Author Archives: decantedwine

FAQ: What Do I Serve with BBQ?

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.

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.

The wine of all wines

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti

A tasting of DRC we attended this past month.

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.

Uncorked: Wine Business Update for March 14, 2012

Here’s whats happening in the wine world this week…

  • More good news for the economy, wine sales continue to rise with an 11% increase in sales in February 2012 over the previous year.
  • Pioneering winemaker, Ernest Van Asperen of Round Hill winery, passed away at the age of 96.
  • California’s 2011 crush totaled 3,874,146 tons, down 3 percent from the 2010 crush of 3,986,314 tons. The 2011 average price of all varieties reached a record high of $591.69, up 9 percent from 2010 and 3 percent above the previous record high set in 2009.
  • The most important wine region to New Yorkers isn’t Bordeaux, Tuscany or the Mosel. It’s New Jersey, where almost all the fine wine they drink is warehoused before being delivered to local stores and restaurants. An amendment before the New York Senate would end this practice, and require wines to be stored in-state for 48 hours. Small wholesalers are up in arms, claiming this is an attempt to drive them out of business by the state’s two biggest liquor distributors, Southern Wine & Spirits and Empire Merchants, who already have their storage facilities within state lines.
  • A certain wine blogger (uh-hum) celebrates their birthday…

Uncorked: Happenings in the Wine World

Here’s our weekly recap of what’s going on in the wine industry:

  • Mondavi rolls out its first new brand in 60 years. The Divining Rod, will include a 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay and a 2010 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, both priced at $17 per bottle.
  • Lady Gaga was spotted in Sonoma this past weekend dining at local spots including the Girl and the Fig (Sonoma) and Catelli’s Restaurant (Geyersville). Although she left the meat dress at home, her stiletto heels gave her away as a non Sonoma local.
  • A new study from Pennsylvania State University reveals that wine experts and critics may have a better sense of smell than most consumers. In the study, 110 wine experts had a greater sensitivity to a bitter smelling solution than 220 consumers.
  • A new study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine reveals that alcohol may prevent type-2 diabetes, especially in patients who are overweight.
  • The 2012 Miami South Beach Wine & Food Festival was held over the weekend and included visits from celebrities, Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri, and Masahuru Morimoto. For a full recap, click here.
  •  A recent Research & Markets report has added wines in Chile to its list of industries. Although wines in Chile have experienced a period of stagnation the last two years with troubles from earthquakes and crisis, the reporting agency expects to see exports increase over the next couple years.
  • The Chinese continue their love of Bordeaux, however this time they are showing their love by investing in entire estates. At least 15 individuals have bought out Bordeaux houses beginning in 2011. The new investment is likely a result of the increased consumption of Bordeaux wines in China (110% increase in 2011 alone), mainly by affluent Chinese.


Uncorked: Happenings in the Wine World

Here’s a recap of the week’s happenings and news in the wine industry:

  • This Saturday, February 25th, is “Open That Bottle Night.” The night has been designated for those of us who have been holding on to a bottle for that ‘special occasion’ which has never come. So make Saturday your ‘special occasion,’ wander into your cellar and open that bottle and drink it!
  • Skinnygirl, Bethanney Frankel, one of the biggest drinks industry success stories in 2011 expands to wine next month. She will introduce three low-calorie California wines priced at $15 each: a red blend made primarily with Syrah, a white blend made primarily from Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, and a rosé blend featuring Grenache and Syrah. Each of the 2011 vintage wines will check in at 12 percent alcohol and 100 calories per 5-ounce serving.
  • It wasn’t that long ago that Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) displaced Sauvignon Blanc as the second most popular white wine variety in the United States. Now Sauvignon Blanc has ceded its third place status to fast-growing Muscat wines. Chardonnay remains by far the best-selling wine, red or white. Muscat’s market share has grown by almost 85% in the last year.
  • University of California, Irvine Extension recently announced “The Great American Wine and Food Revolution”, a six-week online course from April 2 to May 13. With the proliferation of ethnic cuisine and cross-cultural combinations, such as Mexican/Korean or Japanese/French, and unusual “gastro-fusion” dishes that are finding their way into the mainstream society, acclaimed wine expert and course instructor Marlene Rossman will show course participants how to identify mutual elements that create the perfect pairing of wine and food.


Wineries to Watch: The Scholium Project

Scholium Project

Owner of Scholium Project, Abe Schoener, celebrating a win at our 2010 Throwdown.

Last week we hosted our Cult California Wine Throwdown featuring owner/winemaker of The Scholium Project, Abe Schoener. We have had the pleasure of getting to know Abe and his unique wines over the last couple years and have come to appreciate his truly unique approaches to the winemaking process.

The Scholium Project represents an experimental and educational approach to wine. Abe approaches each wine as a project, trying to emulate those in the industry whose methods and wines he admires.

Abe’s background begins at the famed Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars where he interned during a sabbatical from teaching at St. John’s College. While at Stag’s Leap, Abe worked with John Kongsgaard. After Stag’s Leap he continued to work with John at Luna Cellars, then White Rock Vineyards. In 2005, he made his first Scholium selections: Naucratis and Cena Trimalchinos.

Scholium wines are all sourced fruit from the best vineyards for the specific grape varietals in each wine. Grapes often found in the wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cinsault on the red side. And white varietals including Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.

The Scholium Project offers a large array of wines to explore, each one is not for everyone but they are all wines to challenge your thinking and evaluation of what your mind thinks a ‘standard’ style of each grape is. We always say that the Scholium wines can make red drinkers love white and white lovers drink reds.

Our favorites? With this winery, you can have a favorite. But must tries include: Bricco Bebelico, Choepheroi, Gardens of Babylon (awesome!) , Prince in His Caves (a red drinker’s white).