Posts Tagged ‘dessert wine’

Time for Thanksgiving Wines

November 17th, 2011 No comments
A Wild Turkey

“Wild Turkey” photographed by MONGO

If you’re planning to host a fancy Thanksgiving, why not pull all the stops?  Instead of serving one wine with the meal, liven things up by serving several in graded succession.  For example, start with an apéritif either on its own, or with some light appetizers.  Muscat is an excellent choice, and helps prepare the palate for courses yet to come.  If your main course consists of turkey, consider serving a light white to accompany the subtle flavors of this bird.  Dry whites are especially nice, but for guests with sweeter tastes consider pairing the bird with a sweet Riesling.  To keep family and friends happy, offer them these wine options, or (better yet) let them sample each.  As a third choice, a nice bottle of Pinot Noir will always be a winner.  For dessert, pair your pie with a tasty glass of port.  For pies on the more tart side, consider a tawny port.  For sweeter pies, ruby port is a nice match.  This Thanksgiving, serving a variety of wines throughout your meal will help to make your Thanksgiving feast a classy wine adventure to remember!  In fact, this holiday may even be the perfect occasion to use your new Riedel Riesling Grand Cru wine glasses, or to pass around a set of lovely Vintage Port glasses… Just food for thought!  Happy Thanksgiving!

A Great Summer Dessert: Fruit in Wine

August 16th, 2010 No comments

Here’s an easy summer dessert perfect for wine lovers.  The best part?  No hot oven required!

Although you might not normally think of drinking a wine with dessert (unless of course, we’re talking about dessert wines), fruit and wine make a natural pairing.  They play off each other perfectly: the fruit really brings out the sweet, fruity flavors in the wine, and the wine helps bring out the tartness, acidity, and more subtle tastes (like spice flavors) of the fruit.

This recipe involves marinating fruit in a simple syrup made with sugar and wine instead of water.  Since it needs time in the fridge to chill and let the flavors meld and work together, this is a great make-ahead dish.  If you’re outside grilling or hosting a summer party, this is perfect, because you can just pull it out of the fridge when you’re ready for it.  And it’s adaptable; easy to change to suit whatever fruits you have an abundance of.  Try it tonight!

Here’s what to do:

1.  Make a simple syrup.  You might want to vary the sweetness depending on the fruit you’re working with.  A good starting point is 1 and 1/2 cups wine to 1/2 cup sugar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.  Let it boil for 2 minutes, then let cool.

Note: You can use red or white wine here.  White wine is better for a mixed fruit dessert, because it doesn’t overwhelm.  But try red wine with fruits with stronger flavors, like strawberries, plums, or pears.  Even peaches are delicious in red wine!  Experiment and play to your tastes.

2.  Cut your fruit into bite-sizes pieces.  You can use anything you like here, and you use a variety of fruits for different flavors, colors and textures, or just one for a simple but elegant dessert.  Some kinds of fruit that work particularly well are: watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, grapes, and oranges.

3.  Toss the fruit in the simple syrup.  Use enough to coat generously but not so much that there’s a pool of liquid in the bottom of the bowl.

4.  Cover the bowl tightly (or  put in a lidded container) to prevent oxidation.  Let the mixture chill for a few hours so that the flavors can meld.

5.  Remove the dessert from the fridge.  For a great touch, toss with fruit-friendly herbs (mint is great, basil or lemon verbena would be divine too), and serve.  Enjoy outside on the porch or patio.  Be thankful for summer, fruit, and wine.

Wine and Chocolate: The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

February 8th, 2010 No comments

To all you boyfriends and husbands out there: it’s that time of year again.  Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, which means that you’d better get thinking about what you’re going to give the lovely woman in your life.  Sure, there are the old standbys like a dozen roses or a nice dinner out, but the gift that will truly wow her is something a little more original and personal.  If she’s like me, she’d like nothing better than a box of good-quality chocolates and a bottle or two of wine to enjoy with them.  Choosing the chocolates and wines you think she’ll like best is fun and creative, and shows that care and thought went into your gift.  If you play your cards right, she might even let you share!

Matching wine with chocolate can be an intimidating task, especially since no two experts seem to agree on pairings.  But luckily, many of the same rules that guide us in pairing wine with food can help us decide which wines might go best with which chocolates.  Just like in food pairing, the most important consideration is balance.  You don’t want either the wine or the chocolate to overpower the palate, so pick wines and chocolates of similar intensities.

White Chocolate: The extra sweet, delicate flavors in white chocolates respond well to wines that enhance their buttery qualities, like Sherries or Muscatos.  Though experts often recommend pairing chocolates with sweet wines, I find that this matchy-matchy approach results in a cloyingly sweet tasting experience.  The combination of a sweet wine and a sweet chocolate can be overwhelming to the palate, making it difficult to pick up the more subtle flavors in both the wine and chocolate.  If you feel the same way, try a Pinot Noir or a mellower Merlot with your white chocolate–the key is to pick a wine that isn’t too tannin-heavy or acidic.

