Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - 2012 Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Chardonnay

Tra Vigne has been a Napa Valley institution for the better part of my entire life (28 years to be exact).  Sadly they are closing their doors as of December 20th.  While I was home over Thanksgiving, I went not once, but twice to savor their amazing "mozzarella al minuto" for the last time.  

The mozzarella is literally pulled the "minute" you order and is table-side within 30 seconds.  It's warm, gooey, and drenched in grassy olive oil and flaky sea salt, absolute perfection on warm toasty bread!
We also cleared their cellar of a delicious Italian Chardonnay from Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina.  Located in the Alto Adige region in northern Italy, the cooler climate produces higher acid, crisp wines.  Slow, cold fermentation and aging in stainless steel help to preserve the acidity in this Chardonnay, which makes it the perfect compliment to the mozzarella, the acid cut nicely through the rich cheese and salty olive oil.  

Here's hoping they bring the mozzarella recipe to their sister restaurant Pizzeria Tra Vigne!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - 2014 Gilbert Picq & ses Fils Chablis

I have a wine to convince all of the Chardonnay-haters out there that this grape has so many redeeming qualities!!  

While some members of the older generations might remember Chablis as the generic term for many jug wines, traditional Chablis is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes hailing from the Chablis region in France in northern Burgundy.  This cooler climate region is actually closer to Sancerre than other Chardonnay regions in southern Burgundy, also contributing to the lighter style of Chablis.  Typically fermented in 100% stainless steel gives the wine a crisp, clean, mineral style without the buttery oak so many are opposed to in typical Chardonnay.  

If looking for a food friendly, people-pleasing wine on a restaurant list, Chablis can often be a great value vs. other Burgundian Chardonnays.  Chablis is classified in 4 levels, Petite Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru.  Value can be found in Chablis level wines.  

This bottle in particular comes from the domain of Gilbert Picq in a classic expression of true Chablis.  The vines are hand tended, producing low yields that give the wine a great depth and intensity.  The terroir of Chablis offers slightly chalky mineral notes with a nice acidity and slight citrus and saline finish on the palette. 

If you want to read up a bit more on the wonder that is Chablis, I really enjoyed this article by Eric Asimov, the NYT wine critic.     

Wine:  2014 Gilbert Picq & ses Fils Chablis
Purchased:  Backlabel Wines, NYC
Price:  $25

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - Tasting in LA

I recently spent a weekend in L.A. visiting my oldest and bestest friend.  As we both originally hail from Napa, we set out to see what the L.A. wine scene was all about.

We headed out to Malibu.  First up, Malibu Wines.  We tasted through their Estate flight.  The wines were fine, but nothing outstanding or worth purchasing.  The vibe was very corporate, the hospitality staff wasn't exactly hospitable and it just felt very touristy.  For $65 you can take a safari ride and feed the exotic animals on the property.  They do allow picnics which is a nice touch, but I imagine it's a mob scene on sunny weekends.  I'd say you're better off packing a picnic and bringing your own wine pretty much anywhere else, beach picnic anyone??    

We headed down the hill to Rosenthal Winery.  From the minute we walked in the vibe was much more our style.  The gentlemen behind the counter could not have been nicer, and I'm pretty sure they poured us a taste of every wine on offer (and even some shiners from yet-to-be released vintages). 

I really enjoyed the 2014 Surfrider "Mingle" - a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne.

Another winner, the 2012 Rosenthal Merlot, which was absolutely delicious with chocolate fudge made with the same wine!

All in all a great day touring and tasting.  Can't wait to visit L.A. again soon!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - Thanksgiving Wine and Recipes with Dunk and Crumble

It's here, it's here!  T-day!  Are you ready?  Recipes prepped, table set, wine chosen?

If you're looking for any last minute inspiration, my friend Molly from Dunk and Crumble is sharing some amazing recipes and asked me to jump in with suggested wine pairings.  Check it out on her blog here!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Wine and cheese, just two of the many things I'm thankful for this year!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - What to Drink for Thanksgiving 2015 Edition

It's a toss up, but Thanksgiving might just edge out Christmas as my favorite holiday.  It's the official kick-off to the holiday season, it's my favorite meal, and I love the tradition of it all.  As I've gotten older, I've started to appreciate the wine pairings that go along with it as well.

I had so much fun hosting a Thanksgiving wine tasting for a client last week, I wanted to share my picks for what to drink with this year's Thanksgiving dinner.  

I wanted to play on traditional Thanksgiving pairings, but also explore some variations in regions and styles.  

