Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Chardonnay’

Whaling Days does Wild Meadows

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

While kicking around Whaling Days last weekend, listening to the music, catching up with some long lost friends, I was treated to a new Washington Winery. Well, new to me anyway.

Wild Meadows Winery is part of the Precept Wine portfolio. Precept Wine is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest. Founded in 2003, Precept now owns 4,270 acres of vineyards, seven wineries and 37 labels in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  red beauty

Last year, they produced 950,000 cases of wine including Waterbrook, Pendulum, St. Chapelle, Washington Hills, Sawtooth, Red Knot and Alder Ridge.

Precept allows its wine makers free rein when it comes to making wine. The Wild Meadow Winery winemaker, Hal Landvoigt, is also Precept Wine’s director of winemaking. This means he enjoys the freedom of choosing the best lots for Wild Meadow as well as House Wines, Washington Hills, Primarius, Battle Creek and Windy Bay. These wines are also attractively priced, usually under $12.

Landvoigt was the mastermind behind the chocolate flavored red wine, Chocolate Shop, another Precept Wine brand.

Wild Meadows makes a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec. The juice is usually sourced from Columbia Valley since this is where the bulk of their vineyards are located.

The white wine served was the 2012 Columbia Valley Chardonnay which sells for around $11. Aromas of apple, pear, and citrus follow thru on the palate. Served chilled, the flavors of apple and pear with a bright citrus note still come through.

The red was called Red Beauty. It’s a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 15% Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The deep garnet color was a promise of good flavors and aromas in the glass with berries, plums, cherries and big body with smooth tannins and a silky finish. Try them! You’ll like them!


It’s a tossup with Salmon Kebobs

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Fire up barbie, it’s grilling season! Cooking outdoors makes dining special and with Ann Vogel’s Salmon Kabobs, it’s elegant and pretty darned easy.

spiced-salmon-kebabs

Grilling adds another dimension to foods and even more so when you add soaked cherry, alder or apple wood chips for a softer, smoky flavor and aroma. Even better throw on some frozen corncobs for a really sweet smoky aroma.

There are two wines that are the top match here. It’s too hard to make the choice so we’ll suggest one of each – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You just can’t get a better match with salmon.

A great Chardonnay, full of vibrant fruit, comes from a cool climate. Mountainous areas or nearby valleys that hold fog all morning similar to Burgundy, Carneros, Santa Barbara or Mendocino are ideal. With any of these regions on the label, you’re in like Flynn.

Traditional techniques like whole cluster pressing, barrel fermentation, and sur lie give the wines elegance and richness with balance from the acidity and tannins making it an excellent companion to salmon.

The Chardonnay should have a little oak, some apple, citrus and buttery flavors, medium to heavy bodied. It needs good acidity to stand up to the fatty (the good kind) salmon.

From Washington, Abeja, Dusted Valley, Rulo or Waterbrook would work very well with the salmon. California Chardonnay producers on my A list would be Beringer, J Lohr Riverstone, Ferrari Carrano, Wente Vineyards and Chateau St Jean.

The most recommended perfect pairing of all time is salmon with Pinot Noir. Especially a wine on the younger side from Oregon or California. Typically, Pinot Noirs take about 5 -7 years to blossom. A 2008 from Oregon, 2009 or 2010 from California would be my first choice.

Pinot Noir much like Chardonnay prefers a cool growing climate. In France, where the grape originates, its foggy regions are Burgundy and Champagne. Unlike Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is red and difficult to grow.

So, why bother you ask? If you ask a dozen professionals what their all time favorite bottle of red wine was, I’ll bet you 50 cents it was a red Burgundy. My all time favorite was Domaine Ponsot 1985.

Pinot Noir is a light to medium bodied red wine made from grapes that don’t have as many anthocyanins as other red grapes. This means it’s typically lighter in color than other red wines. But don’t let color fool you.

You still get buckets of character with strawberry, cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit and earth-driven layers with herbs, mushroom, tobacco, and leather. Spice notes also make their way into the glass in the form of cinnamon, clove and smoky nuances.

If you ever get the chance, never shy away from William Selyem Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir. It will be memorable. Other fabulous Pinots are Rochioli in the Russian River Valley, Byron in the small cool Santa Maria appellation and anything from Bien Nacido Vineyards.

