Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Wine Christmas: Hot Spiced Christmas Wine

As the Christmas season approaches, and the last day of November is upon us, I will kick off December with a "12 Days of Christmas (Wine) Gifts" blog.  Get ready for some thrifty, fun, neat, and budget friendly (less than $50) gifts for the wine enthusiast, connoisseur, and newbie!  But until December arrives, let's kick off some holiday festivities with another wine recipe: Hot Spiced Wine.  I have to admit that I've never actually tried this, mostly because I enjoy wine as is.  But there are many out there who I'm sure would love to try this or who already love it.  Hot Spiced Wine, also known as Mulled Wine, is red wine that is mixed with spices and served warm (not overly hot).  It is somewhat like hot apple cider, but I believe mulled wine got its origins in Europe.  I know there are some wineries out there that already feature a spiced wine that is ready for the heating (I just don't know where you are... so if someone knows of one, please comment below!).  

Just the thought of Mulled Wine brings a hint of romance to the winter season.  Imagine a warm fireplace, some fresh bread, little blocks of cheese, a black and white video, Mulled Wine, and your hunny snuggling up beside you.  Who said the winter months aren't warm and romantic?

Below are two recipes I found online for those who would like to give it a try this Holiday Season.

Photos from Google Images

Hot Spiced Wine (Recipe from myrecipes.com) - This one has rave reviews!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: Makes 9 cups


  • 2  (750-milliliter) bottles red wine
  • 2  cups  apple juice
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 6  tablespoons  mulling spice


Bring all ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher, discarding mulling spices. Serve wine hot.

Kitchen Notes

Find mulling spice in the spice aisle of your grocery store.
Also - shopping results for a Dutch oven

Hot Spiced Christmas Wine (Recipe from allrecipes.com) - For an extra kick, add some brandy!  I love it!


2 oranges

2 (750 milliliter) bottles red wine

  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle white wine

  • 1 (3 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 3 cinnamon sticks

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, or to taste

  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)


  1. Use a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the oranges in strips, being careful to remove only the orange part, leaving the pith behind. Then, juice the oranges into a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Pour the red wine and white wine into the pot with the orange juice. Place the strips of orange zest, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and brown sugar into the pot with the wine mixture; stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Cover and heat over medium-high until heated through, but not boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and heat for an hour or longer to bring all of the flavors together. Adjust the sweetness by adding more brown sugar, as necessary. Strain and serve hot with a splash of brandy, if desired.


  • Cook's Note: You can keep this wine over low heat (or in a slow cooker) for quite a while. As the wine heats, some of the alcohol in the wine will evaporate out.

Photos from Google Images

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

I'm sitting here at home, completely congested, with a sick kitty.  What makes a sick day better?  Soup!  So, although not completely wine related, I thought I'd share my yearly tradition of "Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup" which I found on The Food Network some time ago.  I love this recipe, and I'm so glad I made a whole batch of it yesterday while I was feeling more up-to-par!  For your convenience, I have added my adaption of the recipe. 

To accompany this soup, I recommend a crisp, chilled Riesling or Gewurztraminer.  (There, I made this entry wine-related).  :)  The fruitiness should tone out some of the soup's earthiness, while the acidity of the wine cuts through the fat of the soup.  Now... enjoy!

Photo from Google Images

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup (Recipe adapted from EatingWell on the Food Network)

-1 Tbsp. extra-virgin Olive Oil
-2 c of sliced mushrooms (I prefer baby portabellas, and usually use 1 full package in the soup)
-3/4 c of sliced celery (I just make a lot)
-3/4 c of chopped carrots (I just make to our liking)
-1/4 c of chopped shallots (I just cut up 1 shallot)
-1/4 c all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp. of salt
-1/4 tsp. of freshly ground pepper
-4 c reduced-sodium chicken broth (I use 1 48 oz. container of broth)
-1 c quick-cooking or instant wild rice (you can also use 1 cup of regular rice, but prepare the rice ahead of time)
-3 c shredded turkey
-1/2 c reduced-fat sour cream
-2 Tbsp. of chopped, fresh parsley

1) Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, celery, carrots, and shallots.  Cook, stirring, until softened (about 5 minutes).
2) Add flour, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
3) Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits.
4) Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the rice is tender (5 to 7 minutes). *If I have to pre-cook the rice, I only cook it half-way, and then add at this step, allowing it to tenderize in the soup mix.
5) Stir in turkey, sour cream, and parsley.  Cook until heated through (about 2 minutes).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Wine Country Living in Florida

