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Prosciutto and Melon Makes a Meal; Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc

My favorite meals usually start with a traditional recipe that’s been flipped upside down and turned into something completely different; while still keeping the flavors that made it great to begin with.  Does that make sense? To explain further, this meal is the perfect example. Everyone loves the traditional Italian appetizer of melon and prosciutto. The sweet, creamy melon versus the sharp, salty prosciutto defines a sweet and salty balance perfectly. The only problem is, prosciutto and melon on it’s own is not substantial enough to be a main course. Not until now that is…

A full flavored, acidic wine like the 2010 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with the pungent anise flavor of fennel and in this dish fresh fennel adds a needed crunch.  This vintage has a background aroma of melon that is begging to be brought to life, and fresh melon will do just that. Since we have three of the four S’s of a culinary experience (sweet, salty, savory), we might as well add the 4th (spicy) with a homemade chili oil.  Not too spicy to overpower the vibrance of the wine, just spicy enough to add a punch of flavor.

4 red snapper fillets, skins removed
4oz prosciutto, thinly sliced
Salt, pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 ripe mangoes
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon, finely diced chives

Lightly season snapper with salt and pepper.  Prosciutto will provide some salt, so be careful with what you add.

Cover one side of snapper with slices of prosciutto (however many it takes to cover top and sides of fish). Press into the fish and let rest 5 minutes.

Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add snapper, prosciutto side down and cook until crispy, about 3 minutes. Flip fish and cook on opposite side for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm in oven. Continue with remaining fillets.

Remove peel from mango and cut flesh off center pit. Slice into rounds, about ½ inch thick.

Wisk red pepper flakes and EVOO in small dish until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To plate: First layer several slices of mango on the bottom of the plate. Then layer in slices of fennel. Top with fish and then drizzle just
about 1 teaspoon of chili oil. Decorate plate with chives.

Summer’s hot new white grape….Torrontes

There is no doubt in the wine industry that South America is the new ‘hot’ (in terms of popularity) growing region of the world. One of my favorite finds has been not the signature Malbec, but a relatively unknown white grape – Torrontes. See the details below and taste my recommendation at our Century Club Tasting this Thursday.

Grape Name:  Torrontes

Pronunciation:  Tor RON taze,

Color:  Green skin grape, produces white wine.

From:  Torrontes has recently become the standout white grape from Argentina – namely Mendoza. It can also be found in small quantities in Chile, as it is successful growing at high altitudes.

History: Torrontes is actually a general name used for three different varieties:  Torrontés Riojano,  Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Torrontes Riojano is the most common and has come to be referred to as simply ‘Torrontes.’ This is the majority of the white wine that you will see in the U.S. All three varieties are native to Argentina from the Criollas grape family, an American born family with roots from the European species -vitis vinifera. Recent DNA testing has found that Torrontes is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grapes.

Climate: Torrontes prefers a high altitude climate with dry and windy conditions.

Characteristics:  Torrontes can produce two very different styles of wine: crisp and light or full-bodied and fruit forward. The crisp and light style is most similar to an Italian Pinot Grigio with amble acidity, citrus flavors and a light body. The second style features flavors of honey suckle, tropical fruits and citrus. It is most comparable to a unoaked,warm climate Chardonnay.

Pairing: Depending on the style, this wine does best with seafood and poultry with light sauces that are lemon or white wine based.

Recommendation: Goulart Torrontes, $15

What confuses you about wine?

Today’s post is more of an inquiry, as we are finishing up some updates on for a site relaunch (shhh!), I’m working on a new section to be announced to help individuals weed through the information about wine and beer.  So I ask, what confuses you about wine? I’m looking for honest questions which will be kept completely anonymous. There is really truly no stupid question, especially when it comes to such a confusing topic.

