Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wine Wednesdays - Tasting at Vine Cliff Winery

While at home I got to stop by and check out the new tasting room for Vine Cliff Winery.  While the winery estate is located in Oakville off of Silverado Trail, this new tasting room just outside of St. Helena is a great place to stop off and taste while cruising up highway 29.  And with Dean & Deluca right next door, it's a great picnic spot as well.  The winery offers cheese and charcuterie pairings but welcomes outside food as well if you want to BYO.  

The wines were delicious as well!  My favorite was the 2012 Los Carneros Chardonnay.  Bright, crisp and clean, it was an easy wine that would pair well with any meal, or just as easily enjoyed on it's own :-) 

I really enjoyed all of the wines and the casual vibe of the tasting room as well.  I will definitely be on the lookout for more Vine Cliff wines and can't wait to visit the winery estate for a tasting or cave tour when I'm home next!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wine Wednesdays - Wine Tasting at Aubert

I'm home for the week, celebrating multiple occasions including my 10-year high school reunion (!!!) and a dear friend's wedding.  From the moment I landed I've been drinking some amazing wine!  

Last Friday we were treated to a special private tasting at Aubert in Calistoga.  Known for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, we tasted through some of their best including the 2012 Larry Hyde & Sons Chardonnay, 2012 CIX Estate Chardonnay, 2009 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, and the 2012 UV-SL Vineyard Pinot Noir.   

Special shout out on the personalized tasting menu!

All of the wines were delicious and incredibly balanced.  

The Larry Hyde Chardonnay was light and acidic, we referred to it as a "lunch wine" that we could drink all day long.  It had quite a spicy, mineral nose with hints of gun flint and citrus.  

The CIX Estate Chardonnay had a more intense mineral nose, with a touch of petrol that is more typical of Riesling.  This wine was definitely fuller bodied and would pair perfectly with any meal; our "dinner wine".  

The 2009 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay had the most depth of the 3.  The nose was full of honeyed lemon and butterscotch.  The palette was extremely luscious and buttery; it paired perfectly with our salty/sweet bites of prosciutto and melon.  

We finished off with one Pinot Noir, the 2012 UV-SL Vineyard from the Sonoma coast.  The nose was bursting with rich, ripe, red fruits, strawberries in particular.  The palette had the structure of a cab, bold and bright but balanced with the varietal characteristics of a Pinot.   

The lineup
Insider's secret - off-duty people in the wine business drink beer…
A good way to avoid jet-lag….just keep drinking!
Due to the limited production, wines are sold through allocations to wine club members.  If you are planning a visit to the Napa Valley and looking for a special tasting experience off the beaten path with some fabulous wines, I would highly suggest making an appointment at Aubert.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wine Wednesdays - Kendeis 2012 Roussanne

I enjoyed this wine on the 4th of July with grilled lobster, zucchini with mint, parsley, and Parmesan, and grilled romaine.  The juicy, creamy wine was the perfect compliment to the rich, buttery lobster!  

Having little experience with Roussanne, I was pleasantly surprised by this wine; heavier bodied, with a golden straw-yellow color.  The nose was a burst of butterscotch and browned butter.  The palette was a great balance of bright apple/pear and vanilla with a touch of oak coming through.  What at first felt a bit heavy mellowed out when paired with food and only continued to get better.   

I received this bottle through my shipment last summer but sadly it looks to be sold out.  Knowing how much I enjoyed this varietal I'll be sure to lookout for more Roussannes in the future; a great alternative to a bold chardonnay and a perfect summer food wine!

Wine:  2012 Kendeis Roussane 
Price: $11.99 but no longer available
Would buy again: Yes

Friday, July 4, 2014

Gluten Free Lemon Bars for 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!!  I hope everyone is enjoying the 3-day weekend.  I'm out at the beach celebrating with lots and lots of rose :-)

Highlights from last year at home
For anyone that has a bbq, picnic, or party to attend this weekend I would highly recommend making these lemon bars.  They feel a little more wholesome with a gluten-free almond meal crust, minimal sugar, and taste amazing, not overly sweet!  The homemade lemon curd really takes them over the top.  

Lemon Bars with Almond Crust 
Adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen 
Makes 16 small squares

For the almond crust:
Scant less than 1 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

For the lemon curd filling:
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (plan on about 2-3 lemons)
Zest from one lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving
6 egg yolks

Make the crust: Mix the almond meal, melted butter, and sugar together in a small bowl. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch square pan lined with parchment paper. Use your fingers to press the mixture together to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, until just beginning to look golden and dry. Let cool. Turn oven down to 300°F.

