Monday, December 15, 2014

Wines for Under the Tree

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Whether you fete your holidays by a tree, a Menorah or a Kwanza Bush, there are so many wines to enjoy. Joyful evenings are often best celebrated with a little bubbly. Most Proseccos and Cavas are showing better than ever at great price points, as are French sparkling wines from regions such as Alsace and the Loire Valley.

California makes an abundance of balanced and creamy sparklers, many from French houses and Oregon and Washington are also towing the line. Major corporate powerhouse Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington continues to produce some of the best sparkling wine for the price point. Lambrusco, from Italy, is rich in tannins, makes the tongue tingle and pairs so well with plates of holiday meats and cheeses you may want to lay out for appetizers.

Herbaceous Wines for the Season
With all the foliage that can deck the house as we move into the new year, wines with herbal notes almost put all the aromas in synergy. Crisp Sauvignon Blancs (some of us love whites when the heat is on or spend the last months of the year in warmer climes) has brambly notes. Some of my favorites are from the Loire Valley or Chile. Bordeaux is also making some smashing Suavignon Blanc-based wines, many blended with Semillon.

If you are serving cocktails for the holidays a dash of bitters in almost any drink does wonders for its aromatic profile. Many classic gins as well as Genevers also have abundant aromatics that can be touched off by just a hint of tonic, citrus or water.

Lush and Fat Wines for Feasting
If the end of the year is a time for you and your loved ones to pull out some stellar vintages and have an over-the-top celebration, may I suggest an older vintage from Tuscany or Piedmonte? Barbarescos always know how to bring to the party, while their lower-key cousins may keep it more understated and classic. Classic Tuscan wines and great Bordeaux are always great to serve and older vintages of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can be exciting to taste if they have been well cellared.

Holiday celebrations are never bad times to break open those old bottles of Port and Madeira (your guests will be taking about your party for years to come). Later in the evening is also a great time to pull out those Magnums or even larger format bottles that put smiles on everyone’s faces. They could be Champagnes or classic reds. You could also wrap up the evening with great dessert wines—from Napa to Bordeaux there are abundant  choices—or even a little round of Fernet Branca to fortify the stomach for the new year.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cocktail: Reckless Originality

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There is a haunting quality of artisan eau de vie that brings me to the table again and again.  Perhaps that’s why you drink eau de vie after a meal.  It is a digestive and it is meant to help you digest a good meal. 

In the brilliant little book: The Craft and Culture of Artisan Schnaps, the author Kirk Ross brings you to the table filled with marvelous anecdotes about this most unknown way to finish your meal.   He calls it the Schnaps Culture and for good reason.  Schnaps is good for you because it has enriched the native habitat in both Germany and Austria. 

There is a rather long word for what Schnaps do for digestion in a cultural sense of the word.  It is called Verdauungsschnaps.   This long word simply means digestive Schnaps.  The word you may be most familiar with in English is the French word, digestif.  According to the author, this is the same thing. 

Verdauungsschnaps is the opposite of an Aperitif!  An Aperitif is meant to stimulate your appetite, whereas the Verdauungsschnaps is for after a meal.  In other words, you drink Schnaps after the work of eating is done and digestion needs to be stimulated.  To put yourself into the historical context for drinking such important liqueurs, you must first imagine a time without electricity or refrigeration.  That time is easily forgotten in the modern vernacular.  As Americans, we have forgotten the bad old days when water was poisonous and most food could kill you.  Products in the “bitters” world were originally used for water purification and also to heal the gut when food poisoning was not an uncommon affliction.   Most people walked around in a constant state of pain from eating rotten food.  This wasn’t a surprise with the lack of sanitation in kitchens and in the fields.  Vinegar based Shrubs were not used just for pleasure, they provided a marvelous way to rid the body of food borne illness.  The same holds true for Schnaps, except Schnaps are not metered out like bitters, drop by precious drop- they are imbibed in small thistle shaped glasses, packed full of alcohol and bursting with fruit flavors.  They are as much a part of the culture of Austria and Germany as the wines that grace dinner tables.  Schnaps are an essential part of enjoying a filling meal because they help you pass food through the digestive tract.  Very important indeed!

