Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wines for the Super Bowl

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Given that the next big game will be held outside of San Francisco, drinking California wines would only be appropriate. Since the weather is likely to be divine, as it mostly is in California in the winter, a touch of sparkling might pair well with going to the game (or watching it on TV). That could be an austere Champagne or a fizzy Prosecco.

California is home to so many lovely Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay-based varietals as well. Many of the state's Rhone blends and roses are superb as well, such as the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare rose is a blend of primarily Grenache and Mourvedre.

Sometimes it is fun to taste friends blind at halftime with a lineup of semi-known varietals. I once played around with a dozen fruit-forward and sublimely tannic Cape Blends from South Africa during the Super Bowl a few years ago in New York, but this could be done with Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, Coastal Red blends, Monterey Pinots or inventive whites.

The key is just to get each guest to bring a wine, within the theme, and then cover it up with silver foil or a Mylar bag (and put numbers on them with a big black marker). Everyone can taste and compare notes during commercials and if you are the host you can keep the cheat sheet at the ready and give hints if you like. Their real identity can also be a fun point of post-game discussion if your friends' team doesn't win.

Pairing Wines with Super bowl Foods
So everyone loves fried chicken. Even in San Francisco, which is reported to be one of the country's healthiest cities, we eat it by the bucket if it is suitably crispy. This kind of rich, intense fried food needs a wine with good acidity. So a sparkling wine or a cool-climate white, such as a German Riesling or Loire Valley white would pair beautifully.

Guacamole, even if it's home made, will need a richer, more intense wine. However it should be something not too tannic. A Bogle vineyards Merlot or even a lighter-bodied Pinot Noir, such as Heron--and those from many other regions in Italy--would do the trick. If you have the budget, those Russian River and Sonoma Coast Pinots would work beautifully as well.

If you want to do Taco Salad, a favorite in my family all-year round, you will need a more robust red. Something with a handful of tannins and a higher alcohol structure, such a the Broadside Margarita Vineyard Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel, will be compatible with the meat and spice of those taco chips. Big reds from the slightly hotter Sierra Foothills or Amador County will usually be a fit.

It you are putting that meat on the grill, think of pairing it with intense, high-alcohol reds that will step up to the sweetness in BBQ sauce or catsup on that burger. They can be simple, fruity and affordable: particularly if you are drinking them in a backyard. The Sobon Estate "Fiddletown," Zinfandel has long been one of my favorites for its richness and length. It has enough tannines to get out there with some of the most tender BBQ ribs or pulled pork in town. Enjoy that game!

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, January 21, 2016

Pairing Pugliese Wines with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman


The Southern region of Puglia, often called Apulia in English, is located on the Adriatic Sea and forms the heel of the “Italian boot.” It has long produced well-balanced whites and soft, fruit-juicy reds that pair well with so many meat and pasta dishes. It is also becoming an emerging region for roses made from the region's two star red grapes: Negroamaro and Primitivo.

This area also produces some of the best value wines coming out of the Italian Peninsula today, thanks to lower land and labor costs than in other regions of the country. The intense red grapes of Puglia were long secretly used to give color, tannins and acidity to wines made in the north (although few producers would like to discuss it). Tuscans have long joked about cars with Pugliese license plates parked outside of local wineries during harvest season.

Signature Style
Given much of the growing region's proximity to the sea, Puglia's wines tend to have great minerality and balance, according to wine producer Luigi Rubino of Tenute Rubino, one of the country's most modern producers in terms of fruit and oak use.

He also thinks that some of the country's best-priced wines have been produced in Puglia in the past decade. Major improvements in wine making techniques and quality have also been achieved without attendant price increases in that time period. Those have gone hand-in-hand with greater investments in the region as much of the land is still fairly affordable, compared to other Northern and Central Italian regions.

Pairing Possibilities
The simple red-fruit flavors of the region's reds, such as the Botromagno Primitivo, and soft tannins make them appealing with a wide range of meat pairings. Everything from a grilled burger to ribs marinated in a sweet and even a hot tomato sauce will make these wines zing.

