Friday, December 30, 2011

Glamorous New Years Eve Cocktail Ideas

New Years Eve is upon us and Champagne and Sparklers are the first thing on everyone's mind. Because of this I thought I'd write about my favorite bubbly cocktails!

First and foremost when it comes to bubbles there is no need to spend a lot of money on a bottle of Champagne when you will be blending your bubbles with other accoutrements. California offers some fantastic sparkles and my favorite for cocktail making is Domaine Chandon.

Want to stay in France for your bubbles? There are so many fantastically priced Cremants (a Cremant is a french sparkling wine from designated wine growing regions following specific conditions) that can offer quality bubbles at a much lower price. My favorites are
Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Cremant d'Alsace and Blason de Bourgogne Cremant de Bourgogne (available at Trader Joe's).

My top three favorite cocktails are:

1. Cognac Clementine Cocktail:
  • Pour 1 tbsp of Cognace into your flute (I really enjoy Landy Cognac VS blossom, orange zest and blanched almonds)
  • Pour in your bubbles...a CA Brut bubbly would be fantastic!
  • With a vegetable peeler slice thinly a clementine, rim your glass and drop it into the glass
  • Squeeze in a little clementine juice. Cheers!

2. Parisian Peach Cocktail (courtesy of my dear cousin Kate)
  • Pour in 1 tsp St. Germain elderflower liqueur into your flute
  • Pour in 1/2 tsp peach schnapps
  • Now fill your glass with your bubbles...Cremant de Bourgogne is lovely
  • Garnish with a slice of white peach. Sante!

3. Spanish Rose
  • Pour in 1/4 tsp rose petal syrup (add more as you wish, but it is potent!)
  • Fill your glass with a Spanish Cava Rose...try Freixenet's Cordon Rosado Brut
  • Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper on top (the heat comes on as an after effect)
  • Garnish with a rose petal. Salud!

Enjoy and have a safe and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Picking a Pinot

It's about that time...less than two weeks until Thanksgiving and I have started planning my menu and deciding which bottles I'll select for my dinner. I do love to play with some unexpected varietals but I adore Pinot Noir and will always have at least one on the table.

This year I decided I would explore Pinot Noirs from various parts of the world and share my discoveries in hopes of helping others decide what kind of Pinot is perfect for your Thanksgiving!

My first contestant was a 2009 The Crossings, Pinot Noir from the Awatere Valley in Marlborough on the South Island of New Zealand. I have really warmed up to New Zealand Pinot Noirs and love the acidity they offer...great for pairing with food and would sing with Turkey and all it's accoutrements on Thanksgiving!

This wine is quite light in color and texture which I really enjoyed. It offers notes of cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, roasted herbs and bright acidity. I found myself going back again and again for more and with a retail price of about $18.99?! Fantastic!

The next wine takes me to Bio Bio (south of Santiago) in Chile for a 2009 Llai Llai Pinot Noir. Chilean wines are always the way to go for fantastic value and the Llai Llai is no exception at a retail price of about $12.99. On the nose there was almost a menthol aroma and it reminded me a little of cherry cough drops. This wine is pretty ripe and has quite a bit of baking spice and toast on the palate. Although this isn't my style Pinot Noir, a little too ripe for me, it's easy drinking and I can imagine it would be a crowd pleaser.

My final wine was from right here in California, a 2009 Sonoma Coast Vineyard, "Freestone Hills" Pinot Noir. They sourced the fruit from the 3 vineyards that have all brought their own personality to make a rich bold Pinot Noir. The color is deep ruby and the palate has a lot to offer with notes of pomegranates, raspberries, cherry cola, and an even Earl Grey tea. The finish is long with a velvet texture. This wine retails for about $39.99, which is quite fair for a quality Sonoma Pinot Noir.

SO, as much as I enjoyed my journey around the world in search for my Thanksgiving Pinot Noir I have decided that New Zealand's The Crossing is the winner..I think...maybe I should have a sip or 5 more to be sure....

