Friday, December 23, 2016

Wines for the Feast

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Whether you are planning on a traditional turkey for your dinner or something unusual, I have some great wine suggestions for you. Be sure to start the day out with bubbles: who doesn’t love them?

I am a fan of roses myself and dozens of regions are making spectacular versions. Some of my favorites this time of the year tend to be cremants from the Loire Valley. They are bright and fresh and are more affordable than Champagne. Some of the California houses are also making some great sparklers as are many regions of Northern Italy.

Wines for the Meal
When you sit down and eat you will want to offer a mix of whites and reds to pair with all the meats and side dishes. Crisp whites, like Sauvigon Blanc, are always flexible. Rhone whites, whether from France or California, will be great choice as well.

Emily Horenian, the sommelier at the new San Francisco restaurant Saratoga shared a few of her strategies. “For white wines, I tend to prefer two different styles.  One could select an off dry white wine like a Kabinett Riesling from Germany: something to refresh the palate during the rich meal.  I also think a more austere Chardonnay would be very complimentary; something with a bit of body but with balanced minerality. “

For turkey and other game birds Lambrusco is an amazing pairing. I would go for a fairly dry one; a hint of sugar is fine but not too much. It is what most Italians have with their holiday meals (which is often a bird for Thanksgiving).

“For reds, I would recommend cru Beaujolais all day. Something fruity with a bit of grit,” says Horenian. I couldn’t agree more. Whether it is the super-light Nouveau which debuts a week before Thanksgiving or the Crus, their fresh, fruity style is perfect with turkey. They also have the acid structure to cut through some of the fattiness of the potato-driven side dishes. 

“Lighter-style Pinot Noirs would also work well with the meal,” she adds. I agree and would stay away from high-alcohol versions. Cool climate Oregon and Burgundy are the way to go.

Alternatives to the Bird-Route
I was never a fan of turkey or the stupor it induced in me after I consumed too much of it. My family in New York has long made a big steak or a rack of lamb for the holiday. Pork is not a bad choice either as it is so wine friendly.

With a bigger meat, you will want to go with a more robust wine. For steak think Zinfandel, a big Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux. A beautiful big, red blend from the Douro Valley in Portugal would also be fantastic.

Some of my favorite pairings with lamb are the Rhone reds. They have a lush, gaminess to them that works so well here or with venison. Pork can take much lighter reds, such as a Chinon or you could hop back to the Beaujolais Crus and they would be perfect.

For dessert a little sweet Moscato would go well with fruit. If you are going to indulge in pecan or pumpkin pie I would go for a well-aged Tawny Porto.

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, December 15, 2016

Wines for a Full Moon

By Liza B. Zimmerman

You have a chance to see the entire face of the man on the moon about once a month. As the cycle between full moons is about 29.5 days some months we even see two of them. According to Space.com they all also have unique names: such as the Full Worm Moon in March or the Full Pink Moon in April.

December’s full moon is called The Full Cold Moon and the Full Long Nights Moon. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule since it comes right before Christmas. Buddhists think that these evenings of the full moon are sacred while I think they give us all a great excuse to sample different wines.

Full Moon Pairings
Since, “The Farmers Almanac calls December’s full moon a ‘Cold Moon,’ so what could pair better with that than a chilled glass of pink Champagne?,” asks Terry Berch, owner of Philadelphia’s London Grill. She adds that “I especially like the way that rose Champagne matches the rosy tint of the moon’s surface as it rises.”

I couldn’t agree more and rose sparkling wine goes with practically anything besides big, fatty meats. Sipping ice cold bubbles from anywhere seems particularly right while admiring this moon that escorts us into the height of the holiday season.

“I celebrate the full moon every month,” says Berch. She claims not to be superstitious but it just “awed by the grandeur of our planet. Again, it feels like a cause for celebration to me, so a sparkling wine is always a good choice and feels a little like the stars twinkling around the moon.”

Cool-Climate Choices
Since December brings cold weather to most of the country you might want some bone-warming wines. A luscious red like a Spanish Garnacha or a spicy Rhone would do the trick. Elegant Bordeaux blends from both sides of the Gironde River and California would also hit the spot.

Berch shares that, “In the winter, I like the leisurely feel of a rich Port wine paired with a cigar – it’s a perfect little luxury to make the occasion of the full moon.” An aged 10- or 20-year-old Tawny is always a treat. A little dram of Sherry would also work well.

