Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Wine News You Can Use: Jancis Robinson Sings Praises of Virginia Wines

It's articles like this that make me believe in the eastern U.S. wine industry and I think it's worth sharing.  I can honestly say that there are some real treasures listed here.  I invite you to try.  Congratulations to Virginia on its wonderful wines.

This article was originally posted The Washington Post.  It is pasted here for your convenience.

Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 09/28/2011

Jancis Robinson pours on the praise for Va. wines

Rutger de Vink's RdV wines may put Virginia on the world wine map. (Astrid Riecken - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What to drink with the harvest crop?

Let's face it, it's vegetable season!  Bright red tomatoes, large squash and zucchini, crisp bell peppers, and even several heads of bok choy.  But what is a cook supposed to pair with these traditional vegetables?  Vegetables are difficult to pair due to their acidity and bitterness, but that doesn't mean we can't find something to suit your fancy!  Let's try a few examples:

(Photo from Google Images)

Always match the weight of your wine with the weight of your vegetable.  Typically speaking, if you cook the vegetables (without a meat)... let's say, saute in vegetable oil, then you will have a medium bodied food dish.  [If you were to steam the vegetables, without any real sauce, then the weight of your food would be light bodied.  And if you were to add some meat like lamb or beef, then the odds are you can add a heavy bodied wine.  Make sense?]

Let's say we saute some fresh bok choy in olive oil and sesame oil with some green onions and garlic?  What medium bodied wine can we pair with this?

Sauteed Bok Choy
(Photo from Google Images)

The oil base adds texture that you will want to cut through with your wine.  Try some medium-bodied Albarinos, Petit Manseng, Pinot Grigio, Traminette, or Riesling.  These are also perfect light rose or blush wine meals, or even Champagnes and bubblies!

However, steaming, like the green beans below, does not impart any additional flavor.  Try something extremely unoaked and fresh like a Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Cayuga, or even a Vidal Blanc.  A Cabernet Sauvignon might work here - if you like the vegetal nature of this old-world variety.  But of course, that's your preference!

Steamed Green Beans
(Photo from Google Images

Butternut squash soup, one of my favs, is slightly thick and creamy.  If you're like me, it may also have some spice from an additional touch of curry and red pepper flakes.  Some people add dollops of cream to enhance the flavor and fun.  This is also a good pumpkin-based recipe, which I have seen with added almonds and crab (imagine that...)

Butternut Squash Soup with Cream
(Photo from Google Images)

The soup is thicker, but not so heavy that you'd want to grab for a deep red.  Why not try a buttery Chardonnay from California, the eastern U.S. or Burgundy?  A nice sweet Riesling would pair nicely with this.  Or try another aromatic white with some residual sugar: Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles. Want a red?  Here again, I'd grab a Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Oregon, maybe a Rhone (French) blend, Chianti (Sangiovese), or a light Merlot (stay away from the California Merlots - they are typically not "light.")

Fresh roasted peppers straight from the garden... yummm....  Again here you have the oil base which will add some texture to the food, but I would stick with Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, Cayuga, rose wines, and unoaked, acidic whites.

Roasted Red Peppers
(Photo from Google Images)

Ratatouille - one of my favorite vegetable medleys!  Let's keep it Italian and stick with some Chianti's, Sangiovese's, Barbara's and perhaps even Mouvedre or Gamay!  (If you want to keep it French, try a Beaujolais.)

(Photo from Google Images)

Oh salsa... I don't know how anyone can get through a fall season without making some sort of salsa.  The salsa pictured below is salsa cruda with jicama, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice.

Salsa Cruda
(Photo from Google Images)

Try something that will keep up with the hotness in the dish, but still relatively light and fresh - Catawbwa, Cayuga, Sauvignon Blanc, or, my favorite, sparkling wine (bubbles!).