I hope everyone had wonderful Thanksgivings around the U.S.  I had the pleasure to see some Wine Country Living decor during our visit to Florida with "Johnny Depp's" family.  I thought the touch of grapes on the Thanksgiving table decor was quite beautiful.  To share such experiences, I thought I would post some of the pictures here on this blog to show my readers how easy it can be to enjoy Wine Country all across the U.S.  Ideas for next year:
The Thanksgiving Table

The Cornucopia

Grapes and Native Berries

The Pumpkin Arrangement

Some Native Berries in a Vase

Again warm wishes to everyone's Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Thanksgiving Wine Glasses

You thought I was done with the Thanksgiving wine decor... but I'm not!  I found these online recently and thought they were so cute.  Definitely something fun for the family to share:

Thanksgiving Themed Wine Glasses from By Becca

The glasses aren't very thrifty - $185 for a set of 6 (which comes to about $31 per glass), but they sure are fun and themed.  Cheers!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Wine Pairings - Take 2

The easiest style of wine to pair with Thanksgiving is sparkling wine or Champagne.  As I'm a sparkling wine nut, I'm sure you'll find a couple suggestions on fabulous sparkling wines to host at your Thanksgiving table:

Mumm Napa Brut Rose
Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, Brut

Technically speaking, you could even bake the turkey in sparkling wine.  One recipe, found on AllRecipes.com explains how to manage a Champagne turkey (recipe will follow at the end of this blog for your convenience).

Regardless, sparkling wine is an easy match.  It's crisp, acidic, and refreshing.  Perfect for those heavy gravies, mashed potatoes, and side dishes.  The acidity cuts right through anything sweet (i.e. yams and dessert).  And the crispness matches perfectly with the fat from turkey skin, sausages, or fish.  Plus, the toasty, bread-like, almond, apple, and citrus flavors usually match with a lot of Thanksgiving ingredients.  All around, it's a winner.

Photo found on Google Images

Need some Thrifty Sparkling Wine Suggestions?
1) Domaine Ste Michelle Brut ($10)
2) Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut ($10)
3) Korbel brand ($10 - $15 depending on style)
4) Presto Prosecco Brut ($8)
5) Cororniu Cava (Spain) ($12)
6) Roederer Estate Brut ($25)

The World's Best Turkey Recipe (Recipe from AllRecipes.Com)


  • 1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 apples, cored and halved
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 (750 milliliter) bottle champagne


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Gently loosen turkey breast skin, and insert pieces of butter between the skin and breast. Place apples inside the turkey's cavity. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place turkey in a roasting bag, and pour champagne over the inside and outside of the bird. Close bag, and place turkey in a roasting pan.
  3. Bake turkey 3 to 3 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (85 degrees C) when measured in the meatiest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from bag, and let stand for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! HAPPY BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU DAY!

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is always on the third Thursday of November.  On this day, the recent vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released into the American market.  Freshly fermented from the 2010 vintage, Beaujolais Nouveau is supposed to be representative of this year's vintage quality!

Beaujolais Nouveau (unlike it's Beaujolais counterpart) is made by Carbonic Maceration, which exhibits a light-bodied, fresh, fruity/floral red wine that is perfect for Thanksgiving.  The processing of Beaujolais Nouveau means that it is meant to be drunk young.  In fact, in a couple of months, the wine will not be that good.  So go grab some Beaujolais Nouveaus off the shelves and stock up for some Thanksgiving pairings!  The wine goes well with goat/feta cheese, salads, turkey, or unpaired.  Additional bonus: It's a thrifty wine!  Most Beaujolais Nouveaus are sold for under $15 per bottle. 

Photo Found on Google Images

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Thanksgiving Wine Charms

Another fun, simple, Thanksgiving/wine-themed decorating idea, and a way to help keep those wine glasses straight as the guests keep drinking, is to add wine glass charms to all of your wine glasses.  They are fun, thrifty, and quite styling these days.  If you don't want to splurge the $5 to $15 for wine glass charms (depending on the make, number of charms in a set, etc.), you can always make your own.  Some crafty autumn themed charms are at the end of this entry!
Product Image Into Autumn Glass Wine Marker Set of 6
Charms found at Target

Items found at: Ebay

Handmade charms from Hope Studios

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Brandied Whipped Cream

I've had pie on my mind a lot lately... and what better time to have pie than during Thanksgiving?  =)  (I know you are all sitting there thinking, "What a great opening line, Denise!"  Why thank you!)

