Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Cheers To You

Archive for the ‘Wine/Food Pairings’ Category

Taste Washington Bites with Wine Review

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

tastewaThe 17th annual Taste Washington featured dozens of restaurants. Each of those restaurants came up with a Pacific Northwest inspired bite that had their own signature. It was an inspiring array of dishes that you could put together for your next wine tasting.  From savory desserts (olive oil ice cream) to oysters on the half shell, scallops and salmon, with pork bellies, steak, lamb and cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, arugula, Taste Washington left no culinary stone unturned.

This tastings tapas-styled food bite was absolutely necessary when you are walking around with a wine glass, small food tray with the wine glass holder, program, pen, and, in some cases, a spit cup. That’s a lot of stuff to juggle with just two hands.

Following is the short list of the bites that inspired me and a Washington wine that I did or would pair with the little dish.

Andaluca‘s Cauliflower soup with lardons and pickled beets is an inspired dish. For the match, go with a Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima’s Chinook Winery or Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek. http://www.andaluca.com/

Anthony’s Pier 66 served up pan seared scallops with bacon jam and bib lettuce on a toasted bruschetta. This is the one for Chinook’s 2012 Chardonnay or Challenger Ridge Winery’s 2011 Columbia Valley dry Riesling. http://www.anthonys.com/

AQUA by El Gaucho was shucking Taylor Shellfish oysters faster than a speeding bullet but still could not keep up with demand. I love oysters with Champagne but my second choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc. Try the White Bordeaux blend from L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla 2012 or Cave B 2012 Ancient Lakes White Bordeaux blend. http://www.elgaucho.com/Aqua-by-El-Gaucho.html

Barking Frog’s Sweet potato and lamb chorizo croquette red pepper rouille begs for  a Syrah or a Sirah! One of my favs, Gordon Winery Pixie Syrah or the Laurelhurst Cellars 2009 Horse Heaven Hills El Humidor Petite Sirah. http://www.willowslodge.com/barking_frog/

Boom Noodle restaurant is named after a popular Japanese term, meaning the thing one is currently obsessed with. These guys are obsessed with Japanese cuisine and their Seared Albacore rice noodle salad is delightful. Try this with Facelli’s Columbia Valley 2012 unoaked Chardonnay or the appropriately named COR Cellars 2013 AlbaCOR Columbia George 2013 White. http://www.boomnoodle.com/v2/

Cheeseland Inc. Now we’re talking! Wine and Cheese have a natural affinity to each other. I really loved the Honeybee goat cheese, and Ewephoria sheep milk cheese. Long Shadows Vintners Columbia Valley 2010 Chester Kidder Red Blend or Mark Ryan’s 2011 Red Mountain Dead Horse Cab, despite the name is delicious. http://cheeselandinc.com/

Evolve Chocolate Truffles  This was a lovely treat in two ways, it was a passed hors d’ouvres and it was delicious.  “The Colombian” is a rich chocolate coffee flavored truffle that paired nicely with the Three Rivers 2009 Walla Walla Cab. http://www.evolvetruffles.com/

Far-Eats  Love the Name! This is an Indian restaurant with a wine list with over 50 Washington wines on the list. The bite served was Chana Chaat – Chana is Indian for garbanzo beans. These beans were dressed with green chili, onion and tomatoes and sprinkled with cumin seeds, red chili powder, lime juice and coriander leaves. Easy, nutritious and delicious! The Kana Winery 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Old Vines Lemberger has the depth and fruit and Kyra Wines 2011 Wahluke Slope Dolcetto would be another great match for this dish. http://www.geogychacko.com/far-eats.html

Kalaloch Lodge  Smoked salmon artichoke dip and rosemary crisp, loved the way this was served, the dip was on one part of the cracker, and the empty side hung over the side of an elevated tray. Easy to grab and delicious to snack on. W.T. Vintners 2013 Columbia Gorge Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape with the right amount of acidity is just the ticket. Or try Whidbey Island Vineyard and Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Sangiovese Rosato.  http://www.thekalalochlodge.com/