Bottom line - eat what you like, drink what you like, and enjoy this harvest season!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's in My Glass Wednesdays! 2010 Cabernet Franc Dry Rose by Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery

I posted a wine by Nimble Hill Vineyard and Winery several weeks ago: 2009 Gewurz.  But I couldn't go without highlighting their 2010 Cabernet Franc Dry Rose.  I've heard several wine experts and wine writes discuss how Cab Franc can be a perfect base for a dry rose, especially in the Eastern U.S.  I told you all that I'd be drinking a dry rose this week! :)

2010 Dry Rose of Cabernet Franc by Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery
(Photo by "Johnny Depp")

2010 Dry Rose of Cabernet Franc by Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery

The D-2010 Scale 
2010 Dry Rose of Cabernet Franc by Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery (Pennsylvania)
Appearance (10 points possible): pale pink/peach color, clear - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Fresh cut strawberries, light citrus, light cream attribute. - 15 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Medium bodied and forward with strong strawberry flavors.  A creamy mouthfeel that makes this wine feel like a strawberry pie (without the sugary syrupy sweetness).  Wine is almost dry (I think there's gotta be a slight residual sugar in this, but not enough to classify it as an "off-dry" or "semi-sweet" - barely noticeable, I suppose) and soft in the finish.  - 9 points
Balance (5 points possible): As is, I think this wine is well-balanced.  - 5 points
Finish (5 points possible):  Strong strawberry flavor with a creamy, soft, lingering finish. - 4 points
Packaging *Introduction to the D-2010 Scale*
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Beautifully white long-necked bottle ("Rhine shaped") characteristic of aromatic white varieties.  Topped with a Nomacorc and a clear capsule. - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  Traditional, classic Nimble Hill Label.  I like this label, but for this wine, I think it needs something to make it pop! - 6 points
Other (5 points possible):  There's no extras on this bottle. - 3 points
Total Points: 87 points
Overall Thought: This is definitely a wine worth buying.  It's unique and it caught my eye (and palate).  There's not much I'd change about the wine style - I think it is better than great, as it is.  The packaging is a little off for the style (in my humble opinion), but I believe this is selling well, and why ruin a good thing?  This is what I'd call "a wine with character."  There's something to discuss here.  I brought this wine to a dinner date and the first thing out of "Johnny Depp's" mouth was, "Wow."  It's surprising, refreshing, and quite lovely.  Definitely a must-buy.
Food Pairings:  As you can see from the above image, we used the wine with our spicy Thai food.  It paired well!  I'm also liking this wine with salads (even though salads are hard to pair) with a matching strawberry vinaigrette.  It's also "soup season" in my kitchen: I think this would be lovely with home-made wonton soup or a garlicy broth.  Is anyone thinking Provencal cuisine?  (I am!)
Cost: $14
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 1 - I'm very comfortable in this price range, especially for a wine of this quality.
Where to buy:  Check out Nimble Hill's website for a listing of their retail markets.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tis the Season to Try a Hard Cider

One of my favorite parts in The Botany of Desire is where the author, Michael Pollan, states that Johnny Appleseed wasn't spreading the good word of the modern apple - he was spreading the seed of hard cider!  Funny how history turns into a bunch of old wives' tales and is made to be "children friendly."  :)

Johnny Appleseed
(Photo from Google Images)

I found it curious to walk into a local restaurant and see a heading at the beer list, "We bet anyone can find a beer they like on here."  And near the bottom of the list was a hard cider by Strongbow.  I was surprised to see a hard cider (I don't know), and thought, "Now here's something that even wine drinkers can appreciate."

(Photo from Google Images)

I often get the question, "I only drink wine, but can you suggest a beer I'd like?"  OR  "I only drink beer.  I've never found a wine I like.  Do you think you could find [a wine] I'd enjoy?"  I've heard many theories on what wine beer-drinkers should try and what beer wine-drinkers should try.  But, I've never found the magic-bullet to this question.  However, if ciders are considered beers, here's some that the wine-drinkers might enjoy.  So I thought I'd spend today's blog looking at a few hard ciders that I've tried recently...

