Posts Tagged ‘Chardonnay’

Why not the obvious 10 Winter Wines? Because when its 18 degrees outside, sometimes you need a little something extra to get you out into the world (amIright?) and so, dear readers, I’ve given you just that. Below you’ll find a collection of some of my favorite recent wines – I’ve got plenty more coming your way but these should all keep you nice and warm for now. And just in case you’re bummed that I’ve squandered an opportunity to ramble mercilessly before, after, and during my wine discussions, fear not! For there is a lovely little chunk of Forget Burgundy goodness in each bite-sized…erm…review?  Cheers!


Bodegas Muga 2007 Reserva Unfiltered ($26.99)* : This beauty was a finish-in-one-night bottle. When I mentioned to a dear old friend that I had a bottle of Rioja that I’d been meaning to taste lying around she exclaimed that she’d been loving her some Rioja lately and that was that. Powerful but lively with red fruit, undertones of chocolate and a kiss of oak, this was the perfect wine for a long night of catching up, old laughs, and chilly weather. So what does it mean that its unfiltered, you ask? A lot of winemakers these days like to pour their finished product through a fine-pored filter to ensure a crystal-clear wine but some more traditionally minded devotees, insist that this can strip a wine of some of its finer aromas and flavors and, thus, decline to filter their wine. However, this doesn’t mean that this wine was cloudy by any means it was perfectly clear and just as delicious.

Trumpeter Rutini Wines Merlot 2010 ($12)* : This Merlot from Mendoza, Argentina’s Malbec territory was a really pleasant surprise. Sideways snobbery aside, I love a good Merlot. That’s right – I. love. Merlot. And this particular bottle was eager to please. This wine was juicy with flavors of black cherries and some brooding darker fruit that was set off with some nice subtle spice and rich full body all held up by firm but not overpowering tannin that made it a pleasure to drink all by its lonesome but also would have lent itself well to pairing with dinner.

Valle dell’Acate Frappato 2010 ($18) : Ah, Frappato – that strange little grape from Sicily. When a few friends and I went to one of my favorite wine bars, The Tangled Vine, on a recent Wednesday evening we were delighted to find out that on that particular day of the week they’ll serve any of the wines on their wine list by-the-glass if you commit to two glasses. In the face of such a glut of wonderful options, I gleefuly chose this little gem. When it arrived, the wine’s pretty scent was practically curling out of our wine glasses like the seductive pink hand-shaped puffs of perfume that, once upon a time, enticed cartoon characters to follow with love-struck infatuation. Strawberries, raspberries, and roses danced around the rim of the glass and delivered a light, floral and juicy wine with bright acid and a lovely finish.

2009 Chateau Coupe Roses “La Bastide” Minervois ($15) : Minervois is an AOC within the larger Languedoc-Roussilon region in the South of France (just west of Provence). For a long time, the Languedoc was the source of many of France’s ordinary table wines – and those from Minervois were particularly favored as great go-to’s for bistro fare. This particular wine, made from a mixture of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah is a wonderful example of an easy-to-drink wine that pairs well with all kinds of food. On the nose, this wine is a little bit barnyard – a little funky in the best sensebut with a crisp medium body that’s packed with plummy fruit and a dusty dark-chocolatey finish.

Dievole Dievolino Chianti DOCG 2008 ($14)* : I’ll be honest, most of the time I think about Chianti I think about it as a wine my dad loves to order. It’s not usually something that I pay a lot of attention – it’s a little been-there-done-that. This bottle, however, was a complete and pleasant surprise! Lively and bright with typical Sangiovese flavors of cherries and plums, this wine gets a little more serious the longer you sip it – unfurling flavors of tobacco and an earthy quality that make it stand out. It would be the perfect companion to a plate of pasta swimming in red sauce or something yummy and Parmigiano-ish.

