Forming a Theory with Help from Mia Wines

I may have a cure for the Texas Hill Country drought.  It requires wine, food, wonderful people, and a great deal of planning, but if we work together, I think we can pull this off.  So far, I am two for two on the Wine event:Torrential rainstorm ratio.  Last month, after the Dry Creek event, I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me, even going 10 mph.  I avoided highways, prayed, and made it safely, but the lakes rose.  On Thursday, I went to a party at a private home to launch Mia wines, the new line from Freixenet, and we rushed home followed by tornado warnings and downpours.  Coincidence?  You decide.

This was not just any home.  This was one of the most beautiful private homes I have been in.  High above Lady Bird Lake, the views to the right were of the river winding past the downtown skyline, to the left, Red Bud Isle and Lake Austin.  The home had been recently purchased and redesigned by Mark Ashby Design.  The home was contemporary, sleek, yet comfortable and inviting.  That can be a difficult balance to strike; Mark and his team did so with an incredible eye for both subtle and dramatic details.

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As guests arrived, tapas were passed.  With the Spanish wines, Spanish fare was a given.  Eva Bertran of Freixenet and Daniel Olivella of Barlata have a friendship which has spanned decades, so even on his birthday, he provided a beautiful spread.  Crostini with Octopus and fennel, Iberica and micro greens, Chorizo, prawns, and wild mushroom with pine nuts.  Again, I cursed this shellfish allergy, but what I could have was delicious.  My husband oohed and aahed and claimed it was the best paella he’s had.  I have never seen a Paella pan like the Paella pans Chef Olivella had at this party.   What came out of them had to be fantastic.

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Gloria Collell is from a family of wine entrepreneurs so it is no surprise that the lure of enology trumped the lure of law school.  She has been with the Ferrer family, owners of Freixenet, for years and felt the next move should be into easy-drinking, food-friendly wines.  She wanted them to be approachable and festive.  She wanted them to capture the essence of Barcelona and be at an accessible price point.  Gloria has achieved what she set out to do.  These are perfect party wines.

The Mia line currently consists of five wines: white, rose, red, sparkling, and sparkling rose. The whites and pinks are low in alcohol with a level of sweetness.  They are all fermented in steel to retain the fresh, bright flavors.  The grapes are quintessentially Spanish.  The labels boast a colorful mosaic, a perfect representation of the wine.

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Mia’s white blend consists of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Moscato, and Parellada.  Bright blossoms, tropical fruits, and honey.  The rose was my favorite and new grapes for me, Bobal and Sumoli.  Subtle red fruit, floral notes, a great food wine.  The red was, of course, Tempranillo.  Red and black fruit, spice and earth.  Both sparklings are Moscatos.  She suggests pairing the white with rich cheeses or dessert.  The rose has a 2% addition of Tempranillo which changes the wine immensely.  It balances the sweetness and would be perfect with berries and chocolate.

As The Brew played, the sun set, and in the distance, thunder clouds began to roll in.  It did not stop the band from hitting every note.  In fact, that could also be said about Janet Kafka and her team.  Every detail was well executed; the setting could not have been more captivating.  The hosts were gracious and inviting and the service was top-notch.  The food and wine sang of Barcelona, with casual, colorful elegance.

To test a theory, one need to evaluate in several controlled settings.  There needs to be a consistency in the elements, careful observation.   Now, I’m not saying that there is a definite correlation between the great food and wine events and the storms, but it is something I am willing to offer my services as a test subject, repeatedly if necessary.

Many thanks to Janet Kafka and team, Mark Ashby, Daniel Olivella, Gloria Collell, and everyone that made the evening possible.

I was invited to the event as media but received no additional compensation.  The thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

Salad Days

The heat and humidity are picking up here in central Texas, so sometimes I need to keep it really simple in the kitchen.  I scratch plans for anything that requires turning on the oven and improvise.  Last Wednesday was one of those nights.  I was in the mood for a rose so I opened a sample I recently received from Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, Pinot Noir rose to be specific.

