Archive for the ‘Food and wine pairing’ Category

“Why Can’t I Drink Wine Like I Used To?”

I’ve heard this question literally hundreds of times. I’ve even asked it myself.

There are many variations, such as “I seem to get drunk on less,” or “In the morning I can’t remember the night before.” Rest assured that if you’ve had anything like these experiences, you are not alone.

So why does it happen, and more important, what can we do about it?

The science behind this phenomenon is all too simple: as we age (yes, sadly it’s all about aging) our systems, our organs, and every cell in our body start to slow down. According to nutritionist Tina Nunziato CHNC of Dr. Liz Cruz Partners in Digestive Healthour organs don’t process things as quickly or as completely as they used to. Our liver, for example, may not fully metabolize all the alcohol in the wine we consumed last night. The next day, we may feel slightly fuzzy-headed, nauseous, or headache-y.

To compound the problem, our gut and colon don’t eliminate all the toxins the way they used to, so over time we experience a build-up of toxicity throughout our body. It’s no wonder that we “Can’t drink like we used to.”

The picture, however, needn’t be so bleak. We can change our habits so that we can imbibe and enjoy.

We need to understand, first, that ill effects will increase with the amount of alcohol ingested, and all wines are not created equal when it comes to alcohol content. Red wines from warm climate regions, such as Australia and many parts of California, may have an alcohol content as high as 15.5 percent (think Shiraz, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and many Red Blends). A cool climate white or red, on the other hand, such as one from northern France or northern Italy, might weigh in at only 12.5 or 13 percent (such as Sancerre or Chianti). Your body feels the difference, and you may find that simply switching to lower alcohol wines will resolve your issues.

Hydration is also a significant part of the solution. Drinking lots of water alongside your wine dilutes the alcohol, so make sure there’s a glass of water beside your glass of wine, and that you drink both throughout the evening.

Book-ending your wine consumption with lots of water will also help your system perform better. Drink one or two eight-ounce glasses before you start drinking wine, and do the same before bed and first thing in the morning.

Finally, “go European.” Many visitors to Europe say they can drink wine all day and never feel drunk, and that’s partly due to the generally lower alcohol content of European wines. But more important, in Europe they use wine as a meal-time beverage, not a cocktail. If you have a glass in one hand, you should have a fork in the other. When you enjoy wine alongside food, whether it’s a light appetizer of almonds and cheese, or
a full-blown five-course meal, your body will process the alcohol much more efficiently.

It’s as simple as that. You can still enjoy the pleasure of a glass of wine (or two), as long as you adjust and adapt to your new, more mature reality. I know I will. Cheers!

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What Winos Sip with Sushi

Thought you couldn’t find a wine that tastes great with Sushi? Think again! Even though wine is a decidedly Western tradition, the right selection can create a knock-out combination with Eastern food. Try experimenting with one of these great wine choices the next time you order up some Sashimi or your favorite Sushi Roll.


The flavors on a Sushi menu run the gamut from light and buttery to pungent and earthy, but you can enhance almost any dish with a crisp, fresh white wine. The only white to steer clear of is Sauvignon Blanc — the strong grapefruit or cat pee notes (yes, cat pee!) are too much for delicate fish. But you can’t go wrong with un-oaked whites and (believe it or not) a few light reds.

You will never be disappointed with a Sparkling wine such as Cava, Prosecco or Cremant de Alsace. The tangy, tingly bubbles are a great counterpoint to Sake (Salmon) and a lot of fun with a California Roll.

Whites from cool climates such as Alsace, Austria and Germany have great acidity and minerality, which balance the richness of more strongly flavored seafood. Look for a Pinot Gris, Dry Riesling or Gruner Veltliner (this wine is relatively new to U.S. wine drinkers, but is well worth seeking out as an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc). Any of these are a killer combo with Hamachi (Yellowtail Tuna).

Go for a Gewurtraminer with spicier dishes such as Spicy Tuna. You’ll love how the stone fruit and spice in the wine work with the heat of the roll, and it even stands up to Wasabi!


And for all you red wine lovers, yes, you can sip red with your Sushi, especially with stronger, more pungent dishes such as Maguro (Big Eye Tuna) or Unagi (eel). Stay away from the heavy, tannic reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon (which bring out the metallic “fishiness” in fish), and go for a lighter, fruitier red. Think French Beaujolais or California Pinot Noir; the wine’s berry notes and hint of earthiness will bring out the best in the seafood.

