Archive for the ‘Food Pairings’ Category


It’s the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.  It’s my favorite holiday (and to a certain extent, my favorite time) of the year.  Up until recently, anyway, it’s been the one holiday that is about gathering with family and friends around a table, sharing a great meal, stories, and perhaps a few bottles of wine.  I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family, and Thanksgiving dinners are some of my fondest family memories.   This year, my wife and I have inherited the tradition of hosting dinner from my Aunt (Auntie!).

We follow a very traditional meal plan; we’re cooking a turkey, and we’ll have many traditional accompaniments.   We love to serve and share wine, and feel the wine should be as good and as special as the food.

Many people get hung up on the diversity of the meal.  What goes with turkey?  Does it also go with the stuffing and the greens?  What about the sweet potatoes?   There’s no reason to worry; I think the diversity of the meal actually makes it easier to pick wine.  The secret:  serve something great!  A good wine (with a good story), will “go” with everything.  I also think that serving wine from the US is fitting given the origin of the holiday, but we’re breaking that guideline a bit this year

Here’s what we’re serving::


All good parties start with Champagne.  This is going to be a good party.

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc

I happen to have a few bottles (courtesy of my friends at The Thomas Collective and Wines of Chile).  It’s a great pairing with oysters, and some of them have a little richness that will go with an oyster stuffing.  They are also fantastic aperitif, of course, and crowd pleasers.  Bonus:  They tend to be inexpensive.


Most people recommend Riesling, as it’s very food friendly and can have a little sweetness.  We’re going with Vouvray this year, as Chenin Blanc has the same qualities, but I think tends to have a bit more richness along with the versatility.   Plus, we happen to love it, and it’s often eye opening for folks who haven’t had it before.

California Chardonnay

I think this is one of the wines you really must have on the table at Thanksgiving.  I steer clear of over oaked (typical) California Chardonnay in favor of some more subtle and austere varieties.  However, one of the nice things about serving Vouvray is that it can hold it’s own in place of Chardonnay, if you’re trying to lower your SKUs, so to speak.

American Pinot Noir

I struggle to find affordable Pinot from the US that’s good.  It is often over extracted, too fruity, and mass produced because everyone saw or heard about ‘Sideways’ and decided Pinot was what the cool kids drink.  However, there are some more austere varieties out there.  They tend to remain on the fruity side, which is a crowd pleaser, and really are the great versatile food match for the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

California Cabernet

In my opinion, this is the ultimate American wine, and should be on the table for the ultimate American holiday.  We tend to serve something really special here; something from a vineyard we’ve visited in Napa, something from a vintage we remember.   While perhaps not exactly the best food match, there is a lot of richness on the table, and if it’s a wine you love, it’s fun to share.

The most important thing to remember:  drink what you love.  Drink something that evokes some emotion.  Drink something you want to share with people you love.


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The power of high quality wine has gone further than expected, especially in La Rioja, Spain. Not only has it delighted and surprised fellow wine fanatics, but it has attracted the attention and respect of the international wine community to Spain, and has even inspired Gran Reserva (Vintage) one of Spain’s most successful telenovelas. La Rioja wine has broken through geographical and often tense political boundaries between La Rioja and the Basque Country where the wine is jointly produced. To our delight, it has given a common identity to this Spanish region as they share the success of their wine. And now, La Rioja Alta winery has produced one of the finest and highest rated wines, with a profound and complex character that cannot be missed!

La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 2001 is a delectable wine produced from Tempranillo grapes (90%) from 40 year-old vines located in Briñas, Villalba and Labastida that are perfectly complemented by a 10% touch of Graciano vines from Melchorón and Rodezno Briones vineyards, all of which belong to the DOC of La Rioja.

In February 2002, the wine was transferred to the self-made, 4 year-old American oak barrels being racked through the traditional barrel-to-barrel method for 4 years, every 6 months. The wine was bottled in June 2006 and has been maturing in the company’s cellars for over six years. In order to preserve maximum organoleptic components, the wine was subject to a gentle filtration, which can produce few sediments with age.

Now is a perfect time to acquire this fiercely anticipated red wine from La Rioja. It is worth the effort of purchasing it simply for its exclusive quality and extraordinary taste, but it will also be a great acquisition for any wine cellar as it will continue to evolve for 5 to 6 more years, and has great drinkability until 2040.

SIGHT: Ruby red, with a slight garnet rim. Very bright, has thin and elegant tears.

SMELL: Fresh, vibrant, with fine notes of candied fruit, spicy black fruit, excellent ripeness with a hint of coffee and chocolate mint.

TASTE: Solid structure, round and sweet elegantly polished tannins. Silky, soft and durable aftertaste.

ALCOHOL: 12.5% °

Serve at 17 ° C, decanting recommended

PAIRING: Red meats, Añejo or other semi-soft cheeses, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota

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Last weekend we hosted a small dinner party for 3 other couples.  For dinner, we served a spice crusted duck via Avec Eric (the base recipe can be found here, although I used very large breasts and grilled them, but the idea is the same).

Protip:  have your fire extinguisher handy when grilling duck on a gas grill.

Anyway, it was a bit of a celebratory weekend for us, so we decided to open a few bottles we’d been saving for just such an occasion.  Here’s how they were.

First, we opened our most prized bottle, a 2002 Silver Oak Napa Cabernet . (5/5. $100 when I got it, but now unavailable from the winery.)  We’ve been to Silver Oak in Napa twice, and I had tasted this wine at the winery. I bought the bottle locally a few years ago, and was a bit concerned that it hadn’t been stored well before I got it, but knowing how much we liked it and how special the wine is, we gave it a go.

