Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Cheesecake

Our families Christmas tradition is that my wife and I host Christmas Eve Dinner.  On the menu this year was Prime Rib, Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Cheesecake with Graham-Pecan Crust

In years past I’ve made Cook’s Illustrated Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake with Graham-Pecan Crust.  Last year, I made a Sweet Potato Pie.

This year I got the idea to mash-up the cheesecake and sweet potato cheesecake and came up with this…

Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Cheesecake

Sweet Potato-Bourbon Cheesecake with Graham Pecan Crust – It’s “Slap Yo Moma” good!

I posted a few pics on Facebook and several friends requested the recipe.  As I sat down to do that today, I realized it would be actually easier to post a blog about rather than explain it in detail on FB.

Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Cheesecake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: MAKES ONE 9-INCH CAKE, SERVING 12 TO 16
 
A fabulous mash-up of cheesecake and pecan pie! Inspired by a the Cook's Illustrated's "Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake With Graham-Pecan Crust", I substituted sweet potatoes for the pumpkin, and topped with a caramel pecan glaze. Baking the cake in a water bath in a moderate oven also gives the cheesecake its velvety texture.
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 3 ounces graham crackers (5 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces pecans,chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1½ cup of roasted sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lb sweet potatoes)
  • 1½ pounds cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature, about 30 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, left at room temperature, about 30 minutes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • Glaze
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, nuts, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
  2. FOR THE FILLING: Bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot. Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside. Roast sweet potatoes. Cool and peel. Puree in a food processor.
  3. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula. Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. Add sweet potato puree and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and bourbon and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.
  4. Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan. Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface; set roasting pan in oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1½ hours (see note). Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
  5. FOR THE CARAMEL PECAN GLAZE: Combine brown sugar and ¼ cup butter or margarine in a heavy small saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat, and bring to a boil. Mix in ¼ cup cream, then nuts. Pour hot topping over chilled cheesecake.
  6. TO SERVE: Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
Notes
The source of the caramel pecan glaze recipe may be found here

Putting this together take some effort, but it totally worth it…especially for the holidays!

Quite simply put…

It’s “Make me wanna slap my Momma” good!

The cheesecake has a velvety texture.  And combined with the Caramel Pecan Glaze?

O-M-G!

Forget about moderation, and your diet…you’ll be craving seconds on this one!

IMG_1365

The cheesecake is good on its own, but the Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cream (recipe follows) is a grand addition that put it over the top!

IMG_1369-001

MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1cup heavy cream
  • 1/2cup sour cream
  • 1/2cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/8teaspoon table salt
  • 2teaspoons bourbon

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In bowl of standing mixer, whisk heavy cream, sour cream, brown sugar, and salt until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve cheesecake, at least 4 hours or up to 24, stirring once or twice during chilling to ensure that sugar dissolves.

2. When ready to serve cheesecake, add bourbon and beat mixture with whisk attachment at medium speed until small bubbles form around edges, about 40 seconds; increase speed to high and continue to beat until fluffy and doubled in volume, about 1 minute longer. Spoon cream on individual slices of cheesecake.

Enjoy!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Saké and Cheese Pairings – A Revelation

Saké paired with cheese? Now that’s a combination that’s not likely to have crossed your mind.

At least it hadn’t crossed mine.

That is until I was invited to participate in a virtual tasting  of sake and cheese with sakés from Oregon based craft producer and importer, SakéOne along with cheeses from Marin French Cheese, and Laura Chenel Chevre. The tasting was hosted by Charles Communications Associates.

SakéOne is an importer of Japan’s finest saké as well as America’s premium saké company. For more than a decade, SakéOne has been crafting junmai ginjo (premium) quality saké at its state-of- the-art kura (brewery) in Forest Grove, the heart of the Willamette Valley: Oregon’s craft beer-brewing and wine-making mecca.  SakéOne is focused on producing and importing saké that suits the American palate.

Marin French Cheese and Laura Chenel’s Chevre and  are sister companies, located in Sonoma and Petaluma, California respectively, with distinctly original and authentic styles of cheese.

Why Saké Pairs Well with Cheese

After I signed up for the tasting, I did a bit of research on saké and cheese pairings. As it turns out, saké naturally pairs well with cheese because both contain lactic acid.  The lactic in cheese contributes to its aromas and flavors. In saké, lactic acid adds a distinct creamy, buttery feel, and yogurt, or custard-like aromas.

