Friday, April 15, 2016

The Fermented Gourmet: Versatile and Food Friendly Wines

The Fermented Gourmet: Versatile and Food Friendly Wines

Versatile and Food Friendly Wines

I just read an article in Food and Wine called The 12 Wines that Pair with Absolutely Everything.
It was a good read with good information.  However, it suggests wines at price points higher than my pool of customers can afford.  Here are some suggestions based on this list, but at more budget-friendly prices.  I will go 1-12 in the same order as the article.

1.  Saint Hilaire Brut - The first Sparkling Wine produced in France about a century before anything from the Champagne Region.

2.  Meinhard Forstreiter Gruner Veltliner (aka. Grooner) - Gruner Veltliners are light in body with crisp acidity.

3.  Pewsey Vale Riesling - A dry Riesling from Australia that has some serious awards behind it.

4.  Hugel Gentil - The wine world was saddened by the passing of Etienne Hugel last week.  The Gentil is a great gateway wine into the Alsace region of France.

5.  Wente "Morning Fog" Chardonnay - This is an estate grown and bottled wine, but not too heavy for pairing with food.

6.  Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois - A Gamay from the Beaujolais region in France.

7. Chateau De Pizay Morgon - A Cru Gamay from Beaujolais

8.  Ravenswood Mendocino Zinfandel - A rocking Zin from a cooler climate.

9.  Bodegas Breca Grenache - Aragon, Spain.  Beautifully balanced.   A home run.

10.  M. David 6th Sense Syrah - Lodi, California.

11.  Vina Falerna Syrah - Chile is producing some beautiful Syrah these days and very affordable.

12.  Trifula Piemonte Rosso DOC - 80% Barbera and 20% Nebbiolo

There is no mention of a Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc or Tempranillo listed in the article.  I find these wines to be very food friendly also.  I've kept this short and to the point.  Please add a comment or a question if you would like.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Crios Wines of Argentina

The Crios line of wines are a creation of famed Argentine winemaker, Susan Balboa.  She was recognized as one of "The Most Influential Women Wine Makers" in 2012 and "Woman of the Year" in 2015 by the Drinks Business magazine.

The intent of the Crios line is to produce fruit forward and easy drinking wines to be consumed in their youth.  They are natural wines for enjoyment on their own, but also work well at barbecues and other social gatherings.  Not to mention, they have received numerous awards and high ratings since their creation.

The Torrontes is an aromatic white varietal.  It often smells sweet, but it does finish dry. This is perfect for sitting on the deck on a clear afternoon, or pairing with Asian or Indian Quisine.

The Red Blend is a combination of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Tannat. It is a soft, lush wine with just a hint of oak.  Open this one up at any backyard barbecue, and you'll be considered a wine guru by your friends.

Finally, the Malbec, a signature varietal for Argentina, is a structured, sturdy wine to go along with that big Rib Eye sizzling on the grill.  The presence of more tannins from time spent in oak barrels are soften by the fat content of the steak.

These wines are very reasonably priced and seamlessly go from a Tuesday night wine to a Saturday night wine.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Wines of Alsace

Its Spring.  The weather is getting warmer, and Summer is just around the corner.  I'm not sure if everyone categorizes wines as either a Summer wine or a Winter Wine.  In my case, any time you open a bottle of wine is a good time to drink it.  That being said, if you are one who thinks of wines in terms of the weather, let me introduce you to something other than Pinot Grigios or Sauvignon Blancs.

The Alsace region in France is known mostly for white wine, and tends to use the varietal name on the label.  Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc are a few examples.  These wines, however, can be rather costly.  But, when these wines are blended, they offer a good starting point for enjoying Alsace wines.

Edelzwicker is a blanket term used for these wines, and they have no restrictions as to the blend or how it is vinified.  The term Gentil, is also a blend, but must stick to an established charter of how these wines are blended and vinified.  Only the "noble" varietals can be used, and they all need to be vinified separately before blending.

 Some Alsace producers use a proprietary name for their blend, or simply label it is as an Alsace Blanc.  Keutz Bas is an example of this.

The blend for this wine is made up of Sylvaner, Auxerrois and Muscat.  These aren't exactly house hold names, but they do make a nice wine that is light, floral and dry.

The Meyer-Fonne Edelzwicker is composed mostly of Pinot Blanc, and the rest are a combination of the lesser known varietals.  It is also floral, dry and complex.

Hugel's Gentil follows the standards of the charter, and uses Gewurztraminer as its base.

It is freshly aromatic with floral and fruit driven notes.  It has a bit more body than the others mentioned here, but finished equally dry.

All these wines are perfect for the warmer weather, but should not be relegated to the shelf until the Spring time.  They are delicious all year.  As far as a food pairing, please check out my recipe for Alsace Farmhouse Chicken.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Louis Latour Pinot Noir Valmoissine

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of spending a week with the Latours at their annual Burgundy Seminar.  It was a wonderful experience that I'll treasure, and what I learned remains with me until this day.