Photo on Google Images

Anyway, pecan pie is one of my favorites, but this recipe to follow can be applied to pumpkin pie, apple pie, fruit tarts, chocolate mousse... the sky is the limit.  I recently started making my own whipped cream for dessert dishes.  And what could spice up some whipped cream, making it slightly more exciting?  Booze!  One of my favorite alcohol additions to whipped cream is brandy (although the brandy could be substituted for bourbon, whiskey, or even golden rum).  However, brandy is distilled wine, which is quite appropriate for this blog.  The recipe is fairly simple - essentially lists the ingredients and directions used to make homemade whipped cream with or without the brandy.  

Add this extra little something to your whipped cream, and wow your guests all the way through Thanksgiving dessert!

Brandied Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- about 2 Tablespoons of sugar
- about 3 Tablespoons of brandy

1) Beat cream, sugar, and brandy with a mixer or beaters until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and alcohol to flavor to your liking.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Wine Glass Coasters

Too many glasses for too many guests?  Perhaps some wine glass coasters could differentiate your guests' drinks.  And they are Thanksgiving themed - perfect for the Autumn decor! 

Thanksgiving Wine Glass Coasters
Thanksgiving Wine Glass Coasters

Additionally, the coasters were found at Etsy, which was recently introduced to me as a shopping site.  The coasters go for a whooping $6 for a set of 4.  Very thrifty!  All Etsy products are hand-made, which makes them something very special.  They are fun, the price is right, and I'm sure Thanksgiving guests would be dazzled over the extra touch.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Wine Pairings - Take 1

The problem with Thanksgiving wine pairing is the side dishes.  You can pair turkey with almost anything because it's very bland.  But the drippings and sides make Thanksgiving a challenge - so many flavors, so many colors, so many textures, so many choices!  Oh, what's a "wine pairer" to do?

One non-traditional pairing that has become quite popular with many people I know is to match the turkey with Chardonnay.  I've have yet to read a wine expert pair Chardonnays with Thanksgiving, but I'm just going to throw this out there.  After all - it is what you enjoy that really matters.  I will admit that this will be the second year that "Johnny Depp" and I are going to go after the Chardonnay pairing during the Thanksgiving meal.  Last year, we had great success with a "naked" Chardonnay (aka a Chardonnay that was stainless steel fermented without any oak influence) which we also used for our Chardonnay Gravy.  It was divine.  

This year, as we'll be in the Eastern U.S., we're going to buy a Columbia Crest Chardonnay.  Columbia Crest is based in Washington, and they make fairly good, thrifty wines.  We very much enjoy this value brand.  Additionally, they distribute throughout the U.S. fairly well, which should make for an easy find for most of my readers.   Here's a list of their Chardonnay choices:

Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay ($8)
2007 Two Vines Chardonnay
This Chardonnay has crisp acidity, which is important for the Thanksgiving meal, with fruit forward flavors of fresh apples.  Hints of spice and honey complement the oak flavors reminiscent of toasted oak (which the winemaker described as "toasted marshmallow").  Perfect wine for those that enjoy a hint of oak in their Chardonnays.

Columbia Crest 2009 Grand Estates Chardonnay ($13)
2009 Grand Estates Chardonnay
This is the more common label found throughout the national distribution.  The wine is crisp, acidic, with fruit forward flavors of fresh citrus, apples, and pears.  Slighly floral and spicy, this Chardonnay is a crowd pleaser - light, slight oak influence, creamy finish, and very "pairable" with the Thanksgiving meal (especially... the turkey).

I've never actually tasted this version of their Chardonnay, but I like the packaging.  According to the winemaker, this Chardonnay includes the integration of French oak - creamy, vanilla flavors that match with the minerality, spice, pear, and apple flavors known to the Chardonnay grape.  Medium-bodied, a bit heavier than probably the other 2 (above) options.  Another good choice if you get the chance to pair with turkey or fresh pairs and apples. 

What I really enjoy about bringing Chardonnay to the table is that everyone knows Chardonnay.  It's one of the more recognizable grape varieties out there.  So it's a shoe-in hit at your classy Thanksgiving celebration.  I also encourage those that use pears and apples in their cooking to match it with some of these Chardonnays.  As Chardonnays often give off those natural apple and pear fruit flavors, it would be a nice complement to apple pie, poached pears, apple and sausage stuffing (although the sausage might off-set the lightness of the Chardonnay, but who cares? - to be blunt), fresh fruit dishes, fruit tarts, apple crisp, caramel apples, etc.  The ideas are endless!  The point is that you enjoy the wine, the food, and the company.  Cheers, everyone!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Dressing up Your Thanksgiving Table with Wine

While looking up the foodie candles that I've fallen in love with, I also found a neat idea at Pottery Barn: decorating the Thanksgiving table with wine bottles and bottle candles.
Eclectic Bottles, Set of 2

