Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20!

Over the past couple of years I’ve made it a point to blog about sparkling wines. For a time I blogged about a different sparkling wine on a weekly basis (At one point I tried 30 different sparkling wines over a 30 week period!).  Though I’ve gotten away from it in recent months, it’s not because I stopped drinking sparkling wines (I still drink bubbly pretty much on a weekly basis; I don’t wait for a special occasion and neither should you!), rather it’s because after a year and a half of trying more than my fair share of sparkling wines from around the world, I’ve found many I enjoy that have become repeat purchases.

While I love Champagne, it’s more expensive (entry-level examples start at around $30) than its sparkling wine brethren (I did find one for under $19.99, but didn’t care for it enough to purchase it again).  There are just too many other sparkling wines i enjoy more (especially since I’m footing the bill;-)…

Please allow me a moment on the Sparkling Wine soapbox..

  • Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, the real stuff only comes from the Champagne region of France
  • Sparking wines are great wines – drink as you would other wines (i.e. don’t limit your consumption to special occasions), including trying different styles (White, Rosé, Red, Blanc-de-blancs, Blanc-de-noirs, Brut, Extra-Dry, etc.)
  • Sparkling wines are under-appreciated food friendly wines – If I’m not sure about a food a wine pairing, you can bet I’ll reach for a bottle of bubbly!  Besides being the only wine that’s socially acceptable to have with any meal, sparkling wine is one of the few wines that can take you from appetizers to dessert!

Ok…now that that’s off my chest…

Champagne Glasses

Image couresy of Grape Sense – Glass Half Full

Your best bets for finding quality for the price sparkling wines under $20 are to:

  • Here in the U.S. – look for sales on most major California labels, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Roederer are in wide distribution and frequently significantly discounted. At least one of those brands is on sale at my local grocery store every week for less than $20 ( and often less than $15…)
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with as Champagne-like character, look for Cava from Spain, or  Crémant from France (Crémant de Bourgogne, Limoux, Alsace, and Loire). They’re produced using the same method as Champagne, so you’ll get a more yeasty character,and save some coin.
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with fruitier aromas and flavors, and you’re not hung up on the method of production, look for Prosecco from Italy.
  • Sparkling wine is made the world over, so you can find good value in sparkling wines from South Africa, Australia and even South America.

Here are my Top 20 sparkling wines under $20 (click on the bold italicized links for my more detailed blog posts from my T.G.I.F. series of weekly sparkling wine tastings) It’s a diverse list geographically, and stylistically. There is with bubbly from Argentina, Australia, California, Spain, Italy, and South Africa. And there is Brut, Rose, Blanc de Noir, and even a dessert sparkling wine. Many can be found at grocery stores, or large beverage retailers like BevMo, and Costco. Others may be more challenging to find, but are definitely worth seeking out.