In 250 AD, St. Florian was born in the Roman city of Aelium Cetiumin.  His first and most famous task was to organize the local firefighting brigades.  (He is known to this day as the patron saint of firefighters)  The long and the short of his life are well known.  He was persecuted for his religion and ended up becoming a martyr for his cause, which created a need to celebrate his life in a holiday, known as St. Florian’s Day in Europe.  This day of heavy eating and drinking is traditionally finished with a few shots of Schnaps to help digest the heavy food.  Some of these foods include bread, eggs, lard and of course Schnaps!

Schnaps play into the word “religious experience” more often than not because many of these festivals take place in the colder months where a nice flask of Schnaps tucked into the pocket of a pilgrim offers powerful warming along with healthy digestion of the traditionally heavy foods.  Whatever the case may be for Schnaps, they are part of the social thread and have been popular for hundreds of years.  Schnaps are indeed a way of life and they are certainly part of the Germanic culture. 

Schnaps and their cousins- Eau de Vie are life giving potions because they work!  Schnaps are not about getting drunk, nor are they purely about digestion.  What they are- is a way of life.  Schnaps are cultural and because they are part of life, Schnaps are edified as essential in life itself. 

If you can find a copy of The Craft and Culture of Artisan Schnaps I recommend it highly.  Not as a mere metaphor for drinking, but as part of a greater good, the appreciation of life.  White Mule Press in Hayward, California is the publisher of this marvelous little book with just under eighty pages… That certainly makes it little!

One of my favorite Schnaps- or as it reads on the label, Eau de Vie is produced by Clear Creek in Oregon.  This magnificent “tree-spirit” is no more than a couple of ingredients.  Brandy, fresh off the still is infused with freshly picked buds of the Douglas fir tree, long known as a flavorful and colorful medicinal in folk practices.  The Douglas fir possesses magical qualities and flavorings.  It becomes essential when added to the classic Gin and Tonic, made with Barr Hill Gin from Vermont and something like the Q-Tonic water from Brooklyn, NY. 

The Douglas fir Eau de Vie is added drop by drop as if you are adding bitters to heal your aching belly.  This marvelous liquor can also be enjoyed alone in a snifter with a lemon zest coating the rim and a large hand cut ice cube. 

The combination of citrus to fir tree essence is most beguiling indeed. 

I also like to add an ounce or so of the Clear Creek Eau de Vie of Douglas fir to a portion of Casa Noble Reposado Tequila.  In this case the lightly smoky and citrus tinged Tequila is made slightly green and even more aromatic and haunting with the addition of the Eau de Vie. 

I suggest trying it soon because this is a most marvelous and complex way to bring the high quality of Casa Noble Tequila to an even higher level. 

Reckless Originality
Ingredients:
1 oz. Eau de Vie of Douglas fir
2 oz. Casa Noble Reposado Tequila
1 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz. Jasmine Simple Syrup from Royal Rose in Maine
3-4 drops Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Lemon Zest

Preparation:
Chill a Snifter with ice and water- when well chilled, pour out the ice and prepare your drink
To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice:
Add the Casa Noble and the lime juice with the Jasmine Simple Syrup
Cap and shake hard for 15 seconds or so
Rub the lemon zest around the rim of the pre-chilled snifter
Pour the Douglas Fir Eau de Vie into the pre-chilled snifter
Top with the Casa Noble Tequila and Jasmine Simple Syrup that you’ve shaken in the Boston Shaker
Garnish with another lemon zest, pinched over the top to reveal the citrus elements essential to this digestive. 
Dot a couple (or more) drops of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters over the top to finish…..


Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Author of: Apothecary Cocktails-Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today- Fair Winds Press- Beverly, Massachusetts. Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award, 2014 Tales of the Cocktail.  His forthcoming book, Whiskey Cocktails will be released October 14.  Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails follow with publication in spring ’15.  Warren is a master mixologist for several craft liquor companies.

Warren consults about mixology and spirits, travel, organic wine and food.  He’s written for web-blogs and magazines like: Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods: Dark Rye, Distiller, Total Food Service Magazine, Beverage Media Group, DrinkUpNY, Edible Publications, Foodista, Serious Eats, Mechanics of Style and Beekman1802.  He was in the Saveur-100 in 2010.

Warren is a former, mostly self, trained cook from the pot sink on up.  J&W and ACF were thrown in for good luck.  Warren was the former owner/co-founder of Olde Charleston Pasta in South Carolina: *Dissolved his business after Hurricane Hugo in 1989* - to a career in private banking, (nearly 20 years; “a very grand mistake”) to this reinvention in 2009 as the Warren he's finally become.

Warren is available to do highly personalized, interactive mixology events, local, national and international.
PS: Warren's second book, Whiskey Cocktails is on the market now!
Contact: jockeyhollow@gmail.com

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wine and Truffle Pairing

By Liza B. Zimmerman


What do you pair with the most expensive mushroom in the world? While truffles are grown all over the world, some of the best white ones come from the truffle market in Alba in Northwest Italy. What grows together goes together is never a bad rule and at a recent lunch in New York Celebirty Cruises’ executive chef John Suley paired a $20,000 hunk of mushroom with a handful of Piedmontese classics: Arneis and a 13-year old Barolo.

The funk and earthiness of Piedmonte reds always work well with the layered umani flavors of truffles. Barberesco would also stand up to the challenge, while it might be a spicier match, as would Dolcetto. Chef Suley will have time to play around with the pairings, as the remaining truffles will be featured on a handful of upcoming cruises.

Creamy dishes, like the stellar risotto chef Suley made at lunch, need those somewhat acidic wines to cut through the lushness of the truffles. Aged wines or those not too tannic to begin with would also be my first choice. Oftentimes the best pairings with Italian food are simple, notes Suley, so there’s no need to overthink it.

French Pairings
Truffles, more black than white, are also found in the South of France. So hearty and tannic wines like Cahors and Madiran will stand up to truffle-strewn dishes. Black truffles, according to Suley, are a little earthier. These classic Southwestern wines will also highlight the depth and intensity of meat-based dishes, such as veal cheeks or beef stew. I might also go well with a rougher grain like Polenta, which is generally served in cooler climes in Italy.

These rougher and more intense flavors of the black verisons can stand up to a younger wines with a more tannic flavor profile. Powerhouse Bordeauxs, Suley adds, are good for both black and white truffle pairings.


A California Twist
Truffles have been grown stateside for a number of years, in places like Oregon and the Napa Valley. Both the European classics and the up-and-comers are featured every year in the epicurican bacanal that is the Napa Valley Truffle Festival.

So a handful of domestic wines can also highlight the flavors of both black and white truffles. Chef Suley says in terms of Califonria wines, he would start with Pinot Noir and scale up into Pinot Noir. The funky, earlier Pinots from California with a more moderate alchol level would do the trick. A good example would be Heron’s delicate and balanced Pinot Noir with an alcohol by volume of 13 percent.

I often find California Cabernents’ tannins to be too strong to work well with delicate umani flavors that come from truffles. California Bordeaux-style blends, with the added softness of a touch of Merlot or the dustiness of a hint of Cabernet Franc can help soften the wine’s style so it supports, rather than overwhelms a truffle-inspired dish. Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignon and those coming out of Chile at a higher-price point would also do well with the aromatic profile that truffles lend to dishes.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cocktail: A Mere Pillar of Darkness