*For more in depth information on any of these wines visit W.J.Deutsch & Sons, Ltd.*

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Discovering Massachusetts Wines

As it is Regional Wine Week 2012 and I am home visiting family in Massachusetts I thought I would take the opportunity to check out some of the local juice.

Currently there are over 20 wineries in the state of Massachusetts with most of them in the southern half of the state. For my exploration (and my love of bubbles) I began with Westport Rivers.

Westport Rivers has been open for 25 years and can be found in Westport, a fairly small town in the southern part of the state. Westport Rivers is most known for their sparkling wine so I poured myself a flute of what put them on the international wine map...

Westport Rivers RJR Brut (65% Pinot Noir 35% Chardonnay). Immediately as the flute approaches my nose I am greeted with delightful aromas of toasted brioche, baked pears and hazelnuts. It tingles the tongue and it's crisp and bright with notes of brioche, baked pears, hazelnuts and hint of lemon zest of the finish. Offer a glass of this to guests at the start of a party, pair it with seafood such as oysters or lobster or even end the meal with it and a slice apple pie!

If you do have a chance to visit Westport Rivers do try their still wines and beers they offer and their art gallery as well! Their property is just too fantastic to miss!

The other local winery I explored was Furnace Brook Winery and Hilltop Orchards in the Berkshires (Western MA) where I grew up. They had quite a selection of white and reds but I decided to focus on their two Rieslings...

2008 Furnace Brook Dry Riesling (Big E Northeast Wine Competition Bronze, 2011) Dry and refreshing with notes of lime zest, white peach skin and chamomile tea with lovely acidity. I would love this wine paired with sushi, maybe a spicy tuna roll!

2008 Furnace Brook Riesling (Big E Northeast Wine Competition Bronze, 2011) Semi-dry and lush with notes of ripe yellow peach, pear, white flowers and lime. I really enjoy thinking of all the fun options that this wine offers...try it with a Pad Thai dish or if one is feeling decadent, perhaps some foie gras kissed with peach preserves!

One last treat that I try and get a bottle of every time I am home to visit (if it's not sold out!) is their Furnace Brook French Cidre (Big E Northeast Wine Competition Silver, 2011). It's a sparkling cider made with Golden Russet and other New England apple varieties. It's slowly fermented on the skins and then aged in French oak barrels. Elegant with notes of baking spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Try this with a sharp Vermont cheddar or for an absolute delight pair this with a roast chicken with apples and onions!

As well as wine and cider tasting at Furnace Brook and Hilltop Orchards give yourself the time to enjoy all the other activities; pick your own apples, embark on one of their full moon hiking and bon fires or just relax by the fire and try their
heavenly cider donuts or pies. Visiting the area? Stay at their gorgeous Garden Gables Inn in Lenox (about 15 minutes away).

Having visited 2 wineries this trip I have been impressed with what I tasted and look forward to many more wine discoveries in Massachusetts!

Friday, September 23, 2011

American Institute of Wine & Food

To quote Julia Child, “Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

Speaking of the one and only Julia Child, there is an organization near and dear to my heart that she helped create that not everyone is aware of. This non-profit organization and public charity is the American Institute of Wine & Food (also known as AIWF), and it was started in 1981 by Julia, Robert Mondavi, Richard Graff and others with the goal of providing a forum for the study and enjoyment of gastronomy.

I have belonged to the San Diego Chapter now for the past three years and I am also a two time Scholarship recipient. The scholarships have given me the opportunities to attend classes with Master Tim Gaiser at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and to continue my WSET Diploma studies with Master Peter Neptune. Along with scholarships the AIWF has a fantastic program called "Days of Taste". "Days of Taste" provides a hands on experience for fourth and fifth graders with local chefs providing them with knowledge and appreciation of fresh food and local ingredients...from farm to table.

My favorite, not to be missed AIWF event each year in San Diego is part of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. It is the Celebrity Chef Luncheon and AIWF Big Bottle Auction (this year it is Sunday, November 20). It is a six course luncheon and wine pairing. This luncheon is not only a deliciously fantastic experience for attendees, but the auction proceeds benefit the scholarship program. This year as well as fifteen wineries, Master Joseph Spellman (from Justin Vineyard & Winery) and Chef Gale Gand (one of my favorite celebrity Chefs) of Tru in Chicago, will be in attendance.

