Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Some tasteful holiday gift ideas

We’re all struggling right now to find just the right wine for the lucky folks on our holiday gift short list. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve spent a whole lot of time and exhausted a plethora of brain cells just to come up with some really tasty suggestions for your consideration.

All the wines I’m recommending are under $35 a bottle (most are under $20) and are available throughout the state at your favorite wine shops and grocery stores. So go out and have a little fun. You might even buy a bottle or two for your own pleasure.

2009 Estancia Chardonnay Pinnacle Ranches -The cool Monterey climate accompanied by a long growing season produced a ripe, mouth-filling chardonnay. Highlighted by a soft, creamy texture, this wine was partially barrel fermented and aged a while in oak. Roasted cod or sea bass that is simply sauced would benefit greatly from an accompaniment of this lovely wine.

2007 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre – One of my all-time favorite reds, this blend of corvina and rondinella is a smooth, yet full-bodied wine made using the ripasso method where a portion of the grapes is allowed to dry for a few months before fermenting. The resulting wine is rich and robust with great black cherry fruit and cola flavors. This one begs to be paired with Osso Bucco or beef carbonade.

Rotari Rose- This non-vintage sparkler from Trento in northern Italy is a blend of 25% chardonnay 75% pinot noir. It was number 13 on Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 2010 Top 100 Best Buys of the Year. Produced in the champagne method, Rotari can be sipped as an aperitif or matched with appetizers like cheese, olives or fruit.

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Wines for Thanksgiving

Wines for Thanksgiving

Domaine Serene Pinot Noir - Great for Turkey Day !

I hope you’ve been training hard because we are about to embark upon a food and wine marathon that begins with Thanksgiving, shifts into high gear for holiday parties, and roars into overdrive for Christmas and New Years’ celebrations.

We will consume more food and drink more wine during this period than at any other time during the year and, as a result, we will boost the first quarter revenues of exercise clubs, diet centers and clothing alteration shops throughout this great land.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will also make more than 50 percent of your total wine purchases for the year. Therefore, today I’ll give you a few wine suggestions to accompany the first big holiday.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and turkey will once again be the centerpiece of this culinary celebration. In the past, I have written about the versatility of turkey to be successfully matched with red or white as well as light or full-bodied wines. The reason this is possible is because turkey has a variety of flavors, colors and textures which can match just about any wine.

Add to these dimensions, the manner in which the turkey is prepared (i.e., roasted, smoked, grilled or fried) and the type of stuffing used, and you have a complex set of flavor components that make matching wine with it fun. Indeed, Thanksgiving offers us a rare opportunity to sample several wines with the same meal (and that’s something to thankful for).

Conventional wine wisdom dictates that white meat should be accompanied with white wine. Well, in the case of Thanksgiving turkey, that is only partially true.

From an herbal sauvignon blanc (which pairs nicely with a sage-flavored bread dressing), to a medium-bodied, yet rich, Alsatian riesling, to a lighter-styled pinot grigio, to a creamy, full-bodied chardonnay, turkey can accommodate each of these white wines quite nicely.

But what really surprises some wine purists is how well turkey matches with red wine, particularly when the bird has been roasted on a grill or smoked. Full bodied reds like cabernet sauvignon, Rhone wines such as Chateauneuf Du Pape, along with zinfandel, shiraz or Amarone go especially well with smoked or grilled turkey.

The traditional oven-roasted turkey is also very nicely accompanied by a pinot noir, Beaujolais or even tempranillo from Spain. And, given the celebratory nature of Thanksgiving, sparkling wine and Champagne would be an appropriate match too.

And what about a dessert wine with that pumpkin pie? Well, I’ve got a few goodies for your sweet tooth that will pair especially well with this traditional dessert.

In the interest of impartiality, I will take on the formidable task of working my way through a plethora of both white, red and sparkling wines this Thanksgiving. I will then repair to the couch where, full of tryptophan and the fruit of the vine, I will snooze my way through a bevy of football games. Ah, the good life.

So here are some vinous ideas for you to consider as you plan your Thanksgiving dinner.

For the holiday aperitif: Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, Domaine Carneros Brut, Iron Horse Russian Cuvee, or Zardetto Prosecco would tickle and tingle your palate and get you primed for the meal to come.

White wines: St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc, Trimbach Riesling, Merryville Chardonnay, Louis Jadot Chablis, Banfi Centine Bianco, Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer, Talley Vineyards Chardonnay and Tolloy Pinot Grigio.

Red wines: Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon; Luigi Righetti Amarone, Martin Codax Tempranillo, Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel, Davis Bynum Russian River Sonoma County Pinot Noir; Domaine Serene Evanstad Reserve Pinot Noir,and Georges Duboeuf Morgon Beaujolais.

Desert wines: Michele Chiarlo Moscato, Navarro Late Harvest Riesling, J Vidal-fleury Muscat de Beaumes de venise.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Canaan - Wild and Wonderful Wine Weekend

Canaan - Wild and Wonderful Wine Weekend

Canaan Valley Resort is once again planning their “Wild, Wonderful Wine Weekend” this fall. Join me and other wine and food lovers on November 11-13 for an entertaining and educational gourmet extravaganza. I’ll select wines from around the world that will be paired with a cornucopia of culinary delicacies prepared by Canaan Valley Resort’s executive chef Eric Buchinger.

It’s always fun to work with culinary professionals in pairing wines with their scrumptious creations, and the folks at our state’s most scenic resort always hit the mark at this signature event.

The weekend begins Friday, November 11 at 7 p.m. with a “taste-around reception” where wines from the world’s most prestigious regions can be sampled with matching culinary treats from food stations featuring a wonderful selection of foods upon which to graze (see below).

On Saturday, guests will be treated to a four-course wine-paired luncheon followed later in the afternoon by a tasting of wines selected and led by yours truly. After the tasting, guests will be free to hike, bike, nap (what I plan to do) or just enjoy Mother Nature’s purple mountain majesty!

View from "Table Rock" in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

The evening’s activities begin at 7 p.m. with a six-course grand gourmet dinner with accompanying wines.

Hopefully, the menus below will get your collective palates watering in anticipation. I haven’t completed selecting all the wines at this writing, but you can be assured that I will do my best to make you happy.

ReceptionSeafood station
Shrimp, Oysters, Scallops and Crab Cakes
Braised Short Ribs, Teriyaki Beef Skewers, Pot Stickers
Hors D’ oeuvre Display
Imported cheeses, Italian Meats, mousse, and pâté.
Dessert Station

LunchVegetable Terrene
Fried Green Tomatoes with Plum Shrimp
Smoked Beef Brisket Ravioli
Chocolate Espresso Cake

DinnerCrab Bisque
Pork & Peaches (seared pork belly with a caramelized peach atop)
Cajun Snapper
Citrus Chicken
Stuffed Tenderloin of Beef
Chocolate Napoleon

Guests have the option of attending the entire weekend for a package price, or choosing to participate in individual events ala carte. For pricing and additional information or reservations call 800-622-4121 or visit online at

Hope to see you there.