Good floral and herbal notes on the nose, palate was similar with subtle red fruit.  A bit of a bite at the end when sipping but that faded when paired with the food.  I had the hubs grill some Brat Hans Spicy Italian chicken sausage  (you can find it at Whole Foods) and threw together a salad of fennel, grape tomatoes, and basil with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil.  I love it when pairings works surprising well. The fennel complemented the sausage and the wine.  The sweet basil brought out the herbal notes in the wine. It was ridiculously simple and ridiculously good together.

This was the second rose I’ve tried from the Finger Lakes region.  The first, I didn’t care for, but this was a nice, easy food-friendly wine and well priced at about $15.  It is fun to see more pink coming from more places and I’ll keep my eye out for more.

Not one to waste good fennel, I incorporated it into another, very different but equally tasty salad.  The main dish was grilled red snapper with herbs and lemon zest.  This time I used butter lettuce, blood orange, fennel, and pistachios with a rice wine and honey vinaigrette.  So simple and super tasty.  What would I pair with this meal?  Sauvignon Blanc, of course.  I love it all the time but when the temps rise, I crave the crisp acidity of a good Sauv Blanc.

Because today is Sauvignon Blanc Day in the wine world, let’s spend a little more time on this perennial favorite.  So here is the thing about SB and me.  I love it all.  Okay, almost all.  Whether the label says Sancerre or Fume Blanc, New Zealand or Chile, I am usually a fan.  This would be a great place to tell you my favorites, but that is just the thing.  I don’t have any.  I am constantly trying new ones, and pretty consistently happy.  There are a few bigger names that I don’t feel the need to buy again, but if it is poured, I will enjoy it.

This past Monday I had the pleasure of trying two from a region typically associated with fantastic Zinfandels.  The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley were in town and I had the good fortune of dining with them at Justine’s Brasserie.  The first two wines poured were Sauvignon Blanc and they were equally delicious.

The first wine from Fritz Underground Winery was 90% tank fermented with 10% done in French oak to soften the wine.  Beautiful tropical notes, great acidity.  A very elegant wine.  The second was from Dutcher Crossing.  They add a little Viognier which comes through in the nose and the texture.  Again, great tropical fruits, stone fruit, and citrus.  The people were as wonderful as the wines.  More on this to come.

So what are your favorites salad wines?  Any favorite SBs I need to look for?  For that matter, what are some favorite summer salads you can throw together quickly and painlessly?  I’ll be sharing more of my faves as the summer swelter begins.

{The Fox Run was received as a media sample and the dinner was part of a media promotion.  I received no other compensation and the thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

Calling my Name- Bodegas Protos

Wait, did you hear that?  Oh, there it is again!   It happens every time I’ve opened a bottle from Ribera del Duero.  It is Spain calling my name.  It’s been happening more lately.  Maybe the voice is getting louder and more persistent, but the voice is balanced and never too much.  They are lively little wines.  Zesty, spirited so maybe that is how it keeps jumping in my cart.  Or maybe it is the fact that our kitchen remodel has me looking at value a little more.  The region is packed with value.

Recently, one even showed up on my doorstep!  Fate?  Kismet?  A sign from above?  (Ok, it was a sample from Gregory White PR but no matter.)  The voice was clear.  From the bright fruit, the acid to the depth of flavor without the heavy tannins, this wine speaks to me.  It was from Bodeagas Protos, the 2011 Tinto Fino.  And it was yummy.

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I paired it with a flatbread for happy hour.  It is a new go-to appetizer.  Easy, quick and impressive.  I take store-bought pizza dough, spread it on my pizza stone, brush with olive oil.  Throw on some garlic powder, Italian herbs, salt and pepper to taste and thin strips of prosciutto.  Bake for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, slice grape tomatoes.  Toss tomatoes and arugula in olive oil.  When the flatbread is done, cover with veg and shaved parmesan.  Cut into rectangles, or whatever you want, really.  Simple.

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It paired really well: the smoky flavor of the prosciutto, peppery arugula, salty parm all complemented the wine.  But, really this wine is so easy to drink, so versatile you could go in many directions.

