Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Food for Thought . . .

"I only drink champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty." -- Lily Bollinger

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Food and Wine and Recipes, Oh My!

Posted By Kimberly Houston on June 16, 2011

Fork&Plate.iStock img

Hello there, dear readers.

This is a quick post to call your attention to something I’ve just launched here on the blog that I’d like to invite you to sign up for. It’s a little food and wine pairing e-course I’ve created, totally free of course, that will be sent directly to your e-mail inbox. Simply enter your e-mail address in the form to the right. 

See that form on the top right of the blog there?  The one just under the “You Know You Want It” heading? Yep, that’s the one.

What it is:

You’ll receive a total of 6 easy and fun wine “lessons,” one each on the 6 major grape varietals, delivered to your e-mail in-box every 4-5 days.  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, then Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here’s how each lesson will break down:

 • Flavor profile of the wine
 • Foods and flavors that pair well with that wine
 • A recipe specifically chosen to pair with that wine type
 • A list of widely available and value-priced brands or producers of that wine type

Why These Six Grapes?

The reason I’m covering these six grapes, or wine varietals, among the hundreds of grape varieties out there is because these six are the foundation, and understanding them in the beginning of your wine journey is going to make everything else make a lot more sense going forward.   

(And if you’re farther along in your wine journey, I invite you to sign up anyway, because there will be other useful information, plus food pairing suggestions and recipes!)

So there ya have it, dear readers.  Feel free to sign up for your e-mail mini-course today. And by the way, there will be no homework, unless you count trying the wine from each week’s lesson “homework.”  ; )

Cheers!

In the Valleys, Part Two: Napa

Posted By Kimberly Houston on June 12, 2011

mumm napa #2

Image from Mumm Napa website

(This guest post is Part Two of a two-part series by wine lover and PR pro, and my best friend, Ronda Bumgardner. Who I managed to talk into writing a couple of posts on her recent Cali wine tasting trip. Enjoy!)

The second day of my California Wine Country tour was almost entirely in Napa. While Sonoma’s vibe was bohemian hedonism. Napa’s was “show me your money.” It’s not all money, of course, but I couldn’t help feel the wealth differences between the vineyard laborers, and the tasting room customers.

Coppola, Geyserville

Before Napa, we headed to one last winery in Sonoma, the Francis Ford Coppola winery. It was two hours until opening, so we drove through for a quick look-see. The property has a large pool, and I saw a teepee on the grounds. It could have been a movie prop, as movie memorabilia from the director’s career is displayed at the winery, but most likely it was for children to play in, as the winery is very family friendly.

Coppola Winery, image by Ronda Bumgardner

Coppola Winery, image by Ronda Bumgardner

One tip if you’re traveling to Wine Country for the first time: Maps and winery addresses can be hard to follow. Maps are plentiful, but it’s easier and more enjoyable to find a winery by knowing the names of the wineries on either side and tracking your journey by signage.

Charles Krug, St. Helena

We first visited the Charles Krug winery, part of the Peter Mondavi empire. The winery dates back to 1871 and is the oldest one in Napa.  It’s one of the few Napa wineries where weddings are held, and the photos I saw of the banquet rooms with floor and ceiling made of redwood were breathtaking. In the tasting room, I had a refreshing flight of whites and reds, and the pourer also gave me a taste of a 2007 Petit Verdot available through their wine club. My favorites were a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, crisp in a prosecco way, a perfect 10 a.m. beverage for the day. Other favorites were a 2009 Chardonnay from Carneros, and a 2007 Zinfandel from St. Helena that was so jammy and tasty, I immodestly giggled. The walls of the tasting room were filled with historical information, and I learned how Charles Krug’s choice of a bride helped him establish a winery: the land was part of her dowry.

Opus One, Oakville

The exquisitely manicured grounds and the limestone buildings felt cold and uninviting, like a library filled with unwanted books, or, a mausoleum. Opus One is fine. You don’t need to know it costs $30 a glass to taste the pedigree of the soil and the grapes. But the architecture and décor did not enhance the experience. The tasting room was bustling, so we walked onto the loggia and took photos. Even with the view, it felt gloomy.