A few general rules of thumb for pairings:  

1.  Remember at the end of the day, it's celebration, don't get too caught up in what to pair or perfect matching, drink what you like and enjoy the time spent with family and friends!

2.  When planning for your party, figure one bottle of wine per person.

3.  Wines should be lighter in alcohol, this is a long meal and a long day of celebrating, you wouldn't want your guests getting a little too toasted before the end of the meal ;-)

As guests arrived I poured a simple Italian Prosecco to start things off.  Bubbles are so much fun to kick off any celebration (or to take a standard night at home up a notch).  While Prosecco is great on its own, the play of a touch of nuttiness combined with a bit of sweetness is a great compliment to many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes.  

We kicked off the official tasting with a flight of Rieslings.  The mix of body, weight, spice, and rich fruit of Riesling stand up well to the richness of the Thanksgiving meal.  

First off, a bone-dry Reisling from Austria.  The 2014 Leth Riesling comes from the Wagram region in the northwest corner of Austria.  High-acid, light bodied, with citrus and tropical flavors balanced with a nice minerality.  This Reisling will challenge everything you think you knew about Reisling (it's not sweet!).

Next up, we compared the dry Riesling with a semi-sweet version from Dr. Konstantin Frank in NY's Finger Lakes region.  Dr. Frank is known as the father of conventional grape growing in the Northeast, he proved many naysayers that wine grapes could grow and thrive in the cooler climate.  The slight residual sugar gives this wine a sweetness that stands up well to the presence of fruit, sugar, and salt in the meal.  

Moving on to the reds,  we tasted a 2013 Beaujolais from Chateau Cambon.  Many of you may know Beaujolais as the traditional "Thanksgiving" wine, with Beaujolais nouveau being released on the third Thursday in November offering a preview of the most recent vintage.  This Beaujolais from Chateau Cambon is what is known as a Beaujolais Village, hailing from a vineyard in between the famous villages of Morgon and Brouilly.  The wine had a high acidity and nice raspberry flavors with a bit of minerality as well.

Our last wine was a 2013 Pinot Noir from Montinore Estate in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Typically, Oregon Pinots are going to be slightly more earthy than their California counter-parts, and more in line with the old-world style.  Another high-acid profile, with slightly darker fruits and a smoky, mineral finish.            

The earthy mushrooms in this brie paired so well with the Pinot and Beaujolais!
Aged Gouda is also a great match for higher-acid reds.
To finish things off, I poured a dessert wine from Orin Swift.  Their non-vintage Mute is a dessert wine made in a style similar to port.  Made from predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 4 Portugese varietals and fortified with brandy.  Many may choose a dessert wine or port to cap off your meal and be perfectly satisfied with that alone, for those that are looking to pair with a sweet bite, this is delicious with pecan pie or the obvious chocolate pairing!

Winning combination to finish off any celebration!
If you have any tips or tricks for what you like to drink I'd love to hear, leave in the comments below!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - 2008 Urbión Vendimia Rioja Crianza

Something new and different for me this week!  My friends came over last night and I grabbed a random bottle from my wine stash.  I honestly can't remember when, where, or how I came to acquire this bottle of wine, but I was pleasantly surprised!  You've probably gathered that when I'm not drinking CA wines, I tend towards France.  But Spain is quickly becoming a close second favorite from the old world.  

This 2008 Rioja from Urbión smells like a mix of red fruits and chocolate.  The palette was bright and juicy, nice balanced acidity, hardly any tannins, and a silky smooth finish that tasted a bit like balsamic vinegar (in a caramelized syrupy way).  Such an easy wine to drink.  I'm supposed to be detoxing this week but I poured myself a second glass….oops!

Wine:  2008 Urbión Vendimia Rioja Crianza
Purchased:  Can't remember!
Price:  $18.99 retail

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - Lewis Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

My family friends live in New Jersey and offer a wonderful respite from city life.  My "country home" as I like to call it; comfy and cozy and every visit is capped off with a delicious, home-cooked meal.  And when I'm really lucky, there's a bottle of wine pulled from the cellar!

Last weekend we enjoyed a bottle of Lewis Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Everything I love in a Napa Valley Cab, it was rich and luscious, with flavors of currants and dark plum, tobacco, mocha and a hint of oak.  The tannins were still there, but had softened from what I imagine they were when this was bottled.  

Every sip was a dream, and it paired perfectly with the beautiful standing rib roast!  A spectacular Sunday dinner indeed, I need to get out to the country more often!    