  1. Taltarni Brut Tache - (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish. >>Find this wine<<
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle North Coast Brut Rosé - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  3. 2011 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, white flower, yeast, apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish >>Find this wine<<
  4. Törley Doux Tokaji (Hungary) The only dessert bubbly in the bunch – Pale straw yellow color with lots of pin prick sized bubbles and brioche, apricot, mineral and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it shows a creamy mousse, and is sweet but nicely balanced very good acidity with apricot, peach, and vanilla flavors. Made from Furmint grapes. 11% alcohol >>Find this wine<<
  5. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - (California) - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors.
  6. El Xamfra Cava Mercat Brut Nature - (Spain)Pale straw yellow color with lot of bubbles, and floral, stone fruit, citrus and slight sweet yeast aromas. On the palate, it has a surprisingly explosive mousse, and approached medium-bodied with stone fruit, citrus, and toasted nut flavors. Medium finish. 11.5% alcohol. Zero dosage. A great value! >>Find this wine<<
  7. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - (California) - Light golden tinged straw color with biscuit, sweet citrus, red fruit and subtle floral aromas. In the glass it displays lots of tiny bubbles. On the palate it is medium-bodied with fairly creamy mousse and cherry, vanilla, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  8. Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat - (Spain) Cherry red color with a frothy mousse showing tiny dispersed bubbles with yeast and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry owing to zero dosage (no added sugar) with fresh cherry, raspberry, and a hint of mineral flavors. This Rosé is a blend of Trepat and Garnacha. >>Find this wine<<
  9. 2012 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and a bit of citrus flavors.  Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  10. François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut (France) Light straw yellow color with lots of tiny bubbles, and brioche, and apple aromas. On the palate, it has a delicate mousse, is off-dry with apple and mineral flavors. 100% Chenin Blanc >>Find this wine<<
  11. Graham Beck Brut Rosé - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR! >>Find this wine<<
  12. La Marca Prosecco - (Italy) Very pale straw yellow color with white flowers, stone fruit, and a whiff of tangerine aromas. It shows an active stream of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and fresh with a creamy mousse and peach, and tangerine flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  13. Deligeroy Crémant de Loire Brut - (France) Pale yellow color with a bit of bronze tinge and brioche pear, raspberry, and mineral aromas. On the palate it was light-bodied,and between dry, and off-dry with good acidity, and a prickly mousse with pear, raspberry, and mineral flavors. A Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. >>Find this wine<<
  14. Scharffenberger Brut Excellence - (California) Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  15. Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  16. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut(California) – Very light straw color with persistent bead of smallish bubbles, and fresh bread, apple, citrus,and a bit of ginger aromas.  On the palate, it shows a moderately creamy mousse, with apple, pear, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  17. Reginato “Celestina” Rosé of Malbec - (Argentina) - Intense strawberry red color with intermittent stream of tiny bubbles with baked bread and ripe cherry aromas. On the palate, fruity, yet pleasingly more dry, than off-dry with an explosive, creamy mousse, and with delicate almost imperceptible tannins, with flavors of cherries, raspberries, and a hint of spice. >>Find this wine<<
  18. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle! >>Find this wine<<
  19.  Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut(France) Very pale straw yellow color with toasty pear, citrus and hint of spice aromas and tiny bubbles. On the palate it’s fresh and fruity with pear, fuji apple, a vanilla, and sweet baking spice flavors.  Wonderful QPR @$10! Available at Trader Joe’s
  20. Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish. >>Find this wine<< 

What are your favorite sparkling wines under $20? I’d love to give them a try!

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Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
 
Adapted from Emeril's Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Instructions
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Notes
Recommended Wine Pairings - I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!

 

Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!

Chili/Stews:

Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:

Soups:

Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:

Desserts/Beverages:

Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.

Pairing Wine with #SundaySupper Comfort Food Favorites

When I saw the theme for this week, ”Pairing Wine with #SundaySupper Comfort Food Favorites”, my mind was flooded with thoughts of some of my favorite comfort foods.  The thoughts seemed to come in chronological order.  My first thoughts were of my favorite comfort food when I was a child – Grilled Cheese sandwiches prepared with a ton of butter slathered on the bread, with a couple of sliced of American cheese, and a tomato! Then came my adolescent years and Beef Stroganoff, made with ground beef, popped into my head.  Isn’t it amazing how you connect food to certain memories in your life?

Seafood Gumbo

My favorite comfort food – Seafood Gumbo; Image courtesy of whatdidyoueat.typepad.com

Then I had to ask myself the $64,000 question – If you HAD to pick one favorite comfort food what would it be. After what was a few seconds, but seemed longer, of running through a myriad of possibilities, I ultimately came back to my first thought – Seafood Gumbo.  I make it each year for New Year’s Day.  We invite my folks, kids and friends by to share the deliciousness and good times.  Thinking of it puts a smile on my face.  For me, that’s the essence of the #SundaySupper movement – breaking bread with family, and friends, and making memories!

Check out this week’s dazzling array of comfort foods from the #SundaySupper team!  My recommended wine pairing are italicized.  Cheers!

Comfort Food |Soups

Pair these soups with Chardonnay.  Look the 2010 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which is widely available. It displays aromatic citrus, pear and hints of floral aromas that are followed by citrus, buttered toast and a hint of honey flavors.

Pair these soups with an Old World Sauvignon Blanc, which tends to have more minerality that New World Sauvignon Blancs. Look for the 2011 Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre from France.  It displays a delightful lemon curd, verbena and herbal character.  

Pair these soups with a red Rhone Blend.  I recommend the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas (the white wine version is recommended for some main dishes below), a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise. The Syrah adds dark fruit, flavors and spice.  The Grenache brightens the flavors and add acidity, while the Mourvèdre adds meatiness,  and the Counoise adds a bit of complexity.

Comfort Food  | Main Dish

Pair these main dishes with a Blanc de Noir style sparkling wine.  A Blanc de Noir is made with dark-skinned grapes used to make red wines like Pinot Noir , Pinot Meunier and/or other grapes.  I recommend the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir.  It’s made with  90% Pinot Noir, and has wonderful red fruit and vanilla aromas are followed by creamy red fruit and citrus flavors. 

