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

 

 

 

 

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Fall Into Wine

hello octoberThis is a wonderful time of year.  Autumn.  I love the colors and the weather.  Living in New England is a fabulous experience during the Autumnal months.  Figuring out what wine to drink is not as wonderful.  One day the weather is 70 or higher, the next day the temps are in the 30’s.  Sunday dinner is Barbeque Ribs, Tuesday we’re eating Chicken Stew.  How do you know what to drink with this up-down thing?

With the onset of the cooler temperatures, I’m tempted to put decoyaway most of my whites and dry Rosés.  This seems reasonable and logical but it is perhaps not the best course of action.  If you’re in a colder climate, you can definitely put away the Vino Verde and the Albarino wines, these should be consumed when the weather is hot and they are chilled.  The Sauvignon Blancs and rounded Chardonnays that you have from the Northern Hemisphere will still be something to enjoy.

zucchini pastaYou can pull those Northern Hemi Sauvs and Chardonnays out when you’re serving a white based pasta dinner such as Chicken Alfredo or Zucchini Pasta II, or anything with mild seasonings.  Add a White Burgundy to your Roast Chicken dinner, it will pair beautifully. Just because the temps are getting cooler, doesn’t mean you need to put all of the white wines away.

However, if you’re like me, and turn to fall winethe comfort food when the weather starts to chill, then you’ll need to stock up on the reds.  Not the Big Bad Boys (Chianti, Barolo, Super Tuscan), more along the line of the gentle, kinder reds.  Reds such as Gamay (Beaujolais), roasted pork Grenache, Pinot Noir and Malbec.  Other than the Pinot Noir, these are reds that are not in the usual rotation of red wines, but they are fabulous for the foods we’re cookingiced pumpkin cookies during the Fall season.  Think of these reds when you’re serving a Herb Roasted Pork with a Tangy Glaze, yum.  The Pinot Noir would be the obvious choice but the Grenache would be my choice.  Save the Big Bad Boys for January, when you’re cooking robust stews and Baked Ziti.

For a super Fall FoliagCotes-du-Rhonee Dinner, serve an Autumn Pork Roast, complete with Butternut Squash and Applesauce, add some roasted new potatoes.  For desert, try Iced Pumpkin Cookies.  I would open a  Côtes du Rhône  with this dinner.   Now is the time to bring out the root vegetables (carrots, snowpotatoes, onions, parsnips) served roasted with rosemary. you can dish up this group of veggies with any braised or slow cooked meat.  Open a Cru Beaujolais, you’ll be glad you did.

Although many say October is the time for “Pumpkin Everything”, I would rather say October is the time for a “Well Balanced Wine with Anything”.

And don’t forget – November 7th is International Merlot Day – yes – November is the perfect month for drinking Merlot.

November 7th International Merlot Day
November 7th
International Merlot Day

Hot Weather – Cool Wine

boston summerWe’ve been experiencing the last vestiges of Summer here in the United States (well, except for our friends in Alaska).  Autumn is soon upon us and there’s no reason to leave those lovely summer wines in the cooler.  I’ve been enjoying my favorites, the Martin Codax Albarino,  from Spain, Fantini Trebbiano-d-Abruzzo from Italy and most recently I found a new favorite white, Domaine Guillemarine Picpoul from France.  We were in Burlington, Vermont and had the fortune of stopping in at the Vin Bar . I had never heard of a Picpoul wine, let alone tried it.  This is a beautiful white wine, similar to the Albarino but with more acidity to it.  The price is reasonable and if you’re lucky enough to find it in your shop, I recommend getting two bottles.

Keep in mind almost all white wines that have a high degree of minerality and acidity go with chilled white wineshellfish and seafood.  Another easy way to figure a pairing is where the foods come from.  If you’re eating food of a particular country, France, Spain, Italy, etc., then those foods will naturally go with the wine of that region.   And, if there is a lot of acidity in the food (such as tomatoes) then a wine with acidity (Barbera) will go with that food.  Salty and Sweet pair well (Port and Blue Cheese, or Sauterne and Blue Cheese), and sweet fruits (cherries, plums, berries) go well with most Rosé wines, dry (Pinot Noir) and not as dry (Grenache Rosé or Mourvèdre Rosé – or a blend).

Chilled-red-wineAnother thought when you’re experiencing warm weather, you can, and should, chill the lighter of the red wines to 60 degrees.  The lighter reds that I keep in my cooler are; Pinot Noir, Barbera, Petite Sirah,  and Australian Shiraz (the lighter style, not the dark inky style). These wines will change as they warm up and their flavors will soften, giving you different notes and aromas to experience.

The table below is a simple list of easy to access wine for warm/hot weather and some easy pairings.  Your tastes may differ, this is just a starting point.  What will you be pairing with your chilled wine?