I first became acquainted with the region last year at the Drink Ribera event in Austin.  My crush has only gotten bigger.  I have yet to see this wine in the stores yet, but I’ll be stalking the Spain aisle.  And dreaming of the day we can meet in person.

{This wine was received as a sample from Gregory White PR.  The thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

Solid as a…(Thoughts on Marriage and Winebelly)

I do some of my best “writing” in the middle of the night. In those quiet moments, my mind stirs while others sleep. Maybe it is the quiet. Maybe it is the half-conscious mind, free to roam. Tumbling around, thoughts and ideas seem both foggy and clear, vague and precise. I find an angle, a ribbon to tie it together, a theme upon which to build.

Sometimes in the morning, the idea is still there and solid, sometimes it fades with the light, and other times it is revealed to be not the cohesive profundity I’d imagined. And sometimes it dangles between all of those outcomes. I can’t quite let go of the idea, it is there somewhere, but I can’t quite pull it together.

Yesterday was my anniversary. So between the hours of 4-6am, marriage was on my mind. And rocks. One after another, the analogies and word pictures came to me. I was sure that I would wake up and start writing about rocks. But when you haven’t slept well, creativity can come slowly. Instead of writing about rocks, my legs felt strapped to them, my mind felt full of them, and I had nothing to write.

But, a good glass of wine can help you find renewed inspiration.  And as my husband and I sat on the patio of Winebelly, a great new wine bar and tapas place in South Austin, I decided that I would toss out a few pebbles of wisdom (?), gratitude, and wine recs whether or not the theme “worked.”

My marriage began with a rock. With great planning and fanfare, he placed a rock on my finger and asked me to be his. Our home, built upon and with rocks(or a derivative) has been the place where we’ve tried to build something of value. I’ve carried rocks. Rocks of resentment and anger, until they become so heavy I have no choice but to put them down. He has scaled the same boulder, day after day. Building a business to support our family as I rocked our babies to sleep.

We’ve thrown stones, words that hurt and scar. We’ve collected stones of beauty and skipped them from the shore. We’ve climbed together, mountains that were both literal and figurative. Sometimes he’d carry the weight, sometimes I would. But there is usually something beautiful at the top.

20140410-175735.jpgWhat do we get from rocks? Minerals. And what wine inspired me? A great mineral-driven, citrusy, Sancerre with well-integrated acid. (Like that segue?) Chateau de Sancerre from the Loire Valley to be specific.  He ordered the special, scallops over a coconut risotto cake with red curry and apple-mango slaw.  He loved it.  I can’t vouch for it, obviously, but it looked delicious!  We also shared the roasted asparagus with wild mushrooms, soft poached egg, shaved parm and smoked aioli.  Amazing.  I’m going to try to replicate it for Easter.  The pairing worked.  I’m sure there are wines that would have worked better, but we were going by the glass and wanted to have the same.  It is a wine I will be seeking out.

20140410-175722.jpgFor the second round we ordered Fried Quail legs with roasted pear, arugula and black pepper honey.  For the third round we had the Brick chicken with herbed spaetzle, grilled raddichio and crispy shallots.  To work with both we Proyecto de Espana Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo which was poured from a bottle with one of the prettiest labels I’ve seen.  Medium bodied, subtle tannins, great fruit with some earth and acid.  Really food friendly and a great story.  The service was great.  Well informed, friendly, casual.  (Thanks, Scott and David!)  It was a great evening and we will be back soon.

As we sat down, the light was just as it had been when we had our first dance.  It was to the Madeleine Peyroux version of a Leonard Cohen song, “Dance Me to the End of Love.”  We could not have know what was coming, how love changes and changes you.  We could not have known about the rocky roads and the everyday triumphs.  But we held on tight and climbed.  Thanks for sticking with me.  Thanks for always looking ahead.  Thank you for being MY rock through all of the crazy.  Happy Anniversary!

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Virginia is for (Wine) Lovers

We all know what you’re supposed to do when life hands you lemons.  And when life hands you a 40 year old vineyard, you make wine.  When Scott and Martha Stinson were looking for a place to retire, they came upon the property which boasts an eighteenth century farmhouse and 12 acres of vines.