Pair these dishes with a Chardonnay.  Look for one that is moderately oaked such as the 2010 Wild Horse Unbridled Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley. It has a been aged in French oak for a few months.  It has a creamy lemon, green apple, and creme brulee character accented by fresh acidity and a touch a minerality.

 Pair these dishes with a white Rhone blend.  What’s great about blends is that the combination of grape varietals creates vinous synergy – a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Look for the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc.  It’s a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.  It’s a crisp and aromatic wine with honeysuckle and stone fruit aromas that follow onto the palate.  It also has very good acidity and an appealing minerality that make it versatile food partner. 

Pair these dishes with Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2011 Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with enticing grapefruit, and tropical aromas with juicy stone fruit,  and tropical fruit flavors. This one is available at Costco.

Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir.  I recommend the 2011 Hahn Winery California Pinot Noir. It has wonderful cherry, lavender, and spice aromatics, that follow onto the palate.
Pair these dishes with a Sangiovese. Look for the 2009 Ninety+ Cellars Reserve Lot 57 Rosso Toscana.  It’s a blend of mostly Sangiovese (80%) with the balance split between Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Therefore it’s a what’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan”.  It’s loaded with blackberry, black cherry, and spice character.
Pair these hearty dishes with a hearty wine.  I recommend the 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Contra Old Vine Field Blend.  It’s a rich blend of Carigane, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah loaded with dark fruit, spice, and a bit of smoke aromas and flavors.
Pair these dishes with a hearty Zinfandel.  Look for the 2009 Artezin Mendocino County Zinfandel.  It’s a well-balanced Zinfandel with plum, clove and spice aromas, followed by raspberry, plum, black cherry, and spice flavors. 

Comfort Food | Desserts

Pair these desserts with a sweet Moscato wine.  Try the 2011 Ecco Domani Moscato with its slightly spritzy mandarine orange, nectarine and honeysuckle character.

Pair this dessert with the 2011 Frisk Prickly Riesling a blend of 89% Riesling and 11% Muscat Gordo. It’s a slightly fizzy wine with very fresh acidity, that displays pear, guava, citrus and floral aromas, followed by peach, pear and a hint of mango flavors.  Available at Costco. 

Pair these wine delightful desserts (except the Smores Hot Cocao which will be just fine on its own!) with Graham’s “Six Grapes” Port

We have a very special guest this week, Lee Woodruff, wife, mother of four, author, CBS This Morning contributor and  founder of ReMIND.org.  We would be honored to have you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm(Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper  live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite Comfort Food Recipes.

All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

We’d also love to feature your easy go to recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

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Sweet Sticky Things…Unique Dessert Wines From Around The World Tasting

In the world of dessert wines (a.k.a. “stickies”) Ports from Portugal, and Sauternes from Bordeaux rule. When I saw that my favorite wine shop, K&L Wine Merchants, was doing a tasting called “Unique Dessert Wines From Around The World“, I was eager to see what other regions of the world have to offer. Not only was the wine geek in me curious, it’s also been my experience that lesser known wine regions often offer outstanding Quality-Price Ratio (“QPR”) wines.

The tasting was not only geographically diverse (Austria, Hungary, Canada, Greece, and lesser known regions of France – Loire, Languedoc, and Alsace), it also offered a variety of both late harvest, and fortified stickies made from both white and red grapes. There was also a variety of treats to pair with the wines including various cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, and chocolates from The Chocolate Garage.

Unique Dessert Wines From Around The World - The Lineup

My tasting notes follow:

2009 Weiss Grüner Veltliner Fahrenheit 19 Ice Wine - Austria, Burgenland

Light yellow with gold tinged color with pear, brown sugar, and faint floral aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with very good acidity, and nectarine, spice flavors. Medium finish. (88 pts).

2008 Union of Winemaking Cooperatives of Samos Muscat Samos Vin Doux, Vin de liqueur - Greece, Aegean, Samos

This is a fortified vin doux Muscat.  Yellow gold color with peach liqueur, apricot, and spice aromas. On the palate medium light bodied with honeyed citrus, spiced apricot jam flavors. Medium-long finish. (88 pts).

2008 Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon-Beaulieu Les Rouannieres - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Coteaux du Layon-Beaulieu

Minimally  botrytised Chenin Blanc.  Light yellow gold color with muted candied apple,and almond aromas. On the palate medium bodied with tropical, apple, and pear flavors with a hint of nutty savoriness. Long finish (90 pts).