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Ireland is the country of all that green, bursting with emotion and sadness that wells up in your mind- even before you get off the plane.  I like flying into the West instead of directly into Dublin.  You see Dublin is a great city, but when I go to Ireland, I seek the hidden and the forgotten.  The places where all the great artists and musicians come from before they make their way into the city.  Sure Dublin has the best of everything, the best whiskey, the best food and certainly the best pubs.  But after living on and off in New York City over the years I’m well accustomed to the best of everything.  That doesn’t make me jaded, far from!  But what it makes me is thirsty for the people, places and things that haven’t gotten to the big city yet.  The places where time moves slower and flavor reveals itself through patience and fortitude.  You see my friends, in Ireland what is over the next hill is a discovery in itself and that for me is what travel is all about.  It’s that perfect wisp of sea air sensed just before you sip that carefully crafted Irish coffee, creating balance in your mind and in your thirst.

Irish whiskey is spelled with an e, just like American whiskey.  I wish I could tell you why, but I cannot.  It’s just one of those things I suppose.  And Irish whiskey tastes in many ways as sweet and sensuous as Straight Bourbon whiskey, the droplets flow down my throat, warming me along the way.  Not all whiskey can say that to me.   Traditionally I eschew most Scotch (too smoky for me!) and Canadian just doesn’t have enough oomph for my palate.  Yet Irish whiskey is the right interplay between sweet, savory and potent.

Teeling Irish Whiskey is something new in a field well populated with the big names in Irish whiskies.  This whiskey takes the lesser-known path of least resistance.  It drinks like the hidden Ireland is undiscovered.  It evokes emotions of the song and the smiles of Ireland’s residents.  Each sip takes a road yet undiscovered, each cocktail crafted connects that country to the flavor inherent to the less mechanization, more passion method of distillation. 

Teeling’s label says a bit about this new Irish whiskey that catches my eye.  The words no chill filtering means much to me, as do the words 6 Months in Rum Casks.  Now even the Irish are sharing in the used cask world.  In this case they use Flor de Cana casks.  Which probably began their life as casks for Bourbon whiskey.  Again the Rhumb line travels the world and with it casks with a noble heritage.  It’s become a bit of a pet project for the casks, their venerable history and me.   Also on the label it reads Small Batch.  I’m not sure what a small batch constitutes, but it does sound authentic. 

Tasting Notes:  A sweet molasses based rum nose breaks away immediately into sharply delineated grains and sweet/salty caramel.  There are a plethora of stone fruits coming into view, each enrobed in more of that salted caramel and finely cut pipe tobacco.  Late Fall flower oils across the back of my tongue gives way to a long and luxurious finish that drips down my throat in sweet rivulets.  There is sweet honey in there too, plus freshly cut grass and toasted breakfast cereal that marches down to the bottom of my belly warming me deeply!

It’s magical stuff!  If you like your whiskey on the sweeter side, you’re going to just adore Teeling.  I can tell you that it mixes like a dream and in an Irish Coffee, well- I’ll bet you can make one as fine as the ones enjoyed at the Shannon Airport on the Western reaches of Ireland.  Where time is slower and the fogs hang low over the cliffs.

Get yourself to this hidden Ireland, and don’t forget to drink your fill of Irish Whiskey- and make it Teeling if you please. 

My friend Josh Morton makes Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur in Brooklyn.  It’s authentic in every way. 

I was feeling cold inside the other night and wanted to make a hot toddy that spoke of the West Coast of Ireland from a fishermen’s perspective.  Traditionally Irish whiskey would be combined with hot tea and this cocktail for your mug is no exception, except that it will hold dark coffee instead of tea and Josh’s ginger liqueur is an augmentation to the brilliant Irish whiskey that says Teeling on the label. 

You must use a hand crafted stoneware mug to house this marvelous concoction of stomach warming (and healing) ingredients and force you into relaxation.

A Mere Pillar of Darkness

(Preheat your stoneware mug with hot water, and then pour out)
Whip your cream by hand to the liquid/soft stage.
You MUST NOT use that stuff from a can!

