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Posts Tagged ‘chardonnay’

Four Perfect Summer Pairings

August 14th, 2012 No comments

Photo credit: Le Grande Farmers’ Market, Flickr.

The hottest summer months are upon us. Rather than wishing for fall,why not embrace this time of year with the best produce of the season–and wines to match? Here are some top picks for summer wine pairings.

Corn and Chardonnay

Nothing says summer like sweet, tender ears of corn from the local farmstand. Grill them and coat with salty butter for a classic treat, or grill, then cut the kernels off the cob and toss them with basil, lemon juice, salt, and  drizzle of good olive oil for a crunchy, fresh corn salad. The perfect wine to pair with sweet summer corn? A buttery, fruity California chardonnay, of course! Everything about these two is complementary, down to their matching golden-yellow hues.

Tomatoes and Pinot Gris

Foodies nationwide wait in eager anticipation of perfect summer tomatoes all year. Eat enough juicy, sweet summer tomatoes with their unmistakable fresh-from-the-garden perfume, and you’ll never go back to their mealy grocery store relatives. The best way to eat perfect summer tomatoes is raw: try them simply sliced, with salt and olive oil, or paired with a good mozzarella, in a caprese salad. Finding a wine to pair with tomatoes is notoriously difficult. You need a wine that won’t overwhelm tomatoes’ delicate sweetness, and that can match their intense acidity. A pinot gris, with its crisp, clean acidity, is a great match.

Peaches and Gewürztraminer

The best kind of peaches are those that are so juicy, you have to eat them over the sink. Sweet, fragrant summer peaches are at their peak for only a few weeks, and we won’t see them again until next summer. They’re great baked into peach pies, but who wants to turn on the oven right now? For a simple summer treat, sprinkle peach halves with brown sugar, then put them facedown on a sheet of foil on the grill. When the sugar starts to caramelize, take them off and fill the middle with vanilla ice cream. Pair with an earthy, floral gewürztraminer and enjoy outside.

Watermelon and Port

Ruby-red and insanely sweet, watermelon needs no preparation other than a chill in the refrigerator before eating time. Carve into large wedges and serve with a spoon for easy eating. The sweetness of a great summer watermelon can stand up to a glass of dessert wine, such as port. Drink slowly, admire the sunset, and wish for summer to hang around a little longer.

 

What are your favorite summer wine pairings?

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!

STACKED Wines: a New Packaging Concept

January 26th, 2012 1 comment

STACKED Wines

We’re the first to admit we love an interesting innovation in the wine world. Wine is full of tradition and history, and that’s great! We love old-world styled wine cabinets and stone-trimmed cellars, but there’s also a place for fun, modern things like sideways wine racks and this interesting new concept for packaging.

Currently a California phenomenon, this curious, creative method of wine packaging will be making its way to the other states in due time.  Created by former UC Irvine students Doug Allan, Jodi Wynn, and Matt Zimmer, STACKED Wines have made a splash in Newport Beach!  What are they?  Four single servings of wine stacked on top of one another, reaching regular bottle height.  The “four-stacks” contain as much wine as a regular bottle.  Basically, each container is a stemless “glass” containing pre-poured wine.  The containers pop apart easily, making it fun and simple to enjoy wine in numerous on-the-go scenarios.  No longer do you need to fuss with corkscrews, fragile bottles, or be forced to drink from cheap, plastic cups when hiking, biking, having a picnic at the park, or traveling.  STACKED Wines are convenient for other outdoor functions like barbecues, concerts, and boating, too.  Currently, STACKED Wines offer a Merlot and Chardonnay, but more wines will be added as the company expands.  Their first major retail launch is planned for this March, so keep your eyes peeled residents of Orange County!  (To the rest of the country: this packaging innovation will soon make its way to you, too.)

What do you think? Intriguing idea, or gimmicky nonsense? Have you tried the wine?

Wine for Christmas

December 22nd, 2011 No comments
wine in a gift basket

With Christmas and other holidays fast approaching, stores are packed with last-minute shoppers.  If you are among them, consider giving a loved one something very special this season: a basket of assorted wines.  Unlike socks, ties, and bolder clothing items that can be gambles (and unlike gift cards which, according to recent statistics, are rarely used in full), wine is a gift that virtually everyone of legal age can enjoy.  What is more, if some wines in your assortment do not suit your recipient’s fancy, she or he will often gladly open them for company.  (This means that none of your present goes to waste!)

A Polish Fruitcake

Polish Fruitcake, photo by Alina Zienowicz

Since some wines given at Christmas are opened the same day, it’s good to include a couple bottles that can pair with various holiday dishes like roast duck, turkey, beef, mashed potatoes, stuffing, various pies, chocolates, peppermints, fruitcake, prune cookies…  In other words, be sure to include a couple wines like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc that will not clash wildly with the barrage of disparate food items they may be stuck accompanying!  Because some odd dishes do appear during the holiday season, perhaps it’s not too off the mark to include a bottle or two of a novelty wine?  For example, consider cranberry wine.  This sweet, curious wine will certainly generate conversation.  Like comparing apples to pears, it can’t be adequately described with the same terms used for grapes.  This wine goes well with poultry, fried chicken, and chocolate among other foods, and can also be sipped by itself.