2007 Beck-Hartweg Gewurztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles - France, Alsace, Dambach-la-Ville, Alsace AOC

Sélection de Grains Nobles (“SGN”) are  botrytised wines from Alsace, France.  Light yellow color with nutty, peach, mineral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, well balanced with very good acidity and peach, spice, and slight mineral flavors. Long finish. (91 pts).

2006 Royal Tokaji Wine Co. Tokaji 5 Puttonyos - Hungary, Hegyalja, Tokaji

Botrytised Furmint Blend.  Golden honey color with aromas of apricot, honey, alcohol. On the palate viscous, with apricot, honey and faint mineral notes. Long finish. (91 pts).

2001 Tokaj Hétszőlő Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos - Hungary, Hegyalja, Tokaji

Botrytised Furmint Blend.  Golden yellow color with vivid aromas of apricot and orange peel. On the palate viscous, balanced with harmonious streak of acidity, and intense apricot and orange flavors with a hint of minerality. Long finish. (94 pts).

2008 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Icewine - Canada, Ontario, Niagara Peninsula, Short Hills Bench VQA

Pretty rosy dark pink color with sweet red fruit aromas. Palate follows with vibrant cherry and raspberry flavors; medium bodied with light tannins and medium-long finish (89 pts).

2007 Domaine Mas de Lavail Maury Expression - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Maury

This is a Vins doux naturels fortified wine from the south of France made from Grenache grapes ; very dark garnet almost inky color with aromas of cherry liquer, sweet tobacco,spice and floral notes. On the palate red fruit, and spice with good acidity and a touch of fine grained tannins. Medium long finish.  (89 pts).

After taking care of business tasting this group of outstanding dessert wines, it was time to enjoy a few different food pairings.  Hands down my favorite pairing was the Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Ice Wine and Pralus Madagascar 75% Dark Chocolate. It was simply a sublime pairing!  I also enjoyed the classic Roquefort cheese and Tokaji pairing, though I must confess I’ve never had cheese for my dessert course.

I always look forward to furthering my wine education, and this was a very good opportunity.  I tasted Tokaji for the first time, which I’ve been eager to do, and I now have a better understanding of which types of dessert wines to pair with which types of desserts,  and which might be better on a stand-alone basis for dessert.  All in all, a sweet start to the weekend!

Dessert Wine Primer – Part 2; Late Harvest Dessert Wines

Late harvest is a term applied to wines that are made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual.  Allowing the grapes to “hang” longer (to the point where the grapes may be similar to raisins) increases their sugar levels, making a sweeter wine.  How long the grapes are left on the vine determines the type of late harvest wine produced.  To my mind, there are three types of late harvest wines; 1) Late Harvest, 2) Noble Rot, and 3) Ice Wines.

Producing any type of late harvest wine involves more risk (i.e. animals eating the sweet grapes, adverse weather, etc.) and expense, because picking the grapes later than usual is a more labor-intensive process.  Thus sweet wines, like their fortified cousins, tend to be made in smaller quantities and are more expensive.

Late Harvest

The most basic type of late harvest wines are made from grapes picked after the regular harvest when their sugar content, referred to as brix is very high.   Once the sweet juice is rendered, as with all wines the fermentation process is started, and yeast does its thing converting the sugars to alcohol.  However once the alcohol level reaches 16% , the yeast can no longer survive, and whatever natural sugar is left remains resulting in a sweet dessert wine.  The most popular grape types for making late harvest wines are Riesling and Gewürztraminer and believe it or not, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc.

Noble Rot

If the grapes are left on the vine long enough, they become infected with the benevolent fungus Botrytis cinerea, roughly translated as “noble rot”.  The noble rot fungus eats its way below the skin, attacking the fruit inside, turning it into horrible looking, moldy clusters, but also concentrating the sugars, acids, and flavors by dehydrating the grapes.  The noble rotted grapes are picked and pressed.  The mold isn’t washed off, or otherwise removed.  Since molded grapes are pressed one might ask, “Can you taste the botrytis in the wine?”  An experienced taster may be able to.  Besides, the mold contributes both flavor (reputed to be a bit like sweet corn), and complexity to the wine.

For the botrytis fungus to take hold of healthy, ripe grapes a singular set of climatic conditions, with just the right amount of humidity, and warmth must be present.

The most famous botrytised dessert wines are Sauternes, and Tokaji.

Sauternesthese wines hail from Bordeaux, France and are one of the most famous dessert wines in the world.  The most legendary of these wines is produced by Château d’Yquem (a 200 year old bottle recently sold $117k!).  Sauternes are made from SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.   The region is located near a river, thus providing the requisite humidity to insure the onset of noble rot frequently.  Nevertheless, there can be production can be a hit-or-miss proposition from vintage to vintage.  For that reason vintage matters with Sauternes more than other types of wines.