Opus One Winery

(Opus One image source:  Taken by Cszmurlo from Wikimedia Commons)

Mumm, Rutherford

The Napa Mumm’s tasting area was little more than standing room outside by a folding table. I suspect the idea is to encourage tasters to enjoy the rest of the gorgeous property, a café overlooking the vineyards, a gift shop, lounge chairs with deep cushions and an art gallery. I sat down with a glass of bubbly, then viewed the art, an exhibit of “cameraless computer-free photographs.”

Mustards Grill, Yountville

We headed to lunch, using Yelp to find a place nearby. The café was booked solid and we had to stand for half an hour until we could be seated at the small bar. It’s worth waiting days for. The potato chips with blue cheese dip and the Abiouness 2006 Sangiovese were memorable.

Domaine Chandon, Yountville

As the afternoon in Napa progressed, the limousines and obnoxious girlfriend parties became more noticeable. At Domaine Chandon, the ponds and flowers outside were tranquil but as we entered the cavernous tasting room, it felt like “too much.” As I walked out to the outdoor tasting area, I turned to my partner and said, “This feels like Spring Break in Cancun.” We left without taking sips or photos.

Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros, image by Ronda Bumgardner

Domaine Carneros, image by Ronda Bumgardner

Our final stop rivaled Iron Horse in Sonoma for natural beauty, and the building alone was show-stopping, with terraces and airy galleries, making it feel very European.  And not at all stuffy. The entrance was through a gift shop, and one clerk immediately offered me a sample of toffee flavored popcorn, not because it was sold in the store, but because she thought it was delicious. I agreed. And plan to have some the next time I drink another glass of the Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour. Which I hope will be soon.

(Ronda is a PR and communications wiz, livin’ the dream in New York City.  To find out more about Ronda, please visit her at Control Freak Public Relations.)

In the Valleys: A First-Timer’s Look at California Wineries

Posted By Kimberly Houston on June 8, 2011

Iron Horse Vineyards, pic by Ronda Bumgardner

Iron Horse Vineyards, pic by Ronda Bumgardner

(This guest post is Part One of a two-part series by wine lover and PR pro, and my best friend, Ronda Bumgardner. Who I managed to talk into writing a couple of posts on her recent Cali wine tasting trip. Enjoy!)

Part I: Sonoma

I spent a weekend in May visiting wineries in California for the first time.

My plan was to visit wineries in Sonoma, but I actually ended up visiting Napa, too. In the world of wine, it’s like visiting two countries. 

FIRST STOP:  IRON HORSE VINEYARDS

From my starting point of Sausalito, just outside San Francisco, my companion Jeff and I decided that Iron Horse in Forestville was a good first stop. As we entered Sonoma County, the view reminded me of northwest North Carolina. We passed vineyards and pastures, many bordered by rose bushes with blooms the size of two fists. As we followed the signs to the Iron Horse winery, the two-lane paved road turned to a gravel path hardly wide enough for one car.

The landscape really DID look like rural North Carolina now. I was envisioning that the tasting room for champagnes would be in a chalet-style mansion overlooking rolling hills of vineyard. Instead, the tasting room was little more than a shed with a dirt and gravel parking lot. I didn’t expect others to be drinking champagne at 10:30 in the morning, but Jeff and I took the last two spaces in the outside tasting room.

The way tastings work, if you’ve never been to one, is this: You choose a flight from a menu, and the cost is $10-$15 for tastes of four or five wines. Depending on the pour, you could get a glass of wine total, or a glass and a half. The tasting fee is waived if you purchase a bottle.

Even if you don’t feel like packing bottles in your suitcase, you can taste for free if you buy a bottle to drink later on your trip. Or you can have bottles shipped to you. There is no one rushing you to finish, but you can’t help but want to keep moving, because there are plenty more wineries to check out. And yet, the atmosphere, even in the shed, made each drop worth savoring.