Local Food and Wine Event

Friends of Wine and FoodYou might want to jump on this one right away. The FARM2U Collaborative is sponsoring a great food and wine event next Monday. See the invite below.

You’re invited! Come celebrate the culinaryheritage of WV as guest Chefs from aroundthe state join Berry Hills Country Club Chef Chad Rieve to createa unique, wine-paired five-course festival offood.

Monday, October 17 • Berry Hills Country Club • Reception- 6:30 – 7:30 • Dinner to followTickets: $100 per person, $175 per couple, or$1,000 for a VIP table of eight (8). (Table hosts willalso receive 4 tickets to the Welcome Receptionof the Cast Iron Cook-Off, January 21, 2012, atThe Greenbrier).

The FoodAntipasto Salad & Exotic CheesesHarvest SoupHerbal Roasted Veal Rib EyeRussian Fingerling PotatoesSherry Glaze Chanterelle MushroomsButternut Squash Duchess

Our Team of Executive Chefs• Tim Urbanic, Café Cimino• Anne Hart, Provence Market• Chad Rieve, Berry Hills Country Club• Dale Hawkins, Fish Hawk Acres• Paul Smith, Buzz Food Products

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Witch Creek Wines: spellbinding potion

Witch Creek Wines: spellbinding potion

I consumed some palate pleasing red wine recently produced by a California winery with a West Virginia connection. Witch Creek Winery is a boutique operation located along the southern California coast in the village of  Carlsbad.

While the winery produces varietals such as cabernet and syrah, I am particularly impressed with the meritage (blended) wines that Witch Creek concocts. The winery also makes nebbiolo, aglianico, sangiovese and primitivo, a group of Italian grapes that are not widely made anywhere in the US.

Some friends of mine living in Tucker County poured me a taste of the wine one evening as we sat and sipped, reveling in one of those glorious Canaan Valley sunsets. Good wine with Mother Nature’s best. What an inspiring pairing!

Witch Creek, which sources its grapes from some of California’s most sought after AVA’s, has also garnered a bevy of medals from prestigious wine competitions such as the one sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle.

I was able to taste through most of what Witch Creek has to offer and came away wanting more. Unfortunately, because of the limited production, most of the wines are sold at the winery and to a few select restaurants in California.

However, because of the mountain state connection, a little of this lovely juice will make it back here to a few select wine shops and restaurants. Look for Witch Creek wines in places such as Snowshoe Mountain Resort and selected other areas in the Potomac Highlands. In Charleston, a limited amount of the wine will be available in the Wine Shop at Capitol Market.

Dave's PG Red

Here are some notes on three of the wines I tasted just this past week that you may wish to seek out.

2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) – Medium-bodied wine with aromas of cola and ripe cherries. On the palate, this wine shows a spicy, peppery tone and finishes with a mocha impression. Grilled red meat would be my choice with this delicious wine.

2006 Kathy’s Cuvee ($48) – This meritage is a classic Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. Balanced and complex with layers of berry fruit, this wine has a good tannic core and should benefit from three to five years more of bottle age. I would love to pair this with Veal Marsala smothered in Shitake mushrooms.  I recommend using Lombardo Marsala for the absolute best result.

2008 Dave’s PG Red ($48) – Another meritage comprised of cabernet, merlot and sangiovese, Dave's PG(Pretty Good) Red is chock full of bright cherry and cola flavors with richness and good depth along with excellent balancing acidity. This one begs to be matched to grilled beef short ribs basted with a mahogany barbecue sauce. By the way, Dave's Red is better than "Pretty Good!"

For those of you who wish to try the whole Witch Creek line,  you may shop the winery online at and order directly from them.

Just what the doctor ordered

Just what the doctor ordered

Fall is just about here! For me that means harvest is upon us – both in the world’s great wine regions – and right here in West–by-Golly too. While we’re not picking grapes in the Kanawha Valley, our local farmer’s market (Capitol Market) is plum full of late season veggies that I have been eating and/or feverishly preserving for winter time consumption.

Also this time of year, my thoughts turn to all manner of grilled meat dishes along with hearty red wines that just seem to go so well in cooler weather. But just as I began to plan a feast for this weekend built around these scrumptious victuals, I was reminded (by guess who) of my impending annual physical.

My family doctor’s prescription for my well being includes a heavy dose of reality and a lecture on the merits of lifestyle moderation. So before I visit with him, I’ve decided to prepare a meal that includes a plethora of farm fresh vegetables, some heart-healthy red wine and roasted meat that is chock full of protein. Just what the doctor (Feelgood) ordered.

(Note to self: this menu may not comport with the wishes of my family physician).

While I’m a man of simple tastes, I am sometimes required to consume complex dishes with esoteric wines and then render intelligent opinions on the experience. For instance, it is difficult to explain in plain English why shank of armadillo, braised with bok choy in a Tabasco sauce, is such a heavenly match to vermentino grown on the south-facing slope of Mount Supramonte in Sardinia. This job can be challenging!

Wine match challenging

So when I cook for friends and family, the food is usually straightforward, down-home meat and starch type meals with fairly inexpensive, no-nonsense wines that taste good and help de-clog the arteries (see, I’m really trying to be healthy).

In fact, I dearly love rack of lamb, grilled and served with a great big, full-throttle Zinfandel. I have used New Zealand rack purchased at Sam’s Club and these babies are excellent. But recently, I was able to get US raised, anti-biotic-free rack of lamb from my good friends at Sandy Creek Farms near Ravenswood.

I have mentioned Sandy Creek many times in the past. They raise beef, pork and lamb on organic food-stocks with no antibiotics or other additives, and then butcher and flash freeze the cuts of meat which they then deliver in and around the Charleston area. If you’re interested in having them deliver to you call 1- 800-487-2569.

And while I love their beef and especially their pork chops, the rack is simply succulent. Here’s my recipe for marinated and grilled rack of lamb, along with a few wine suggestions ,to go with this delicious meal that will feed four adults.

The Marinade
2 (six to 8 rib) racks of lamb
3 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary chopped

Much easier wine match

Combine and then wisp all the ingredients into a marinade
Place the racks in a gallon plastic baggie or dish and cover for up to four hours
Light a charcoal or gas grill and roast the racks covered using indirect heat
Grill for about 20 minutes (for medium rare) and allow to stand for 15 minutes
Slice the racks into single or double ribs and serve
Serve with a side dish of ratatouille, vegetable couscous or pasta in a pesto sauce.

