Wine Pairing Recommendations for Squashin’ Winter #SundaySupper

Squash.  More specifically, Winter Squash. That’s what this week’s #Sunday Supper theme is all about.  Honesty, I had no idea you could do so much with winter squash! Though I must confess my squash repertoire is limited to an occasional foray into butternut squash (mostly store-bought salads and occasionally soup), and pumpkin pie.  But after seeing these amazing recipes, and learning about the superfood qualities of squash, I’ll be eating more squash!

In fact, now that I think of it, my office is hosting a “Potluck and Culinary Challenge” next week, and with these recipes at my disposal, I feel as if I have an unfair advantage!  Well you know what they say….”All is fair in love, war and culinary challenges”;-)

Winter Squash; Image courtesy of

Winter Squash; Image courtesy of

Wine Pairing Tips:

This week theme gives me an opportunity to present two key wine and food pairing principles:

  1. Pair the wine and foods of equal “weight” – Pair full-bodied, hearty dishes with full-bodied wines (red, white and sparkling). In other words, try to keep the mouth-weight profile of the wine and food in balance.  The wine and the dish should be equal partner with neither overwhelming the other.
  2. Pair to the prominent element of the dish – Identify the dominant element of the dish; more often it is the sauce, seasonings or cooking method, rather than the main ingredient. This week’s theme is a great example.  Squash may be prepared in a myriad of ways. In and of itself squash has a mild flavor profile. Which is why it’s so versatile.  But once it’s part of a dish with a stronger ingredient profile such as lasagna, chili,or perhaps an ethic dish, you’ll need to pair the wine to the stronger ingredient profile of the sauce or condiment. Likewise the roasted squash has a different flavor profile than fresh.

`Check out the amazing array of sweet and savory recipes the #SundaySupper family of food bloggers for this week and my wine pairing recommendations.

Pair these breakfasts and breads with the 2011 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato.  It’s a blend of Gordo Muscat and Black Muscat from the Yarra Valley in Australia.  It’s only 5.5% alcohol and it has a red berry, strawberry, peach, and zesty citrus character.  It’s a fun and fizzy quaff that is moderately sweet but not cloying.

Pair these appetizers, starters, and condiments with a glass of bubbly. One of my favorites is  La Marca Prosecco.  It shows apple, peach and honeysuckle aromas followed by fresh, fruity apple, citrus flavors. 

Pair these dishes with a Riesling.  Look for the 2011 Columbia Crest Two Vines Riesling.  It’s distinctly off-dry with pear, peach, and citrus aromas, followed by stone fruit, mild orange and nuanced honey flavors rounded out with a crisp refreshing acidity.

Pair these dishes with Gruner Vetliner from Austria – another under-appreciated food friendly wine.  I recommend the 2011 Stadlmann Gruner Veltliner.  The Stadlmann family has been making wine since 1780, and this one shows an appealing green apple, stone-fruit, white pepper and spice character. 

Pair these dishes with Chardonnay.  Look for the 2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay. It’s moderately oaked, and medium-bodied with an appealing lemon cream, pear, apple and citrus character.

Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir.  I recommend the 2012 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir. It shows a supple texture and an enticing plum, tart cherry, cranberry, and spiced vanilla character.  

Pair these starters, main  and side dishes with Cabernet Franc, an under-appreciated food pairing partner.  Look for the 2010 Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc. It’s produced in the New York’s Finger Lakes region, a wine region that’s definitely on the rise!  It’s medium-bodied and smooth with nicely balanced red cherry, blueberry fruit flavors accompanied by savory spice and herb notes.  

Pair these starters, main  and side dishes with a red Rhône blend. I picked up a bottle of 2011 M Chapoutier Bila-Haut Les Vignes from Costco recently and drinks about it’s $10 price tag. It’s a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan that  has a delightful black cherry, red currant, blackberry, and mineral character.  

Pair these dishes with Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain.  I like the 2010 Vina Zaco Tempranillo.  It’s produced by one of Spain’s oldest wineries, Bodegas Bilbainas.  It opens with perfumed floral, licorice, black cherry and spiced vanilla aromas that follow onto the palate with soft juicy tannins.  

Pair these dishes with Zinfandel.   Look for the 2012 Cline Cellars Lodi Zinfandel.  Cline Cellar is one of America’s consistently good value wine producers and this Zinfandel is a great example.  The fruit is sourced from Lodi, California – the self-proclaimed Zinfandel capital of the world.  It has an easy drinking plum, blackberry,  and spiced vanilla character. 

Pair these dishes with Chianti from Italy.  A perennial favorite of mine is the 2009 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva. It shows a mouth-filling dried red fruit, sweet spice, and dried herb character with a very satisfying finish. 

Pair these desserts with Törley Doux Sparkling Tokaji. It’s a rare sparkling Tokaji, a wine produced in Hungary from a blend of blend of Furmint and Hárslevelű grape varieties.  It’s layered and concentrated with an intriguing dried citrus, tropical fruit, wildflowers, and honey character. 

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET.  Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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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Trick or Treat Wine Pairings For Halloween #SundaySupper

This week’s Halloween Trick-or-Treat Party SundaySupper theme created a quandary for me. While I was enthusiastically looking forward to seeing the undoubtedly fun, and creative treats my foodie friends would bring to the #SundaySupper table for the event, Halloween tends to be kid-centric, so I had second thoughts about offering up wine pairings (by the way, I’m referring to young kids – not the adult kids; you know who you are;-)

I settled on a compromise.  I’ll offer wine pairings for the Ghoulish Gruel and Haunted Snacks, and skip the Spooky Sweets this week.

If you do happen to have some leftover candy (and if you will..), consider sending it to troops overseas.  Groups like Operation Shoebox, which supports our troops, will gladly take donations.

Jelly beans in a wine glass

Photo: Matt Katzenberger, Flickr

I continue to be amazed at the creativity and passion that manifests itself each week by the #SundaySupper family.  And this week, add fun to the mix!

My recommended wines for this week’s #SundaySupper Halloween Trick-or-Treat party are italicized below. To find the recommended wines, click on the name of the wine.

Let’s this this Halloween Trick-or-Treat Party started!

Bewitching Brews

Ghoulish Gruel and Haunted Snacks: 

Pair these frighteningly delicious bites with a sparkling wine. Look for La Marca Prosecco, a well-balanced and delicate Prosecco that shows a creamy, fruity, mixed citrus and apple character  Not only will it be a great match for these great eats, it’s the only wine here that’s going to be good for before, during and, perhaps most importantly, after your Halloween activities!

Pair with this tasty egg-based treats with a New World Sauvignon Blanc. Look for the  2011 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It’s bursting with citrus and tropical fruits, accompanied by herbaceous notes and zesty acidity.

Pair these hearty treat with Grenache, an underrated wine-lovers wine owing to its lush, juicy character.  Look for the 2010 Altovinum Calatayud Evodia Old Vines Garnacha from Spain with a juicy mixed berry and spice character and a great mouthfeel. 

Pair with bloody good treats with Sangiovese (the name derives from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove – bwahahaha!) One of my favorites is the 2008 Marchesi de’Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva a well-balanced and harmonious wine that has a rich, silky cherry, raspberry, dried plum, spice and cocoa powder character. 

Spooky Sweets:

Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day today. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm (Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about all things Halloween.  All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat.

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