You can post your answers here, on Facebook, DM us on Twitter, or send an email to

Gewurztraminer, or Gewurz for short

Gewurztraminer WinesI’m often asked ‘what is your favorite wine in the store?’ The truth is I never have a favorite, maybe a favorite at the time but not one overwhelming wine I’m in love with. Now, it may be different for some but I am not a creature of habit. I like to travel, to explore and that spills over to my wine selections. Sure I love a good Napa Cab and even more a Oregon Pinot Noir, but once in a while I crave a Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Teroldego, or some other unique varietal. In preparation for our Century Club Tasting (coming up on the 21st) I’m going to explore some of my favorite unique grapes….today’s topic Gewürztraminer.

Grape Name:  Gewürztraminer

Pronunciation:  guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-nur, audio link here .  Also can be called “Gewurz” for short

Color:  Pinkish skin graped, produces white wine

From:  Probably most famous is the Gewurz grown in Germany & Austria, but it is also produced in Australia, Canada, France, Italy and the USA as well as some lesser known wine growing regions (Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Czech Republic).

History: The grape was originally found in the Alsace region of France (which is known for more German style varietals and wines than French) along the Rhine River.  The name translates to “Spice Traminer” for its spicy character and family history in the Traminer variety, an ancient green grape. Through a number of different (and confusing) mutations, the grape variety came to be what it is today just after the phylloxera epidemic in Europe when a single variety/mutation was selected and then grafted on phylloxera immune vines.

Climate: Gewurz is rather a moody vine. It hates chalky soil and is very prone to disease. It also buds early increasing the chance of frost affecting its growth and in a warm and dry summer climate ripens late. If over ripened (in a warm climate) the sweetness of the grape gets out of control, whereas under ripening inhibits aromas and sugar.

Characteristics:  Gewurz is a highly aromatic varietal often with strong floral notes (roses) and sweet fruits (lychee, passion fruit).  It can be made either in an off-dry (slightly sweet) or dry style.

Pairing: One of the few perfect wines to pair with Asian cuisine, it balances anything spicy as well and does well with smoked salmon.

Recommendation: (my favorite Gewurz) Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer, Germany, $15 

Waiting on a Wine Angel

I really don’t mean to, but I rub off on people.  It might be my youth, insatiable personality, or the mullet I’m currently working on.  But I’m also pretty sure it has something to do with my wine knowledge.  I wrote last time about how I have a little wine box – chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot noir.  Unfortunately sometimes I think that my little box rubs off on my clients as well.  As I have started to venture outside the box, subsequently they do as well.

Recently, I suggested a bottle of Purple Angel to a group for dinner.  Purple Angel is a premium carmenere and petit verdot from Chile.  We also added some other bottles to the pile including Soda Canyon’s newly released 2009 Cabernet.  So what happened with my little experiment?  The Purple Angel was popped open at dinner to reveal a complex, but tightly wound wine.  Giving it even just an hour to breathe doesn’t do it justice.  So the group opened the Cabernet which paired wonderfully with the meal.  The Purple Angel was put aside for another day and time.

The next day, one member of the group tasted the Angel.  Better.  The day after, better still.  The wine continued to develop over the next three days and blew the client away – something he was not expecting from a carmenere or Chilean wine.

Lesson learned?  Drink what you like, but have the courage to explore once in a while.  Oh…and always bring a back up bottle to dinner, who knows what is going to happen!

20 (Legitimate) Reasons to Break out a Bottle of Wine Everyday

Because sometimes we just need to celebrate (and enjoy) little victories in life…or need a pick me up from the day that just occurred. Here’s a list of some everyday reasons to enjoy that bottle of wine, compiled by wildly humorous sister.
  1. The last email of the day came at 4:57pm with a list of 20 things to be done by 12noon tomorrow.
  2. As you started the car to head home the “check engine” light appeared.
  3. Your computer did not need to be restarted once today! Celebrate!
  4. It’s the 28th day of the month; that means all the bills are due in the next 3 days.
  5. It is the season finale of your favorite reality TV show – who is going to win? Who is she going to pick?
  6. You made it through one full week without caffeine – you deserve a treat.
  7. It’s taco night and what goes better with tacos than a nice spicy Malbec?
  8. For at least one hour before the kids go to bed there will not be once piece of laundry in the laundry baskets.
  9. Looks like you’re out of milk for breakfast – guess wine will do.
  10. TGI ..M…T…W…Th…F…S…Sun
  11. Leftovers don’t taste as good unless you are having the same wine with them you had the night before
  12. What’s the old saying? It’s gotta be Friday night, 5 o’clock somewhere?
  13. A Sponge Bob marathon is on tonight, that’ll keep the kids busy
  14. The drive home from work only took 30 minutes today.
  15. The drive home from work took almost 2 hours!
  16. That sock you lost 2 weeks ago just appeared under the couch
  17. I’ve been working at the same company for so many years and the CEO hasn’t a clue who I am
  18. The weather was terrible today, need some wine to warm up.
  19. It has been sunny for 4 straight days, I’m so thirsty I need a glass of wine.
  20. What’s the saying?  A bottle a day, keeps the doctor away?