Type of Wine Name of Wine Easy Pairing
WHITE
Albarino Burgans Albarino Baixas Rioja White Spicy Indian and Thai
Albarnio Martin Codax Arugula Salad
Chenin Blanc (South African) De Morgenzon Reserve Turkey, Cranberry
Chenin Blanc (Blend) Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier Pork, Nuts, Cheddar Cheese
Grüner Veltliner Höpler Wiener Schnitzel,   Green Beans,
Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio DaVinci Lemon Chicken, Fennel salad
Riesling (Dry) Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Riesling Asian Food
Sauvignon Blanc (French) Joseph Destinea Mellot Chicken, Turkey, Chives, Green Veggies
Vermentino Fattoria Pagliaatura Vermentino Pasta with Seafood, Herbs & Citrus
Vino Verde Casal Garcia Light Cheese, Chips (drinks well alone)
Viognier Cline Curry or Asian Food
White Bordeaux Ducasse Blanc Tarragon Chicken, Asparagus
White Burgundy La Chablisienng Roast Chicken with Mushrooms
ROSÉ
Grenache Alloy Wine Works “Tin City” Melon and Prosciutto, Salade Nicoise
Tempranillo Mas Que Vinos Ercavio Greek Cuisine, Paella, Grilled Sausage
Pinot Noir Rive Sud Grilled Pork or Beef, Quiche
Provence Bandol Artichokes, Caesar Salad
RED
Barbera Mati Grilled Beef, Mushrooms
Grenache (American) Alban Vineyards Estate Grenache Spicy Grilled Meat and Vegetables.
Petite Sirah McManis Barbeque Beef, Duck, Lamb
Pinot Noir Acrobat Herbed Pork Roast, Lamb

Fourth Course – Salad! Arugula, Radicchio, and Fennel Salad

salad startIn some establishments, the fourth course of a European Five Course Meal is a salad.   In the U.S. the salad typically comes before the main course but for this blog I’m going with the European style (actually works better with my work week and the weather around here).  I’m very excited about this Arugula, Radicchio, And Fennel Salad.  I had this salad when visiting my mom in California.  We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in her neighborhood, 54 Mint,  and I loved the salad so much we basically dissected it to figure out the recipe.  I found a recipe close to what I wanted at Saveur.com, adding the additional ingredients that were in my salad that night.   The recipe I found is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 4 cups packed baby arugula
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 small head radicchio, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup shaved Parmesan
  • 3⁄4 cup toasted walnuts

Instructions

Combine arugula, fennel, and radicchio in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper; toss with salad. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and walnuts to serve.

My additions:  Baby Olives, Blue Cheese (Feta would also work) and Mandarin Oranges.Hawaiian-Black-Lava-Sea-Salt   We prefer the Plymouth Blue Cheese, the Big Blue, which is made locally.  I used 1/4 cup of Organic Balsamic Vinegar and cut down on the lemon juice – to  two tablespoons.  Spanish Melgarejo Hojiblanca Olive Oil and Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt were used in the dressing.   I chilled the mandarin oranges and olives before adding them to the salad.

barberaWe paired this with a Scagliola Mati Barbera.  We also tried a slightly chilled DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir but found the complex herb essence of the Pinot Noir competed against all of the different flavors in the salad.  The licorice taste of the fennel and the licorice notes in the Pinot did compliment each other but there was too much going on in the salad to make this a really good pairing.  The Mati Barbera was the better wine pairing with this salad.  This wine had just deloachenough spice to blend with the pepper of the arugula but did not struggle against the balsamic vinegar and fennel.  As with most reds, both the Pinot Noir and Barbera were better after being opened for 20-30 minutes.  I always serve a Pinot Noir slightly chilled – about 60 degrees, especially in warm weather.

We enjoyed this salad, there is a lot going on in it but the flavors meld nicely.  The fennel, radicchio and toasted walnuts keep the crunch going, the arugula provides salad finalenough spice to blend with the cheeses and the oranges give it a touch of sweetness.

Next course is the desert!  Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese – Yum.

Five Courses, Five Wines in Five Days

Sunset over Lake Champlain Burlington, Vermont.
Sunset over Lake Champlain Burlington, Vermont.

As Summer begins to wind down here in Vermont (so very sad), I thought it would be an opportune time to take advantage of the bounty I’ve been finding at our local Farmer’s Market.  The local produce has given me inspiration for a five course meal.  Unfortunately, we are not at a place in our lives to consume this much food at one setting.  We’ve been trying to cut down our consumption of food, smaller meals, smaller portions.  So…what to do?  I decided to do a five course meal in five days – with wine of course.  The menu has been planned knowing our weather will be very, very warm this week.

I will be writing on the progress of this plan each day – so stay tuned!  The menu planned is:

tricolored-peppers-goat-cheese-su-xMonday = Appetizer = Roasted Tricolored Peppers and Goat Cheese with Ciabatta Bread.

Wine will be an Albarino; Burgans Burgans-Albarino-2013Albarino Baixas Rioja White. Sauvignon Blanc would be the obvious choice but because the weather is very warm and this is an appetizer I’m going with the Albarino.

tuna and corn salad  Tuesday = Fish Course = Grilled Tuna and Corn Salad

Wine will be a rosé; Rive Sud. This rosé is made from the Pinot Noir grape giving it aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry, and rive sudwatermelon. I think this wine will bring out the nuances of the Tuna and the sweetness of the caramelized corn.

lemon chickenWednesday = Main Course = Lemon Chicken with Linguine and Fresh Green Beans

Wine will be a Chardonnay; Franciscan Napa Valley Chardonnay. I believe the apple, 2011-Franciscan-Estate-Napa-Valley-Chardonnaypear and nectarine flavors in this wine will pair well with the lemon in the chicken.

fennel saladThursday = Salad = Fennel-Radicchio Salad

Wine will be a Barberra; Scagliola Mati Barbera. The liveliness of this Italian red should play barberawell with the peppery tones of the salad.

roasted pearsFriday – Dessert = Roasted pears with blue cheese and walnuts.

Wine will be Warre’s Warrior Port – the obvious choice for warre'sthis dessert.

This is the plan, we’ll see what actually happens!

original_Bon_Appetit

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?