26 September, 2011

Wine Shield - Keeps Wine Fresh to the Last Glass

What do you do when you open a good bottle of red and just cannot finish it? You want to preserve it of course, and now there is a new, inexpensive way to do it. The kind people at wine Shield recently sent me a sample and I, being a single drinker, wanted to give it a try.

The wine shield is an actual food-grade plastic disc that you insert in the bottle that covers the surface of the wine. They claim it will reduce oxidation for up to 5days and it can be used on red, white and rose wines. Here are the results of my experiment:

I decided to use a bottle of rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon for my little experiment.

Villa Hermosa 2007 Napa Valley Cab Sauvingon
Day 1
dark purple alsmost opaque with a clear rim
nose: kinda funky with hay,anise, blueberry and other dark fruits
palate: tannins are strong, long linger of blueberry and cassis, rich and concentrated (great wine for $15)
Day 3
everything was the same. Not suprising as most wines can stand up 3 days with just a cork and refrigeration.

Day 5
On Day 5 I opened the same bottle of wine to contrast it with the wine that had been open.
wow, the two bottles are almost the same. Just as fresh (more of an herbal note than before), tannins about the same and similar richness on the palate.

**I would recommend the Wine Shield as an inexpensive way to make that open bottle last longer. Seems like an ideal alternative for a wine bar where they sell wines by the glass.**

Visit their website www.wineshield.com to learn how to purchase them and watch the video here to see how easy they are to use:

25 September, 2011

Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fume 2008

Today we are quaffing a Pouilly Fume. That means we are drinking a Sauvingon Blanc from the Loire Valley. Here are our impressions:

-Lovely acidity, hints of young coconut, clover blossom and grass on the nose, medium citrine hue, clean, crisp, citrusy finish. This calls for a young, tangy goat cheese, chicken Piccata, seafood with lemon sauce. Fried artichoke hearts with a lemon caper aioli. Find it at Whole Foods Market.

23 September, 2011

Another sparkling wine and food pairing: Cremant de Bourgogne with Lox

I think sparkling wines may be the most food friendly wines due to their high acidity and bubbly texture. I love salty foods with sparkling wines like potato chips or truffled popcorn. I espececially love to pair sushi with sparkling wine so in keeping up with this theme I came up with a simple yet delicious sparkling wine/ appetizer pairing: Cremant de Bourgogne with Lox.

I chose this pairing as a part of the Drink Wine with Dinner event created by Rosina Wilson. She has come up with an easy-to-use guide to wine and food pairing. Please see this post for the guide: (http://www.brixchicks.com/2011/08/drink-wine-with-dinner-dw2d2.html) For my pairing I used Principle #3:

3) Contrast ~ where food & wine have *different* characteristics that you know will work well together (like harmony in music): Acidic wine (e.g. sparkling wine or Sauvignon Blanc) with butter/cream in food; sweet/fruity wine (e.g. Riesling, Grenache, Zin) with spicy food (e.g. curry, BBQ)...

I found a lovely Cremant de Bourgogne (made from 100% Pinot Noir) from Trader Joe’s made by Blason. This bubbly shows tight bubbles that lasted quite a while with a bracing acidity and notes of apricot pastry and lemon. It paired perfectly with the smokey, buttery slices of lox topped with tangy creme fraiche and lemony chopped chives. It was defintely harmonious in my mouth as the silky notes of the salmon and creme fraiche mingled with the bubbles and acidity of the wine and the lemon I spritzed on the lox. This is one of the simplest appetizers ever and economical. All you need is the lox, bread, creme fraiche and chives. The wine is only $10.99 and Trader Joe's has a small package of delicious lox for only $3.99. A classy appetizer/sparkling wine pairing perfect for us "Recessionistas."

08 September, 2011

Happy Birthday, Julia (and Xandria) - Lambrusco Cupcakes are a sweet ending to #Dw2d2

August 15th was National "Drink Wine with Dinner!" day and it was so popular, it kept going the whole month of August.  It was interesting to see what others were putting together.  The BrixChicks all got together and did some experimenting with wines and pairing that came exclusively from Trader Joe's.  I did Julia's potato Leek soup with a great Washington state Sauvignon Blanc. And TJ's made it easy to buy the pre-trimmed leeks.  Slice them on a mandolin, dice some potatoes simmer with water and in 30 minutes, I had a blender full of creamy, yummy, vegan  soup!  Of course, I then doused it with creme fraiche ribbons and pancetta (on a different occaision with sherry vinegar, garlic aioli and more pancetta and it was off the hook).  But I was most impressed with my sparkling treasure.  $4.99 for sparkling Lambrusco!  Such a deal for a festive, fruity and delicious treat.  One of the principles in our friend Rosina Wilson's eBook is to match like with like.  Fruity sweet Lambrusco has the sweetness and the structure to stand up to a cupcake.  To amp the pairing up a bit, I made a thick Lambrusco syrup that turned the dessert from phoned-in, boxed mix cupcakes into something special.

To make the syrup, I took an extra bottle of Lambrusco (at $4.99 it invites experimentation) and combined it with 2/3 cup sugar and heated it over medium low heat for 40 minutes to reduce the mixture to a thick syrup, being careful not to scorch the wine.

While it was reducing, I removed the 2 tablespoons of liquid and substituted it for the required water in the frosting mix.  The reduced Lambrusco syrup infused the white frosting and tinted it a lovely pinky lilac color.  When the cupcakes were cooled, I punctured the tops with a wooden toothpick and brushed them liberally with the Lambrusco syrup.  I let them set overnight.  After they were frosted, in a Cupcake War winning move, I garnished with a candied Hibiscus flower.

