Friday, January 30, 2009

ABC- Anything But Chardonnay

For those of us who have deserted an oak-y Chardonnay, Viognier is the new white wine star. The origin of the Viognier grape is unknown. Most experts agree that it may have been brought to the Rhône by the Romans. It can be a difficult grape to grow and is prone to powdery mildew. When fully ripe the grapes have a deep yellow color and produce wine with a strong perfume.

Viognier wines are well-known for their floral aromas, due to terpenes. These primary constituents of essential oils are found in many types of plants and flowers allowing Viognier to pair well with spicy foods. We opened a 2005 Bodegas Escorihuela Don Miguel Gascon Viognier to serve with creamy mustard chicken. This medium bodied wine stood up well to the flavorful sauce.

Next time you think "What about some white wine tonight?", try a Viognier.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drunken Pasta

Although it was not "off", the 2000 Rioja Reserva we opened tonight had expired. Normally, the structure of this wine should have kept it "alive" for a couple more years. Somewhere during it's life in the bottle, it aged prematurely.

To call itself a Reserva, a Rioja is required by law to age for at least three years at the bodega, including at least one year in Bourdeax-style, 225-liter oak barrels. The tannins from this tight grained wood also increases the wine's longevity.

Wide fluctuation in temperatures will damage both the wine and cork. High temperatures (>65ºF) cause wine to lose its flavor and balance while chilling affects its aromas. Keep wines away from sunlight, heat exposure and vibrations; store in cellars, a wine fridge, or temperature controlled rooms. The ideal range of temperature for storing red wine is 50-55ºF. White wines can be stored at lower ranges at 45ºF.

Humidity is also very important. If the humidity is too high, mold can grow on wood racks and can damage wine labels. If the environment is too dry, the cork will crack and air will leak into the bottle, again ruining the wine. Ideal humidity for wine storage ranges from 60-75% RH.

So, what do you do with an "dead" bottle of red wine. Here was our solution:

Drunken Roasted Caprese Spaghetti

1 pound spaghetti
1 pint red grape tomatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
1# Italian sausage (made from ground pheasant)
8 oz. button mushrooms
1 cup Italian flat-leafed parsley, washed and stem ends removed
1 cup basil, leaves removed from stems
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Bring a bottle of dry red wine mixed with additional water up to a boil, generously salt the liquid and cook the spaghetti to al dente, according to package directions. Before draining pasta, reserve about a cup of the starchy cooking liquid.

While the tomatoes are roasting, start the pesto: In a food processor, add the parsley, basil, pine nuts, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then drizzle in the oil with the machine running until it's all combined.

Crumble and cook the sausage and drain on paper towels. Brown the mushrooms and then season with salt and pepper.

Scoop pesto into a mixing bowl, add the reserved pasta water, drained pasta, sausage, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella, and toss to coat. Serve with some warm, crusty bread alongside.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The 30SecWineAdvisor's 2008 Picks

I have often referred to Robin Garr's electronic wine newsletter but for those who do not receive it, I am copying his top 2008 picks.