California producers who know their way around Pinot Noir would be Martin Ray Santa Barbara, Rodney Strong Russian River, Acacia, Olema Sonoma, and Morgan in the Santa Lucia Highlands, to name a few.

Oregon producers high on the list would be anything from Tony Soter, Argyle, Firesteed, Ponzi, and Wine by Joe.

Have a great Fourth!


What we’re drinking: 2008 Domaine Drouhin Estate Chardonnay

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Brynn writes:

I’ve wanted to drink this wine for a few months now, ever since my editor gave it to me as a “baby” gift, meant instead to be a reward for making it through the 9 months and of course the marathon of delivery.

Since I only drink one glass a wine at a time these days, and usually over the course of an hour or more, it’s often hard to find the time to sit back and truly relax. But a couple Friday’s ago I lucked out.

I put the baby to bed and seeing as I didn’t have to get up before the sun Saturday morning, I decided to treat myself to a glass of chardonnay while I caught up on the television shows I’d missed all week. (Yes this is what becoming a parent has done to me).

Looking through the wine rack, the  2008 “Arthur” Drouhin Family Estate Chardonnay caught my eye. It’s a wine from the Dundee Hills of Oregon, where Domaine Drouhin took up residence in 1987 with its first plantings.

The family operates in Oregon and also France’s Burgundy region, where it all started. The Oregon plantings are located between 400 and 800 in elevation, on top of the Dundee Hills. This location is similar in climate and latitude to Burgundy — which is why it appealed to Robert Drouhin, in charge of Burgundy’s legendary Maison Joseph Drouhin, when he visited Oregon for the first time in 1961.

The similarity in climate means the wines that are produced rival those made in Burgundy. That was certainly the case with the 2008 Arthur estate chardonnay. The juice is aged in half stainless steel and half oak.

The blended result is a medium-bodied wine with fruit-forward flavors, warmth in the middle from the hints of oak and minerality on the finish. For those who want to try a true chardonnay that hasn’t been over manipulated, or “over oaked” this is a perfect example of this grape’s potential.

A bottle is $30; half-bottle is $15. Domaine Drouhin wines are available at the local supermarket, but you can also purchase wine from the website.


Sonoma Chardonnay a great pair for macadamia nut chicken or fish

Friday, August 17th, 2012

We’re starting to sound like a broken record, but we can’t help it. When you have two ladies that love chardonnay as much as we do, it’s going to end up being our “go to” wine when it comes to certain pairings.

After a quick skim over the ingredients list for Ann Vogel’s macadamia nut crusted chicken and fish recipes, it became clear a chardonnay would be the best match for these rich summer dishes.

The tropical fruit notes in the wine we have in mind will match the tropical flavors in the mango salsa, while the crisp acidity will match the richness of the dish.

For this dish we recommend the Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay. From California’s Sonoma County, this chardonnay doesn’t fit the stereotypical flavor profile of a California chardonnay — you know the heavy, in your face oak kind of chard.

Instead this wine is crisp with refreshing notes of citrus and melon and tropical fruit aromas. The wine is a blend of grapes that were fermented in stainless steel tanks and those that were fermented in the barrel. The end result is wine with fruit-forward acidity that balances well with the hints of oak.

We recently served this wine at a wine tasting dinner we hosted in Gig Harbor. We paired the wine with a corn and crab chowder and according to our dinner guests it was the perfect match.

The richness of the chowder was balanced by the clean, light finish of the wine. The wine should have the same effect on Vogel’s dish.

We bought our bottle at Central Market in Poulsbo for just under $12.


Washington white wine blend best for pasta primavera

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

As Ann Vogel points out spring is here — we technically shepherded in the first day of spring Tuesday. While daffodils are starting to bloom, tulips are pushing through the frosty ground and trees are starting to blossom, if you ask us, winter still has its grips on Kitsap.

So it’s with wishful thinking that we write this wine pair, looking forward to what we hope will be a warmer, sunnier spring than what we experienced last year.

This week’s recipe for Pasta Primavera and our wine recommendation are a great combination for spring. The food highlights the best of the season — fresh vegetables prepared in a lighter style — and so we’ve chosen a wine that also fits the light and fresh criteria, while still having enough weight to stand up to the depth of varying flavor.

Similar to our recent recommendation for green beans with lemon zest, we’re recommending a sauvignon blanc-inspired wine for this dish. But instead of pushing a pure sauvignon blanc, this time we think a blend of white varietals best suits this vegetable heavy dish.