If you are superstitious about the occasion you could make a roast or stew with lots of garlic to ward away bad intentions. Italian Sangiovese and Tempranillo generally work well with garlic-inflected food. If you want to pump up the volume of the pairing Malbec and Syrah would also be good choices. Cheers and happy moon gazing.

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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wines for Cyber Monday

By Liza B. Zimmerman

If you are not totally exhausted by from the epic meal on Thursday and all that running around in big department stores the day after, Monday is a day to focus on those great online deals in the comfort of your home.

Since most of these deals come from smaller stores and there are lots of them, you will want some wines that keep the brain humming and clear. In Italian we say there are certain wines that are vini da meditazione. There are wines worthy of lingering over by the fire or in company, wines that may go down easily but demand your attention to be fully understood.

I would break these wines into several categories. Let’s start first with Marsala from Sicily: those sweet vicious caramel notes demand you attention as you savor them. Just one sip can get your palate primed to concentrate on those deals and see if that toaster that prints designs on your morning bread is really worth all that cash.

Sherry is another fortified wine that merits your full attention when you drink it. Those nutty, maderized notes continually change on the palate and as you sip from your glass. The relatively low alcohol level of many of these Sherries, which hovers from 15 to 20 percent on average, will also keep you clear minded in front of the computer.

Last but certainly not least are Portugal’s beautiful Madeiras. This island has long produced fortified wines with notes of dried stone fruits, nuts and hints of toffee. They are delicious and relatively affordable given some of the age statements going back to the ‘70s and ‘80s that are still easily available on the market.

Other Wines for a Busy Monday
You may just want wines that warm the body, and the soul, as you sit home trying to stay toasty in front of the computer. Fruit luscious reds will do the trick. Some of my favorite winter reds are Rhone blends and tannic and complex reds from Piedmonte.

While Barolo may get all the attention, I prefer its softer and more complex cousin Barbaresco. Gattinara is another great 100 percent Nebbiolo choice. Barbara is also another great, affordable, every day, easy-drink red that goes with so many foods. Alcohol levels on Barberas can also be nicely balanced at below 13 percent alcohol by volume to keep you focused on that screen and finding what you need for your home.

If by chance you are sneaking in a little leftover turkey sandwich at the keyboard, Lambrusco is always a great choice. There is no need to meditate over it and it so refreshing and the fizz is so holiday festival. Happy shopping and drinking!

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, November 10, 2016

Wines for Fall Weather

By Liza B. Zimmerman

As temperatures drop it’s time to open some of those big, hearty reds we have been saving in the cellar all year. The last tomatoes of the season are being replaced by more chard and piles of root vegetables. I start thinking of what I can roast and what I can simmer all day in the crock pot.

The harvest is wrapped up in most of the Northern hemisphere so it is time to dig deep into the cellar for older vintages. Suitably Layne Heggen, beverage manager at Nevada’s Montbleu Casino Resort and Spa compares wine to a baseball, as it “fittingly coming to its end just as summer turns to fall.”

She adds that the cooler weather means that “Finally the wine lovers of the world get to drink liquid snobbery. It's time for the big red wines from places like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Mendoza and Napa to grace decanters everywhere.” Drinkers in Lake Tahoe, where Heggen works, have already started dipping into these big bottles as it already snowed once this October.

Fall Favorites
Some of my go-to cool weather wines include spicy Syrahs from anywhere, particularly the Rhone Valley or winding parts of the Sonoma Coast. I love the depth and peppery finish that many of them have. These are wines that can take on big flavors, like grilled steak and beef-filled stews.

“The truth is all Red Wines are made for this time of year. Bigger and gammier meats paired with the bottles at the bottom of the list,” says Heggen. This is the time to pop bottles that “haven't moved in a decade,” she recommends.

One of her favorite pairings is “Brown sauces and French Onion soups paired with Pinots that somehow live between the sweetness of the fruit and the spice of the table.” These could be the elegant and delicate versions from Burgundy or the wild children of the West Coast. Italy and New Zealand also produce some remarkable examples of Pinot that work with a wide range of foods.

Fall Fizz
Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of bubbly. Champagnes, and French cremants, go with everything in my book: particularly if they are rose. Alsace and the Loire Valley are great regions to seek out lesser-know producers making quality bottles. Gruet, made by a French Champagne house in New Mexico, has long been one of my favorites.

These are great wines both with which to start and finish a meal. They pair beautifully with Middle Eastern dips and cheese, before and after a meal. They will also cut through the spice on Indian and Chinese dishes and make butter-filled savory crepes and roasts taste even more delicious.