Make the filling: In a large heatproof metal or glass bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest together. Place on top of a pot of simmering water and add the butter a few pieces at a time until melted and combined, stirring frequently. Continue to cook over the simmering water for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and coating the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and strain into a shallow bowl to remove any curdled egg bits and keep the filling smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread the lemon curd filling over the crust and bake at 300°F for 18 to 20 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

*Word of warning - these start to fall apart as they come to room temp so make sure to serve them out of the fridge!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wine Wednesdays - Breezette 2013 Rose

How is it possible it's July already??  'Tis the season for rose!  I enjoyed a Cotes de Provence rose by Breezette while out at the beach this weekend.  Simple, not something that needs to be over thought, the most important part of picking a rose for me is making sure that it is completely dry.  I tend to hedge my bets by picking bottles lighter in color.  A fun name like "Breezette" doesn't hurt either!

This rose was a blend of 80% Cinsault and 20% Mourvedre grapes, very light in style, the nose was full of fresh stone fruit.  Peaches and apricot, carried through in the palette, balanced by crisp acidity and a slight minerality, which made it perfect for enjoying seaside!

Wine:  2013 Breezette Rose
Purchased:  Navy Beach - Montauk, NY
Price: $14.95 at retail
Would buy again: Yes!

Friday, June 27, 2014

European Holiday Part 3 - Perfect Ending in Paris

After our 3 days in Beaune we took the train to Paris for the last leg of our trip.

We stayed at the Hotel Universite in Saint-Germain, a nice contrast to our last time in Paris in the Marais.

Lucky enough to have visited Paris a few times in my life, this time was all about finding those unique, non-touristy experiences in the city, visiting old favorites while also exploring new neighborhoods.  We walked, we shopped, of course we ate, and managed to find a brocante street market full of fun goodies!  A perfect end to a perfect trip.  I'm already scheming my next trip!

Can't believe a week later the bridge collapsed under the weight of all those locks!

We visited two vintage "brocantes" one at Porte Vanves, which occurs every Saturday and Sunday, and then we stumbled upon a seasonal brocante near Parc Monceau.  Lots of fun treasures for the finding!

Mr. and Mrs. Cookie

Total score!  The perfect vintage LV camera bag
Mom in her element!

All that shopping made us hungry, we paused in Parc Monceau for a perfect afternoon picnic and watched the Parisians take their exercise!  I was so happy to explore this new area, it was absolutely gorgeous!

A few food highlights……

Had to come back and visit my crepe guy at the Les Enfantes Rouge Market in the Marais!
Paris isn't complete without macarons!  We stayed away from Laduree now that we have that in NY and sampled some local places with fun flavors, blackberry basil and chocolate fig included!
One of my favorite finds of the trip - so good we went there twice!  The tapas bar at L'Avant Comptoir.  Next door to the popular bistro, this standing room only bar has amazing tapas, great wines, and perhaps the best bread and butter of the trip, and that's saying a lot! 
Salty butter on the counter for sharing, spoon please!
A perfect glass of Pico chablis, savory citrus macaron with fois gras and salmon croquette.

Our first dinner in Paris was at Chez Dumonet, a spot I had read about last time but we didn't make it to.  World renowned for their duck confit and Grand Mariner soufflé, I had to check it out this time around.  Mom used to make Grand Marnier soufflés at dinner parties in her 20s, we tried recreating it at Christmas but it was a bit of a flop so I couldn't wait to try the real thing.  While the service was poor at best (trip advisor reviews are accurate) the food truly was amazing.  

David Lebovitz mentioned Poilane as one of the best croissants in Paris, so I was happy to find that there was an outpost a short 5 minute walk from our hotel.  The croissants truly were amazing, light, flaky, and oh so buttery!

For Saturday night we originally had reservations at Bistro Paul Bert, I was dying for some steak frites and again according to DL this was the spot for some of the best, but we decided to stay close to home and stumbled upon Au Pied de Fouet.  With 3 locations throughout the city, the restaurant has been serving classic French dishes for over 150 years!  Alas they didn't have frites with their entrecôte so I decided I couldn't pass up another opportunity for duck confit, we also shared the steak tartar both with delicious crispy potatoes.  Reasonably priced, a gem of a find!

So crazy how it stays late until almost 10pm!
Not pictured was our last dinner at Semilla.  A farm to table concept with fresh takes on French classics and good, clean, food.  Honestly not my favorite and didn't live up to the hype/reviews.  That being said, we had been eating and drinking for 10 days straight at that point so maybe I was a bit over-exerted! 

A afternoon crepe for good measure in the Marais
We spent our last morning lingering over breakfast and the infamous hot chocolate at Angelina's.  I'd like to start every day with a cup of that creamy goodness!

And that's a wrap!  Now.....where to next??

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