Wines to Enjoy with your Thanksgiving Meal

thanksgiving wineFor my readers in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving will soon be upon us.  Next week!   This means a feast of turkey or ham, or perhaps shellfish (the Northeastern Indians incorporated clam chowder into their diet long before the albarino-wine-0810-mPilgrims landed).   Turkey, Ham, Fish – sounds like white wine to me – right?  Not exactly.  While there are no hard and fast rules about which wine to drink with what food, it is a beautiful thing when the wine and food complement each other to bring out the best in your meal.

There are many lovely white wines out there, and yes, they go beautifully with Turkey, Ham and Fish, but when enjoying a day like Thanksgiving, fennel and citrus saladdon’t limit yourself to white wine.  Definitely start with white.  Start with a Prosecco or sparkling white.  Enjoy your deviled eggs, baked brie or iced shrimp while sipping an Albariño or Pinot Grigio.  Enhance your Fennel and Citrus Salad with a Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino, or Vinho Verde.  Yes, these are all white wines and they pair beautifully with your apps and saladssyrah.  Now, when moving onto the main course, think red.  Instead of a Pinot Noir, think about serving a light-bodied Syrah, one grown in a cooler climate such as Washington or Northern Rhône.   I recently enjoyed a lovely Syrah; a 2014 Les Vignes d’ à Côté from Yves Cuilleron.  If you are unsure of the region where your Syrah comes from (no information on the bottle), check the alcohol level.  The lighter syrahs will be under 14% ABV.

A light-bodied Syrah will allow the flavors of the turkey or ham to come through and will not overwhelm any seafood you are serving.  Another light bodied red to consider serving to your guest would be a Côtes du Rhône.

cote-du-rhone-winesThere is a lot to learn about a Côtes du Rhône wine.  I’m not going to expand on it now, but I will tell you these are the basic wines of the Rhône region.  They come in a red, white, and rosé variety.  I’m talking about the red right now.  The reds contain a blend of Grenache noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grapes varieties.  Not all reds will have all varieties, but they will all have Grenache in the blend.   Look for a Southern Rhône, one that is medium to light in color.  You can pair this wine without worry.  This wine will not upstage anything you’re serving to your guests for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner; turkey, goose, ham, pork roast.

If you really want a white wine to go with your turkey, then try to find a roussaneRoussanne.  Roussanne is a white wine grape grown in the Rhône region of France, typically used as a blending grape, this grape makes a fabulous wine all on its own.  You will also find this grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  This grape is also found growing in California, Washington as well as Australia, Italy and Spain.  My favorite Roussanne wines come from France.   With honey and pear notes, together with a light acidity, you will find a French Roussanne is the wonderful complement to your turkey.

Of course you will be serving much more than just the protein.   You will certainly have potatoes, perhaps both mashed and sweet, and a thanksgiving dinnergreen vegetable, possibly a green-bean casserole or asparagus with parmesan cheese.  If you’re not serving sweet potatoes, you’re sure to have butternut squash.  Carrots may make their way to your table, along with corn and onions.  And, if you’re serving turkey, don’t forget the stuffing (I make mine with apples and sausage), and cranberry sauce.  For those of you serving ham, you’ll need to add some bourbon-orange glaze to this list.  Now, just how well will a Roussanne, Syrah or Côtes du Rhône wine go with all of this?  Perfectly!

Has anyone mentioned pie lately?  For dessert, you will want to sherrybring out a different style of wine.  If you’re serving pumpkin pie (yum, my favorite), try to steer clear of the sweet dessert wines, look for something with a little raisin and hazelnut flavor to it.  Something along the line of Amontillado style of Sherry.  Yes, Sherry.  This will bring out the cinnamon/nutmeg goodness of your pumpkin pie.

pie and wineFor apple pie, one leaning towards the tart side, I would suggest a rich white dessert wine, perhaps a German Riesling or Sauterne.   Pecan pie calls for Madeira.

If you are completely stuffed and cannot eat one more bite, end your festivaties with Iced Wine.   I particularly like the Ice Wine that comes from the Finger Lakes area of  Up State New York or the Quebec region of Canada.  Okay, so you may want iced wine and cheesea slice of aged cheddar or Vermont Plymouth Blue Cheese to go with this, go ahead, it’s Thanksgiving.


bon appetite





How Are You Storing Your Wine?

sunny california Having recently returned home from a trip to California to visit family, I realized most of the United States is warming up.  This brought to my mind how important it is to keep cool – you and your wine.  Heat is one of the biggest reasons your wine will turn to vinegar or worse.  Here are some ways to store and not store your wine.

