Champagne Chronicles-Day 2

I recently had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what the Champagne Bureau said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the second in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne (Click here for Day 1)

Our itinerary for Day 2 included:

Visit to C.I.V.C.

On what was a glorious day weather-wise, first up on our itinerary was a visit with the C.I.V.C., the governing body of the Champagne region.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of the mission of the C.I.V.C., and share some specifics about the region.  The presentation by Philippe Wibrotte, Head of Public Relations was information.  A few of my takeaways were:

  • What makes Champagne unique is the combination of climate, the predominately limestone sub-soil, and topography.
  • 100% of grapes in Champagne are harvested manually
  • There are 15,000 growers in Champagne, and 5,000 of those make Champagne from their own grapes.
  • Classification of grapes in Champagne is based on villages rather than specific vineyards. There are 17 villages ranked Grand Cru, and 42 ranked Premier Cru.
  • Champagne houses(there are 320)  account for two-thirds of all Champagne shipments and represent 90% of the export market.
  • There are 34,000 hectares of vines in Champagne.  38% of those are Pinot Noir, 32% are Pinot Meunier, and 30% are Chardonnay. There is a miniscule amount of 4 other permitted grapes - Pinot Gris (sometimes known as Fromenteau), Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane.
  • 98% of Champagne sold is multi-vintage (that explains why vintage tends to be more expensive)
  • 1.4 billion bottles, about 3.5 years of production are in storage.
  • The C.I.V.C. is ferocious when it come to protecting the Champagne name and image of Champagne.  In the past, the C.I.V.C. has successfully barred the use of ‘Champagne’ in toothpastes, mineral water for pets, toilet paper, underwear and shoes.
  • Champagne producers have been using lighter bottles since 2011.
  • Production in Champagne is measured in bottles, not cases as it is here in the U.S.
  • The C.I.V.C. determines the dates harvest can begin for the 350 villages in the region. As announced the day after our visit, the 3-week window for picking grapes began on September 8th.
photo

C.I.V.C Headquarters in Epernay, France

After the presentation there was an educational tasting lead by C.I.V.C. enologist Marie-Pascale Do Dihn Ty

See below for gallery of C.I.V.C. visit

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Lunch

We dined at the restaurant in Les Grains d’Argent, a beautiful hotel surrounded by vineyards for lunch. 

See below for gallery from lunch

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“More than any other wine, Champagne unlocks wine’s archetypal promise:joy” – Karen MacNeil

Visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

Champagne Roger Coulon is a great example of Grower Champagne.  Grower Champagne comes directly from the families who own the vineyards, and make the wine. Located in the village of Vrigny, in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne, the Coulon family has been winegrowers since 1806.  The family has gradually increased its holdings so that there are now 11 hectares under vine, spread over 70 parcels of land in 5 villages, most of which benefit from South-east facing slopes on sand, chalk and clay. Their Premier Cru vineyards are composed of  approximately 35% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with an average vine age of 38 years. Using only wild yeasts, they produce about 90,000 bottles per year. The Coulon’s practice of lutte raisonée (reasoned agriculture) – the minimal use of herbicides and pesticides.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Isabelle Coulon, wife and partner of Eric Coulon, an eighth generation winegrower. After introduction and brief tour, Eric took us on a vineyard tour.

After the vineyard tour we returned their family home, which includes an amazing B&B - Le Clos des Terres Soudées, before settling down for a quick tasting. We only tasted three wines because we were strapped for time.

My favorite was the Réserve de L’Hommée Cuvée which is made with family’s oldest grapes. It’s intentionally made less sparkling(4.6 atmospheres instead of the typical 6) in order to get tiny bubbles that last a long time.  An equal blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, it’s aged five years before disgorgement. It’s yeasty, and generous with apple, roast hazelnut, spiced orange and mineral character with a long finish. >>Find this wine<<

Learned about: Sexual confusion (er…this relates to moths, not humans) – A treatment against the grape moth, in which small packets of synthetic pheromones of female moths are distributed among the vines to confuse male moths and prevent them from mating. It’s considered a much more eco-friendly solution, albeit more expensive alternative to spraying vines with various chemical products.