According to Rubino, given Primitivo's tannin structure when it ages, it can be particularly lovely with aged cheeses and braised meat and stews. Don't be afraid to experiment with any number of meats from oxtail to short ribs. Almost anything with a hint of tomatoes or a sweeter sauce—even with a hint of spice—will pair beautifully with this varietal.

An aged Negroamaro will work well, according to Rubino, with a range of pastas with red sauce as well as well as wild game. He adds that wild boar and deer are sublime pairings. This grape also makes some fresh, intense and fruit-forward roses. They have much more in common with what I call the “rowdy roses” of Bordeaux than the salmon-pink versions from Provence in France.

Puglia also produces some notable white wines, particularly Malvasia, which can run from fairly dry to pretty sweet. The drier versions, which often have other indigenous grapes in them, such as Greco in the Botromango Gravina, work beautifully with a range of seafood dishes.

Rubino also likes the fresh acidly of the grape with dishes such as swordfish and scampi. He also adores it with sushi and I couldn't agree more, as long as it's fairly dry.

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, January 14, 2016

Korean Pot Roast with Zinfandel

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer


It’s finally gotten really cold outside.  It’s so cold that your tears seep from your eyes when you crack your front door, even before you walk outside into the bracing wind.  Your tears become frozen into icy daggers.  Your cold-cracked and bleeding fingers are tired of being shoved into gloves that just don’t keep your fragile digits quite warm enough for more than a few minutes at a time. 

By about noon, your stomach is already calling to you about what you could possibly eat to warm yourself deeply, from head to toe.  For this kind of cold weather there are the usual chicken potpies and uncertain bowls, brimming with oily slicks of steaming hot soup. 

What I require for frosty weather sustenance is a hearty glass of intensely flavored red wine to wash down an all day-cooked slab of beef, rendered low and slow to maximize the mineral and beefy intensity of the meat.

Sobon Estate "Hillside" Zinfandel is better wine than you should be drinking at a price that will not break the bank.  DrinkupNY stocks this marvelous slurp of black fruits, crushed gravel and brioche toast in every sumptuous sip of wine.  Zinfandel is bigger and meatier than your more feminine Pinot Noir and dare I say, those blush wines that are usually uncomplicated quaffs of sugary liquid.  Real Zinfandel like the Sobon Estate bears neither resemblance in color, nor the intensity of flavor to that the Madison Avenue marketers created with White Zinfandel wine. You know that stuff that hangs on in the realm of cheap, sugary and uncouth.

 Real Zinfandel wine is magnificent stuff, possessing deep Terroir and a sensation of riche.  Zinfandel is thick across the tongue and it coats the palate.  Zinfandel is your go/to for long cooked meats. 

Pot Roast, Korean Style. 
I’m a huge fan of Korean food. The people of this country seem to bring their passion for the very best in life-even to the simplest of foods like this pot roast.  There is quality and nostalgia in each life-giving sip of broth- this is not high volume canned stuff- but it is the culmination of many thousands of year of cooking techniques, many of which you cannot easily duplicate in the home kitchen, but this following method makes easy work of your hard to find time in the kitchen.

Ingredients       
 ¼ cup peanut oil      
1 cup homemade beef stock
1/4 cup full strength soy sauce
1 cup raw sugar or raw honey
12 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon Chinese sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly crushed ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper sauce
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon freshly crushed peppercorns
5 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cornstarch (essential to dissolve in stock)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 cup Zinfandel wine                                                                       
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Process
Heat a dutch oven to just under smoking.  Add about ¼ cup of peanut oil. Add beef. Brown on all sides.  Add the sugar or raw honey, sautee.  Add the garlic, sautee some more.  Add the red pepper sauce, the peppercorns and the Zinfandel wine to deglaze.  Add the onion and the cornstarch.  Cover and slow cook for at least eight hours.

Sprinkle with both sesame oil and green onions right before serving with copious glasses of your Zinfandel wine.   Serve soy sauce at the table for additional salting if necessary. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in FĂȘte de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy.
Photo Credit: KoreanBapSang