Membership does indeed have its well as year round discounts to local businesses, magazine subscriptions, and dinners one receives invitations to exclusive member only parties and events showcasing the best and brightest in the world of wine and food.

Today the organization has 24 Chapters (including San Diego, LA, Chicago, Boston...) with over 3,000 members all over the country. For membership information and chapter locations visit AIWF and enhance your gastronomic knowledge and experiences!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Country Glam in Virginia Wine Country

As part of the Wine Bloggers Conference (being held in Charlottesville, VA), on a beautiful, but extremely warm Saturday this past July I was fortunate enough to visit Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards.

Upon arriving at the picturesque and eco-friendly property Dean Andrews (Principal of Pippin Hill) and Lynn Easton Andrews (Principal & President of Easton Events) greeted us graciously on their Veranda with glasses of thyme and citrus water drawn from their well on property. They were warm and welcoming and excited to share their passion for "great wine, fabulous cuisine and beautiful design" all of which we experienced. We were invited into their Tasting Room which was spacious and inviting with just the right mix of country charm and glamour. Placed before us were four of their wines (of which Michael Shaps is a consultant) and four bites to pair with them from their on premise organic vegetable and herb gardens.

The first if these offerings was their 2010 Chardonnay with a Seared Diver Scallop in Grapefruit Butter. The wine was nicely balanced, elegant and the grapefruit in the sauce really highlighted the citrus notes in the wine.

Second was their 2010 Viognier (and what I found really shines in Virginia). The wine was dry with lovely floral and apricot notes. It absolutely sang when paired with a Smoked Chicken and Apricot Salad Wrapped in a Brined Grape Leaf (straight off of their vines!).

Third we moved on to my favorite, the 2010 Summer Farm Rose made 100% from Cabernet Franc. The Rose was a beautifully dry wine with enticing notes of roasted coffee, dried herbs and ripe raspberries. This was paired with a Mini Croque Monsieur that they put their own spin on with a light spread of house made grape jelly. If only the Croque Monsieur wasn't a mini!!

Finally we finished our tasting with their dry Red Blend comprised of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin (a French/American hybrid grape that grows quite well in Virginia). The raspberry, roasted coffee and chocolate notes in the wine paired deliciously with their Mini Chocolate Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Chambourcin Drizzle.

As our time approached it's conclusion I was truly reluctant to leave and anxiously anticipate my next visit to Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and the Monticello Wine Trail.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wine Bloggers Conference Live Blogging White Wines

It is now Day 2 of the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia and one of the main events is upon us. It's a live wine blogging event where we are seated at round tables and every five minutes a new wine is introduced to us by either the wine maker or a representative from the wineries. The idea is in those five minutes to furiously taste the wine and blog live about each one.

I did taste through all the wines but decided rather than to blog live, I would prefer to take the time to reflect upon my favorites and offer my notes and humble opinions now as the day has come to its conclusion.

2010 Keswick Vineyards, Verdejo, Monticello, VA ($18.95)
97% Verdejo, 3% Viognier
On the nose: candied green apple, lime and lime blossom.
On the palate: candied green apple, lime, white peach skins and brilliant minerality.
Only 219 cases produced!

2009 The Williamsburg Winery, Acte 12, Chardonnay VA ($17.99)
100% Chardonnay
On the nose: Baked apple, hazelnut and flinty minerality
On the palate: Baked apple, hazelnuts with skins on, and pain grille
Burgundian style at the fraction of the price!

2009 King Estate, Domaine Pinot Gris, OR ($13)
100% Pinot Gris
On the nose: Subtle peanut shells, peach and tangerine
On the palate: Peach, tangerine, green apple, and stony minerality
Craving some oysters!