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, October 27, 2016

Wines for Halloween

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Halloween was long one of my favorite holidays as a kid. Whether I was going trick or treating in the building where I grew up in New York or heading down to the parade in the Village I loved the crazy costumes and the chance to indulge in eating multiple peanut butter cups. These days I stay in and thought I would share some of my favorite wines for the evening with you.

I keep cloves of garlic around all year, to make roast vegetables and stews. So a handful of wines that stand up to intense garlic-infused flavors include rich Syrahs and Barberas as well as red blends and Chilean Carmenere.

You will want to find reds with soft tannins and a nice spice profile. Many of the Rhone reds from simple Cotes du Rhones to Chateauneuf-du-Pape have lovely black pepper tones and hints of rosemary, and other herbs, that pair beautifully with garlic-based dishes. Another great way to bring garlic into your meal is by roasting whole cloves and serving them hot and spreadable with bread instead of butter throughout the meal.

In terms of pairing the Barberas with garlic you will want to find ones with slightly longer alcohol, so the heat from the wine doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Dolcettos, especially from Italy, will work fine as well. Italian winemakers are masters of creating wines that pair seamlessly with a hint of garlic.

If you have kids and will be taking them out and about, don’t forget to bring a little tipple for yourself. Those insulated water bottles you use at the gym keep wine cool as well (good to know for those hiking and beach trips as well), and can be filled with the libation of your choice.

Candy and Wine Pairing
If your kids have leftover candy or the neighborhood children don’t come by to enjoy all of yours you can host a candy and wine pairing after dinner. Since much of our candy is very sweet you will want to seek out dessert wines with good acidity to balance out the pairing.

Older Tawny Ports will pair beautifully with anything with caramel in them, even if it’s coated in chocolate. Rubies will work well with milk chocolate, while dark chocolate remains pretty difficult to pair well with a dessert wine and is perhaps best enjoyed on its own.

Sweet sparkling wines, such as Muscats and Moscatos, will also work well with caramel- and some coffee-flavors sweets. I am going a bit out on a limb here, but try them with buttered popcorn and caramel corn-flavored jelly bellies if you can find them.

If you are having ice cream for dessert, a simple flavor like vanilla, is great with a ribbon of ruby Port or Muscat reduction. You can make these easily by boiling the Port for about eight minutes in a sauce pan. Happy Halloween however you choose to celebrate it.

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, October 20, 2016

Port and Food Pairing

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Port has long been a great closer for a meal. It is also often paired with chocolate, which I hardly think is its most flattering match. As it is both sweet and fairly high alcohol choosing the right dishes with which to pair it can be challenging. So I consulted two experts on the matter.

“Port wine is a complex drink,” says Francisca van Zeller, wine director at the Douro Valley-based Six Senses Hotel. “Ruby Ports have tannin, they are fruit forward and generally wines with great structure and power. Tawny Ports have a persistent dried fruit and a slightly more marked acidity when they are younger.”

Each type of Port, she notes, is best matched with different foods. “Ideally, Port wine is enjoyed with snack, due to its complexity and array of flavors and aromas.” Roasted almonds are a typical treat that Portuguese enjoy with their Port in the Douro. In an American twist pretzels might also be nice with Ruby Ports as well.

“Ports are intensifiers of the taste spectrum, as their sweetness and complexity easily match the caramelized and nutty sweetness and contrast with salty cheese or citrus and berry acidity,” adds Beatriz Machado, the wine director of The Yeatman Hotel in the city of Porto. “This Fall spoil yourself with a full bodied fruit port served a bit chilled and a game and mushroom risotto!”

A Pairing Premier
When matching Port to food you will want to use it in the dish’s preparation as much as you can. Van Zeller says she had an amazing meal of veal slow cooked in Reserve Ruby Port that was paired with the same Port.

“If a Ruby Port is used as a reduction to be poured over a dish, or as a sauce to marinate a meat or fruit, then it should be the same Port wine that is paired with it,” she notes. One traditional Portuguese dish is called Drunken Pears, in which the peeled pears are soaked in Ruby Port before they are cooked until they are crunchy and sweet. Another way to incorporate Port into dessert is by making a reduction of Ruby Port and pouring it, when cool, over vanilla ice cream.

White Ports, which are generally sweeter than their red siblings, need to be chilled down to around 60 degrees before they are served. Van Zeller enjoys both them, and aged Tawny Ports, with foie gras and paté. Machado enjoys them with tonic water and a twist of orange and so do I. She also suggests pairing them with Parmigiano and Manchego cheeses, apple crumble, crème brûlée, tarte tartin and nut-driven desserts.