Ingredients:
Very dark coffee- steaming hot
2 oz. Teeling Whiskey
1 oz. Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
1 tablespoon of raw sugar (Demerara works)
3 oz. Softly whipped cream
Scraping of fresh nutmeg
Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters

Preparation:
Pre-heat your mug with boiling water, pour out
Add the raw sugar
Add a good splash of the Teeling Whiskey
Ignite with a match so the sugar and the whiskey caramelize in the heavy sided mug
Spoon the heavy cream over to extinguish
Add the Barrow’s Intense
Add the remainder of the whiskey
Pour in the hot coffee
Spoon another tablespoon of the whipped cream over the top
Scrape some nutmeg
Dot with the Jerry Thomas Bitters

YUM.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Author of: Apothecary Cocktails-Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today- Fair Winds Press- Beverly, Massachusetts. Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award, 2014 Tales of the Cocktail.  His forthcoming book, Whiskey Cocktails will be released October 14.  Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails follow with publication in spring ’15.  Warren is a master mixologist for several craft liquor companies.

Warren consults about mixology and spirits, travel, organic wine and food.  He’s written for web-blogs and magazines like: Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods: Dark Rye, Distiller, Total Food Service Magazine, Beverage Media Group, DrinkUpNY, Edible Publications, Foodista, Serious Eats, Mechanics of Style and Beekman1802.  He was in the Saveur-100 in 2010.

Warren is a former, mostly self, trained cook from the pot sink on up.  J&W and ACF were thrown in for good luck.  Warren was the former owner/co-founder of Olde Charleston Pasta in South Carolina: *Dissolved his business after Hurricane Hugo in 1989* - to a career in private banking, (nearly 20 years; “a very grand mistake”) to this reinvention in 2009 as the Warren he's finally become.

Warren is available to do highly personalized, interactive mixology events, local, national and international.
PS: Warren's second book, Whiskey Cocktails is on the market now!
Contact: jockeyhollow@gmail.com

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cocktail: Full of Light and Bustle!

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

What can I say about the combination of chocolate along with orange, spices and strong bourbon whiskey?  Well my friends it’s a match made in cocktailian heaven!  As a rule I don’t care for sugary sweet but this combination is anything but sweet.  It’s savory! 

Take the Kings County Chocolate Bourbon.  This is not made with massive amounts of sugar, nor artificial sweeteners.  It is chocolate, but only the husks- leaving the flavor profile intact, without adding anything that tastes like candy.  It’s most elegant in the glass and completely unique in the world of whiskey. 

Now I’m going out on a limb.  Traditionally I would refuse to talk about flavored spirits out of my overabundance of care for what I like and what I just don’t want to review.  For one thing, I would never review cake-flavored vodka.  I got some heat from a bunch of people on Pinterest the other day when I said something about someone’s idea of a craft cocktail…(chocolate cake flavored “vodka” mixed with a Starbucks Frappuccino, right out of the dairy case at the supermarket)… I suppose someone would say that the combination is pretty delicious, but I digress.  That is just not my topic!

But strangely enough I’m passionately attracted to the Kings County Chocolate Bourbon.  It has something to do with the quality of the chocolate.  You see the chocolate comes from Mast Brothers in Brooklyn.  You may have come across their ultra-high end, hand crafted chocolate bars at your local cheese shop or possibly at a wine store.   They are not just everywhere and for good reason.  They don’t make millions of bars like the big players in the chocolate scene do.   Their reputation for quality makes all the sense in the world.  They make chocolate for the artist in the stomach of each of us. And their chocolate stands alone in my mind each time a lozenge of it dissolves into my mouth.

Chocolate just goes magically with orange and spices.  I’m enthralled by the texture and pattern of this combination of flavors.  When I was growing up, my mom always had bittersweet chocolate dipped orange rinds around.  It was her thing and I knew not to go near them- or sneak a bite.  But years later I’ve begun to crave the tangy creaminess of the orange zest, enrobed in bittersweet chocolate and this gives me pause.  Why not combine orange liqueur like the Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur that is more rum than orange liqueur into the excellent mix of Kings County Chocolate whiskey and some hot chocolate?