The shed experience was one I’d do again.

NEXT STOP: HARTFORD FAMILY WINERY

Hartford Family Winery has vineyards throughout the Sonoma region, but its tasting room is in Forestville.  In contrast to Iron Horse, the tasting building was more like a wealthy person’s house, surrounded by a yard-size garden area. My favorite wine, Velvet Sisters Pinot Noir, is from Hartford and though there was none available, the Hailey’s Block 2008 Pinot Noir was pretty awesome and the bottle I bought did not make it home to New York.

Hartford Family Winery, pic by Ronda Bumgardner

Hartford Family Winery, pic by Ronda Bumgardner

The last Sonoma stop was simply a winery that looked interesting as we drove past on the way to our hotel in Healdsburg. Twomey Cellars definitely had the look of a winery that was doing OK financially. The tasting room had soaring ceilings and was housed in a modern style building with a stone slab fountain in front. It could have been a corporate headquarters for a business, which I suppose it is. Twomey makes four Pinot Noirs, and a bottle of the Anderson Valley 2009 found its way into the trunk of my car.

Twomey Cellars, pic from Twomey Cellars website

Twomey Cellars, pic from Twomey Cellars website

In my next dispatch, I’ll tell you all about my Napa adventure.

(Ronda is a PR and communications wiz, livin’ the dream in New York City.  To find out more about Ronda, please visit her at Control Freak Public Relations.)

Best Way to Spend a Saturday Morning: Riverfront Farmers’ Market

Posted By Kimberly Houston on June 4, 2011

FM.sweetpotatoesI love the Farmer’s Market in downtown Wilmington. Love.

I recently went with my friend Carolyn, who I wandered around with, taking in the bounty of the market and the beauty of the setting, soaking up lots of produce-related knowledge. Damn, those downtown farmers’ market vendors know a lot about produce, I tell ya!

You just can’t ask for a better location. There’s something about strolling around downtown, against the backdrop of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and the Battleship, with the river rolling by in the background, that makes you feel so . . . . happy.  The breeze is blowing, it’s a gorgeous sunny Spring day, you’re out with a favorite friend. And then there’s all that gorgeous natural beauty, of the landscape AND produce variety.  Man, it just doesn’t get any better than this!

So I’m going to shut my pie hole now and post some pics of the day.  Enjoy!

FM.produce#4

How pretty, right?  That’s the thing about the Farmers’ Market — you can go just to soak up the sights, sounds and smells,  not buying one darn thing, and still have a terrific time.  I sure did.  : )

I think I may be drawn to this color . . .

I think I may be drawn to this color . . .

I took alot of pictures of purple-ish produce this day.  What’s up with that?

FM.produce #1

I would probably never cook with this, since I’m not even sure what it is (!), but it shore is purty!  ; )

FM.produce #2

More lovely lettuces.

FM.rhubarb

How pretty is this rhubarb?!  Seriously.

FM.produce #5

So there ya have it. And I’ve got two dozen pics I didn’t post, but you get the idea. 

I say, the Wilmington Riverfront Farmers’ Market is all that, and then some.  I highly recommend it for fresh and beautiful produce, and friendly and knowledgeable vendors.  Perfect way to spend a Saturday.

Good Food, Done Dirt Cheap: Pizzetta’s

Posted By Kimberly Houston on May 28, 2011

Pizzetta's

Pizzetta's

I’ve heard heaps of positive comments about this place since it opened earlier this year.

The latest was last week when I stopped into The Wine Sampler, in the same shopping strip as Pizzetta’s (Anderson Square Plaza), where I had a lovely discussion about many things Pizzetta’s with the person selling me wine that day. 

She said the pizza was terrific.  She said the grilled veggie salad was to die for.  She said she’d gained five pounds since Pizzetta’s had opened down the way.

So as soon as I had my bottle of wine in hand and got out the door, I called a friend I had been meaning to catch up with anyway and asked if she wanted to go the very next night.  Luckily, she said yes.  She’d already been there, in fact, and loved it.