Another great benefit of hard ciders - almost all of them are gluten free!  (I think this is great because you don't leave the restaurant with that heavy feeling you get from drinking beer.)  Plus, a nice apple taste is perfect for the turning seasons.  :)

Strongbow Hard Cider - light, dry, very apple-juice like in a nice carbonated way.  Very light bodies and refreshingly pleasant.  This is one of the first I tried, and loved it.  But this is what the English make well.  :)

(Photo from Google Images)

Woodchuck Hard Cider "Summer" - Lightly reminiscent of fresh blueberries, but not too strong to over-do the apple flavor.  Slightly sweet but still refreshing and pleasant.  I can see why this is their summer flavor.  This one is made in Vermont.

(Photo from Google Images)

Keewaydin Hard Cider - Lighter in apple flavor compared to Strongbow, but also slightly sweeter than Strongbow (I think less sweet than Woodchuck's Summer Hard Cider).  Also, nice, soft tartness in the finish.

(Photo from Google Images)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wine Bottle Shoes

Has anyone been seeing these bad-boys popping up in tasting rooms?

Wine Bottle Holders as a High Heel
(Photo by author)

As a woman, I'm going to have to say these things are awesome, and they'd make the perfect gift for one of your girlfriends.  Where to buy these fashions statements?  Lucky, lucky - I found some on, but you can also find some at your local winery tasting rooms.  :)  Bonus - most of these run about $20!

Leopard Print High Heel

Gold High Heel

Black High Heel Bottle Holder

Zebra High Heel Bottle Holder
Zebra Print High Heel Bottle Holder

Oo la la - Pink Fur High Heel Bottle Holder

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Wine News You Can Use: The Lingering Myth of Sweet Rose

Who here has ever tried a dry rose?!

Anyone?  Anyone?

That's my challenge to all of you this week.  Find and try a dry rose.  Remember to chill it.  Pair it with some fish if you'd like.  Sip and enjoy - they are wonderful.

Dry Rose Wines
(Photo from Google Images)

This article was originally posted by The Press Democrat.  It is pasted here for your convenience.

The lingering myth of sweet rosés
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.

Old habits die slowly. Take for instance the old myth that all rosé wines are sweet.

That may have been true 30 years ago when most wine makers still believed that all pink wines were for novices who didn't like dry wine.

Moreover, it wasn't easy to make a great dry rosé, since oxygen can easily turn the color from pink to orange; when it really gets bad, such wines become tawny or even brown. All that began to change when methods of making it grew more sophisticated and the terrific fruit flavors of various grapes could be captured.

It's not easy to make a great dry rosé, but around the world we now see literally hundreds of dry versions that display all sorts of fascinating aromas, from tangerine to watermelon, from cherry to citrus, and many other enticing characteristics.

Dry rosé has been made by various processes over the years. The best way is to harvest red grapes earlier than you would for red wine and to leave the juice and skins in contact with one another for just a short period of time, to pick up color and flavor.

I generally don't favor making rosé by what is called saignée, where juice is drawn off a fermenting tank of fully mature red grapes. Usually such wines lack the delicacy and fruity aromas of wines made intentionally to be rosé.

At the recent Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Ranch, part of the Sonoma County Wine Weekend, I tasted two dozen dry rosés, all of them excellent.

But oddly, of the hundreds who attended this event, a number of them told the pourers that they didn't want to even try their dry rosés, saying, “I don't drink sweet wine.” I did not make this up.

A lot of people still must think that if it's pink, it will be sweet - no matter what the label says.

Because of this misconception, most of the dry rosés I tried were from small production. For instance, Kokomo made just 160 cases of its Grenache Rosé, Forth made 200 cases of a Syrah Rosé, Montemaggiore made just 75 cases of a Syrah Rosé, Anaba made just 175 cases of its Turbine Pink Grenache Rosé, and Acorn made only 93 cases of its Rosato.

These smaller wineries continue to make dry rosé wines to sell mainly at their tasting rooms, some of them to be consumed at nearby picnic tables with sandwiches. The wines are all fresh, stylish, and crisp.

A few larger wineries continue to make dry rosé wines in larger amounts, and distribute them nationally.