For the wine, '08 Le Grotte Lambrusco, Emiliano Romagna, Italy: dark ruby color with sparkle and sweetness without being cloying.  A pleasant grapey flavor with hints of tart fruit and fizz.  8.5% alcohol means it's a party wine sans lampshade.  We paired it with cupcakes, but they suggested pork and beef dishes.  I could so see it with Chinese food.  All in all a perfect Drink Wine with Dinner ringer, since at an easy to pair and easy on the wallet $4.99, there's no excuse not to drink wine with dinner!

I timed my efforts and came in at 1 hour 21 minutes.  Trader Joe's did all the heavy lifting!  And under $40! Not bad for first course and dessert with wine pairings for 6!

07 September, 2011

Ella Dining Room and Bar and also Champagne School

 If you have never been to Ella Dining Room and Bar and you live driving distance from downtown Sacramento, I highly recommend this great place to you.  It has the scale of a Los Angeles hotspot  and still maintains a cozy feel, with food and drink any region would be happy to claim.  I was fortunate to attend a Dine and Learn there where we asked them to prepare comfortable meeting space, a little mid meeting sparkling wine at the bar and then a nice dinner.  The staff including events manager Nicole and Wine Manager, Joseph Vaccaro, rolled out the red carpet for us.  So, much to my delight, the "little mid meeting sparkling wine lesson was as follows:

 NV Nicolas Feuillattte Brut Reserve Particulere, Reims France: a blend of 20% chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinot Meunier, the first sip was a reward for slogging through hours of training and definitely woke up the audience.  Pale gold in color with tiny bubbles and aromas of pears and something nutty.

'02 Roederer L'Ermitage Estate, Anderson Valley, California: Imagine my delight to re-taste one of my favorites.  Golden color with bubbles that made me want to sing some Don Ho and a creamy, lush mouthfeel.  Flavors of baked apple with vanilla hints, spice and apple pie.  The blend is 54% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir.  The wine is all delicious.

'07 Shramsberg Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley, California: We had all previously attended an event where on our tour of Shramsberg we almost to a person joined the wine club and so were all familiar with this selection.  Still this predominantly Pinot Noir (74%) blended with chardonnay (26%) was a crowd pleaser.  Structured with pleasant acidity and flavors, this stood up well to the salmon canape offered as an accompanying small bite.

MV, Krug Grande Cuvee, Reims, France:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Joseph told us this champagne is "what God gives his angels when they are particularly good". Yum! This character of this selection was so different from the others.  Darker and more complex with toasty, smoky, nutty notes and a mist of honey, with pears, apples and even a hint of mocha.  Divine!  We pretty much drained our glasses of this wine!

All the while Joseph anwered our questions and explained the compendium of difference between sparkling wine and champagne.  We spanned the gamut from folks with impressive cellars to non-wine drinkers, and all of us came away learning a lot, and most importantly enjoying the journey.  I was immensely grateful for all the hard work and planning that went into this event, so cannot recommend this restaurant enough. If you are able to book a wine dinner or even just drop by for Happy Hour, you will be delighted.  And bonus, Facebook or Foursquare check-ins will get you free valet parking!

Make time to visit
ella dining room and bar
1131 K Street (Corner of 12th & K Street)
Sacramento, CA 95814

06 September, 2011

Sparkling Viognier? - A WBC11 discovery from Horton Vineyards

At Horton Vineyards, one of the most interesting things I tried was their Sparkling Viognier.  Dennis Horton, himself a Virginia wine pioneer, selected viognier as a variety of grape that would do well in Virgina due to its thicker skin and tolerance for heat.  Deciding to use methode champenoise to create an original and unique wine adds a lot of time and cost to bringing the wine to market, but it also creates a tasty and sparkly expression of the Virginia terroir. 
 During the demo, it occurred to me how complicated the process is.  In methode champenoise,  first you have to decide on the blend , in this case, viognier and chardonnay.  Grapes are pressed and juice is treated as normal for a still wine.  It is then dosed up with a "secret sauce" to get the second fermentation going and left in the bottle, capped with a crown cap.  You can just see the riddling racks in the corner there.
  Basically, the bottles are set neck down in the wooden slots so that they can be turned bottle by bottle a few degrees a day.  This encourages the dead yeasts, sediments, etc to settle in the neck of the bottle

We were treated to a dramatic demo of disgorgement where the neck of the bottle was dipped into liquid nitrogen and then the frozen plug released to shoot out. [No photos of that part of the process as of course I was putting the "chicken" into BrixChicks and scrambling for my safety goggles] .Additional wine is added back in as the wine is topped off and then a real cork, with its very needed wire cage, is put in to let the bottle to finish the aging process.

  And then (finally) the sparkling viognier is ready to go to market. 

Horton also makes an Rkatsiteli, a Georgian grape variety, which was also new to me.  As well as a selection of red wines and fruit wines and even a chocolate wine.  I found the wines very attractively priced for as interesting as they were.  The team at Horton made our visit there a pleasure and the folks from the Orange County (VA) could not have been nicer.  Horton Vineyards is a great place to visit if you find yourself in the neighborhood.  They are open 7 days a week for tasting:

Horton Vineyards
6399 Spotswood Trail
United States

Telephone: 800-829-4633
On the right, Rkatsiteli