Ruby Ports, both Reserve and Late Bottled Vintage, work well with mild cheeses or a rich, bitter chocolate dessert, suggests van Zeller. While Vintage Port, as it is fuller-bodied and more complex, needs a slightly stronger contrast, such as slightly stronger cheese like Roquefort and Gorgonzola or the opulent soft and intensely perfumed Portuguese Queijo da Serra.

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, October 6, 2016

Bacon and Cocktail Pairings

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Luscious ribbons of well-prepared bacon are delicious at any time of the day. They are as great at breakfast as dinner and in the mid-afternoon. I had the great pleasure of attending the second  edition of The Great Big  Bacon Picnic in Williamsburg a few days ago.

Legions of top New York chefs were on duty turning out some of the best bacon-based foods I have had in a long time. They included everything from bacon-dusted burgers to bacon-inspired carnitas. The pairings were a wide range of Brooklyn-distilled spirits; mostly on the brown side of category.

Local distillers in residence included Doc Herson's and the New York Distilling Company. Their products ranged from Absinthe to rye and gin. The gentleman behind all  the distilling magic, Dave Herman, the partner and director of beverages for the festival, enlightened me about how some of the best drinks were pairing with the bacon-luscious food offerings.

The Key to Perfect Piggy Pairings
"The kind of well made bacon from high-quality pork that we use has a natural sweetness along with the unctuous and salty flavors so I like to balance it with sour and bitter drinks. The Paloma is an excellent cocktail ...[and]  I also love a Gin Fizz thanks to citrus acidity, juniper's natural affinity for pork and the light carbonation which helps scrub the fat from your palate. I like to avoid sweeter cocktails here."

Some of my favorite pairings were Rye based, because of its depth and intensity and also mescal infused. That smokiness is divine with many types of bacon. A hint of citrus in the glass also refreshes your palate as you sip and refresh you palate between bites of bacon.

"Whiskey neat can do great things with rich and salty pork, but I avoid Bourbon personally because of the sweetness. I love rye with bacon. But I think gins go well thanks to the juniper and pork connection. And the natural astringency in good mescal might be my favorite pairing," added Hernan.
"I like to provide counterpoint with the cocktails. Let the smoke shine from the bacon then let the cocktail come in and refresh your palate, getting you ready for the next bite," he shared.

"Obviously I edge towards bitter and sour flavors  from the drinks. You can't hope to out-bacon bacon so for me keeping the sweetness in the drink to a minimum and using bitterness and acidity to provide contrast is the way to go," he said. As a resut, I so enjoyed the fantastic drink synergies on a beautiful sunny day in Brooklyn.

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, 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

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.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wine with Tomato-Based Dishes

By Liza B. Zimmerman

We have been in love with the tomato for hundreds of years. It didn't arrive in Europe until around the 16th Century and is believed to have been grown by the Aztecs centuries ago.

The tomato is technically a fruit and part of the nightshade family, that includes peppers and eggplants. They were often thought to have curative properties and sometimes be aphrodisiacs. Regardless of their other health benefits, we know that they brighten up salads come summer and are essential in all kinds of pasta dishes and as a base for stews year round.

Their intense and acidic flavor can, sadly, make them hard to pair with wine. What grows together goes together is often the case and Italian-influenced, tomato-based sauces are often best enhanced with a touch of Italian wine: either in the sauce or on the side. The well-defined acidity and assertive flavors tend to work hand in hand.

Italian Picks
Tuscan Sangiovese has a beautiful pepper and spice flavor profile that works beautifully with tomatoes. It generally has structured fruit flavors and a lengthy acidity that works well with the deep flavors a tomato can bring to a dish.

The Rocca di Frassinello "Le Sughere di Frassinello" Maremma Toscana 2012 is a great pick. It's an intense blend, fueled by herb and tobacco flavors that can run around the block with tomatoes.

Keep in mind that too much balsamic vinegar on a salad will overwhelm almost any wine. Charring tomatoes before you serve them can also give them a toasty and roasty flavor that will highlight herbal and dusty notes in some wines.

A big, but worth it, splurge, would be La Fortuna Brunello Di Montalcino 2010. It is a great wine from a suburb vintage. It  is a 100 percent Sangiovese that has some earthy aromas that will complement tomatoes.