More and more foodies are becoming aware of the synergy of cheese and sake, particularly when you consider the element of pairing in which like meets like – Charles Communication

The other thing that saké has going for it is umami - a pleasant savory (also described as meaty or earthy) taste imparted by (it’s about to get all geeky!) glutamate, a type of amino acid and ribonucleotides, which occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.  Saké contains twenty different types of amino acids, giving it lots of umami, and thereby enhancing it’s affinity for pairing with cheese.

The combination of lactic acid, and umami, together with saké’s sweetness give it fantastic combination of cheese-ready potential.

Saké-and-Cheese Pairings - A Revelation

L-R: Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo with Marin French Petite Breakfast Brie
Momokawa Organic Nigori with Laura Chenel’s Chévre
Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry with Laura Chenel’s Ash-rinded Buchette
Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior Junmai Ginjo with Rogue River Blue Cheese

The tasting featured the following sakés (You may find my detailed tasting note on the saké here)  & cheese:

Marin French Petite Breakfast Brie with Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo

This was my first experience with “fresh” brie.  Wow!  It’s mild, buttery and slightly tangy with a dense chalky texture. The saké, which is medium-bodied, broad on the palate, and with “weight” that was a fantastic complement to the dense character of the cheese. The cheese tasted less tart with saké, while the cheese played up the tropical fruit notes of the saké.  abv:14.5%; Price:$14/750ml

Laura Chenel’s Chévre with Momokawa Organic Nigori

The chévre  is clean-tasting, smooth, light, tangy with a mild lemony taste.   This was a good pairing for me.  Although, the weight and full-bodied character of the cheese overwhelmed the cheese a bit, the saké definitely made the cheese taste less tangy. At the same time, the creamy, off-dry, full-bodied, fruity character of the saké was amplified in a favorable manner by the cheese.  abv:16% alcohol; Price: $14/750ml

Laura Chenel’s Ash-rinded Buchette with Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry

A ‘buchette’ is a small log of aged goat cheese.  This one has edible, tender rind that is at once a lightly salty, lemony, and tangy.  The center is at once full-bodied, creamy, a bit chalky, and with a citrusy tangy character.  We were asked to taste the cheese by itself and then with the rind. On its own the cheese is delicious. But, I preferred it with the rind because it saltiness of the rind was a great complement to the creamy nature of the cheese. This was the best of the four pairings for me, the saké’s fresh, dry, supple texture and  melon, pear, anise and mineral character played up the strong flavors of the cheese while standing its ground.

This is a great example of the difference between pairing cheese with saké, as opposed to wine. A classic wine pairing for an aged goat cheese would be Sauviginon Blanc. And what makes it work is the acidity of the wine cutting through the richness of the cheese. Saké is different, but just as pleasurable.  While saké lacks the acidity of wine, the texture, and umami make for a richness that plays of the richness of the cheese rather than cutting through it. Killer pairing!  abv: 13%; Price: $27.00/720ml

Rogue River Blue Cheese  with Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior Junmai Ginjo 

The Rogue River Blue Cheese is a relatively mild blue cheese that is wrapped in grape leaves macerated in pear brandy. Its forward, well-aged flavor tastes of brandy, fruit and a bit of smokiness.  The layered, tropical fruit, pear,and melon character of saké was a wonderful pairing. The weight of the saké and cheese were perfectly matched and the saké made the blue cheese taste less salty in a favorable way.  While the other pairing were more complementary in nature this one offered more of contrast.  abv:14%;Price: $27.00/750ml

The tasting was a fantastic experience!  It opened by eyes to the myriad of pairing possibilities for saké beyond Japanese food.  Quality saké has such a broad range of flavors and style that it can pair well a range of foods.  And pairing it with cheese is a great place to start!

A Taste of SakéOne Redux

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a virtual tasting (a group of bloggers tasting the same beverages, interact with a host and one another) of saké and cheese with sakés from Oregon based craft producer and importer, SakéOne, along with cheeses from Marin French Cheese, and Laura Chenel Chevre. The tasting was hosted by Charles Communications Associates.

I’ve done a couple of these tastings with SakeOne before, but this one was different because it was focused on pairing saké and cheese.

I want to give the sakés their due, so I’ll cover them in detail in this post.  

Likewise, the pairing of  saké and cheese, which is certainly isn’t “top of mind” for most folks, deserves its own report, so I’ll cover the that tomorrow. 

SakéOne is an importer of Japan’s finest saké as well as America’s premium saké company. For more than a decade, SakéOne has been crafting junmai ginjo (premium) quality saké at its state-of- the-art kura (brewery) in Forest Grove, the heart of the Willamette Valley: Oregon’s craft beer-brewing and wine-making mecca.  SakéOne is focused on producing and importing saké that suits the American palate.