Scott’s background in architecture gave him the vision for the restoration of the Piedmont Estate buildings.  A love of French wines gave him and his daughter, Rachel, a vision for the vines.  Under the guidance of viticulturist and vineyard consultant Lucie Morton, they revived the soil and planted Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat.  They source from other Virginia growers as needed to create smaller production, French inspired boutique wines.

I had been hearing about the great wines coming out of Virginia but had not had the opportunity to try any so I was thrilled to receive the samples of Stinson Vineyards wines from Folsom and Sons.  In fact, I couldn’t wait to open them. I gave them a couple of weeks to settle and opened them for happy hour on the deck.

Without a kitchen, my options are limited for pairing fare, but thanks to a borrowed toaster oven, I pulled off something. The first one I opened was the 2012 Cabernet Franc.  When I think Cab Franc, I think green pepper, so I roasted some Shishito peppers.  It is one of my current favorite appetizers.  Toss them in olive oil and broil them until they blister.  Shave some parmesan cheese and sprinkle with salt and a squeeze (or three) or lemon.

It worked just as I hoped.  Really beautiful Bing Cherry notes and a pop of pepper.  Medium bodied, good acid, with a clean, bright finish.  Some Cab Francs have a bite at the end.  This tasted like lovely, unmanipulated fruit.

This past Friday was our first day in the 80s in a while.  After a very long week, it was time to open the 2012 Rosé.  The wine is 100% Mourvédre sourced from Horton Vineyards in Madison County, Virginia.  Pale salmon color, clean dusty nose.  I kept getting cinnamon stick at the end.  On the palate, pink grapefruit, good minerality, herbal notes.  Maybe tarragon?  Herbs de Provence? Whatever it was, it was delicious.  I could have paired it many ways.  Chicken salad with tarragon, grilled salmon with herbs and green olives, farro salad with feta, mint, parsley.  It is a versatile, food-friendly, tasty wine.

When I was growing up, the “Virginia is For Lovers” tourism campaign was in full swing.  If Stinson Vineyards is any indication, “Virginia is for Wine Lovers” is bound to gain a similar momentum.

 

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Dinner with the Don

2009_2[1]Last fall I was invited to a dinner in Houston hosted by Concha Y Toro to introduce their 2009 flagship wine, Don Melchor.  The winemaker, Enrique Tirado, would be hosting the event which included a vertical tasting of the wine.  It sounded like a fabulous event, but without much notice, I couldn’t get away.  Fortunately for me, the company representing *Don Melchor, Gregory White PR, knows how to make a great impression.  As a consolation, they sent me a bottle of the 2009 to try at home.

So I did what any food-loving, wine-loving person would do.  I researched the menu from the event and did my best to create a meal worthy of the wine.  I invited some friends, those friends, that I knew would really appreciate the wine and we made our own event.

Grown in the Puento Alto Vineyard in the Maipo Valley of Chile, on vinestock that hails from the Bordeaux region, the fruit in this wine has the potential to rival any Cabernet from around the world.  Enrique Tirado’s natural talent and dedication to research have elevated the wine to cult status.  Each final blend is tasted with Jacques Boissenot, one of Bordeaux’s most well-respected consultants.  Old world vines, new world soil, old world methods, new world research.  It is truly an expression of the best of both worlds.

According to the Examiner article, the wine worked really well with roast lamb with fennel.  So, I headed to the local Farmer’s market to get a couple of racks of French cut grass-fed Lamb rib from I.O. Ranch, well worth the extra stop if you are in the Austin area.  And if you don’t, they ship!  From Johnson’s Backyard, I picked up fennel, turnip, and carrots.  My goal was to use what I knew about the wine and to bring out earthy notes with the root vegetables.  I used my brother-in-law’s rack recipe.

20140129-113950.jpgSear the lamb rack on high heat, 2-3 minutes per side.

Coat the rack with a combination of goat cheese and Dijon mustard.  Then coat in seasoned (rosemary, salt and pepper) Panko bread crumbs.

Cover the tips with foil so they don’t burn.  Roast on a rack at 400 degrees until medium rare. (20min depending on size)

20140129-114010.jpgFor sides I boiled and mashed equal parts turnip and Yukon gold potatoes with horseradish, milk, butter, salt and pepper.

