After a very mild winter for much of the country, we are expecting a hot summer. But don’t think the heat will keep us from the fire – we will still be throwing everything on the grill that we can. No matter what you’re serving for dinner, we have you covered on the wine (after all who said you can’t have wine with BBQ?)
Zinfandel: When you think barbequed foods you think intense flavors. Smoky, peppery, spicy – the same words often used to describe a Zinfandel. Your backyard BBQ favorites and Zinfandel are the ideal match. Neither one overwhelms the other – they are a perfect balance.
XYZin Zinfandel 10 ($17): 100% Zinfandel. The wine offers appealing aromas of raspberry, currant and plum with a hint of sandalwood and lavender. The flavors echo the aromatics with juicy cherry and baked strawberry pie married to attractive pomegranate fruit, rounded out by suggestions of nutmeg and cocoa.
Rosé: If we had our way, every grocery store would have to sell a bottle of Rosé along with every package of grilling meat. Why? Because Rosé will pair deliciously with anything and everything you serve; hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ ribs, sausages, pork tenderloin, chicken breasts – even the salad!
Isabel Mondavi Rose ($16): Captivating aromas of strawberry, cranberry and redapple fill the glass. Light-weight in the mouth with waves of bright red fruit that roll across the palate. Mouth watering acidity dances on the tongue complementing a juicy finish.
If neither of these choices strike your fancy, here are a couple other great options:
Luca Syrah Laborde Double Select ($25): Asian spices, incense, blueberry, and blackberry
Peter Lehmann Shiraz Cabernet Art Series ($11): Shiraz and Cabernet combine in this classic Australian blend.
Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Albarino Verdemar ($14): Well balanced, crisp and flavorful with clear notes of lychee and grapefruit, finishing long with a nice grip of acidity.
Now this flatbread (although very delicious) was a bit of a challenge when it comes to pairing wine. Steak – usually paired with a deep, bold red, like a Zinfandel; but that won’t work with orange. Mozzarella - that works well with Chardonnay but oaky, buttery Chardonnay and steak is not the best match. And orange is made for a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, but again Sauvignon Blanc with steak or mozzarella.. no.
After a lot of trial and error (I love my job) I decided on an Unoaked Chardonnay, the Yangarra Estate Chardonnay ’08. I already LOVED unoaked Chardonnays for their fruity vibrance and smooth finish but now I love them even more because I can enjoy them with a pizza!
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
1 1/2 lb flank steak
1 store bought pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 large orange, peeled and segmented
1/2 small jicama, julienned
5-6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Generously season the steak with salt and pepper. Add to pan. Sear on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side, until a golden brown crust forms and meat is cooked to rare (will cook again later on the flatbread).
Stretch pizza dough across a baking sheet to a thin crust. Brush with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Season with dried thyme, salt and pepper. Bake until lightly golden, 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven.
Slice steak on an angle, across the grain, then into bite size chunks. Layer mozzarella cheese slices across flatbread. Next add steak. Bake again for 5 minutes until mozzarella is melted, the crust is golden brown and the steak is warmed through. Pull out of the oven.
Layer in orange slices and jicama and top with basil. Slice into large square chunks and serve it up!
Soup can be a tricky dish to pair with. The main reason being texture; both are liquids. When it comes down to it most soups will pair beautifully with wine, but I like to make a soup with some added texture, something more like a stew. That added texture really enhances the food and wine experience.
That being said, this particular soup works well with a smooth, slightly spicy red wine; L’Encastell Marge 2009. The blend of Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon make for a very balanced, structured wine. Plus, it works great in the recipe for some added flavor!
1 ½ lbs beef brisket, fat trimmed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups red wine, L’Encastell Marge
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 dried bay leaves
2 small shallots, diced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 quart beef stock
1 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2-teaspoon of salt.
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons seltzer water
2 tablespoons scallions, diced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Special Equipment: Slow cooker
- Generously season brisket with salt and pepper. Preheat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, add brisket. Sear on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side until a deep brown crust forms. Add to slow cooker with garlic cloves and bay leaves. Cover meat with red wine. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, on low 8 hours.
- Remove brisket from slow cooker, set aside to rest. Reserve cooking liquid.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, shallots and red pepper flakes. Cook until shallots are soft, 3-4 minutes. Add reserved cooking liquid and beef stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Shred reserved brisket with two forks or with your fingers, adding the meat to the pot as you go. Continue to simmer soup, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
- While soup simmers, build dumplings. Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the middle and add egg, milk and seltzer water. Stir to combine. If more liquid it needed, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. DO NOT overmix.