For the perfect wine accompaniments, I suggest full-bodied reds such as zinfandel or grenache. Try Ridge, Falcor, Edmeades or Easton zinfandel or Las Rocas, Borsao Tres Picos or Evodia grenache (garnacha). These wines are all priced under $20 a bottle.

End of summer goodies

End of summer goodies

Today, I want to share a few recommendations from some red wines I’ve sipped recently and which I think you will enjoy too. They come from places as geographically diverse as California, Germany and Italy, but that’s one of the great aspects of wine appreciation: if you can’t find what you’re looking for, there’s always someplace else to look.

I have been a long time fan of Sebastiani Winery located in the town and county of Sonoma. In fact, Sebastiani was the first  winery I ever visited – way back before Al Gore invented the Internet. Over the years and through many Sebastiani family leadership changes two things have remained consistent: quality and value.

So I was concerned when I read that the family had sold the winery a few years back to the Foley Wine Group. My concerns, though, were unfounded as evidenced by the continuity of quality in the wines produced to this day. Recently, I tasted a couple of wines that reinforced this view.

Merlot has gotten a bad rap ever since the movie Sideways. As the price of merlot dropped, I happily benefited and stocked up on as much of the stuff as I could afford. Appreciation for Merlot (unfortunately for me) is ramping back up and the following effort from Sebastiani clearly demonstrates why.

2007 Sebastiani Sonoma County Merlot ($19) – This is a very focused wine with spicy plum and earthy flavors balanced by tannin and a nice touch of acid. Try it with grilled lamb chops basted with garlic, lemon and olive oil.

2009 Sebastiani Pinot Noir ($18) Wonderful balance in this elegant, value-priced pinot noir. Ripe cherries, some vanilla and bright acid characterize this wine from the cool Sonoma Coast. Grill a filet of salmon that you’ve dusted with cumin, brown sugar and a little chili powder, and then wash it down with this supple sipper.

It is not hard to say good things about Falcor Winery. This Napa Valley operation owned by two Charleston lawyers has produced exceptional wine for more than 15 years.

Jim Peterson, one of Falcor's owners

Their stable of products, which include a ripe and rich chardonnay and deep and full bodied reds such as zinfandel, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese and syrah, are sourced from some of the best vineyards in Napa and other highly sought after California appellations.

I am particularly fond of their Bordeaux-like blend called Bijou.Recently, another blended wine from Falcor has caught my eye…er palate.

2006 Falcor Bilancia ($36) A blend of 57% Zinfandel, 33% Petit Sirah, 7% Charbono, 2% Carignan, and 1% Valdiguie, Bilancia is a textbook example of why vintners choose to blend. Round and rich flavors of dark fruits, mocha and spice are balanced by bright fruit and good acidity. With fall coming on, I would pair this wine with braised short ribs rubbed with garlic and black pepper and cooked in a bath of tomato sauce and red wine.

Italy2008 Aia Vecchia Lagone ($19) What a find! This beauty from Bolgheri near the coast in Tuscany is Italy’s version of Bordeaux with a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and sangiovese. Rich and velvety with ripe black cherry and cola flavors, the Lagone can be drunk now and will continue to benefit from aging for several years to come. I enjoyed this baby with eggplant stacked and layered on the grill with garden tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.

Germany2010 Noble House Sweet Red ($10) Some of us take wine seriously…too seriously. Noble House Sweet Red, made from dorfelder (a funny name, don’t you think?), will put a smile on your face! And it’s really not very sweet, but it is full of great cherry and red fruit flavors. It’s also a surprisingly good accompaniment to food. Serve it slightly chilled and enjoy it as an aperitif on the porch or at the picnic table with a burger or some pulled pork barbecue.

Wine and Food at The Greenbrier

Wine and Food at The Greenbrier

If you are a wine and food fanatic (and you wouldn’t be reading these words otherwise), you’ve got to love what Jim Justice has done in breathing new life into the Greenbrier Resort. Let’s face it, the grand old lady was slipping before he stepped up and rescued this venerable and historic resort.

By renovating the rooms and public places, constructing a very tasteful casino and developing a world-class golf tournament, Justice is working tirelessly to upgrade the resort with the goal of achieving five-star status.

With all due respect to the above-mentioned achievements, I am particularly impressed with the efforts to elevate the wine program and cuisine at the Greenbrier. In addition to the elegant Main Dining, Draper’s and Sam Snead’s at the Golf Club, the resort has added In-Fusion (a pan-Asian restaurant), The Forum (Italian) and Prime 44 West Steakhouse named after basketball great and state native Jerry West.

I’ve had the pleasure of dining at all of the establishments mentioned and I can tell you that particular attention is being paid to making sure that the wine lists are specifically tailored to the menus of the various restaurants. Why should that come as a surprise, you may ask?

Well, the range of complex dishes prepared at the various dining venues is stunning, and it would be so much more manageable to keep just one  well-rounded list and use it for each different restaurant.

But not at the Greenbrier. Through coordination and consultation among food and beverage president Jeremy Critchfield, executive Chef Richard Rosendale and director of wine Heath Porter, the resort is able to tailor each restaurant’s menu with wines that match and enhance the culinary focus. And, since the menus are regularly evolving, the wines are constantly changing.

So if you have not visited the resort recently, you should treat yourself and that special other person in your life to a little R&R at the Greenbrier. In fact, the resort is offering a few wine-oriented events this fall that should tickle your palate.

Trefethen Vineyards
Janet Trefethen, of the Napa Valley winery of the same name, will be at the Greenbrier on September 9 & 10. Trefethen Vineyards has been winning international acclaim since the 1970’s and features some of the most elegant cabernet sauvignon made in Napa. In fact, the winery provides the cabernet for Prime 44, the Jerry West signature label.

Jerry West and "Prime 44"

Ms. Trefethen is the matriarch of this family winery and will lead guests in a tasting on Friday, Sept. 9th from 5 to 6 p.m. ($50 per person). On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Ms. Trefethen will join Jerry West and other guests in a special wine dinner at Prime 44 ($250 per person).

Talley Vineyards
Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards will be at the resort on Oct. 6th and 7th for a tasting and grand wine dinner. Talley Vineyards is located in the Arroyo Grande Valley
just south of San Luis Obispo in the heart of California’s Central Coast wine region. The winery focuses on chardonnay and pinot noir.

On Friday, Oct. 7, at 4:30 p.m., Brian Talley will lead a tasting featuring 6 wines including many single vineyard wines and older vintages ($40 per person). On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., join Talley and other guests for a special five-course dinner with six matching wines ($150 per person).