And don’t pass up the pink winesDry Roses from France or Spain have just enough fruit character to stand up to complex flavors, while still being snappy on your palate.

Any way you pour it, there’s a wine that will take your Sushi experience over the top. Find out for yourself what can happen when East on your plate meets West in your glass. Cheers and Kanpai!

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Dare to Drink Pink!

Thanks to SmartFem Magazine, who originally published this story…

Online Magazine for Women – Informative, Entertaining, Intelligent!



It’s official: Rosé wine is trending. In big-city bars and upscale bistros, Rosé is now at the top of the wine list. But make no mistake about it: this is not the sweet, cheap White Zinfandel that’s given pink wine a bad name in North America.  These are crisp, dry wines from places like Provence, Tavel and Mendoza.

“Real” Rosés are dry wines traditionally made and consumed as the “wine of summer” in Europe. They show delicate fruit notes — think strawberries, cherries or melon — and finish crisp and clean. If you haven’t enjoyed a chilled glass of Rosé by the pool, with brunch, or as an aperitif, then it’s high time you did.

TIP: Rosés are meant to be consumed young and fresh, so look for vintage dates just a year or two old. And you don’t have to spend a lot: there are plenty of nice still Rosés in the $10-$14 range, and sparkling from $16-$20.

Rosé wines can be made from almost any red grapes, but typically use Grenache, Mourvèdre or Pinot Noir. The juice from these grapes is clear, but picks up pigmentation as it soaks with the skins. So very simply, the amount of skin contact determines the depth of color in the finished wine. That’s why you’ll see Rosés that vary in color from pale salmon almost to magenta.

You should start your exploration of Rosés by sampling a few classic styles. Provence in Southern France is known for the very pale and delicately flavored Rosés that are favored by the owners of the yachts that dock at the French Riviera. Compare this to a Spanish or Argentine Rosé that’s deep in color and intense in its fruit character. (If you typically drink bold, dry reds, you’ll probably enjoy these Rosés.)

And don’t forget the pink bubblies. While Rosé Champagne starts at $40 and can go much higher, there are great pink sparkling wines from Burgundy (called  Cremant de Bourgogne), Alsace (Cremant d’Alsace), Spain (Brut Rosé Cava), and of course, California and Washington.

Pink wines are great for sipping, but also make good food wines. Try them with an appetizer like Smoked Salmon and Boursin Cheese Crostini,  or a tray of fruit, nuts and soft cheeses.

Here are a few good choices to get you started on your Rosé adventure:

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Rosé — Costieres de Nimes, France    $12

Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé — Mendoza, Argentina. $13

Belle Glos Rosé of Pinot Noir — California  $18

Gruet Sparkling Brut Rosé — New Mexico (It’s from New Mexico and it’s great!)  $18

And of course, the BrAngelina wine, Chateau Miraval –– Provence, France. $24

Dare to drink Pink!

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Sparkling Wine — the Anytime Drink!

Thanks to SmartFem Magazine, who originally published this story…

Online Magazine for Women – Informative, Entertaining, Intelligent!


By  in Dining & EntertainmentSmartFem

So when was the last time you drank a glass of bubbly? Was it last New Year’s Eve, after the ball dropped? Was it at your cousin’s wedding, when the best man made a sloppy speech and raised a toast to the bride and groom?

If your answer is “Yes,” then you’re missing out on a lot of fun. Here’s why.

Sparkling wine is crisp, refreshing and delicious, anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to spend a fortune, and there are plenty of great choices if you know what to look for.

Sparkling wine is, quite simply, any wine with bubbles. Champagne is the most famous (and the priciest) of them all, and to be called Champagne it must be made in the Champagne region of France. It will set you back at least $40, but whether it’s dry and citrusy or rich and creamy, Champagne is always tres elegant.

You can also get into the bubbly game for a lot less.

  • If the label says “Cremant” or “Cava,” it’s a sparkling wine that’s made in exactly the same method as Champagne, so it’s good quality and delicious, and is priced from $10 to $20. Look for any Cremant de Bourgogne from France or Cristalino Cava from Spain.
  • We make great “Champagne Method” sparklers here in America, too. Look for Gruet in the $15-$20 range (their Brut Rose is awesome) or Domaine Carneros for around $35.
  • You can go Italian with Prosecco, a lighter-bodied bubbly that can be dry (try Zonin or Zardetto) or not-so-dry (LaMarca).
  • If you have a really sweet tooth, you’ll love any Moscato d’Asti. This lightly-effervescent wine from Italy is naturally sweet and tastes like peaches and honey (really!).