Why not indeed! 

Simplicity rules the roost with this warming drink that is ½ relax and ½ invigorate.  The invigorating portion is from the fine Moonshine liquor in the Kings County Chocolate Whiskey and the relaxation is from the potent 40% by volume alcohol level held within.  There is just no messing around with this combination of spirits. Orange, chocolate, bourbon, hot chocolate… ahhhh how about some fresh nutmeg and the most marvelous German bitters to finish?

How about that indeed!

Full of Light and Bustle!
Ingredients:
2 oz. Kings County Chocolate Whiskey
1 oz.  Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur
4 oz. Hot Chocolate- the best you can afford- such as the chocolate from Mast Brothers?
Bitter Truth Spiced Chocolate Bitters
Fresh nutmeg

Preparation:
Melt the Mast Brothers Chocolate with a double boiler- slowly!
Pre-heat a stout ceramic mug
Pour out the water from the mug when it is good and hot- through and through
Add the Kings County Chocolate Whiskey
Add the Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur
Top with Hot Chocolate
Scrape some nutmeg over the top
Dot with the Bitter Truth Bitters
Offer one to your friend and then make another for yourself

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Author of: Apothecary Cocktails-Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today- Fair Winds Press- Beverly, Massachusetts. Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award, 2014 Tales of the Cocktail.  His forthcoming book, Whiskey Cocktails will be released October 14.  Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails follow with publication in spring ’15.  Warren is a master mixologist for several craft liquor companies.

Warren consults about mixology and spirits, travel, organic wine and food.  He’s written for web-blogs and magazines like: Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods: Dark Rye, Distiller, Total Food Service Magazine, Beverage Media Group, DrinkupNY, Edible Publications, Foodista, Serious Eats, Mechanics of Style and Beekman1802.  He was in the Saveur-100 in 2010.

Warren is a former, mostly self, trained cook from the pot sink on up.  J&W and ACF were thrown in for good luck.  Warren was the former owner/co-founder of Olde Charleston Pasta in South Carolina: *Dissolved his business after Hurricane Hugo in 1989* - to a career in private banking, (nearly 20 years; “a very grand mistake”) to this reinvention in 2009 as the Warren he's finally become.

Warren is available to do highly personalized, interactive mixology events, local, national and international.
PS: Warren's second book, Whiskey Cocktails is on the market now!
Contact: jockeyhollow@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wines for Thanksgiving

By  Liza B. Zimmerman


Those holidays don't always have to be about turkey. It has never been my favorite main dish and I am excitedly talking to my new partners in crime about potentially serving Osso Bucco or lamb for the upcoming holiday.

If you have a tradition-bound crowd, lighter reds like Cabernet Franc and even Pinot Noir will work well with that turkey. Remember to brine it if you want the meat to be tender and flavorful.

You will want something will a little acidity to cut through the animal fat of the bird. If your stuffing has a lot of intense meat, on the sausage side particularly, you might even want to step it up to a more alcoholic, fruit-forward wine: such as a California Zinfandel.

Bubbles are always fun and festive for the holidays. The luscious fruit profile of Lambrusco paired with its acid structure makes it a perfect pairing for Turkey. It is the one of the Italians' go-to wines for holiday feasts, such as Christmas. Lini is a wonderful producer. For your guests with a sweeter palate, a sparkling Shiraz can also be fun.

A fairly round and somewhat herbaceous white might also do the trick, for those red-adverse at your table. The right white Rhône blends are pretty amazing with even meat-stuffed fowl. An aromatic wine, like a Kerner from Alto Adige would also fit the bill.

Go for Lamb
When I have been able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in New York, we have long stopped making Turkey. We  roast lamb ribs,  while my mom and I fight over how long it should cook, and pair it with dusty wines like Côtes du Rhône and earthy wines such as Cahors. If you want to be more patriotic for Thanksgiving, go with a California or Washington State Rhône blend.

