There really is a day for everything, and what better to celebrate than TACOS! According to NationalTacoDay.com and NationalDayCalendar.com, October 4th is #NationalTacoDay. I’ve chosen three delicious taco recipes and their perfect wine pairings you can enjoy today and all year long.
Roasted Veggie Tacos
Whether looking for vegetarian options or otherwise, roasted veggies are always delicious no matter what your preference or whatever time of year. The deep roasted flavor allows the veggies in these tacos to stand up to heavier bodied whites, roses, and reds alike. Try this delicious recipe from InspiredTaste.net. Photo cred: InspiredTaste.net
Football season is finally back! National Tailgating Day falls on the first Saturday each September. Nothing makes game day more complete than the perfect food. Sure, you could just grab a random six pack of beer, but why have an average food experience when you can have an extraordinary one? This is a job for wine! Let’s take a tour of some of the most popular game day foods and the wines that make them shine.
Whether buffalo wings, buffalo chicken dip, or buffalo pizza, you will dazzle your taste buds by pairing this flavor with an off-dry white wine, such as Riesling or Chenin Blanc. Sweet loves heat, and the perfect hint of sweetness in each of these wines will compliment the spicy kick of anything buffalo.
A crisp white wine dominated by citrus, herbs, and minerals, such as a Sicilian Grillo, makes a fantastic sidekick for jalapeno peppers stuffed with goat cheese or cream cheese. Wrap them in bacon for an even fruitier taste and smoother texture. Equally as delicious with jalapeno poppers is a crisp, refreshing Pinot Grigio from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy, typically fruit-driven, approachable,
Your favorite cheese, pepperoni, sausage, or margherita pizza is a natural compliment for Italian red wines, such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Nero d’Avola, or Sangiovese. Italian reds pair exceptionally well with red sauce Italian, and pizza is no exception. The acidity of the tomato sauce, along with the salt and fat content of the cheese and meat will smooth out the wine’s acidity, leaving a beautifully soft fruit flavor on the palate.
A hot, spicy pot of chili can often be tricky to pair perfectly, but you can’t go wrong with a fruity, aromatic varietal. Although dry, a well balanced Viognier can give the impression of sweetness that works to balance and compliment heat and spice. Prefer a red? A lighter, fruity red that is lower in tannins, such as Pinot Noir or Gamay, would be the perfect match.
South African grape Pinotage produces inky, bold flavored wines with plum, blackberry, bacon and smoke flavors. This makes it an ideal varietal to pair with red meat and with bacon. Add a tangy cheese into the mix, and we’re talking heaven!
The tangy, yet smoky flavors of pulled pork can be beautifully complimented with a wine that exhibits red fruit supported by black pepper, smoke & tobacco. Syrah/Shiraz is exactly that wine and is a crowd favorite with BBQ dishes such as pulled pork or chicken. Top the pulled pork with a heaping spoonful of cole slaw, and taste the magic!
What mixed beverage screams summertime louder than Sangria?
Sangrias are a staple at BBQs, cookouts, picnics, pool parties, and even
beachside. Not only are they fruity, delicious, refreshing, and a crowd
favorite, but they are incredibly simple to make. In fact, there are very few
hard and fast rules when it comes to concocting a sangria recipe. A bottle of your
favorite wine and pretty much anything else, mixed with some fruit: boom,
Traditionally, this Spanish drink starts with Rioja, a
Spanish red wine based on the Tempranillo grape, mixed with various fruits, and
sweetened with sugar and orange juice. Nowadays, it is common to make sangria
with any style wine you wish, whether red, white, rose, dry, sweet, or even
sparkling. The additions are also a free-for-all: your favorite fruit juice,
other spirits such as brandy or vodka (flavored or plain), seltzers or sodas,
and of course a variety of fruit. Served cold on ice, this refreshing drink can
transform anyone into a mixologist for the day.
When I make sangria, vodka is my spirit of choice. There are
so many delicious flavored vodkas on the market, and mixing them creates some
unique and exciting flavors. I like to soak my fruit in the spirits for a few
hours, if not overnight, before mixing the rest of the ingredients, but that is
certainly your choice. Below are three of my favorite, simple sangria recipes
you can enjoy this summer.
Red Wine Sangria * 2 bottles of Spanish red wine * ¾ cup raspberry vodka * ¾ cup pomegranate vodka * Sprite Zero (1 – 2 cans to taste) * Sliced/chopped fruits: orange slices, strawberries, blueberries
Blend both vodkas in a pitcher and add sliced/chopped fruit and berries, allowing to soak in the refrigerator for 2-12 hours. Once fruit has soaked, add in the wine and chill until ready to serve. Immediately upon serving, add in your preferred amount of Sprite Zero or other carbonated citrus based beverage of your choice. Serve over ice.
