Weekend Wine and Food Pairing- Barbera and Pizza

Pizza.  It is pretty much a Sunday night tradition at our house.  I generally make my own crust and always decorate the pizza with fresh cheese and great toppings.  I am Italian so I love drinking an Italian wine with an Italian dish (even though I know that a lot of Italians drink Italian beer with pizza).  My absolute favorite wine with pizza is Barbera.  Barbera generally has bright cherry flavors and healthy acidity which makes it a great match for a lot of styles of pizza.  

If you are looking for a great Barbera that is a really nice value, try 2009 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme.  Juicy blackberries and cherries with silky tannins.  It is fairly easy to find and will complement your pizza perfectly.  Cheers and enjoy the weekend!



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A Powerful Zin from Lodi- Macchia 2010 Outrageous Zinfandel

Lodi…it is not on every wine drinker’s radar but it should be because there is a lot of great wine coming out of the region at reasonable prices.  Over the weekend I had a chance to sip a Zinfandel from Macchia Wines, a small winery in the Lodi region.  Their “Outrageous” Old Vine Zinfandel is a powerful Zin that definitely does not lack in personality.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Macchia 2010 Outrageous Zinfandel is 100% Zinfandel from Macchia’s Noma Ranch vineyard.  It has 16.3% alcohol and retails for $24.  For more information visit www.macchiawines.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Outrageous has a rich nose filled with blackberries, oak, and cedar.  The palate is silky with intense flavors of ripe blackberries, raspberries, and black cherries.  There are hints of vanilla and oak woven in between the fruit.  The wine has a spicy finish with a little heat from the alcohol.  The burn from the alcohol was the only aspect of this Zinfandel that I didn’t enjoy.  Even with a little extra heat, this is still a nice, bold Zinfandel that is very fairly priced.  Definitely make sure you give this big boy a few moments in the decanter before enjoying!

My Wine Rating- B-

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this Zinfandel with sirloin, buffalo burgers, or BBQ ribs. 

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Mini-Review- 2011 Cupcake Vineyards Riesling

Cupcake is a wine brand that you see everywhere.  The most impressive part is, even with mass production, many of their wines are actually pretty enjoyable.  One of their latest releases is the 2011 Cupcake Vineyards Riesling from the Mosel Valley region of Germany.  If you like a Riesling that is a little on the sweet side, you might want to grab a bottle.

This Riesling has an aromatic nose with aromas of peach, melon, and lemon.  Creamy, sweet notes of pear, melon, and lime fill your palate.  The wine follows with a tangy, citrus-filled finish.  An easy sipping wine perfect with spicy Asian food or as an aperitif.  (B, $10, media sample)

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Weekend Wine and Food Pairing- Fish Tacos and Sauvignon Blanc

Enjoying Mexican food is a way of life in Southern California.  My husband and I go out for fish tacos at least once a week and I also have a pretty killer recipe that I make at home from time to time.  My favorite fish taco starts off with a homemade corn tortilla and is filled with lightly blackened ahi, pico de gallo, avocado, fresh cilantro, and a secret sauce that is both a little spicy and creamy (it is only secret because the restaurant who serves it won’t give up the recipe).

Honig Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is a great pairing that is relatively easy to find.

There are definitely several white wines that pair well with ahi tacos but one of my favorites is Sauvignon Blanc.  The citrus notes in Sauvignon Blanc balance out the spiciness of the fish.  Sauvignon Blanc also has stong enough flavors (think the grassy and herbaceous notes) not to get overwhelmed by the cilantro.  A complementary and refreshing combination.  Cheers!

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Trader Joe’s Wine Pick- Cline 2010 California Zinfandel

I have been on a roll at Trader Joe’s lately but I must admit that I was definitely at an advantage with this bottle.  Cline Cellars has been consistently releasing great Zins at everyday prices for years.  The 2010 is no exception…a nice wine at an incredible price. 

About the Wine- From the Winery

Cline 2010 California Zinfandel is 100% Zinfandel that is harvested from vineyards throughout California.  It has 14% alcohol and retails for $7.99 at Trader Joe’s.  For more information visit www.clinecellars.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Cline Zinfandel has bright aromas of cherries, strawberries, vanilla, and spice.  This wine has smooth tastes of strawberry jam, cherries, and plum.  There is a hint of oak that comes out in the peppery finish.  Perhaps a little jammier than the 2009 but still a somewhat similar profile.  Once again Cline Cellars has put out a wine that drinks like it costs twice the price.

My Wine Rating- B+ (especially with price taken into consideration)

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this Zinfandel with burgers, chile con carne, or chicken fajitas.

