Summer wine pairing

pesto_roseOne of my favorite (easy) fresh summer appetizers is Basil Cream Cheese pesto with tomatoes.

The fancy version involves making an “X” shape in the end of a cherry tomato and stuffing the tomato with the pesto filling.

I prefer to spread it on grilled bread and top with chopped fresh garden tomatoes to make bruschetta.

Pesto_ingredientsHere is my version of this summer favorite:

8-12 basil leaves (around 2 cups)

2 or 3 cloves garlic (depending on size)

1/4 c. pine nuts (toasted preferably)

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

6 oz. low fat cream cheese (or Neuchâtel preferably)

1/2 c. Olive Oil

Pulse all solid ingredients together in a food processor while drizzling olive oil into the mixture. Blend until smooth.

Brush fresh bread with olive oil and grill or broil.

Spread pesto mix onto bread, top with chopped tomatoes and extra cheese if desired.

Enjoy with a low-tannin light red, or rosé wine.

IRDC_LaSpinettaMy wine pairing suggestion is a pink Sangiovese like this one. Il Rosé di Casanova- La Spinetta. Around $15.

Anything, but Santa Margherita

WineTastingMemorial Day Italian wine tasting- anything but Santa Margherita.

SantaMargheritaFor 14 years in a row, from 1995 to 2008, it was the most popular imported wine in Wine & Spirits magazine’s annual restaurant poll. And as a popular Wine Blogger Blake Gray reports “With 2.5 times the sales of the next-most-popular wine over $20, this is easily America’s favorite wine splurge. It tastes like nothing, and the logical conclusion is that’s what many Americans are looking for.”

 

WIneLineupWe tasted 4 alternatives against Santa Margherita Pinot Grigo:

This was an informal tasting, on the beach, so we used my favorite summertime wine accessories: stainless carafes.

ORANGE• Santa Margherita Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2013- This wine needs no introduction, as Santa Margherita is the standard for the crisp, refreshing notes of Italian Pinot Grigio. Your Price: $19.97

Villata_ArneisAQUA• Villata Arneis Terredavino- Piedmonte NW Italy- Generous, crisp, and refreshing, releasing aromas of blossoms and green apple

$8.50 on sale grape varietal Arneis means “little rascal” in Italian. Difficult to grow.

 

AloisLageder_PGBOTTLE (covered in foil)• Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2013– Crisp, mineral driven, lively, delicious. The perfect summer sipping beverage, and a killer pairing for seafood. It’s cheaper, and better than SM, and just a fantastic wine period. – PJ Wine: $12.97

 

DelSannino_FalanghinaGREEN• Mastroberardino Sannio Falanghina –Campania Italy. The tongue of the boot. 2013- The nose whacks you with a cool sea-breeze of peach, pesto, and salt. It’s also got this fantastic fennel thing going on and smells like sweet basil being extracted by the mid-day southern Italian sun. PJ Wine $16.97

 

Luisa_RibollaGiallaSTAINLESS• Ribolla Gialla is a signature varietal of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The origins of this varietal are uncertain, but some have identified its ancestor as Avola, a varietal brought to Friuli during the occupation of Friuli by the Romans. However, others say Ribolla Gialla is a native varietal of the region. Record of its existance in the region goes as far back as the 12th century. This is a fine and pristine expression of Ribolla Gialla, with bright fruit aromas of peach, citrus and pear. There’s a touch of dusty mineral at the back and the wine is fresh and tart on the close. $17.95

CONCLUSION: The Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio was the most expensive and least favorite of the group.

Around the World QPR Chardonnay+ a Ringer

Memorial Day Blind Wine Tasting

chardonnay_roundtheworld

There is a term “ABC”- short for Anything But Chardonnay. But when it comes to Chardonnay it is not about the grape but rather the style of wine.  Chardonnay is a chameleon, not very distinctive on it’s own, but easily changed by soil composition, growing conditions (hot or cold), use of barrels (none, medium, overdone) and  other winemaking techniques (stirring up dead yeast cells, use of Malolactic fermentation, etc.)

Chardonnay is an acidic grape, one of the qualities it brings when it is used in Champagne which makes an excellent palate cleanser.
Acid is also what allows a white wine to age (higher acid= better ability to age)

BurlapChalkBagsWhat makes Chardonnays different?

Difference between warm and cool climates…

Wines that are further from the equator (cool climates) get less sun are usually more acidic, lower in sugar and lower in alcohol. Dominant fruits are citrus (lemon, limes) apples, pears.

Wines that are closer to the equator (warmer climates) get more sun and heat so the fruit is higher in sugar and usually riper. Dominant fruits can be more tropical and sweeter in flavor (papaya, mango, pineapple, peaches)

Use of barrels…

Chardonnay can be greatly influenced by the decision to use oak in fermenting and/or aging and how much is used.
No aging– stainless- wine is lean, acidic, light in body and color
Medium oak– low oak influence can make the wine rounder in body, darker in color
Heavy oak– for a brief time, California winemakers were using a heavy hand with oak. Oak can be used to mask flaws but many say (myself included) that using too much oak hides many of the good fruit flavors found in Chardonnay.

