Transitions- Part 1

Spring is a time of transitions.  Some are surficial: purging closets, boots to sandals.  Some are botanical: bud break, the emergence of a crocus.  Some are spiritual: an awakening, a yearning.  All around, there is a renewed energy, a pull.  All week-long I have felt the need to write, a to-do list of pieces that need to be written, but I haven’t had the focus or time.  I awakened this morning after ELEVEN hours asleep, with the idea of transition.  It is the theme that is both pulling me to write and connecting the jumbled ideas, which cover the aforementioned range.  To spare you the crazy of my thought patterns, I’ve decided to break it into two parts.  I’ll start with the surficial.

It has been a brutal winter for many of you, so I hesitate to share that we have had a few days in the 80s.  When the thermostat begins to hit that range, it generally means I get my first cravings for Sauvignon Blanc.  Our grill died last fall and my husband finally had time to go pick out a replacement on Saturday.  So, I headed to the store for something to grill and some SB.  I don’t know about you, but I pick fish based on what is wild and what looks the freshest.  I had a preparation in mind, so I had already gotten the sides.  My shopping buddy also thought the Coho salmon was the “shiniest” so that’s what we chose.  (BTW, I didn’t even tell him what to look for, he’s got the instinct.  His uncles would be proud.)   He also did well with the Sauvignon Blanc label picking.

sbfish

I started with the Israeli couscous so it had time to cool to room temp.  I browned it in sunflower oil for about 5 minutes, boiled for 15, then drained.  I added olive oil and salt so it wouldn’t be sticky, then started on the fish.  I  drizzled with olive oil, added salt and pepper, chopped rosemary and oregano, and lemon zest.  For the salad, I used bibb lettuce, toasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and grilled raddichio.  While the boys grilled the fish and raddichio, I tossed parsley, oregano, lemon juice, and the extra pine nuts in the couscous.  On the side, I had Castelvetrano olives.

Since my brother-in-law moved here, we’ve shared many meals and he’s been very complimentary.  It means a lot to me since he went to culinary school.  This was the first time, however, that he’s said, “If you gave this meal to professionals, they would not tell you to add one thing.  It is perfectly balanced and complimentary.”  Who-hoo!  Love it when that happens.  Especially with a meal that is healthy and easy to throw together.

The wine I paired it with was a 2012 Doña Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc.  Bright fruit, a bit of herb and a lot of grapefruit.  This paired perfectly and, priced around $12, it is a wine you can drink anytime.

If you want something a little more elegant, the 2010 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc would work nicely too.  It has the lively citrus and herbal notes, but the addition of 6% Semillon and 5 months in oak soften the wine a little.  The wine has some briny, savory notes that would play well with food.  This wine retails around $20 and was provided as a sample*.

Saturday was in the eighties, Wednesday was in the fifties.  Transitions are like that.  A few steps forward, a few steps back.  Progress, regression.  They can be slow and daunting, or immediate and undeniable.  Regardless of the results, the process, the learning, the discovery often has its own rewards.  Some are intrinsic and some are as simple as a delicious meal with people you love.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with the Robert Mondavi wine from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}

East Coast vs. West Coast

This week I decided to sample two Chardonnays, back to back, for an East Coast/West Coast showdown.  The first Chardonnay was the 2010 Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay from North Carolina and the second was the 2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20).

The Biltmore was very easy to drink.  Which was great because we opened it after my son’s third birthday party.  I’d love to tell you how it paired, but we didn’t get that far.  A fresh pear green in color, with similar nose.  Hints of citrus, rounded with a bit of buttery notes.  There was some of the banana that you find with malo-lactic fermentation.  I would say this would be a very versatile wine, but not to pair it as you typically would when you think Chardonnay.  The oak was light, the fruit remained on the crisper side.  A fun take on Chardonnay, for sure.

We opened the Robert Mondavi for dinner last night.  I made a light pasta with asparagus, mushrooms, and chicken.  This was, what I consider to be, a very classic Chardonnay.  Classic, but without the heaviness that is sometimes overwhelming.  A pear yellow, lighter than some Chardonnays, but don’t let that fool you.  This bottle drinks like one that is older.  Pear, something tropical, and a floral perfume.  I tasted lemon, apple, some tannic notes, and a nutty, creamy finish.  There is definitely oak, but it doesn’t hit you in the back of the throat as some do.  I enjoyed this wine, especially as it hit the right temperature. 

So who won the bi-coastal showdown?  I think it depends on what you’re looking for in a Chardonnay.  A fun, lighter fruit forward wine with subtle oak or a creamy classic one?  Personally, I can’t call a winner.  As with most wines, there is a time and a meal for each of these.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with these wines from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}

Fond Memories-Robert Mondavi

There are some wines that invite an immediate image.  One sip and you are transplanted, to a memory or an ideal.  Robert Mondavi’s 2010 Napa Valley Pinot Noir conjures images of fallen leaves and cashmere sweaters, blackberry brambles and tartan blankets.  It is just what I want from a Pinot Noir.

Many years ago, I spent a week of early autumn in the hills of Santa Rosa.  We picked blackberries for cobbler in the late morning sun, trudged through tall, crisp grasses on afternoon walks, and shared blankets and stories in the evening.  Bottle after bottle, I drank in Sonoma and felt like I was home.  The bottle says “Carneros,” but I taste Santa Rosa.