San Pietro Lagrein 2009 ($15) : So there I was, hearing about this weird little grape called “Lagrein” for the first time and thinking that maybe I’d picked up on something new going on in the wide world of wine. Enter stage left: Google. Guess who wrote about Lagrein way back in March? You guessed it – good ole Eric Asimov at the New York Times. Drats! Any ways, Asimov might have written up this Northern Italian variety months ago, but it’s only just now popping up on wine lists all over NYC and making a more noticeable appearance on retail shelves. It’s not hard to see why either; Lagrein makes a plump, juicy red wine that’s high on acid, low on tannin, and fruity but not fruit-bomby. It’s the wine geek’s answer to Pinot-fatigue –  just as nice to sip on its own as it is to pair with lots of different kinds of food. 

Erste + Neue Lagrein 2010 ($18) : With my insatiable curiosity not yet quite sated, I was determined to get a fair swing at Lagrein. Purchased at Eataly’s wine shop – I brought this home to be my cooking companion while a friend casually whipped up some braised pork cheek caramelized ragu to be served over the funniest little curly pasta I’ve ever seen. Seeing as my friend was too busy cooking to actually pay me any mind while I clamored (danced, maybe?) for attention, I sure was glad I’d decided to purchase a bottle of wine for sipping-while-cooking. But enough about me. The wine? It was lovely – tingling acidity, warm ripe fruits, and a nice tight finish without a ton of tannin that made it effortlessly sippable. Dare I say gulpable?

Whites (and a Rosé )

Bodegas Muga 2010 Blanco ($15.99)* : Look, its hard enough to get me to drink white wine most of the time anyways. Add winter into the mix and you’ve got yourself a bonafide challenge. One this wine was happy to live up to. I schlepped this baby all the way from the UWS to a friend’s dinner party in Williamsburg – do you know how opposite those two places are? Like, the most opposite. Anyways. My friends were serving up a smorgasbord of leftover this-and-that and this wine managed to be a true crowd pleaser – the girl in the bumblebee outfit (she had just come from protesting Montsanto at OWS) loved it paired with dark chocolate just a much as I did alongside the pulled pork tacos. It had a gorgeous nose that leapt right out of the glass – orange blossom and melon – that was followed by a rich and full-bodied wine with flavors of peaches, a nice kiss of oak and a lively minerally finish.

Prieure de Montezargues Tavel AOC Rosé 2010 ($28)* : I’m kindof having a thing with rosé right now. It’s totally inexplicable given the frigid temperatures outside (seriously, right now I could chill wine leaving it by the window for a few minutes) but it’s just one of those things, I guess. This beautiful rosé from the Tavel AOC in the Rhone, across the river from famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape, tasted just as pretty as it looked. Delicate and subtle, with a nose of ripe grapefruit and pear, the crisp flavor of white raspberries was rounded out by a rich full body and long finish that expressed soft notes of ripe peaches. On a salad night, this is exactly what I want to add some indulgence.

Domaine du Tariquet Chenin-Chardonnay 2010 ($10)* : As I’ve made it no secret that Chardonnay is not my favorite grape, and that I love Chenin Blanc, I thought this wine might just be a great compromise. Calling this wine a compromise is to undermine just how delicious it is. At $10 a bottle, this is a wonderful wine – combining the rich sweetness and minerality of chenin blanc with the richness and big fruit of Chardonnay. The price means this wine might just enter into my rotation as a go-to everyday bottle when I’m in the mood for a white wine or have to entertain a crowd that clamors for Chardonnay.

Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 ($58)* : Yes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is known for its earthy, spicy, and rich red wines. But this wine is a great example of just how good the oft-overlooked whites from the area can be as well! This is a rich and full-bodied white that has an intense expressive nose of ripe peaches and a hint of bitter citrus peel. Smooth and delightfully round on the palate, with ripe fruit and a long finish, this wine nonetheless has a nice lively acidity to lift it up and a pretty floral quality to the very end. If ever you’re looking for a rich, full bodied white to keep you warm on a winter’s night, this is definitely a great choice.

