Posts Tagged ‘wine and steak’

Jake’s Corner: Tasting a Spanish Wine for Summer

June 26th, 2013 1 comment

Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Ribera 2009, TempranilloWith the prospect of long, warm summer nights stretching before them, many people automatically reach for a white or rosé, something chilled to counteract the day’s heat lingering in the air. But just because it’s warm outside doesn’t mean that you should give up on red wine for the season.

In fact, summer is a great time to enjoy red wine. Grilled food often calls out for a rich red that can match that deep smoky flavor. And those ruby colors look particularly pretty against the setting sun, too.

For me, the wine hit of the summer so far is the  from Ribera del Duero, Spain. We couldn’t stop opening bottles, so I ordered 4 more cases today.

Here’s what I think: This wine is a deep ruby in color with fantastic aromas of red fruits, cherry, raspberry and freshly-cut flowers. The palate leans to black fruits like black cherry and blackberries, with hints of oak and vanilla. There is a very noticeable minerality, soft silky tannins and a lively juicy finish. It’s also a top value pick at $15 a bottle.

Tempranillo is the most widely-grown grape varietal in Spain. The name “tempranillo” is derived from “temprano,” the Spanish word for “early,” and it’s so called because tempranillo grapes tend to ripen several weeks earlier than other Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo is an ancient varietal; it’s been grown since Phoenician times on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the main grape used to make Rioja, one of Spain’s most popular wines, and can also be used solo as in the Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Ribera. Once considered only fit for jug wine in California, Tempranillo grapes are now planted around the world, and Tempranillo is respected as a fine wine.

Tempranillos are often medium to full-bodied, with bold fruit flavors and mild acidity. Berry flavors such as those seen in the Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Ribera are common, along with plum, cherry, and strawberry. Many Tempranillos can also be described as earthy, and with mineral qualities. Tempranillo is considered a very food-friendly wine, pairing well with all kinds of food. It’s especially good with grilled fare, making it an ideal wine to enjoy with friends and family at your next backyard get-together.

The Easiest Wine-Pairing Rule

June 26th, 2012 No comments

Without referring to the internet (or your latest wine-pairing app), how can you tell what wines go “best” with what foods?  Here’s the simplest wine pairing rule that almost always produces yummy results: if it grows together, it goes together!  That’s right.  Tried-and-true wine and food pairings often originate in the same region, and because of this synergy many pairings (and wines themselves) have been “perfected” over hundreds of years to best match the local cuisine.Pair your food with wine characteristic of the region.

For example, goose and duck go great with wines made where they roam abundantly in Catalonia, Spain.  Try pairing them with a regional favorite like a bottle of red Vall Llach, Cellers Pasanau, or Clos Mogador.  Goat cheese, a common product of France’s Loire Valley, pairs superbly with Gerard Boulay and Henri Bourgeois. (See our blog post on wine and cheese pairings here.) Having bistacca alla fiorentina as an entrée?  Pair this classic Italian dish with Italian wine from the same locale: Brunello di Montalcino!

When in doubt, pair your dish with a wine produced in the same region.  Remember: if it grows together, it goes together.  A wine’s label usually presents valuable clues about its origin, so ask to see it if you’re unsure.  Your waiter or chef may also have excellent suggestions once you’ve narrowed down the options, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.  If you do have a smartphone handy, check yourself with a program like WineStein Pro to see if you’re on track!  Cheers to easy pairing!

What’s Up With Tannins?

July 13th, 2011 No comments

Recently, we recommended serving a Cabernet with steak and butter-rich foods, partly because of the wine’s tannins.  But what are tannins, actually?

Tannins are polyphenolic compounds naturally found in plants that bind to proteins and other organic compounds.  In other words,  they are naturally found in the skins, stems, and leaves of grapes, and they are attracted to proteins, like those in meat.  Thus, pairing highly-tannic wines with protein-rich dishes makes them seem less astringent, much smoother.  The wine’s tannins race toward the meat instead of your saliva!

Grapes that have very thick skins, like Cabs, naturally give rise to more tannic wines, as do juices that spend more time sitting in their skins after being pressed.  This is why red wines have a greater tannic content that whites; juice from white grapes is not kept in lengthy contact with the skins after pressing.  A wine’s texture is also impacted by the volume of tannins.  An astringent, dry, tart-like quality can be “felt” in youthful reds with high tannic content.  Because tannins mellow over time, however, older well-aged reds do not possess this feisty quality.  (This is one reason why aging wine appropriately is important.)

