Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sparkling Wine, Lobster, & Carmeggedon

We live in Los Angeles, the City of Angels. It is the second most populous city in the US and a world center for business. It is home to celebrities, top notch universities, Hollywood and a few wineries, too. And this weekend they have shut down the 405 freeway which runs right through Los Angeles. Although the nickname Carmeggedon was given in anticipation of how horribly impactful this would be to every citizen in South California, it turns out to be over rated. So far, the freeways are moving and people are getting where they want to go. We prepared for the worst (or the best depending on how you look at it) and are now reconsidering our plans to just stay home all weekend. However, we did pick up some lobster and sparkling wine to ensure if things got bad, we could still dine like kings and queens.

Lobster is one of those foods that is oh so good and oh so expensive in restaurants. It is a scary thing to pick one out at the store and decide to take it home and cook it yourself for the first time. But turns out, like Carmeggedon, it’s a little over rated (the scariness of it all!) It can be boiled, sautéed or barbequed just as easy as shrimp. Depending on the preparation and what you serve it with, there can be a few different pairing options that will work. If you spice it up a bit, you may want to pair it with something on the sweeter side like a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. A buttery Chardonnay would go great with a boiled lobster. But because it is summer, we decided to barbeque again.

We pulled out a Brut (dry) sparkling wine that was recently recommended to me called Domaine de Leon. Brut is not the driest of all sparkling wines but contains less than 12 grams of sugar per liter. It is a new world wine “from the foothills of the Andes” out of Mendoza, Argentina. It blends two varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which are the two classic varietals used in sparkling wines. The bubbles are small and they continued as we enjoyed the glass. The wine’s crispness and hint of green apple pairs well with the lobster meat’s sweet flavor. It appeals to all senses and this combination is one your friends won’t soon forget.  So if you can get up the nerve, this combination is one I recommend if trying to impress someone or you just want to have a fancy night in.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot day, Riesling & BBQ Shrimp

It is hot across the Southern US today from Orlando, Florida to Phoenix, Arizona, from Austin, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada.  At the end of a long day of work, what better to sit back, put up your feet with a fan blowing a cool breeze and sipping on a nice glass of wine?  That’s right, I said wine!  There is a wine for every occasion and on a hot day, why not try a crisp, sweet Riesling to refresh you? 

If you are unfamiliar with brands, I can assure you that most mid level restaurants will feature Chateau Ste. Michelle by the bottle and glass.  It is a great example of a Riesling with a nice hint of peach.  This winery is located in Washington; a bottle from the store runs about $10 all the way up to $35 for their late harvest – even sweeter! 

If you are in the mood to be a little more adventurous, why not head over to the BevMo 5cent sale and pick up a couple different types to try.  Pac Rim and Cresta Blanca are two California Rieslings featured in the sale and seem to have some great reviews.  If you try them, please let me know what you think!

Lastly, if you are on a budget, pick up a bottle of Liebfraumilch at Trader Joe’s for less than $5.  It uses at least 70% Riesling, Silvaner or Müller-Thurgau grapes and is delicious!  We used this for my bridal shower 6 years ago in August and have been enjoying it with friends ever since!

Spicy foods pair great with sweet wines.  If you want to try one of the Rieslings mentioned above, I recommend throwing some shrimp on the BBQ!  Use a slightly spicy BBQ sauce and serve with some rice.  Presto you have an excellent meal.  Wine serves as an aperitif and dessert.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pinot Grigio, Salmon, & July 4th

In anticipation of the Fourth of July, I wanted to talk about a great way to kickoff the holiday. Most people would grab an ice cold beer as they BBQ burgers and dogs by the pool. I, however, would recommend throwing some seafood on the BBQ to class it up and enjoy along with it a glass of crisp Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio. (This is the same varietal - French or Italian respectively.)  The great thing is this wine is light enough to stand on its own, so I will typically have a glass while we prepare the food and another with dinner.

This is not likely the first thing to come out of a typical wine connoisseur’s mouth, but I think this wine can be enjoyed in this setting. Especially if you decide that Salmon is your meat of choice! I like pairing it with some grilled Asparagus and a cold pasta salad with fresh tomatoes, black olives and a light balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  If you are new to wine, you may want to try Ecco Domani. They serve a very classic Pinot Grigio that has flavors of green apple with hints of citrus, and it can be found at almost any grocery store. Another Pinot Grigio that is made close to me geographical, but I have yet to try, although I’ve heard is very good and affordable, is from Alisos Vineyard at Palmina Winery. If you decide to give it a try, please send us your tasting notes and thoughts.

Good luck planning your 4th of July celebration!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Syrah, BBQ & A-Team re-runs...

You’re likely asking yourself – “What could be better?” or simply, “What!?!?”

After a day of BBQing Chicken and Tri-tip poolside and enjoying another fabulous Southern California summer day, we headed inside for some casual conversation and a glass or three of wine. We started with 2005 Savant by Justin Vineyard & Winery located in Paso Robles. This wine is a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It wasn’t as big/bold as a Cabernet can be. In fact, it was quite drinkable on its own with no food. It was so good, when I went online to order a bottle, the normal bottle was sold out (however, you can order a 1.5L bottle if you have a group dinner.)

We were munching on some chips and a veggie tray as we hung out. Our conversation turned to recent movie releases…and ended up with the DVD set of the old A-team shows being turned on. Random Trivia: How many people are ever killed during one of their classic shooting scenes? (answer: Zero!)

Our next bottle was a Francis Coppola, Diamond Collection, Green Label Syrah-Shiraz. Is the title long enough? (BTW, Syrah = Shiraz. It’s the same grape, but they are French and Australian respectively.) This wine also comes from Central California, but the grapes are grown from Paso Robles to Monterey. The dark berries were evident on the nose and on the mouth, and it was yet another cocktail party sipper. We enjoyed it as we finished the first episode and then were on to some dessert, bottle #3 and A-Team episode #2.

Our last bottle of the evening was surprise - a Shiraz. This Australian bottle had a screw top - easy to open with a simple twist of the wrist. Chasing Clouds was nothing to write about. A fairly plain Shiraz that was boring when compared to the other two. However, if you are having a pizza party with non wine enthusiasts, it is inexpensive and drinkable.

All in all, it was a fun, casual evening.

Have you tried any of the wines mentioned or another Syrah that you loved?  Let us know more about them in the Comments!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Introduction: Wine, Food & Fun

A little bit about me...

I graduated with a degree in hotel & resturant management and worked as a restaurant manager for 5 years.  In school, I studied in Europe and completed a couple courses overseas including one on food & beverage pairing (both beer & wine were discussed!)  I also wrote a 40 page research paper on this, but I promise not to bore you with the details.  A couple months after my 24th birthday and after studying for a year, I became a level one Sommelier.  Since then, I have written wine lists for both casual and fine dining restaurant locations as well as helped organize and run a food & wine festival.  I have also done a bit of traveling to wine country and tasted wines right where they are made. 

A little bit about my blog...

As I write my blogs, I will offer up suggesions on different wines I've tasted as well as food & wine pairings that are A-mazing.  Typically I will write in the format of the type of wine consumed, the type of food consumed, and the type of fun we had!  Hopefully you will be able to try them out for yourselves, make other combinations and offer up additional suggestions & changes that may improve on the fun even more! 

I will also offer up suggestions of things I haven't yet tried in the hopes that as a community, we can try them out together and tell everyone what you think.  After all, wine tasting notes are better and more complete when a group is compiling them! 

I drink wine because I believe it can enhance an experience or maybe it's because I'm half Italian, so it's in my blood.  Either way, let's get to it!