Thursday, August 18, 2016

Refreshing Summer Sippers

By Liza B. Zimmerman

When the weather is hot and humid you are going to want a nice, cool glass of wine to wind down after a day’s work. Color choices could be white or pink, with perhaps a touch of light red served somewhat chilled thrown in for good measure.

Sauvignon blanc from all over the world is always a great place to start. It has balanced ribbons of acidity as well as lots of great fruit notes. You could try a handful of from Napa and Sonoma Valley, as well as take a varietally inspired trip down the California Coast bottle by bottle, ending up with some choice bottles in from the Central Coast.

Chile and South Africa also make some of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs. They tend to both have some of the best New and Old World attributes. All of these types of wine tend to pair well with a range of hard cheeses of all types as well as crudités plates and Middle Eastern-inspired dips.

Rose Around the World
Drinking a glass of rose is almost like taking a Mediterranean vacation. A huge variety of grapes are used to make these wines all over the world and run the gamut from Grenache and Sangiovese to Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.

Provencal roses tend to be the lightest in color and on the palate. Grenache-based ones from Spain tend to be bigger, more intense and fruit juicy. Some of my favorites also come from Bordeaux and are made with the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes used for the region’s noted red wines.

South Africa is also making some delicious roses, primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon. They tend to have intense fruit flavors like the Mulderbosch. And don’t forget those rose bubbles, which are made in beautiful styles everywhere from Champagne to France’s Loire Valley.

Roses are among the most flexible wines in the world in terms of food pairings. They can be divine with everything from fish if is a meatier version. Bluefish, salmon and monkfish would all be good choices. Roses also shine with a beef tartare and are perfect with a hamburger.

Red to End an Evening
Almost any red that is served slightly chilled is going to drink beautifully on a hot, summer evening. The Beaujolais Crus, my favorite is Morgon, are just the ticket. Fizzy Aussie Shiraz or touch of Lambrusco will also do the trick. These wines can be paired with all types of meat dishes, as well as roast chicken and grain and green salads that take advantage of summer’s bounty.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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, August 4, 2016

Savory Sicilian Pairings

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Sicily has long felt like my Italian home away from home. Everything tastes better and seems fresher in this island that is actually geographically closer to North Africa than mainland Italy.

Intense climatic conditions have set this ancient land up to beautifully produce wines of all types: from big, fruit-juicy reds to saline and well-balanced whites. After years of experimentation and research local producers are also coming to better conclusions about what grows well in each microclimate with some stunning results.

Diving into the Island Delights
Some of Sicily’s best grape varietals are ancient and indigenous ones. There is also quite a lot of overlap between a handful of great red grapes producing a range of solid reds as white. The hot and sometimes humid climate here can send locals on the hunt of a refreshing wine.

Nerello Mascalese, as well as Frappato, has long been one of my favorite grapes. These two are cool-climate stunners with balanced acidity and gracious fruit flavors. So it is so surprise that the Di Giovanna "Gerbino" Rosato di Nerello Mascalese 2014 is light, bright and floral and full of intense fruit flavors.

“Nerello Mascalese offers a distinct pop of fruit and minerality without the weight of a denser red wine,” says Ryan Manna, the wine director at Osteria Morini in New York City who has worked with many Sicilian wines. These synergies with Nerello Mascalese allow the wine and food to support each other he notes.

He adds that he also finds that, “There's a certain freshness I relate to Sicilian wines.” As a result he likes to “pair them with foods that have a similar freshness and delicate complexity.” One of his suggestions would be, “grilled oysters with sparkling Grillo,” which he notes is hard to find, yet easy to remember. He adds that the lighter Nerello Mascalese blends also work well with raw meat dishes.

The Charm of Nero d’Avola
Some of the island’s greatest reds are made from Nero d’Avola. It is a grape that has zigged and zagged in terms of wine prototypes seen on the U.S. market. I would like to think over the last decade, and particularly the past five years, that it is finding its way home.

Cantine Colosi makes a classic style of Nero d’Avol in the Eolian island archipelago, long from this grape’s general home-turf of Noto in Southeast Sicily. This wine is intense and full of big black berries, almond and chocolate covered cherry with soft tannins.

Given the island’s abundant coastlines, "I'd say that they fit right in with the food of other coastal countries; especially France and Spain and the United States. There is such a wide variety in these wines from very sweet to very dry. Sicily is at a geographic and historical crossroad, having been influenced by Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries,” adds Manna.