Outside my box: pairing zinfandel with humidity

I stay in the same box all the time: chardonnay, cabernet and occasionally get crazy with some pinot noir.  But lately for some reason all I want to drink is zinfandel.  It’s so god damn good!  And no, it doesn’t matter that we’re heading into the unbearable hot  summer in Florida.  Apparently zin pairs perfectly with humidity.

Last Wednesday was my blue collar day.  A full day of manual labor, I packed and shipped around 125 cases of wine.  At the end of the day most people crave a beer…all I wanted way a cheeseburger and a glass of zinfandel.  Maybe it stems from my recent memory of heavy wine and burgers.  About a month or so ago, a friend suggested a bottle of 1997 Guigal La Tourque with a Five Guys, not your typical pairing but I was up for it.  Turned out to be both a brilliant and delicious idea.

Unfortunately, since then I haven’t been able to replicate that bottle of Guigal but have found that zinfandel pairs equally as well with burgers (Five Guys or not).  Some recent finds include Martinelli Giuseppe and Luisa and for those ‘everyday drinking’ bottles Klinker Brick.  So for me, put those summer whites and roses away.  Just hand me a big, bold, kick you in the teeth wine and a juicy burger and I’m all set.

What Exactly is Fume Blanc?

Robert Mondavi's Private Reserve Fume Blanc

Robert Mondavi's Private Reserve Fume Blanc

It works everytime, add a “Fume Blanc” to a tasting menu in the category of Sauvignon Blanc and you are sure to get some confused patrons.  So what exactly is Fume Blanc?

Before the 1970’s Sauvignon Blanc was thought to be an inferior grape….even though the first cuttings of Sav Blanc were brought over to California in the 1880’s from Chateau d’Yguem – the premier Sauternes vineyard in France…but enough about that.  Sauvignon Blanc (or Sav Blanc as many refer to it) was made to sweet for American taste and therefore was not the easiest wine to sell for domestic producers.

Enter Robert Mondavi, who even a the beginning of the California wine movement, was a force to be reckoned with.  Mondavi produced an excellent (and large) crop of Sauvignon Blanc grapes in 1966 and was adamant about selling the grapes as a premier wine.  He eventually bottled and released the 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine under a new name, Fume Blanc.

Today Fume Blanc is merely a pseudonym for a domestic Sauvignon Blanc, but can vary in style slightly.  Some producers of Fume Blanc use the production methods Mondavi did in that first vintage – aging it in oak barrels – to set it apart from the competition and create an unique twist on the varietal.

Here are some of my favorite Fume Blancs:

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, 2008
100% Sauvignon Blanc from the cooler Napa County regions of Carneros and American Canyon.  Aged for six months on the lees (s

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc

tems of the grapes) in French oak barrels, 80% neutral (used previous to this vintage), 20% new.  Flavors of grapefruit and melon, with green vegetable flavors and balanced acidity.
$30, or Buy 2, Get 1 FREE (Coupon code: BUY2)

Robert Mondavi Private Reserve Fume Blanc, 2008
The original Fume Blanc.  92% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Semillon from Stags Leap District,  Oakville, Napa Valley and Northern California.  68% of the grapes were fermented in French oak barrels, with the remainder in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness of the grapes’ flavor.  Lime, lemongrass and a hint of spice.