Qupe Vineyards
Bob Lindquist, winemaker of Qupe Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley (just north of Santa Barbara) will showcase his wines on Friday, October 28 at 5 p.m.($50). Lindquist and Qupe focus on Rhone Valley varietals such as marsanne, viognier, grenache and syrah. Qupe is considered among the finest syrah producers in the US.

For further information on these tastings and other Greenbrier events, you may call 800-453-4858.

Howdy Doody, Julia Child and Sponge Bob: Only one has eaten Teala

Howdy Doody, Julia Child and Sponge Bob:  Only one has eaten Teala

As a general rule, I avoid cooking indoors this time of year. It doesn’t make much sense to heat up the house by using the kitchen stove – let alone the oven - but that’s what I did last weekend to prepare one of my favorite seasonal go-to dishes.

The Italian side of my family calls the dish “Teala” (pronounced tee-A-luh). This superb casserole uses some of the freshest vegetables available from our gardens or the local farmer’s market, and combines them with herbs, cheese and spices to make a delicious all-in-one meal.

Teala was a summertime staple for many of us growing up in our Italian neighborhood of North View (in Clarksburg). In those days long ago, Howdy Doody ruled the airwaves, Sponge Bob was traveling salesman and Julia Child was a former spy who liked to cook.

Anyway, Teala was about the only way my mother could get me to eat veggies such as eggplant, zucchini or squash. And those are the primary constituents of the dish, along with potatoes, which are optional. As a matter of fact, Italians not only allow options, they encourage menu latitude which in turn precipitates heated arguments over who’s Teala is best. And, of course, that’s the idea.

So, today I am going to share my version of the dish my mother, grandmother and aunts prepared (each one differently). Most used potatoes (I don’t), some refused to use tomatoes and others disdained the use of hot peppers, onions or bread crumbs. This then allowed them to debate the merits of each Teala iteration endlessly.

Wherever they are at this moment, I know they’re all ready to pounce, but here’s my take on Teala which, by the way, can be paired wonderfully well with sauvignon blanc such as St. Supery from Napa. The dish would also marry nicely with a medium-bodied, spicy red like Marques de Caceres Rioja.

Excellent choice with Teala

2 medium sized zucchinis, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
2 medium sized yellow squash cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
1 medium sized onion cut into thin vertical slices
1 hot (or mild) banana pepper cut into vertical slices
1 sweet red pepper cut into vertical slices
1 small bunch of parsley and one handful of basil chopped together
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 third cup of unseasoned bread crumbs
1 half cup of grated pecorino-romano cheese
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

DRIZZLE a bit of the olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish and rub all over
LAYER the eggplant to cover the bottom of the dish
TOP with salt, pepper, herbs, onions, garlic, peppers, bread crumbs, cheese and oil
LAYER zucchini and repeat the step above
LAYER yellow squash and repeat toppings
REPEAT above until the casserole is full
TOP layer should be drizzled only with olive oil, salt, pepper and cheese
COVER with aluminum foil and place in a 375F oven
BAKE for 1 hour 15 minutes covered and last 15 minutes uncovered
ALLOW Teala to rest for 20 minutes before serving

WineBoy in Transition

WineBoy is dead….long live WineBoy ! Well, he’s not actually dead, but he is in transition as this Gazette Community Blog has been renamed Vines & Vittles.

Why, you ask? For those of you who have followed WineBoy from its inception in January 2007, you will remember that it was first and foremost a webcast that allowed me (in the guise of WineBoy) to create several characters who had their own unique views about wine appreciation.

The WineBoy webcasts were produced by the Gazette and shown on this site for a little more than a year before they became too time-consuming for the newspaper to continue in light of the increasing demand for hard news video.

Since the demise of the webcast, this blog has continued to provide you with written information on wine and food, but without the weirdly insightful, sometimes outrageous and always wacky opinions of my alter-egos: Wine Astrologist Marcrazi Umberto Lupini, the Right Reverend Red N. White, English nobleman and wine critic Sir Reginald Winesot Clydesdale, Frenchman Pierre N’Cest Pas (wine cynic) and Cowboy Oenophile Spud Dumplin.

I am in the process of developing a website where I hope to reprise the WineBoy characters and archive many of the older webcasts. In addition, I will move my blogs to that site after they appear here first. I’ll let you know when my new website is up and running and hopefully you’ll be able to view some of my WineBoy webcasts as well as some new ones I’ll be creating.

Vines & Vittles (I know… the proper spelling is “victuals”) more accurately describes where my emphasis is with this blog, and I’ll continue to provide you with my take on wine and how food makes the beverage we all love so much better. Nothing here will change except the name of the blog.

So today, I’ll lift a glass to WineBoy and those intrepid characters who made telling you about wine so much more fun than it should have been.

*****Wine and Roses Fundraiser
The Roark-Sullivan Lifeways Center (RSLC) is a very special organization with a great group of dedicated employees and volunteers. The center assists individuals experiencing homelessness with services that help them become self-reliant.

For the past several years, RSLC has been hosting a fund raising event at Capitol Market called “Wine and Roses.” Wouldn’t it be great to help programs like Roark-Sullivan and enjoy good wine and gourmet food, too?

Well, you can! Join me and other wine lovers at the Roark-Sullivan Lifeways Center Wine and Roses event. Wine and Roses will be held indoors at the Capitol Market from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 4.
Area wine distributors and locally owned Napa Valley winery, Falcor, are donating the wines. And believe me, there will be exceptional wines available for your sipping pleasure from all over the world. In addition, there will be an assortment of gourmet appetizers you can pair with the wines.

I’ll be there to answer your wine questions and chat about the tasty treats we’re sipping. And, hey, if you find a wine you like, you can stroll right over and purchase it immediately from the nice folks at the Wine Shop.
Tickets are $35 and you can get them at the door or by call RSLC at 304-414-0109 . You may use your credit card or send a check to: RSLC, P.O. Box 1707, Charleston, WV, 25326.

I hope to see you there.

Italian summer sippers: Molto Bene!

Italian summer sippers: Molto Bene!

I have been on an Italian wine kick recently, sipping my way through all manner of vino and loving every second. It started with an Italian family wedding where the food was matched with fiascos of wine, including many hailing from that boot-shaped peninsula.

It kept on going when my brother, who thinks he is innately blessed with a sommelier’s palate, paid us an extended visit and proceeded to drink his way through my now depleted cellar. To be fair, he did share a few of his vinous treasures - most of them older Barlos and Brunellos – so I shouldn’t complain too much (but I am).