Château d'Yquem - 1973. With age the wine gets darker and darker...

The balance of sweetness, and acidity characterizes Sauternes.  Typical flavors include apricots, honey, and peaches.   Sauternes are some of longest-lived wines because the residual sugar and acids in the wine act as natural preservatives.  The wines typically start out with a golden, yellow color that becomes progressively darker as it ages.  Sauternes should be served chilled between 50-55°F.  Because of their acidity, they can be served with a variety of food.  A classic pairings for Sauternes are foie gras, and blue-veined cheeses because it provides a counter balance to the richness and saltiness of these foods.

I’ve not tried Sauternes yet, but it’s definitely on my Wines To-Do list!

Tokaji (for pronunciation click here) has been a legendary wine for 400 years.  In fact, Tokaji wine became the world’s first appellation control region in 1730.   It was established several decades before Port wine, and over 120 years before the classification of Bordeaux, which includes the aforementioned legendary Château d’Yquem Sauternes.  Since all the wine from the region, dry and sweet, are referred to as Tokaji, it should be noted that I’m focused on Tokaji Aszú, which are made from noble rotted grapes.

Tokaji Aszú is made from a blend of FurmintHárslevelű, and Yellow Muscat.  While both Sauternes and Tokaji Aszú are made from noble rotted grapes, the process is a little different in Tokaji.  Rather than pressing the juice from the grapes, as in Sauternes, shriveled aszú grapes are picked one by one from botrytis affected bunches. The grapes are then brought to the winery where they are lightly crushed into a paste. Concurrent with that process, non-botrytised grapes are picked separately and made into a base wine.  The aszú paste is added in various proportions to the base wine.  The proportion of aszú added is measured in puttonyos (see below).  The ratio of puttonyos to the base wine determines how sweet the wine will be.  The paste will then steep in the based wine for as little as 8 hours, or as many as 2, or 3 days.  At this point the sweetened wine is drawn off the aszú paste and allowed to ferment again in large wooden casks or barrels.  The second fermentation can take months, or even years because of both the high sugar content of the wine, and the cold temperature in cellars dug centuries ago.   By law Tokaji Aszú must be aged at least 2 years in oak barrels and one year in the bottle before it can be sold.

Additionally, a little headspace may be left in the barrel, and yeast and bacteria present in the cold, damp, dark tunnels feed on the oxygen in the wine, much as flor does in certain types of Sherry.  This process also adds to the unique character of Tokaji Aszú.

Tokaji wine cellars

The sweetness level of Tokaji is measured in Puttonyos as follows (1):

  • 3 Puttonyos – Sweet: 6-9% residual sugar
  • 4 Puttonyos – Quite sweet: 9-12% residual sugar
  • 5 Puttonyos – Very pronounced sweetness: 12-15% residual sugar
  • 6 Puttonyos – Dramatically sweet: 15-18% residual sugar
  • Tokay Aszú Eszencia – Outrageously sweet: more than 18% residual sugar
  • Tokay Eszencia – Off the charts: 40-70% residual sugar

Tokaji Aszú should be served chilled between 50-55°F.  Like Sauternes, it can be paired with foie gras, and blue-veined cheeses. They also pair well with custard style desserts such as creme brulee, as well as combined fruit and caramel desserts.

Other “Old World” rivals to Sauternes, and Tokaji are  Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese wines from Germany and Austria.

Ice Wines

Grapes for ice wine, still frozen on the vine

In cold climates, grapes can be left on the vine until the temperature falls below 19º.  At that temperature, much of the water freezes out of the grapes, leaving the sugar and other solids behind.  The grapes are then picked one by one, and then gently pressed to yield tiny amounts of super sweet juice concentrated in flavors, acidity and sugars.  The most famous ice wines are German Eiswein and Canadian ice wine, but ice wines are also made in the United States, Australia, France and other countries.  Sometimes, winemakers use a less effective short-cut, and simply freeze grapes in huge industrial freezers.

Ice wines are generally made with Vidal and Riesling grapes.  But they may be made from other grape varietals, such as Gruner Vetliner, Cab Franc, or Chardonnay grapes.

One of my favorite dessert and late harvest dessert wine pairing so far has been Tres Leches Cake with a late harvest German Riesling.