We started with Garlic Knots, delicious little “knots” of garlic bread which were all crispy/savory outside, and warm and fluffy inside, and flavored with just the right amount of garlic, as in, not in that overpowering way you get with garlic bread at other places. You get 6 for $2.00.

Next we shared a terrifically large Caesar Salad that had some of the best croutons I’ve ever had on a salad.  (The croutons are homemade, and you can tell.)  I could make a satisfying meal off just this salad.  This set us back $6.95.  It’s entrée-sized and the perfect amount for two to split.

Caesar salad with homemade croutons

Caesar salad with homemade croutons

I was tempted to get pizza for my main course, since many of the folks who’d raved about this place said was the best they’ve had in Wilmington, but I decided on Baked Penne with Tomato Sauce, Ricotta & Mozzarella cheese instead.  Delicious red sauce, lots of cheese, man, I was completely happy.  All this for only $7.50? Yes indeedy.

Good stuff, that, but next time I’m in it for the pizza. In addition to pizza and baked pastas, they also offer pasta dishes of the non-baked variety; calzones; stromboli; heroes; and entrees like chicken parmigiana, eggplant rollatini, and sausage and peppers, to name a few.  And all very well-priced, too.

Baked Penne with tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella

Baked Penne with tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella

For dessert we had cannoli, which I don’t feel qualified to comment on, as I’ve never been a real fan of cannoli, and seldom eat them. But my friend gave them the thumbs up. They also have Italian Ice, Zeppole, and Gelato in the dessert category.

This really nice meal was around $22 bucks for the both of us, a real bargain considering how much food we had, and how wonderful it was.  Add to the experience the owners here are warm and friendly and go out of their way to make sure everyone in this small space is happy and satisfied.

They don’t have wine  – yet, I’m not sure if that’s in the works or not – but you can bring your own, and there is no corkage fee. Love that. Especially handy that The Wine Sampler is just a few doors down so you can pick up something great there to go with your meal here.

Hours and Location

4107 Oleander Drive, Unit F (Anderson Square Plaza)
910.799.4300
Hours:  Open Daily at 11:00 a.m., as near as I can tell, except Sundays open at 12:00.  The website doesn’t list closing hours, but the Wednesday night we were there it looked like they closed up shop at about 9:00 pm. 

We were still there at that hour – the last table in the place, mind you — and they worked around us without saying a word and wished us a good night as we left.  Gosh darnit, I love that kind of hospitality!  : )

Check out Pizzetta’s menu here; read Liz Biro’s article about Pizzetta’s here.

Bon Appétit!

Ode to Asparagus

Posted By Kimberly Houston on May 21, 2011

Asparagus#3

Ah yes, Spring is here.  And one way we know this, besides this insanely gorgeous weather we’ve been having lately, is the appearance of asparagus. Lovely, delicious asparagus, one of the few vegetables I actually eat with gusto.

The May issue of Bon Appétit is what got me all fired up to get this vegetable into my shopping cart, in my oven, and on my plate, with its asparagus recipes from Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer of the Canal House Cooking series of seasonal cookbooks. 

After buying it, I toyed with making asparagus risotto, shaved asparagus with parmesan vinaigrette or asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.  What I landed on after all was roasted asparagus – simple, yet deeply satisfying.

So satisfying, in fact, that the night I made it it’s all I had for dinner, and all I wanted.

(Look for wine pairing information below the recipe.)

Recipe:  Roasted Asparagus (from May 2011 issue of Bon Appétit)

Ingredients

• 24 large asparagus spears (about 2 lb.)
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Aged balsamic vinegar
• Parmesan, for shaving

Preparation

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer on a large baking sheet
• Drizzle oil over asparagus and turn to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
• Roast, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and just tender, 18-20 minutes.
• Transfer asparagus to a platter.
• To serve, drizzle vinegar over hot asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to shave Parmesan over the spears.

Tips:

• You don’t have to peel the asparagus.  I did because the first time I follow a specific recipe, I do precisely what’s called for, as here.