Because tannins are produced naturally, you may not be surprised to hear that several of your favorite foods also contain them: walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, cloves, cinnamon, red and white beans, smoked fish and meats, and chocolate liquors, just to name a few!  Tannins have even been known to display antibacterial properties, according to a study conducted by Hisanori Akiyama, Kazuyasu Fujii, Osamu Yamasaki, Takashi Oono and Keiji Iwatsuki.  For more info about tannins and related topics, check out the article “The Science of Aging Wine” in Vintage Cellars’ Wine Storage Education Center.

bowl of strawberries and blueberries, fruit with tannins

Image courtesy of

A Versatile South American Red: Domaine Monte de Luz 2008

February 24th, 2011 No comments

Domaine Monte De Luz 2008

The Tannat grape is believed to have its origins in the Basque region; however, its use in winemaking is associated with the Madrian region in southwestern France.  One of the easiest varietals to grow, Tannat does quite well in South America, Uruguay in particular.

The  Tannat Domaine Monte de Luz 2008 is a very rustic wine with a nose that includes dark berries amidst prominent vegetables with a hint of earthiness.  This very opaque wine’s dark berry flavor opens to include traces of other complementary fruits.

Tannat Grapes

Tannat Grapes (from Wikipedia)

The body is soft, with appropriate weight, and the finish is soft yet slightly acidic with exposed tannins.  Uruguay has been well known for the Tannats it produces, and the Domaine Monte de Luz 2008 does not disappoint.

Though lacking great complexity, this wine is a versatile sipper, making it a great complement to a variety of grilled poultry and even some hearty meats (Steak makes an especially good partner!). And if you’re sautéing onions, try adding a splash (or two) to the frying pan. The Domaine Monte de Luz 2008 even pairs well with spicy dishes, too.  Overall, I am pleased with the variety of food pairings to which this Tannat lends itself.  Having a few extra bottles on hand is not a bad idea!

Great Wines for Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2011 No comments

postcardValentine’s Day is today! Still in need of a perfect gift?  This year, think about forgoing the teddy bear and heart-shaped jewelry.  Instead, get her a romantic gift you can enjoy together: wine.  Here are some great choices for romance on the 14th.

Great with chocolate-covered strawberries: This valentine’s day classic is perfection with another classic: Champagne.  Pop a bottle of bubbly, line up those gorgeous strawberries on a pretty platter, and get ready to enjoy them together.  If you don’t want to spend the cash on authentic French champagne, you don’t have to!  Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, and Cava, a Spanish bubbly, are great options without the label-induced price spike.  Cheers!

Great with steak: Nothing says “I love you” like a meal prepared with your own two hands.  Never mind that it’s February, get out there and grill!  Steak is rich and indulgent, a great choice for Valentine’s Day.  Try this Steak with Rosemary Red Wine Sauce for something a little extra special.  Use your favorite rich, dry red for the sauce and to drink with the meal.  Need a suggestion?  Try this 2007 Ravenswood Zin–perfection with a juicy grilled steak.

Great with chocolate: Chocolate is a classic gift for a reason.  But this year, try something a little different: a chocolate and wine pairing made specially for the one you love.  Whether her favorite is white, milk, or decadent dark, there’s a perfect wine to bring out all the flavors she loves so much.  Our guide on chocolate pairing makes it easy.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Steak With Rosemary Red Wine Sauce

January 6th, 2011 No comments

wine sauce

Dying for some grilled food?  I know I am.  In the dead of winter, when it seems like all I’m eating is roasted and slow-cooked meats and hearty pastas, I sometimes get a craving for something a little more fresh tasting.  Nothing satisfies that craving better than a big grilled steak and a crisp green salad.  So put on your winter coat and get out there and light up the grill.  This steak and rosemary red wine sauce will be worth it, I promise.

Grill your steaks (I prefer a nice ribeye medium rare.)  Put them on a warm platter and tent with foil to rest.  Then, make your sauce:

  • Saute a sliced onion in a tablespoon of butter.  Cook until soft and browned, stirring constantly (about 10 minutes).
  • Add 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.
  • Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add 1 and 1/2 cups dry red wine, one cup of beef broth, and a pinch of sugar.  Boil and stir until reduced by half.
  • Pour over steaks and serve immediately.

