Pairing Wine and Pizza

I’m Italian so I was raised on pizza.  Not delivery pizza from national chains but handmade dough topped with love.  As an adult, Brandon and I often make our own pizza with toppings that include burrata, sund-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto.  When you have fantastic pizza, you have to pair it with delicious wine.  Here are a few great picks for your pizza pie!

A great pizza wine!
Negroamaro – A great pizza wine!

Pizza and Negroamaro

Negroamaro – never heard of it?  Neither had I until a few months ago.  It turns out that Negroamaro, a grape native to Southern Italy, is a great pairing with pizza.  Look for a bottle with balanced alcohol and enough acidity to cut through the fat in the cheese.  I like Natalino del Prete Negroamaro ‘Anne’.  Red cherries, earthy undertones, and bright acidity make it perfect with a mushroom topped pizza! ($16)

Pizza and Frappato

I really enjoy a good Frappato with pizza.  The wine is generally fruity and very food-friendly so it pairs well with a lot of toppings.  One relatively easy to find, well-made Frappato is Tami Frappato Sicilia Rosso.  There are lovely flavors of red fruit, spice, and earth with a lively finish.  A great find for under $20!  ($16)

Pizza and Sparkling Gragnano

I recently fell in love with pairing Gragnano and pizza.  The sparkling wine hails from the southwest region of Italy and is served chilled.  One bottle to keep an eye out for is Baccanti Gragnano della Penisola Sorrentina.  Funky, fresh, and perhaps created for the sole purpose of drinking with pizza :-). ($15)

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Pairing Wine With Salmon

Salmon is my favorite fish because it pairs deliciously with so many diverse wines.  Salmon is a great combination with acid-driven white wines as well as light-bodied red wines, thus proving the “rule” that you can’t pair fish with red wines is meant to be broken!  Here are a few of my favorite pairings with both white and red wines:

Grilled Salmon

Salmon Paired with Cool-Climate Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is my go-to salmon and wine pairing.  Cool-climate Pinot Noir tends to pair better than Pinot from warmer regions as there are more earthy notes and less fruity notes in the wine.  I generally look to wines from the Sonoma Coast, Mendocino County, or Oregon.  Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a great pick that is rather inexpensive ($45) and relatively easy to find.  Try Pinot Noir with grilled or pan-seared salmon but skip most marinades as they often are are too bold for the wine.

Salmon Paired with Dry Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is not usually the first wine that crosses a person’s mind when salmon is being served, but I have found that a dry, acid-driven Chenin goes magnificently with salmon!  Look for a Chenin Blanc with balanced alcohol and bright acidity to cut through the fat in the salmon.  A couple of favorites of mine are Michel Autran “Les Enfers Tranquilles” Vouvray and Lo-Fi Chenin Blanc…and both are under $30!  Many Asian and Mediterranean marinades work well with this pairing.

Salmon Paired with Gamay 

I absolutely love salmon paired with Gamay.  This light-bodied, bright wine generally has tastes of red fruit and earth which makes it a great match with salmon.  I love Gamay from the Loire Valley and Thierry Puzelat “Le Telquel” is one of my favorites to pair with salmon for under $20.  I would also skip most marinades and stick to simply grilled, seared, or baked with this pairing.

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Wine and Oysters – Eric Chevalier 2012 Muscadet Cotes De Grand Lieu Sur Lie

One of my favorite ways to kick off the weekend is with a couple dozen oysters and a bottle of great wine.  There are plenty of delicious wines to pair with oysters, but one of my all-time favorite pairings that gives a lot of bang for your buck is Eric Chevalier 2012 Muscadet Cotes De Grand Lieu Sur Lie.   Imported by Kermit Lynch, this refreshing wine is generally priced under $15.  It is the perfect complement to oysters, whether they are raw, steamed, or even fried.

Eric Chevalier 2012 Muscadet Cotes De Grand Lieu Sur Lie
Eric Chevalier 2012 Muscadet Cotes De Grand Lieu Sur Lie

Technical Stuff

Eric Chevalier 2012 Muscadet Cotes De Grand Lieu Sur Lie is naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts and is unfiltered.  11.5% alcohol with a retail price of around $14/bottle.  For more info, visit Kermit Lynch.

Tasting Notes

This wine is golden in color with noticeable hues of green.  The nose is floral with hints of pineapple and lemon.  A first sip, your mouth will be met with tons of vibrant citrus flavors.  With zippy acidity and a clean finish, this wine was made to pair with oysters.  So, what are you waiting for?  Uncork a bottle, shuck some oysters, and enjoy!

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Taco and Wine Pairings!