Founded by an American who evolved into a sake visionary after experiencing the finest sakes Japan had to offer, SakeOne was first incorporated in Oregon in 1992 under the name Japan America Beverage Co. (JABC). It was established through a joint partnership with Momokawa Brewing Japan, of Momoishi, Aomori Prefecture, Japan, a sake producer since 1856 that brought deep product knowledge and ages of experience. The new company started as an importer, then built its facility in Forest Grove just a few years later. In October of 1998, JABC changed its name to SakeOne and became the world’s only American operated Kura (brewery).

The tasting featured four sakés. Two were produced in Oregon, and two were imported from Japan. Three of the four sakes were new to me.  Additionally, the tasting featured two organic sakes.

“Appreciating sake is like appreciating wine: look at the color, there is an initial bouquet, you can swirl it in your glass…But you also have to appreciate it as something new: leave your preconceptions behind.” - Sylvain Huet

Tasting sake is very much like tasting wine: 

  • Choose the right glassware.  I prefer a stemless wine glass.  Traditional small ceramic cups are not the best way to experience sake.
  • Check the color - Fresh sake in good condition should be relatively clear (unless it’s nigori – a cloudy style of sake)
  • Pay attention to the aromas.  Floral, tropical, stonefruit, spice and earthy aromas are all a good sign. Burnt or musty aromas are not.
  • Pay attention to the flavors and texture.  Look for flavors that confirm your initial impressions of the sake’s aroma.
  • Serving temperature matters – Quality sake is generally served chilled, like a white wine.  But don’t be afraid to experiment. Take  a sip when first out of off the fridge, then try again every 5 minutes until it reaches room temperature.  You’ll likely notice a difference in its flavors, aromas.  Earthier styles will likely taste better closer to room temperature, while fruitier styles will likely taste better chilled.
  • Have fun! Check out  a few sake in 300ml bottles to compare and contrast to see what you like without breaking the bank.

Note: SakéOne created this saké wheel infographic to help better understand the nuances in aroma and flavor profiles. Check it out!

My tasting notes follow:

IMG_1216

  • SakéOne Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo - USA, Oregon
    Clear color with promising, clean tropical, tapioca, and a bit of melon aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and dry with pineapple, mango and a bit of ginger flavors. 14.5% alcohol (SRP $14/750ml) Recommended

IMG_1217

  • SakéOne Momokawa Organic Nigori Junmai Ginjo - USA, Oregon
    Milky color with coconut, anise, white pepper and creamy custard aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, off-dry, and creamy with coconut, baked pear, anise, and subtle honey flavors. 16% alcohol.  (SRP $14/750ml) Recommended

IMG_1218

  • Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry - Japan, Kansai, Hyōgo
    Clear color with mushroom, sea breeze, and dried pear aromas. On the palate it approached medium-bodied, fresh, and dry with a supple texture and underripe honeydew melon, pear, roasted nuts,  anise and a hint of mineral flavors. 13% alcohol. (SRP – $27.00/720ml) Recommended

IMG_1219

  • Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior - Japan, Chūbu, Niigata
    Clear with layered fresh tropical fruit, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, approaching off-dry, fresh and fruity with pear, melon and tropical fruit flavors that seem to intensify along the way. Long finish. 14% alcohol.  (SRP $27.00/750ml) Highly recommended

I learn something new every time I taste saké. And that’s another way that tasting sake is like tasting wine – the more you taste, the more you learn, and the more you appreciate it!

Think you don’t like saké?  Think again. There is such a tremendous diversity of styles, that I bet you can find one you like.

Kanpai!

All sakés were provided as samples for review.  Many thanks to SakéOne and Charles Communications Associates 

Related post you may enjoy:

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2010 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva.

The Winery

Cantele is a family run winery founded by Giovanni (“Gianni”) Battista Cantele, and his two sons Augusto and Domenico in 1979.  The winery is located between the villages of Fra Guagnano and Salice Salentino.

Today, the Cantele family owns 50 hectares planted to vine and the family’s current winemaker Gianni (one of Augusto’s sons) and agronomist Cataldo Ferrari manage another 150 hectares owned by other growers. Augusto’s other son Paolo is the winery’s brand manager and Domenico’s son Umberto is head of sales. Domenico’s daughter Luisa also works in the estate’s corporate offices together with Gianni’s wife Gabriella. The business remains to this day a true “family affair.”

Cantele produces about 2 million bottles/year, including indigenous Pugliese grapes such as Primitive and Negroamaro, along with international grape varieties like Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.