*denotes that this wine was a press sample

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Drinking Cooking with Wine

            For those of you who don’t know me too well, one of my all-consuming passions besides wine is cooking. In fact, once upon a time I had a little blog called The Unlikely Gourmand, where I chronicled my mishaps and triumphs in the kitchen over about the course of a year.

gratuitious staged shot of Farmers Market goodies

I’ve always loved cooking with wine and, in fact, had one of several fake ID’s confiscated for trying to purchase a bottle of Marsala wine (to make, what else, Chicken Marsala). My attempt to explain that I was merely buying the obscure and practically undrinkable fortified wine for purely innocent and culinary purposes fell on deaf ears and I was left sans ID and sans dinner. America is a tough place for the aspiring home cook under the age of 21.

When it comes to cooking with wine there really are a lot of opinions out there, circling around the one consensus that it makes a lot of dishes infinitely better. If you watch anyone on the Food Network, you’ve surely heard that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. Walk into any restaurant kitchen, however, and you’ll find Carlo Rossi-esque jugs of wine that are used expressly for cooking. So who’s right?

It depends. I realize this is not the answer you were hoping for, so lets get to it, shall we?

A couple of bottles from a few weeks back

Certainly for wine-centric dishes like Coq au Vin or Beouf Bourgignon or even a simple braised chicken dish, the wine you’re using matters a little bit more. If it’s a dish that calls for wine as a significant ingredient, it should be a wine that you would drink. That’s not to say you should go ahead and pour that expensive1987 Bordeaux you have lying around into your Coq au Vin because that would just be a waste. A very expensive and sad waste. But, if you have a decent everyday-quality wine (in the $10-$20 range) that you wouldn’t mind drinking while you cook or, later, with dinner, by all means, go ahead and use it.

Same goes for a bottle of wine that you just never got around to finishing. I, for one, hate to waste so I try to finish a bottle over two nights. However, if I just can’t get around to emptying a bottle and I’ve got a glass or more left on the third day, I’ll keep the bottle corked in the fridge and use it to cook later. It’s also never a bad idea to have a cheap ($7ish) bottle of Pinot Grigio in the fridge to use in everything from Risotto to Soup.

Another reason I would like to believe those Food Network ladies are always hawking drinkable wine is that most of the time you’re only using a cup (more or less) of wine in any given dish and so why not have that wine around to serve with dinner or drink later? However, keep in mind that the wine is going to be cooked so it’s really not necessary to splurge.

Alright, so now that we’ve cleared that up – lets get to the best kinds  of wine to cook with. As I mentioned earlier I think a light Pinot Grigio is a good thing to have around – its bright and acidic (the main reason you use wine is usually to deglaze, or in normal terms, to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of a pan). You don’t want to use an oaky chardonnay because its just got too much character and will impart its own funky flavor. However, an unoaked chardonnay could do quite nicely. I’m also a big fan of cooking with dry reisling – again its got lots of acid and bright flavors that won’t get in the way of your dish. Sauvignon Blanc can be tricky because sometimes the NZ or California examples are just too herbaceous, too grassy, and too fruity. But if you get a flinty French example you should be ok.

You could make this if you had some wine around!

For red wines, the same rules apply. Pinot Noir is a great cooking wine because its got great acid and lighter flavors. For a “dry red wine” Chianti can be pretty fabulous – its tannic yet light and still acidic and I don’t mind using a Cab-Merlot blend that’s not too oaky for richer dishes like beef stew.
Very recently, I tried a wonderful recipe from the ladies at Food 52 – one of the best food websites around if you ask me. It was a dish made with Rose and as soon as I saw it, I just had to make it. It was delicious and a great way to use up some leftover Rose I had lying around. When cooking with Rose, I’d urge you to go for the good stuff from Provence – crisp and herby and just delightful.

The only thing you really want to stay away from is wine that’s really expensive or wine that’s really bold. Anything else is most likely going to better your dish more often than bring it down. Yet another gift of the grape.

