Heaven is in Oregon

Image Courtesy of Angel Vine. Note, this is a more expensive bottle and probably also delicious.

2009 Angel Vine Columbia Valley Zinfandel. Holy Moses, literally this time. Apparently angels on the vine translate to pure heaven in a glass. For those of you who drink red wine in the summertime (you know who you are) I commend you for your commitment to health and antioxidants and recommend that you try this bottle immediately. Or a glass, or a bottle, which ever you want. It’s summertime, get on a roof and get drinking! If it’s as sweltering where you are as it is where I am, you may want to keep the bottle under the air conditioning though…yikes.

  While I was mosey-ing around the internet for information on the winery, I found this picture of Zinfandel grapes (on the left) and Pinot Noir grapes (on the right). Car keys on top. I’m not really sure what any of this means, but I thought it was an interesting picture.

Zinfandels are infamous for their less-expensive, White-Zinfandel manifestations. These grapes are fruity and sweet, and therefore can be bottled in some pretty awful tasting ways. A good Zinfandel, like this one here, is fruity and dry, a little sweet but not in a tastes-like-the-wine-from-church kind of way.

These wines are very much American, this was the most commonly planted grape in California before it was overtaken by the Cabernet Sauvignon. And I am telling you, this is a must-try bottle, I mean it. Be Patriotic. Drink Wine.

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Patio Drinking Must Have

I know I have been preaching rosé in the summertime, and now that it’s summertime, I am switching it up on you. Sort of, trust me, there are plenty of pink wines in my wine celler on the shelf in my house. But this white is just way too good to keep off your drinking patio.

Clean Slate Riesling. Get it in your glass. It’s not expensive and its beyond delicious. I can’t remember the last time I had a white wine (for this price especially) that was this good. That’s not true, there was one, but I can’t remember what it was. Which is really a non-issue unless I can remember it of course.

You may notice that the bottle in the picture is empty. But all I can say is…practice what you preach. It’s summer, I’m thirsty, I’m drinking it.

I’d love to hear what you think of this bottle! Let me know what your favorite summer beverage/bottle is!

Wine and Cheese Sitting in a Tree

If I could have two food items on a desert island they would be wine and cheese. Well if I had a refrigerator. Warmer-than-room temperature cheese is not so great. The point is that I love Wine and Cheese. After leaving a wine and cheese party, I usually weigh twice as much as when I went in, and oh man, I am just in the best mood.

But why is it that they go so well together? And what happens when they don’t? Why is a Sauternes incomplete without a Roquefort? (For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, you need to get familiar. For those of you with limited funds, try this almost-Sauternes which I may go buy right now).

First of all, how to pair a wine and cheese. Like most wine pairings, it comes down to balance. You want a pairing that complements, or accentuates flavors without overwhelming. This means you can go a couple of ways with your pairings. You could pair a spicy cheese or meal with a big spicy wine. You could pair a sweeter cheese with a sweeter white wine, to really highlight the fruity, sweet elements of each. On the other hand, you can go the blue cheese/dessert wine route and pair something salty and rich with a sweet, syrupy wine. Similarly, a rich, buttery cheese might do well with a wine with a lot of tannins to provide some contrast.

How do you know when you have done it wrong? Has anyone ever brushed their teeth and then had some orange juice? So wrong. Similarly, if you have the two together, but really only get to experience one of the two flavors, you need something with a little more balance. Balance, balance, balance…. Come here let me coach you. (Yes I am currently listening to Top 40 Hip-Hop)

Here is how to find whether a pairing is good or bad (finding the balance):

  • Begin by tasting each separate item. Taste the cheese, wait a minute and really get a sense of the flavors. Do the same with the wine. You can repeat this step over-and-over, and if you eat the whole block of cheese and drink the bottle of wine, odds are it was delicious. Congratulations.
  • Put a small morsel of cheese in your mouth, and let it rest on your tongue, or press it near the back of your teeth. Then take a small sip of wine so that both elements are combined in your mouth at the same time.
  • A good pairing will taste the same…and different. Certain elements may be amplified, others may mellow, but you “should” get a sort of harmonious flavor out of the combination. I have had wines that I did not like without cheese, but once paired were incredible.
  • A bad pairing will taste bad (don’t tell food snobs I said that). The flavors will battle, or one element will be completely overwhelmed by the other. Toothpaste and orange juice.

If anyone doubts my dessert wine–blue cheese combo (which seriously don’t doubt) here are some other combos to try.

Cheddar Cheese: Try a dry white, like a German Gewürztraminer, or a creamy Pinot Blanc (ask for a flavorful bottle, some of these can be bland). For reds, try a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon from California, or a Pinot Noir from Burgundy (a Bourgogne in French).

Parmegiano-Reggiano: Try an Italian wine with this Italian cheese. Nebbiolos are big, Italian reds, which often originate in Piedmont. A smaller Sangiovese may also go well with Parmigiano. A California Merlot is also a good bet.

Camembert: For whites, try a Chardonnay from Burgundy which is less oaky than those from California. A Sauvignon Blanc. For red, try a California Zinfandel.