The Wine

Cantele produces wine in Salice Salentino DOC of Puglia, which is located in “the heel” of the boot in peninsular Italy.  Puglia has had a reputation for producing mostly low-quality bulk wines (a.k.a. “plonk”).  In the 21st century though, a growing number of winemakers are more focused on quality rather than quantity.  For example, Puglia is the second largest producer (after Sicily) of organic wines.  And there have been substantial investments by the iconic Italian producer Antinori.

The flagship red grape of the Salice Salentino DOC is Negroamaro , which translated to English means dark (negro), and bitter (amaro).

This wine is made from 100% Negroamaro fermented in stainless steel and aged in 1-2 year old barrique for 6 months.

13% alcohol Retail – $9.99

Wine of the Week; 2010 Cantele Salice Salentino

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with inviting black and red fruits, bramble, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, vibrant, and deliciously spicy with plum, dried cherry, black raspberry flavors, dusty tannins and a supple texture. Medium+ finish. >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A-; Fabulous QPR on this wine!  And if you’re looking to try a different grape variety – give Negroamaro a try!

Pair with: Carne alla pizzaiola, meat lovers pizza, roast veal and beef, game, lamb, and ripe aged cheeses.

Sample purchased for review

Related post you might enjoy:

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer with Louis Roederer Champagne for #winePW

Wine Pairing Weekend is a monthly collaborative event for wine/food bloggers started by David Crowley of Cooking Chat.  It’s a great way to find food and wine pairings that work; along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic. The theme for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend is “Sparkling Wines and Appetizers

The Appetizer

I love the holiday’s, but I don’t enjoy the stress and frenzied pace that so often accompany the holidays.  The last couple of weeks, especially, have been that way for me. Things have been hectic at work since Thanksgiving. So much so that as much as I enjoy participating in #winePW, I was ready to bow out this week because I simply didn’t have time to put together the appetizer I chose last weekend (I had to work!).

Then our host, Jeff of FoodWineClick suggested something simple – Potato Chips and Champagne!

Simple!  And perhaps more importantly, fast (I’m talking less than 10 minutes)!

Who couldn’t use a quick but oh so tasty appetizer recipe this time of year?

Inspired by this recipe, I whipped up:

Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer

Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer with Louis Roederer Champagne for #winePW

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of quality potato chips of your choice
  • 1 package of smoked salmon cut into small pieces(to place on chips)
  • crème fraîche
  • Dill weed (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS:

Sort chips in a single file on a platter or plate.  Top with a small piece of salmon.  Place a tiny dollop (about a 1/2 teaspoon) of crème fraîche on top of salmon.  Finish with a pinch of dried dill on top.  Serve immediately.

Notes: Any kind of smoked fish will work on this really.  Also you may substitute fresh herb such as chives, or dill.  I tried both Trader Joe’s Sea Salt Kettle Potato Chips and Classic Lays Potato Chips.  I slightly preferred the Classic Lays. They had a lighter texture and a tad more salt.

The Wine

I drink more bubbly than most folks.  I enjoy sparkling wine at least 3 or 4 times a month. That’s because I’ve learned that sparkling wines have are one of the most food friendly wines and because I don’t limit my consumption of sparkling wines to holiday celebrations.

While it’s true that sparkling wines are the wine of choice for most celebrations, for me Champagne is the ultimate sparkling wine for a celebration.

With that in mind and a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier I’ve had in my refrigerator for a couple of month, my wife and I celebrated the monthly anniversary of our first date (we celebrate one way or another the 10th every month)!

This wine delivers a lot of value for an entry-level Champagne.

It’s a multi-vintage blend of  40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier sourced from only grand and premier cru sites.  And It includes a significant amount of reserve wines that are over 10 years old that add depth and nuance to this affordable bottle of bubbles ($40).  The wines are matured in oak casks.  It is aged three years on the lees and another six months after disgorgement.

While this wine is the perfect aperitif, it has enough body to continue drinking into the main course as well.

Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer with Louis Roederer Champagne for #winePW

I prefer my Champagne in a Burgundy glass!

My tasting notes on the wine follow:

Pale yellow color with plentiful active tiny bubbles and yeasty, almond, apple, subtle grapefruit and a hint of smoke aromas. On the palate, it’s refined, lively and fresh with a delicate creamy mousse. Mixed tart apples, pear and lemon curd flavors dominate but hints of grapefruit, black currant and an appealing smoky minerality play in the background. Long finish.

The Pairing

The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food.  That’s because it’s high-acidity and effervescence give it a wonderful palate-cleansing ability(think scrubbing bubbles!) that get your palate ready for the next bite of whatever deliciousness is before you.