Want to try cooking with wine? Head on over to the recipes linked below:

Merrill’s Rosy Chicken

Coq Au Vin

Chicken in Reisling (go for the cream instead of the creme fraiche)

Alice Waters’ (and my favorite) Beef Stew

Risotto with Mushrooms and Peas (can easily swap out white wine for red and change up the ingredients but a great basis for liquid-to-rice ratio)

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Cake - am I bad at photography or what?

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One sip of Chardonnay and my mind’s eye invariably conjures an image of the tragically coiffed and shoulder pad-wearing career women who inhabit my favorite romantic comedies from the 1980s. If one were to solely look to popular romantic comedies of the era as a cultural reference point (which, obviously, I don’t) it would be easy to conclude that these women worked their asses off and struggled against the patriarchal power structure of corporate America just so they could sit down to a nice cold glass of Chardonnay at the end of the day.

I’m sure the working women of the decade curled up with a big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon often enough, too, but the 1980s was the decade of Chardonnay. It was the first major varietal grown on American soil to yield an internationally recognized wine and established Napa Valley as a “serious” wine region after the famous “Judgement of Paris” in 1976. The “Judgement” — which you can see depicted in the 2008 film Bottleshock — used blind tasting and eleven extremely discerning judges to measure California wines against French ones. California rocked it.

Perhaps for all those career women who fought to crash through glass ceilings and garner respect in the workplace, drinking a wine that had broken so many staid conventions in the viticulture world was all too appropriate.

Napa has been producing wine since the early 19th century, but until that tasting in 1976, it seemed as though Americans just couldn’t break into the wine world. No one would take a California bottle seriously — they wanted old vines and French labels. But as soon as Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay bested the best of Burgundy, west coast winemakers made a mad dash to grow their own chard vines and take advantage of a rapidly growing market. In an era of unabashed patriotism, national strife, and culture shock, Americans were eager and proud to embrace the wine that put them on par with the greatest vineyards of France.

Perhaps for all those career women who fought to crash through glass ceilings and garner respect in the workplace, drinking a wine that had broken so many staid conventions in the viticulture world was all too appropriate. It’s easy to forget, when considering Chardonnay, that “the California style” is a relatively modern invention.

The California wineries that pioneered the style were, at first, producing strictly classic renditions of the Chardonnays produced in Burgundy. These French Chardonnays can range from the dry, crisp, and minerally versions made in Chablis to the rich, nutty wines of the Cote d’Or. Eventually California winemakers got bolder and crafted bigger and bigger wines that were intensely buttery, redolent of oak, and often laced with tropical flavors.

California-style Chardonnays often sacrifice food-friendliness for size and so, while they’re great to drink on their own, they can coat the tongue and leave diners groping in a fog of oak for any other flavors. Many winemakers are starting to turn away from this massive style and opting to craft more food-friendly Chardonnays that retain the flavor profile of the classic California style but have a lighter mouth feel and higher acid content.

This particular difference boils down to a simple process called Malolactic fermentation that’s usually used to change the naturally occurring tart-flavored malic acid (think green apples, nectarines, and pears) into softer-tasting lactic acid that gives a rounder mouth feel.

Chardonnay is one of the most malleable wines — it can be manipulated through a vast variety of other factors that can all be gone into with great detail (but you’re spared this time around). For the time being, lets focus on a solid example of a few different popular styles so that whatever you’re going through — a fit of Francophilia, a rash of ’80s nostalgia, or a surge of American pride — you’ll know exactly what kind of wine to pair with your mood.

Try These:

Classic California-style (oaky, buttery, and big): Robert Mondavi Solaire (California), 2006, $14

Tropical and Fruity: Jekel Chardonnay (California), 2007, $11

Chablis (dry, crisp, and fruity): Chateau de la Greffiere (France), 2008,  $17

Cote d’Or: Verget Bourgogne Blanc (France), 2006, $19

Unoaked: Plantagenet Omrah (W. Australia), 2008, $16

Nouveau California (minerally, acidic, green fruits): Joel Gott Chardonnay (California), 2008, $15

Well-rounded and easy to drink: Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard (Washington), 2007, $17

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