Other Tomato-Friendly Suggestions
Balanced acidity and herbal and earthy flavors are key to complementing tomato dishes. Loire Valley wines and some rustic Syrahs would also be good choices. Earthy and black-pepper driven wines such as Domaine Grosbois "La Cuisine de ma Mere" Chinon 2014 will complement a range of vegetal flavors, including those of the assertive tomato.

The funk and spunk of France's Rhone Valley Syrah-driven wines will also stand up beautifully with tomato-driven dishes. Some of these wines can be too redolent of earth and too packed with vegetal flavors but the Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage 2012 is a great choice. It is 100 percent Syrah and full of spices.

Wines with high alcohol levels are likely to overwhelm the fresh and herbal tomato flavors. So the key here is too look for well-balanced wines grown in not overly hot climates. Hilly and breeze-rich areas are likely to produce the most tomato-friendly wines out there.

Some of Sicily's ever-evolving Nero d'Avolas might also fit the bill, particularly those grown in the Southeast part of the country. Tasca d'Almerita "Lamuri" Nero d'Avola 2014 is a fruit-forward example that also has some great herbal notes.

By all means have some fun, mix it up with your tomato-based dishes this summer and play around with some of your favorite wines. Just keep in mind that many of the best choices will come from areas where tomatoes have long been grown and appreciated.

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, May 5, 2016

Wines for Mother’s Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Restaurants can be incredibly crowded on Mother’s Day so why not stay at home to fete her with some great bottles? To start the festivities I would go with a handful of bubbles. You might even try something different like a cider or sparkling sake for fun.

France’s Normandy is famous for its delicate ciders and the Duche de Longueville "Antoinette" Dry Sparkling Cider NV is a great example. It is naturally fermented and the producer grows more than a dozen different types of apples.

The variety of sakes made in Japan is incredible. They range from cloudy and unfiltered versions to amazingly dry renditions. Some of the best are the sparkling versions as they combine all of sake’s complexity with lovely bubbles. The "Festival of Stars" Sparkling Sake has something in common with Champagne as it undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle.

Show Her Some Old School Treatment
There’s nothing more classic than Bordeaux. Not all the reds—and whites—from this region come with big price tags. Second, or third or forth, growths that escaped top-line classification back in 1855 can also be more affordable. Many of them may also be second-label wines produced by major Chateaux.

Chateau Mirefleurs is a good example of affordable red Bordeaux that can pair with a wide range of foods. Roast pork dishes—particularly with rosemary or sage—would be a great fit, as would non-tomato based rabbit dishes.

The white wines of Bordeaux hardly get the respect that they deserve. They tend be to well-balanced wines with great acidity and mineral notes. Most of them are made with an ever-changing mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Chateau La Mouliniere is a great single-estate that makes wines that are divine with seafood.

Another treat for mothers around the country would be a little trip to the hills of Italy. Sicily and Piedmont, at opposite ends of the country, are two of its most bewitching regions. Their indigenous grapes, from Nebbiolo to Nero d’Avola are going in some of the best wines on the market these days.

The Damilano Cerequio Barolo is an intense expression of what Nebbiolo can do in Piedmont. The estate also features a handful of diverse single-estate vineyards.  Nero d’Avola is probably the best-known red grape grown on the island of Sicily. Many wines made with it are easy-drinking and food friendly. The Tasca d’Almerita “Lamuri,” Nero d’Avola is no exception and would pair well with grilled meats.

Bring on the New World
For the innovative mama give her a bit of the Southern Hemisphere in a bottle. South Africa and Chile have been producing amazing whites and reds for several decades. Both countries’ style can show a lot of respect for Old World influences and great bottles from both lands can cost much les than classified growths from France.

South Africa has long excelled at Bordeaux blends. They tend to be somewhat traditional with hints with a hint of modern style.  Some of the best ones are made by producers with roots in the Old World. One of my favorites is Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons "Classique" 2013. It is made just outside of Cape Town and ages beautifully.

Chile produces some of the most elegant wines in South America. This country excels with international grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, that have long been planted there. Cousino-Macul is more than 150 years old and its cellar is one of the few that is within the city limits of Santiago. The producer’s Merlot is a soft and approachable wine that works well with simple beef preparations.

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: Assovini

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kosher Wines for Passover

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Long gone are the days of most kosher wines being sickly sweet and served at room temperature. Many wineries all over the world have taken to making part of their production kosher, both for the big holidays and everyday consumption for those who keep kosher.