Eclectic Bottles, Set of 2

But you do not need to spend a small fortune buying wine bottles and candles - recycle the ones you already have!  Green and brown bottles match perfectly with the Thanksgiving style.  Varying bottle shapes and sizes can make any table centerpiece elegant or fun.  Long candles can be bought almost anywhere, and many times on sale at places like Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls.  The bottle insert candles can usually be found at many winery tasting rooms.  A general search on the internet may find some discounted on places like Amazon.com or Google Shopping.  Here are some other ideas I found from Google Images to complete your wine-oriented Thanksgiving:

Candelabra Wine Bottle Topper
Wine Bottle Lantern 
Love this idea - Found at: Green Products & Gifts

If you would like to remove labels from the wine bottle, clean out the wine bottle first to remove any left over sediment and wine.  The labels usually peal off if you hold them over steam or very hot water (from the tap).  Be careful not to break the glass if you are trying to steam the label off.  The glass may break.  Some labels are more difficult than others, which is dependent on the glue.  Here are some good tips on label removal

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Making Chardonnay Gravy

Last year was the first Thanksgiving that I put together entirely on my own... in a new world known as "Wine Country, U.S.A."  I was under pressure - I had to impress "Johnny Depp" (who followed me out into this great unknown) and a college friend of mine (who is also an avid wine lover).  So I spent weeks reading, prepping, organizing, and planning the perfect Thanksgiving meal complete with wine pairings.  It was, as I'm sure most of you know, an undertaking.  And that's just talking about the meal!  I never sat to think how difficult pairing wines would be...  Needless to say, things worked out well: "Johnny Depp" is still hanging around and my friend helped us eat left overs for 4 days.  (Guess my cooking wasn't that bad after all...)  :)

Photo from Google Images

One switch I made to my mom's traditional Thanksgiving meal is that I made a wine-based gravy from a recipe I found on MyRecipes.com.  It turned out to be a smashing hit!  Not only was it lighter in texture, flavor, and calories than traditional gravy, it also carried the Chardonnay taste.  This was perfect for matching our turkey with a nice California Chardonnay!  And it's a perfect way for you to incorporate wine into your cooking (rather than just drinking it as the day progresses...)!  Recipe is copied and follows (please note the serving quantity; if you are making gravy for 3 people, this is more than enough...):

Chardonnay Gravy 

Notes: Up to 1 day ahead, make broth through step 4; cool, cover, and chill. After turkey roasts, add its pan drippings and the wine to broth and bring to a boil, stirring. For a more delicate flavor, replace 1 cup wine with equal amount of broth.
Yield: Makes 1 1/2 quarts; 10 to 12 servings


  • Giblets and neck from a 16- to 20-pound turkey
  • 2  onions (about 3/4 lb. total), quartered
  • 2  carrots (about 1/2 lb. total), cut into chunks
  • 3/4  cup  sliced celery
  • 1  quart chicken broth
  • 1/2  teaspoon  pepper
  • 1/2  cup  cornstarch
  • Roast turkey (16 to 20 lb.)
  • 2  cups  Chardonnay
  • Salt


1. Rinse giblets and neck (chill liver airtight to add later, or save for other uses). Combine giblets, neck, onions, carrots, celery, and 1 cup broth in a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium heat; cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Turn heat to high and boil, uncovered, stirring often as liquid evaporates. Then stir giblets and vegetables until browned and sticking to pan, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. Add remaining 3 cups broth and pepper, stirring to scrape browned bits free. Cover pan. Simmer gently until gizzard is tender when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. If desired, add liver and cook 10 more minutes.
3. Pour broth through a fine strainer into a bowl. Discard vegetables. Pull meat off neck; finely chop neck meat and giblets. Measure broth and, if needed, add water to make 1 quart.
4. In the pan, smoothly blend cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Add broth and finely chopped giblets. Stir over high heat until boiling, about 5 minutes.
5. After turkey is done, skim and discard fat from pan juices. Add Chardonnay to roasting pan and, over low heat, scrape browned bits free. Add wine mixture to gravy and bring to a boil, stirring. Add salt to taste.

Nutritional Information

119 (19% from fat)
2.5g (sat 0.9)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Wine Country Style

These fun candles are popping up all over Napa Valley, especially in tasting rooms and gourmet grocery stores.  I think they are so cute and would make a fun addition to the Thanksgiving table/decor.

Each Pear goes for about $10 to $20 per candle.  Not exactly thrifty, but I very much
like this display of pears.  This would be really cute on top of some fresh autumn leaves.

Each gourd candle goes for about $2 .  They are perfect for tea light displays.