White Wine Sangria * 2 bottles white wine * 2/3 cup of orange flavored liquor (Grand Marnier, Cointreau) * Fruit: peeled mango slices, orange slices, sliced strawberries, raspberries
Add all ingredients into a pitcher and refrigerate for a few hours. Stir prior to serving and pour over ice. Optionally, top with a mint leaf for garnish.
Pink Sangria * 2 bottle of rose’ wine * 1 liter ginger ale * 2 cups pineapple juice * 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed * 2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen strawberries, thawed
Stir the strawberries, lemonade concentrate, rose wine, and pineapple juice in a punch bowl or large pitcher until combined. Stir in the ginger ale just before serving. Based upon Pretty In Pink Sangria
The fun in making sangria is in the experimentation. Try
different wines, different spirits, juices, sodas, and fruits and have a blast
creating your own signature recipes!
As a lifetime New Englander, I basically grew up on everything you’d find at a traditional clam bake: a variety of steamed quahogs and littlenecks, mussels, boiled lobster, crab legs, corn on the cob drenched in melted butter, boiled red potatoes, clam chowder, potato, macaroni, and green salads… the list goes on and on. To me, this is the epitome of summertime dining in New England. Little did I know as a child, this culinary tradition would only get better once I was an adult and had a knowledge of wine to add even more enjoyment.
Let’s Talk Wine Pairing
Clams (quahogs, littlenecks, cherrystones) and mussels are absolutely delicious steamed and dipped in melted butter. Often times I’ll grab an oaked, buttery Chardonnay (such as DeLoach Private Collection Chalk Hill) for that melt-in-your-mouth experience, or I’ll grab a zesty and lively Sauvignon Blanc (such as Riversong Sauvignon Blanc), with a bit more crispness and acidity than a Chard. It’s really a matter of my particular mood and preference that day, but either one provides a home run pairing that is sure to please.
I recently posted an entire blog for Lobster Day, highlighting various lobster dishes and my favorite varietals. There are so many delicious choices for perfect pairing, although my absolute favorite is a dry sparkling wine, particularly Cremant de Loire (such as Abbesse Cremant de Loire), which provides the perfect note of salinity to compliment shellfish.
King crab legs are one of my faves, although a bit interactive. When I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and working for my food, I grab my nut and seafood cracker and get to crackin’ those spiny bad boys. Next to my plate of crab legs and pool of melted butter is a perfectly chilled glass of dry Riesling from Alsace, France, or a fruit forward, fuller bodied Pinot Gris (such as Hillersden Pinot Gris from Marlborough, New Zealand).
Clam chowder all year long… comfort food in the winter, beachy goodness in the summer. My suggested wine pairing is equally as versatile. Two of my favorites, Bees Knees Chenin Blanc/Viognier and Lobster Shack Chardonnay/Viognier, both from South Africa offer a beautiful balance of refreshing fruit and lively acidity with a weightier mouthfeel appropriate for both summertime and wintertime dining.
Corn-on-the-cob, boiled potatoes, salads of all sorts. Every wine mentioned above would pair beautifully with all of these sides. Have fun with the experimenting! No clam bake would be complete without a rosé , and I am absolutely digging Paris Street Rose from Romania. A few more notable suggested wines would include The Arch Pinot Noir, for all you die hard red wine lovers, and Sonnenstrahl Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Happy pairing!
It’s grill season! Summertime wine
pairings are some of my absolute favorites, but it’s not all about the protein.
The spices and sauces are the stars of my wine pairing show. I have chosen five
popular grilling spices to highlight for your summertime grilling needs.
Jamaican Jerk: the
heat of Jamaican Jerk spices beg for a touch of sweetness in a wine, such as an
off dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc, or even a Moscatel.
Bacon Molasses: Bacon Molasses spice rubs and sauces are a tasteful twist on traditional barbecue flavors. The smoky yet salty qualities of the bacon combined with the subtle sweetness of molasses makes this a fabulous pairing for a variety of wines, such as Pinotage and Spanish red blends.
gives your meat a lovely smoky flavor, and a tried and true pairing is “smoke
with oak”. A fruity, jammy Zinfandel has the perfect balance of oak and jammy
red fruit that is sure to please the palate when paired with grilled Mesquite
Kansas City BBQ: Many California red blends are crafted with BBQ in mind, and Kansas City BBQ sauce provides the ideal combination of tang, sweetness, smoke, and acidity to express exactly what these blends were meant for.