With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, many of us will be indulging in delicious Mexican food. One of my favorite things to eat on Cinco de Mayo (and pretty much any other day of the year) is a fresh, grilled fish taco.  While a nice IPA is always a great pairing, I really enjoy finding a great wine to pair with tacos as well. Here are a few of my favorite combos:

Ahi and Salmon tacos from my favorite spot, La Sirena Grill
Ahi and Salmon tacos from my favorite spot, La Sirena Grill

Grüner Veltliner with Mahi Mahi and Guacamole Tacos

Grüner and fish tacos generally go perfectly together…especially when guacamole is involved.  The acid in the Grüner cuts the fat in the avocado and brings the Mahi to another level!  I suggest a bottle of 2012 Bernhard Ott “Am Berg” Grüner Veltliner Wagram.   Fresh and crisp with notes of green apple and peach! ($18)

Sparkling Wine with an Ahi Taco topped with Papaya Salsa

One of my favorite taco spots seasonally features a grilled ahi taco topped with fresh papaya salsa.  The salsa is a bit spicy and full of vibrant, tropical flavors.  I think sparkling wine pairs best with this fruit salsa style of taco.  It really complements the fruit without overpowering it.  Try a bottle of Fermi Bohigas Galda Finca Mas Macia Brut Cava.  With notes of stonefruit and pear, this Cava really is a nice match with fruit salsa! ($10)

Cool Climate Syrah and Braised Pork Tacos

Braised pork tacos need a wine that has some depth yet not too big of a personality.  I love pairing cool climate Syrah to bring out the flavors and spice in the braised meat.  Look for something without new oak and low in alcohol so it won’t overpower the pork.  Grab a glass of 2012 Yves Cuilleron “Les Vignes d’à Côté” Syrah.  Good acid with earthy notes of black currents and pepper for under $20! 

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Burger and Wine Pairings!

It is finally spring and the weather is getting warmer.  This only means one thing…time to light up the grill and throw on the burgers!  While a lot of people tend to pair burgers with Cabernet, I want to give a few other options for your BBQ.  Keep in mind, the toppings you put on your burger also play a big part in which wine will pair the best.  Here are some awesome burger, topping, and wine pairings that I think you will enjoy!

Burgers and Syrah

A cool-climate Syrah is one of my go-to pairings for a simply dressed burger or a burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions.  The wine really elevates the meaty flavors and even works well if your burger is made from something other than beef (think lamb or pork).   Try Red Car Sonoma Coast Syrah.  Notes of earth, spice, smoke, dark fruit, and tobacco make it a great pairing!

Red Car Sonoma Coast Syrah
Red Car Sonoma Coast Syrah

Burgers and Champagne

I love pairing burgers with Champagne.  The acid and fresh flavors in the wine really enliven the palate when paired with a rich, fatty burger.  This pairing is especially nice when your burger is topped with cheese or a runny egg.  I like J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” 1er Cru Brut Champagne.  It is rich yet bright so it stands up to the burger while elevating the flavors with its acidity.

J. Lassalle "Cachet d'Or" 1er Cru Brut Champagne
J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” 1er Cru Brut Champagne

Burgers and Malbec

Another burger and wine pairing I have recently fallen in love with is Malbec from Cahors.  I definitely suggest exploring what Cahors has to offer because the Malbec tends to have a bit more acidity than those found in Argentina.  It works really well with pungent cheese along with most other savory toppings. Try Clos La Coutale Cahors.  Rustic, rich, and spicy…a match made in heaven!

Clos La Coutale Cahors
Clos La Coutale Cahors
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Weekend Wine and Food Pairing – Dungeness Crab and Pinot Gris

If there is one culinary date I look forward to every year, it is the start of Dungeness Crab season. Here is Southern California, we are so lucky to get fresh Dungeness from both Santa Barbara and the Sonoma Coast. Brandon and I eat it almost every weekend and have a lot of fun finding our favorite wines to go with it.

It doesn't get much better than this!
It doesn’t get much better than this!

Pinot Gris can be a great match with Dungeness. I recently sipped a bottle of 2012 Brooks Pinot Gris from Oregon and I immediately wished I was drinking it with crab. The wine is whole cluster pressed and aged in stainless steel. It features bright tastes of citrus and guava along with great texture and fresh acidity. A fantastic match with Dungeness Crab along with pretty much any other shellfish!

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A Place for Rhone Wine at the Thanksgiving Table

We all tend to sip the same types of wines at our Thanksgiving dinners. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Champagne seem to be abundant this time of year and a lot of people never really think about introducing a few new bottles to the table. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to stray from the traditional pairings and open up your meal to new varietals. There are many interesting Rhone wines that will really elevate the flavors in your holiday dishes. Here are the Rhones that will definitely be accompanying our Thanksgiving dinner this year!

Old-World Style Grenache 

I love an elegant Grenache with so many Thanksgiving dishes. It pairs very well with turkey, cranberries, and stuffing. Look for a bottle with low alcohol, healthy acidity, and ripe berries. A Tribute to Grace Grenache is an excellent choice with beautiful flavors that are both balanced and vibrant.  (http://gracewinecompany.com,  $44)

A Tribute to Grace Grenache...a wonderful Thanksgiving wine!
A Tribute to Grace Grenache…a wonderful Thanksgiving wine!

