Date Archives 2013

3 Wines to Pair with Winter Dinners — Newly Rediscovered

Chianti Classico. Originally a medium to light-bodied red for every-day dinners. Now a somewhat finer wine experience after years of upgrading quality in these vineyards and wineries in Tuscany. Chianti Classico is now a medium-bodied red with great aromatic components and lovely, rounded flavors backed by just enough structure to make you want to drink more –with food, of course. What vintages? You can find 2008 on the market along with 2009. It’s OK to hold either one for a few years, but start sampling them now. (Many are under $20.) Food pairings include lightly sauced pasta, game birds and plain roasted meat.

Alsace wine for everyday: Remember these are the dry, white wines that are made to go with winter foods: pork, poultry, beef dishes, mild sausages, potatoes and other foods on the hearty (but not spicy) continuum. Whites include: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztramer. Had dinner with Anne Laure Helfrich this fall, and was reminded how much I like this region. Her family’s wines are affordable, too, in the $15 range.

Chateau Musar: Lebanon’s most famous winery is more French in style, whether they use Bordeaux, Rhone or Lebanese grapes. Their vintage-dated Red “Musar” tends to be cabernet sauvignon with cinsault and carignan, ranging from spiced herbs to silken earth when you taste from 2005 back to 1999 ($50-$65). Or start where Musar begins: with their red “Hochar” wine ($28), a similar blend, with fruit and spice on the palate; 2009 is the current vintage. Not having had this in Lebanon, I’ll stick to foods I know for pairings: herbed stews and winter soups, perhaps lamb and poultry too.

Apple Pie and Roast Beef: American Moonshine Dinner

Isn’t Moonshine the ultimate American Drink for the Holidays? After all, it’s made with American corn, and it was always the drink of independent individuals, not part of government or industry.
Apparently, as a teenager delivering the family’s moonshine, Junior Johnson learned “evasion” and other driving skills that eventually propelled him to NASCAR fame. Later he went back to moonshine – legally, this time, having learned his lesson with an 11-month stint in prison. His Midnight Moon moonshines are cleverly packed in homestyle canning jars, individually numbered on the labels, some with fresh fruit added for flavoring. Strawberry and other flavors are recommended for cocktails.
But for the holidays, I tried several of Johnson’s moonshines and I think I’ve come up with the definitive food pairing: Apple Pie Midnight Moon with Roast Beef and Roasted Root Vegetables. Add a dab of horseradish sauce if you like some bite to your meal.

Dangerous wine reivews

It’s always dangerous when someone contacts you out of the blue and asks you to review their wine. It’s great if you love it, but what if you don’t? Is it better to say nothing, or to give them your opinion? Always a quandary…

Recently, I was sent some wines by Gallegos, a new winery created by a family that has been growing grapes in Napa since 1950. Interesting to be in on this, as I am headquartered on the East Coast and the Gallegos wines are now available only at the winery and at a few locations in Napa.

First impression? To me, it seems like the winery is at a fork in the road. They could either go with a New World fruity style, or they could retrench on the fruit and go classic Old World. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2011 Pinot Noir I tasted were neither one nor the other.

I’m not a farmer, but the wines seem clean, like they were made with good fruit – as advertised. According to the information I read, some of the fruit is from Gallegos-farmed land, and some is sourced from the Gallegos’ winery clients: the pinot noir, for example came from the Santa Lucia Highlands. (I wonder why they decided to do this instead of using their own fruit?)

Specifically, the Sauvignon Blanc is more minerally than classically herbal, with big fruit underlying the flavors, almost tropical. A slight chalkiness in the lightly citric finish suggests northern chardonnay more than sauvignon blanc to me. The Pinot Noir is full of big, dark red fruit on the aroma and palate, with addition of some smokiness too.

There’s plenty of fruit expression here, but what is lacking is definition. Both wines would benefit from a decision about their underlying styles. It will be interesting to see what direction Gallegos takes in their future vintages.20131102_093532

Have a Cocktail after this Film. Make that two…

It’s a circus – cirque du soleil style. With sideshow of gastronomy.
The film Hey, Bartender is a crash course in American culture – behind the bar. It entices you in by following the real-life ups and downs of bartenders, bar owners and managers.
The people behind the bar are maniacally serious, they are a cross between circus performers and butlers. The ultimate in service and showmanship.
With a cast of luminaries in the mixology world, this film takes you on an adventure from a local watering hole to the hottest bars in the country today. And fills in the history of the American cocktail along the way.
Take notes: in this film you’ll get a taste of just about every top bar and every top mixologist working today.
After the film, go have a cocktail and start planning your road trip.

Top 3 Ways to Drink Orange + Brandy

After mulling over (i.e., tasting) several versions new of orange-flavored brandies, I Grand marnier 1880 image005846have a current list of my faves:
Remaining on the list is Mandarine Napoleon with excellent tangerine aromas that greatly enhance the whole experience.
For a fun aperitif from Armagnac: La Grande Josiane over ice, a very nice mélange of orange and Armagnac.
For the fall, you probably already have Grand Marnier liqueur in your home bar: a quality item for over a century. The next step (taking the pricepoint up a significant notch) will be Grand Marnier’s new Cuvée1880, a tribute to the year Grand Marnier was created by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle. Cognac is the star of this cuvée, which is a “blend of aged, premium Grande Champagne XO Cognac and wild tropical orange parfum.”

The Most Luxurious Horchata Rum for National Rum Day

20130812_075222I don’t know whose idea it was to combine horchata with rum, but horchata flavored rum is suddenly all over the place. So naturally I’ve been tasting it.
First learned about horchata at that great little taqueria in Santa Barbara – you know the one that all the celebs go to, what’s the name? Anyhow, there horchata is a wonderfully refreshing rice-based soft drink. Sometimes, when you ask, people say it’s made with almonds.
Whatever the flavor base, I think I’ve discovered the richest one: Cruzan Velvet Cinn. It’s luxuriously cream-based, with hints of almond and cinnamon. Great over ice as a summer nightcap – at least that’s what happened in our house. You can tell yourself you’re having a soothing milk drink before bed.
You might want to get some for National Rum Day which is August 16th.