La Panzanella  Founded in 1990, La Panzanella, known for its hearty peasant bread and homey cafe, quickly grew into one of the most popular bakeries in Seattle’s Capital Hill area. They offered their original and rosemary croccantini crackers with a truffle-infused cheese. Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Wahluke Slope Barbera, or staying with the Italian grapes, Leone Italian Cellars 2009 Walla Walla Dolcetto or 2009 Wahluke Slope Nebbiolo.  http://lapanzanella.com/

Margaux  This French themed restaurant is in the Warwick Seattle Hotel. Chef Chris Zarkades, attended South Seattle Community College’s nationally renowned and accredited culinary program to learn the craft. His red wine poached figs with Roquefort cheese crostinis demand a Bordeaux styled wine like for a big bodied red with some maturity, Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Le Coursier Columbia Valley Red Bordeaux Blend.  http://www.margauxseattle.com/

Paella Seattle Dished up the classic paella recipes of Valencia, Spain, which means chicken, pork and Bomba rice with green and red peppers, onions, garlic, green beans, sweet peas and artichoke hearts. Gotta go with the Tempranillo grape here. Michael Florentino Cellars, Naches Heights Vineyard, Camaraderie Cellars, Cave B Estate Winery, Fall Line Winery, Kana Winery or Stottle Winery all do a rendition of Rioja, the Spanish classic red with paella.

Palisade Waterfront Restaurant  Assorted cured and smoked tartares – cured salmon with Meyer lemon crème fraiche, caper, dill, and a ‘everything bagel crumble, apple wood smoked scallops with pineapple, Fresno chili and micro cilantro, Hamachi apple with ginger, jalapeño, Ahi tuna sesame with tamarind, soy and green onion, and mesquite grilled avocado smoked chili salt, minis sweet pepper, and cilantro. My favorite wine of the day: Kyra Wines 2013 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc with any one of these wonderful tastes.   http://www.palisaderestaurant.com/

SkyCity at the Needle   Stinging nettle soup with crispy razor clams was delightful with JM Winery’s 2013 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc and another match would be Davenport’s 2012 Columbia Valley White Bordeaux blend. http://www.spaceneedle.com/home/

Tablas Woodstone Taverna is part of a family of Mediterranean restaurants, Is located in Mill Creek. Their gazpacho is best paired with the Cote de Ciel 2012 Red Mountain Viognier. http://www.tablaswt.com/

Trace Seattle Restaurant and Bar offers a dining experience led by Executive Chef Steven Ariel, who sports a menu filled with contemporary, inventive dishes with a 10-seat sushi bar.  Highlighting their inventiveness was the smoked baby octopus veggie was a bit on the spicy side and there for a perfect pair with Hogue’s Columbia Valley 2011 Gewürztraminer. http://www.traceseattle.com/

The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit www.tastewashington.org.