It’s because of its inclusion of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Semillon and viognier that we recommend Maryhill Winery’s Winemaker White Blend for both of Vogel’s primavera dishes.

This is a great white wine for the spring and summer months because of its versatility. It’s a perfect wine to sip chilled while taking in the sunshine and heat of summer, or in this case to accompany a pasta dish filled with veggies and natural flavors.

The viognier gives this wine a nose of melon and tropical fruit, but the citrus and green flavors of the sauvignon blanc help cut through the cream sauce and enhance the flavors of the asparagus. The weight of the chardonnay and Semillon hold up to the added veggies like yellow squash, which keeps this wine from getting lost with the medley of freshness.

This Washington winery is located in Goldendale, but it sources its grapes from some of the state’s top vineyards. The wines are affordable, making them even more appealing.

The Maryhill Winemakers White Blend can be found at most grocery stores and runs in the $8 to $12 range.


Weekly wine defined: ABC

Monday, March 5th, 2012

No this isn’t a lesson in spelling, or early childhood education.

Those who have been around the wine world in the last decade, or two, may have heard the term “ABC”. So what does it mean? While it’s almost blasphemous to tell you since we love this wine varietal, we’ll take one for the team for the sake of wine education.

ABC means “Anything But Chardonnay.”

Gasp! Who could ever utter such terrible words? Well actually, a lot of people. Back in the 1990s, when California chardonnays and their big buttery flavors were ruling the dry white wine world, many people started to experience chardonnay fatigue. The idea of ordering a white wine that left people feeling like they just swallowed a bag of movie theater popcorn doused in fake butter quickly became unappealing and as a result they lumped all chardonnays into a category of “never again.”

The truth is chardonnays don’t have to be full of butter and oak flavors. After winemakers realized this, a better mix of chardonnays started to make their way to the market. Now you still have the option of the heavy, oak-laden chard, but you also can choose to drink one that preserves the citrus and tart green apple flavors of the versatile grape.


A boxed wine for an out of box experience

Friday, January 13th, 2012

This is a first for us, but we got to thinking that for a casserole loved by someone who cherishes her box dinners — especially those that can easily be cooked in a microwave — we should follow the box theme.

That’s why we’ve opted to recommend a box wine.

Now before you throw your noses in the air and click away in disgust, take a minute to hear us out.

Boxed wines have come a long way since the days Franzia’s boxed wine ruled the scene. Many winemakers are realizing that boxes — well actually airtight bags inside a box — are a great way to serve wine once they are opened. Unlike their glass counterparts with a cork or a screw top, boxed wines actually preserve wines longer. That’s because there’s less chance for oxygen to get in the bottle and change the character of the wine.

In France, it’s not uncommon to see wines in boxes, and even smaller containers with plastic twist off tops — think orange juice or soy milk tops — that are air tight. Italy has sold individual servings complete with a straw.

French Rabbit is one brand that’s been using the box design for a while now. They even offer a smaller design that pours just about two glasses per container — as their website states “think juice boxes for adults.”

As box wine becomes more widely accepted, winemakers are starting to put higher quality wines in these containers. The cost of producing wine goes down too because the cost of the containers went down.  There’s probably still some resistance — not because the boxes aren’t good vessels to hold the wine, but because consumers tend to turn their noses at the mere implication that a good wine could come in anything other than a bottle.

Even restaurants use box wine because it has a longer shelf life than a bottle, no matter the size.

For those who have embraced the box and are using it to sell good-quality wine, the experience is great for the wine drinker. And the beauty is the wine will last longer than if you had the same wine in a bottle.

So what wine would we recommend for Mrs. Brewster’s Casserole?

We’re going with our fall back favorite, Chardonnay. But we figured since we’re recommending Chardonnay in a box we’d get a pass for recommending a wine we tend to favor.

Look to Black Box or Wine Cube from Target as your choices. Each received top reviews from Wine Spectator (Wine Cube’s 2007 California Chardonnay received 88 points; Black Box’s 2008 Monterey California Chardonnay received 87 points).

Tasting notes for the full-bodied Wine Box Chardonnay include apples, melon, citrus and a delicate floral note with hints of creamy vanilla; Black Box tasting notes include tropical fruit aromas of pineapple and banana accented by hints of floral spice and creamy oak.

