Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pairing Food & Wine
I love to entertain, it gives me the opportunity to experiment with new wines and recipes to pair with them.  I started out reading about wine and food pairings and thought of making a complete and clear chart  with some of the suggested pairings we all hear about; “white wine with fish, red wine with meat”…etc. My personal motto has always been “eat and drink what you like together.” However, as I dug more into researching this, HOLY COW there is a lot of science involved!  So I have laid out what I found, while trying to keep it simple.
Food and wine pairing comes down to three components; flavor, taste and texture. Taste is one of the more important components in any food pairing, which breaks down to; acid, sweet, salt, bitter, oily and tannins.
Also, you don’t pair wine to a protein, you pair to preparation. You need to really think of all the ingredients and the cooking method for your recipe.  Confused yet…here is a little more help.
Creamy with creamy: creamy wines, such as Chardonnay or Viognier, matched with cream-based sauces such as pasta, poultry or creamy cheeses.  Pairing rich with rich are textures that work well with each other.  This combination is pure heaven and a wonderful treat…get inspired and play with it, recipes can be found at  with wine pairing suggestions.
Acid with acid: Sauvignon Blanc is a great match for fish with a lemon sauce. If the recipe or food has lemon or other citrus in it you will want some acid to match. Some choices to pair a lemon sauce are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Riesling.  This pairing has such a mouth-watering zing.
Delicate with delicate & bold with bold: A delicate meal, such as sole with lemon butter would be completely over powered with a Cab. Instead, pair with a delicate wine such as Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc , this is simply delicious.  Bold flavors like a beef stew; a bold red like Cab or Syrah would do much better to complement the bold flavors of the dish….this is comfort eating!  
Spicy with sweet-Contrasting, the fun stuff: Pair a spicy chow mien with a Riesling or Gewurztraminer; this is a fun surprise on your taste buds, what a treat this pairing is to play with. The sweetness of the wine is offset by the spice in the food and instead of tasting sweet; you taste the fruit in the wine instead. So try pairing Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer with spicy Thai or Indian food.

Tannin to protein & fat: Tannins in wine are enhanced when paired with other tannins present in foods, so avoid pairing a big tannic wine with walnuts or chocolate! The two elements that help soften tannins in wine include protein and fat. This is why a steak is such a classic pairing for a big red wine, it has both protein and fat which help bring out the fruit in a red wine and subdue harsh tannins.  We will be exploring more on Tannins in future posts.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this, I love to entertain. I recently held a Wine and Appetizer get-together where everyone made an appetizer and brought a wine of their choice to pair.  This is not only fun for everyone to find something new, it also offers great conversation over the food and wine samplings that the guests brought.  My daughter Elise made a steak, gorgonzola and arugula Crostini; she paired this with Don Carlo Cabernet Sauvignon.  Don Carlo was a great find on our Spring Release trip to Walla Walla and it paired very well with the steak crostini.  We also had a crimini mushroom with truffle oil and bacon tart; this was paired with a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards which is very nice Pinot Noir with a beautiful color, clarity and rich balance of flavor. 
Having a wine and appetizer party is a great way to experiment with your likes, discover something new and is just good fun.  As I have previously stated……the most important thing is sharing and pairing with friends and family.  Enjoy.  Denise

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Are Sulfites And Why Are They In My Wine?

Growing up in Oregon I would see the words “Contains Sulfites” on wine bottles and wonder, what in the world is a sulfite and why has it been added?

The technical explanation:  Sulfites are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO2.  The sulfite ion is the conjugate base of bisulfate.  Although the acid itself is elusive, its salts are widely used.  The term “sulfites” is an inclusive term for sulfur dioxide (SO2).  SO2 is a preservative that is used in winemaking and most food industries because of the antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

After doing a little research I discovered that sulfites (preservatives) are added either before the crush or after to prevent spoilage and oxidation (browning).  Sulfites protect the wine from not only oxidation, but also bacteria.  In other words it keeps your wine from going bad and turning brown.

My research sources also tell me that sulfites do occur naturally in all wines to some extent.   Red wines have tannin, which is a stabilizing agent and need less sulfur dioxide to protect the wine during winemaking and maturation.

The United States requires the labeling “contains sulfites” on wine when more than 10 parts-per-million have been added.   In the EU the maximum levels of SO2 that a wine can contain are 160 parts-per-million for red wine, 210 parts-per-million for white wine and 400 parts-per-million for sweet wines. 

There are all kinds of health articles about the consumption of sulfites.  Some people are very sensitive to sulfites and experience an allergic reaction.  Let me just say that if you are concerned about preservatives in your wine, there are now many “natural” or “organic” options that contain very little SO2.   

