The Lovely Sauvignon Blanc

When it comes to white wine, the choices are varied and vast: sweet Riesling, light Pinot Grigio, spicy Chardonnay, aromatic Gewürztraminer, etc. I’m a fan of them all but there is one that consistently has a place in my top ten – the lovely Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc’s origin is from the Bordeaux region in France where it is typically blended with Semillon. Head up north to the Loire Valley and you’ll find Sancerre, the most famous Sauvignon Blanc of the region.  In California,  Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes referred to as Fumé Blanc. Robert Mondavi came up with this term in the late 1960’s after barrel aging Sauvignon Blanc to improve the negative reputation of the wine.

Light, fresh and intended to be consumed young, Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with shellfish, such as crabs, oysters, and mussels. It is also a quintessential pairing for chèvre.

An outstanding characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc is it’s grassy component. It literally shares the same chemical compound found in freshly mowed grass. This peculiar feature may be difficult for some to overcome but makes it easy to discern.

The tasting profile of Sauvignon Blanc varies greatly depending on the origin of the wine. French Sauvignon Blanc has citrus notes of lime and gooseberry with a good hit of minerality. Washington, California and Oregon Sauvignon Blanc have similar citrus notes with grapefruit and white peach showing up in the warmer climates. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has tropical flavors coming forth, like passion fruit and also has a dominant presence of pungent green capsicum (green pepper).

No specific recommendations this time because I have not met a Sauvignon Blanc I did not like. Grab one with a cool label, from your favorite appellation, or the right price. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

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Summer Whites

Summer is in full swing so it’s “legal” to wear white….and drink white wine! Okay, there’s no rule about white wine but it is a good excuse to start if you haven’t already!

There’s so much great white wine out there from light Pinot Gris to full body Chardonnay and plenty in-between.

LIGHT-BODIED white wines are known for their dry, refreshing flavors. They are intended to be enjoyed young while at their peak acidity and fruitiness. They’re the perfect accompaniment for warm, summer days, food optional. Some of the tastiest are Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Soave and Vermentino.

AROMATIC white wines are some of the most interesting. People either love ‘em or hate ‘em. They have distinct characteristics that set them apart and make them unique. As I’ve mentioned, I am not one to throw back a lot of wine. I am, however; one who likes a wide range of wines so this category is one I appreciate. These guys are highly perfumed often with sweet fruit aromas like guava and lychee. They have floral notes of rose, jasmine, honeysuckle, and geranium. They can even be peculiar with notes of beeswax and petroleum. Their descriptors can make them sound mostly sweet but they can also be very dry. Aromatic wines are the ones to drink if you’re eating Asian or Indian cuisine. Look for Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Torrontés.

FULL-BODIED whites are known for their rich, bold flavors. These fellas (I assume they are dudes, I guess) are often aged in oak barrels or on their lees (dead yeast cells) giving them creaminess and flavors of butter and vanilla. You are probably familiar with Chardonnay, but try branching out to a lush Viognier or a meaty Roussanne.

If none of these “WOW” you, there’s always sparkling wine…but that is a whole other post.

 

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Lauren Ashton New Releases!

 

I discovered Lauren Ashton Cellars while living in Washington state.  My husband, Joe, attended the Northwest Wine Academy and was in a class with Riinu Rammal who co-owns Lauren Ashton Cellars with her husband, Kit Singh.  A few weeks later, Joe and I topped off a date day with a visit to Lauren Ashton‘s tasting room in the Hollywood District of Woodinville where we became hooked on these fantastic wines.  Lauren Ashton focuses on traditional French style wines that reflect Washington terroir.  They have just released two pretty fabulous wines that I am delighted to share with you:

 

Cuvée Méline

 

A Bordeaux style white wine made up of 55% Semillon and 45% Sauvignon Blanc fermented like a white wine should, low and slow, in stainless steel tanks and neutral barrels.  Cuvée Méline shows a purposeful balance between high acidity and lushness with green apple, grapefruit, peach and green melon followed by an intriguing suggestion of fresh bread.  I paired this wine with sweet potato gnocchi and it was a cohesive, delicious duo.