Don’t forget to serve this with the same wine you used in the sauce.  Delicious!

How to Make a Red Wine Sauce

January 4th, 2011 2 comments

We’ve posted on how to make a white wine sauce.  But we’d be remiss in our duties to provide you with wine know-how without teaching you how to make a red wine sauce as well.  A red wine sauce is a richer, more delectable counterpart to its buddy, the white wine sauce.  Just like a white wine sauce, though, it couldn’t be simpler to make.  And it is the perfect accompaniment to any pan-fried meats you might be cooking up.  A pan-cooked filet or flat-iron is elevated from good to great with this simple sauce.

Red Wine Sauce

When you’re done cooking your meat, remove it to a warm plate and tent it with foil to keep it warm.  While the meat rests and the juices re-distribute, you have the perfect amount of time to make a great sauce.

Pour off all but two tablespoons of fat from the pan.

Turn the heat to medium.  Add mined shallots or a combination of mined onions and garlic and a pinch of salt, and saute.

Add 2 cups of dry red wine.  Deglaze the pan: bring the sauce to a boil, and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until all the delicious brown bits are loosened.  Turn the heat down a bit and let the sauce simmer until reduced by half.

Pour over a steak.  Serve with the same wine in the sauce.  Bliss!

Wine Recipe: Boeuf Bourguignon

September 25th, 2010 1 comment

Boeuf Bourguignon with pastaAs the cold weather approaches, my tastes start changing.  After months of craving chilled Rosé or Pinot Grigio, I start to want deeper, richer wines.  I’ll start with rich, buttery Chardonnays, turn to Pinot Noirs, and eventually end up wanting only the biggest, boldest reds, like Cabernet Sauvignons.

My cooking starts to reflect this change, too.  I begin to shun salads, and leave the grill alone for weeks.  I cook soups, roasts, and rich, thick stews.  My favorite way to combine my cravings?  Cooking with wine, of course!  Today, let’s talk about a classic: Bouef Bourguignon (you can call it Beef Bourguignon or Beef Burgundy too; I won’t judge).

This is my grandmother’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.  It uses a good dry red wine, like Burgundy or Chianti, and it’ll satisfy those cravings for a dish rich with the flavors of wine.  Enjoy!

Grandma’s Boeuf Bourguignon


1 3-pound filet of beef, trimmed and cut into large pieces

1/4 lb bacon, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups wine

1 1/2 cups beef stock

1 T. tomato paste

A few sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 pound pearl onions, peeled (you can buy already-peeled frozen ones to save yourself the work)

8 carrots, cut into large slices

2 T. butter, room temp, and 2 T. flour (to make a roux)

1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced

minced parsley for garnish


Heat a pan over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper the meat.  In a few tablespoons of olive oil, brown the meat on both sides until it is nice and brown on the outside but very rare inside, 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove the meat and set aside.

Turn down the heat under the pan to medium-low.  Saute the bacon until browned and crisp.  Drain all but 2-3 tablespoons of fat from the pan.  Add the garlic and cook for no more than a minute.

Deglaze the pan: pour in the wine, and with the heat turned up high, scrape and swirl the pan until you’ve loosened all the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the stock, thyme, bay leaf and tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a high simmer, and let it cook for 10-15 minutes.

Strain the sauce and return it to the pan.  Add the onions and carrots and let simmer until cooked (20-30 minutes).

In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter until it forms a paste.  Whisk into the sauce.  Simmer for a few minutes until it thickens.

Saute the mushrooms in butter over medium-high heat in a separate pan until tender and browned.  Add them, along with the beef, and the bacon, to the pan with the sauce and vegetables.  Reheat for 5-10 minutes.  Check for seasoning.  Serve in shallow bowls with pappardelle, mashed potatoes, or a baguette.  Garnish with parsley.

Boeuf Bourguignon on Foodista

Wine Review: Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel, Belloni Vineyard (Russian River Valley)

August 26th, 2010 No comments

If you’ve ever searched for the perfect pairing for a porterhouse, we have the wine for you.  The Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel just cries out to be imbibed with the buttery tenderness of a great porterhouse steak.

This wine is dark ruby in color and has a nose of black cherry, violets and baking spices.  The taste is characterized by lots of concentrated, juicy fruits including blueberry and blackberry.  The rich acidic quality this fruity taste contributes works wonderfully with the fatty unctuous taste of steak.  The finish had a hint of dark bitter chocolate, which contrasted well with the wine’s fruity qualities and made for a taste that truly embodied that word that wine experts love so much: balanced.

