Monday, July 28, 2008

Pass The Polenta

Polenta, was once a peasant dish and is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal. It is often cooked in a huge copper pot, known in Italian as a paiolo. The most famous northern Italian polenta dishes are cooked with various cheeses and topped with mushrooms, various meats, pasta sauce or vegetables. Cooled and hardened, polenta can be sliced, sauteed, or grilled. You can also create a layered polenta torta, similar to lasagna.

The difference between grits, a staple in the Southern U.S., and polenta, is that grits are usually made from more coarsely ground kernels. In Mexico, maize and hominy are commonly used and in Brazil they use a variety known as angu.

Growing up, we would sometimes have a fried, hardened cornmeal mush topped with syrup for breakfast. It was good, really!

Tonight, we opened a 2005 Thomas Halby Sauvignon Blanc to serve with our fish in Italian stewed tomatoes, onion and garlic and polenta with a cremini mushroom ragout. Sourced from Napa Valley, there was a distinct difference from grapes of this varietal grown in New Zealand. The aromas were of ripe fruit instead of grassy or grapefruit-like with more of a medium body.

In 1983, Tomas Halby started Halby Marketing, Inc., just off the square in the town of Sonoma. One of the investors was the infamous Jess Jackson and the company's first client was a small, then unknown Lake County winery called Kendall-Jackson. After forty years in the wine business, Tom has put his own name on the label. He has personally selected premium California and international wines that he is proud to call his own. From the elegant packaging, to the rich tasting wines inside, the quality is evident throughout. No matter which wine you choose, Thomas Halby Winery always represents great values.

Play around with polenta!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It Was A Long Cool Bottle

The Eroica label is the joint venture of two great winemakers, Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle Estates and Ernst Loosen of Dr. Loosen Estates. Named for Beethoven's Third Symphony, it is an excellent example of mixing both Old World and New World technique and philosophy...a lively, bold, sumptuous wine.

Vineyards in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley along with 24% of Riesling grapes from the Horse Heaven Vineyard in the Columbia Valley contributed to the final blend.

Eroica delivers a unique combination of tangerine aromas characteristic of Washington state Riesling, melded with the mineral and slate notes and lively, crisp acidity associated with German Riesling. The 2004 vintage continues toward the Germanic style with added complexity and refinement.”--Bob Bertheau, Winemaker

Upon opening this bottle, we realized that it still had potential for aging, due to the wine's structure. Structure is the interplay of fruit, acid, alcohol and tannins. When they are nicely matched and balanced a wine is called ‘well integrated’.

As the Hollies sang:

"She was a long cool woman in a black dress" (actually it was a long green bottle)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lousy Louse

Just some silly alliteration or a "super bug"?

Phylloxera ("Fil-LOX-eh-rah") is a root-gobbling aphid that was accidentally exported to France in a shipment of American grapevines in 1862 and spread so quickly that it all but wiped out Europe's vineyards within a generation. It kills he vines by eating their roots so growers began grafting European grapevines (Vitis vinifera) to American root stocks, and the industry was saved.

Thanks to its protected location in a narrow strip between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the aphid has never reached the main growing regions in Chile. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are grown on original, ungrafted roots, producing wines with intense flavors and authentic varietal character.

Want something "original"? Try a Chilean wine this weekend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It Comes From A Land Down Under

No, not Australia, (ala Men at Work) but rather a wine from Chile.

Tonight, we enjoyed our second bottle of the 2006 Kono Baru Unwooded Chardonnay. It will not knock your socks off, but the nice tropical fruit and mineral quality make it a perfect pick for your summer party. The wine retails for $10 to $12 and paired well with grilled chicken with a pasta and pesto side dish.

It comes to from the Valle Central Region where the combination of the proximity of the Andes and the Pacific Ocean create a micro-climate that is "ripe" for fine wine growing.

Look for the upside down label and leave the "vegemite" on the shelf.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday Sipper

Yesterday, we opened a bottle of the 2005 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz-Viognier Blend. The aromas were of violets and sweet berry fruits. The palate was fresh with black currant and licorice with a silky texture and fine tannin finish.

A recent article in the Wine Spectator newsletter reports that a glass a day could also have additional health benefits. Resveratrol, the chemical compound found in red wine, can limit obesity by preventing the development of fat cells. It shows potential as a fat-fighting supplement, by both preventing weight gain and stopping some of the health problems caused by obesity. It reduces the cells' production of certain proteins linked to the development of obesity-related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and clogged arteries. Furthermore, the resveratrol stimulated the production of a metabolism-regulating protein, called adiponectin, which decreases the risk of heart attack.

Enough reasons to enjoy a glass today.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dinner Out

It has been many moons since we treated ourselves to a dinner out. Thanks to good friends, a favor and a gift certificate, we thoroughly enjoyed this Monday evening.

We chose a Chenin Blanc-Viognier blend from Oakville, CA to pair with our two entrees of Shrimp Pad Thai and Lemon- grass marinated Pork Tenderloin with a Red Chili Sauce. The thrill was discovering that I can replicate these dishes at home.

Thanks Andrea and Todd for your generous gift!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Expecting The Unexpected

Ever since my childhood, I have had a love/hate relationship with July 4th firework displays. The roman candles made me "ooh" but the cherry bombs that follow dampened the overall enjoyment.

This year, we chose to make a simple meal with unexpected ingredients and serve it with a white wine from a producer who is known as the "King of Beaujolais".

We paired shrimp with scallions, garlic, roasted red peppers and topped it with feta cheese. For a side dish, we made couscous with tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and lemon juice. The wine was a NV Cuvee Blanc from Duboeuf. The label told us to expect a dry wine with hints of white flowers, hazelnuts and honey. There was more grapefruit (from the Sauvignon Blanc) in this blend than honey.

In the 1950's Georges Duboeuf began selling wine from his home in the Maconnais, just north of Beaujolais. Beaujolais occupies an area 30 miles long and 8 miles wide in the southernmost part of Burgundy with Macon to the north and the Rhone to the south. Lyon, the third largest city in France after Paris and Marseilles, is a half hour south. Beaujolais is very hilly and its latitude is similar to that of Portland, Oregon. One third of the area (55,000 acres) is covered by vineyards with the granite soil in the northern vineyards that give aromas of ripe fruit and faded roses. The clay soil in the south impart aromas that remind many of red fruits. 98% of the vineyards are planted in Gamay with 2% in Chardonnay, which is used in the small production of Beaujolais Blanc.

Today Duboeuf sells Macon-Villages, Saint-Veran and his first wine- Pouilly Fuisse. From the Cotes du Rhone (northern Rhone just south of Lyon to the southern Rhone near Avignon) come the Cotes du Rhone red and white, Cote Rotie, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Gigondas, Saint Joseph, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cotes du Ventoux, Cotes du Luberon and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.

His grape varieties including Merlot, Syrah, Viognier, Gamay and Sauvignon Blanc that come from the Vin de Pays D'Oc in south-central France, on the Mediterranean, the largest wine region in the world. His Loire wines come from Vin De Pay Du Jardin De La France and finally there are the Georges Duboeuf Cuvee red and white table wines.

Georges has organized his wines into several categories, including the flower Label which is blended from co-ops and growers including Beaujolais, the Crus, Macon and the classic varieties. The Prestige Label is from the oldest vineyards, with the best plant exposure and limited yields whose wines include: Julienas, Brouilly, Morgan, Fleurie, Moulin-A-Vent, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pouilly Fuisse.

Whether sipping a chilled glass before dinner or with some Mediterranean cuisine, try something unexpected, like the Cuvee Blanc.