Mimolette: For those of you who don’t know this cheese, get familiar. It’s a hard, bright orange cheese Its nutty, sweet, and salty. Kind of caramel-ly or butterscotch-y. I just came across an article that recommended a “Carignan” grape, which I know is quite common, but I’m not sure I have had it. Let’s all learn something. In the alternative go for this-site’s favorite, a Malbec.

What I am Drinking This Wednesday Night

I have to be honest. I am not drinking anything this Wednesday night.

I spent yesterday evening at Korean Barbeque with Kirin and Sake, wandered into a bar and found friends who weren’t drinking and then horribly embarassed myself with my terrible foosball, and drunken antics. My roommate informed us that we fell asleep with the Oxygen channel on full-volume, and I have been trying to eat my way through my hangover all day.

But if I was drinking, I would be drinking this: 2009 Uppercut Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)

This is a bottle I received from the Urban Sampler, put together by Urban Grape. The best, coolest wine store in all of Boston I swear. T.J. at Urban Grape puts together a monthly four-pack ($50). It is always such a good deal, I think this bottle of Cabernet usually sells for $25 on its own, and it is such a fun way to discover new wines.

Last month, I had a white burgandy that smelled like Cotton-Candy and tasted like butter. It was absolutely incredible.

This bottle was actually recommended to me last month, and I can’t wait to try it. See what Urban Grape has to say about it here. If something changes and I open it tonight, I will update accordingly. Otherwise, go to Urban Grape in Chestnut Hill, you will be so happy that you did!

Wine Tasting for Normal Humans

My friend Brandon told me how he used to sell expensive bottles of wine when he was a waiter. He would say, “It’s dry and full-bodied, but with a light, fruity flavor that goes down very smoothly.” “Oh how complex and wonderful,” his patrons would say. He giggled because he was only 19 and had no idea what he was talking about.

Wine tasting can be intimidating. There is smelling, sipping, swishing, spitting, smelling, all before you get to have a real drink. It’s actually interesting to do at home, and it certainly is a valuable exercise in developing a taste for wine. But, most often, you get a glass of wine and you drink it. And then you get another…

The truth is, wine tasting is not as complicated nor as confusing as it seems to be at first. Plus, the more you drink the more you learn. In fact, I read that the ideal time to taste wine is in the late morning when your taste buds are the most sensitive. All the more reason that I should be in the food & wine industry. I could drink professionally in the late morning no problem, and I love learning-by-doing.

Obviously not during late morning...

Here is the thing: You want to be serious about this, but you also don’t want to be the guy/girl in khaki pants smelling the cork and spitting wine into your water-glass, and then saying “Oh marvelous, it’s a medium, light, full-bodied wine.” Quick advice: If you don’t know what to say about a wine, just say “Wow.” Then wait to see what other people say. You can go with the “Wow, unexpectedly delicious,” or “Wow, who would drink this.”

So find below some basic wine tasting terms and what they mean in real life: 

  1. Smell/Nose/Aroma/Bouquet: In terms of wine tasting, these terms all generally mean the same thing–the sensation of smelling the wine. Practically, aroma relates more to the smell of the grapes and bouquet speaks more to the “wine” itself, or the result of fermentation and bottling. Any of you who know the difference between trash on day 1 and trash on day 5 might understand the difference. Gosh, what is it with me and the foot and trash and food combination, gross!
  2. Body: This is the weight of the wine in your mouth. Think of the difference between water and milk, or syrup. Full-bodied wines will coat your mouth and throat like syrup or cream, while light-bodied wines will disappear after you swallow, like water or skim-milk.
  3. Flavor: Technically, this falls into one of four categories: Sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. But there is potentially a fifth one, Umami, which is Japanese for “savory” and can be found in things like soy sauce, mushrooms, anchovies, and parmesan cheese. Some standard ways of describing the flavors of White Wines are: buttery, fruity, flowery, earthy (think stone, straw, minerals and other things you would only taste if you fell down), and nutty (almond, hazelnut). Some common Red Wine flavors are: fruity (more berries on this side), chocolate, spice (pepper, cinnamon, clove), earthy (think falling down somewhere wet, moss, soil), vegetables (mushrooms, olives, truffle).
  4. Finish: This is the lasting sensation that the wine leaves with you after you swallow. This can be in your nose and in your mouth. One way to test the finish is to swallow, and then breathe out through your nose. A long finish means you will still feel the smell and taste of the wine, a short finish means you will be left with very little flavor or aroma. Typically, a long finish that is “balanced” or not overwhelmingly one of the sensations indicates a higher quality wine. Be careful here: On the one hand, you want to pick a higher quality wine, on the other hand, you don’t want to be the guy breathing wine out of his nose and then saying “Oh the finish, what a long finish.”

After that, it’s all up to you. Drink what you like, drink what you don’t (just drink it faster). Don’t let anyone intimidate you. There is nothing to say that an expensive, or full-bodied wine is necessarily high-quality. Try to learn, and describe the flavors and you will be amazed what you can taste.

Lastly, I am aware that based on some of the phrasing I used in this post, it is only appropriate to end with Brass Slammer  Lincoln Log  Princess Sophia  Blue-Veined Junket Pumper  Richard Johnson  Ralph the Fur Faced Chicken  Harry and the Hendersons  Russell the Love Muscle you guys are gross, and yes I googled those. Look at what you made me into…