(In fact, when I told a friend of mine who has mad kitchen skills and is a trained restaurant professional that I peeled the stuff, she said, “What?!?!  What’dja do that for?”  Good question, because peeling each tender little stalk probably added at least 30 minutes to the prep time. Just a little tip from me to you.)

 

Wine Pairings for Asparagus

OK, here’s the deal.  Asparagus has a reputation for being difficult to pair with wine (though not as notorious as artichokes – wowsa! – but we’ll cover that pairing another day), and I’ve always bought into the notion.  It can be more challenging than other foods to pair, that’s a fact, but there are wines that can work with this wonderful vegetable.

Asparagus contains something called methionine, apparently, and this, along with the vegetable’s natural grassy flavor, can makes wines taste really vegetal or just . . . weird.  Asparagus tends to make everything you drink with it taste green.

In general, you want to stay away from wines that have a lot of oak and a lot of tannin.  Chardonnay, for example, would be a bad match.  It’ll taste really vegetal and over-the-top oaky if paired with asparagus. Tannic Cabernet Sauvignon is another wine you want to stay away from here.  Also avoid wines with a touch of sweetness, as the asparagus will tend to accentuate that quality in the wine.

A lot depends on the preparation. If you grill asparagus, or roast it as I did, the vegetable will lose its bitter edge and be an easier pairing partner. In this case you could serve it with a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio. I like Sauvignon Blanc because it also has green, grassy flavors that make for a companionable match.

Since I roasted it and dressed it with balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan, I could have paired it with a light red wine, such as Dolcetto, or even Beaujolais.  If you grill it and serve it with a creamy dressing, Pinot Noir would be a nice match; the char character from the grilling works really well with a light-bodied, earthy Pinot.

My philosophy is drink what you like, so really there’s no need to get hung up on finding the perfect match — the “perfect” match is whichever wine you like best. 

Now, I’m off to the Farmers’ Market this morning to get more asparagus. (I’m not just saying that, I really am. Going to the Farmers Market. To get more asparagus. Right now.)

Bon Appétit!

Take-Out Food and Wine Pairing: Italian Hoagie and Charles and Charles Rosé 2010

Posted By Kimberly Houston on May 14, 2011

ItalianHoagieI got lazy tonight. Usually Saturday night is for cooking and opening a bottle of wine I’ve never tried; something new and different. Sunday night is for take-out and the rest of the wine I opened on Saturday.

But I’m mixing it up, because tonight is Saturday and I got take-out and opened a bottle of something tried and true. Because sometimes you just feel uninspired.  

The awesome hoagie is the Italian Hoagie from Mellow Mushroom, one of two I always get when I go there. (The other is the terrific Capri.) 

The Italian has ham, salami, and pepperoni with fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, basil, tomatoes, spring mix, mayo and herb vinaigrette.

I know, right? Doesn’t that sound freakin’ delicious?!  Well, it is.

And the wine to go with it?  Charles and Charles Rosé 2010.  Because with this kind of take-out, you want something easy drinking and not too serious. 

This rosé is a terrific choice because it’s got some heft, as it’s made with 100% Syrah, but it’s fun and fruity and easy drinking all the same.  A particularly good match for the ham, salami and pepperoni in the hoagie, I thought.

Wine Notes:  Charles and Charles Rosé 2010

charles & charles Rose 2010

100% Syrah. Washington State/Columbia Valley/Wahluke Slope.  13% abv.

Dry and crisp, some minerality.  Floral nose, with a sort of savory, herby element. Juicy berry flavors with hints of watermelon. 

Like I said, easy drinking and not too serious, which is the perfect take-out meal wine.

Bon Appetit!

Food and Wine Pairing: Bouchons Au Thon and Corbières Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris 2010

Posted By Kimberly Houston on May 4, 2011

Bouchons#3

Yes, I know.  Lots of French stuff, no?

But you’ll be happy to know this recipe and wine match is not in any way challenging or inaccessible.  

Personally, I’ve always had a predisposition to rule out French recipes as too difficult and time consuming, until I learned how simple many of them can be.