Rich, tannic wines such as Zinfandels tend to be very good pairings for steak.  The high levels of tannins in these wines bind to the fat molecules that are so prevalent in something like steak, acting as palate cleansers that refresh the mouth with each sip, leaving it primed for another bite of meat.   (Check out our article on The Science of Wine Aging to learn more about how this works.)  This Zin showed a particularly strong ability to stand up to the rich, meaty taste of the porterhouse, which was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled to a perfect medium rare.

The vines at the Belloni Vineyard are estimated to be more than 90 years old.  The wine they produce is known for its round, fruit flavors and subtle complexity, which makes this 2007 Ravenswood Belloni the perfect candidate for aging.  The company recommends 7-10 years in the cellar to really bring out its background flavors of smoke and peppercorn.

A bottle of this great Zin, accompanied by a perfect steak was the wine lover’s idea of a perfect meal.  To finish with a 1994 Graham’s Vintage Port, now that would be living…

Tips for Cooking with Wine

May 14th, 2010 5 comments

16th century wine press

I love to cook with wine.  But I admit it, sometimes, pouring a cup or a bottle of perfectly good wine into the cooking pot can seem a little sacrilegious.  Is using your good wine in your food worth it?

In a word, yes.  Wine imparts a richness and depth of flavor that is simply hard to come by any other way.  When making sauces, soups, or stews, many recipes call for you to deglaze the pan.  This takes place usually after some meat has been browned (cooked at high heat in some kind of fat until the skin is crispy).  The meat is removed, most of the fat is poured off, and the heat is turned up high.  A generous splash of wine is added, and as it boils, the cook swirls and scrapes with a wooden spoon or spatula, getting the little browned bits unstuck from the bottom of the pan and incorporating them into the dish.  Tons flavor resides in those little brown bits, and deglazing the pan incorporates their taste into the finished dish.  You can use stock or even water for deglazing, but wine adds a rich, unctuous flavor that can’t be replicated by anything else.

Wine isn’t just used for deglazing.  A splash of wine added to a reducing sauce gives it that same deep, rich flavor that we desire when we’re cooking and eating.  The next time you make tomato sauce, try adding a splash of wine (usually half a cup to a full cup) before letting the sauce simmer and reduce.  You’ll be amazed at the richness and flavor it adds.

Wine is also great for marinating meat.  A red wine marinade is a natural partner for beef, as the tannins in the red wine interact favorably with the meat’s fats.  The acid in wine really breaks down the connective tissue in meat.  This means that marinating a tougher cut of meat in wine can really tenderize it, as well as adding flavor to it.  One of my favorite cuts to use this technique with is flank steak.  Flank steak is a thin, tougher cut, but it packs a lot of flavor.  Best of all, it’s inexpensive, usually comes in pieces big enough to feed an army, and sliced thinly, the leftovers make great steak sandwiches.  Try seasoning a flank steak with salt and pepper, and throwing it in a large Ziploc bag with a few garlic cloves, a splash of olive oil, and enough wine to thoroughly soak it.  Let it hang out in the refrigerator for several hours, turning every once in a while to make sure the wine is evenly distributed.  Then simply grill and serve.  This steak is great paired with the same wine used in the marinade.

I don’t set much store by those chefs that advocate using only high-quality wine for cooking.  I think that the flavors are so diluted by the flavors added by the food, and changed by the chemical processes that occur during cooking, that spending a lot of money on wine that you’re just going to dump in the pot is kind of a waste.  You do want to use decent wine that you would drink—avoid those cooking wines sold in the grocery stores—they are highly acidic, and have tons of preservatives, which simply don’t taste good.  They are often also highly salty, which can alter the flavor of the food you’re cooking so much that you ruin the taste.

Cooking is a great way to use a good wine that’s been sitting around for a day or two.  Its optimal drinking window has passed, but that doesn’t meant that all those great flavors should go to waste.  Don’t use a wine that tastes vinegary or rancid, or your food will taste that way too.  But something a little past its prime should be fine.

Cooking with wine isn’t just for the experts.  There are lots of simple ways to incorporate it into your dishes.  And when you’ll do, you’ll find that wine adds so many wonderful, subtle flavors that you’ll never want your kitchen to be without it again.