Don’t get the impression, however, that we focused only on reds. No siree, we sipped everything from pinot grigio and arneis in the north to verdicchio and grillo down south. In addition, we tasted a whole lot of other whites and reds in between to accompany the prodigious quantities of food we prepared and consumed.

As I waddle around here now in self-imposed detox, I’d like to share with you some Italian wine suggestions, particularly bottles that pair well with the lighter-styled foods of summer. The versatility of these wines insures that, while they certainly do well with Italian dishes, you can match them with just about any cuisine.

All the wines recommended below are available in selected wine shops around the state. Oh, and be sure to pop the reds in the fridge for about half an hour before serving them. So here you go.

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A special wine and an App to help you find the best paired dish

A special wine and an App to help you find the best paired dish

'07 Allegrini Pallazzo Della Torre

With summertime upon us, it is logical for most of us to sip lighter  whites such as pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, riesling or a whole host of other refreshing wines. It’s also common for us to drink lighter-styled reds and even chill them a little before consuming them.

One of the best lighter-textured reds is Valpolicella. Produced from the relatively obscure corvina, rondinalla and molinara grapes, this red wine can be a very pleasant sipper and an excellent accompaniment to barbecue and other warm weather foods.

Today, however, in keeping with my annoying practice of taking a literary detour, I am not going to expound on the virtues of this lighter style wine. But I am going to discuss Valpolicella, and what happens to this timid quaff when a process called ripasso is employed during  wine making.  And, I’m also going to recommend the best wine I’ve ever tasted that uses the ripasso method.

To make a ripasso, new Valpolicella wine is refermented by combining it with the pressings or pomace from Amarone (which is essentially Valpolicella on steroids), and sometimes with the addition of dried raisined grapes.

The resulting ripasso wine is considerably darker and fuller bodied than Valpolicella, but not as powerful as Amarone. The ripasso process was invented in the early 1960’s by the well-respected Valpolicella producer Masi.

Recently, I had the pleasure of renewing my acquaintance with Allegrini Pallazo Della Torre. The 2007 version of this wine could be the best ripasso-style Valpolicella ($25) I have ever tasted.

Bursting with ripe, dark plum and blackberry flavors, a nose of cola and cherries and with bracing acidity, this wine is tour de force (that means good in Cajun’). I paired the wine with grilled rack of lamb that had been marinated in olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, coarsely ground black pepper and lemons. Yummy!

In addition to Allegrini and Masi, other ripasso producers to look for are Zenato, Bertani, Tommasi, Farina, Righetti and Mazzi.
Excellent Food and Wine App
I’m always looking for new food and wine pairings to spice up my usually mundane existence and to give me something to look forward to at the end of busy work day. And, while there are literally millions of combinations from which to choose, there are literally millions of combinations from which to choose!
So, wouldn’t it be great if there was some quick “go-to” way to make your wine buying decisions easier? And, it sure would be nice to find a complimentary dish to accompany that wine selection too.

Well, a new free mobile application can do just that!

I have pointed you in the past to the website of wine writer Natalie MacLean  ( who devotes her life to helping us make wine selection decisions a lot easier. Her new mobile app will also help you pair that wine with a complimentary food too.

With the “Wine Picks & Pairings app” you can use your Smartphone camera to snap a picture of any bottle label bar code in the wine shop and get tasting notes, scores, and food pairings too. Pretty cool!

Natalie is a certified sommelier and an accomplished wine writer who knows how to provide concise and easy to understand information on the sometimes arcane world of wine and food. Check out her app.

Chablis: It ain't what it used to be!

Chablis:  It ain't what it used to be!

When I first started getting serious about wine, Chablis was the generic term for any white, particularly those mass produced vinous products that were bottled in half or full gallon jugs. No one knew anything about varietal labeling or even that there were different types of grapes that produced different types of wine.

If it was white it was Chablis and if it was red it was Burgundy. Anything that sparkled was simply Champagne.

That’s all you needed to know. And if you drank wine in public places, people sipping martinis or chugging cold ones looked down their noses at you as if to suggest you join others of your ilk under the Southside Bridge.

But when wine began to become somewhat acceptable, those same cocktail snobs became wine snobs and the game was on.

It became “tres avant-garde” to squeeze in next to someone at the local beer garden and proclaim for all the world to hear: “I’ll just have a glass of Chablis.” So what if the bartender had to reach with both hands under the bar for the humongous jug, and then struggle to get some of the stuff into the glass.

We were so cosmopolitan!

Of course, none of us knew the composition of the wine back then, (nor did we care) and most of us were just happy not to gag on the swill that passed for wine. When I recall those days, my embarrassment is only somewhat tempered by the realization that our casual misuse of the terms Chablis, Burgundy and Champagne made the French completely insane.

Where am I going with this? Well, in the past month I have had the pleasure of sipping some excellent “real” Chablis. Of course, Chablis is an appellation and a region within Burgundy where the primary wine-producing grape is Chardonnay.

Wines produced in Chablis are generally more austere than chardonnay made in the more famous areas of Burgundy (i.e. Puligny-Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne, etc.), but they are considerably more reasonably priced.

The wines are steely textured with exceptional minerality and usually have a big dollop of acidity to balance out the richness of chardonnay. In good vintages such as 2008, Chablis can continue to improve in bottle for a decade or more.

The two wines I tasted were both very closed in at first and required about 30 minutes to open up. They also had bracing acidity and were not wines you could easily sit down and sip as an aperitif. Both wines definitely require food, but once paired with an appropriate dish (in this instance pan sautéed cod), they showed their complexity and ability to marry seamlessly to the meal.

These Chablis should be readily available and priced under $30 a bottle. The 2008 Gilbert Picq Chablis is more lean and austere than the 2008 Joseph Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru. I would advise cellaring both since I am convinced they will develop over a period of years into fuller, richer versions of what they are right now.

The Obelisk: a Capitol idea !

The Obelisk:  a Capitol idea !

Good golly! I spent a good part of last week in our nation’s capitol where the temperature was a sizzling 98 degrees. And while I perspired my way through a few business meetings, I knew, at the end of the day I would be sipping some lovely beverages. I did just that and then enjoyed an anniversary dinner at my favorite DC restaurant .

Washington is a very underrated food town, and that’s a shame because the city just brims with a bevy of eateries that rival establishments in some of the more recognized culinary burgs such as New York City, Chicago and San Francisco.

My absolute favorite dining address is the Obelisk Restaurant on P Street in northwest Washington. There is no sign on the unimposing building housing the small one room Tuscan restaurant, but once you’ve experienced the food, you’ll always find your way back for more.

The four-course prix fixe menu is $70 a person, but it is worth every cent and more. The wine list is very small, but well selected with an excellent sampling from Tuscany. Before the meal began, we were treated to four appetizers that were so good it was hard to imagine that the courses to come could be any better. They weren’t…but they were just as good!