The use of barrels are responsible for some of these flavors found in Chardonnay: vanilla, toast, smoke, spices, as well as some sweetness.

thespreadWinemaker methods…

There are many but 2 commonly used methods found in Chardonnay are:

1.    Malolactic Fermentation– also called “ML” this is a second (non alcoholic) fermentation using a specific type of bacteria that turns sharp (malic) acids into lactic (smooth/creamy) acids. The difference between granny smith apples and milk.

ML is responsible for some of these flavors in Chardonnay: butter, butterscotch, caramel, cream, toffee, lemon curd (yoghurt).

2 . Contact with Yeast? To make alcohol you add yeast to grape juice (which is mostly sugar). The yeast eats the sugar and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. When it consumes as much sugar as it can, the yeast eventually dies. Some winemakers remove the yeast cells immediately, some leave them in the tank/barrel and even stir them (called battonage) continuously for more flavor in the wine.
Presence of yeast cells produce toasty or doughy flavors (especially in Champagne)

Soil…
Much too complicated to go into this time,  but it can be responsible for all non-fruit flavors such as mineral (wet stones), chalk, sea spray, some floral qualities

THE WINES/THE RESULTS

For our annual Memorial Day wine tasting I decided to pick my favorite mother-in-laws, favorite wine, Chardonnay. We tasted the wines blind, the only thing that tasters knew was that one of the wines was VERY expensive. What they did not know is that one was very common and inexpensive. After everyone sampled the wines I then let them know which country the wines were from and some brief “professional” descriptions, listed below, to see if it would help identify them, before the “reveal”.

AuBonClimat#1. 2010 Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara California– $20
Burgundian in sensibility, but with California style, is one way of describing Jim Clendenen’s chardonnays. In the glass, buttery brioche marries with tropical fruits in an irresistible elixir.

Tasters said: This is good, I like this! Probably the highest ranked wine.

MarquesCasaConcha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. 2010 Marques de Casa Concha– Concha y Toro, Limarí Valley, Northern Chile– $22
A fresh, harmonious white, featuring pineapple, citrus and spice notes backed by juicy acidity and creamy texture. Well-integrated, with a lingering aftertaste of fruit and chalk.

Tasters said: “This is good but not my favorite”.

HamiltonRussell#3. 2011 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa– $26
This white cuts a bold swath, delivering flavors of dried Jonagold apple, fig, creamed pear, hazelnut and persimmon. Creamy and lush, held together by a finely beaded spine of acidity, with strong minerality kicking in on the lengthy finish.

Leflaive_LesSetilles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4. 2010 Olivier Leflaive les Sétilles, Burgundy France- $15

Fine balance sets the stage for the apple, lemon and mineral flavors in this white. Stays focused, with the vibrant structure framing the finish.

This is not just any Bourgogne Blanc, this is Olivier Leflaive’s closely guarded secret blend. The resulting wine is the perfect progeny, melding seamlessly Meursault’s fleshy fruit, plump fresh nuts and creamy textures with the driving minerally energy and jasmine scent of Puligny.

Tasters said: “This is lean, acidic…I don’t smell much…I don’t like this one, it is probably French.” BINGO !

YellowTail#5. Yellow Tail Chardonnay- South Eastern Australia– $7
Rich tropical fruits with a creamy finish. This wine is soft yet fresh with balanced acidity and lingering melon flavors on the tongue.

Tasters said: “I really like this wine.” but others, “This is the only wine so far that I don’t like, actually I can’t drink it”. The most polarizing wine of the day and one that really shows the difference between personal preferences.

2006Latour_GrandCru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#6. 2006 Domaine Louis Latour Corton-Charlamagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, France. $150 retail.
Latour’s estate-bottled 2006 Corton Charlemagne displays lime peel, resin, and chalk dust in the nose; its sappy, pit- and citrus-fruit dominated palate resists the wine’s 100% new wood well; and it finishes invigoratingly with an extended reprise of citrus, resin, and chalk.

Tasters said: “This is probably an expensive wine. It definitely needs food.”

Try this yourself sometime and please share your favorite Chardonnays with me !!

​For Rosè Lovers Only

On a recent wine trip to the North Fork of Long Island we discovered a fantastic new (to us) winery, Croteaux Vineyards.

Unlike many of the other wineries in the area they do not allow larger groups (more than 8), and do not accept limos, buses, taxis, or any hired car services.

These ‘rules’ provide for a calm, relaxing vibe to sit back and enjoy delicious Rosè-only, wine.

Even though Rosè is generally given its own category, it is technically a very light Red wine.

All of the Rosès at Croteaux Vineyard are made as the final product. As they say, “Rosè on Purpose!”

This distinguishes their wines, from the majority of Rosès, which are often made as a by-product of  red wine production using the saignée (pronounced ‘sonyay’) method, which means to “bleed off”.

Basically the red wine maker has a big vat of grape juice and skins that they leave fermenting together to make a darker colored and more flavorful wine. They remove some of the liquid to let the remaining liquid and skins become more concentrated.

Normally what is removed becomes Rosè wine.