 

Cuvée Arlette

Also Bordeaux inspired, from the Right Bank with a Merlot predominance, is Cuvée Arlette .  A blend of 59% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and a token of Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Cuvée Arlette is a dignified wine with aromas of dark fruits, spices and earthy minerals.  On the palate, flavors of black raspberry, black currant and black cherry with a sway to perfectly roasted coffee beans, warm baking spices and clay pot.  The finish lingers on the palate providing an elegant, pleasing culmination.

 

Bonus Review ~ Chenin Blanc

For the first time ever, Lauren Ashton has released a Chenin Blanc.  The wine is whole cluster pressed resulting in a high quality, refreshing wine with crisp acidity.  The aroma is fruity with a hint of mango and flavors of ripe Bartlett pear, yellow apple, and pineapple with undertones of honey and chalk.  I tasted this little lovely in the morning before eating, which I admit, is something I do often while my palate is most attentive.  It would pair well with Asian food or simple chicken and fish dishes.

Whether you are looking to stock a cellar, enjoy a bottle or two in the next few months, or polish off immediately, these are excellent wines worth considering.  Lauren Ashton distributes to many states as well as ships to any state without restrictions.  To order Lauren Ashton wines, click here.

 

 

As wineries occasionally do, Lauren Ashton sent the above wines to me.  I only promote wines I thoroughly enjoy since my name is essentially on them at the point of promotion.  As I state in my bio, "I am here to inspire you to treat yourself to great wine experiences as often as you possibly can!"  I recommend wines that, in my opinion, can create great wine experiences.

 

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Pairing Wine And Food

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A friend requested I write about pairing wine and food. I was somewhat hesitant because I felt the post would either become a dissertation or be so short it would barely clear a paragraph.

There are many avenues to take for pairing, from mandatory adherence to a strict set of rules to “Vinotyping” and taste bud count affecting how a person tastes (i.e. Why You Like The Wines You Like by Tim Hanni, MW).  I lean more towards the the later.  In my opinion, there is only one thing you need to know: drink what you like, like what you drink.  Choose a wine you enjoy and desire to drink with whatever it is you’re eating.  Conceding to pairing the alleged “appropriate” wine with food will not make the pairing better if it’s not speaking to you in the first place. It will however, make for an unpleasant dining experience.

Taste is personal but I believe there are parameters we generally share. Most people establish some level of tolerance for acidity and most people like sweet food. There are even a small percentage of people who cultivate a liking to bitterness. Accordingly, consider the following basic guidelines; use them as a starting off point then follow your own personal palate preferences:

BASIC WINE AND FOOD PAIRING GUIDELINES:

Intensity: match intensity of wine and food (i.e. light wine-light food, heavy food-heavy wine)

Spicy food: pair spicy food with high acid, off dry, medium-sweet wine – try brut Rosé, Albarino, Riesling, or fight fire with fire and pair with a high alcohol spicy wine like Syrah or Zinfandel

Fatty food: pair fatty food with a high acid wine like an Vinho Verde, unoaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, or a tannic red like Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo

Salty food: pair salty food with a high acid wine or wine with a bit of sweetness – try something sparkling like Champagne, a crisp Falanghina or a tawny port (think pretzels dipped in caramel)

Sweet food: pair sweet food with wine that has a high level of sweetness or fruitiness – try a late harvest wine, Ice wine, Moscato d’Asti, which has a slight effervescence, or for something fruity try a newer vintage Shiraz or Petite Sirah, these will probably be best for those dark chocolate pairings.

My ultimate advice is to acknowledge and embrace your individual tasting preferences. If you want Chardonnay with your steak and your friend prefers Cabernet Sauvignon…congratulations, you have both nailed your pairing!

~Drink what you like, like what you drink!~

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Farewell Summer Whites

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How can it be that summer is over! Kids are well into school, the days are shorter…and white wines are once again forgotten until next spring.

I have little prejudice when it comes to wine but I tend to drink white wine mostly during the warm months when the sun is shining and a chilled, crisp white is the perfect patio sipper.

So goodbye Chardonnay – I realize you’re the world’s most popular white grape variety but you can be fairly neutral. I mean you’re sometimes used as a blending grape! Time to move on from your apple, lemon, pineapple, starfruit and mango aromas even though you can be deliciously full bodied with buttery nuances and toasty notes when aged in oak barrels.

