29 April, 2010

Frisky, prickly wine?

Last week I attended a great class on pork belly at the Corner Table. (Here's a link to A Good Appetite's blog post about the class.) While we had many great wines that night to pair with the various pork belly dishes, there's one that's got me on a hunt. It's called Frisk Prickly and it's from Australia.
Now, I'll admit, I barely got to taste this. The restaurant only had a half bottle and I was the sixth of six to be served. But the tease was enough to get me excited about this new wine. It's a blend of Riesling and Muscat Gordo, two aromatic white grapes known for sweetness and lower alcohol levels. They're also known to have great levels of acidity making wines that can be well balanced and full of flavor.

Here are the tasting notes from Frisk's website: 

It’s a mouth-revving Riesling with a bite that sings with mountain-stream purity, quartz-like acidity coming right at you, bold and unapologetic. You may see notes of lemon sorbet, bath salts and white lilies layered with spices from your favorite childhood pie shop…guess  that depends on your childhood. But you can’t deny its raciness and versatility, sidling up suggestively to food that’s both sweet and spicy. Its intensity will slap you in the face, the oodles of length will have you scrambling for more.

I'm not so sure about "bath salts" but with both Riesling and Muscat, it is very aromatic. It was sweet and spicy and also had really good acidity. It was also slightly sparklling, hence the prickle, so it was also very refreshing. For me it would make a great summer apertif. Others in the group thought it would be better as a dessert wine. Either way, I'm on the hunt for this wine so I can try it both before and after dinner. 

28 April, 2010

Pinot and lamb.

Any one who watched Top Chef last season savored the Pigs and Pinot episode. I confess that I was in Napa the week the episode aired and somehow my car drove its way over to Healdsburg in Sonoma just to eat at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, home of the annual Pigs and Pinot celebration. It was a wonderful experience, but I digress already. Pork and Pinot Noir make great plate mates as they are both medium bodied; one won't over power the other. But I often see Pinot Noir recommended with lamb dishes as well and thought I would give it a try.

The food.
On the menu was lamb burgers. I just mixed ground lamb with some garlic, chives, and bread crumbs (for a little more body although I'm not sure it was necessary) grilled them on the stove top to medium and topped with some tzatziki sauce. They were delicious and juicy.

The wine.
The wine this night was a bit of a splurge and one might say more than what was required for burgers. It was the 2004 Calera Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir. I picked this wine up for a steal at Wine Street Spirits in North Oaks, MN during their remodeling sale at 40% off. And since it's a 2004 I thought it might be perfect drinking now. It was.

Garnet in color with some amber on the rim, the Calera had amazing red fruit aromas of cherry, dried cherry, dried strawberry and even a bit of fig. You could also detect some cola and floral notes. Yet, like most pinot noirs there was a bit of earthiness there, too. These flavors were echoed on the palate as well. There's also a bit of vanilla indicating some oak. (A quick look at the tasting notes on the web site shows that it was aged on oak but only 15% of the barrels were new.) The finish was smooth as silk. (Okay, I apologize for going a bit geeky on the tasting notes here.)

Why this worked with the lamb. In part, this works because Pinot Noir is so flexible with food. It typically has great acidity and low tannins, which doesn't over power food. In the case of these lamb burgers, the lamb was very mild and had only a hint of gaminess. The hint of earth matched the hint of gaminess perfectly. The burgers weren't overly spiced but were more herbal which is a good match for a wine that's moderate in alcohol. Had the wine been heavier, say like big Zin, it would have been too much for the burgers. Instead this wine was soft with a good balance of fruit and earth.

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines. And now I can add Calera as one of my favorite Pinot Noir makers. The list is growing long.

27 April, 2010

A gift of wine.

Gift giving can be a challenge and I often turn to wine. But picking the right bottle (or bottles) can still be tricky business. Here are some hints that help.

Set a budget.
It doesn't take long to over spend on a bottle (or bottles) of wine. And it doesn't always make sense to overspend when your wine is going to be served along side hot dogs and hamburgers (in that case, I'd give a great craft brew, but that's another story). On the other hand, you don't want to bring Two Buck Chuck to a dinner party, unless you know it's the recipient's favorite. There are no hard and fast rules about what to spend. However, I typically spend at least as much as I would spend on myself. If the the receiver is particularly into wine, I'll increase that amount and spend as much as I would on a special occasion wine for myself. If you're still not sure, spend about $20. You'll get better than average bottle.