(1) K. MacNeil The Wine Bible

How To Spend $270,000 On Wine For Dinner Without Really Trying…

After reading about the  latest record price fetched for a dessert wine,  an 1811 Chateau d’Yquem,  I allowed myself a flight of fancy about having such a rare and impossibly expensive wine to top off a meal.  Since it’s my dream, I decided to go big and figured I’d have a bottle of the Champagne with the the first course of my meal, followed by a bottle of Pinot Noir with the entree.  Garçon, drum roll please!

For my first course I’d choose the 1907 Heidsieck, the “Shipwrecked” Champagne  cost approximately $35,000 (although rumored to be as much as $275,000/bottle! – let’s try to keep real OK?)

To enjoy with my entree course, The Most Expensive Bottle of Pinot Noir Ever Sold (in 2011 by the way): Cost – $124,000

And for dessert course, the 1811  Chateau d’Yquem: Cost - $111,000

There you have it! Three mighty fine bottles of wine for $270,000 (Note: All wines mentioned are in standard 750ml bottles, are drinkable, and available for sale)

Ah to dream!  It’s utterly amazing bottles of wine with this much age are drinkable!  What enables these wines to age so well for so long?  In a word -acidity!  And in the case of the Sauternes, the balance of acidity and residual sugars present in the wine.

By the way, I want you to know my fiscal prudence knows no limits.  I chose the 1907 Heidsieck over the World’s Oldest Champagne to save $4k;-) It sold last month for about $39k/bottle!!

 Any suggestions on what to pair with the wines?  If money were no object, which wine(s) would you have with your dream meal?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Chocolate Truffle Tart and Sparkling Wine – An Odd Couple?


I truly enjoy it when my adventure through “Winedom” takes me to unexpected places, particularly when it comes to wine and food pairings.  Such was the case when a friend suggested I give Rosa Regale a try after reading my post about our wine club’s blind Champagne Tasting.  He didn’t say much about it other than it was “great” with chocolate.  Better yet, the next day he gave me a bottle.  Yes indeed – action does speak louder than words!

After receiving the bottle, I was intrigued because Rosa Regale is a red sparkling wine.  I’m no stranger to red sparkling wine, having enjoyed one for Thanksgiving, but a red sparkling wine that would pair well with chocolate, I had to know more!

Here what I found out – Rosa Regale is produced in Italy’s Piedmont region in the Brachetto d’Acqui DOGC – Denominazione Di Origine Controllata e Garantita, which is a specific geographic area in Province of Alessandria. It’s a spumante (which means foaming) made from the Brachetto grape sourced exclusively from a single vineyard known as La Rosa. The Brachetto, is a red grape used to produce both still and sparkling wines.  It tends to produce light bodied, highly aromatic wine with a distinctive strawberry aroma.  And to my surprise I also discovered that Italy produces more sparkling wines from more different grape varieties than any other country in the world!

I decided to try the Rosa Regale with a Chocolate Truffle Tart for our Christmas Eve dinner.   The Chocolate Truffle Tart is dense, rich, intensely chocolate dessert with soft, almost gooey center abounding with bits of chopped bittersweet chocolate on top of a flaky chocolate crust that contains a touch of cinnamon.  The filling is topped with unsweetened cocoa that contrasts beautifully with sweetness of the filling.  And since up to this point whenever I’d thought of a wine to enjoy with chocolate, I thought of Port, I decided to also pair the dessert with a 1997 Dow’s Colheita Porto I had on hand.

I tried the dessert with the Rosa Regale first, and it was a wonderful pairing indeed!  The Rosa Regale was sweet enough to stand up to the sweetness of the Chocolate Truffle Tart.  I picked up raspberry flavor when I tasted the Rosa Regale, and that raspberry flavor was fabulous with the dessert.  And the two together brought to mind a bittersweet flourless chocolate cake topped with a raspberry coulis.  But what I really enjoyed about the Rosa Regale was how the acidity and effervescence inherent in a sparkler cleansed my palate for the next bite.  When pairing food and wine, options include mirroring the food, or setting up a contrast.  For me the Rosa Regale was more of a contrast because it wasn’t as sweet as the dessert, but the fruitiness was a delightful compliment to the dessert.  On the other hand, the Porto more so mirrored the sweetness of the dessert. The Porto also paired well with the dessert, but I enjoyed the Rosa Regale more.  Not only because of the contrast, and effervescence, but also because of the versatility of Rosa Regale.  Flexibility is an important consideration for me when pairing food and wine, and I can easily see how the Rosa Regale would work not only with dessert, but as an aperitif,  appetizer, or with a variety of entrees, (Spicy ethnic foods come to mind – for other pairing suggestions with Rosa Regale click here).  It easily trumps Porto for food pairing flexibility.