I also saw some thriftier pine cone candle selections at our local Target, now 50% off ($6 for a set of 2), but these themed candles can be found in several common stores now (these photos are from the Pottery Barn):
Pinecone Candle, SmallPinecone Candle, Small
Photos from the Pottery Barn

Pumpkin Candle, Small

Pumpkin Candle, Small

Gourd Candle, Green

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations! Pennsylvania Wine Pairings

As the month of November is usually spent planning the Thanksgiving meal, I will dedicate the remainder of my November entries to Thanksgiving and how to incorporate wine into each and everyone's daily celebrations.

To start, I revert back to my roots: Pennsylvania wines.  I recently found an entry on Facebook regarding select wines that each Pennsylvania winery has chosen as their Thanksgiving wine.  I have copied this entry for my readers here, and encourage those, especially in Pennsylvania, to try something new.  Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful for all that we have, and in the state of Pennsylvania, wine is abundant!  

Many of these wineries are spread throughout the state - their labels can be found in the State Liquor and Spirit stores.  And, a turkey leftover recipe follows at the end of the article.  :)

Photo found on Google Images

Without further ado:
What's YOUR Turkey Wine?
Friday, November 05, 2010
Turkey Time with PA Wine
The holidays are coming near and we’ve got turkey on our minds. As you plan your holiday get-togethers and meals, are you wondering which wines will pair best with your tasty offerings? We know that you can find a perfect match for your meal among the wines of Pennsylvania, so we reached out to wineries across the state and asked, “What’s YOUR turkey wine”?

Wineries were eager to respond. There is no way you can go wrong with this comprehensive listing!

Allegheny CellarsTry their gold-medal winning Bull Hill Blush. It’s a "finely tuned blend of Niagara and Concord and its fruitiness lends itself perfectly to Turkey and all the accompanying goodies."-- Alan Chapel, Allegheny Cellars Winery

Bastress Mountain Winery: Try their Autumn Blush (a semi-sweet Catawba) and White Mountain Mist (a semi-sweet blend of Riesling and Gewurtraminer).

Benigna’s Creek: Try their Benigna's Tears, a semi-sweet Cayuga white.

Blue Mountain Vineyards: “2009 Riesling would go great with a smoked turkey or roasted turkey with bacon tucked under the skin and sage stuffing. Use a mixture of our 2009 Vignoles and chicken stock to baste your turkey to get intense flavors of pineapple throughout the meat and then thicken to make a sauce. The Vignoles would also be great mixed in whipped sweet potatoes with a touch of orange zest. Of course, make sure you save some to enjoy with the meal!”—Jamie Metzger, Blue Mountain Vineyards

Boyd’s Cardinal Hollow Winery: Try their gold-medal winning Gewurztraminer. A sister of the Riesling grape, Gewürztraminer has a heavier mouth feel with just a touch of spice.

Briar Valley Vineyards: Try their Gewurztraminer and Lemberger.

Buckingham Valley Vineyards: Try their Pinot Gris.

Calvaresi Winery: “Definitely Riesling!” – Tom Calvaresi, Calvaresi Winery

Chaddsford Winery: “Some good Chaddsford suggestions would bePROPRIETORS RESERVE WHITE because it has enough acidity to cut through the bland turkey and hold up to the fattier side dishes, or perhaps SUNSET BLUSH for it’s balance of flexible fresh fruit. And I have no doubt that the zingy acid and slight sweetness of our new ’09 RIESLING would be a killer! If you like dry reds, a light red like our 2008 PINOT NOIR with its delicate, fruity flavors is a good choice.”—Eric Miller, Chaddsford Winemaker

Clover Hill Vineyards: Try their Turtle Rock Red, Oak Vidal Blanc, Spiced Apple and Riesling. “Fact: Few wines are as flavorful as Riesling and few meals are as flavorful as the Thanksgiving Day feast.”—Clover Hill Winery

Crossing Vineyards: Try their unique version of the Beaujolais Nouveau called "Le Nouveau”. “Le Nouveau is made from estate grown Chambourcin grapes and is a perfect complement to Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings.”—Chris Carroll, Crossing Vineyards

Cullari Vineyards: Try their Riesling with the dinner, followed by Pomegranate Slash paired with Pumpkin Pie for dessert.

Hunters Valley Winery: Try their Vidal Blanc.

Laurel Mountain Winery: Try their Mountain Mist, a fruity, semi sweet white that pairs well with chicken or turkey.

Mount Nittany Winery: Try their Geisenheim (white) and Syrah (red).