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolates provide perhaps the widest range of possibilities for pairing.  If you prefer to pair the chocolate with a sweet wine, try a Muscat, a Riesling, or a sweeter sparkling wine.  Dessert wines and port wines, especially Ruby Ports, are a classic pairing for milk chocolates, as the richness and heaviness of a port blends well with the creaminess of milk chocolate.  And if the milk chocolate you’ve chosen happens to surround some succulent strawberries, don’t mess with something perfect–choose champagne!

Dark Chocolate: Some women (including me) feel if it isn’t dark chocolate, it isn’t really chocolate at all.  If your significant other doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth or loves strong, rich flavors, she might prefer chocolate of the dark and decadent variety.  Dark chocolate needs to be served with a wine that can match up to its strong flavors.  The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the stronger the wine needs to be.  Ports are a great choice on the sweeter side, but I find that dark chocolate pairs best with bold, spicy reds.  Try a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel for a truly mouthwatering flavor combination.

For a unique tasting experience, try a chocolatier that specializes in unique flavors.  Chocolates made with chili powder or filled with goat cheese ganache are unique and interesting, and their savory flavors can break up the sweet-on-sweet monotony.

If you want to give something a little different, pair your wine choices with a chocolate souffle, chocolate mousse, or chocolate cake, either chosen at a great bakery, or (for the especially intrepid) homemade.

For an especially romantic gift, consider setting up a private wine and chocolate pairing session, just for the two of you.  Pick a variety of wines and chocolates and taste all the variations.  Besides encouraging great conversation and a romantic mood, this method will let you and your sweetie discover your favorite flavor pairings.

See some of our suggestions for Valentine’s Day wine pairings.

Tips for Wine and Cheese Pairings

December 5th, 2009 No comments

As the holiday season draws nearer, we find ourselves meeting friends and family to drink, be merry, and forget how much money we’re spending on Christmas presents.  Whether you’re hosting a party or attending one, it’s a good bet that sometime this month you’ll be faced with that eternal challenge: the wine and cheese pairing.   A wine and cheese pairing can be a perfect gift for the host or a great way to start off your own party, but a good one takes planning.  Here are a few tips for doing one right:

1.  Don’t be intimidated.  Matching wine and cheese perfectly isn’t easy; even the experts disagree on what tastes good with what.  Rather than second-guessing yourself and adding to your holiday stress, just remember this: if it tastes good to you, it probably tastes good to your friends too.

2.  White wines are safer than reds.  White wine pair well with soft cheeses and stronger flavors.  Many cheese, especially the soft, creamy (and I might add, delicious) kind, contains fats that interfere with the flavors of red wine, making them seem to lose their deeper flavors.

3.  If you do want to go for a red (and don’t be afraid to!), stick to the hard, milder cheeses like swiss.

4.  Sweeter wines, dessert wines, and champagnes generally fair well with a wide range of cheeses.  The carbonation in champagne actually helps break down the fat from soft, creamy cheeses, and the mild flavor prevents it from interfering with the taste of most cheeses.  If you’re bringing wine to a wine and cheese party, champagne or sweeter wines like Gewürztraminer might be your best bets.

5.  If your harbor a love for the soft and stinky varieties of cheese (I know I do), pick big, bold wines to back them up.  Cabs and Bordeaux have flavors that can handle strong cheeses.  If you’re looking at a Bleu or other moldy or blue veined cheese, a sweet dessert wine is your best bet.

Good luck with your wine and cheese pairings!  Remember that food is supposed to be fun and pleasurable: don’t let picking a wine and cheese pair add to your holiday stress.

Why We Store Wine

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Recently after a long day shooting wine cabinet education videos, selling cooling units and putting the finishing touches on some wine cellar designs, we needed a refresher course on why we are in this crazy business. In an after hours discussion of the business, new cooling units on the market and recent wine trends, we broke out 3 wines from the Vintage Cellars wine room.

We started with a 1999 Altagracia Araujo Estate Napa Valley Red. It was amazing that after 10 years in our wine cellar, it could still use a few more. We tasted and discussed the elegance of this wine. Plump, sweet, pure black currant fruit and black cherry are a few terms we threw around. A long complex finished followed with a hint of licorice.

The second bottle had 10 more years of proper aging, 1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron. Intense dark fruit forward aromas from the moment it was poured into the decanter. This vintage had a fantastic nose of plum, raspberry and tobacco. The final grade: this wine is full of Bordeaux magic and this is why you age and store wine properly.

The last was a palate turner to a Spanish dessert wine, Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez. The dark amber color almost maple syrup appearance stands out upon first pour. We discussed different ways to use this wine including poured over fresh berries and vanilla ice cream. It’s like crème brulee in a bottle topped with candied Bavarian nuts.

Yes, this is why the Vintage Cellars crew spends hours everyday talking wine and wine storage. If you store wine properly, great wine experiences will follow. Wine Tasting Wine Tasting