I roasted whole carrots with sliced fennel, leeks, olive oil, salt and pepper for about 45 minutes.

When the lamb was roasted, we pulled it, let it sit for about five minutes, sliced it and then drizzled it with au jus, frozen from the Christmas Prime rib, which I reduced.

We decanted the wine for about an hour.  Aromas of black fruit, cassis and berry.  Spice, tobacco, and cocoa.  The flavors echoed the aromas with big, smooth fruit, velvety mouthfeel, layered finish.  The elements of spice and tobacco were there but in balance with the fruit.  It paired beautifully with the dish.  The earthy lamb and turnip, the sweet fennel and carrots, the richness of the au jus with the soft tannins.  It was fantastic.

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This wine is in the very special Weekend Wine (or holiday) category with a price point of $125.  As I’ve said before though, if you are cooking at home, you can justify a splurge in the wine realm.  Rack of Lamb and Don Melchor at home or a crowded Prix Fixe chicken dinner and paying $75 for a $25 bottle on Valentine’s Day?  No contest.

It is hard to rival the experience of delving into new wines with the winemaker, especially wines of this caliber.  Of course I wish I had been there.  But I will also say, it is hard to compete with dinner at home with those you love.  Many thanks to the people at Gregory White PR for the invitation and for allowing me to “join” from the comfort of my crazy home.

*This wine was provided as a media sample by Gregory White PR.  The opinions are my own.

Frankly Delicious

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now.  Scratch that, I wish you could smell my whole house right now.  By now, no matter where you live, you’ve likely heard of Franklin BBQ.  If you haven’t seen the press, maybe you’ve seen the Chase credit card commercial.  The local joint has reached cult-like status and, in order to try the smoked gold, you will likely need to stand in line for 2-4 hours depending on the day.  Unless…

There is another option.  If you order well in advance, like weeks in advance, you can pick up a whole brisket or two.  It’s in limited supply as well, but if you can swing it, you’ll be in hog (or cow) heaven.  So for my husband’s 40th camping trip, we ordered a couple of briskets and shared the love.  The first night we dined (chowed) in traditional form, the second night out I made a soup with some of the leftovers.  You can guess how that went over.  In fact, my husband has been asking for it weekly since then.  So tonight, I thawed the leftover’s leftovers and made Franklin’s Brisket Stew, Take 2.

If you’ve done much cooking while camping, you know you have to sacrifice a little.  We bring a stash of spices etc, but there is always something you forget.  This time I had my entire kitchen (running water and all) at hand.

Franklin’s Brisket Stew, Take 2.

1 small onion

3 celery stalks

3 large carrots

1 leek

1 Yellow pepper

2 wax peppers (anything with a little heat, or a lot)

1 can beef broth

4 cups Chicken Broth

1 cup tomato puree

2 Tbsp. Brown sugar

1 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar

(While camping I subbed the 3 above ingredients for ketchup)

1 lb. Franklin’s brisket ( I defrosted in the broth, removed the really fattty pieces, and shredded it but you have options.)

1 bag frozen green beans, or fresh

1/2 bag frozen corn

Dash clove

a few shakes of Italian herb blend

Salt and pepper to taste, but the brisket adds a lot of each. 

So what to drink with this big bowl of comfort?  I wanted something big, but not overpowering.  Something that could stand up to the pepper and compliment the smoky flavors, not compete.  Then I remembered back in March when I met Bart Hansen.  He got up early to stand in line for some Q but the line that is foreboding on a normal day becomes down-right unsurmountable during SXSW.  Bart owns Dane Cellars and sent me some samples which I’ve been opening with measure.  I don’t want them to end.  The Chenin was delish. The Zin, super yum.  I’ve been saving the Old Vine Zin and the Syrah, but what else could I open tonight?  If he couldn’t try it when he was here, he can at least be paired with it, right? Plus, he’s the featured winemaker at The Girl & The Fig this month so, if you’re in the Sonoma area, you can taste this wine.