So when should you drink Sparkling wine?

  • It’s never too early for bubbly. For breakfast or brunch try a Mimosa made with a Cava and orange juice, or move up to Italy’s breakfast drink, a Bellini. Just thaw and then purée a bag of frozen peaches, add a little sugar to taste, and pour in some Prosecco. It’s delish with French Toast!
  • There are lots of before-dinner choices. Try Cremant or a domestic sparkler, straight up and ice cold, and pair it with Crostini topped with Boursin Cheese and Smoked salmon. This aperitif is easy, elegant, lip-smacking good, and a staple in my house.
  • Pretend you’re lounging in an Italian bistro by mixing a “Spritz” with Prosecco and Aperol. This drink is refreshing, not sweet, with hints of bitter orange peel. Add a tray of cheese and nuts and relax till dinner time.
  • Serve Champagne as a salad course wine. Believe it or not, the high acidity makes it a great complement to vinaigrette dressings.
  • And my personal favorite was recommended by a chic and well-dressed French woman. Sip true Champagne with…potato chips! The combination of crisp and dry with salty and greasy is a true gastronomic pleasure.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Lodi Revisited

lodiIf you see a wine label that says “Old Vine Zin” or “OVZ,” chances are pretty good that it’ll also say “Lodi.”

Besides being a small town in Northeast Ohio, Lodi is a wine region in Northern California known primarily for its Zinfandel. The appellation hasn’t traditionally had the cachet of “Napa” or “Russian River,” sitting as it does in the warmer central part of California. Wine geeks associate warm-climate regions with flabby, un-structured wines that may sell well at the grocery store but don’t usually rate a place at the Premium Wine table.

But wait! Lodi has more to offer than the wine geeks allow, as I can testify after tasting through several wines at an online interactive tasting event sponsored by an association of Lodi wine producers. There was surprising variety and a few really excellent bottles that made me rethink my definition of “Lodi wine.”

First, let’s get this climate thing straight. Lodi may sit inland, directly east of San Francisco, but it’s right on the edge of the Sacramento Delta where nightly “Delta breezes” funnel cool ocean air over the vines. The soil is sandy and summers are dry, so growers can control vine vigor and ripening with careful irrigation practices. Read the rest of this entry »

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Belly Up to the Bar for the Saké Revolution: Momokawa and SakéOne

Remember when “I’ll have a beer” meant “I’ll have a Budweiser?” In the bad old days before the craft brew revolution, there was only one kind of beer — the cheap domestic stuff.

Ditto the rice-based beverage called Saké. Most Americans think there’s just one kind — something they’ve encountered in their neighborhood Japanese restaurant that smells like paint thinner and tastes like…well, paint thinner.

But I discovered recently that there’s a Saké revolution brewing (sorry about the pun) engineered by a couple of guys from Portland, Oregon. Hey! Wasn’t Portland the birthplace of the craft brew revolution? What a coincidence…

Steve Vuylsteke, President and CEO of a company called SakéOne, spent years championing the Oregon wine industry. Now he’s joined up with America’s only Sakémaster, Greg Lorenz, to transform our experience of Japan’s unique beverage. They’re producing premium Sakés that are every bit as elegant and food-worthy as fine wine.

Greg Lorenz, America's only Sakemaster

Now before I go any further, let me admit that my previous experience of Saké was limited to pounding a bar top and yelling “Sake Bomb!!”  Thankfully, I learned lots of cool stuff about Saké during a recent online, live tasting event with Steve and Greg. Here are a few things to remember if you want to be at the front of the saké wave:

  • Get the name right — it’s “sa-KAY,” not “SA-kee.”
  • Serve the good stuff chilled, in a proper wine glass, to release all the aromas and flavors.
  • Think of Saké as a food-pairing beverage, just like a fine wine.

So is Saké a wine? No.

Is it a beer? No again.

Greg explained that Saké is a unique product created by the interaction of two living organisms — yeast and koji, a mold spore that digests the rice and, along with the yeast, determines the character of each Saké.