Nissley Vineyards: “The Nissley family's key to successfully pairing wine with the traditional turkey dinner is to serve at least two wines: Cabernet Franc, a dry light-bodied red wine for the wine experienced Aunts and Uncles; and Candlelight, a semi-dry pale rosé wine for the less experienced nieces and nephews. Children join in with fruit juice served in sturdy stemmed glassware.”—Judy Nissley, Nissley Vineyards

Oak Spring Winery: Try their Cranberry Wine (made from 100% cranberries). Their motto is “Why buy cranberry sauce when you can get cranberry sauced?”—Scott Schraff, Oak Spring Winery

Paradocx Vineyard: Try their Old Stone Vineyard Chardonnay 2007, Whitewash Can, Vidal Blanc 2009, Sangiovese 2006, Barn Red Can and Chambourcin 2008.

Rose Bank Winery: Try their Cranberry or Pomegranate wine.

Seven Mountains Wine Cellars: Try their Cranberry Wine, sweet up front with the tartness of the cranberries at the finish. “Once you try this pairing you'll never go back”.—Maryann Bubb, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars (Also try their Traminette!)

Shade Mountain Vineyards: Try their semi-sweet Cranberry wine. It's made from 100% cranberries, ends with a bit of tartness and it's extremely refreshing.

Sorrenti’s Cherry Valley Vineyards: Try their Cranberry Blush, featuring cranberries blended with white grapes.

Stargazers Vineyard: Try their Dornfelder. “You can't get any more special than that!”—John Weygandt, Stargazers Vineyard

Stonkeep Meadery: Our Elderberry Melomel or our Traditional Honey Mead both go very well with Turkey. Elderberry is for those that like a flavorful and slightly earthy wine to go with a meal and Traditional Mead is for someone who likes something a little sweeter. “If the Vikings had turkey they would have been drinking mead."—Sheree Krasley, Stone Keep Meadery

Stone Villa Wine Cellars: Try their Padre’s Rose’. Its cranberry fruitiness and hint of tartness pair nicely with those holiday entrées such as turkey, ham and pork.
Vynecrest Winery: “Our 2010 Vintage Nouveau Beaujolais crafted from the Gamay Beaujolias grape is young, fresh and fruity, meant to be opened and enjoyed within six months. It pairs well with holiday turkey.”—Jan Landis, Vynecrest Winery

West Hanover Winery: Try their Blackberry Wine.

Winfield Winery: Try their Cranberry and Plum wines.

To sum this up, here’s some advice from Eric Miller of Chaddsford Winery—
Don’t forget, if there are enough people coming to dinner, you can satisfy everyone’s preference by serving more than one kind of wine!

Now that you know what wines you’ll be having with your meal we’re ready to tackle your next conundrum—what to do with the leftovers!! Thankfully, Vynecrest Winery submitted this recipe:
Skillet Turkey Barbeque
What to do with leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
2 lbs roasted turkey (shredded)
1 lg onion, diced 1 lg tomato, peeled & diced
3 cloves garlic 1 cup catsup
½ c vinegar ½ c Worcestershire sauce
½ c Vynecrest Nouveau Beaujolais
¼ c brown sugar Salt & pepper to taste
Saute onion/garlic five min. Add remaining ingredients and simmer ½ hr. Then add turkey and simmer additional ½. Works best in a cast iron skillet pan. Soon on hamburger buns or slider rolls. Serves 8-10.
 Happy Holidays from the Pennsylvania Winery Association!
 The Pennsylvania Winery Association is now on Facebook! Stop by and "Like" our "PA Wine Trails" page today!

Wine Ed 411: Wine Styles - Full-Bodied Reds

If I may quote The Art and Science of Wine by James Halliday and Hugh Johnson, "...the distinguishing feature of full-bodied red is the authority it has on the finish."  Reading this line recently, it hit me like a rock.  When I first moved to Napa, one of the best (in my humble opinion) winemakers in Napa told me that the component that made a full-bodied wine was the finish: it should be strong and lingering.  At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about, but now... in my 1 and half years of being forced to drink a lot of Napa Cabernet, I'd have to say, I understand.  A finish that falls short when the entrance and mid-palate of the wine are full makes the wine appear weak.  But a Cabernet with a lingering finish will remind the drinker of its elegance for years.  So the story of Cabernets, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, begins...

A Full-Bodied Red Requires Thought and Patience

Cabernet Sauvignon is the principal variety that produces a "Full-Bodied Red" wine.  What Cabernet Sauvignon lacks, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec make up the difference.  These five varieties make up a traditional Bordeaux wine in varying concentrations and in any percentage.  Traditionally, Cabernet Sauvignon makes up the majority, or base wine. 