So as you pick out your next bottle of wine think about the words “Contains Sulfites and what that means to you - LD

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spring Release in Walla Walla
Spring Release is when the wineries celebrate the season and showcase their new releases.  There are over a hundred wineries in Walla Walla, if you have never been there I highly recommend going even if you don’t care for wine.  This wine growing region has a historic downtown which is so charming with restaurants, boutique shops, caf├ęs, and tasting rooms.  Outside of downtown, you will find beautifully kept historic homes in the residential neighborhoods. 
We didn’t save the best for last, we started out with the best and the rest that day was held in comparison.  Saturday morning we set out for Dumas Station which is located out in Dayton, a 20 minute or so drive from Walla Walla, you drive thru some beautiful fields and pastures.  I first heard about Dumas Station from LD, her first time to Walla Walla she came back raving about  “Cow Catcher Red” a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 6% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot.
 When I visited Walla Walla for Fall Release 2011, I too fell in love with Cow Catcher Red , it has such a deep fruity flavor and silky finish.  However, my favorite became their 2008 Merlot for its lush flavor with a great finish.   For the first time they released a Cab Franc and it sold out during the Spring Release weekend, so glad I joined the wine club and was able to get some!  It has such deep rich color, wonderful balance of flavor and a beautiful long lasting finish.  Their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon with its rich aroma, full-bodied texture and a spicy and smoky velvet finish is a great Cab to fill out your wine rack.  I have included a link to the Dumas Station website below; you need to read about their interesting history.
We visited many more wineries than I can put all in one post, I will be sharing more of that in future….Cheers!  Denise

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Flight School
A couple years ago LD and her friend Angela were getting together and going to Flight School.   LD kept telling me how awesome this was and that I really needed to join them.  Finally, I asked “what the heck is Flight School?”  Wine tasting….didn’t understand what that had to do with flying so I said, “okay count me in I will give it a try”.
A wine “Flight” is a sampling of 3 or more wines as a tasting; usually a small sample of wine….there is no airport or flying involved.   We met up at MorMor Bistro in Poulsbo; they do their Flight School on Friday nights.  What a treat, they give you four pours of wines plus an appetizer sampling for $20.00, what a great value for the food, wine and education.  Yes, education…. Dorian, the Sommelier tells you about the wine, where it is from, the region and more.
I have ordered wine Flights at other restaurants, they pour you your wine, give you a sheet of paper that lists the wines (some don’t even give you that) and walk away…….I want the  story.  Tell me about the wine, the region the tasting notes …….I think we have been spoiled.
My second Flight School at MorMor sticks out, it was the time the wine bottles were covered; we had to taste and then guess the region it came from.  That really opened up my senses to the smell, taste and the wine characters from different growing regions. 
Our Family gets together on Sunday for “Family Dinner”; the girls will have wine the boy’s beer and I prepare appetizers to go with the wine I am serving.  One Sunday my husband’s nephew said “I wouldn’t mind trying wine” we looked at each other and grinned…... we will do a Flight School of our own for you next Sunday, this will be fun!”
I selected 4 wines; we started with a Chardonnay from J. Lohr, then a Cabernet Franc from Willow Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon from Dreaming Tree (have to tell you that story next on how we found this one) and Merlot from Fairwinds.  The appetizers I prepared to pair with the wine were; puff pastry filled with brie and peach preserves,   fruit and cheese plate of red grapes, goat cheese, Beechers Flagship cheese and a dish of almonds.   We had a convert, he loved it and he didn’t understand why people drank the horrible stuff.
So back to how we found Dreaming Tree… one Sunday for family dinner, my daughter Diamond, spotted a label she liked….yes she picked it by the look of the label.  She bought it and we loved it.  Since, I have also purchased “Crush” a Merlot/Zinfandel blend by Dreaming Tree, I liked this even more than the Cab.  Dreaming Tree we found out is collaboration with Dave Matthews, the musician, they have done a great job creating a very affordable, sustainable wine.
So go out and enjoy a “Flight” with your friends and family…………D

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Simple White Wine Sangria
I have put together a simple Sangria recipe for Cinco de Mayo.  Many recipes out there have a lot of ingredients, I made this one simple and refreshing, enjoy…D
1 bottle dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)
2 shots of brandy
1 orange sliced
1 lime sliced
1 peach sliced
1 lemon sliced
2 shots of triple sec
1 shot of simple syrup (optional)
Club soda
Pour the wine in a pitcher add sliced fruits (be sure to wash your fruit before slicing) brandy, triple sec, stir and chill 2 -4 hours.  Before serving, add 1 liter of club soda, taste test to see if you need the simple syrup (you might need if your fruit isn’t that sweet).   That’s it, you are ready to celebrate!