Insider’s tip: Their B&B is awesome!  If I ever go back to Champagne, I know where I’m going to stay!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

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Visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

When I saw a visit to Veuve Clicquot (“VC”) on our itinerary, it needed no introduction. The Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut (a.k.a. Yellow Label) seems to be the most popular Champagne sold in the U.S., and is certainly the most marketed brand of Champagne in the U.S. It’s currently the second largest house in Champagne producing about 14 million bottles a year. Approximately  20 % of their fruit comes from their own vineyards.  The other 80% is purchased from growers, with most of whom they have long-term (20-25 year) contracts.

Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron,VC has played a pivotal role in establishing Champagne as a luxury product. They are credited with many firsts including the riddling rack, and being the first Champagne house to produce rosé Champagne.

When we arrived at the Veuve Clicquot facility, we were met by their Chef de Cave (cellarmaster) Dominique Demarville, and winemaker Cyril Brun for a tour of one of their vineyards.  It’s clear that V.C. is laser-focused on working towards more natural viticulture for both estate and purchased grapes.

We must never forget that Champagne is a wine, and the quality is in the vines. – Dominque Demarville

After our vineyard tour we headed into Reims to V.C.’s private residence L’Hotel du Marc for dinner.  It’s a spectacular 19th century mansion that underwent a complete remodeling after V.C. was acquired by luxury group LVMH.

Inside the mansion, we tasted through eight still wines (vin clair in French) from various vintages that were both base and reserve wines used to make V.C Champagnes.  The wines were tart and very acidic, and I could barely discern the subtle differences the wines.  Though, the final vin clair we tasted was a multi-vintage blend with a 2013 base wine that showed the grapefruit profile I associate with the V.C. Yellow Label.  I came away from the experience with a whole new respect for the art of blending. 

Vins clairs tastings are a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wine before the bubbles, and to imagine their development over time; they are a unique foray into the magical kingdom of champagne. – Caroline Henry

After the vin clair tasting, we tasted four more wines including a 2003 Bouzy Rouge, an outstanding still red wine not for sale to the public, and had dinner in the magnificent dining room.

My favorite was the 2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Vintage – It has a harmonious, refreshing, slightly savory, strawberry, raspberry, citrus and mineral character. And it paired very well with the second and third courses of our meal.

Learned about: Inspired by the discovery of 47 bottles of Veuve Clicquot from 1839 to 1841 at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in 2010, that were in great condition, VC is experimenting with a “Cellar in the Sea“.

Insider’s tip: With about two-thirds of VC Yellow Label being composed of black grapes, it’s a great example of a medium-bodied Champagne that will work well not only as an aperitif, but also with a diverse selection of main courses, especially seafood!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

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After dinner we found ourselves hanging out on the patio outside the stately Hotel du Marc, and I found myself savoring what was a deeply satisfying day on all levels.  What a fantastic day!

Stay tuned!

Champagne Chronicles – Day 1

Dreams do come true. When I first got into the “wine thing”, as I call it, I dived head first into the pool of knowledge. One of my resources was Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. And one of my favorite chapters in that tome is “Champagne“.  Ever since then, the Champagne region has been on my bucket list of wine regions to visit.

Few wines captivate us to the extent Champagne does.  But then Champagne is not simply a wine; it is also a state of mind – Karen MacNeil

Imagine my surprise (shock really…slaw-jawed, I almost fell out of my chair!) and euphoria when I received an invitation from the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip that read…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip is exclusively reserved for a small group of leading food and wine journalists from across the U.S., and will be scheduled for the first week of September, departing the US on August 31, and returning September 6. This trip will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole. As a guest you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the first in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

After the 12 hour direct flight from San Francisco to Paris, I took the TGV (high-speed train) from Charles de Gaulle airport to Reims (click here for the tricky pronunciation).  It’s a quick 30 minute ride that gives you a taste of the bucolic French countryside with its undulating hills, farmland, crops and trees.  And to my surprise – not a vineyard in sight!