Orange Muscat with Pancakes

Sunday, March 16th, 2014
Pairing breakfast with wine is not the way to start the day unless of course, it’s a Sunday, a brunch and a celebration. And then, we generally gravitate to the celebration wine that always works with breakfast type foods – sparkling wines.
But rather than another sparkling wine with this Aloha breakfast that Ann Vogel is suggesting, let’s look at it as a bit like a dessert rather than breakfast. And the rule of thumb for pairing desserts with wine is the wine is must be a bit sweeter than the dessert.
If you think about it, pineapples and coconut syrup, pancakes with nuts, have all the ingredients of a pie. Or a pineapple upside down cake. Or some of the ingredients of grilled pineapple with a side of coconut ice cream. So, which wine with pineapples and coconuts?
There are few wines as sweet and floral as a Muscat.  Muscat is in the Vitis Vinifera family along with Cabernet, Syrah and Chardonnay.
There are many varieties of Muscat that range in color white to black. Muscat is very much like Gewurztraminer in the aroma department; it’s very fragrant with a distinct floral aroma.
A few of the most popular muscats are Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains which is used to produce Asti Spumante from Italy’s Piedmont region. In France, a fortified wine called vin doux naturel is made from this variety of muscat.
One of my all time favorites is a Muscat Liqueur from Australia, very hard to come by but worth seeking out. It’s very PX like with aroma of coffee, fruit cake, raisins and toffee.
Spanish Moscatel is also fortified, made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape. Moscatel de Setúbal is a fortified wine from Portugal, usually served in bars or as an aperitif.
I first tasted Muscat Ottonel many years ago at a little winery in Oregon called Eyrie; it was dry and very aromatic. And there is Muscat Canelli, with quite a few vineyards in Washington, BV’s Muscat de Beauleiu is made from Muscat Frontignan , Moscato Bianco, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat d’Alsace, Muskateller, Moscatel Rosé, and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. Those are the white skinned grapes, but most are caramel colored in the finished product.
For darker skinned grapes, there is Muscat Rose à Petit Grains, Moscato Giallo, Moscato Rosa. These produce light fragrant rose scented wines.
 in California and Cyprus, dessert wine is made from the Black Muscat.
And then there is the Orange Muscat. These dessert wines have something of an orange aroma and a delightful sweetness to them that just pairs naturally to the pineapple and coconut.
Quady Winery out of California has been “keeping it sweet” since 1975. They make a number of dessert wines including port and a variety of muscats.
Their Essensia is an orange scented wine fortified to 15% alcohol and aged for 3 months in French oak puncheons. Its vibrancy makes it an excellent accompaniment to desserts such as the pineapple pancakes.
But even better is their Electra. As stated on the website, this little sweetie is “light as springtime, delicately sweet, refreshingly crisp, a bouquet of flowers with the taste of peach and melon.”
The wine is filtered at bottling when it is at 4% alcohol which makes it the perfect wine for an Aloha breakfast.
Quady is distributed by Unique Wines. Essencia 2012 is $20 for a full bottle and $15 for the half. Electra 2012 is $10 for the half bottle. Enjoy!

The Hotter, the Sweeter

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

If you’re wondering what pairs well with curry, you’re not alone. There are more opinions on the subject than there are curries and the range is “just go with a beer” to any off dry wine you like.

The crux of the quandary is the amount of heat from the chilies and the alcohol. I read somewhere that chili heat and warmth of alcohol hit the same receptors on your palate, so when you have a lot of heat and high alcohol, the burning sensation is intensified.

Pairing wine with curry is tricky and it gets trickier the hotter the curry is. Some like their curry hot, some do not. It’s a lot like wine in that respect; it’s only a good if you like it.

Are you fond of the rush from Ghost Peppers, which clock in at 460,000 Scoville Heat Units? If so, fire away with a fruity 16% California Zinfandel or a beer. (For reference, the jalapeño rates from 2,500 –10,000 SHU depending on where and how it’s grown.)

But if you’re more likely to be in the 10,000 SHU, the pairing should be a low alcohol wine ranging around 10 to 12.5% alcohol with a lot of up front fruit.

In my experience, what pairs well with curry is a refreshing contrast to the heat of the food. Take a bite of curried chicken and put out the flames with something cold and sweet. The sugar or fruity sweetness and cold supplies that contrast. It can be actual unfermented sugars or residual sugars or it may be just a ripe fruity red with low alcohol.

Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s most underrated and versatile varietals. Chenin Blanc is the grape that made France’s Loire Valley Vouvray famous. And they can be sweet, dry, dessert, sparkling in so many delicious ways.

 

But Chenin Blanc suffers from an image problem, so I’m here to convince you to try one with the chicken or pork curry recipes submitted by Ann Vogel. The high acidity, low alcohol and fruity character would compliment either of these curry recipes.

Chenin Blanc is a vigorous vine and has a tendency to bud early and ripen late. These attributes have made it the workhorse in California’s Central Valley where it is blended with Columbard and Thompson Seedless and sold in jugs – with handles on them.

But grown under the conditions of  the cool Loire Valley, with its chalky soils, it can produce a wider range of styles, from bone dry to real sweet and even sparkling. Chenin Blanc can vary from thin with high acidity (where it is over cropped) to minerally and crisp, with intense fruit and the ability to age gracefully.

The aromas and flavors of Chenin can be citrus, floral and sometimes tropical. Older vineyards have wonderful floral aromatics, body and minerality that make the grape so delicious.