White Rhone Blends

When many people think of pairing wine with dishes such as buttery mashed potatoes and turkey, they often reach for a rich, buttery Chardonnay. Sometimes, an equally rich wine really overpowers both your palate and the food. I usually pair a White Rhone Blend instead. Make sure the wine has plenty of acid to cut through the richness of the food yet enough texture to complement the rich flavors. I really enjoy Pastoral Blanc from Two Shepherds. The blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc will really bring to life (and not weigh down) heavier dishes.  (http://twoshepherdsvineyards.com, $28)

Rosé of Syrah

Rosé of Syrah can be an excellent, food-friendly Thanksgiving wine. It pairs well with ham, turkey, and cranberries and also makes an excellent aperitif. I prefer a Rosé aged in stainless steel to oak as I find they tend to have cleaner flavors. Ampelos Cellars has a great Rosé of Syrah you can pick up for well under $20. Full of red berries, watermelon, and a refreshing finish makes it a nice Thanksgiving pick! (http://www.ampeloscellars.com, $15)

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Thanksgiving Wine Picks!

In just a short time, we will all be gathered around the table feasting on my favorite meal of the year, Thanksgiving.  In my family, we happen to have a wonderful tradition of spending Thanksgiving in Napa or Sonoma…just one of the many things I am thankful for each year.  No matter where your Thanksgiving plans takes you, here are some excellent wine pairings for your turkey day!

Rosé and Turkey

Château Bonnet 2012 Rosé
Château Bonnet 2012 Rosé

Rosé is an excellent match with turkey and most of the traditional Thanksgiving spread.  Look for a Rosé that features dry flavors of cranberry or cherry and a little spice. I recently sipped a bottle from Chateau Bonnet.  The 2012 Rosé is a blend of Cabernet and Merlot with bright tastes of cranberry and grapefruit. Beautiful acidity makes it extremely food friendly and a great choice for your entire meal. ($15)

Grüner Veltliner and Ham

Birgit Eichinger 2011 Grüner Veltliner
Birgit Eichinger 2011 Grüner Veltliner

Looking for a wine that enhances the flavor of your juicy ham?  I would reach for a bottle of Grüner Veltliner.  The lively acidity in Grüner cuts the fat in the ham and helps bring the flavors to a whole new level.  One bottle that works really well is Birgit Eichinger 2011 Grüner Veltliner.  It features crisp acidity and plenty of flavor to stand up to any Thanksgiving feast! ($15)

Tawny Port and Pumpkin Pie

Quinta do Infantado Medium-Dry Tawny Port NV
Quinta do Infantado Medium-Dry Tawny Port NV

For me, dessert can be one of the trickiest wine pairings of any meal.  Generally, a lot of wines don’t work well with sweet flavors.  So, when our dessert course comes around, I generally reach for a beautiful glass of Tawny Port.  Look for a bottle with a balance of sweetness and spice to pair with the sweet and spicy flavors in pumpkin pie.  If you want something a little lighter, opt for one of my favorite ports for under $20, Quinta do Infantado Medium-Dry Tawny Port NV.  If you want something a little sweeter (and relatively easy to find), grab a bottle of Churchills 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($30).  Either way, both of these picks will make dessert a great finale to a delicious meal!

 

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Weekend Wine and Food Pairing – Oysters and Muscadet

Since we are heading into prime shellfish season, I want to share one of my favorite pairings with oysters, Muscadet.  In my opinion, Muscadet is highly underrated. Hailing from the Loire Valley, this wine is generally lively and refreshing with citrus and mineral notes.  It also is usually under $20 a bottle.  When paired with oysters, the flavors in both the oysters and the wine are elevated.

Oysters and Muscadet...a match made in heaven!
Oysters and Muscadet…a pairing not to be missed!

One bottle of Muscadet I regularly sip is Eric Chevalier’s 2011 Muscadet Cotes De Grand Lieu Sur Lie.  Its racing acidity and fresh minerality are coupled with tastes of sweet melon and citrus.  This pairing is so good that I am actually going to enjoy it tonight.  I hope you will make time to try it too!

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Wine and Lobster – Two Shepherds 2011 Pastoral Blanc

I recently received a couple of beautiful Maine lobster tails from my friends at Lobster Anywhere (www.lobsteranywhere.com), so we cooked up a huge seafood feast with grilled corn on the cob.  With our meal, we enjoyed a delicious white Rhone blend from Two Shepherds.  The 2011 Pastoral Blanc is a blend of 40% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne,  20% Viognier, and 10% Grenache Blanc.  This wine really elevated the flavors in the lobster without overpowering them (by the way, the lobster was pretty darn good too!).

Two Shepherds 2011 Pastoral Blanc
Two Shepherds 2011 Pastoral Blanc

Tasting Notes

Opening with aromas of jasmine, peach, and herbs, this Rhone blend has incredible texture and balance.  The palate includes crisp, light flavors with healthy acidity that made it easy to sip throughout the meal.  An amazing pairing with our lobster as well as crab or other shellfish! ($28, 13.8% alcohol)

My Wine Rating – A-

www.twoshepherdsvineyards.com

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