How about these little ditties for starters: imported Italian Burrata  (a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream) with extra virgin olive oil, thinly sliced smoked duck breast with black cherries, fried, stuffed baby artichokes and cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers.

The meal that followed included porcini ravioli with a sage butter sauce, black bass with peppers and fennel, and lamb chops with sweet onions and rapini. A cheese course and dessert capped off the meal. A bottle of 1999 Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino was liquid silk and a perfect match for the ravioli, lamb, appetizers and cheese course.

Next time you’re in DC, I really hope your give the Oblelisk a try, but you’ll need to call for reservations ((202 872-1180).

Warm weather does cause me to alter my usual reliance on red wine as the go-to meal accompaniment. Instead of my usual practice of sipping a glass of white as an aperitif, I am using these cooling beverages with the lighter-styled foods gracing the table at Chez Brown.

I am particularly fond of Soave, the Italian white from the Veneto. If you are one of the many out there who view Soave as an unworthy alternative to the more famous white varietals such as pinot grigio, you might wish to try these two wines.

Anselmi San Vincenzo Soave

2009 Anselmi San Vincenzo ($16) – This Soave is comprised of about 80 percent garganega, 15 percent chardonnay and 5 percent trebbiano. Fuller-bodied than most Soave’s, the San Vincenzo is full of ripe apple and vanilla custard flavors with a crisp, balanced finish. I sipped this baby recently with a smoked chicken Cesar salad.

2009 Re Midas Soave ($12) – This bottling is a more traditional lighter-styled Soave with a slightly grassy aroma followed by melon, lemon and almond flavors. It finishes with a little zing of acidity making it a great match with pasta salad sauced with basil

Cafe Cimino does it again !

Cafe Cimino does it again !

Adding my voice to the overwhelming chorus of satisfied visitors to Café Cimino might seem a bit trite, but a recent meal at this venerable West Virginia Bed and Breakfast is among the best I have ever experienced and I want to share it with you.

I am no stranger to over-the-top, multi-course, belly-expanding meals accompanied by flagons of wine where mile walks between courses are necessary for diners to safely consume the prodigious quantities of food and drink presented.

So when Café Cimino proprietors Tim and Melody Urbanic asked me to discuss the attributes of the wines selected for a nine-course meal they were planning, I immediately flashed back to several very unpleasant experiences I have had trying to eat and drink everything put in front of me at such bacchanalian extravaganzas over the years.

Tim and Melody Urbanic

These days, I am trying to transition from gourmand to gourmet (even though I know I’m kidding myself) so the thought of testing my will power to exercise restraint when offered a multi-course Italian food and wine feast was- at the very least -daunting. But hey, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do what you do best.

I have had the pleasure of dining at Café Cimino on several occasions so I knew going in that Chef Tim and sous chef (and son ) Eli are masters at extracting maximum flavor from their culinary creations with just the right size portions. Still, this was to be a marathon meal with accompanying wines from Barolo in the region of Piedmont of northwest Italy.

The WinesNestled in the northwest corner of Italy in the shadow of the Alps, Piedmont is home to perhaps the most revered of all Italian wines – Barolo.  The grape from which Barolo (a town and region) is made is nebbiolo. For a wine to be labeled Barolo, it must be made in the geographical confines of the government-designated appellation. In addition, Barolo must be aged for two years in oak barrels and one year in the bottle before it can be released for sale. Barolo can range in price from about $40 to several hundred dollars a bottle, and can continue to improve in the bottle for decades.

The Barolo of Viberti Buon Padre

For our dinner, we were treated to a six-bottle vertical tasting (1993-1998) of wines from the Buon Padre Vineyard of Giovanni Viberti. Established in the 1920’s, the Barolo of Giovanni Viberti is produced in a very traditional manner with a focus on the vineyard site and farming the grapes to achieve the Viberti style. The wines were provided by one of Tim and Melody’s friends who asked them to put a special Piedmont-inspired dinner together that would accompany the Viberti Barolo.

Five lucky couples began the culinary odyssey at 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon with an aperitif of Carneros chardonnay to warm up our palates. I had arrived a couple hours before and decanted the six Buon Padre Barolos into crystal decanters. I’ve discovered over the years that Barolo, particularly wines less than 20 years old, truly benefit from the aeration that decanting provides, allowing the wines to open up and demonstrate their complex layers of aroma and flavor. In addition to the Barolo vertical, some diners contributed a 2009 nebbiolo, a 1978 Barbaresco (both wines from Piedmont) and a 2005 Barolo to the meal.

Then the feast began…. and continued for five glorious hours. We enjoyed our final (cheese course) on the lovely porch of Café Cimino. For those of you who have never experienced a multi-course meal with accompanying wines, I’m sure you’re wondering how we all felt at the conclusion of this epic journey. Actually, quite well thank you. And anyway, we all spent the night in the delightfully comfortable digs of Cafe Cimino.

The Menu
1st Course
Bagna Cauda~ Warm Herbed Olive Oil & Garlic Dip With Grissini~ Breadsticks
Tocco Prosecco
2nd Course
Cream of Asparagus Soup
2009 Elio Grasso Nebbiolo
3rd Course
Old World Gnocchi~ with Gorgonzola Sauce infused with Chamomile Grappa
1994 Buon Padre Barolo
4th Course
Intermezzo~ Chilled Sliced Cucumber with Mascarpone & Strawberry

5th Course
Rabbit Cacciatore
1995 Buon Padre Barolo

Veal main course with the '93 and'97 Buon Padre

6th Course
Veal Stuffed with Salami Rustico, Polenta with Truffles & Asparagus finished with Roasted Garlic and Grana Pandana
1993 and 1997 Buon Padre Barolo
7th Course
Baby Lettuces w/ dried Fruits, Toasted Pine Nuts & 18 year old Balsamic
1996 Buon Padre Barolo
8th Course
House-made Chocolate Tartufo with Bing Cherry center, Hazelnuts & Cream
1999 Guerrieri Rizzardi Vin Santo
9th Course
Assorted Cheeses from the Piedmont Region of Italy
1998 Buon Padre Barolo and 1978 Borgono Barbaresco
The VerdictGuilty on all counts - of succumbing to the culinary artistry of Tim and Eli, the gracious hospitality of Melody and the wine making virtuosity of the Viberti family.

Provence: A cure for the blah's

Provence:  A cure for the blah's

I’m easily bored. Whether that’s a sign of a sterile imagination or an attention deficit disorder, I will admit that I am always searching for new experiences to stimulate me. Heck, maybe I need a curiosity transplant.