Sparkling wines work especially well as a counter-balance to salty foods, rich and creamy foods, fried  and crunchy foods and raw fish.

Well what do you know?  My appetizer is all of the above!

The pairing of Champagne with this appetizer is a great example of a food and wine pairing guideline that I follow most of the time –  let either the wine or the dish take center stage.  If you want to show off a special bottle of wine, then the dish should play a supporting role.  If you want to showcase a spectacular dish, then choose a lower-key wine.

Much like two people in a conversation, in the wine and food partnership one mus listen while the other speaks or the results is a muddle – Evan Goldstein;Perfect Pairings

When you bite into the appetizer, it’s a party in your mouth.  Y ou get a nice combination of crunchy from the potato chips, a bit of salt, and the smokiness of the salmon, and the cool creaminess of the creme fraiche.

Ah, but when you eat one of these one-bite wonders followed by a sip of the Champagne, the wine makes the salmon taste a bit sweeter, and the smoky minerality of the Champagne also complements the smokiness of the salmon.  While at the same time, the appetizer elevates the taste of the wine, and make the wine taste less tart!

And that’s a winning combination!

Ready to try something new this year? Check out these great ideas from my fellow #winePW bloggers for Sparkling Wine and Appetizers:

Remember our Twitter chat today, December 13th at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. We’ll be talking about our tips and tricks for the best holiday wine pairings. We’d love to have you join us!

And, be sure to mark your calendars for January’s Wine Pairing Weekend, hosted by Christy at Confessions of a Culinary Diva. We’ll be sharing “New Wine Resolutions – Wine or Region you want to explore in 2015. Join in the #WinePW 8 conversation on Saturday January 10!

You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2011 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard.

The Winery

Klinker Brick Winery is a family winery owned by Steve and Lori Felten.  The Felten’s are fifth generation winegrowers.  Their daughter Farrah, who is the Tasting Room Manager represents the next generation.

The family’s entrée into the winemaking business wasn’t born of a desire to be winemakers. Rather, they walked through the proverbial winemaking door when they lost their contract to sell to Gallo in 1995.  After losing the Gallo contract they made wine for the bulk market because they had to do something with their fruit.

The Felten’s farm about 600 acres of vineyards, 250 of which are their estate vineyards.  Most of their vineyard are old vine Zinfandel ranging in age from 35 to over 100 years-old. The vineyards are head-trained and dry-farmed.  In addition to their Zinfandel vineyards the Felten’s also own a small 16 acre vineyard, named after their daughter Farrah, that is planted to Syrah.

“As far as vineyards go, we’re now concentrated on the eastern side (i.e. east of Hwy. 99) of Lodi, as far up as Clements.  I guess this is because it’s what I know best, and what I prefer.  The east side of Lodi has a drier climate; and although the sandy loam is pretty much the same as on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA, the water table tends to be deeper and a soils a little more well-drained, and so we get a little more concentration and structure in our wines.  Vines that are less vigorous, producing fewer clusters and smaller berries, will give you that character, and this an important part of the Klinker Brick style.” – Steve Felten

The first wine they produced under their own label was the 2000 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel. That bottling remained their top seller. In 2001 they produced their first Farrah Syrah.  The began producing their best Zinfandel, called Old Ghost in 2003.

The Wine

Klinker Brick sources the fruit for this wine comes from an 86-year old vineyard on the east side of Lodi.  The vineyard has been farmed by the Felton family for over 30 years.  Half of the vines, which are grown in a beach-like sandy loam, are own-rooted, and the other half of grafted on to own rooted Tokay.

15.8% alcohol Retail – $35

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My tasting notes follow:

Dark ruby color with intriguing dark fruit, roast coffee, spice, and a bit of eucalyptus aromas. On the palate its medium-bodied with surprising acidity, and dusty tannins. It shows baked blackberry, black raspberry, roast coffee, vanilla and baking spice flavors. Lingering sweet finish.

Rating: A-; A wonderful Zinfandel! I think is a wonderful example where looking solely at a wine’s alcohol level doesn’t do it just. Many would consider 15.8% alcohol to be high, but this wine doesn’t drink like it.

Pair with: Grilled or smoked Ahi Tuna or Pasta Bolognese
Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

2014 Pinot on the River Tasting Favorites

Last month I attended, as a media guest, the 11th Annual Pinot on the River Festival in Healdsburg, California.  Pinot on the River is a Pinot Noir-centric event that offers an opportunity taste highly allocated, limited-production Pinot Noirs from up and down the West Coast.