Wine:  2007 Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Purchased:  Enjoyed with dinner, latest vintage available here
Price:  $90 retail

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Pumpkin Caramel

If you have a Halloween party this weekend and are looking for something tasty to bring, look no further than these easy-peasy oatmeal cookies!  The pumpkin-caramel takes them to a whole new level, chewy centers with crisp edges!  

I happened to have a leftover jar of pumpkin caramel from last year's pumpkin season; if you can't find you can sub in Trader Joe's fleur de sel caramel sauce with a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.  

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Pumpkin Caramel
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 2/3 cup old-fashioned whole rolled oats
1 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chunks (I used semi-sweet)
1/2 cup pumpkin caramel sauce

Beat butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add the egg and mix.  Add vanilla and mix on high until combined.  

In a separate bowl combine oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.  (If you are using regular caramel+pumpkin spice add pumpkin spice to dry mixture now).  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix to combine.  Fold in chocolate chunks.  Stir in caramel and mix to combine.  

Chill dough in fridge for 30 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Roll dough into balls and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Pull out of oven and sprinkle top with flaky sea salt.  Return to oven for a minute or so until edges are lightly browned and middles are set.  

Remove from oven and let cool completely.  I froze half the dough into balls and baked at a later date which worked perfectly.  Just place frozen dough balls on baking sheet and bake as directed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - Walt 2013 La Brisa Chardonnay

My brother hosted a BBQ to share the spoils of his recent hunting adventure.  He cooked up quite the feast including venison and quail as well as store-bought skirt steak for those less-adventurous.  I made a version of my favorite salad (arugula, nectarines, goat cheese, and tomatoes) and we had grilled veggies and potatoes on the side.  It was one of those perfect Napa Valley nights, warm enough to linger outside long after the sun went down.  

There was lots of wine to go with of course, but a favorite of mine was this 2013 Chardonnay from Walt Wines.  With grapes sourced from Green Valley in the Russian River appellation, the wine was bigger than I would have expected.  With a nose of tropical fruit, pineapple, and lemon, the palette was creamy and luscious, with nice acidity and minerality to balance out the fruit, just they way I like it!

The Walt tasting room is located right on the square in downtown Sonoma.  When friends ask me for advice on where to go tasting in the Napa region, I tend to default to Napa and Up-Valley (St. Helena etc) as I am not as familiar with the Sonoma area.  I will definitely be adding Walt to my list of Sonoma recommendations and can't wait to check out the tasting room next time I'm home!  

Purchased:  unknown
Price:  $35
Would Buy Again:  Yes!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Weekend Escape - Seven on Shelter

Summer may officially be over, but some may argue that this is truly the best time to explore the North and South Forks of Long Island.  The beach crowds have all gone home and traffic has slowed; the beauty and splendor of the region are there for the taking!  

In between the two forks is a special escape, Shelter Island.  After a day of touring the wineries on the Northfork, we hopped on the ferry to rest our heads at Seven on Shelter, a boutique bed and breakfast.  I prefer the accommodations of a b&b, and I tirelessly scroll through Trip Advisor reviews choosing a place based on it's location and breakfast reviews, Seven on Shelter excelled and surpassed all of my expectations.  

Wine and afternoon snacks were waiting for us upon arrival.
We stayed in Room #1.  The duvet was so soft I could have stayed in bed all day.  

Thoughtful touches including restaurant recommendations, local activities, water and chocolates!

A quaint sitting porch off of the back of the house
Our hostess, Beth, was a former art dealer.  Her beautiful art is showcased throughout the house.

After a delicious dinner at Vine Street Cafe, I was so excited to go to bed so that I could wake up and experience my favorite part of any B&B, breakfast!

All of my favorite things greeted me in the morning!  Fresh pastries, organic eggs, yogurt, berries, and not 1 but 2 different kinds of granola to choose from!  It was a beautiful spread that we enjoyed in the sunshine on the front porch.

Blue eggs!

After fueling up, we jumped on Seven's cruiser bikes for a ride around the island.

Beth's puppy, Evie, was there to greet us on our return.

Being from the West Coast, it was a bit disconcerting when I first realized that the sun doesn't set over the ocean on the East Coast.  The one place I've found on this coast to watch the sun set over a body of water is from Crescent Beach on Shelter Island.  A 5 minute walk from the B&B, we grabbed a bottle of wine and headed down just in time to catch the sun melt into the horizon.  

If you're looking for an easy escape from NYC I would highly recommend a stay at Seven on Shelter.  This sunset is waiting for you!

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