pair nicely with the Peanut Butter, but will clash with the sweetness of the jelly.
  • Drink other wines with some sweetness - real sweetness from residual sugar. An off-dry sparkling, Riesling, or Chenin Blanc would pair nicely, especially if the jelly is made from a light colored fruit such as peach or apricot.
Avoid this:
  • Avoid any dry wine - your wine should always be sweeter that the food you are pairing or the two will clash.
  • Avoid sickly sweet wines. A Port, Tokaji or Sauternes will taste good for a few bites, but the richness may get overwhelming as you finish off your sandwich - especially if you have a side of potato chips to wash down!