What lead me to this epiphany?  I recently bought Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life:  Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table,” where this recipe is from. If you love witty, engaging writing, especially the kind that inspires you to cook, then I suggest you get this book. I’ve dog-eared about half a dozen recipes from it so far that I plan to try, and I’m just part way through it.  A good sign.

If you don’t know who Molly Wizenberg is, she writes the fantastic blog Orangette, which is how I first heard of her.  You will want to check that out as well.

This recipe is very simple and comes together quickly. It would be terrific served with a green salad or roasted potatoes, as Wizenburg suggests. I simply ate the bouchons au thon (or “tuna corks”) on their own as a light meal for dinner. They paired perfectly with the Corbières Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris.

I made a batch of eight, and had three of them about 20 minutes out of the oven, still warm, for a light meal the night I made them. I then enjoyed two the next day from the fridge and warmed up to room temperature with a green salad for lunch. 

Wine Notes

I chose the Corbières Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris Rosé, specifically to pair with this recipe. I wanted something light and refreshing, dry and fruity, and this wine was the ticket. It was the perfect compliment to the bouchons au thon.

Blend of 70% Grenache Gris and Grenache Noir; 10% Mourvèdre; 10% Carignan; and 10% Cinsault.  Notes of strawberry and watermelon; fresh and vibrant with a nice, racy acidity; very well-balanced.  The color is a very light salmon hue. Good minerality and long finish. Delicate and nuanced, which is what made it so lovely with this recipe.

For more information on the wine, go to my Corbières Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris blog post here.

RECIPE: BOUCHONS AU THON (from Molly Wizenberg’s book, see info above)

INGREDIENTS

• One 6-ounce can tuna packed in water, drained well (you can use solid white or chunk light tuna)

• 1 cup lightly packed finely shredded Gruyere cheese

• 1/3 cup crème fraiche

• 3 tablespoons tomato paste

• 3 large eggs

• ¼ cup finely chopped yellow onion

• 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

• ¼ teaspoon salt

PREPARATION

• Set an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees.

• Grease 8 cups of a standard-size muffin tin, and set aside.

• Put the tuna in a medium bowl, and using a fork, mash and poke to break it up into small pieces.  There should be no chunks larger than a dime.

• Add the remaining ingredients and stir well with the fork, mashing a little as you go, until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  It will be a soft orange-pink color.

• Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bouchons look set on top and around the edges.

• Transfer the tin to a rack, and let cool for 5 minutes.

• Run a small, thin knife around the edge of each bouchon to make sure it isn’t stuck, then carefully remove them from the muffin tin.  They will collapse a bit as they cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield:  8 bouchons, enough for 4 light eaters

Bon Appétit!

From Disappointment to Delight: Corbières Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris 2010

Posted By Kimberly Houston on May 1, 2011

DomainedeFontsainteGrisdeGris

Last Saturday I bought a disappointing Rosé. This Saturday I bought one that made my heart – and my palate – sing.   Seriously. 

I stopped into The Wine Sampler on Oleander – nice job, by the way! — this was my first visit  since they moved into their new location, and it’s all light and bright and lovely – and checked out the Rosés. 

What I wanted was a dry and fruity Rosé to go with a tuna dish I planned to make, something from France, I was thinking.  There were three French Rosés to choose from, two of which I’d already had, so I chose to step into the unknown and buy the mystery Rosé.  This is a big step for a girl is who is obsessively routine-oriented.  But I digress.

The really cool thing was, when I was paying for the wine, I noticed  the “Imported by Kermit Lynch, Wine Merchant” seal on the back of the bottle. I wrote a post a few months ago about being able to use this trick to find a great bottle of wine if you’re not sure what to buy, i.e, knowing the importer.  Once I saw that “stamp of approval,” I knew I’d made the right choice.

You’ll notice this wine is a Gris de Gris.  According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, a wine labeled gris de gris must be made from lightly tinted grape varieties described as gris, such as Cinsault or Grenache Gris.  The super pale pink hue of this one marks it as a Vin Gris, which is decidedly paler than most rosé. 