- Wet your hands so the dumpling batter is easy to maneuver. Create small dumplings, no more than a tablespoon in size. When add dumplings are made, add to soup. Cover and continue to simmer over medium-low heat, 7-10 minutes, until cooked through.
- Serve in large, deep bowls and top with scallions. Enjoy!
Caramelized Salmon with Honey Chickpea Salad
Doctors, nurses and health experts are always telling us how great salmon is for a healthy diet. So why aren’t we eating more of it? It’s quick and easy to prepare, absolutely delicious and the best part is how well it works with Chardonnay – a perfect pair. With this particular meal, its best to stick with drier Chardonnay because of the sweetness the honey and lemon bring. A great pick is Antica (Antinori) Chardonnay, medium bodied with subtle hints of vanilla and honey.
1 (16oz) can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried, ground ginger
1 small fennel bulb
1 small ripe avocado
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons, smoked almonds, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 Salmon filets, skin removed
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pour garbanzo beans onto a baking sheet. Season with olive oil, turmeric, smoked paprika and ginger. With your hands, mix to coat all the beans with seasoning. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown and slightly toasted.
Season salmon filets with salt, pepper and brown sugar (split evenly between filets). Preheat a non-stick skillet with remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add salmon. Sear on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side, until caramelized. Add pan to the oven and bake 5-7 minutes to finish cooking through.
Using a mandolin, slice fennel into thin shavings. Add to a bowl. Chop avocado into small chunks, douse with lemon juice and add to the bowl with fennel shavings. Add almonds and baked chick peas. Top with honey and salt and pepper to taste. Mix to combine.
Most people don’t think of Easter as a drinking holiday, but for us wine lovers we know the secret…every holiday is a drinking holiday. Here are some suggestions of wines to serve with traditional (and non traditional) Easter meals and what foods pair best.
Domaine Chandon Brut Rose, $15
For me, every meal should start with bubbly. This Californian example is a traditional champagne blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) with some additional Pinot Noir added for color. Juicy watermelon and strawberry make it light enough as an aperitif, but as vibrant enough to pair with a small bite of seafood or shellfish.
Chehalem Dry Riesling, $22
I’m predicting a come back for Riesling over the next couple years, there are so many great producers of varying styles from Germany to Washington to Oregon. Chehalem’s (Oregon) is bone dry with stone fruit flavors and a touch of lemon zest. Riesling is such a versatile wine when it comes to food pairing, in my opinion the best white wine for food pairing. My favorite for the wine is spicy food, but given a traditional Easter menu it would be a good match for ham.
Domaine Pommier Chablis, $26
If you are going with seafood as a main course rather than ham, try your taste for Chablis. Chablis, a growing region within the French region of Burgundy, is always made from 100% Chardonnay and is often aged with little or no oak giving it complex fruit and mineral flavors without the heavy vanilla and butter. Would be a great pairing with salmon or white, flaky fish.
La Follette Pinot Noir North Coast, $25
100% Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, one of our favorite regions of California wine country. The cooler growing conditions of 2009 and 2010 prompted the best possible weather for Pinot and the wine has delivered as well. If Riesling is my favorite food white, Pinot is my red. Pinot Noir is the universal food wine. If your ever stuck, just serve Pinot. But my favorite pairing with Pinot is pork…and for Easter is perfect with ham.
Domaine d’Andezon La Granacha Vieilles Vignes, $17
Cote du Rhone is one of my favorite value regions in France. The quality of wine you get for the price you pay is double or triple what it would be in Bordeaux or Burgundy. Most of the wines are a blend of Syrah and Grenache which provide full-bodied flavors with a nice spice and acidity to balance dishes. This wine in particular has 100% Grenache in it bolstering even more acidity and bright fruit flavors. Pairs nicely with poultry dishes, lamb, or even a seafood dish with a heavy red sauce.
Here’s what’s new and interesting in the wine industry this week….
- A new Canadian group is petitioning the government to repeal a 1928 bill that restricts individuals from bringing wine across the border. Bill C-311 was introduced to the House of Commons last Fall based on international free-trade.
- The Chinese market has been getting a lot of press in terms of wine consumption over the last two years, but a recent presentation in Sacramento revealed that we may be overestimating this market. Wine made from grapes accounts for just 10% of the wine that Chinese currently consume, and are even known to mix premium wines with Coca-Cola. For more details on the presentation, click here.