Yes indeed…the more I learn, the less I know…and thankfully so!

Thanksgiving, Wine and You!

Thanksgiving Dinner

We’ve decided to deep-fry our turkey for Thanksgiving this year. Initially I wondered if deep frying the turkey vs. roasting it one way or another would influence by decision about what wines to pair with the turkey.  My initial conclusion: only slightly because the deep-fried turkey tends to be more flavorful than a roast turkey in my experience. But then I realized I was over-thinking it.  There’s a tendency to do that, I think, with holiday meals because a) there are so many flavors involved, and b) wanting to please everyone with wine(s) selected.  Especially Thanksgiving, which can be perceived to be especially challenging, with the combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors.

Figuring out which wine(s) to serve with your Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have to be daunting, especially if you work with versatile wines. Here are my thoughts on the matter…

The first thought that comes to mind is to select a red and a white to keep those who are going to drink wine happy.  But indulge me for a moment. If I had to pick one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, it wouldn’t be a white or a red; it would be a dry rosé, and probably a dry sparking rosé at that. Dry rosés are very versatile, and can handle the diversity of flavor and “weight” profiles that are part and parcel of Thanksgiving fare. You add the effervescence of a sparkler to the mix and you’ve got the Swiss army knife of wines (See my blog about Rosés – “Everything is coming up Rosés for me” below)!

Now back to my original thought of having a mix of red and white wines. I recommend the following:

1.       Start with a sparkling wine. It’s a great aperitif to sip while waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, and it goes well with starters like appetizers, soup, and salad.  Beside it adds a celebratory note to Thanksgiving.

2.      For white wine, the safe bet is a dry, or off-dry Riesling. Rieslings play well with spicy, sweet or sweet dishes. It’s an aromatic grape that typically produces wines with almost perfumed aromas of flowers, and stone fruits (apples, pears, peaches, and apricot), and it’s high in acidity, which makes it a versatile pairing partner for your Thanksgiving meal.   Other good choices are Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Looking to expand you, and your guests wine palates? Try an Albarino, or Viognier.  While they lack the name recognition of Chardonnay, either will offer more versatile pairing power for your Thanksgiving meal than many Chardonnays.

3.      For red wine, the safe bet is a Pinot Noir, a traditional favorite red wine for Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir’s fruitiness, subtle earthy undertones, and acidity tend to show well with the traditional flavors of turkey and stuffing. Not a fan of Pinot Noir?, try a Beaujolais Nouveau a light fruity red wine made from the Gamay grape will pair well with turkey and all the fixings. Beaujolais Nouveau is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time to highlight your Thanksgiving feast!  Or even better try a Cru Beaujolais which is step up in quality.

4.      And remember about a wine to pair with dessert.  Madeira would work well with pumpkin/sweet potato pie, or pecan pie, while a port, would work with chocolate desserts.  Looking to shake it up a bit on the dessert wine front?  Try an ice wine, or late harvest Riesling, especially with cheesecake. Just remember the dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

Of course, at the end of the day choosing a Thanksgiving wine is truly about what pleases you and yours. There are no hard and fast turkey pairing rules, but there are lots of options to experiment with.

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Ice Ice Baby!

The other night I came home from work late. I had a light meal, but wanted something sweet after dinner.  It was a warm evening  so ice cream came to mind, but I had ice cream the night before and wanted to avoid the fat.  I decided to have a little ice wine -  2008 Alois Kracher Cuvée Eiswein from Austria.

Because it was chilled, it was refreshing.  It definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.  What I like about ice wines is that even though they are sweet, they tend not to be cloyingly sweet, as other dessert wines such as late harvest, or ports can be.  That’s because they have more acidity than other dessert wines.  And acidity tends to refresh the palate rather than cling to it.

To make ice wine, like late harvest wines, the grapes are left on the vine to ripen and raisin quite a while after the grapes are picked for the non-dessert wines.  Then the winemaker waits for a frost to come and cover the grapes.  For this reason ice wine is primarily made in limited geographies – places that frost over between November, and January (Germany, where ice wine has been made since the 1700s, and Canada make the most ice wine).

The grapes are pressed frozen. The freezing point of grapes is lower than that of pure water, because the sugar in them lowers the freezing point. Most of the water in the grape doesn’t come out in the pressing, because it’s ice crystals, so the yield of liquid is only 10 to 20 percent of what you would get from grapes that weren’t frozen, but, the liquid that does come out is very concentrated in flavors, acidity and sugars.  As you can imagine, it takes a lot more  grapes to get the juice needed to make the wine.  between the limited geography, and the larger amount of grapes required to make the wine, the ice wine is expensive to make.