We decanted it, but not for long, perhaps 15 minutes.  The main point was to make sure we didn’t have any sediment issues.  It was as expected – fantastic.  It was an excellent match with the duck, the spiciness and richness of the dish were complimented by the big bold Cabernet.  A wonderful wine and a great pairing.

After finishing that bottle, we opened a 2002 Chateau Langoa Barton (5/5, $50.)  From Saint Julien and bottled at the Chateau, this is predominately a Cab, but probably a similar blend to the Silver Oak.  Decanted it while we were finishing the Silver Oak, again, maybe 10-15 minutes.

This Bordeaux was also a stunner, more rounded, less bombastic than the Silver Oak.  An excellent wine, velvet in the mouth, with just the right balance of fruit, acid, and tannins.  A good time to drink it, in my opinion, although it certainly had the structure to keep for years.  Also a great match with the duck.

Comparing the two brought about some interesting conversation.  The Silver Oak was bigger and bolder, and tasted younger.  The Langoa Barton was more refined, less bold and more earthy.  There were clear differences in style of wines that were similar blends, and both were outstanding.

After the two big boys, I decided to open something I had just picked up at my local wine store (Chesapeake Wine).  The owner of the store and I have similar palates; if he likes it, I tend to like it.  He had raved about this 2010 Chateau Les Arromans (4/5, $14).  While I thought it might be a bit young, I picked up a bottle just to see.

Glad I did.

It was certainly different from the first two.  Not over the top, but far more fruit driven, with good structure, but the tannins weren’t in the way… this isn’t something I would hold on to for very long, but right now, it’s a fun wine.  Juicy, mouth watering, and screaming to be drunk with food.  Again, a pretty good match with the duck, although in a different way, picking up more on the spiciness than the richness.

All in all, a fun comparison, and a good meal with some great wine.

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In several cities in the US, fast food joints such as Sonic and Burger King are expanding their drink menus to include beer and wine.

Personally, I’d stick to beer with fast food.

What wine would you have with a Whopper?

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For those of us in the States, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  It’s probably my favorite holiday (and my favorite time of year); it’s focused on time spent with family and friends, good food, and good wine.

We’re hosting my family for Thanksgiving dinner this year, a dramatic shift in tradition.  As our parents get older, the holiday hosting duties move to the next generation.  First was Christmas, which moved to my younger sister’s house from our parents’ nearly a decade ago (save one year at mine when she was pregnant with #4).  Thanksgiving was always at my Aunt’s (Auntie!) house.  Unfortunately, this year she’s been benched with a busted hand, and my parents are also not up to the task.

My wife and I don’t have kids, so prep duties are a little easier for us.  We also have a perfect house for a grand meal around a table, with a dining table that can seat 16 and an open space so we can be in the kitchen cooking and still interact with all of our guests.  Our guests will number 15, 9 grownups and 6 kids… we’re missing both of my cousins and their kids as they are going to be in other parts of the country.  (more…)

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My wife and I made dinner for some out of town friends.  I didn’t take formal notes on the wines, but here’s what we had.

2008 Washington Hills Riesling Paradise Peak

Appellation: Washington State

Served With: Spinach Salad with Warm Citrus Dressing;  Butternut Squash Soup

Tasting Notes: 100% Reisling.  11% ABV.  Didn’t take formal notes, but this was a very nice wine.  Great fruit, but also food friendly aciditiy and minerality.  Off dry, so non wine folks will like this.  Great match with a spinach salad (spinach, red onion, cranberry, orange, feta) and warm citrus dressing, also great match with butternut squash soup.

Rating: 3/5

Price: $9.99

2008 Noël Bougrier Anjou

Appelation: Anjou-Saumur (Loire Valley)

Served With: Scallops in Butter, Wine, and Sage; Risotto

Tasting Notes: 100% Chenin Blanc.  11% ABV.  Didn’t take formal notes.  This was crisp, great acid, but pretty one dimensional. A versitile food friendly white, but that is in part because there isn’t much going on.

Rating: 2/5

Price: $9.99

2009 Spier Chenin Blanc

Appellation: Western Cape, South Africa

Served With: Scallops, etc.

Tasting Notes: 100% Chenin Blanc.  13.5% ABV.  Didn’t take formal notes.  Very interesting.  Lots of grapefruit, some melon, and an interesting smoke aroma and on the palate.  Nice rich mouthfeel.  Interesting and very good.  Great value.

Rating: 4/5

Price: $7.99

All wines purchased at Beltway Fine Wines

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New York strip was on sale at the local grocery store this weekend, so I picked up a ‘value pak’, looking forward to a good steak and veggie dinner with one of the wines I’ve kept around for a treat.  Monday night was the night, I expected my wife home, and was ready to fire up the grill when she called.

My wife is a Realtor, and as anyone in an entrepreneurial or sales business can tell you, when clients need you, regardless of time of day, they need you now.  So a client called this afternoon, and instead of a steak, veggies, and glass of wine on the deck, she had to scarf down some frozen thing in a box and get back to work.

I, however, was not to be denied my steak.  (I had eaten all the other leftovers from the weekend for lunch, so I didn’t really have a choice).  I decided instead of opening a bottle I knew was good, I would take a shot on a Cab/Merlot blend from a producer we’d liked recently.  Alas, as you’ll see in a minute, I had the opportunity to compare all that is great about new world wine with all that is, well, not.  Two Bordeaux blends, two very different outcomes. (more…)

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