- Again some Chinese attention…while China has been gorging on Bordeaux (and driving prices up the last few vintages), the most important market to French wine production is America. The Chinese may consume tons of Bordeaux, but it is the U.S. who is recording recording buying of French wines and consuming all the other appellations.
- The National Wine School, located in Los Angeles, has recently announced that it will be issuing industry credentials to any graduate of any certified wine education program around the globe. With the explosion of wine education programs, this school attempts to coordinate all of them, make them less confusing for consumers, and offer a standardized method for employers to evaluate job applicants. The program also requires a re-test program every five years to maintain certification. More details about the school can be found at www.winecertifications.com.
- Chuck Wagner, winemaker at Napa’s famed vineyard Caymus, will receive the Professional Excellence in Oenology Award at the 15th Annual Gold Coast Classic for his contributions to the wine industry on May 3.
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Biscotti is a traditional Italian dessert served with espresso. But where is the fun in traditional? Biscotti is great at any part of the meal and we like to serve with wine as an appetizer. At your Easter dinner or Passover meal this weekend, serve cranberry pistachio biscotti with Clos du Bois Char Calcaire as a starter, next to the marinated olives and crackers. Sounds strange, but the hint of sweetness from the cranberries and that crunch of pistachios will intrigue the palate like no other.
Makes 2 dozen cookies
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of fine salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture, in third parts, and mix on low speed until combined.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface (dough will be sticky, you’ll need flour). Shape into a 16-by-2-inch log, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. With the palm of your hand, flatten logs slightly.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until the log is slightly firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer log on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Place log on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut sides down, back on parchment paper, on baking sheet. Bake until firm to touch, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven; let biscotti cool completely on rack.
This blog post is a summary of the first lesson I teach in all of my Wine 101 classes, and some may argue the most important…how to taste wine.
Now there are a thousand ways to taste wine, some proper and some improper. When I’m casually drinking wine, I typically observe no set method, at trade tastings the 5S method, and for formal evaluation I use the WSET approved tasting method (this is usually when I’m taking a test or studying for a test for the WSET). Why are there such formal ways to taste wine? Wine is made primarily to be enjoyed, and unfortunately sometimes during that enjoyment we forget to pay attention to whats actually going on in our mouth. Formal tasting methods help give us a structure about what we should be looking for and how our palette is reacting to a specific wine.
The 5S method is something I’ve used for quite some time. It’s been adapted from a number of articles on tasting methods, input from trade friends and partners, and adjustments I’ve made to make it easier. Simply just follow the 5 S’s…
Begin your evaluation by looking at (and through) the wine. I often hold my wine up to a white background and look for three key things: color and clarity. The color of the wine can give you an indication not only of what grape you are about to taste but the body of the wine, flavor, and sometimes even oak treatments. The clarity will alert you to any sediment in the wine.
Swirling wine is not just something wine snobs do. It actually has a very clear purpose…to break apart the aroma molecules (by hitting them against the glass) so it is easier for us to identify those aromas in the wine.
Someone once told me that everyone has a dominant nostril. I never believed it, until I tried it. My dominant nostril is my right. In this step take a sniff of the wine. Some take on long, deep sniff…others a few short ones. I play around with each wine until I can clearly identify some aromas. My beginners tip is to always shoot for the target, not the bulls-eye when identifying aromas. It is completely acceptable (at any level) to say ‘citrus fruits’ if you can identify if its lemon or lime. Try picking aroma categories: red fruit vs. black fruit, oak vs. spice, mineral vs. earth.
Here is the fun part. First, take a quick sip and then swallow (or spit) the wine immediately without thinking about it. This wakes up your palette and prepares it for the wine. After that, I issue you a challenge. Take a sip of the wine, swirl it around your mouth and pay attention to what happens in your mouth…for a full 30 seconds. Don’t speak, don’t think about anything else except that wine. Is your mouth watering from the acidity? Is the tip of your tongue awakened from the sweetness? Are you gums drying out from the tannins? After you’ve completed your 30 second test, take another sip and try to identify the flavors in the wine. Are they the same or different from the aromas you found?
This is the evaluation part of the tasting. How long is the finish (how long the entire flavor of the wine stays on your palette)? Did you like the wine? Would you buy it again? How much would you pay for it? How would you pair this with food?
Learning how to appropriately evaluate a wine is important for wine connoisseurs at any level. After all, would you continue to buy a particular flavor of ice cream if you disliked it…correct? I’ve found the 5S method a good starting point for formal wine evaluation (and a relatively quick one). But for more detailed evaluations and resources, visit the links below.