Passito di Panetelleria is one of the island’s great and meditative—read thought-provoking—of the Italians-dessert wines. The island has an intensely hot climate that reminds visitors more of North Africa than elsewhere on the Italian Peninsula.

Pellegrino’s Passito di Pantelleria 2010 is a great example with notes on apricot, fig and candied citrus on the nose. It is a great way to wrap up a meal on its own but at Morini; Manna also likes to pair it with a bread pudding.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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, July 21, 2016

Roses Rise to the Occasion

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Summer is made for rose consumption. It's way too hot to drink big reds and the range of roses out there can pair with almost any food, or occasion. The wine is a great vehicle for experiencing the intensity of a red wine that is cool on the palate.

Classics quaffs can range from the pale roses made in the South of France, particularly those from Provence to bigger meatier bold ones from Bordeaux or Northern  Italy.

The classic, pale pink color of the Chateau Beaulieu Coteaux D'Aix-En-Provence Rose 2015 channels long, sultry summer days on the Mediterrean. The estate was founded by Henri III in 1576 and the wine is aromatic, fruit-forward and full of berries.

On the other edge of the color, and body range, is the Chateau Penin Bordeaux Rose 2014. This wine is primarily made of Cabernet Sauvignon and has intense red fruit flavors.

In a perfect pairing, Bedford & Co.'s sommelier Sarah Tracey, says that "the food enhances the wine, the wine highlights the dish, and together they create an amazing 'third taste.' " The restaurant specializes in wood-grilled food and goes through serious quantities of rose in the intense New York summer heat.

The Perfect Balance
A wine needs to be in synch with the flavors and structure of food in order for a pairing to work. "look for wine that won't overpower the flavors of the dish," advises Tracey.  "If a dish has very delicate and subtle flavors for example, you would want to stay away from a bold and robust wine."

She suggests trying "an herbaceous and citrusy Provencal rose with Mediterranean seafood dishes, or a hearty, earthy Sicilian rose with lamb." The Di Giovanna "Gerbino" Rosato di Nerello Mascalese 2014, made with one the island's great indigenous grapes, is a perfect example. Its raspberry and red currant flavors will stand up to bigger dishes.

Another intense style of rose to sample is those South African producers are making. Their big, bold styles are often produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, like the    Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2015 from the Stellenbosch region. A wine like this can even stand up to spicy Asian dishes like Thai food. 

When pairing, "think not only about the protein itself but also about the preparation! For example, a pale, dry and delicate Provencal rose is fantastic with chicken roasted with herbs and lemon."

"Grilled foods with their smoky flavor are wonderful with more savory roses: look for volcanic-soil-grown, earthy wines from Corsica or Mt. Etna. Raw seafood with its clean and pure flavors pairs well with a bright and zesty rose with lots of citrus flavors," she adds.

Another of my favorite rose regions is Navarra in Spain. Bodegas Nekeas "Vega Sindoa" Rose 2014 has intense raspberry notes and a bold color.

Tracey says that some of the most flexible roses are those with fizz. The 2013 Cavas Llopart "Leopardi" Cava Brut Rose is an intriguing blend of Mouvedre, Grenache and Pinot Noir is from Catalonia and is a great example of how easily bubbles can go down.

 "The effervescent bubbles and bright acidity pair with pretty much anything and the secret weapon of sommeliers worldwide is sparkling wine. From shellfish to fried chicken to foie gras to pizza, bubbly works with everything!," says Tracey.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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, July 7, 2016

Wines for the Red, White and Blue

By Liza B. Zimmerman

As the Fourth of July rolls around you may want to celebrate with more than fireworks. A few bottles of great domestic wine will get your guests in a celebratory mood even before you fire up the grill.

You might want to start the party with a few great sparkling wines. Domaine Saint-Vincent Methode Champenoise Brut NV from New Mexico is well-balanced and produced by a family of Champagne producers outside of Albuquerque. You might fool your friends into thinking it is actually Champagne, at a much better price point, I often do at my parties.

Rieslings, whether totally dry or with a hint of sugar, are great for outdoor gatherings with their bursts of fresh fruit and vibrant acidy. Covey Run 2013 from the Columbia Valley of Washington State is a great choice. Dr. Konstantin Frank's "Salmon Run" 2014 Riesling from the Finger Lakes is also a stunning wine with bright, succulent fruit flavors that really shows that the region can do with white wines.

The Heron Chardonnay 2012 from California is also a flavor-packed choice with great depth and complexity of white fruit flavors. Another California easy-drinking favorite of mine is the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2015 from the Central Coast. It is a lovely blend of Rhone varietals, primarily Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Carignane. Roses are a ideal choice to help make a food and weather transition to slightly bigger and more intense wines for later in the evening. They can also stand up to both salads and lighter meats like pork, provided there are no tomatoes in the sauce.