The "full-body" comes primarily from the tannins.  Generally speaking, in its youth Cabernet Sauvignon will be aggressive, harsh, bitter, overly astringent, and sometimes green in flavor.  As the wine ages, the tannins will smooth out, making the wine softer, less aggressive, and more pleasant.  Additionally, the flavors will change.  The young, red fruit initially exhibited by Cabernet will mature into deep, complex black fruit and elegant flavors.  Such is the point to aging Cabernet for many, many years.  

Additional Full-Bodied Red Varieties:
1) Cabernet Franc
2) Merlot
3) Petit Verdot
4) Malbec
5) Nebbiolo
6) Zinfandel

Food Pairings with Full-Bodied Reds:
1) pasta
2) pizza
3) beef
4) lamb
5) game birds & venison
6) pork
7) veal
8) hard cheeses

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wine Ed 411: Wine Styles - Light- and Medium-Bodied Red Wines

When I hear someone say, "I don't like/drink red wine," I often think that this is because they are only thinking of one of the most common red wine styles available: Cabernet and its blends.  Truthfully, Cabernet, specifically those styles most represented in wine/spirit and grocery stores, dominate one style of red wine making.  But in the world, there exists several red varieties and styles that I think anyone could come to enjoy red wines. 

So begins our epic journey of "Light- and Medium-Bodied Red Wines."  I group these two "classes" together, as I think it is difficult to differentiate "light-bodied" vs. "medium-bodies" especially with reference to red wines.  The term "light" and "medium" again refer to the level of "body" or "mouthfeel" in the wine.  For a quick brush up, return to "Light, Aromatic Whites" and Whites with Body.

November is the perfect month for this style of reds... as Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Thanksgiving meals, although plentiful, are challenging to a wine and food pairing expert as there are so many side dishes with various flavors and textures that it makes truly pairing foods with wines challenging.  (Thus, after I complete the "Wine Styles" series, I'll move onto Wine-Based Thanksgivings...)  The third Thursday of November always releases a light-bodied red known as Beaujolais Nouveau.  This wine is made from the current vintage season and is meant to be drunk within 6 months of bottling. 

Beaujolais and Beajolais Nouveau/Gamay and Grenache
As stated above, Beaujolais Nouveau (pronounce "bow-joe-lay new-voe") is released in the U.S. on the third Thursday of November.  It is made in the Beaujolais region of France from the Gamay grapes that are fermented by a process known as carbonic maceration.  As I will discuss this process later in November, I'll spare the details here.  But basically, the fermentation process of carbonic maceration makes a very delicate, light, floral, pear-drop smelling red wine.  This style was made famous by Georges Duboeuf, a producer in Beaujolais.  These wines are packaged in highly colorful botttles, some are actually screw-capped now, and although they used to be fairly cheap, their price has increased steadily over the past 5 years to about $12 per bottle.  I encourage all to try Beaujolais Nouveau at least once in their lifetime!  As with any wine, the vintage year is always hit or miss.  I have had years where this is a fabulous, light wine enjoyed by many.  And others where I'm quite disappointed in the product.

Past vintage Beaujolais Nouveau Lables made by George Duboeuf (Pictures found on Google Images)

Unfortunately, the production of Beaujolais Nouveau, and the subsequent marketing of this style in the U.S., has taken away from the real beauty of Beaujolais wine.  Real Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes as well, however, fermented by traditional fermentation practices.  The Gamay grape is thin skinned and quite low in tannins, which essentially make up the astringency and "body" of wine.  Due to the grapes' light nature, the wines are therefore, also quite light- to medium-bodied.  Unlike its Nouveau counterpart, the wine is quite elegant, with more varietal characters (hints of spice and black cherries) from the fermentation and more "wine-like" (if you will).  Often, consumers are put off from trying a Beaujolais thinking that it will, in turn, be like the Nouveau.  But this is not the case.  The fermentation method alone (traditional vs. carbonic maceration) changes so much of the Gamay grape, that the two wines end up being polar opposites. 

Rioja is a region in Spain with great French influence.  Although most wines are made in traditional Bordeaux style (meaning with typical French practices), many of the wines had a great oak influence using barriques (or barricas).  Today, the influence of oak is sometimes less aggressive, but the tradition exists.  Rioja is broken into 2 sub-regions: La Rioja Alta, which is the cooler area that producers lighter, more delicate wines, and La Rioja Baja, which is hotter, drier, and specializes in bigger/fuller, more alcoholic wines.  (Think that La Rioja Baja is the California of Spain.) 

