Monthly Archives: April 2012

Beef & Dumpling Stew with a Spanish Proprietary Blend

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

  1. 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.
  2. Remove brisket from slow cooker, set aside to rest. Reserve cooking liquid.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Serve in large, deep bowls and top with scallions. Enjoy!

What to serve for Easter?

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.

Uncorked: Happenings in the Wine World 4/4/12

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
  • 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.



Wine 101: The Proper Way to Taste (5 S’s)

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…

1. See
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.

2. Swirl
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.

3. Sniff
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.

4. Sip
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?

5. Savor
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.