If the sense of smell is that which is most closely affiliated with memories, then this wine has the potential to help you make some fabulous ones.  Blackberry, nutmeg, and soft oak.  The fruit bursts on the palate and slowly fades to sweet, woodsy spice.  I chose to pair the wine with a pork tenderloin.  I covered the bottom of the pan with sliced onion and peppers, coated the tenderloin with several herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I tossed fingerling potatoes in rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I served them with a salad of mixed greens, red pear, and Maytag blue cheese. 

The pairing was quite nice.  The herbs enhanced the fruit, the oak carried the wine through the cheese, and the pear played nicely with the nutmeg notes.  I would buy this wine again in a heartbeat.  Another nice pairing would be a salad with blackberries and hazelnuts with goat cheese medallions.  You could go in many directions with this wine.

The first piece of writing I put out publically was a poem, an ode to a wine that brought me back to an afternoon in Sonoma.  That is what a good wine does.  It gives you a piece of a time and place.  It speaks to your closely held memories and can transport you.  Thank you, Robert Mondavi, for the brief vacation on a Sunday evening.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with this wine from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own. The photo of a Carneros vineyard was provided by my father-in-law.}

Crowd Pleasers-Happy 4th!

If you are hosting an Independence Day get-together, you have probably already planned menus and hit the store.  I just returned and it was a mad-house so I am pretty sure I am late on this post, but I wanted to throw out some ideas for cocktails and wines that can please most palates.

When planning drink options, I consider food and numbers.  The more intimate the gathering, the higher the price point for wines.  As much as would love to extend the same “love” at large gatherings, I am just too darn frugal and there are so many great options that are reasonable. For large gatherings, I often plan one signature cocktail and then have some large format or Monday wines.  Here are some suggestions that will please, no matter what the size of your holiday affair.

I was really pleased with all of the Robert Mondavi *samples I received.  The Riesling was bright and not too sweet.  Great for the heat.  The Zin and Pinot were versatile, fruit forward and smooth.  We served the Meritage slightly chilled and I really enjoyed the Bordeaux style blend. It would pair well with steaks on the grill.  Each of the above run about $10. The Woodbridge line also comes in large format. 

If it is super hot, you can’t go wrong with a Vinho Verde.  Some are better than others.  I like Famega, Gazela, and Aveleda.  Low in alcohol and price point, this slightly effervescent wine is a summer favorite.  You can sip through your party and remain a good host.

If you want to stretch your wine a little farther, make a Sangria.  I plan to do a white sangria with blueberries and strawberries to keep it festive.  I will probably throw in some Elderflower liqueur (St. Germain-$35ish or Thatchers Organic -$17ish) and seltzer as well.

You could also do a signature cocktail.  One of my current favorites is Thatcher’s Elderflower, Vodka, Lemon juice, Thyme, and seltzer.  It is pretty, tasty, and you can make a pitcher ahead of time and be done.  Another yummy summer one is a Blueberry or Watermelon Mojito.  Watermelon is good for your love life, too, guys.

Keeping it casual but want a fun new beer?  There are a lot of cans now that are actually higher end brews.  One of my husband’s current faves is Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap Pils.  Dale’s Pale Ale out of Colorado is super tasty, too.   

Whatever you are drinking, be safe, be smart, and have a great holiday!

*{Disclosure: I was provided with this wine from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}

Cheers to “Fewer Tensions”

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.
~Benjamin Franklin

Things have been a crazy here lately, so posts have taken a back seat.  They are always a little crazy… okay… a lot crazy, but this month has been a rough one.  I spent May with sick children, house guests, and purging for a charity garage sale.  I have spent June on pain meds, messing with Insurance companies, and trying to replace my totaled car after getting rear-ended.  This is my first car accident and what a mess. Thank God that my children were fine.  I can’t say the same for me, but I am getting there.  Needless to say, with all of those “tensions” I have needed a little “more tolerance.”  Here is a quick recap of some recent findings.

My husband had to do the grocery shopping the first weekend after the accident and he picked up some Bison Ribeyes.  They were delicious.  We paired them witha 2009 Gundlach Bundschu Tempranillo- a meatier Tempranillo with a big dark berries, a hint of spice and smoke, and a long sweet finish.  It paired really well with the earthiness of the grilled meat.  Super tasty.

June 16th would have been Robert Mondavi’s 99th Birthday and the fine folks at Folsom and Associates provided me with some of his wines to share in the live toast.  We opened the Riesling.  The toast was a poignant tribute to the man who helped put Napa Valley wines on the map.  I encourage you to read up on his story and his contributions to the wine world and the community.  The Riesling paired really nicely with the smoked cheddar.  Fuller in body and not as sweet as some, this wine had a very nice balance of fruit and floral.  A great Monday wine.

For Father’s Day, we went to the Farmer’s Market and picked up some Grass-Fed tenderloin, wax beans, and tomatoes.  What can I say?  My husband likes red meat.  I try to limit him to once a week max, and he makes sure he gets some on holidays.  We wanted something big enough to carry the beef, but not over power the vegetables.  We went with Wellington’s Grenache (2007).  They call it a “two-day wine” so I knew we had to aerate.  I poured it through the Vinturi (Thank you , Tony!) and into a decanter.  This was a gorgeous wine.  Cherry, red berries, a bit of tobacco and a super long finish.  About a minute after a sip, I got a ton of rhubarb.  I wish I had another bottle so I could see where it was going, but I don’t.  They are out of stock on it, too.  It was great while it lasted. 

We will have to open something special when I find a replacement for my poor “baby.”  I hope she was able to give her parts to a deserving Volvo wagon.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, cheers to “fewer tensions”!