Heat – Heat is the number one enemy.  Wine does not like to be kept above 70 degrees.  Temperatures above 70 degrees will age your wine faster than you want and will change the flavors and aromas to be flat and bitter.  cold storage

Cold – Along with the heat, wine does not like to be kept too cold.  If you’re keeping your wine in the refrigerator, do not keep it for longer than one year, especially if the refrigerator gets below 45 degrees.  If you’re keeping your wine in an unheated garage, make sure it does not freeze.  The frozen liquid could push the cork up and out.  Also, if you do keep your wine in the refrigerator, open it about 10 minutes before you intend to drink it.  Wine, even White and Rosé, should not be served too cold, it diminishes the aromas and flavors.  I personally keep my Whites, Rosé, Pinot Noir and Shiraz in the refrigerator.  I take the Pinot Noir and Shiraz out about 30 minutes before serving.  My refrigerator is set to 50 degrees.

Basically wine likes to be kept at a temperature that runs between 45 degrees and 65 degrees.  Frequent or extreme temperature fluctuation can cause the liquid to expand and contract causing the cork to seep or even become pushed out.

wine storageLight – Sunlight can pose a potential problem for long-term storage. The sun’s UV rays can degrade and prematurely age wine. One of the reasons why wine, particularly red wine, comes in  colored glass bottles is to help keep the daylight away from the wine. Light from household bulbs probably won’t damage the wine itself, but can fade your labels in the long run.

Humidity – If you’re living in a desert or arid climate you will need to watch out for the low humidity.  Dry air will dry out the corks, which would let air into the bottle and spoil the wine.  desertAnywhere between 50 percent and 80 percent humidity is considered safe, and placing a pan of water in your storage area can improve conditions if you are in a dry climate.  Conversely, extremely damp conditions can promote mold. This won’t affect a properly sealed wine, but can damage the labels. A dehumidifier can fix that.

Time – Not all wines improve over time. Generally inexpensive wines will not improve. Red wines can be stored and aged for anywhere between 2-10 years to mature depending on varietal.   old wineThe type of red wine and the balance of its sugar, acid and tannins will determine how long it can be stored.  Most white wines and rosé wines should be consumed after 2-3 years of storage.

Other factors such as too much shaking (if you live near a train station or a music studio) and laying down your corked bottles,  (laying them sideways helps to keep the cork damp) come into proper storage of your wine, along with isolating your wine from strong smells (wine does breath and can become tainted by strong smells)  but these issues are primarily for storing wine longer than four or five  years.  If you are considering storing your wine longer than six years and do not have a below ground basement then you should look into professional storage.

So, how to properly store your wine?  The easiest solution is a designated refrigerator or wine cooler.  Set the temperature to 50-55 and you will be fine.  If you don’t want to have a separate refrigerator sitting around, you can use any type of rack as long as it is in a dark, stable space wood wine rackthat is not too humid or dry.  Usually a closet or cabinet will work.  Do not store your wine in the kitchen or garage.

Wine does not need a fancy storage unit (although wouldn’t it be nice to have one), wine wants a nice temperate, dark, not too dry – not too humid spot to lay down for awhile.  If you want to purchase a unit especially built for storing wine, look for something that does not have a clear window for the door – this will let in the light.  Find something that will allow you to see most of what is in the storage unit when the door is open.  One of the drawbacks of a refrigerator is how difficult it is to find that particular wine you’re looking for.

If you’re going to store wine, it helps to keep your wine information on a spreadsheet or in a wine_journalnotebook.  Write down the varietal, the place of purchase, the price and date of purchase.  If you’re storing  your wine and you drink it a year after you purchase it, it is nice to have this information for reference.  It is also good to keep track of what has been removed from your storage to keep track of what you have and what you do not have.  This helps you to keep a balance of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy, Rioja, well, you get the idea.  I also like to get some adhesive tape and write on the tape with black marker the year the wine will be ready.  I put this information right on the front for easy reading.

After you open your wine and the bottle is not empty, store white wine with the cork or top on it in your refrigerator for three or four days.  Red wine should have the oxygen removed (this is done with a wine pump and stopper) and can be held in a dark cabinet for three or four days.

My biggest problem is space, once you start storing wine, cataloging it and enjoying it with friends, you’re going to want to continually add to your collection.

Cheers!wine glass

How Does Your Garden Grow?

spring garden Here in the Northern Hemisphere we’ve made it to the start of the growing season – woo hoo!  Personally, I still have snow in my yard but I’m beginning to see spots of lawn and dirt show in the sunnier parts of the yard.  This means we will be turning the earth and planting the seeds very soon.  With this thought in mind, I’m thinking of drinking some wine with minerality in it.  Not really sure if minerality is a word in the English dictionary but in my dictionary it means wine that has the taste of minerals.  This includes the flavors of slate, Black and White Slateessence of rain, aromas of newly mowed grass.  A balance between fruit, floral, acidity and tannin.  Perfect for the growing season.