Here are a few Chenin Blancs, highly recommended and most are from vineyards over 30 years old.

Pontin del Roza 2012 Yakima Valley Chenin Blanc is, I must say, one of my all time favorites. I sold gallons of this in my day. The Pontin family has been farming along the Roza Canal in the Yakima Valley for over 40 years. In the 1980s, they began planting vineyards. This little sweetie, at 2.8% residual sugar, is all pears, melon and lemon zest aromas with wonderful peachy, flavors and a crisp clean finish.

L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc is sold out but the 2013 will be released this spring. Be ready! This is sourced from one of the older vineyards in Washington. This wine has that enticing pear, peach and nectarine aromas with floral hints and fresh tropical flavors balanced by a crisp, citrusy finish. $14

Kiona Columbia Valley 2013 Chenin Blanc is another Old Vine Wine that is made in a crisp, clean style with peach and apricot flavors and mouthwatering acidity that balances the sweetness. The finish has a lovely mineral quality. $15

Hestia Cellars 2011 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc is a delightful wine that offers an enticing nose of pear, peach, and honeysuckle with a hint of minerals. The fruit is intense with that wonderful ripe fruit, wet stone and slightly honeyed yet dry finish. Around $16

Cedergreen 2011 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc this dry wine, 13.8%, is sourced from 32 year old vines off Snipes Road. It may be tough to find since there were only 70 cases made. But they’ll release the next vintage this spring. I love this wine for its minerality, pear and melon flavors and creaminess. $17

McKinley Springs 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Chenin Blanc is also made in a dry style that reminds me of the spring trip in the Loire Valley. Heaven! Also from a vineyard planted in 1981, the aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle and orange blossoms are wonderful. The ripe fruit flavors are apple and citrus with a lovely touch of minerality, spice and dry finish. A bargain at $14.

Alas, Chenin Blanc will never be popular like Chardonnay but for wine lovers and the adventuresome, it’s worth seeking out. It could surely use your support.


An Evening in Italy

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Last fall Brynn put us up on the auction block for a fundraiser for her sorority. It was to  raise money for a scholarship and we have this unique and sought after talent: cooking, wine pairing and cleaning up.

We quickly decided on an Italian theme since it is so popular and there are so many Italian wines to choose from. Our goal was to wow them with dinner, and introduce them to some unique Italian wines.

The evening began with a classic antipasti called Bagna Cauda which literally translates to  “hot bath.” The bath is made of garlic and anchovies steeped in olive oil. This is served with little chunks of asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and Pugliese bread.

The diner dips the vegetables into the hot oil while using the bread to catch any drips, and then mangia, mangia! Two wines were served with this dish: a white, Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio from Veneto ($13) and a rosso, Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti ($14).

The Pinot Grigio from the Venice area was crisp, floral with good weight. The Barbera was perfect, lots of fruit with a hint of herbs and very good acidity. The acidity is typical of this grape variety and a perfect foil to the olive oil.

The pasta course was cheese ravioli in brown butter with sautéed mushrooms and toasted garlic. The wine, Villa Caffagio Chianti Classico 2009 was so smooth, with depth and great flavors of cherries and herbs. It was well balanced and had a wonderful silky finish. It can be had for around $19.

Brodetto, or the soup course, was a spicy potato kale served with a Tuscan red. We chose the Tuscan red to be served after the Chianti Classico because we wanted to show the Sangiovese grape from the same area in a different way.

We poured a Villa Antinori Toscana Red 2009. To have Chianti on the label a wine must meet the strict regulations governing the region. Any number of technicalities prevent the use of Chianti on the label including the wine does not have the required 80 percent Sangiovese; the fruit is
sourced from vineyards outside Chianti; or there are additions of fruit to the blend that are not allowed.

For the main entrée, Chicken Saltimbocca in Marsala flanked by roasted acorn squash, sage-scented cannellini and Chard, we served two wines: Montresor Valpolicella 2009 and Catina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010. Valpolicella is a blend of grapes, Corvina, Rodinella and Molinara from the wine regions surrounding Venice. The Montepulciano is the grape from the Abruzzi area which is located at the calf on the Italian boot. Both are rich and fruity in their own way and sell for around $12 each.