So long Sauvignon Blanc – Let’s face it, some people have never really cared for your aromas of grass and green pepper. I will remember you more for your grapefruit, melon and gooseberry. Oh, and the fact that you pair so well with so many foods.

Farewell Riesling – I’m guessing not as many people drink you even though I think you ROCK…and pair perfectly with spicy food. Your aromas of lime, apple, peach, apricot, honeycomb and jasmine will be missed.

Arrivederci Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris – I know, I know, your name means gray and it seems appropriate for you to be around for the impending gray skies but the weather will be too cold to enjoy your delicate, light bodied character. We’ve had enough of your aromas of apple, lemon, nectarine and saline (for the Pinot Grigio hanging out around the coasts of Italy). And you’re just too confusing being the same grape variety from different origins.

WAIT! There is no way I can go on hiatus until spring to enjoy these beauties again. In fact, I’m grabbing a Riesling at my favorite Thai restaurant tonight!

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Now That’s A Good Pairing!

Currently, I live in Hawaii and it is hot – especially in the late afternoon, say around 5-6pm when dinner preparation should be going down. Supposedly, I live on the “windward side” of the island but of late the winds have not been so forthcoming so I’m very interested in any recipe that does not include cranking up the oven.

This evening I decided to try a recipe I stumbled on through Facebook. It was originally published by Jennifer Fiedler of Wine Spectator utilizing the quintessential pairing of goat cheese and sauvignon blanc. Jennifer also included a tomato salad stating the wine stood up to the raw tomato. I’m not so sure my taste buds agreed so I’ll just focus on the sandwich which paired beautifully with the wine.

Jennifer suggested a high acid, citrusy sauvignon blanc but I didn’t do my homework before purchasing and ended up with a 2011 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand. In my opinion, it paired very nicely.

 

This is the perfect dinner if you’re looking for something simple, loaded with flavor and perfectly paired. It definitely put me in my happy place.

Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich
Servings: 2
1 zucchini
3 TB butter
2 pieces of flatbread
6 oz goat cheese
1/4 c. minced green olives (don’t be scared they add the perfect subtle tang)

~Using a vegetable peeler, slice long ribbons of zucchini lengthwise
~Split each flatbread into two slices (4 pieces total) and butter both sides
~For each sandwich, spread the goat cheese on the inside of each piece of bread.  On the bottom slice, spread 1/2 of the minced olives and a thin layer of zucchini. Cover with top slice.
~Heat a grill pan on medium-high heat on stove top. Place sandwiches in pan and press down using a can
~Cook until the butter has browned (around 2-3 minutes) and then flip carefully with a spatula
~Cook until the butter has browned on the second side and the interior is heated through
~Slice in half diagonally and serve immediately with a chilled sauvignon blanc of your choice.

Enjoy!

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Wow, That Is Absolutely Delicious!

I had no intention of stumbling on yet another great bottle of wine so soon after my infatuation with the Priorat red but tonight’s dinner wine has basically forced me to write about it.

The first sip flowed down with an over-whemingly refreshing zip that left me…..well, it simply left me stunned.  I hadn’t expected such a beautiful wine for a weekday meal.

This time it was a white – 2011 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.  I found this wine at a Whole Foods that opened today in my town (a direct gift from God!).  As I eyed the wine aisle for something that struck me this white jumped out because it was from New Zealand, Marlborough specifically, and Kim Crawford to be exact.  I knew I had heard of this winery for producing superb Sauvignon Blanc but had yet to try it.

You may or may not know that New Zealand is known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc and Marlborough, on the South Island, boasts growing about 85% of all the acres of Sauvignon Blanc for the country.  The Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand is generally of supreme quality and is distinct in that it exhibits combinations of tropical fruit, stone fruit, and grassiness to name a few.  Kim Crawford was no exception bursting with tropical fruit, especially passion fruit, citrus, fresh cut grass and delicious ripe stone fruit.

All I know is my first sip unexpectedly had me saying “Wow, that is absolutely delicious!”

 

photo by Joe V. Overstreet

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