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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For The Love Of Falanghina!

Thanks to my former role as military spouse, I spent 3 years living in Naples, Italy. I loved living there – the food, the culture, the wine….oh the wine!

While indulging in the Italian experience, I developed an infatuation for Italian wine. Like many European countries, eating and drinking local is daily life in Italy; thus, I spent many days drinking the local wine.  Unfortunately, that encompassed brief encounters with “landlord wine” (loosely translated, wet gym socks wrung into a wine bottle) – just to be clear, only brief encounters because I also had good landlord wine.  I had the privilege of drinking exceptional local wine from the ancient, indigenous grapes of the region. One of the wines I grew especially fond of was Falanghina, a refreshing white wine with classic flavors of green apple, pear, citrus, and depending where it is grown, pineapple, floral, spice and/or mineral notes.

I always say “drink what you like, like what you drink” but in general agree with the saying, if you want a good pairing, pair wine and food from the same region. In fact, I would say that’s how I first fell in love with Falanghina, but have learned this wine just seems to go well with most any food.  Seriously, I’ve had success pairing Falanghina with anything from Super Bowl junk food to gourmet artisanal salted dark chocolate.

When I moved from Italy it was with a heavy heart for many reasons.  One being that I thought it would be hard to find Falanghina.  Thankfully, Falanghina has been in my wine glass pretty much whenever I’ve wanted it, from sipping on it reminiscing about my days in bella Italia to pairing it with a pile of nachos.

 

 

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Farewell Summer Whites

winesnoqualmiechardonnay

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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Oh My Goodness! It’s National Drink Wine Day!

 

Today is Drink Wine Day!  Pop the cork and enjoy a refreshing glass of Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot, Shiraz, or Zinfandel in honor of the occasion!  People have been producing wine since at least 6000 B.C.  There are dozens of ancient legends about humans who accidentally consumed fermented grapes and became intoxicated, which is probably how wine was first conceived.  Eventually, people began experimenting with the fermentation process.  The methods for making wine spread from the region of Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Spain, and eventually the New World.  Today, over 20 million acres of the earth’s surface are dedicated to growing grapes for wine.
source:  http://www.punchbowl.com/holidays/drink-wine-day
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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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Official Wines of the Olympics

This Olympics is epic in that it is the first time in history the games have their own official wine.  UK wine merchant Bibendum was given the job of selecting the wines – a white, a rose and a red.   The decision making didn’t come without controversy as the commercial director insisted the wines be from the 2012 vintage to avoid having confusion of the vintage date and 2012 Olympic date both on the bottle.  In addition, since the wines would be available in event areas, they had to be contained in recyclable PET bottles and the alcohol level had to be lower than normal to promote responsible drinking (11.5% instead of around 13%).

To make the deadline, the wines had to be from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere and the grapes had to be picked early by a couple of weeks.  For the white that meant the potential of too much acidity and green flavors.  To overcome this winemakers fermented the wine with yeast strains from sauvignon blanc to enhance the aromatics knowing full well the wine would be drunk soon, age-worthiness not being a factor.

So what wines made the cut?  The white and rose are from Stellenrust, the largest Fair-trade wine estate in South Africa located in the oldest, most respected region of Stellenbosch.  The white is a Chenin Blanc that is easy drinking with tropical notes and just a hint of acidity.  The rose is a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz and Merlot.

The red is from Seival Estate in Brazil, a nod to the 2016 Olympics.  It’s a blend of Shiraz and Tempranillo with a dash of Gamay Nouveau to keep the otherwise earthy wine vibrant and lively.

If I were lucky enough to be at the Olympics, I’d have the white while watching beach volleyball, the rose while watching swimming and the red while cheering on the gymnasts.

Go Team USA!

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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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Secrets to Italian Wine

After living in Italy for 3 years and learning as much as I could about Italian wine I figured out a few keys that may be helpful for people trying to unlock the secrets to Italian wine and find something really good to drink.

It was an arduous task…tasting, traveling and conversing but I was able to work through it and set up a delectable nearly 500 bottle wine collection. So let me fill you in on a few important keys to consider when purchasing Italian wine.

Inexpensive Is Good

Now don’t get me wrong there are hundreds of delicious bottles of Brunello di Montalcinos, Amarones, Barolos and Barbarescos in the Italian wine market but if the recession is catching up with you do not despair – your days of craving complex, bold, beautiful Italian wine will not have to come to an end.  The wonderful thing about Italian wine is there are many that cost sub $20 and are really rather lovely.  For example, if you like the spice of Zinfandel – try a Primitivo from Puglia or if you prefer Sauvignon Blanc – try a Greco di Tufo or Fiano di Avellino from Campania.

Don’t Let Classification Fool You

In the states American wine classification is not as widely prominent as for European wines which deem their classifications quite important.  The whole classification system could take pages to explain so let me just briefly give you the guidelines for the Italian classification system (which is designated on the wine bottle).

The system has a 4 tier structure which labels the lowest level as basic table wine (VdT or vino da tavola), the next higher level as wine having a specific geographic indication (IGT or indicazione geografica tipica), the third highest level being DOC (denominazione di originie controllata) meaning it not only grows vineyards in a specific geographical area but follows several other quality control guidelines and the final and highest level DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita) means the wine is not only controlled it is also guaranteed.  This designation is usually set for the historical wines of the country.

For you visual folks out there it looks like this:

I’m giving you the wine pyramid basically to tell you to toss it out the window when buying Italian wine.  Why?  Have you ever heard of Super Tuscan wines?  These are highly regarded wines yet they are not DOCG or even DOC wines – they dwell on the second to the lowest level of the wine pyramid as IGT wines.  So don’t be fooled there are many excellent Italian wines with the IGT or even the VdT classification that could blow your socks off.

Plan A Trip

I am sure many of you would kill for a trip to Italy and let me encourage you to try to make that become a reality but not just because of it’s historical claim or the great food.  The real key to finding great Italian wine is in visiting the country.  Not only because there are hundreds of small family run wineries that don’t import any of their fabulous wine but also because if you go over there and drive up to one of these small wineries, you take with you not only some fabulous wine but probably a full belly, a new friend and a memory that can’t be beat!

Pyramid: www.iwinealot.blogspot.com

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Remembering Jess Jackson

Jess Jackson who built a wine empire around Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay died in Sonoma County yesterday at the age of 81.  Jackson reportedly had been undergoing treatment for melanoma for several years.  He was a self-made billionaire and one of the most influential and controversial producers in the United States.

A big loss for the world-wide wine industry and a void in Sonoma County.

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Who Knew…A Shoe!

Now here is an interesting way to open a bottle of wine (complements of YouTube – who else)!

I was just curious enough to try this myself.  After studying the video I gave it a try but my bottle just wouldn’t open.  I thought maybe for some peculiar reason it was because I was trying to open a white wine. So I went back to my wine stash and this time grabbed not only a red, but a French red thinking maybe the French bottle their wine specifically so it can be opened with a shoe.  Maybe they often have reason to use their shoe instead of a simply adequate wine opener.  After this attempt, I was left in the same place I was after attempting to open the white wine…only now I have two bottles of wine who have lost their foil and are waiting to be uncorked.  If you succeed, please tell me your secret.

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