Dolce was a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake which was wonderfully matched to the Risata Moscato d’Asti 2012 ($13). Moscato d’Asti is the Muscat grape, one of only two white grapes grown in the Piedmonte region of NW Italy. In this case, the wine is slightly fizzy or frizzante as the Italians call it. It was a match made in heaven.


The Vegetable Wine

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

I’ve tasted wine made from vegetables. Rhubarb is probably my favorite vegetable wine. Once a home winemaker gave me a bottle of his onion wine, but when he handed it to me he said, “Don’t drink it, use it for marinade.” I took his wine and his good advice.
However, if ever there was a wine to pair with vegetables, Sauvignon Blanc would be the winner. Whether it’s peas, olives, a salad with celery, cucumbers and bell peppers, or even the wine tricky asparagus and artichokes, this is the one!  It’s a touchdown with Ann Vogel’s cauliflower and broccoli recipes.
Sauvignon Blanc’s aromas range from grass, hay, bell pepper, to the citrus grapefruit, lemon zest, green apples, gooseberries and in some soils, lots of minerals. The flavor profile is similar with refreshing, lively acidity that makes this grape so vegetable, fish and cheese friendly.
But Sauvignon Blanc didn’t have an easy childhood in the U.S. The name was a drawback. Then, early in the 1970s, Robert Mondavi, California’s biggest wine promoter, renamed it Fume Blanc. That did the trick, easier to ask for than Sauvignon Blanc, it soon enjoyed enormous success. The 2011 vintage is, according to the website, “a beautiful, Sancerre-like balance of citrusy fruit and herbal flavors – citrus, honeydew, lemon verbena – with cleansing minerality and racy acidity.”
Washington’s Chinook Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc has always been a favorite because of its racy acidity, citrus and herb flavors that pair so well with fish, cheese and vegetables. From their website, this 2012 “medium bodied wine shows a very impressive balance between the generous pear and citrus fruits and the crisp acidity.” Around $18.
A relatively vigorous vine, Sauvignon Blanc adapts easily to different kinds of terrior. As an early ripener, growing in colder climates doesn’t pose too much of a problem. It even does well in warmer regions as its naturally high acidity allows it to retain its zinginess even in warmer areas. However, as any grape variety will tell you if it could talk, bring on the bright sunshine and a dry harvest!
This green skinned grape is widely planted around the world. In France, you’ll find it under the name of regions such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, and Quincy from the Loire Valley.  In Bordeaux, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers and Sauterne are the regions that excel with this grape, however, in these regions, Sauvignon Blanc is almost always blended with Sémillon and occasionally Muscadelle. This is particularly true when making a Sauterne.
Australia’s Margaret River wine region also makes a habit of blending their Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon but this is more in the fashion of the dry white Bordeaux wines.
A decade or so ago, New Zealand burst onto the wine world with this grape as their standard bearer. Today, the wine region of Marlborough at the northern tip New Zealand produces more Sauvignon Blanc than all of France put together.
Other areas where you would find this grape, although not to the extent of France and New Zealand, are Chile, South Africa, and the cool yet sunny alpine slopes of Alto Adige in Italy.
The biggest production of Sauvignon Blanc is the United States. Both California and Washington are big contributors with a smattering from Oregon and Idaho.
And here’s a fun fact for all the I-prefer-red-wine drinkers out there. In 1997, DNA fingerprinting pegged the green skinned Sauvignon Blanc grape as a parent of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It’s believed this ‘marriage’ with Cabernet Franc happened in Bordeaux around the 18th Century.
The two Sauvignons have a lot in common: name, point of origin, characteristic bell pepper and herbaceous aromas and flavors, vigorous vines that produce large crops and overly dense canopies.
Both parent and offspring are now two of the most widely planted grape varieties in the wine world.


I’m Dreaming of a Wine Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

cork wreathYep, that’s right. No white stuff on Christmas for me. My dream is not exactly the Long Christmas Dinner envisioned by Thornton Wilder but a glorious Christmas Dinner with friends and family, several courses, a different wine with each course and lots of jolly conversation.