The most prevalent variety in Rioja is Tempranillo, followed by Grenache.  The other two varieties that are used minimally are Graciano and Mazuelo.  In today's stores, you may find wines labeled by the varietal name (Tempranillo/Grenache) or by region (Rioja).  Either way, you're getting the same thing!  Traditionally, two styles of Rioja exist: clarete (light bodied, 10 - 12% alcohol) or tinto (dark red in color, fuller-bodied, higher alcohol).  Such words on the label would help give the consumer information about what they are purchasing.  Additionally, oak is usually integrated into the wine, giving a characteristic vanilla flavor that is often noticed in Rioja's.  Oak aging is often implied on the bottle as well:
Sin Crianza (Cosecha) - no oak aging
Crianza - about 1 year in oak
Reserva - at least 1 year in oak, sold after 4 years from vintage
Gran Reserva - at least 2 years in oak, sold after 6 years from vintage

Some thrifty, light- to medium-bodied Rioja's include: Monte Clavijo (<$10, Tempranillo), Castillo Clavijo (<$10, Tempranillo), Marques de Caceres Crianza Rioja ($15, Tempranillo, Grenache, & Graciano), and Dominio de Eguren Protocolo (Tinto) Tempranillo (<$10).  My experience with Rioja's is a noticeable shift to make even light ones with high alcohol.  The actually ruins the wine for me, but others may find it most enjoyable. 

Burgundy/Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is one of the pickiest grapes and wines to grow and produce.  The grape lacks anthocyanins (red color pigments) and tannin levels compared to other red varieties.  The delicacy of this grape makes it perfect for various production methods, and challenges the winemaker in his/her art.  No two regions in the world make the same style of Pinot Noir.  Although it is tried, it is never fully accomplished, as it appears that the grape is greatly influenced by its growing environment and terroir.  Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varieties - it can be made very big and masculine with lots of oak influence, it can be made rather thin, it can be gamey/spicy/dirty, or overly fruity.  A bottle of Pinot is always a surprise.

Burgundy is well recognized as producing some of the finest Pinot Noirs in the world (minus the Beajolais region - a part of Burgundy, but produces Gamay).  The style within Burgundy ranges, but, again, generally speaking, Burgundian Pinots that are "thrifty" are going to be fruit forward, soft-tannins (round body), and red fruit flavors.  Often, these wines will be slightly "dirty" and exemplify flavors of soil.  A higher end Pinot from Burgundy is going to be much more complex and elegant.  

From California, a Pinot is going to vary greatly on the style.  Carneros, Russian River, and Santa Barbara are widely recognized for their Pinots, and again range in style.  Most that I have had from these regions focus on some Burgundian style keeping some sort of gamey-ness and dirtiness to the grape.  The state of Oregon also specializes in producing Pinot Noir, trying to mimic the Burgundian styles.  Other New World producers including Australia and New Zealand produce a highly fruity, light, very clean Pinot.  

A Glass of Pinot Noir

I place Syrah here because it is, like Pinot, quite variable in its style.  But it doesn't bring the depth of a full-bodied wine like Cabernet (or so I believe...).  Syrah is another one of my favorite varieties because it is so versatile.  Selling wise, Syrah is not doing as well as it used to.  However, it is a marvelous grape that is often overlooked by consumers.

Syrah from the Rhone in France is often lightly spicy, chocolate-like, plum and black fruit flavors, medium-bodied, and quite smooth.  Traditionally, Viognier, a white wine variety, was blended or fermented with Syrah for extra fruitiness, acidity, and depth in the final wine.  A thrilling success of this varietal marriage can be found in Bridlewood's Arabesque.

Shiraz (which is the Australian word for "Syrah") has been marketed from Australia and appears to slightly dominate the Syrah market.  Australian Shiraz, in general, is slightly less-bodied than Syrah from California or the Rhone region in France.  It's also a bit spicier, yet fruitier, and has a noticeable addition of oak.

Other "Light- to Medium-Bodied Reds"
1) Some Chiantis
2) Some Merlots
3) Mourvedre
4) Sangiovese
5) Grenache

Food Pairings with "Light- to Medium-Bodied Reds":
1) pastas
2) pizza
3) tuna, salmon, trout (for very light-bodied reds)
4) game animals (i.e. quail, venison)
5) veal
6) rabbit
7) pork (with Chianti)
8) lamb (with Pinot Noir)
9) hard cheeses (for all varieties)
10) cheddar (for Syrah, Burgundy Pinots)
11) creamy soft brie (with Burgundy)
12) smoked cheese (with Shiraz)
13) mushroom-based dishes or truffles (with Pinot)
14) barbeque dishes (with Syrah)
15) chicken (with Rioja, Grenache)
16) ham (with Beajolais)
17) turkey (with Beajolais)

Mushroom Soup with Pinot Noir - classic pairing!