On the more potent side, you may want to consider a plum wine.  This wine ranges from tart to sweet, and can nicely complement a variety of pies.  If you’re unsure about what wines to include in your gift basket, you may want to include a few reds and a few whites.  One example of a nice variety of wines is as follows: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  You could also substitute a bottle of port for one of the reds, or gift a bottle of port with two whites.  No matter what you eventually select, rest assured that someone will enjoy your gift! To encourage them to enjoy your gift right away, consider including in your gift basket a Rogar Estate Bronze Wine Bottle Opener. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

Rogar Estate Wine Bottle Opener

Don’t Blame the Oak

December 1st, 2011 No comments

Oakiness: you read about this quality on some wine bottles, along with acidity, tannins, and sweetness. How long a wine ferments in oak barrels does impact its taste, nose, and texture, but a lot of winemakers don’t like to discuss this part of the aging process.  In recent years, they’ve become afraid people will jump to conclusions that their wines are too “oaky”, meaning that the grape flavor is overpowered by heavy oak flavors.  And winemakers have good reason to fear; oak aging is often wrongfully blamed for wines that are too dry, dull, tannic, or thick.  (The real cause behind such wines is almost always unripened grapes, not oak aging, however!)

Oak Wine Barrels

Oak Wine Aging in Barrels, photo by Sanjay Acharya from Wikipedia

While inferior wines aged in oak are abundant, so are several of the world’s most prized, quality wines; these gems possess an intriguing degree of complexity (plus have a fantastic shelf life) because of the oak aging process.  Wines that benefit the most from oak aging are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay.

When discussing such wines aged in oak, words like leather, cedar, mushroom, and vanilla may be familiar to you.  These flavors have been perfected over the years by fantastic winemakers who still produce oaked wines.  (Do a little field research, i.e. tasting; they are out there!)  You can usually tell a quality, oak-aged wine with ease: enhanced by the oak, it tends to be much smoother, more rich, softer on the tongue, and better balanced than a non-oaked wine.  Of course, you will taste some oaked wines that miss the mark entirely, but remember that in these instances the reason for the wine’s failure was not the oak, but rather the initial grapes.  Think about the old computer programming phrase “garbage in, garbage out,” (abbreviated as GIGO).  With computer programming, as well as winemaking, the final product is only as good as the quality of the initial input, or grapes, in our case!  For more information about the science of aging wine, visit the Vintage Cellars Wine Storage Education Center.

Music and Wine, by Dave Matthews

November 29th, 2011 No comments
Dreaming Tree Wine Bottles

Dreaming Tree: a collaboration between Dave Matthews and Steve Reeder

Dreaming Tree…  That’s a song title, right?  Actually, it’s the product of Dave Matthews’ musical mind, along with winemaker Steve Reeder’s wine talents.  When Matthews was performing at Robert Mondavi Winery, Steve Reeder was there and conversing with representatives from Constellation wine brand.  Ideas centering around the perfect union of wine, food, and music were flowing, and someone asked Reeder’s opinion about working with Dave Matthews to create wine.  After a little research, Reeder called Matthews “a true artist,” in the sense of the multi-talented artists of the Renaissance, adding that Matthews also has a small Virginia winery, as well as a farm.  In short, Reeder was delighted to initiate a collaboration.  Reeder sent Matthews some Simi wines to sip, and Matthews reported back what he liked, and why he liked it.  After some trial blends, the duo of “Dreaming Tree” has produced three new wines.  These include a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend.  Sold at around $15 a bottle, the wines are “Wine Institute certified sustainable” meaning that their bottles are lightweight and eco-friendly.  Reeder commented that Dave is concerned about being socially responsible, and that this type of packaging is the “right” thing to do “for the right reasons.”  Reeder also commented that just as Dave Matthews loves music, so does he love wine!

Chardonnay Clam Sauce

October 27th, 2011 No comments

Here’s a simple and delicious clam sauce recipe that’s perfect for pasta, and perfect for the fall.  You’ll need:

Hands holding Littleneck Clams

Littleneck Clams, image from Wikipedia

  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil (Extra Virgin is usually best)
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Fresh, Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Chardonnay
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 1 Pinch Black Pepper
  • 8 to 12 Fresh Clams in Shells (or a can of baby clams)
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh, Chopped Parsley
  • 1/2 Lb. Pasta (I use linguine, cooked as directed on the package)
  • Shaved Asiago Cheese, to Taste
WineKeeper--Napa 4 Bottle

WineKeeper--Napa 4 Bottle

Before cooking your linguine/pasta, steam your fresh clams until their shells open; this is the sign that they’re cooked and ready.  (If using canned clams, there’s no need to steam.)  Prepare your linguine/pasta according to the package’s instructions.  When the pasta is almost finished cooking, combine the butter, olive oil, and garlic in a skillet.  Melt the butter, and saute the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add your Chardonnay, and pour in a little residual clam juice, if desired (about 1/4 cup from the bottom of your steamed pot of clams, or from the can).  Reduce temperature to low, and cook for 1 minute.  Add clams and parsley, heating them for another minute.  Put the cooked linguine/pasta on a plate, and cover it with this sauce.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, evenly distributed, then cover with shredded Asiago cheese, according to taste.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to serve the rest of the Chardonnay with the meal!  If you choose to have another wine in its place, don’t waste your Chardonnay; use The Keeper Wine Preservation System, or the Napa 4 bottle WineKeeper dispenser and preserver unit to save the rest for another time.  Enjoy!