We’ll begin with grilled oysters on the half shell, a favorite starter. When they’re hot off the grill, cover them with a sauce made from cilantro, shallots, sushi vinegar, salad oil and pepper. We call it Alki Sauce and even those that shy away from bivalves, could be converted. It also helps to pop several bottles of bubbly, not only is it perfect match with the oysters, it helps to set that celebratory mood.

Next, a second course will move into the next level of white wine – the fish course. A couple of succulent, seared scallops on a bed of wild greens glistening with honey mustard dressing is my first choice. The queen of wines – white burgundy with its savory notes or a domestic Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley or Santa Barbara – would pair up very nicely with the scallops and mustard dressing.

Ah and now the main course, a slab of meat with savory vegetables.  Picture a beautifully browned pork roast served with a pear thyme sauce, butternut squash bread pudding with a refreshing, crisp salad of fennel, apple and shaved Parmesan on the side.

With this main dish we’ll bring out that wine we’ve been saving for a special occasion – an old Bordeaux from 1995 or that magnum of Washington red from 1990 or both. Yeah, that would be heaven.

For dessert, we’ll have an apple cake – I’m stuck on that this year. This will be the sixth one I’ve made after discovering the recipe this fall. It will be spectacular with the 2001 German Riesling that I’ve been hoarding.

Special wines with wonderful food is my dream come true Wine Christmas. Wishing everyone a warm winter feast and special wines. Happy Holidays! Cheers to you!


Wine with Quiche

Friday, December 6th, 2013

You’ve probably read somewhere about egg dishes and wine being a tough match.

But if you look at eggs as a vehicle for other wine friendly ingredients, therein lies the key to matching egg dishes with egg friendly wines.

Another good rule to remember: Keep the tannin level to a minimum and the fruit level balanced.

Cheese and wine have such a natural affinity and so does wine with meats and most vegetables. With Ann Vogel’s quiche recipes, we’ll focus on pairing with the turkey, broccoli and Swiss cheese; ham, cheddar, and onions; or brussel sprouts, crispy bacon, and smoky cheese.

The first wine that comes to mind is from an area in France that cooks up some of the best dishes in all of France. Alsace is in the north east corner of France. Because this region borders Germany and those borders have moved several times, the wines have a strong Germanic influence. For the most part, the wines are made from white grapes, much like in Germany and the grape names are listed on the label, unusual for a French wine.

The Pinot Blanc grape is a wonderful alternative to Chardonnay. The way it’s fermented here produces a similar medium to full-bodied style of wine with good acidity even though it is aged in stainless-steel tanks.

Pierre Sparr 2011 Pinot Blanc is traditionally made with no skin contact and no malolactic fermentation but it does spend 6 months on the lees. The resulting effort is medium bodied with aromas of pears and lemon peel with flavors of sweet pear, spice and minerals balanced by crisp acidity. The alcohol is low at 12% and this delightful wine ranges between $12 and $15.

Another unusual but splendid pairing would be a Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape. Yep, it’s a red wine and this is an egg dish, but trust me, it works! And the reason is the wine has wonderful fruit and very low tannins.

There are two distinct types of Beaujolais, Cru and Nouveau. Cru Beaujolais are from a specific commune in Beaujolais such as Morgon, Fleurie, or Bouilly. Cru Beaujolais can be aged, although for a shorter period. These are elegant, medium bodied reds with black fruits flavors and an affinity to smoked meats and cheeses.

The 3rd Thursday in November is when Beaujolais Nouveau is released. This style of Beaujolais is very fruity due to the way it’s produced. It’s the fastest wine on the planet, taking only two months from vineyard to your glass. You can expect a fruit bowl on the nose and palate and a smooth finish. This is a red wine with training wheels.

The two biggest producers of Beaujolais Nouveau are DuBoeuf and Drohin. Both sell for around $15. For a Cru Beaujolais producer, look for Château Thivin or Hubert LaPierre for about $15 apiece.