Since pure grape nectar is used to make the wines, the wines are very sweet, and pour like syrup. Ice wines are generally made with Vidal and Riesling grapes.  But they may be made from other grape varietals, as was the case with the ice wine I had, which was made from Gruner Vetliner, and Chardonnay grapes.

I tend to like ice wines on their own rather than pairing with desserts because of the sweetness of the wines.  But if you want to pair with a dessert, remember you generally want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert. With that in mind, I suggest using ice wine as an accompaniment to fresh summer berries with cream, chocolate biscuits, a pear tart, raspberry mousse, or a meringue.  Depending on the grape varietal, it might even be poured over ice cream. And don’t forget about pairing ice wine with cheese if you like a cheese plate after dinner.  Because of the natural acidity of ice wines, they can work with a variety of cheeses, including blue cheese.

Ice wine should ideally be served chilled in a chilled regular wine glass – about 2 ounces a serving. Take a walk on the wild side and try some!

Cookies and Wine?

I know!  Sounds weird right?!  On the contrary -  I had a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie with Madeira, and they played well together!

There’s a good chance you’re not familiar with Madeira.  I know I wasn’t.  I’ve seen it called for in a few recipes, and occasionally I’ve seen it listed among the dessert wines when dining in a restaurant, but I’d never tried it.

Madeira falls into the category of fortified dessert wines (the other two broad categories of dessert wine being late harvest dessert wines, and ice wines.  I’ll share my late harvest and ice wine experiences another time). A fortified wine is wine to which a distilled beverage (usually brandy) is added.  Aside from Madeira, other fortified wines include Port, sherry, Marsala, and vermouth.   The addition of brandy brings the alcohol level up to 17-20% (most wine is between 10-15% by comparison).  Like most wines, it’s made in a variety of styles ranging from dry, which can be consumed on it’s own as an aperitif, to sweet wines consumed with dessert.

To make Madeira, depending on the level of sweetness desired, fermentation of the wine is halted at some point by the addition of brandy leaving a fortified wine.

Madeira aging in the sun

While most wine is aged under carefully maintained cool temperatures indoor is cellars, what makes Madeira unique toffee-caramel like character  is that the wine is heated.  The most basic (and least expensive) Madeira is made by placing the fortified wine in containers (casks, vat, or even cement tank) that are then heated to an average of 105 degrees for 3-6 months.  However, better Madeiras are heated naturally.  Casks of the best wine are stored in attics of the producer’s warehouses, which sit in the hot Madeiran sun (Madeira is a small volcanic island that is part of Africa, but is a province of Portugal), which creates tremendous heat.  The casks remain undisturbed in the sun for as long as 20 years.  After the heating process is complete, the wine is cooled, and allowed to rest a year or more to recover from the shock.  Thereafter,  the wine further aged.  The additional aging can be very involved process involving aging the wine in casks made of various types of wood, and can take place over a 3-20 year period.  Do the math and some of the great Madeiras can take 40 years, or longer to make!

Properly sealed in bottles, Madeira is one of the longest lasting wines; Madeiras have been known to survive over 150 years in excellent condition. No wonder, after years of sitting in the hot sun, being stored at room temp is a piece of cake.

I had a 5-year Malmsey Madeira, which means the youngest component in the blend is aged at least 5 years in casks.  Other types of Madeira are 3, 10, 15 year Madeira, and Vintage Madeira (unlike virtually all other Madeiras which are blend of grapes from different years – vintage Madeira is made from grapes from a single year.  And like other wines Madeira is made from a variety of grapes.  Malmsey Madeira is made from Malvasia grapes, and is the sweetest style Madeira.

All Madeira has great natural acidity which make then refreshing to drink on their own.  But as I discovered, they can also make a wonderful juxtaposition to the richness of desserts made with cream or chocolate.  And that’s what gave me the idea to try Madeira with a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie.  I felt the toffee/caramel character would complement the peanut butter, while at the same time providing a wonderful counterbalance  to the chocolate.  And this time I was right!  It was also good with a Hershey Kiss with Almonds!

Madeira would work well with nutty cheeses such as Gruyere, and blue cheeses. For those with a sweet tooth, try it with  dark chocolate desserts, and pecan, or pumpkin pie.   Just keep in mind, that as a general rule, the wine should be somewhat sweeter than the dessert.