It’s getting close to spring in Naples, and that means one thing for us at Decanted…new releases. Yes, new releases in the spring! And not from the southern hemisphere. The spring brings about lots of excitement in the wine world, with some of the most sought after wineries releasing their newest vintages from California, Italy, and France. But one winery trumps all others…Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC for short) dates back to 1272 when the Abbey of Saint Vivant in Vosne acquired 1.8 hectares of vineyard in Burgundy, France. In 1631 it changed hands to the de Croonembourg family, who renamed it Romanée, they also acquired what was to be one of the most famous winery vineyards – La Tâche. After a bidding war in 1760 between the mistress of Louis XV of France and Louis Francois, prince of Conti (who won and changed the name to Romanee-Conti), the winery was seized during the revolution and auctioned off. The winning bidder sold it off again in 1869 to Jacques-Marie Duvault-Bloche who has built the Domaine into what it is today.
So what’s so special about DRC?
In France, everything is about the land and DRC is no different. Their vineyard holdings in Burgundy include some of the best: La Tache, Romanee-Conti, Richebourg, Romanee-St-Vivant, Grands Echezeaux, Echezeaux, and Montrachet. All of the vineyards are Grand Cru, the highest rank in Burgundy, indicating that they are among the best selections of land in the region for Pinot Noir growth. Of these, La Tache and Romanee-Conti are not only the most sought after from the winery, but some of the most coveted wines in the world. Both vineyards are monopoles.
A monopole is a designation given to a vineyard when the vineyard is controlled and all wine is produced by one winery. This is extremely rare in France, especially Burgundy, due to Napoleonic inheritance laws that have been in place for centuries. According to the law, all property inheritance must be split equally between heirs. As you can imagine, some modern-day properties have now been split hundreds of times resulting in some parties owning single rows in a vineyard…hardly enough to produce a significant amount of wine. Once the wine reaches the production facility, modern technology is mixed with traditional methods using the best oak from the Troncais forests (France) for their barrels.
How do I get a bottle of DRC?
There are a few obstacles to being able to actually drink a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. The first being price. The recently released 2009 vintage (one of the best on record), starts at $1,000….for one bottle. We get a lot of questions about whether the wine is worth the price or not. I usually answer with the explanation of how special the land is, that I addressed in the previous paragraph AND the fact that there is not much of it…at all. Which leads to the second problem, the wine is highly allocated. Allocated is a term used in the wine industry for wineries that hand select who receives the wine. Selection is based on a various number of factors including purchase history and support of other brands that a winery owns. In my experience as a retailer, DRC is one of the only wineries in the world that has survived (and thrived) the recession and emerged with not only a strong allocation list, but lengthy waiting list. As in any industry, price is affected by supply and demand.
But if you are looking to get a bottle of DRC on your hands, now is the time. The wine of all wines is now in pre-order and a know a number of retailers (ourselves included ) who are in the process of selling their allocation now. And if you do get a bottle, call me.
Lamb Sausage with Crisp Potatoes
and Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras Cantarelle 2009
Once again the best way to pair a wine with a meal is to pay attention to it’s roots. The 2009 Vacqueyras La Cantarelle, a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, is perfect to take a backseat (and quietly compliment) a very bold, flavorful sausage. We went with a rosemary and garlic lamb sausage but any pork or lamb sausage you can find will work well. The traditional Rhone meal is sausage cooked in red wine (we did that) and boiled potatoes with shallots (we switched that up a little bit, just to add some extra flavor). Enjoy!
1 ½ lbs lamb or pork sausage
1 ½ cups French red wine
1 large (or 2 small) shallots, sliced
3 lbs small Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups Spinach/Arugula mix
Salt/pepper, to taste
In a wide pan add sausage and red wine. Add water until sausage is almost completely covered by liquid. Bring to a boil and cook 10-15 minutes until sausages are cooked through. Remove the sausages from the pan, place on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until you’re ready to serve.
Leave the remaining wine in the pan and add shallots. Continue to boil until onions are cooked through and wine is thick and reduced to 2 tablespoons. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large pan with high sides over medium-high heat, add potatoes, bay leaves, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and about 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, uncover and salt generously. Continue to boil until potatoes are fork tender (maybe even a little bit past).
When potatoes are tender and all water has evaporated; using a meat tenderizer (or something heavy and round), smash potatoes down until flat. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and reduce heat to medium. Cook until brown and crisp on both sides, 4-5 minutes per side.
Split spinach and arugula mixture between your serving plates. Lightly dress with lemon juice and salt. Top with a piece of sausage and onions. Lay potatoes on the side.