Thanksgiving – Feasting with Wines

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Mary writes:

Thanksgiving launches the season of food centric get-togethers with family and friends. When you think of Thanksgiving, visions of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie and a well set table surrounded by loved ones dance in your head. These visions of the great American feast require wines to make the dinner special.

More wine, in my experience, is sold for Thanksgiving Day dinner than for any other meal of the year. And with good reason, with so many different flavors and palates, your wine choices should be many. With the variety of strong flavors, whether cranberries, brussel sprouts, oyster dressing or green bean casserole, it’s smart to have several different all-American wines gracing the table.

Because the most important consideration is taste, there is only one hard and fast rule for selecting the right wines, buy what you like.  So here are some suggestions:

Always begin the feast with a sparkling wine as nothing says Celebrate! like the pop of a cork. As guests are arriving, with a bottle and a dish in hand, get them settled with a flute of Gruet Brut Sparkling, from New Mexico or my other go to sparkler, Woodbridge Extra Dry by Robert Mondavi, Napa, California. Gruet is a tart green apple bubbly and Woodbridge, being extra dry, is actually slightly sweeter than brut.

For the Whites:
The most popular grape in America, Chardonnay, is a no brainer so let’s consider other whites. For a feast of this magnitude, a refreshing, tangy and fruity Oregon Pinot Gris – Duck Pond is packed with flavor and easy on the wallet. Another easy white from California is Meridian Pinot Gris, easy to find, easy on the wallet and easy to sip.

Riesling and Gewurztraminer own the Thanksgiving Table. And none other than Washington State has some of the best to offer with lovely, complex fruit flavors, and a touch of minerality. Hogue Gewürztraminer has the stuffing with its lychee sweetness and crisp acidity. Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is also crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine from a blend of vineyards around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 3.1% RS.

The Reds:
You can serve red wine with turkey because you, your best friend and Uncle Jim love red wine. Younger wines with their buckets of plums, blackberries, cherries, and raspberries are better suited than aged bottles because they are distinctively fruity with crisp acidity.

And no other wine embodies this than  Zinfandel. I’m partial to Sonoma’s Cline Winery. Their Zinfandel is made the old fashioned way and has wonderful black cherries and enough body to pair well with the main course.

Grenache would be another good choice for its fruity personality. From Washington, Maryhill and Renegade. But the very best for flavor and price are red wine blends, IMHO. Love Maryhill’s, Marietta’s and Desert Wine’s Ruah.

For pumpkin pie, let’s go with this season’s most popular wine – Muscat. Versatile, sweet and sometimes slightly bubbly, this wine can make you and Momma smile. Go with the frizzante style that has a slight spritz that keeps the wine from being too cloying. With so many to choose from, I’d go with the pioneers of Early Muscat in Oregon, Sylvan Ridge. They’ve been making this wine for almost 15 years in a refreshing, semi-sparkling, sweet style reminiscent of the Moscato d’Asti from northwest Italy.

We have much to be thankful for.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!


Riesling for Harvey’s Recipes

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Mary writes:

Riesling was one of the first vinifera varieties planted in Washington, dating back to late 1880s. Much later, in the early 1970s, there were more acres planted to Riesling than there were Merlot.

Probably because Riesling is the most versatile, complex and food-friendly of all the noble grapes. And because back then, many, many people preferred a sweeter wine. In the next two decades, winemakers started making some Rieslings drier because of the demands of the market.  We can safely say that no other varietal has been crafted to express so many different styles from bone dry to ice wines and everything in between.

Rieslings have very floral aromas, a crisp, vibrant character with peach, citrus and apple flavors that morph into apricot as they age. When noble rot or botrytis attaches itself to the skins, the resulting wine is a concentration of sugars and flavors to produce a wine of incomparable intensity.

With Ann Vogel’s Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter recipes, the versatility of Riesling was the key that unlocked the synergy door. Riesling has just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to pair with apples, pork, pineapple, ham, red pepper flakes and cheesecake.

Riesling is all over the place when it comes to residual sugar (RS). It can have a ton of RS, making it a late harvest or ice wine. Or it can have as little as a Chardonnay – around .5% – and a crisp acidity for food friendliness.