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

I arrived in Reims around 1:30 and got settled.  Our itinerary for Day 1 included a guided tour of the Reims Cathedral at 5:00p; followed by dinner.

After deciding against a nap, I decided take a walk to get acquainted with my surroundings, and see what I could see.

About Reims

Reims, the cultural capital of the Champagne region,  is a lovely town best known for its historical significance and its role in the production of Champagne.

Twenty-five French kings were crowned in its Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims  and celebrated in the adjacent Palais de Tau. These monuments, along with the  Abbey of Saint-Remi are included as UNESCO world heritage sites. Another historical site is the Porte de Mars, which dates back the third century AD, remains as the oldest artifact of Reims from the Gallo-Roman era.

The city was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War I.  At least 70% of the city was destroyed including The Cathedral which sustained heavy damage including the roof, hundreds of sculptures and the destruction of many of the arched stained-glass windows. The centenary of the World War I is being held this year.

Some of the most famous Champagne makers maintain their headquarters in Reims, including Taittinger, G.H. Mumm, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot.

Photos from my walk about and visit to the Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral are in the gallery that follow:

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Dinner

Dinner was at Le Millénaire, a chic first rate restaurant a short walk from the Cathedral. One of the things I most looked forward to during this trip was the chance to experience Champagne served with each course of a meal.  And my experience at Le Millenaire exceeded my expectations!

“I have yet to discover a dish that will not come alive in the presence of Champagne.” Anistatia R Miller, author of Champagne Cocktails 

Photos from my first Champagne pairing dinner!

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Wine(s) of the Day:

Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru.  My tasting note follows:

Vivid dark pink color with rich cherry, strawberry, damp earth and mineral aromas that bring to mind a still wine. On the palate it shows ample body with rich cherry flavors and an appealing minerality.  100% Pinot Noir.  A unique expression of Rosé Champagne that I very much enjoyed with my dessert.

Insider’s tip:

  • Reims is a great city where one can enjoy modern French culture in a sizeable city that isn’t Paris. There are plenty of things to do, and I could have easily spent an entire day exploring the city.
  • If you do plan to visit the Champagne houses in the area, plan to make your reservations many weeks in advance!

What a way to start my time in Champagne!  And it only got better…Stay tuned!

A Perfect Pairing: Shrimp Ceviche and Saké

See the photo below?  It’s a Shrimp Ceviche Tostada from one of my favorite local Mexican joints and a glass of SakéOne G Joy Junmai Saké.

And together, they were a perfect pairing!

The Food

If you’ve not had the pleasure of enjoying a Ceviche Tostada, it’s exactly what it sounds like – ceviche, which is raw fish (in this case shrimp) marinated (“cooked”) in lime juice, onions, spicy chiles, juicy tomatoes perched atop a crisp tostada.  Mine was also topped with slices of fresh ripe avocado.  And as you can see, I also generously applied a spicy hot pepper sauce that come with it (could be Tapatio Hot Sauce but I’m not sure).

The Saké

First let’s get this out of the way…Saké is not rice wine!  Saké is brewed like beer, but drinks more like fine wine.

SakéOne G Joy Junmai Saké is one of my favorites.  It’s an American made premium saké that classified as Junmai Ginjo Genshu.  

Saké is categorized based on grade, style and amount of polishing the rice receives -so Junmai is indicative of the grade, Ginjo is indicative of the style and Genshu in indicative how much the rice was polished – the lower percentage the better the quality.

Here’s my tasting note:

Practically clear color with apple, melon, lychee aromas. On the palate, it’s rich, and full-bodied with apple, pear, yellow plum and a bit of spice flavors. Medium-long finish.