There are a lot of stellar wine events held each year, but because of their size, none can offer the focused, intimate tasting environment we’ve created with Pinot On The River,” The combination of the small event size and opportunity to taste a focused lineup of specially selected Pinots Noirs creates the ultimate event for Pinot lovers.- Gregory S. Walter, co-founder/organizer of the event and editor of the Pinot Report newsletter

In addition to the tasting, the event included local artisan food vendors, raffle and silent auction.  Proceeds from food sales, silent auction and raffle benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County.

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

A gorgeous day on Healdsburg Square!

I’m a huge fan of Pinot Noir and this event has been on my radar for a few years but for one reason or another, I hadn’t gotten around to attending.

When I checked out the list of wineries pouring, it created what I’d call a “delightful dilemma”.

There were several wineries, whose wines can be a challenge to find in the marketplace because they are sold via a mailing list only, that have been on my “Wines To Taste” list for years…

There were plenty of wineries with big-time Pinot Noir reputations (some I’d tasted and many I hadn’t)…

And there were lots wineries whose names were new to me…

I typically go into such big tasting with a plan, but since this was an all Pinot, all the time event, I didn’t have a plan…Ok, well I didn’t have a plan other that hitting the wineries on my “Wines To Taste” list first!

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

Brian Mast of Waits-Mast Family Cellars

It was an absolutely perfect day for the event too!  Cellar temperature weather – sunny and in the upper 60s would be my guess.

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

Waits-Mast – a “new to me” producer that had an impressive line-up of vineyard designate wines…

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

Thralls Family Cellars is a very small producers (Ed still has a day job) that’s making some elegant, and harmonious wines

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

Littorai has been on my “Wines to Taste” list for years – The wines are available via mailing list only and tasting is appt only – so great opportunity to taste these world-class wines…Score!

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

Skewis – was another “new to me” producer that was quite a revelation. The wines were well-balanced, delicious and made for the table!

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting

Failla is another producer that has been wine “To Taste” list for years. They produce mostly vineyard designate wines. Another mailing list only producer…The wines lived up to their considerable reputation…

The event was a walk-around tasting held in beautiful Healdsburg Plaza.  According to the event’s organizers there were about 100 wineries pouring.

It was pretty well-organized.  The wineries were mostly in alphabetical order, and there was handy tri-fold listing for taking brief notes and/or rating wines.

I’ve become fond of using a 1-5 scale for big event like this.  It makes it simpler for me to rate the wines, and consequently taste more wine.

I ended up tasting about 50 wines from about 40 wineries…far from a comprehensive tasting of all the wines available, but definitely a representative sample of the wines available.

My favorite wines (rated 4.25 or higher) from the event were:

  • 2012 Black Kite Pinot Noir Stony Terrace
  • 2012 Bruliam Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard
  • 2012 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Hirsch  Vineyard
  • 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch
  • 2012 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard
  • 2013 Littorai Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
  • 2012 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rita’s Crown
  • 2012 Skewis Pinot Noir Wiley
  • 2012 Skewis Pinot Noir Salzgeber-Chan Vineyard
  • 2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Bucher Vineyard
  • 2012 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Oppenlander Vineyard

It was a fantastic “deep dive” into Pinot Noir (along with a few Pinot Gris and even a Pinot Meunier). I love it when you can try wines back-to-back and decide (though sometimes the answer is “all of the above”) which wines you prefer.  Especially if you’re trying to decide whether it’s worth signing up for wines only available via a mailing list.

It’s an experience I highly recommend!  I’m already looking forward to Pinot on the River 2015!

Wine of the Week; Daniel Ginsburg #Champagne Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the Daniel Ginsburg Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut.

The Winery

Daniel Ginsburg (1956-2009) was the majority owner of Champagne de Meric.  For a time, it was the only American-owned winery in Champagne (Sports and music mogul Jay Z recently purchased Champagne Armand de Brignac)

Ginsburg was a man of diverse interests. He was a graduate of Northwestern University and made his professional mark in advertising and marketing.  He was an avid wine collector, founding member of the Society for American Baseball Research (which he joined when he was 15!), author (The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball, Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals, and The Art and Business of Champagne), and part-owner of the Class AA Norwich Navigators.

Champagne De Méric was founded in 1843 by the Besserat family in the village of Aÿ. The Besserat family sold the House to Ginsburg in 1997.  The house has been managed since 2005 by Reynald Leclaire, wine broker and also owner of Champagne Leclaire-Thiefaine.