Germany has been making some stunning Rieslings for a few centuries and it’s to Riesling what Bordeaux is to Cabernet and Merlot – the bench mark. That’s why it’s so cool when German winemakers come to Washington to make wine with Washington grapes.

Washington has 6,320 acres planted to Riesling. The most expensive is the Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Ice Wine at $85 for a half (375ml.) bottle. It’s made by one of my favorite German winemakers, Armin Diehl. This being a very special and labor intensive wine, it’s to be expected.

Other Washington Rieslings are as little as $3 for a 750 ml and continue up to around $20. These more expensive wines tend to have more work put into them and are generally drier.

There are three major Riesling producers in Washington State. Hogue, Ch. Ste. Michelle and Pacific Rim. All three have received numerous medals from around the world for their Rieslings.

For the Harvey’s Pork Chops with Apple Compote, try the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. This wine is a blend of grapes from all around the Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11% alcohol and 2.2% RS. $10.

Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine with fiery red pepper flakes and juicy sweet pineapple in the Harvey’s Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney. Another blend of grapes from around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11.5% alcohol and 3.1% RS.

Cheesecake was made to be paired with Riesling. That being said we’ll move to a Riesling from another longtime giant in the Washington wine industry, Hogue. Their Late Harvest Columbia Valley Riesling was picked mid-October through the first part of November. It has 11% alcohol and 5.4% RS and at $10 a bottle is a total bargain.


Wine pair: Roasted pork tenderloin and full-bodied chardonnay

Friday, November 1st, 2013

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that Cheers to You came to life online with a simple blog post explaining what we hoped to accomplish with our pairing — a budding wine enthusiast looking to learn more and a seasoned wine aficionado looking to share her knowledge.

Since our first blog post on Aug. 3, 2010 we have expanded our weekly wine talks to include regular posts about wines we’re drinking, definitions of wine terms, and of course this beloved wine pairing column that has found a home in the Kitsap Life section twice a month.

Fortunately for you dear reader this column will continue to appear in print the first and third Sundays of the month, but after today’s column there will be one less face smiling back at you when you pick up the paper. Brynn’s last day with the Kitsap Sun, and Cheers to You, was Oct. 29. She left Kitsap for a new gig a little farther south in Tacoma.

To commemorate her departure and all the fun we’ve had since starting Cheers to You, we are recommending a wine for this week’s pairing that is a little more expensive than we normally would suggest. But don’t worry, we have your interests at heart, so we’re also going to recommend a second, more affordable wine.

Because this is Brynn’s last Cheers to You wine pairing, we felt it only appropriate that we recommend her favorite wine variety to match Ann Vogel’s recipe for roasted pork tenderloin with apples and onions: chardonnay.

Not only are we suggesting a chardonnay, we’re suggesting a creamy, oak-infused chardonnay from California’s prestigious Napa Valley.

A couple of years ago Mary gave Brynn a bottle of her coveted Shafer Chardonnay, sourced from a single vineyard at the northern tip of San Francisco Bay in the Carneros region. We pulled the cork on the bottle this summer and sat back to enjoy its exotic fruit flavors of kiwi, pineapple, lime, papaya, apricot and citrus zest.

As we sipped we discussed the complexity of this wine. It is layered with the crispness of citrus fruits, but balanced almost perfectly with caramelized notes and a crème brûlée finish that lingers. The winery uses wild yeast for its fermentation and does not put the wine through malolactic fermentation. While the wine is full bodied and creamy, these rich notes don’t slap you in the face like some over-oaked California chardonnays.

At $50 this wine is likely not going to make it to many people’s dinner table, but if you have something to celebrate and feel like splurging, keep it on your list.

Sticking with chardonnay, but offering a much more budget-conscious bottle, we also think Waterbrook has a beautiful chardonnay that would pair just as well with the roasted pork tenderloin.

This Walla Walla winery’s 2011 chardonnay has fragrant pineapple and mango aromas with buttery notes. Dried apricots and apple give this wine a full mouthfeel with lingering toast notes on the finish. At $12 (and likely less if you find it on sale at the grocery store) this wine is a great addition to your fall table.


Archives: Cheers to You