The SakéOne company crafts premium Saké — Junmai Ginjo  — using traditional techniques learned from their Japanese “brewer partners.” Their label, Momokawa, includes several styles and flavors that they believe are a good introduction to the beverage for American palates, and fit SakéOne’s mission of “providing a transition between cultures”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Figaro Tinto 2009 Calatyud: Fine Wine, Finer Price Tag

operaAll I wanted was a cheap and cheerful little wine to perk up my Marinara and Meatballs, and what I got instead was a ton of history. There’s so much packed into this deceptively simple bottle that I don’t know where to start.

First, we have “Figaro:” when I say the name I conjure up visions of a big, bearded baritone belting out, “Figaro, Figaro, Fiiiiigaro”….

Then there’s “Aragon”, or “Zaragoza,” the Spanish province that contains the Calatayud wine region. I see images of medieval knights and ladies, and it turns out there were more than enough epic battles here. Romans, Moors, and half of Europe tried to invade it, and during a particularly memorable (and bloody) siege in the 1800′s, almost every man, woman and child in Zaragoza died rather than surrender to the invading French. Wow — these are some fierce folks…medieval

Then there’s the winery that created this wine, Bodega Niño Jesús. Really? Doesn’t that translate to “Winery Baby Jesus?” I just don’t know what to think about that…

Here’s what I know about my little bottle of history:

  • Figaro Tinto 2009 comes from the wine region or D.O. called Catalayud, which sits on the River Ebro in the northeastern quadrant of Spain.
  • The Continental climate borders on extreme: the summers are hot and dry and the winters are cold. In a single day, temperatures can swing 30 or 40 degrees (F).
  • The vineyards where these grapes are grown sit on south-facing slopes above the river (to catch all the available sunlight, right?). And they’re at elevations of up to 2,500 feet, which gives the fruit more intense flavors and good natural acidity.
  • Finally, the soil is loose, gravelly and really lousy for growing anything else, which makes it just perfect for wine grapes!

Catalayud shares these characteristics with just about every significant wine-producing region in the world. Here’s what makes Bodega Niño Jesús different: it’s a cooperative of about 150 growers tending vineyards with an average age of 30 years. These aren’t really old vines, but they’ve at least grown a beard by now, and contribute more complex flavors to the fruit. The grapes in Figaro are 100% Garnacha (Grenache), which in warm climfigaroates has a fruity, sometimes fleshy style. And significantly, this bottling is from the 2009 vintage, which in Europe was one of the best in memory.

Finally, I’m getting to the wine: Figaro Tinto is simply a killer bottle of wine, and tastes much better than its humble price. I paid $8 for it at Total Wine & More, and I was hoping for something with just enough fruit and acid to balance my Marinara sauce (homemade, thank you). What I got was bright, tangy red and black cherry fruit with a hint of spice and a well-balanced finish. When it hit the tomato-based sauce, both wine and Marinara got up and danced: the fruit became softer and more intense and the sauce turned sweet and savory.

I was in wine-and-food heaven, and all it took was a 10-spot. I will cheerfully buy this wine again, and I’d suggest you take it for a test drive, too, especially if you have pizza, red pasta or any Mediterranean specialty on your menu. And be sure to let me know what you think… Cheers!




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Drink Wine, Save the Planet

cowI just read a great post on It told me that some clever researcher has discovered that cows who eat winemaking residue (such as crushed up skins and seeds) are happier, healthier, and pass less gas.

Yes, someone found a way to measure cow flatulence (I can’t wrap my head around that one) and were able to determine that happy wine-junk-eating cows pump less gas into the atmosphere. And since an ordinary cow’s typical CO2 production is equal to an automobile’s (imagine that!), then feeding grape junk to cows is as good as car pooling for cleaning up the environment.


I know we’re all looking for ways to save our planet, so isn’t it GREAT that DRINKING MORE WINE has been added to the list? Now you can sip away all evening, knowing that the more you drink, the more new wine will be needed to meet increasing demand. And that creates more wine-grape-junk to feed to all those happy cows.

Check this article out for yourself: it’s a feel-good read.