One year with even did a pig roast cooked in Coca Cola and onion soup mix: trust me it was fantastic! A dish like that works beautifully with an off-dry Riesling, think German  or Washington State more than Alsace.

A domestic Cabernet Franc (there are lots of dusty notes to them) would even work. If you are in an Italian state of mind Barbaresco pairs beautifully with all kinds of rich meats and gives them a peppery zing. Much of the pairing will depend on how you cook the lamb. I tend to cover it in rosemary and some kind of red wine reduction, which can work well with some serious and tannic--and even sometimes herbal--wines.

What I Would Pair with Osso Buco
I have never had Osso Buco--that delicious hunk of bone-in veal shank served in Italy--for Thanksgiving, but it might happen this year. It would be even more unorthodox than lamb. The layers of fat in this dense meat call for rich, structured wines with tannins.

As it is an Italian dish I would probably go local with the pairings: Sangiovese is always fresh and fruit forward. Dense Aglianico from the Italian South would step up the intensity of the match and Piedmonte' s flexible and food-friendly wines: like Dolcetto on the affordable side, and Barolo on the high end, work with everything.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pairing Sonoma Wine with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman


We are spoiled by the enormous selection of great local wines living here in California. Some of my favorites have long been those found off the beaten path: Paso Robles, Anderson Valley and numerous impressive producers in Sonoma County.

A huge shift in day to night temperatures can produce subtle wines, with balanced acidity that are often reminiscent of Old World vintages in Sonoma. I had the pleasure of dining at the Dry Creek Kitchen, chef Charlie Palmer's restaurant within the Hotel Healdsburg, where sommelier and writer Courtney Humiston is incredibly passionate about the local wines.

She is also lucky enough to have an all-Sonoma list to showcase with the restaurant's locally sourced  and French-influenced food. Scallops en croute and truffles shaved on dishes upon request: just say yes! If I can have a peanut butter-parfait afterwards for dessert then I will feel if I have flown across the Atlantic and back during lunch.

A Closer Look at a Diverse Growing Region
"Sonoma  County is a very large and geographically diverse region -- from coastal ridges to Redwood forests to volcanic mountain ranges -- which lends itself to many different grape varieties and wine styles," says Humiston.

"There are so many different micro climates and different grape varieties growing here, I have fun introducing my guests to wines they have never had before [or heard of!]. ... so I appreciate having such a wide range of wines to play around with." She adds that many of these wines manage to combine the incredibly food-friendly flavors of purity, freshness and vibrancy.

A Passion for Pinot
Pinot Noir is often the go-to wine in this region. It can range from big, corpulent and meaty to sometimes reminiscent of Burgundy. Hot days and cool nights make for some powerful Pinots that hit some high alcohol levels and even stand up to steak. I often find them better pairings for dense and intense red meat than the region's Cabernet Sauvignons, which can sometimes be green and a bit tannic.

Anything with truffles on it, such as those being served in many restaurants this fall, ups the pairing potential enormously with Sonoma Pinot Noir. The funk and earth found in both of them brings out layers of flavors in the other. "You smell some wines from the Sonoma Coast and  'it's like being in a forest'--pine duff and crisp fall air--they capture the terroir perfectly. "

Humiston confirms that, "Pinot Noir is commonly considered the go-to wine for pairing with food because of its great versatility." She is lucky enough to offer four pages of local options, of just this one grape, on her list at Dry Creek. The Valley is famous for all kinds of mushrooms, not just those brought in from France and Italy. So restaurants often feature, where legal, local mushrooms and hotels often offer foraging trips.

Not all of the region's Pinot Noirs are expensive either. Mark West is a great example of an affordable and food-friendly wine.

Sonoma also produces some impressive Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. Many have great ribbons of acidity and balanced alcohol, making them ideal pairing partners for all kinds of food parings.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
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