Domaine de Fontsainte is located in Corbières, in the Languedoc region of France.

The 2010 Gris de Gris has got fairly low alcohol at 12.5%, which is especially nice if you love this wine as much as I did and have 2 or more glasses.  There’ll be no nasty hangover the next day, always a plus. The grape blend is 70% Grenache Gris and Grenache Noir; 10% Mourvèdre; 10% Carignan; and 10% Cinsault.

My impressions:  Notes of strawberry and watermelon; fresh and vibrant with a nice, racy acidity; very well-balanced.  The color is a very light salmon hue. I loved the minerality and the long finish. I found it to be especially delicate and nuanced, which made me think how perfect it would be as an aperitif, pre-dinner, or simply to sip on its own, no food required. 

Dry rosés are near perfect food wines, but I wouldn’t match this one with anything particularly overwhelming in the flavor department, as it is very light and refreshing.  You wouldn’t want its delicate flavors to get lost in a match with something that might overpower its charms. This wine is very well worth the price at around $15 retail.

I paired it with something called Bouchons Au Thon, essentially “tuna corks,” which I will share the recipe for in my next post.

Cheers!

Candor NV Rosé

Posted By Kimberly Houston on April 27, 2011

CandorRoseBottleIf it’s 80 plus degrees out and it’s Saturday night, I must be buying a bottle of Rosé. 

This one came into Temptations last week and was only $11.99 retail, so I knew I wanted to get a bottle and write about it on the blog. And since it was Saturday, it was kind of required.  See above.

Notice it’s “NV,” which means “non-vintage,” i.e., wine made from a blend of grapes from two or more vintage years (“vintage” refers to the year the grapes were actually harvested).  So if a wine has a vintage year on the label, and most still wines do, that means all the grapes were harvested in that year.

This is something I didn’t know when I first became interested in wine oh-so-many-years-ago, and I know it’s something a lot of my wine-loving friends don’t know, so there ya go. A little piece of wine intelligence from me to you, to add to your wine knowledge bank.

This value-priced California Rosé (around $11.99 retail) is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and a small amount of Merlot. Appellation, California; grapes sourced from vineyards across Paso Robles and Monterey County; abv, 14.5 %.

Given that blend of grapes, I was expecting some real there there.  It did have a nice spice element on the finish, and I sensed some minerality on the nose, but not what you’d expect from a good Rosé.  Overall I found this wine disappointing. 

(So you know if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, I don’t “review” wines – I don’t call myself qualified to do that – I share my impressions from a long-time passionate wine lover and service industry worker perspective. So as always, that’s what I’ll do here.)

I found the wine a touch sweet and cloying.  I have no idea the amount of residual sugar here, but that’s the impression I was left with.  Also, a shocking lack of acidity, given this is a Rosé, and Rosés are known for their acidity and crispness, which is one of the things that makes them so stellar with food.  What you want from a Rosé is both crisp acidity and some minerality, which was also lacking here.

The next night when I poured myself a glass, all the nicer elements from Saturday night’s tasting were gone – completely.  The wine was flat and dull.  It had the same quality that my best friend and I notice in certain people we know — it was as if it had had a “personectomy,” in other words, it’d had its personality removed. What little there was to start with.

I hope I’m not being too hard on this wine.  In an effort to gauge my impressions against those of others, I did some research, and found that one of my favorite go-to resources for honest, down-to-earth wine information, Wine Weirdos, said much the same about this wine.  Their take on it was that it had no acidity, no minerality, is super oaky, but not “fake oakey.”

(If you haven’t checked out Wine Weirdos, I recommend you do.  They are a couple of endearingly goofy guys who love wine and make charming wine review videos that you can learn a fair amount by watching.)

The good thing about dropping $12 bucks on a not-so-great wine like this one is, you’re only out $12, but you learned something useful in the process.  It is good to occasionally come across a disappointing wine, because then you have something to compare the better ones to.  All part of the wine adventure.  : )

Cheers!