Israel is obviously a great place to start as producers here offer so many selections. While wine has been made in this country since Biblical times, modern wine production seriously got underway in the 1880s with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. A true move to producing quality wines and an investment in planting international varietals occurred a full century later in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mainstream international varietals take the lead in this country with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc being among the top varietals produced. Production of Syrah is also on the rise. The country is home to five wine growing regions Galilee-Golan, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and Negev. The majority of wines are produced in the first three.

Wines to Try
The Gush Etzion "Spring River" Syrah-Mourvedre blend 2012 is made in the Judean region, south of Jerusalem. It is one of the highest altitude areas in Israel. Its lush berry flavors and early notes will make it a good match with lighter meats. It is also a balanced 13.8 percent alcohol by volume, unlike many other big reds, so it won’t get you tipsy on just one glass.

California winemakers have been a big part of the winemaking scene in Israel for decades. So it is not then surprising that they were inspired and took some of their experience back home to make some lovely kosher wines in the similarly Mediterranean climates of California.

The Shirah Syrah 2013 is made in Santa Barbara County. Its herb-driven and jammy flavors will pair well with bigger, hearty meats as steak and stews. It is a little bit of a spurge, but worth it.

Other European Choices
Many of the great wine producers in Europe make kosher lines of wine for their local communities. I have been to wineries in remote areas of Spain where the local rabbi even frequently comes in to oversee the production and insure that the entire wine production process follows kosher rules and regulations.

The Gran Sarao Cava Brut is made from a traditional blend of Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada grapes, with a touch of Chardonnay. It is quite dry and loaded with fruit aromas and flavors. It is a great way to start off a meal or just enjoy on a warm day on the porch (if you have one).

Italy also makes a wide range of kosher wines in various regions. The Borgo Reale Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is produced from 100 percent Montepulciano grapes in the Central region of Abruzzo. It is great with simple pastas and would even work with a corned beef sandwich, although you might have to BYOB it to your local deli.

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, March 31, 2016

Wines for Spring

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Punxsutawney Phil seems to have been right. Our somewhat reliable groundhog friend didn’t see his shadow this year, which is supposed to mean that we will we have an early spring. We have already seen evidence of that on the West Coast and for some days in New York, even though snow covered parts of the Midwest in late March.

So it’s time to stock up on wines for sunny weather. For me that includes lovely, acid-driven white wines; fruity roses; and lots of bubbles. 

Wine as a Vacation in a Bottle
I sometimes pop a bottle in honor of where I would most like to be at the time. There are few times a year I wouldn’t want to be on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, just south of Naples. The Terredora Dipaolo "Rosaenovae" Irpinia Rose 2013 will take me right there. It is made from 100 percent Aglianico grapes, which are indigenous to the region, and has lovely fruit flavors.

Hopping down the Italian Peninsula, the weather is often warm and sunny in much of Sicily. One of this ancient island’s indigenous grapes makes another lovely rose the di Giovanna "Gerbino" Rosato di Nerello Mascalese 2014. It is fun to see how this super-aromatic grape can structure and shape a rose, as opposed to in a cool-climate red wine for which it is best-known.

Set me up on the outdoor terrace of a little café in Provence any day of the week. I will take an enormous Nicoise salad, topped with fresh tuna, with a mineral and fruity glass—or two—of rose. The La Vidaubanaise "Le Provencal" Cotes de Provence Rose 2014 is just the ticket, if you don’t have time for the vacation just close your eyes and take a sip.

White Delights
The whole Loire Valley smells like springtime when the crops are in bloom. Almost all of this region’s whites have divine ribbons of acidy that refresh the palate and the soul. However Muscadet, as the region is on the Atlantic Ocean, almost smells like sea salt and minerality the minute you open the bottle than any wine I know. The Bonnet-Huteau "Les Laures Granite de Vallet" Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2012 is fresh, grassy and citric.

Sauvignon Blanc is another grape that always sings of spring to me. Most white Bordeauxs are based on it and are so delicious. The crisp Chateau La Mouliniere Blanc 2014 is a great example. Another good one would be Joel Gott’s 2013 Sauvignon Blanc made across the ocean in California.

Pop the Cork
There’s nothing better than to herald the arrival of warm weather with a bottle of bubbles. If you love Champagne the non-vintage Gosset Brut "Excellence" NV is a great place to start. The non-vintage Henry Varnay Blanc de Blancs Brut sparkling wine, from the Loire Valley, is more of a delicious everyday indulgence.

For something locally produced, with a French influence, try the Domaine Saint-Vincent Methode Champenoise Brut NV. It is made by the Gruet Family from Champagne and with its subtle yeasty flavor might just pass for one if you taste it with your eyes closed.

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.