The Black Box runs about $25 for a box — which is the equivalent of 4, 750ml bottles. The Wine Cube can be purchased in either a 3-liter cube for $18 or, if you’re uncertain whether you want that large of a box, you can purchase a four-pack of 250ml bottles for $10.

And if you’re enjoying a glass of house wine at a restaurant, be sure to ask who the producer is.


Some light reading on Chardonnay

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Brynn writes:

It’s been a while since we’ve waxed poetic about Chardonnay, so this time instead of us talking about what we love, I thought I’d send you over to the Washington Wine Report.

Blogger Sean Sullivan not only rates some top-notch Chardonnays coming out of Washington, he has links to other publications (including stories he’s written) on the delectable grape.

Click here for the full story on Chardonnay, and Sullivan’s review of three Chardonnays, all of them earning his rating of “excellent.”


Ahi tuna, shiitake mushrooms and wine

Friday, May 13th, 2011

White wine goes with fish, right? Well maybe.

With Carter’s recipe — thanks Carter! — for ahi tuna with ginger-shiitake cream sauce, the ginger immediately makes us think Chardonnay. It’s probably clear by now that we love Chardonnay, but that’s because it’s a great white wine that pairs well with dishes of varying styles.

Ginger makes us think of Chardonnay because the two have an affinity for each other – possibly because of the dryness of the Chardonnay and the piquant characteristic of the root.

Beyond this affinity, Chardonnay has the body to match the meatiness of the ahi.

But since we recommended a Chardonnay with Ann Vogel’s recent Iowa Stuffed Chop recipe, we’re going to stay away from Chardonnay this time and instead recommend red wine to pair with the tuna.

Because of the density of the fish, we recommend a Pinot Noir or a Pinotage.

Pinotage is a South African red grape that is the result of a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes.

Both wine varietals have weight and flavor that would pair well with Carter’s dish — which is made even richer by the shiitake mushroom sauce.

If you’ve never tried a Pinotage, we recommend branching out for this meal. Look to the Goats du Roam winery for its interesting blend of Pinotage — 33 percent Pinotage, 22 percent Shiraz and 13 percent Grenache. There are four other grapes with lesser percentages also blended in this wine, which results in a medium-style red that would match the recipe’s ginger and soy nicely.

If you’d rather stay with Pinot Noir, our favorite go-to Pinot is from Castle Rock.

Castle Rock Winery is located in California and sources its grapes up and down the coast from California to Washington. Their wines are always affordable and dependably good.


Wine suggestions for pork chops

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Pork chops are the perfect canvass for a wide range of food accompaniments.

Applesauce?
Dijon?
Onions and pears?
Sliced mushrooms?
Gingered apple compote?

These all pair perfectly with “that other white meat.” So what wine also goes well with all these options, and the chops? Look no further than Chardonnay.

Recognizing that there are several different styles of Chardonnay, here are some guidelines. The sweeter the sauce, the sweeter the wine needs to be. With an apple sauce, choose a wine that’s lightly oaked. If you have a ton of spice with the chops, lay low on the oak.

With Ann Vogel’s “Stuffed Iowa Chops” and their apple glaze and apple stuffing, we recommend Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2009 Chardonnay. Head winemaker Bob Bertheau describes the wine as food-friendly, with bright sweet citrus fruit character, subtle spice and oak nuances.

Sounds like a perfect match for the apple-stuffed chops.

Now for the perfect wine for the Baked Potato Soup (see above link for the recipe).

We believe potatoes are the perfect vegetable (says the woman of Irish decent and her blond partner in crime who never met a carb she didn’t like).

But seriously, potatoes are the perfect vegetable because the can be paired with just about any wine. For this recipe, Chardonnay would work because of the butter, onions and cream. If you were planning to serve Vogel’s pork chops and the soup together, stick with the previously mentioned Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay.

If you’re looking for a different white, Sauvignon Blanc is another smart choice because it goes well with cream dishes, celery and parsley.

If red wine’s more your style, the recipe’s bacon and cream are two components that match up nicely with a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Irishman David O’Reilly of Owen Roe Winery, based out of St. Paul, Ore., has a great red blend that would match everything in the cream soup. His 2009 Abbot’s Table (from Washington vineyards) is a blend of Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. There’s also small amounts of Blaufrankish, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot.

Owen Roe is going to be more expensive than the Chateau Ste. Michelle Chard, but it’s worth it.


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