2009 Emma Pearl, Chardonnay, Central Coast, CA ($17.99)
90% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier
On the nose: Fresh ginger, nutmeg, butter cream, apple, and pear
On the palate: Fresh ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, apple, meyer lemon and pear
A beautiful wine with
structure and elegance and a website with style


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Everything Is Coming up Rose

Now that Summer has arrived, so has the heat and lighter fare. My go to wines are always roses...they vary and can be light and floral or hearty and fruity. Roses are beautiful as aperitifs or with cold refreshing salads and can be absolutely stunning with bbq. Check out some of my favorite go to summer roses from both the Old and New World!

2010 Swanson Rosato, Napa Valley, California

100% Sangiovese. This is my absolute favorite domestic rose. Swanson is so serious about this wine that they have dedicated a block of their Sangiovese strictly to its production! It offers notes of strawberry, watermelon and rose petals along with great acidity.
Pairs great with: Roast chicken or fried chicken and I adore it with some French Mimolette cheese!

2010 Domaine Tempier, Bandol, France
50% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 2% Carignan. Any lover of rose will have Domaine Tempier on the tip of their tongues. Domaine Tempier, as once claimed by Robert Parker, is believed to be the greatest rose in the world! It offers up notes strawberry, raspberry with notes of black mission figs and orange on the finish. Treat yourself to one, if you can find it!
Pairs great with: New England lobster rolls or salmon

2010 Mas Carlot, Vin de Pays d'oc, France
60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. This is one of those roses that is always a fantastic value year after year. I have been known to purchase a case of this one as a everyday go to with notes of ripe red raspberries, cherries and watermelon rind. Juicy!
Pairs great with: BBQ...perhaps with a raspberry chipotle glaze?

2010 Grand Cassagne, Costieres De Nimes, France
45% Grenache 45% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. This pretty wine is another great go to rose. As well as ripe red fruit ; strawberries and cherries, this wine also has a fantastic underlying note of minerality.
Pairs great with: A refreshing summer salad with strawberries

2010 Chateau de Pampelone, Provence, France
40% Grenache, 30% Cinsault. 20% Syrah, 10% Tibouren (a French red grape that offers intense aromatics and a garrigue character) This is a classic and elegant example of Provencal rose...rose petals, strawberries, melon, dried herbs and brilliant minerality.
Pairs great with: Stuffed squash blossoms, ratatouille topped with a fried egg or just sip as you relax on a lazy summer afternoon

2010 Cune, Rosado, Rioja, Spain (pronounced "coo-nay")
100% Tempranillo. It's easy to look straight to France for rose but Spain offers a lot of luscious roses as well. Fruity and bursting with notes of watermelon, cherry and pomegranate.
Pairs great with: Spanish omelet, grilled chicken or turkey sausages

Cool off and enjoy a glass of rose this summer!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Springtime Rose Sparklers

As much as I adore Autumn, Spring is another season I eagerly anticipate. Last weekend as I wandered through the Farmers Market it was apparent from the scents and sights that Spring had indeed arrived. Vibrant green English peas, mint, artichokes,asparagus and sweet strawberries all led my mind to thoughts of a lovely Spring inspired brunch...and every brunch needs its share of Rose Champagne and bubbly! SO...below I have come up with some of my favourite Springtime sparklers:
NV Pommery, Springtime Brut Rose, Champagne, France...the perfect Champagne for Spring with it's pale, tender pink color, and bursts of red berries, kiwis and bright acidity!
NV Lucien Albrecht, Cremant d'Alsace Rose, France Strawberries, cranberries and cherries with a tangy industry favourite!
NV Chapel Down, English Rose Sparkling, Kent, England Try a delightful sparkling from across the pond...Fresh and crisp with notes of red berries and vanilla cream
NV Domaine Carneros, Brut Rose Cuvee de la Pompadour, Carneros, California From the domestic house for Tatittinger Champagne and named after the great courtesan and mistress of Louis XV,Madame Pompadour... beautifully roses, wild strawberries and white peaches
NV Freixenet, Cordon Rosado Brut Cava, Penendes, Spain One of the best values available...Cherries, raspberries and a whisper of watermelon with a long finish.

So to plan your own quick and easy brunch...Collect some tulips for your table, quiches full of fresh Spring vegetables, strawberries with a heaping bowl of cream and any one of these sparkling rose beauties! A toast to Spring!