A Perfect Pairing: Shrimp Ceviche and Saké

Premium saké is best served chilled in a stemmed wine glass for ultimate appreciation of aroma and taste!

The Pairing

Ceviche pairs well with a wide range of beverages. Classic matches are beer, Pisco Sour – a Peruvian cocktail made with pisco, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white, and high acid white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Grüner Vetliner, and Sparkling wine.

I’ve enjoyed ceviche with beer, high acid white whites, and sparkling wine. All co-existed peacefully with the ceviche.  All were good matches.

But, for me, none matched this perfect pairing!

And what is a perfect pairing? It’s when you:

  1. Take a bite of food and chew
  2. Take a sip of wine or other adult beverage with the food together in your mouth
  3. The two together do more than make each other better – they become a third even better thing!

Perfect pairings are rare.

This pairing was perfect for me because the rich, full bodied nature of the saké seemed to strip the heat and acid of the ceviche off the palate, while replacing it with bright fruit and some earthy notes.  The slightly sweet taste of the saké not only eased the heat brought on by hot sauce, but when combined with the sweet taste of the shrimp, it not only enhanced the taste of the ceviche, the saké tasted better too.    

The pairing opened up my eyes to the diverse possibilities of saké as a partner at the table. Granted, ceviche may not seem too far afield from the sushi and sashimi because of the raw fish element, but the flavor profile is quite different.

This was a pairing that has me looking forward to trying saké with foods other than sushi and sashimi!

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Wine of the Week: 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse 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.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard.

Winery

Phillips Hill Winery is a small boutique (~1,000 cases/yr) winery focused on producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer from cool climate vineyards located in Anderson Valley. Phillips Hill Winery is located on Greenwood Ridge above Anderson Valley, in the Mendocino Ridge appellation.  I was introduced to Phillips Hill when the winery was recommended to me while I was tasting at Toulouse Vineyards earlier this year.

Phillips Hill

Toby Hill, a native California is the Owner/Winemaker of Phillips Hill. He was formally trained in the Arts.  With a BFA from California College of the Arts, Toby attributes his artistic talent to the Phillips side of the family.  His intense study and mastery of composition in the abstract has been translated into the delicate balance of making wine. From immersion as a practicing artist in New York, followed by later experience as an Architectural Color and Plaster business owner in San Francisco. In 1997 he purchased some land in the Mendocino Ridge Appellation overlooking the Anderson Valley. He built a house and adjacent art studio and kicked back for a time.

He got his start in winemaking after a local winemaker decided not to begin a brand and offered him four barrels of an unfinished 2002 vintage from Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche in Mendocino County. Ultimately that led him to his new passion and personal re-invention in wine country.

What started as an opportunity to express his work on a wine label became a new artistic obsession for an expression not only on the bottle, but in the bottle as well – a transformation from the art of the visual to that of the sensory.

Phillips Hill wines strive for “old meets new world” style with elegance, finesse, and lower alcohol levels.  The day I visited, only reds were available for tasting. They were sold out of their Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  I was very impressed by the wines I tried.

All the Phillips Hill Wine bottles labels features the artwork of Owner/Winemaker Toby Hill.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Toulouse Vineyard. The wine was aged 11 months in French oak (33% new, 33% 1 year, 33% seasoned).  The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with aromatic dark cherry, red plum, brown sugar, spice, damp earth aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied silky smooth and well-balanced with cherry, wild raspberry, and spice flavors. Long finish; 14.2% alcohol, 275 cases produced, $40 SRP

Rating: A-: This is an outstanding wine that is a great expression of the grape.  I wish I’d purchased more, and I can guaran-damn-tee you next time I’m in Anderson Valley I will!

Pair with: Lobster bisque, paella, or coq-au-vin come to mind!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2010 Carlisle Sonoma Valley “Monte Rosso” Zinfandel

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.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard.

Winery

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards is a small Sonoma County based winery  based in Santa Rosa. According their website they specialize in the..