If you are not familiar with the flavors and bouquets of a mineral wine, think of going to the opposite side of sweet and fruity.  If you’re able to get to salt water, that smell you get from salt water the water and the salt in the air.  A mineral wine is dry and flinty, never sweet and little fruit.  Most mineral wines are white but there are some reds.

When I think of a wine that is high in minerality, my first thoughts go to a wine that comes from the cooler climate, for instance a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley such as

Joseph Destinea Mellot or a Chablis such as Louis Michel & Fils.  A bit more obscure wine would Joseph Destinea Mellotbe a Domäne Wachau, which is made of the signature grape, Gruner Veltliner, from Austria.  Turning towards the reds, a Pinot Noir from the cooler regions such as Oregon or the  North Coast of California,  is my obvious go-to red for something in the flinty tasting category but a wine from Priorat, Spain would be a more    priorat spainunique choice.  A red wine with peppery notes, nuances of licorice and steel, the wines coming from Priorat, Spain are usually a blend of Garnacha, Cabernat Sauvignon and Carinena which give them that earthy, graphite taste and texture.

If you’re like me, and you’ve been working outside in the warmer weather, you want to sit down to a chilled, crisp white and a plate of honeyed goat cheese, some lightly salted crackers and perhaps a bit of fruit chutney or Potlicker Jelly.  My first choice from my inventory would be the Louis white wine pairingLatour Marsannay Blanc which is a white burgundy full of steely goodness.  If I was headed to my local wine shop, I would ask for a Chablis or a dry Chenin Blanc (most under-rated varietal right now – in my opinion).  Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier would fall into this category.  The best part about the white wines is; they are nice even without food, just sipping on the porch.  Okay, I like my nibbles, but if I was stuck with nothing but the wine – I could make it work.

Now – if we’re talking barbeque or grilling then that’s a different story.  If I was grilling some acrobatlovely spring veggies and perhaps  a little pork, chicken or fish then I may go with the red.  I’m not talking about a deep red (notice, no red meat was mentioned above) but the lighter reds that have no fruit but more of a structured pepper taste to it.   Pinot Noir is the obvious choice but a good earthy Sicilian such as Buceci Myrina Nero d’Avola would work – perhaps even a Chianti in a pinch.  Be sure to pick a red that does not have a lot sicilianof fruit or floral to it, a red with more of a blend of controlled tannins and a balance of spice to the fruit.  Be sure to take advantage of the Spring seasonal veggies and foods such as Fiddleheads, Fennel, Greens and Artichokes.  Put a bit of garlic infused olive oil on these, toss a few mushrooms in with a bit of parmesan or assiago cheese, wrap in foil and grill for about 5 minutes on each side.  This will really bring out the flavors in your wine.

garden toolsSo…pick up that shovel, spade, rake, hoe, whatever your garden tool of choice is and start digging, planting and spreading that fertilizer, then sit back with the wine of your choice and admire your hard effort.  What wine will you be drinking?

Wine Tasting is Like Watching Tennis…There is Never Enough

If you’re like me, you love to go wine tasting events and you love to watch tennis.   I’ve come to realize there are a lot of similarities between the two.  Every large city has at least one Grand Slam Wine Tasting Event at leasaustralian-open-2013-ground-passt once a year.  Usually in the summer.  And, most likely, there are a lot of little smaller tastings going on around you.  You’ll meet and greet the usual heavy hitters at the Grand Slams.  The smaller events are where you’ll meet and greet new players and you may become a fan of one, two or three.

One of my favorite websites for searching out wine tasting events near my home is called “The Juice” offered through the website “Wine and Food Events”.    Once you sign up, you’ll get a newsletter titlethe juiced “The Juice”  in your e-mail every few weeks.  The newsletter lists wine events near you.  You’ll also get an informational page about wine and related items.  It’s free to sign up.  Of course you can upgrade but I haven’t done this and thus can’t tell you how much better that would be.

Another way I’ve found small wine tasting offerings is by checking with the local wine shops and bars.  There are at least two wine shops in Burlington, Vermont that offer weekly tastings.  Burlington Wine Shop and Dedalus Wine are two that I love to visit when I’m in that city.  I also check the Chamber of Commerce for cities and towns that I know I will be visiting for wine events that may be on their calendar.

Once you’ve found a tasting event, there are several key factors to take into consideration to make it a successful event.  My number one rule; never purchase more than one bottle of a wine wine caseswhich you find at a tasting.  Obviously this applies to the first purchase.  When you’re at a tasting, it is possible that your notion of a fabulous, marvelous, wonderful wine can be a bit skewed.  Really.  So, instead of running out and buying two or more bottles of this fabulous, marvelous, wonderful wine, only to find it is…well…not as tasty as you once thought, purchase one bottle.  Try it when you have not been tasting other wines and see if it is still as good as it once was.   Hopefully it will be excellent and then you can stock up!