Fire Up That Grill
If you are cooking up a little salmon or lighter meats Pinot is always a great pairing choice. Some of the best domestic ones today are coming out of the cooler climes of Oregon. A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2012 is a soft, fruity and earthy treat and a great value from Oregon.

For bigger meats you will want to step up the wine choices to bigger, more corpulent wines. The Eastern Washington hub of Walla Walla has been making sensation blends and wines from Rhone varietals for decades and they are just finally getting the attention they deserve.

The Tertulia Cellars "Redd Brand" Syrah 2009 from Walla Walla, Washington is a great example of what this far Eastern Washington growing region can do. This wine shows great red fruit and pomegranate flavors and will also age well for the next year or two.

Hopping down to the Central Coast of California, winemakers are also making some stellar Pinot Noirs. The Roar Pinot Noir 2014 is from a family owned vineyard in the Santa Lucia Hills appellation. Dark red fruits and sandalwood notes blend on this big, luscious wine.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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, June 23, 2016

Pairing Wine with Ceviche

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Raw fish is always challenging to match with wine. Ceviche can be even more difficult as it has citric notes from splashes of lime and often—these days—a healthy hint of soy sauce on unique, Asian-inspired takes on the classic dish.

High-acid dishes often pair best with similar wines or those that are completely different. Best bets might be cool-climate whites from Northern Spain, Chile or Portugal or total opposites, such as highly oaked California whites.

Chiles that are often in the sauce that dresses ceviche or spicy dipping sides can also pump up the volume on flavor intensity and make pairings more difficult. The better Peruvian ceviche places often leave the lime on the side so guests can increase the acid levels as they like while they are eating.

A Restaurant’s Perspective
LaMar has long been one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants in San Francisco. They work with Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji on fun and often challenging wine pairings from the restaurant’s mostly South American- and Spanish-focused wine list.

“Acid in wine is the key element to pair well with our food as it contains varied spices and high acid sauces that necessitate a high acid wine.” He adds that because of the spice factor, he likes to "use high-acid wines like [Spanish] Albarino and Godello from Galicia or Verdejo from Rueda.”

The types of raw fish that are used in ceviche can also make a major difference in terms of the right wine choices. “Texturally speaking I try to pair the wine to match the richness or meatiness of the fish. If the fish is of a delicate character, I try lighter wines like Albarino or if they are rich then wines like Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay,” said Kemiji.

He even had a very detailed list of ideal wine varietals that would pair well with different fish. They include tuna with Pinot Noir; salmon with Chardonnay; crab with Riesling; shellfish with Albariño; and sole with Rueda.

In terms of Kemiji’s pairing insights the Alpha Zeta Soave 2014 from the Veneto would probably be great with a range of raw-fish based dishes. Its steely minerality will excel with the citrus notes and offset onions and other alliums in the dish.

Another idea might be the Bonnet-Huteau "Les Laures Granite de Vallet" Muscadet Sevre Et Maine Sur Lie 2012 from France’s Loire Valley. This wine is made from 100 percent Melon de Bourgogne—which is typical for this wine region that is close to the Atlantic. Its crisp citrus notes and buttery and mineral flavors on the plate will work well with a wide range of raw fish. It also runs fairly low in alcohol so it won’t generate heat in the mouth when savored with a ceviche and is not likely to overwhelm the parings.

Another great choice would be the Mesta Verdejo 2014 from Castilla y Leon, Spain. These lean and clean northern Spain pairings tend to excel with most seafood preparations.

Also some great Northern Italian whites will savor with these types of dishes. Italians, along the continental, have long known how to pair wines with local seafood. The mineral and cool fruit notes of the Icardi "L'Aurora" Cortese 2009 from Piedmont and its bright acidity would be lovely with a ceviche dish. Other classic Piedmontese wines, such as Arneis, would also probably be suburb.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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.
Photo Credit: La Mar

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wines for Father's Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Even dads who have seen it all want to be surprised once in a while and that special day in June is a great time to do it. My father only drinks Champagne, and gimlets, so he's a tough cookie to buy wine for. Hopefully your dad is a little more flexible, so let me give you a few ideas about how to surprise him on the 19th of June.