The Wine

I purchased this wine from K&L Wine Merchants.  According to K&L “This is the exact same wine as the De Meric “Grande Reserve Sous Bois” Brut Champagne, now being sold under the name of the late founder, Daniel Ginsburg.”  It’s a blend of 80% Pinot Noir from Ay, Mareuil-Sur-Ay and Mutigny, 15% Chardonnay from Cramant, Avize and Oger and 5% Meunier from Cumieres.

More from K&L..It is vinified half in old oak barrels and half in stainless steel tanks for the perfect balance of rounded richness and zesty refreshment. It is in a big style and has plenty of toasty complexity, but also an elegant, small-beaded texture.”

12% alcohol Retail – $34.99

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My tasting notes follow: 

Golden color with plentiful pin-prick sized bubbles and a  steady bead.  It aromatically exuberant with brioche, hazelnut, quince, and a bit of citrus aromas.  On the palate, it’s full bodied and dense with a delicate creamy mousse  and a toasty baked apple, lemon and a hint of spice flavors.  It’s moderately complex, well-balanced and delicious with a lingering finish.

Rating: A-; If you’re looking for value in a full-bodied Champagne, this one is a winner!

Pair with: Main dishes like Chicken in Garlic Almond Sauce or Rabbit Ragu

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

Wine of The Week: 2001 La Rioja Alta “904″ Gran Reserva #TempranilloDay

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta “904″ Gran Reserva

The Winery

La Rioja Alta, S.A. was founded in 1890 when five Riojan and Basque families who shared a passion for wine, founded the ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’. According to importer Michael Skurnik, “Few dispute that La Rioja Alta S.A. is the leading quality orientated producer in the Rioja. With more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time, the equivalent of about 8 years sales, La Rioja Alta S.A. is unique in its ability to supply large quantities of fully mature wines of world-class quality“.

La Rioja Alta rose to prominence at a time when vineyards in France were ravaged by phylloxera, and wine lovers were looking elsewhere for fine wine.  La Rioja Alta was one of the wineries in Rioja  that capitalized on the opportunity.

The Bodega’s first winemaker was a Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, and the first wine he produced was what is today known as “Gran Reserva 890″, their flagship wine.

They will celebrate their 125th anniversary next year!

I was discovered La Rioja Alta a couple of years ago when I read some of the reviews about the 2001 Viña Ardanza.  I picked up a couple of bottles.

So often in a situation where a wine is hyped up, it’s not unusual for one to be let down because expectations have been built up.

Not so for the 2001 Viña Ardanza.   It lived up to the hype and delivered for me.

My other experience with La Rioja Alta was when I traveled to Spain last year.  When we arrived at our hotel -  Los Augustinos Hotel, we were starving.  The first thing we did was grab a bite to eat.  They was a special on a combination cheese plate and a bottle of Viña Alberdi Crianza.  What a great introduction to the wine and cheese of Rioja!  It was such a memorable meal! The wine and the cheese were perfectly matched.

Fast forward to this year.  When I saw my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants had a nice selection of wines from the 2001 vintage – one of the strongest vintages in Rioja in recent memory, it was a “no-brainer” for me to pick up a couple of bottles of this wine because I’ve had great experiences with other wines from La Rioja Alta.

The Wine

In 1904, La Rioja Alta absorbed Bodegas Ardanza, which was owned by Don Alfredo Ardanza.  This wine commemorates this important milestone in the company’s development.  Originally referred to the “Reserva 1904″, it is now known as the “904″.

These wines offer a wonderfully complex bouquet, rich flavours, a seductively smooth texture, and are all ready to drink on release.

The “904″ is a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano. The base grape is Tempranillo (90%) from vines over 40 years old grown in the municipalities of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba, perfectly complemented with 10% Graciano from our Melchorón I and II vineyards in Briones and Rodezno.

After fermentation, the wine was aged 4 years in custom-made American oak barrels, that were racked twice a year, and then further aging in bottle.

12.5% alcohol $50 Retail

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My tasting notes follow:

Slightly bricking tawny color with alluring baked cherry, balsamic, tobacco, vanilla, spice and sweet floral aromas. On the palate, light-medium-bodied with a freshness that belies its 13 years.  It’s  shows great finesse, concentration and is impeccably balanced with tart raspberry, cherry, vanilla, spice and mineral flavors. Long finish. [Note: I aerated the wine for 90 minutes]  >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A; Highly recommended!

Pair with: Grilled lamb chops with Patatas a la Riojana, or Chorizo and lentil stew with Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Other posts you might enjoy:
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding with Donkey & Goat Stone Crusher for #winePW

Wine Pairing Weekend is a monthly collaborative event for wine/food bloggers started by David Crowley of Cooking Chat.  It’s a great way to find food and wine pairings that work; along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic.