Be personal.
You don't need to know a lot about wine to pick something that fits the recipient's personality or taste. It could be as simple as knowing they prefer red, white or sparkling. Or there could be something about the wine name or label that reminds you of the recipient. At a recent bridal shower for one of the members of my wine club, we were asked to bring a wine that reminded us of the bride. There were two predominant themes: Malbec and bubbly. We all knew the bride loved the blue fruit flavors of Malbec and she received several bottles of various brands. Others thought of the bride's bubbly and joyous personality and brought something that sparkled. Either way, each gift giver had a way to connect the wine to the bride.

Tell a story.
Give the wine a purpose.  I recently gave a friend and her future husband a few bottles for their first year of married life. I matched each wine to an occasion which they could open it. For example: a malbec for the first time they fire up the grill, a pinot noir for their first Thanksgiving, and a sparkling wine for their first anniversary. At the bridal shower for me and my husband, everyone knew we were going to Italy on our honeymoon so they all chipped in and bought us an Italian wine tasting. In both instances, the gift wasn't just a bottle of wine, it was an experience.

Whet the appetite.
Or in this case the palate. Even if you're unsure of the bottle you've purchased, you can create excitement for the bottle with some tasting notes. For the gift I gave to the friend and her future husband I found tasting notes online for each of the bottles. Some well written notes gets the receiver excited and adds to the experience. It's an extra step that takes little time and brings a special touch to your gift.

When all else fails.
Buy Champagne. Or any sparkling wine for that matter (only sparkling wine from the region of Champagne can carry this name.)  In my opinion, we don't drink enough sparkling wine. All too often we only associate it with special occasions yet it is one of the most versatile wines there is. It goes with almost any food and any occasion.

I'm sure there are more guidelines out there. What are yours? Have you ever received a memorable wine gift? What made it memorable?

(Photo credit: theogeo)

26 April, 2010

What to drink with asparagus.

Fresh asparagus in the spring is such a treat we prepare it as often as we can. In fact, my mom has an asparagus patch and it is worth the seven hour drive to Nebraska to bring home the sweet tasting spears that last much longer than what's available in the supermarket. (Plus, my friends benefit from the haul, too.)

Last night we wanted that taste of spring. We started our menu with roasted asparagus with shallots, lemon, Parmesan, and prosciutto, added grilled halibut with Made in Napa Valley's Fish and Seafood Rub, and roasted rosemary potatoes.

The toughest food to pair with wine in this menu is the asparagus. It's notoriously difficult to match with wine. It can make the wine, especially Chardonnay, taste vegetal and just plain off. Who wants that? Enter Sauvignon Blanc. Not only can the grassy herbal notes of most Sauvignon Blancs complement asparagus, but the citrus qualities help brighten the whole meal.

We paired our dinner with a 2007 Voss Rutherford Estate Vineyard.

Why this works: The 2007 Voss is a classic Sauvignon Blanc with lots of citrus flavors like lemon and grapefruit but also has some green notes like herbs and a bit of grassiness. Many Sauvignon Blancs can be excessively grassy but the Voss is nicely fruit driven. It's dry and crisp so that bright acidity keeps everything tasting fresh. Not only does this work well with the asparagus, but both the halibut and the potatoes were accented with herbs as well so the wine was perfect with the entire dinner.

Have you had a good Sauvignon Blanc lately? Let us know what it was.

24 April, 2010

Welcome to Vinthropologie!

Welcome to Vinthropologie! For quite some time now, my friends have been asking me to start a wine blog. I have been passionate about wine for years now and am always on a quest to learn more. That passion also makes me want to share what I've learned with others so blogging seems like a natural way to do that.

Now, there are a ton of wine blogs out there, many done by professionals that I like to follow and many that are done by those that just want to post tasting notes that I find a bit boring. I won't be trying to compete with those professionals, but will link to those posts on occasion. And I won't attempting to just create a log of what I'm drinking, although I'll share what I've been tasting both at home and around town.

Rather, I'd like to share what I've learned over the years that has made wine so pleasurable in my life. I love the stories that are told around how the wine is made and how that affects what we taste in the glass. I love the stories that are created among friends when a bottle is opened and shared. Hence, the name Vinthropologie.

I hope you enjoy!