…production of old-vine, vineyard designated Zinfandels and red Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah).

Mike Officer is the Owner/Winemaker.  He caught the wine “bug” early – at age 19 – when he tasted a late-harvest Riesling (It seems like we all start with sweet wines doesn’t it?) After graduating from college, he worked in software development for five years, but realized that was not his passion.  He knew the answer would involve wine, but he wasn’t sure in what capacity.

He decided to try winemaking,  starting with making 5 gallons of Zinfandel in his kitchen.  Some years later, he  and his wife Kendall found themselves making 300 cases of “garage” wine.  They decided to jump in with both feet and established Carlisle Winery & Vineyards in 1998.  They’ve focused on old-vine Zinfandel, and red Rhône blends, until the 2010 vintage, when they made their first white wines.

In addition to their own estate vineyard, they source grapes from Sonoma County, primarily the Russian River, and Dry Creek AVAs.  Officer always been a fan of old-vine vineyards.   In fact, of the 16 vineyard sources listed on their website, half ( Gold Mine RanchMartinelli Road VineyardMontafi RanchPagani Ranch VineyardPapera Ranch, Rossi Ranch Vineyard, Saitone Ranch, and Two Acres) are considered historic vineyards by the Historic Vineyard Society .

Carlisle wines are available via a mailing list.  The mailing list is currently closed, but if you would like to be added to the waiting list, click here.

The Wine

Fruit for this wine is from the legendary Monte Rosso Vineyard located in the Mayacamas Mountains. Monte Rosso has a reputation for producing wines of high acidity across all varieties (The vineyard is also planted to Cabernet Sauvignon) and producers. Wines are incredibly long lived.

The Monte Rosso Vineyard has a special place in my heart.  While a Zinfandel was my epiphany wine, it was Rosenblum Monte Rosso Zinfandel that blew my mind many moons ago. This one is better than that!

The wine is aged in 20% new French oak and bottle unfiltered, but given a light egg white fining to polish the mountain tannins.

2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard

2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque purple color with black fruit, bittersweet chocolate, earth, and slight roast meat aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, but the mouthwatering acidity keeps it deftly balanced. It shows blackberry blueberry, black raspberry, mineral and a hint of bittersweet chocolate and a long finish 96% Zinfandel; 4% Grand Noir 15.8% alcohol; 410 cases produced

Rating: A-This is an outstanding Zinfandel! While it was a bit hot on the nose on day 1, that wasn’t the case on day 2.  Additionally, I made sure it was served at the appropriate temperature on day 2, and the heat wasn’t there. Perhaps a not so gentle reminder to serve reds at the appropriate temperature, especially as the weather warms up!

Pair with: A full-bodied wine such as this would pair well with robust dishes such as roast lamb, meat stews, hearty pastas, or barbequed dishes.  And this Zinfandel is more food friendly than most because of its lively acidity!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Best Wines to Pair with Paella?

Every cuisine has at least one – a one-pot meal, a dish of humble origins that is the quintessential definition of that place and people. There’s Gumbo, Cassoulet, Risotto, Irish Stew and Pad Thai to name a few. And the Spanish? Well, they have paella.  March 27th is National Paella Day.

Paella originated Valencia region of Spain. According to The Paella Company

Paella was originally farmers’ and farm labourers’ food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal.  It was made with rice, plus whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions and snails, with a few beans added for flavour and texture. Rabbit or duck might also have been added, and for special occasions, chicken plus a touch of saffron for an extra special colour and flavour. Paella was also traditionally eaten straight from the pan in which it was cooked with each person using his own wooden spoon.

There are three main types of paella; Valencian consists of rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck, pork), land snails, beans and seasoning; Seafood replaces meat and snails with seafood  such as prawns, mussels, and clams and omits beans and green vegetables, and Mixed, a combination of meat, seafood, vegetables.