Cows, the popular bovines behind beloved wine accompaniments steak and cheese, may get fit from wine just like humans do, a new agricultural nutrition study shows. Cows in Australia were fed about 11 pounds of grape pomace, or marc—the skins, seeds and stems usually repurposed after winemaking for brandy production, or tossed in the refuse bin—along with their usual cuisine of cow food, for 37 days. Some of the winemaking leftovers were consumed in pellet form and some were scraped right out of the vat, retaining their pleasing winey smell for the animals. Compared to the dairy cows that only ate hay and bugs or whatever, the wine waste bovines improved, at least for our purposes, in three ways: They produced 5 percent more milk, that milk was higher in anti-oxidants and fatty acids (that’s a good thing) and, perhaps best of all, the cows’ methane emissions were reduced by 20 percent. Cows, you see, have four stomachs, and when they get gassy after a big meal, entire ecosystems cry out with great lamentation: A cow annually spews as much greenhouse gas as a car does. So drink up—tonight’s wine might make tomorrow morning’s milk cheaper, better for you and better for the planet. —


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Passion You Can Taste: Elena Brooks’ Dandelion Riesling

elenaElena Brooks doesn’t look like all the other winemakers at the crowded trade tasting. Gender aside, she’s certainly the most animated winemaker, smiling broadly and gesturing for emphasis.

Elena is an Australian winemaker by way of Bulgaria. And oh yeah, she’s a Spanish winemaker, too. Confused?

Elena Golakova grew up in Bulgaria, where her mother worked in the library of their local state-owned winery. Elena’s passion must have started there, and it took her to Australia, where she studied Enology and learned winemaking.dande

When we met her, she had a bottle of Dandelion 2010 Riesling in her hand, which was getting flung about dangerously as she talked with her hands. It’s not often you see the ubiquitous weed on a wine bottle (like, never), so we were intrigued. Stranger yet, the wine’s full name is “Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling.” Quite a mouthful. But since I’m always happy to taste anything Australian, we short-stopped the bottle long enough to grab a glass.

It opened with a classic aromatic Riesling nose — classic for Germany, that is. There was that hint of petroleum with bright apple and pear fruit, and a hint of minerality — like all good cool-climate Riesling.


Wow - a 100-year-old Riesling vine.

The palate showed the same snappy, tangy fruit flavors, suggesting pears, tangerines, and maybe a touch of honey. There was body here, but again, the classic acid supported it all. Dry, crisp and clean, this Riesling would be a great food pairing wine.

So I checked out Elena’s Dandelion Vineyards and discovered that Eden Valley is a cool-climate growing region. The fruit for this wine comes from 100-year-old Riesling vineyards. Those are some serious Old Vines. And the bunches for Dandelion’s Riesling are chosen virtually one at a time to ensure perfect ripeness and varietal correctness.

That’s a central part of Elena’s philosophy: she wants “to capture variety, vintage and vineyard.” Once the grapes are picked, she stays out of their way as much as possible, letting the terroir and fruit come through. With this terroir, that means acid, minerals, and crisp, tangy fruit.

This will age like a classic European Riesling, too. But why wait? I’d pop a bottle now as an aperitif or with some killer spicy Thai Coconut Curry. Yum for the wine, Yum for the food, and Yum for the pairing.

Thanks to Elena for making it possible. Cheers!


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Drink To Your Health, Ladies — Really

womanThere’s more good news for women who enjoy wine: moderate consumption can lower your risk of suffering from diabetes by as much as 37%. Wow — that’s not just a drop in the (wine ) bucket. And it’s a really big deal when you consider that the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (the type that adults get) has increased a whopping 60% in the last 20 years.

I read about this research in a recent article on Wine The study identified five low-risk lifestyle factors, including moderate wine consumption, and set out to track how each of them affected the eventual occurrence of diabetes.

First of all, let me just say “Yeah!” that wine drinking has now gotten the nod from the health gurus. Well, not all wine consumption — just the moderate kind, defined by the researchers as “half a glass to one drink daily for women and up to two drinks daily for men.”

Hmmm… I sure consume more than half a glass a day. I mean, what’s the point of opening a nice bottle of wine just to sip a few ounces? Is that all I have to look forward to in my old age? Limiting myself to half a glass daily?

Well, speaking of old age, there’s a good story there, too. A Harvard University study found that moderate alcohol use during midlife was associated with healthier aging in women.

Hey, that’s great too, especially if “healthy aging” means less wrinkling, less sagging, and generally less, well, aging.

That’s probably too much to hope for, right? But when we drink wine we can at least enjoy the plain old fun of enjoying good food and wine with good friends and family. I’m all for that. Cheers!

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