Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mimosa Madness

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Adding a little sparkling wine to your fresh-squeezed juice at brunch makes everything more fun on a lazy weekend. However given the number of sparkling wines on the market these days what’s in the mix need not be boring. So here are a couple of ideas about different ways to serve those drinks at home when you have guests over.

You don’t need to keep the juice monotone or the bubbly predicable. Let’s go beyond regular orange juice today and play with dragon fruit nectar or apricot juice. Banana juice is heavenly and decadent and makes for a wonderful final drink. I enjoyed way too-many banana juice-based drinks when I was introduced to the good stuff in the Dominican Republic.

You can also play with the color and consistency of the sparkling wine you use. It could be Champagne, which might be a waste to pour into such simple juice. It could also be a Cava from Spain, Prosecco or even a sparkling Lambrusco. What is on the shelves these days is better quality than ever, so it is time to experiment and have some fun.

How to Choose the Drink Mix
There is something spicy, and a bit renegade, about using a red wine in a mixed drink. All the ladies did that in the ‘70s and ‘80s with their red sangria, overflowing with floating bits of citrus on top. I grew up with my mom’s divine, and somewhat down-market, cheap Rioja-fueled sangria on the porch by a lake in Connecticut.

That less-than-tasty wine can now be replaced by some great red sparklers. Most of the Aussie shirazes are likely to be too sweet, but subtle Lambrusco can certainly play a part in a great cocktail. As could a little Blanc de Noirs, or sparkling wines made primarily from Pinot Noir.

Some of these wines can be slightly more expensive but can add complexity and richness to the drink. Try some of the less-expensive California or Spanish brands and maybe mix them with a little of that less-than-dry rose wine that is coming out of Northern Italy.

Getting Down to the Juice
Orange juice can be sugar heavy and can weigh down the palate. A slightly more acidic juice, like grapefruit, can be a nice alternative. So can lesser-known juices such as Dragon Fruit juice, which because of the fruit’s bright red exterior, that has been a favorite in trendy bars on both coasts these days.

Stone fruit juices will also make your Mimosa resemble a Bellini in such as great way that you won’t be able to turn back. Seek out fresh-squeezed and organic peach nectar.

You can also add flavors to fruit juices such as vanilla or other spices like cardamom or star anise. This can be done by dipping a little vanilla stick or star of anise in the pot while you heat the juice briefly before then chilling it down in the fridge. It is a great recipe for fall th

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.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wines for Labor Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

The official close of the summer is, sadly, around the corner. The last real beach days will come to a close and we should celebrate with wines that really taste like summer in a glass.

Wines from Mediterranean climes to me say summer louder than any place else. Maybe roses, which never seem to taste as good out of season, are the ones that bring it to your glass the most succinctly.

While I love the beaches of Southern France and the sea in Sicily, my favorite roses are from cooler climates. The Spanish region of Navarra produces some of the biggest, most luscious versions in town. They tend to be dripping in fresh red berries and have balanced acidity. Another favorite is South African roses, as they do seriously know how to make them around Cape Town.

Whites for the End of Summer
Sauvignon Blanc remains one of my favorite, and among the wine world’s most flexible, grapes. I could without the grassy ones and adore the fresh stone fruit flavors that you find in the New World, everywhere from Napa to Chile.

Let’s not forget that France’s Loire Valley also makes some of the finest examples in the world. While I am in the neighborhood geographically I will add the Muscadets are none too shabby and pair perfectly with fresh seafood (from both our oceans and theirs).

I am also a huge fan of the delicate and balanced whites made from Rhone varieties such as Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. While France makes some great ones, so do California and Washington State. Thankfully winemakers are falling ever harder for these grapes so we should see them cropping up in more vineyards around the world.

In terms of esoteric whites I would also put in the good word for Northern Italy gems, such as Soave. Pieropan is a stunning example. I also think the Trentino region is making some lovely wines from the little-known Kerner grape. I would also like to put in a good word for some of those Portuguese indigenous white grapes, wow are they delicious.

Red Winners
For the last warm evenings I would keep my red choices crisp with vibrant acidity. Wines you can serve slightly chilled such as Lambrusco or one of the Beaujolais Crus are amazingly refreshing. So are some of the stunning Chinons produced in the Loire Valley.

Pinot Noir is another grape that is bewitching in so many styles, that also works so well with food. Beyond the classics in Burgundy, New Zealand is making some stellar cool-climate examples. Oregon is also crafting some elegant Pinots that are an appealing blend of Old and New World influences.

No matter what bottle you choose to open this weekend, make sure it is something you want to share with friends on the porch or in the

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 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