Paella Valenciana (image courtesy of daytondailynews.com

Paella Valenciana (image courtesy of daytondailynews.com

In addition to the three main types of Paella, two other popular variations are Vegetarian, which typically contain vegetables like artichokes, lima beans, red and green peppers,and Paella Negra, which is typically seafood, cooked with squid ink, so it looks black.

Paella Negra (image courtesy of piospaella.com)

My personal favorite – Paella Negra (image courtesy of piospaella.com)

When pairing paella with wine, I recommend keeping a few food and wine pairing guidelines in mind:

  • What grow together, goes together – I prefer to pair with wines from Spain, Portugal, or wine from the neighboring Languedoc-Roussillon region in  Southern France.  Outside of Spain or France, consider Sangiovese or Pinot Noir for red wine.
  • Pair humble with humble, great with great – Paella has humble origins, I generally pair with inexpensive wines unless it’s a special occasion.
  • Sparkling wines go with almost anything – Pair Valencian, Mixed, and Negra paella with  rosé Cava and Seafood and Vegetarian with Brut Cava

Here are my wine paring recommendations by type:

 Valencian, and Mixed 

Pair with a chilled dry rosé. or an inexpensive red Rioja, other Tempranillo or Grenache. Here are a few I like (click on the link for where to buy):

Rosé

Reds

Tip: Avoid high alcohol ‘fruit-bombs’ or overly alcoholic, tannic reds.

Seafood 

Pair with Albarino, white Rhone blend, Brut Cava, or Rueda.  Here are a few to look for (click on the link for where to buy):

Vegetarian 

If vegetables include asparugus and/or artichokes, pair with New World Sauvignon Blanc, otherwise, chilled dry rosé, white Rhone blend, Pinot Gris, or Brut Cava will be nice matches.

Need a recipe? Check out his great recipe for Mixed Paella from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen.

I  hope you’ll join me in celebrating one of world’s most well-known and beloved dishes.  Have your favorite paella and a glass of wine today!

Viva Espana y Buen apetito! 

 

TGIF Bubbly – Bouvet Signature Brut

My wife and I make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort, to the end of the workweek.  She get’s to drink, and enjoy the bubbly, while I get to drink, enjoy and blog about it!  This week’s sparkling wine is the NV Bouvet Signature Brut

The Winery

Bouvet-Ladubay history dates back to 1851, when it was founded by Etienne Bouvet.  It is the second oldest sparkling wine–producing house in Saumur.  By 1890, it had become France’s largest producer of méthode traditionnelle wines. It remains one of France’s greatest producers of méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine using the Loire Valley’s indigenous Chenin Blanc blended with small amounts of Chardonnay.

For Bouvet-Ladubay, wine is a living art that must be practiced with wisdom, uniting tradition, experience and the most finely tuned technology in the creation of refined, handcrafted wines of impeccable quality and consistency.

After the untimely deaths of three of the Bouvet heirs in the early 1900s left Bouvet-Ladubay without a guiding hand, the increasingly troubled firm was purchased by Justin Monmousseau and merged with his own still wine–producing firm in 1933. It is currently run by the fourth generation of the Monmousseau family.  In July 2006, Bouvet was acquired by Dr. Vijay Mallya of the world’s largest group of alcoholic beverages, the UB Group, based in India.

The Wine

Bouvet-Ladubay sources its fruit from more than 100 plots in the Loire Valley.  It has  long-standing relationships with many winegrowers. The limestone subsoil of the Loire Valley is ideal for the cultivation of Chenin Blanc.  The mild climate coupled with excellent drainage of the clay creates the natural acidity needed to produce a balanced sparkling white wine. The grapes are pressed in the vineyards and the juice is delivered directly to their cellars. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, then the finest wines from each lot are blended and the cuvée is bottled for the second fermentation.  The wine is aged for two years.  It is imported by Kobrand Wine & Spirits.