One is J. Pedroncelli, which next year celebrates its 85th year in the wine business. The family-owned winery has owned its own vineyards for decades, so has little debt and thus charges a lot less for its wines than it could if the price were based solely on quality.

The winery has been making a dry Rosé of Zinfandel for years, and the latest version was one of the stars of my tasting last week in Healdsburg.

Wine of the Week: 2010 J. Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($11) — The aroma of this dramatic wine is all raspberries and strawberries, and the entry is relatively rich, but terrific acidity makes this dry wine a winner with a wide array of foods. A great value, and better than many of the dry rosés I tasted last week that sell for twice as much.

Sonoma County resident Dan Berger publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at

(Photo from Google Images)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cooking with Wine: Smitten Kitchen's Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Here's a fun chocolate cake recipe that a friend of mine found.  It was posted on Smitten Kitchen, but I've posted the recipe (that includes red wine as an ingredient) and a few pictures.  You can find the full article on Smitten Kitchen's website.  (If you get a chance, check out this posting, because the page is just beautifully done!)

with whipped mascarpone
Red Wine Chocolate Cake
(Photo from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like*
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (this is a great place for that fancy Vietnamese stuff you stashed away)

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. It looks pretty dusted with powdered sugar.

Make the topping: 
Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

* I used Bedell First Crush Red, one of our North Fork favorites.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's in My Glass Wednesdays! Chambourcin by Franklin Hill Vineyards

A good introductory red wine made by a fantastic winery: Franklin Hill Vineyards.  Franklin Hill Vineyards is nestled in the beautiful Pennsylvania country-side in the Lehigh Valley.  They are avid Four Square users, so find them on Four Square to get their best deals!

Franklin Hill Vineyards
(Photo by author)

(Photo from Google Images)

Chambourcin by Franklin Hill Vineyards

The D-2010 Scale 

Chambourcin by Franklin Hill Vineyards (Pennsylvania)
Appearance (10 points possible): deep red color, hard to see-through, with bright red edges - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Herbal, cherry, slight tobacco, vegetal (in a good way), light smoke, and spice. - 14 points
Taste (10 points possible):  A medium-bodied red wine that is mostly present in the mid-palate to the finish.  The alcohol is very prevalent in this wine, even though it's labeled as 12%.  It may be hindering the flavor.  However, I like the body on this wine - it's smooth and velvety with a good balance of acidity.  Wine is bone dry.  - 6 points
Balance (5 points possible): This wine is slightly disintegrated and doesn't quite fill the mouth like a red wine should.  However, the acid is not overly noticeable, which is very common with this variety.  - 3 points
Finish (5 points possible):  A nice lingering smooth finish, with red sour cherry flavors, hints of raw wood, and slightly herbal. - 4 points
Packaging *Introduction to the D-2010 Scale*
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  The bottle and the cork are beautiful.  Good quality package. - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  Personally, I like this label.  It's different.  It's not overly eye catching, but it's design makes the wine seem elusive and mysterious.  I think it matches the personality of this wine very well. - 8 points
Other (5 points possible):  There's no extras on this bottle, and actually, I'm disappointed there's no vintage year on the label - the wine deserves it! - 3 points
Total Points: 83 points
Overall Thought: Chambourcin, as a wine, has a tendency to be high in acid (so very sour tasting).  However, this wine was very well done and the acid is more integrated than it usually is for this variety.  I like drinking this as a basic table wine, and again think that it's a good introductory wine for those looking to break into red wines.  The slight oak aging also does this well - not overly oak tasting, but nice and fresh.
Food Pairings:  Again, this is an every-day table wine; a "house-red" so to speak.  I'd pair this with freshly grilled pizza, your basic pasta dishes, but also fatty cheeses.  I can actually see this with a cut baguette and some varying types of blue cheese.  Yuuuuummmm.
Cost: $12
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 1 - this wine is unbelievably priced for it's quality.
Where to buy:  Franklin Hill Vineyards has 4 retail outlets in Pennsylvania: Bangor, Tannersville, Easton, and Bethlehem.  For more information, check out their website.  Cheers!