The 2009 Just Creek Vineyard Syrah was aged 15 months in French oak and bottle unfiltered.  The color is deep, opaque, with a lighter ring, like the skin of a Bing Cherry.  A rich, powerful nose, with black fruits and pepper. This wine is huge, yet well-balanced.  A great intermingling of fruit and spice the whole way through with a long, coying finish.

This is the third wine I’ve had from Bart and each time I have been so impressed with his talent.  Each wine has so much going on and yet shows great restraint.  Every sip leaves you wanting more, intrigued and enticed.

So how did it work with the stew? Beautifully.  No competition.  The pairing brought out blueberries in the wine and the smokiness in the stew.   I don’t know if I could have picked a better match.  That’s a big statement from me.  And the hubs said he thinks the dish could win awards and was the best stew/soup/comfort food I’ve made.  That’s a big statement from him.  Now, I know most of you don’t have access to Franklin or Dane Cellars, but you can improvise.  I’m not saying it will compare.  I mean, people wait HOURS for this stuff, but it could be dang good.  And Bart sells his wine online.  That’s a great consolation prize. And next time you’re in town, Bart, you may want to bring some Syrah.

Less is More-Clean Slate Riesling

There was a time when a meatless meal would be cause for a mini-revolt.  But I’ve gotten better at creating delicious, satisfying vegan meals and my husband’s gotten better about not complaining.  Less meat is just better for your health and the environment.  It’s a win-win.  Less is more.

There was a time when my day was so crazy and I was so overwhelmed that I wanted a glass of wine every night.  Now I get a break during school hours and am more in the groove of the SAHM thing.  So instead of having a Monday wine on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I generally have one or two glasses of something tasty, once or twice a week.   Less is more.

I have had a few samples of wine that I have been meaning to try, but when you drink less, you drink less.  So yesterday I opened a bottle of Clean Slate Riesling that has been in my refrigerator for weeks.  I’m glad I did.  The wine hails from the Mosel region of Germany which is known for producing some great Riesling.  While choosing most German Rieslings can be intimidating because of their classifications, this one is straightforward.  A look at the label will give you a good hint about what you are getting.

Clean floral and fruit notes with little residual sugar and a lot of minerality.  Just as the photo indicates.  Citrus, stone fruits, and a little spice.  When people ask about minerality in wine, I always think of the smell of slate.  I think of climbing on slate river beds as a child and the taste of your hands after.  No, I didn’t go around licking my hands as a child, but it happens, right?  If you’ve ever done it, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, open a Mosel Riesling.

With a price point around $10, it is a great Monday wine.  I wish I’d opened it on Monday, in fact, because it would have been perfect with the meal I made.  I was in clean-out-the-fridge mode so I used what I had and it turned out to be, in my husband’s words, the best vegan combination I’ve made so far.

I cubed and roasted some butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and then added mint.  I made brown rice with sautéed leeks, currants, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice at the end.  I also roasted brussel sprouts which I finished with a little Sriracha and lemon juice.  It was delicious.  The warm, fall flavors with a little heat would have paired perfectly with the wine.

You may have read that I was cutting out this, that, and most things in between.  I was really strict at first, then I loosened up on the weekends.  But after two months without the weight budging, I got discouraged and my husband started to complain.  Understandably.  So I adopted my sister’s 80/20 lifestyle.  Eat in the anti-inflammatory way 80% of the time, but when I’m at someone’s home or on date night, I’ll loosen up.   And if I have a sample begging to be opened, I’ll open it.  I’ll just pair it with something healthy.  I’ll still make overall health the goal, but I’ll lighten up on the rules.  Less is more.

Going Out with a Bang

Ok, so I am doing it.  Trying it.  Ok, starting it anyway.  I eat healthy.  I exercise (sometimes more vigorously than others).  And I can’t drop the last ten from my now 3-year-old “baby.”  My sister has been eating the anti-inflammatory way since she discovered it, for the most part.  She was motivated by arthritis but the weight loss is a welcome “side effect” so I am going to try.  Which means no dairy, gluten, sugar, booze, etc.  Which means that I won’t be 100% long-term, but I can be strict for a while and then do some figuring out what works for me.