Cool and refreshing wines are a delight in hot weather across the country. So give him something with fizz, such as Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut 2006 (Champagne, France) . It is a great vintage that you rarely see on the market these days. I am also a great fan or the cherry, berry flavors in roses such as Canard-Duchene Brut Rose NV (Champagne, France), which is creamy, elegant and structured and a bargain for its price point. Another sparkling and even more affordable choice would be the Henry Varnay Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling Wine NV (Loire Valley, France).  The Loire Valley has always been home to so many beautiful wines that are so delicious on their own as well as with food. This wine has toasty notes that would make it well-suited to porch sipping with some mixed nuts.

For the Red Wine Dad
If your dad likes to spice things up Malbec is always a great direction to go in. Its zesty and pepper-driven flavors make it great with BBQ and spicy foods. Bodegas Renacer "Punto Final" Malbec 2015 from  Argentina is a great value and comes from very old vines, if you want to impress a wine-geeky dad. Malbecs are also great to grill with meat as they are the classic wines of Argentina and pair so well with everything from short ribs to steak and even blood sausage.

If your dad is a big Cabernet Sauvignon kind of guy go for some classics. Tannic reds can go beautifully with the burnt exterior of grilled meat. The   Liberty School Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a great example of what this super-diverse wine region near the Central Coast of California can do with great grapes and climate. The area also makes some divine blends and Rhone varietals as well.

Another great choice for grilling and summer sipping, when it is not too hot, is Zinfandel. The sweetness of ripe tannins in this wine, combined with its generally high alcohol level, makes it soft on the palate and so approachable with meat. Amador County, just a few hours outside of San Francisco, is making some great examples. The Mountain View Amador County Zinfandel 2013 is an incredibly fruit-forward wine that will benefit from a little air before you drink it.

If your dad likes his big reds Old World, there is nothing better than an earthy and intense red from France's Rhone Valley. Ferraton Pere & Fils Crozes-Hermitage "La Matiniere" 2012 is a big, intense wine made from 100-percent Syrah with lots of red fruit and currants on the nose with soft herbal undertones. Cheers to dad whatever kind of wine he enjoys!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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, June 2, 2016

Pairing Wine with Fermented Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have loved Kimchi since I was a kid. I think I may have been Korean in a past life. Almost every single dish of delicious fermented vegetable goodness Korean have served me at table I adore. However there's a reason that Koreans have long consumed beer and soju with their native food: these intense and spicy flavors are challenging to pair with wine. The same goes for the recent nationwide love of picked vegetable plates that are often served as side dishes.

Crisp and fresh wines from a range of cool-climate regions are likely to work best. "Avoid oak. Be conscious of your acid and spice. Look for your wine pairing to provide the inverse. If the food is mega spicy, find something with some sweetness," advises Josh Nadel, the beverage director at the New York-based NoHo Hospitality Group.

Whites are generally going to be your best bets with spicy, pickled dishes of all kinds. Alsace is a great region to start with as its whites tend to have distinctive acidity and great mineral notes. They are also often lower in alcohol levels so they won't generate heat in the mouth when paired with fermented dishes.

"With fermented foods, pairing with the acidity is paramount. I look for round and ripe whites, and depending on the spice and acid level, some residual sugar. The ripeness of Alsace wines, and the opportunity to select from multiple, moderate to lower acid wines, makes these wines a perfect match," said Nadel.

The bracing acidity and moderate alcohol level of the Willm Gewurztraminer Reserve 2014 make it a great choice. Other good whites might include aromatic Northern Italian whites such as the esoteric Kerner. While the Kofererhof Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner 2007 may be difficult to say its delicious in a glass. The grape was bred in the 1920s by crossing the Riesling and Trollinger grapes and was named for the German poet Justinus Kerner.

Careful With Oak
Oak-aged wines will not shine with fermented dishes like kimchi or pickles, unless they are fried. Once you fry just about anything all regular food-pairing bets are off. "Oak and fermented foods do not mesh,"  confirmed Nadel.

Fresh Sauvignon Blancs, be they from California or Chile, would be good matches and are rarely oaked. The Mahu Sauvignon Blanc 2015 would work well as would the Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. White Bordeaux are likely to be too acidic and Loire Valley whites might be just to tart to meld with pickled flavors.

Reds in general are tough to pair, particularly tannic ones, said Nadel. Earthly reds, like those from the Rhone Valley or the Loire would also be less than idea. Perhaps a fruit-forward wine, such as a Sangiovese or even an Argentine Malbec, could stand up the flavors of fermented cabbage and other vegetables. However the higher-alcohol levels on these wines could run the risk overwhelming the dishes' vegetal flavors.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. 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.