The theme for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend is “Creative Thanksgiving-Inspired Dishes and Wine Pairings”

The Food

As a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies, I almost always decide which wine I want to try, then decide which dish to pair it with.

But this time was different.

All I knew is I wanted an atypical main dish.  I poked around the web and found this Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding recipe.  What’s atypical about it is that it’s intended to be a vegetarian main dish - a dish that can command the table…

A delicious savory bread pudding that rivals the big roasted bird.

This dish does the trick! It capture the eye with a brilliant splash of fall color, and it smell even better.  And despite the name it includes a healthy dose of kale too!

I pretty much followed the recipe, except that I cut the recipe in half because the baguette I didn’t yield enough torn bread pieces.  I also added a bit of Herbs de Provence to the custard used to soak the bread.

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I was turned on to savory bread puddings a couple of years ago when I tried one as a side dish for Thanksgiving.  That turned out good. This one turned out great!

Beside presenting beautifully, it’s hearty and it tastes sweet, and savory all at once!

DSCN0407-001

The Wine

For my wine, I went orange.  An orange wine that is!

For the uninitiated an orange wine, is essentially a wine made from white wine grape varieties (in this case Roussanne) that spends some time fermenting on grape skins (i.e. it’s vinified like a red wine. It’s the skins that give the wine its color).

This white (orange) wine will surprise as it spent 15 days on the skins in a 4 ton open top wood vat before we pressed off to complete fermentation in neutral oak barrels. Orange wines, as they are called, are fascinating for many reasons but most exciting for us is the incredible versatility at the table.

This one is from Donkey and Goat Winery, a family owned and operated urban winery located in Berkeley California.  They make food friendly wines from hand harvested, sustainably farmed grapes grown in Mendocino & the Sierra Foothills. The wines are vinified as naturally as possible with minimal intervention and minimal effective SO2.

I firsT tried this wine a couple of vintages ago, and I make sure I pick up a bottle of two each year (Doh! That reminds me I’ve got to get my ’13 for this year’s Thanksgiving!)

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I aerated this wine for 20 minutes or so to let it warm up to cellar temperature and to give it some air. Unlike most wines made from white grapes this one has tannins and benefits from some aeration

My tasting notes follow:

Slightly hazy golden-orange color with charming, exotic honeysuckle, baked apricot, spiced orange rind, and jasmine aromas. On the medium-bodied, dry and fresh with dusty tannins and baked apricot, nectarine, heirloom apple, mineral and spice flavors, and a lingering finish.

The Food and Wine Pairing

This was a great pairing on all levels for me.  The wine possesses a combination of very good acidity and just enough tannins to complement the full-bodied richness of the bread pudding.  The wine has ample exotic fruit flavors and those flavors are amplified with you take a bite of the bread pudding followed by a sip of the wine.  The bread pudding made the wine taste better and the wine made the bread pudding taste better.

And that’s what food and wine pairing is all about!

Check out what my fellow #winePW bloggers have created for the November “Creative Thanksgiving-Inspired Dishes and Wine Pairings:

Sides

Turkey, Tempranillo and Sweet Potatoes by Cooking Chat
Thanksgiving from the Veneto: Turkey, Pomegranate Sauce & Valpolicella by foodwineclick
Norwegian Meatballs by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Shepherds Pie Casserole with Barnard Griffin Syrah Port by Wild 4 Washington Wine

Sides
Purple Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Lobster + Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Arugula Pear Salad paired with Torrontes from Argentina by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Layered Sweet Potato and Apple Bake with Cranberry Blush by Curious Cuisiniere

Desserts
Walnut Tart with Sparkling Brachetto d’Acqui by Vino Travels — An Italian Wine Blog
Can we skip to dessert? by Pull That Cork

Don’t Forget Leftovers!
Day After Turkey and Seafood Gumbo by It’s Ok To Eat The Cupcake
Turkey Pot Pie and Boedecker Cellars Chardonnay by Tasting Pour

Don’t forget to our Twitter chat today, November 8th at 11 a.m. Eastern Time! We’ll be talking about our tips and tricks for the best Thanksgiving wine pairings. We’d love to have you join us!

And, be sure to mark your calendars for December’s Wine Pairing Weekend, hosted by Jeff of foodwineclick. Just in time for Holiday parties, we’ll be sharing sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvre pairings. Join in the #WinePW 7 conversation on Saturday Dec. 13!

You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.