So I went shopping yesterday for some new supplies but when I got home I realized I had one “last supper.”  I should have planned ahead and made it more exciting, but I did want it to include wheat and dairy with a dash of decadence.  So I did a play on Pasta Carbonara and popped open a wine I’ve been waiting to try all summer, Dane Cellars 2009 Chenin Blanc.  I met the winemaker, Bart Hansen, at SXSW last spring and he sent me a few samples.  I was trying to wait for other wine writers to taste them with me but summer schedules have not permitted any get-togethers.  I got tired of waiting.

In typical fashion, I popped the cork while I was cooking to taste while my palate was clear. And just because.  I think of Chenin as a summer wine, but last night I tasted early fall.  Growing up near MacIntosh apple country, I have a weak spot for a crisp, slightly tart apple.  That is exactly what I tasted when I tried the wine.  Clean, tart early harvest MacIntosh apples.  Add a touch of acid and floral and there you have it.  The recipe I used suggested Sauvignon Blanc but this pairing worked well too.  Basically what you want with Carbonara is some acid to cut the richness of the pancetta and cheese.  The Chenin had that in spades. And at around $15, it nearly qualifies as a Monday wine.

I also didn’t have pancetta since this was on-the-fly gluttony, so I used olive oil and a touch of bacon grease I had in the freezer.  While the pasta was cooking (no spaghetti, just wheat gemelli), I sautéed the garlic and thin ham strips until the garlic was soft and the ham was crisp.  While that was happening I grated about a cup of parmesan cheese and mixed that in with two whisked eggs.  When the pasta was just out of the water, I tossed it in the pan and added the egg/cheese mixture.  (If you want to thin the sauce,add some pasta water).  At the very end I added about a tablespoon of thinly sliced green onion, a touch I adopted from La Traviata.

It wasn’t fancy, but everyone loved it and it paired really well with the wine.  The hubs even ate anything that was left on the kids’ plates.  I’ll make it again, I think?  Or if you know of a good vegan gluten-free version, let me know. (Or any other favorite adaptations).

So I won’t have a lot of new wines to share in the next couple weeks, or maybe I’ll have time to write about ones I’ve already had.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Either I lose that stubborn ten or I get to go back to Pasta Carbonara.  I call that Win-Win.

Send in the Reserves

A few weeks ago I hosted a dinner party to sample some Petite Sirah that I was graciously sent from members of P.S. I Love You.  I chose to limit it to six bottles that night for a few reasons.  I feel like that is about the max I can evaluate fairly before palate fatigue sets in and I wanted to opportunity to try some alternate pairings.

It is a guarantee that on the rare occasion that my husband goes to the store, he will come home with one of his favorites. Usually it is something that his frugal wife doesn’t buy.  Yesterday he went and came home with some big ol’ lamb chops which he does on the grill with rosemary.  For sides, he bought a baguette and stuff for a salad.  He requested some kind of cheese appetizer, but hadn’t picked one out.  Time to dig in the drawer. I decided on goat cheese and I added some rosemary and black pepper.  Now for the fun part- what to open?

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I decided it was time to send in the reserves: 2008 Guglielmo Private Reserve from the Santa Clara Valley ($25).  I knew many of the Petite Sirah producers had suggested game for pairings and, of the three I’d saved, this one looked like it would be the best fit.  I decanted and got everything else ready.

In appearance, it looked lighter than most of the others, less purple, more cranberry.    The nose was big berries, a little cocoa, and cinnamon stick. The fruit was well-integrated and balanced with the spice.  From the first sip, I knew I had chosen well.  The fruit complimented the herbal notes.  It was big enough to hold up to the lamb but didn’t over power the goat cheese.  I served some Kalamata olives with the bread and cheese and those were fabulous with it as well.

This is an elegant wine.  Not over-the-top, but firm. Plum, blackberry, and spice.  Food friendly and approachable.  Again, I find myself further impressed with the range and the value in the variety.  And I still have two more bottles in reserve.  Cheers to that.

{Disclosure- I was provided this wine as a media sample.  All opinions are my own.}