Bouvet Sparkling wine

My tasting notes follow:

Pale golden-yellow color with big bubbles and low-key yeast and green apple aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and straight forward with moderately creamy mousse and melon, green apple mineral flavors. Short finish – 85pts

Rating: B -  This is a good bottle of bubble, and a nice alternative to Champagne.  This bottle was gift.  It retails for $16 ($12 ClubBev) at BevMo. But I can think of a few bottles of bubbly I enjoy more for less…

Pair with: This one is an excellent aperitif.  Pair with fried snacks like seasoned popcorn, potato chips, or french fries. Also pair with golden king crab, shrimp and lobster dipped in drawn butter!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.5% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > FranceLoire Valley
  • Grape varieties: 80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay
  • Production method: Traditional Method
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $12
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now – 2014
  • >>Find this wine<<

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 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

 

T.G.I.F. Bubbly – Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut

My wife and I make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort to the end of the workweek.  She get’s to drink, and enjoy the bubbly, while I get to drink, enjoy and blog about it!  This week’s bubbly is Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut , a Cava from Spain produced by Segura Viudas.

Cava isn’t from a particular region in Spain, rather it’s a term used for Spanish sparklers made in the traditional method (known as Méthode Champenoise) used in France.  While there are some other regions in Spain that also make Cava, about 95% of the production comes from the traditional home of Cava, the Penedes region in Catalunya (a.k.a. Catalonia) The basic rules for making wines that may be called Cava are as follows:

  • Must be made in the traditional method (secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle)
  • Must age on lees in the bottle in which it will be sold for a minimum of 9 months, 18 months for Reservas and 24 months for Gran Reservas.
  • All the grapes used for must be white grapes – the 3 most common being Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Parellada (pronounced pa-re-yada), and Xarel.lo (pronounced cha-rel-low) – unless you are making a Rose, in which case certain red grapes are permitted.
  •  Macabeo (a.k.a Viura in Rioja) contributes acidity, freshness, and fruitiness; Xarel-lo brings body, alcohol and depth of flavor, while Parellada adds delicacy, and elegance to the blend.

The producer, Segura Viudas, is part of the Freixenet family of wines that includes Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma.   They use proprietary yeast strains cultivated at their in-house yeast farm, in the secondary fermentation.  This cuvée is composed of 7 different base wines: 3 of Macabeo, 3 of Parellada and1 of Xarel·lo.

I’ve been keen to try this one, but I keep buying the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva which is our ”house” Cava. It’s also a wine that also made my “Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20” list last year.  In addition to the two wines noted here, Segura Viudas makes 5 other Cava’s imported here to the U.S. –  Extra Dry, Brut Rose, ARIA Extra Dry, ARIA Sparkling Pinot Noir, and Reserva Heredad, their top of the line Cava (which along with the Brut Rosé is on my wins to try list!).

Segura Viudas Aria

My tasting notes follow:

Very pale green yellow color with fresh bread, stone-fruit, and nutty aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied with a surprisingly explosive moderately soft mousse with apple, pear, and mineral flavors. Medium finish – 86pts

Rating: Recommended!  I prefer the Brut Reserva which has some citrus notes (which I prefer) that I didn’t pick up in this one, and this one is a couple of more bucks, but I’d buy again!

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one works well as work both as an aperitif (Kettle-style potato chips, and seasoned popcorn are coming to mind), or main courses like pizza, grilled poultry or prawns, sushi, sashimi or lobster mac and cheese. Even pair with a light dessert like shortbread cookies, or fresh fruit!

Looking for more ideas? Segura Viudas USA has one of the cooler websites I’ve seen in terms of pairing their wines with food.  They give you the choice of using their food pairing app (it’ll cost you your email address), or connecting to Facebook, and according to their website…

Using your food-related LIKEs and restaurant check ins on Facebook we can instantly find a wine that is perfectly matched to your tastes!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.1% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > SpainCatalunya> Cava
  • Varietal(s): 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo
  • Production method: Traditional Method; Aged on lees at least 15 months
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $11.99 (BevMo), but available for as low as $8.
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review

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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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