NOT so at Croteaux, where they grow Cabernet Franc and  Merlot specifically for the beautifully colored wines, of various styles, to be enjoyed by all.

The Wine Menu

Not to be outdone by the wines, the packaging of EVERYTHING- from the logo and their colors, to the bottle labels, t-shirts, and garden outside, is trendy and elegant.

Next time you are in the neighborhood I highly recommend you visit and buy someone special a gift here. Since they are fairly small production you probably won’t find them anywhere else.

I plan on making  Croteaux Vineyards  a regular stop to sip and chill…

Tolerant Taster approved!

 

 

 

 

July 4th- A NY State of Mind…Summer Wines

To celebrate July 4th, or any hot summer day, I recommend drinking American beer/wine. Our economy needs it!

Here are a few of my “local favorites”; all wines from the North Fork of Long Island, New York.

Riesling (Dry)- Paumanok 2007- $22

From the producer:
“Aromas of lime, green apple, lilies, lilac and other white flowers and a hint of ginger. Bone dry with flavors of lime, green apple, white apricot and intense acidity.”

Paumanok also makes a nice Chenin Blanc as as well- $25

 

Sauvignon Blanc (NICOLA’S CUVEE)- McCall 2010- $24 (pictured)

The wine had just been bottled and they didn’t have labels yet but I convinced the winemaker to let me buy it. He improvised and “created” a label from an existing Chardonnay label. Gotta love it.

 From the producer:
“Crisp and elegantly refined with minerality reminiscent of Loire Valley’s classic Sancerre. This low production wine offers exceptional quality which may prove to be the best vintage ever for Long Island wine. A must with local shellfish.”

 

Rosé- Wölffer Estate 2010- $20

From the producer:
“The floral aroma hints of a freshly cut wildflower field. The mouth is filled with fresh berries and a note of wild strawberries.”

Drinks like a glass of Summer!

 

Chardonnay:
Shinn Vineyards 2010- $20

Shinn is working toward becoming the first Long Island winery to be certified Organic. They are doing all the right things, in the vineyard, and in the production of their wines.

 From the producer:
“This unwood style Chardonnay showcases bright mineral characters washed in exotic fruit and gentle mouthwatering acidity. A long 8 month post fermentation lees contact adds spicy overtones and silky texture while pear and tropical flavors give way to a polished finish.”

 

Chardonnay Lenz Old Vines 2008- $25…but you need to be a Wine Club member (I am)

From the producer:
“The Old Vines style is intended to emphasize fruit intensity, balance and elegance.  We use very limited barrel fermentation and oak-aging tends to be ‘neutral,’ meaning we only use older barrels that allow the wine to achieve greater complexity and flavor concentration but leave less of an oak fingerprint on the wine.  Old Vines Chardonnay is focused on flavors of apple and pear with notes of fig.”

 

A note of caution: The North Fork of Long Island isn’t well known for making great wines, but they do, and they often sell out of everything they make. However, Long Island has difficult growing conditions for wine grapes and the wine quality can vary from year to year. The wines that I tasted with the producers and am drinking now are from 2007/2010 vintages which were both excellent. Some are still available in stores.

The latest vintage, 2011 was NOT a year that I can recommend yet as I have heard that it was a difficult vintage (Hurricane Irene) and I have not tried any of them.

Excellent summer white wines! Memorial Day Part Deux…

Two years ago I setup a Rosé wine tasting for family and friends to see if we could all agree on a summer favorite. Click to read.

The group asked if we could do it again, with white wines, so I was happy to oblige.

The 5 wines I chose are all wines that I recommend to people on a regular basis for these reasons:

They are inexpensive, all under $15, and a few under $10 on sale.

All are relatively easy to find- they are carried in most wine stores in the country.

They are consistent-not too much variation from vintage to vintage.

Granted, these wines aren’t going to blow you away with layers of complexity, but let’s be honest… summer wines should be simple, well chilled, and refreshing.

*All wines were tasted blind with tasting sheets for the drinkers to circle flavors, grape variety, country of origin and to write comments.

So here are the wines with some “professional” tasting notes along with comments from all of us non-professional wine drinkers who just want a great summer white…
Continue reading

4th of July- Hot Dogs, Hamburgers and Watermelon Wine…

Ahhhh......Summer!

One of my favorite things on a hot summer day is ice cold watermelon. Read on for 2 ways to have watermelon, without the seeds, or the mess.

IZZE esque Sparkling Watermelon– I don’t believe this is officially launched (I know people at PepsiCo). But when it becomes available, you should try it. IZZE was started in Boulder, Colorado, their products use all-natural ingredients (sugars and flavors-including grapes). The IZZE esque line is lower calorie, with a light sparkle, and very refreshing. Great for making “adult beverages” like IZZE watermelon and vodka.

Enanzo Garnacha Rosé Navarra is a pink wine from the Navarra region of Spain. It is made from Garnacha (Spanish for Grenache) grapes. It is produced using the traditional “free-run” technique, where the grape must is obtained by gravity alone. When the picked grapes are dumped into the collection tank, Continue reading