Anyway, that’s probably why I’m obsessed with wine and food where there are endless opportunities to feed my insatiable appetite for variety. It’s hard to be bored with a subject that can never be fully explored.

So when I’m tired of a particular wine or dish and the blahs are about to take hold, I simply close my eyes, imagine a map of the civilized world and select a place where I know the eatin’ and drinkin’ will be (as we say here in the Kanawha Valley) Spay-shull !

How about Provence in southern France?

While Provence is not as well known for its wines as say Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne, you may be assured that vines grown in this beautiful and topographically diverse landscape produce some excellent bottles.

Several years ago, I visited the area and actually spent a week in a small village, Menerbes, which was made famous by a PBS Television series entitled: “A Year In Provence.” The series was a film adaptation of a book by the same name written by Peter Mayle.

Anyway, my daily sojourns into the Provencal countryside yielded not only excellent wines, but also delicious regional foods, including a plethora of wonderful cheeses, fruits, and vegetables along with excellent lamb as well as seafood fresh from the Mediterranean.

The most prestigious wine of Provence, and also the most expensive, is Chateuauneuf Du Pape, a full-bodied red that has excellent aging potential. But you don’t have to spend more than $10 to $20 a bottle to get a truly excellent wine. Red wines from Provence are characterized by peppery, spicy, dark fruit flavors and they pair especially well with roasted meats and grilled vegetables.

There have been an incredible string of good to superlative vintages in Provence and the Rhone region over the past decade, particularly from 1998 through 2009. In fact, the excellent wines of 2007 are now being eclipsed by the spectacular 2009 vintage.

The ubiquitous red grape of the region is grenache which is blended with the more famous syrah, along with other lesser known varieties, to produce Chateauneuf Du Pape and the other reds of Provence.

After the producer’s name on the label, the wines are also identified by the villages near where the vines are grown. The most famous of these are Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise (famous for white dessert wine) and Tavel.

In fact, some the world's best rose is produced in Tavel.  Wines from Provence called Cotes Du Rhone,  made from both white and red grapes, are readily available and worth seeking out since they represent value and quality.

Some wines of Chateauneuf Du Pape

While red is still king in Provence and the Rhone, the whites can be very good too. Some of the more famous whites grown in Provence are viognier, marsanne and roussanne. These whites can be medium to full-flavored and match up well to the area’s excellent seafood and dishes such as Bouillabaisse.

Visit your local wine shop and have them point you to the wines of Provence. They’re guaranteed to cure the blahs!

Barbecue and Wine

Barbecue and Wine

In my hedonist’s mind, almost everything has a relationship to food and wine. This time of year, my thoughts turn to light and refreshing sparkling wines and roses along with medium-bodied, spicy reds like pinot noir, Beaujolais or grenache.

As far as food is concerned, my warm weather menus- more often than not – consist of grilled foods or barbecue. Barbecue, however, means different things to different people.

For some, it is a verb as in: “I’m going to barbecue some hamburgers.” For others, barbecue is a noun and refers to a type of cooked pork or beef (usually rib meat) that is dry-rubbed and/or immersed in various sauces, then chopped or pulled and served on a bun.

To me, barbecue means a style of cooking. You’ll find just about every kind of food on my grill, including (but not limited to) pork, beef, lamb, fish, vegetables and sometimes even fruit.

In my estimation, barbecuing also requires a grill that uses “real” charcoal. Gas grills – no matter how fancy – simply do not measure up. The biggest problem with them is uneven heat distribution. It’s also difficult to use smoking woods such as hickory, mesquite or apple on a gas grill, and that’s a problem for me since I feel these chips or chunks of wood add a wonderful flavor dimension to many grilled foods.

And, okay I admit it, there’s just something compelling and almost ritualistic about setting charcoal on fire, and then using the coals to sear animal flesh or things that grow. I’m not sure I want know why this practice is so appealing to me - but it is.

So, in the interest of making barbecue believers of you, I’m going to share a simple recipe for barbecued pork ribs that is easy to prepare and delicious to eat. I prefer to use baby back ribs that have been trimmed of excessive fat and scored with a fork.

Whether you use large slab ribs or baby backs, this recipe begins with a dry rub. What’s a dry rub? Well, first of all, let me assure you it does not require a masseuse. However, it does involve a massage – of the ribs with spices -that is.

One of my favorite dry rubs consists of one tablespoon each of cumin, chili powder, kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper, brown sugar, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper (optional for those faint of heart). Stir this mixture and then rub it onto both sides of the ribs. If time permits, let the ribs sit in the refrigerator for a few hours allowing them to absorb the flavors.

At this point, I often grab a handful of hickory chips, immerse them in warm water and allow them to soak for at least an hour. Using wood chips is optional, but worth it because they give the meat another layer of flavor.

Now, fire up the charcoal and when the coals turn white/gray, divide them in half and move them to either side of the grill so you’ll be able to cook them indirectly. I have a large Weber kettle-type grill which has two small metal containers I can fill with the coals. Add the hickory to the charcoal and place the ribs on the cooking grate.

Make sure the air vents on the grill are closed to about one-fourth of an inch and place the lid on the grill. In this manner, you’ll be able to keep the temperature relatively cool – approximately 275 to 300 degrees F. Check the vents regularly to adjust the heat if necessary and turn the ribs once during grilling. It usually takes between 1 to 1 ½ hours to slow cook the ribs.

WineBoy's finished product !

Once off the grill, I cut the ribs into bite-size pieces and then either serve them as is or immerse them in a tangy sauce. You might like to try this sauce.

WineBoy Barbecue Sauce
Combine a cup of ketchup with half a cup of white vinegar in a cooking pot
Pour a 12-ounce bottle of beer and two ounces of orange juice to the pot
Add a tablespoon each of brown sugar and molasses
Add one teaspoon each of dried mustard and Tabasco
Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes until it thickens
Dip the rib pieces in the sauce and serve.

Wines for your barbecue? Try these: Zardetto Prosecco ($13 - a sparkler from northern Italy); 2007 Sass Pinot Noir from Oregon ($23); 2009 Crios Rose of Malbec from Argentina ($13); and 2006 Las Rocas Old Vines Grenache from Spain ($14).

Now, let’s chow down!

Wine and food vacation options

Wine and food vacation options

If you haven’t already done so, it’s probably time to start planning your summer vacation. You may be considering the beach, the mountains or a cruise for your holiday this summer, and I hope you enjoy yourself whatever your destination.

I am fortunate to have a partner who is copacetic with my desire to spend our free time grazing all over the world in pursuit of the perfect food and wine pairing. In recent years, we’ve spent enjoyable sojourns to California, Oregon, Italy and France sampling the local cuisine and wine.