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Mini-Review- Los Vascos 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Every year I try the new vintage from Los Vascos.  There aren’t many decent Cabernets in the $10-12 price range but Los Vascos generally produces an enjoyable wine.  Their 100% Cabernet comes from a vineyard in the Colchagua Valley of Chile.  2010 was a difficult growing season but the vineyard still managed to produce a decent harvest of grapes.

The wine has spicy aromas of cherry and sandalwood.  The palate is full of bright cherries, currants, and pepper with herbal notes woven in between.  Tastes of saffron and pepper linger in the finish.  The wine is a little tight and but an overall enjoyable bottle for the price.  A casual Cabernet that pairs well with grilled meats.  (B-, $10)

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Weekend Wine and Food Pairing- Torrontes and Thai Food

Often on a Saturday night when my husband and I don’t feel like going out, we rent a movie and pick up Thai Food from a tiny, authentic spot a few blocks from our house.  I have tried a lot of wines with our food (I usually order shrimp with a spicy Thai basil sauce or a green curry) and Torrontes always seems to be a good match. 

I last paired Santa Julia [+] 2010 Torrontes ($10, a Wine and Good Food favorite) with our Thai meal.  This was a great match for the food.  The citrus notes of the wine cut through the spiciness of the food.  Hints of sweetness from the peach and pear flavors and the refreshing finish cleansed my palate before next the bite. 

So next time you order take-out from your favorite Thai spot, try Torrontes.  It is a beautiful, refreshing wine that people need to start sipping more often!

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Trader Joe’s Wine Pick- Buena Vista 2008 Pinot Noir

A few days ago my husband and I were displaced from our house for a night due to a broken hot water heater (it is amazing how difficult your routine becomes without one simple thing!).  I made a quick run to Trader Joe’s to grab a few necessities and a bottle of Buena Vista Pinot Noir caught my eye.  Could a $10 bottle of Carneros Pinot Noir be worth drinking?  It most definitely is!

About the Wine- From the Winery

Buena Vista 2008 Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir from Carneros.  It has 13.5% alcohol and retails for $9.99 at Trader Joe’s.  For more information visit www.buenavistawinery.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

This Pinot pours a light ruby color in the glass.  The nose is earthy and spicy with cherries woven in between.  The palate opens up after about 30 minutes in the decanter.  Juicy cherries, cranberries, cedar, and earthy tannins envelope your mouth.  The finish is long and spicy with hints of toffee.  A fantastic Pinot Noir for the price.  Definitely picking up a half case on my next trip to Trader Joe’s.

My Wine Rating- B+ (A- for Value)

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this Pinot with pan seared salmon, roasted duck, or chicken marsala

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Wine and Cheese Please- Laurenz V. 2009 Charming Grüner Veltliner

Cheese, cheese, cheese…after wine it is my second culinary love. As far as cheese goes, I am a sucker for any type made from goat’s milk (Cypress Grove’s “Truffle Tremor” and goat’s milk brie are my current faves). When it comes to pairing wine with goat cheese, Grüner Veltliner (with its healthy acidity) is a perfect match. Over the weekend, I had a chance to try Laurenz V. Charming Grüner Veltliner with an array of cheeses and I was not disappointed.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Laurenz V. 2009 Charming Grüner Veltliner is 100% Grüner Veltliner from the Kamptal region of Austria.  It has 13% alcohol and retails for around $28.  For more information see www.laurenzfive.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

This Grüner pours a pale gold in the glass.  The nose has abundant aromas of pear and spice.  This is not a timid wine.  Bold flavors of pear, melon, and apple are followed by a spicy, tangy finish.  Notes of lingering ginger and pear tingle your taste buds as you reach for another sip.  Plenty of acidity makes this Grüner very food friendly. 

My Wine Rating- B

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair with goat cheese, sushi, or curried tofu.

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Weekend Wine and Food Pairing- Champagne and Hush Puppies

I have always enjoyed Champagne and other sparkling wines with fried foods (like potato chips and fried oysters) but I have never really thought of pairing it with hush puppies. Last week, I was dining at one of my favorite spots in Newport Beach sipping a glass of bubbly when I noticed that they added hush puppies to the menu.  I ordered them and realized that I couldn’t be drinking anything that paired more perfectly with the hush puppies.  I then realized for almost 25 years I lived in Myrtle Beach, SC (the hush puppy capital of the world) and never had this pairing (I guess I was only legal to drink for 4 of them but still!). 

This is a fun appetizer pairing to try over the weekend.  Get a good hush puppy recipe (like this one from Food and Wine Magazine http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/hush-puppies-with-green-zebra-tomato-jam) and pair with a nice bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine.  Hope you enjoy!  Cheers!

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