Rule number two;  take copious notes.  Right.  Who wants to do that?  You do!!  You will be rewarded for your efforts.  If you’re at a small tasting, just jot down the names of the wine you think you love, some of the key reasons you think you love it and the price.  If you live in a rural area as I do, it is helpful if you can get the name of the distributor.   If you’re at a Grand Slam event, and they offer a program, circle or highlight the wine and write a note or two in the margin of the page.
wine tasting notesThen, several days after the event, if you decide to purchase the wine, you’ll have the information necessary, and you can revisit your thoughts on that particular wine.  I know I tend to get caught up in the moment of having a conversation with other wine drinkers and lose track of what my own thoughts are and can get swept up in someone else’s opinion.

Third Rule applies primarily to the reds.  I always ask how long has the bottle been opened.  Reds change personality every five minutes for the first hour after they have been opened which is why it is good to know how long the wine has been exposed to the air.  Whites can change too, but they have a bigger change with the temperature of the wine.

So those are my rules that I try to adhere to when going to a wine tasting.  If possible, I research the wines that will be offered.  Other than that, just go to as many tastings as you can to broaden your horizons with the numerous grape varietals in this world.  Explore what other countries have to offer.  Find out what is growing and distilling near you!


Which Wine will you be Drinking with your Holiday Meal?

We will be enjoying a Bourbon Soaked Spiral Ham with our Christmas dinner.  We have a lovely Spanish Rioja wine set aside to enjoy with this.  The ham will be seasoned with the bourbon and riojaorange juice, cloves, brown sugar and black pepper.  The wine that will accompany this ham needs to be able to stand up to the sweetness of the brown sugar and the brisk flavors of the bourbon.  We will be serving a Spanish Rioja because it has enough tannin for the ham but it also has enough fruit to enhance the flavor of the ham.   One of my favorite Riojas is Bodegas Muga Reserva.   The price for this is about $18.

If you’re serving poultry, you may want to consider a White Bordeaux (see my previous wine blog).  No matter how you cook the bird or what seasonings you have used, a White Bordeaux will hold up but not overpower what you’re serving.  My current favorite White Bordeaux wines are Chateau Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Blanc and Bellevue Bordeaux Blanc.  The price for these are about $20

For those that are enjoying beef with their dinner, I would recommend a fully rounded

mcmanisCabernet.  Be careful of the heavy tannic Cabs, they are better with a grilled steak or something that is heavy on the seasoning.  A fully rounded Cabernet is one that has some complexity to it but not a lot of tobacco or licorice flavors to it.   Various Cabernet wines that run about $12 – $20 per bottle would be; Cannonball, McManis, Sharecropper and Stagecoach.  All of these are from California except Sharecropper which is from the Columbia Valley, Washington.  Depending on where you live, at least one of these should be available.  I call these “friendly Cabs”.  Nice and round, not too acidic, plenty of dark fruits (blackberry, cherries, pomegranate)

One thing about a red wine, if you don’t like it, keep the bottle open for 20 minutes, you will find the characters of the wine will change, some more drastic than others.  I find Icannonballtalian  and Spanish wines to change the most.

If you’re serving a heavily spiced beef or like my mother always did – homemade raviolis, then certainly pick a wine with more gusto and tannins, something that has more cedar and eucalyptus in it.

And for those serving pork or lamb, reach for a Pinot Noir.  My favorite Pinots come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  I have never been disappointed in a Pinot from this region.  Unfortunately this seems to be a very popular consensus lately and the prices have soared.  So…I’m now trying Pinots from the Central Coastal region of California and have been pleasantly surprised with what I’ve found.  Carmel Road Pinot Noir Arroyo Secco is a good example of a very nice Pinot Noir from the Monterey, California area. This wine should cost around $18.

I keep my Pinot Noir wines chilled.  I pull them about an hour before serving and prefer to serve the wine about 5 or 10 degrees colder than room temperature.  This allows the fruit in the wine to slowly ripen while we are enjoying it.

I found an excellent website for purchasing wine.  It is JJ Buckley Fine Wines.   You can purchase one bottle of wine at a time (or more of course) and you can store your purchase for no charge up to six months.  I gather up a total of 12 bottles then pay $36 in shipping from California to Vermont.  This allows me to purchase wine at a slow pace and only pay $3 per bottle for shipping.  They have a good selection which changes as their inventory changes.  This is where I purchased my white bordeaux.  I’m not sure if they still have these two in stock, but if not, they will be able to direct you to something similar.  Unfortunately some states do not allow wine to be shipped, check with any website for when shipping wine to your location.

There are many other wine varietals that I have not mentioned; Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Merlot and Syrah, to name a few, but for the holiday meals I’ve mentioned above, I believe the Spanish Rioja, White Bordeaux, Cabernet and Pinot Noirs are what I would be serving.

Which wine will you be serving?