Archive for category Wine and food

Pairing Wine and Chocolate!

Wine and chocolate are a romantic and tasty combination. With the recent focus on dark chocolate and “percent cocoa,” how do you choose the right wine for the chocolate you painstakingly picked out?

Just as I recommend pairing wine and food, match the weight of the chocolate with the weight of the wine. Strong chocolate that’s not sweet goes well with a powerful and robust wine (think Cabernet Sauvignon). As chocolates get sweeter, sweeten the wine–a bit more than the chocolate! As the chocolate gets lighter (e.g., white chocolate) go with fresh and flavorful white wines.

For dark or bittersweet chocolate, match with big wines with their own hint of chocolate. Powerful and robust Cabernet Sauvignon from California or Washington and Zinfandels work perfectly with rich, dark chocolates. But don’t forget the big blended wines; they come from the US, Australia, South America, France, and Italy and they can complement the roasted bitterness of these chocolates.

Milk chocolate–a medium weight chocolate–needs a smooth medium weight wine. For a great white wine choice, go with a fresh and flavorful Riesling. A slightly sweet Spätlese would be ideal. Our own Oregon Pinot Noir-a smooth and fruity red wine-works beautifully too. And, of course, Muscat or late harvest wines (specialty dessert wines) work very well with milk chocolate.

White chocolate is made primarily with cocoa butter but no other cocoa products and has a buttery, mellow taste. Try a Moscato d’Asti sparkling wine from Italy or a sparkling Muscat from France for a great match. The nutty taste of Sherry from Spain also goes well with the creamy texture.

I also like chocolate combined with fruit and nut flavors. Smooth and fruity wines like rich Merlots and Zinfandels enhance the fruit flavors. While Ports, Madeiras, and Sherrys taste wonderful with nutty flavors. There are even specially blended wines of Port with chocolate and Sherry with hazelnuts–absolutely heavenly with chocolates … or without!

No matter what, I always advise people to drink the wine they like! If you love Cabernet and want to drink it with white or milk chocolate, I say “go for it”!

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Wines for Summer

As the summer heat finally arrives many wine lovers look for a wine that won’t weigh them down. But what to choose? There are so many wines, and not enough time!

Of course there are the classics:

  • Light and crisp Pinot Gris (Grigio) and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Fresh and flavorful Riesling
  • Full and rich Chardonnay

These wines are wonderful when served cold for sipping on the patio. (By the way, “cold” is ideally 45-55°F.) But if you’re looking for something different, there are still a world of choices.

In the light and crisp category, Sémillon [pronounced say-mee-yo(n)] provides a different twist and unique flavors. A grape from southwestern France, it has found a niche in the New World. Australia, Chile, and Washington State all provide good examples of this dry, golden-colored wine often with aromas of honey and orange.

Another white that you may want to try is Viognier [pronounced vyo-nyay], a warm-weather grape often used for blending in white and red wines. Some Viogniers are light and crisp while others are fresh and flavorful depending on the wine maker’s style. Many wine stewards can help you choose one that fits your tastes. No matter which Viognier you pick, a cold glass with friends fits perfectly into your summer activities.

Another favorite of ours for summer is Rosé. Some people mistake Rosé wines for the similar looking White Zinfandel. No matter how you feel about White Zinfandel, Rosés are different. They’re very dry and range from light to medium body. Many are from the south of France (Provence) as well as California, Oregon, and Washington.

Red wines are still “in” for summer. For outside sipping, you might try a light-bodied red wine such as Beaujolais [pronounced bo-zho-lay] from France or perhaps a Valpolicella [pronounced vahl-po-lee-chehl-lah] from Italy. Served colder than usual (close to white wine temperature) they make an easy and subtle red wine for a hot day.

We’re often asked for recommendations for matching wine with food. So what about summer barbecues and picnics? The best wine-food pairings match the weight of the wine with the food. Since many summer foods forego heavy sauces, lighter wines like the ones we’ve suggested work well. But if you’re grilling a steak and want a powerful and robust Cabernet Sauvignon, we say go for it! Whatever you like is what’s important.

If you’re looking for a wine to go with your neighborhood clam bake, we’d suggest an earthy Sauvignon Blanc… unless they’re prepared spicy-Cajun style; then go for the Gewuztraminer!

No matter what tastes you enjoy in your wines, have a wonderful sipping summer!

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Wine and cheese?

Did you know that cheese is perhaps one of the worst foods to eat while tasting wine? That’s because cheese is mostly fat and the fat coats your tongue inhibiting your ability to taste the wine.

We’re talking about tasting here. That is, when you’re trying to study a wine and understand what you like and dislike about it’s subtle attributes.

There’s an old saying in the wine business: buy with apples, sell with cheese. That’s because the acid in apples helps keep your mouth clean so that you can taste the subtleties of the wine. Serving cheese when selling wine can hide characteristics that customer may not like. Be wary of any tasting room with piles of free cheese.

Of course, when drinking wine, there may be no better food than cheese. Wine and cheese seem to naturally go together. And when your goal is to celebrate and enjoy life, cheese with wine is a heavenly break from our busy schedules.

Here’s a cheese tip: try Spanish Manchego cheese with your red wines. This semi-hard cheese is mild and nutty and goes great with bold wines.

Vive le fromage!

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Pairing Wine and Food

Do you know the best way to pair wine and food?

Perhaps you know the old adage “white wine with chicken, red wine with meat“? That works as far as it goes but it leaves many interesting wine-food combinations untried.

Next time you want to match a wine with food, think about matching the weight. Light dishes go best with lighter wines and heavier dishes with heavier wines. You may want a slightly heavier wine than the food you’re pairing; otherwise the wine may be ovewhelmed by the food. And who wants to drink wine you don’t really taste?

The whole preparation matters; a broiled white fish with a rich creamy sauce deserves a more robust wine than poached fish with rice. Broiled salmon? Next time try a Beaujolais-Village or a light Pinot Noir. Veal? Try a rich white wine such as Chardonnay or perhaps a Rosé.

Of course, there are the classic grilled meats with Cabernet or perhaps Shiraz (Syrah). The big tastes of both wine and food go great together.

And what about hard to match dishes like spicy Thai food or holiday meals with a wide array of light and heavy foods? Try a versatile wine with moderate weight, moderate to high acidity, and lower alcohol. Gewurztraminer and Riesling fit the bill nicely!

And finally, Sparkling wine is a wonderful accompaniment to many foods. Use drier sparkling wines (white or rosé Brut) with entreés and sweeter wines (e.g., Moscato d’Asti) with dessert. And if you like cheese either before or after a meal, wine and cheese go together wonderfully!

But no matter what, life’s too short to drink wine you don’t like. If you love Cabernet Sauvignon and want to drink it with chicken, I say go for it! The worst that will happen is the wine won’t compliment the food and vice-versa.

No matter what, great wine and great food are the ones you love most.

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