Wine and Food: What Not To Mix

Wine and Food Pairing pic courtesy of pjwineblog.com

We’re often told what wines go well with certain food items, but we rarely discuss which wines and foods don’t mix well.  Here’s a few “don’ts”

  • Though a Chardonnay pairs well with chicken, salmon, and creamy sauces, it fails to delight when sipped with hot, spicy foods!
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  • Even a good bottle of Pinot Noir can become offensive when served with hot and spicy foods, and vice versa.
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  • If you’re having a semi-spicy dish filled with tomatoes, it’s best to avoid serving Pinot Grigio–the wine often mistakenly believed to “go with everything”.
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  • Dry Rieslings do not mix well with sweet foods and sugary dessert items.
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  • Neither will Sancerre or a Merlot (though many people often try the latter and are surprised by the unpleasant result!)
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  • When serving fish dishes, avoid serving a Shiraz.  And even a decent Cabernet may be too much for select fish dishes–it depends on the fish, and your taste!

  Remember: it’s all about balance.  You don’t want a strong wine to overpower a light food item, or a hearty dish to overpower a lighter wine.  Have fun with your wine pairing adventures, and refer to the advice above to avoid any (unpleasant) surprises!

Wine and Cheese, Please!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Wine and cheese image courtesy of tajt.com

Wine and cheese platters are customarily a part of many people’s celebrations. But choosing the right cheese to accompany your wine of choice, or vice versa, is not always easy. And just as serving wine at an improper temperature can bring out its worst, serving a badly-paired cheese will also impair the taste of a wine. That said, here are a few general tips when pairing wines with cheeses.

White wines are best served with soft cheeses (including spreadable ones) and stronger-flavored cheeses. Chardonnay pairs well with Cheddar and Provolone, Gewurtztraminer is nice with Swiss cheese, Rieslings are great with Gouda and smoked Gouda, and Sauvignon Blancs pair nicely with goat cheese. Rich, stimulating cheeses are best paired with sweet wines, the sweetness being matched by the “bite” of the cheese. For example, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses go well with Sauternes. Hard and mildly-flavored cheeses pair well with most red wines. Sharp Cheddars pair well with Cabs, Asagio, Parmesan, and Gorgonzola are nice with Amarone. As a final observation, exceptionally sweet and fruity white wines (mostly dessert wines) pair well with almost any cheese. This is because they overtake the fat found in cheese and thus allow you to still easily taste the wine.

Whenever a celebration calls for wine and cheese, use these suggestions to help you bring together two that are complementary. (A personal favorite of mine is Shiraz with Extra Sharp Cheddar.) So go ahead! Pour some wine, slice some cheese, and enjoy!

Pass the Butter, and the 2545 Cellars Chardonnay!

March 1st, 2011 No comments

2545 Cellars Chardonnay 2009

Although I don’t usually keep Chardonnay on hand in my home, I decided to try a bottle of 2545 Cellars Chardonnay 2009 this weekend.  Though not a frequent Chardonnay drinker, I was pleasantly surprised by this delightful wine.  In fact, this is one of the better Chards I’ve had in the past few years.  The nose is extremely pleasant with fragrances of vanilla, oranges, and other fruits.  The taste combines a complex of honey, herbs, passion fruit, and wonderful oak that balances exceptionally well.  The typical “buttery” taste of a chardonnay is very prevalent and makes this a wine that pairs strikingly well with dishes that utilize lots of butter.  Though the weight of the body is slightly lighter than expected, this wine makes up for it with a rich and long-lasting finish that is sure to delight.  It will complement any type of lightly buttered pasta dish extremely well (without tomato sauce, mind you!)  Though it can work with salmon, white fish like tilapia or–even better–pan fried flounder with butter make for an exceptionally good pairing with the 2545 Cellars Chardonnay.  Try lightly sprinkling the top of the fish with seasoned bread crumbs 4 minutes before it finishes cooking, and be sure to pour the excess butter from the pan over the fish before serving.  2545 Cellars Chardonnay 2009 also pairs well with light cheese sauces.  Try it with peppered broccoli and cheese for a surprising treat.  This wine, though given to me by a friend not knowing my usual vino preferences, turned out to be a fantastic discovery.  Give it a try with your buttery dishes, and be sure to serve it chilled!  A Eurocave Comfort wine cabinet is perfect for maintaining the ideal temperature of this wine and will fit nicely in your kitchen.