Wines retailing for more than $20
Mosby 2005 "Ossessione" Marche Rosso (Italy), $26. (Find it on
Emilio Lustau Palo Cortado "Peninsula" Sherry (Spain), $21.99. (Find it on
Wines retailing from $15 to $20
Francine et Olivier Savary 2006 Chablis (France), $19.99. (Find it on
Matteo Correggia 2004 "La Val dei Preti" Nebbiolo d'Alba (Italy), $19.99. (Find it on
Kunde Estate 2004 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $18.99. (Find it on
Hahn Estates 2006 Central Coast Meritage Red Table Wine (California), $17.99. (Find it on
Domaine Oratoire St. Martin 2005 Côtes du Rhône (France), $17.99. (Find it on
Pedroncelli 2005 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County "Mother Clone" Zinfandel (California), $17. (Find it at California Wine Club)
A to Z 2006 Oregon Chardonnay (Oregon), $16.99. (Find distributors on the winery Website)
d'Arenberg 2007 "The Hermit Crab" Adelaide Viognier Marsanne (Australia), $16.99. (Find it on
Château de Villeneuve 2006 Saumur (France), $15.99. (Find it on
Domaine Alain Normand 2005 Macon La Roche Vineuse (France), $15.99. (Find it on
Daniel Gehrs 2005 "Unoaked" Santa Barbara County Chardonnay (California), $15. (Find it on
Wines retailing for less than $15
Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Zinfandel (California), $14.99. (Find it on
Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $14.99. (Find it on
Omaka Springs 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), $14.99. (Find it on
Vicentini 2005 "Terre Lunghe" Soave (Italy), $13.99. (Find it on
Fratelli Pala 2006 "Crabilis" Vermentino di Sardegna (Italy), $13. (Find it on
Château les Eymeries 2006 Bordeaux Blanc (France), $13. (Find it on
Huber 2006 "Hugo" Niederösterreich Grüner Veltliner (Austria), $13. (Find it on
Mas de Gourgonnier 2005 Les Baux de Provence (France), $12.99. (Find it on
Riondo non-vintage Veneto Prosecco (Italy), $12.99. (Find it on
Maison Lafage 2006 "Côte Sud" Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (France), $12.99. (Find it on
Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut (Italy), $12.99. (Find it on
La Tour Boisée 2006 "Plantation 1905" Vin de Table Rouge (France), $12.99. (Find it on
Hayman & Hill 2006 "Interchange" Santa Barbara County "Reserve No. 22" White Blend (California), $12.99. (Find it on
Charles Smith Wines 2006 "Holy Cow" Columbia Valley Chardonnay (Washington State), $12.99. (Find it on
Peachy Canyon 2006 "Incredible Red" Paso Robles Zinfandel (California), $11.99. (Find it on
Chateau La Freynelle 2006 Bordeaux (France), $11.99. (Find it on
Montpezat 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc Palombières (France), $11.99. (Find it on
Foppiano Vineyards "Lot 96" California Red Wine (California), $11.99. (Find it on
Shoofly 2007 "Buzz Cut" Wine of Australia (Australia), $11.99. (Find it on
Baciami 2006 Albana di Romagna (Italy), $11. (Find it on
Cantine Riondo "Pink" Prosecco Raboso (Italy), $11. (Find it on
Domaine des Terres Falmet 2006 Cinsault Vin de Pays d'Oc (France), $11. (Find it on
Marchesi di Barolo 2006 "Maràia" Barbera Monferrato (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on
Laurel Glen 2006 "REDS" Lodi Red Wine (California), $10.99. (Find it on
Cellier des Dauphins 2005 "Prestige" Cotes du Rhone (France), $10.99. (Find it on
Red Heads Studio 2006 South Australia "Yard Dog" (Australia), $10.99. (Find it on
Michele Chiarlo 2006 "Le Orme" Barbera d'Asti (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on
Tiziano 2005 Chianti (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on
Domaine André Brunel 2005 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Grenache (France), $10. (Find it on
Domaine La Tour Boisée 2005 Vin de Pays d'Oc Cabernet Sauvignon (France), $9.99. (Find it on
Bodegas Norton 2006 "Lo Tengo" Mendoza Malbec (Argentina), $9.99. (Find it on
Le Pavillon du Château Beauchêne 2006 Côtes du Rhône Rosé (France), $9.99. (Find it on
Catherine le Goeuil 2005 Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne "Cuvée Léa Felsch" (France), $9.99. (Find it on
José Maria da Fonseca 2007 "Twin Vines" Vinho Verde (Portugal), $9. (Find it on
Vinum Cellars 2006 "CNW Chard-No-Way" Wilson Vineyards Clarksburg Chenin Blanc (California), $8.99. (Find it on
Villa Pozzi 2007 Nero d'Avola Sicilia (Italy), $8.99. (Find it on
"Via Firenze" 2005 Chianti (Italy), $7.99. (Find it on
Cave de Montagnac 2006 Picpoul de Pinet (France), $7.99. (Find it on

Even with a shaky economy, there are many wines listed offering both quality and value.