The Latour offices are in the town of Beaune.  They are what is known as a Negociant, meaning that they buy a large amount of theirs grapes from some of the smaller growers in Burgundy.  While they do own vineyards in the Burgundy region, they started investing in other areas of France, particularly in the south.  Burgundy prices had long been going up, and the Latours saw an opportunity to craft great wines at a reasonable price.

Their first purchase was in the Ardeche.  Ardeche is located west of the Rhone Valley and is an ideal climate for Chardonnay.  They produce two wines from this area, one is a stainless steel fermented wine with a clean, and crisp flavorful profile.  The other is called The Grand Ardeche and uses grapes that the Latours feel are perfectly suited for their Burgundian style of wine making.  This means that they are barrel fermented and aged in oak for a certain amount of time.

Now, onto my favorite of the bunch.  After the Latours found so much success making Chardonnay in the south of France, they wanted to find an area to plant Pinot Noir.  Their search ended in the VAR region.  No reason to get wine geeky here, just realize that Pinot Noir needs a long growing season with cool nights.  They found these conditions at an ancient monastary and university named Valmoissine.  At an elevation of about 500 meters, there is plenty of sun during the day, and the nights cool down to ensure a long growing season with plenty of hang time.

I had previously been bitten by the Pinot Noir bug long before I tasted this wine.  The problem was that the bug that bit me sold for about $30.00.  This was not exactly in my price range. So when I tasted the Valoissine Pinot Noir, I new immediatly that this was going to be my go-to Pinot Noir.  It had all the characteristics of the one mentioned above and sells in the $14.99 range.

I'm not going to burden you with all the aromas and flavors I got out of this wine.  It was just a sublime experience that Pinot Noir lovers have, and can only be experience subjectively.  So, I encourage all, not just Pinot Noir lovers to give this wine a taste.  Please share your experience and thoughts in the comment section.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Alsace Farmhouse Chicken with Spaetzle

6 lbs. Chicken (whole cut up, legs and thighs, etc.  I don't recommend chicken breasts)
Salt and Pepper
4 T. Olive Oil
12 T. Butter
1 bulb garlic, minced
2 medium onions, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 C. White Wine Vinegar (Martin Pouret)
2 C. White Wine, I used Riesling
2 T. Honey
1 8 oz. jar peach jam
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. tomato paste
2 C. Chicken Stock


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange chicken pieces in a large baking pan.  Season with salt and pepper and bake for about 20 mins.  This is to get the outside brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Melt Olive Oil and 4 T. Butter in a large stock pot.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, salt and pepper and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook 2 mins.  Next add the vinegar, wine, honey, mustard and peach jam.  Let this reduce by half.  Taste to make sure all is in balance.  If too vinegary, add more honey.  If too sweet, add more vinegar.

Next, pour the vinegar and wine mixture into the roasting pan with the chicken.  Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the juices run clear from the chicken.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Cook spaetzle according to package instructions.

To serve, arrange the spaetzle on the bottom of the plate.  Place chicken piece or pieces on top of spaetzle.  Ladle the sauce over top, making sure that the spaetzle get plenty.  Sprinkle parley on top.

Wine Pairings:

Hugel Gentil
Hugel Pinot Gris
J. Lohr Bay Mist Riesling

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mexican Veggie Soup with Duck

1 Maple Leaf Farm Rotissierie Half Duck
1 Quart Water
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery, diced
1 Jalapeno, diced (with seeds or without, depending on taste)
1 Tbs. Salish Potlash Seasoning
1 tsp. Bacon Freak Bacon Hot Sauce
1/4 C. White Wine
2 C. Chicken Stock
10 Tomatillos, pureed
2 C.  Main Street Produce Canned Tomatoes
1 container Main Street Produce Frozen Butterbeans
1 container Main Street Produce Frozen Corn

In a soup pan, bring the quart of water to a boil and add the duck.  Boil for 10 minutes and turn off the heat.  Set aside.

In a different soup pan on medium heat, add the olive oil first and wait 1 minute.  Next add the onion, carrot, celery and diced jalapeno and stir a couple times.  Add the Potlash Seasoning and the Bacon Freak Hot Sauce and continue stirring until the veggies are tender (about 5 minutes).

Next add the wine and de-glaze the pan, add the chicken stock and pureed tomotillos and stir.

Next, strain the water from the pan with the duck and add the water to the soup.  Follow this with the canned tomatoes, butterbeans and corn..

Remove the meat from the duck, and chop into small pieces.  Add that to the pot.

Let simmer for about 2 hours, serve with more diced jalabenos or even a dollop of sour cream.

Wine Pairings:  There are no hard set rules on this, but here are my choices.

Hecht & Bannier Rose

Lapierre Raisins Gaulos Beaujolais
Venta Morales Tempranillo

Wrongo Dongo Monastrel.

Beer Pairings:

Victory Helios
Bell's Oberon