If you’re reading this, I’m sure you have at least a passing interest in food and wine so today I’ll mention two vacation ideas and a guided tour that may appeal to you as alternatives (or additions) to your travel plans this summer.

The Food and Wine Classic in AspenJune 17-19,

For 28 years, the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, CO has been one of the premier culinary and wine events in America. Each June, FOOD & WINE magazine hosts consumers, members of the restaurant industry and press in mountains of Aspen.

The three-day weekend is chock full of cooking demonstrations and wine tastings. Seminars are led by wine and food personalities such as Mario Batali, José Andrés, Jacques Pépin, and Joshua Wesson. To register, call 877-900-9463 or visit

Scallop course at IPNC lunch

International Pinot Noir CelebrationJuly 29-31

For the past 24 years, the IPNC has been hosting pinot noir fans and food lovers from around the world in McMinnville, Oregon (the heart of the Willamette Valley). I have attended this gathering on three occasions and can tell you from personal experience this is a fantastic event for wine and food fans.

The 2011 IPNC will reunite winemakers, chefs, media and guests from the first event in 1987 and the past 24 gatherings. There will be more than 70 international Pinot noir producers, 50 Northwest chefs, and guests from just about everywhere in the world. Tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis! To sign up go to or call 800-775-4762.

Slight Indulgence Wine Shop French Wine TourJune 30- July 10

Many of you who travel the state have met JC and Suzy Warman – owners of Slight Indulgence wine shop in Morgantown. The couple is hosting an 11-day trip to France to visit wineries and the regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Alsace. This promises to be an unforgettable experience for you wine and food lovers out there. For information, please call JC at 304-599-3402.

Wherever you venture this summer (even if it’s only to your front porch), have a good time and a great sip !

Rose': Just the tonic for springtime meals

Springtime is such a weather rollercoaster ride that it is hard to decide which type of food suits the season.  And of course that determination precipitates the most important decision:  which wine to use with the meal.  

Since it is looking more and more like we have seen the last of the little white flakes, I’ve been morphing from big reds to lighter style reds and whites that pair exceptionally well with traditional springtime  fare such as pesto-pasta, grilled chicken and all manner of seafood.

  Spring is the official start of the outdoor grilling season and I am excited by the prospects of searing all manner of meats and veggies on my trusty old Weber charcoal grill. One of the easiest meals to prepare on your grill is sausage and, whether you prefer Italian, Polish, Bratwurst or some other pork-encased tube steak, I’ve got the perfect wine to match this all-American meal:  rose’.Now some of you may have a jaundiced view of this (sometimes) pink wine, harkening back to a time when rose was bottled in heavy clay-like crocks (remember Lancers?) and tasted like spritzy cherry soda. Or you may think of rose’ as a sweet white zinfandel type wine.  Well, if these are your impressions, Forgetaboutit !

Today, rose’ is made in just about every fine wine region using just about every red grape imaginable from cabernet sauvignon to carignan and from pinot noir to mourvedre.  And, while there are many slightly sweet aperitif roses, there are even more that are produced to accompany food.

I’m going to tell you about four of my favorites that are available at a fine wine shop near you and I can guarantee that they will be especially excellent matches to grilled sausages and even burgers or baby back ribs. Each of these wines is classically dry, but all have great fruit and a smooth finish.2010 Grange Philippe “Gipsy” Rose ($14) - This wine from France (region unknown since it is labeled “Vin de Pays” meaning country wine) is a blend of syrah and grenache. Raspberry aromas give way to flavors of spice, cinnamon and cherries. You also might pair this rose’ with spicy Asian cuisine. 2010 Chateau Routas ($16) - From the center of Provence, this is a blend of cinsault, syrah, grenache and cabernet sauvignon that is about as complex as any rose’ I’ve had the pleasure of sipping. Flavors of strawberries and cola are smooth and the finish lasts a long, long time.2010 Domaine Fontsainte Gris de Gris ($16) - Like its name, this is a mouthful of wine for a rose’. Salmon–colored with flavors of minerals, spice, berries and even pineapple, the wine can certainly stand up to sausages and sauces that have a kick.2009 Banfi Centine Rose ($13) – Here’s a rose’ that is a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot from Tuscany that has aromas of freshly mown hay and leather.  It is pale orange in color and has flavors of dried cherries and spice that leave a lingering dry finish.

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The Prescription for Wine Boredom

The Prescription for Wine Boredom

Do you ever get in a wine funk? I don't mean the malady that affects you when you’ve had too much of a good thing. Rather, I'm referring to the repetitive and sometimes boring patterns we fall into when selecting a wine to have with dinner.

We are all creatures of habit and, when we discover those wines that please us, we tend to stick with them.... and stick with them.... and stick with them! Which, of course, makes drinking them about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with using a “go to” cabernet or chardonnay that is dependable and consistently good when you need a sure thing that works with the meal you are preparing.

And since labels, particularly those affixed to imported wines, require the translation and technical skills of a multi-lingual chemist, it is not difficult to understand why we tend to stick with good wines when we find them. And it’s certainly convenient and prudent to keep a few dependable bottles in the house.

But as one of my wine-stained friends, Guzzler LaMont, once said: “Too much of a good thing is only okay if it’s free and there is a lot of it!”

Well, there may be a lot of ordinary, boring same old, same old out there, but it ain’t free.
My advice is to be adventuresome and try something new each week. Then make a list of the wines you like, why you like them and where they are made. You’ll be shocked and pleasantly surprised by how many really good (and inexpensive) wines there are available if you’ll only give them a try.

Here are a few that demonstrate the diversity, quality and value of wines available right in your own back yard.

2009 Marquis de Riscal Rueda ($12)
An excellent introduction to Verdejo (pronounced vare-day ooh) with bright and refreshing green apple flavors. This Spanish white is crisp and well balanced, and would make a great accompaniment to omelets or brunch type food.

2009 Bodegas Norton Chardonnay ($11)
From Argentina, this golden wine has apple and tropical fruit aromas. Good structure on the palate, round and balanced with a delicate finish. Excellent with roasted cod that is sauced with buerre blanc.

2009 Hahn Winery Monterey Pinot Noir ($15)
This wine showcases the versatility of Monterey County Pinot Noir. With flavors of black cherry and cola , this smooth and balanced wine can be paired with a wide range of dishes. Try it with smoked or grilled salmon, or a roast rack of lamb.

2006 Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza ($15)
This wine was number 44 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list of 2010.
From the Rioja region of northern Spain, this fresh and balanced red brims with cherry, spice and licorice. The texture is generous yet delicate.
Made from 100 percent Tempranillo, the wine begs to be paired with grilled flank steak.