Chipotle: Both a
softly oaked Chardonnay and a crisp, refreshing unoaked Chardonnay will
compliment the zesty spice of chipotle. Prefer a red? Opt for a juicy red wine
with softer tannins, such as Merlot.
Visit us at vinovations.us for the perfect wine selections shipped right to your door!
According to DaysOfTheYear.com, June 15, 2019 is Lobster Day. According to NationalToday.com, September 25, 2019 is National Lobster Day. I have zero objections to celebrating lobster on more than one day a year, that’s for sure! Being a lifetime New Englander, Maine lobster has been a staple in my diet for as long as I can remember, and pairing various lobster dishes with wine makes it that much more enjoyable.
The Ol’ Standby
When in doubt, you truly can’t go wrong pairing any type of lobster dish with a buttery and somewhat oaky Chardonnay, especially if you’re fond of dipping your lobster meat in melted butter. For obvious reasons, it really is a match made in heaven. In fact, a hot buttered lobster roll was the first food I ever paired with Chardonnay many moons ago. It literally changed my life.
I am also quite fond of creamy, savory lobster mac and cheese dishes with a full bodied, buttery, and mildly oaked Chardonnay. A true no-brainer pairing that you don’t even need to put effort into considering that is sure to please the palate. However, why not have some fun and go outside the box a bit?
Here in New England, one of the first signs of summer is when
the local restaurants start adding lobster rolls to their menu. Of course
lobster rolls can be made in a variety of ways, and I enjoy pairing each style
of lobster roll with a different varietal.
Traditional Maine lobster roll with light mayo, chopped celery or chives, and perhaps a drizzle of lemon on a buttered roll: I enjoy this style lobster roll with a wine that offers bright acidity and crisp fruit flavors such as a Chablis. Leaving the Chardonnay grape behind, I absolutely love pairing these rolls with a crisp, refreshing, dry Riesling from Alsace.
The hot buttered lobster roll, what a treat these are! How can this incredible treat get even better? Pair it with a Fume’ Blanc or white Bordeaux.
Lobster with fresh tarragon and a touch of lemon: Rueda Verdejo from Spain, hands down. The combinations of ripe citrus, stone and tree fruit, herbaceous grassiness, and crisp acidity of Rueda Verdejo not only supports but makes the flavors of both the lobster and tarragon shine.
Crisp medium to high acid whites with a degree of aromatics are perfection with lobster salads, such as Gruner Veltliner, Torrontes, Albarino, and Viognier. I also particularly enjoy a dry rosé from Provence.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
This is actually one of my favorite dishes in the fall and winter. No need to wait for warm sunny days to enjoy this comfort food that’s been stepped up a notch. Match the weight of your wine to the weight of this dish, meaning choose either a full bodied white or a medium bodied red. I find a dry Vouvray to be absolutely delightful, as well as a fuller bodied Pinot Gris from Oregon. If I’m in a red wine kid of mood, I’m reaching for a red Burgundy or Oregon Pinot Noir, or even a Grenache.
I love to match my food with its country of origin, so when I’m enjoying lobster or seafood paella, I’m reaching for a wine from Spain, particularly a Ribera del Duero or Priorat for reds, and Rias Baixas for white.
Whichever way you decide to enjoy your lobster, if you can’t make a wine pairing decision, do what I do and go bubbly. I’ve never been disappointed with lobster and bubbly!
National Rosé Day is celebrated every year on the second Saturday in June. When many Americans think of rosé, their first thought is the sweeter styled White Zinfandel, which was discovered by Bob Trinchero with Sutter Home in 1972, quite by accident while experimenting with the Zinfandel grape. Visitors of the tasting room found a fondness for the resulting “accidental” wine, and the masses demanded more production. He ramped up production in 1975 when for reasons unknown, the fermentation stopped at around 2% residual sugar, leaving a noticeable sweetness. People loved the resulting product, and white Zinfandel became extremely popular over the following decades.
The one perhaps unfortunate result of the rise of white Zinfandel and its style is that Americans tend to assume that all rosé or pink wines are sweet, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dry rosés are the norm all over the world, including France, Italy, and Spain. Someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy a sweeter style rosé wine such as white Zinfandel might very likely find much enjoyment in the drier styles that are available.
There are many factors that influence a rosé, including grape variety, region and terroir in which the grapes are grown, winemaking styles, techniques, and traditions, and of course market demands. For instance, the rosés of Provence are typically made by the direct press method, which includes gently pressing the grapes and collecting the juice after it has only had about 1-4 hours macerating on the skins, resulting in a very pale colored, light and fresh style of rosé. In many other regions of France such as Tavel, however, it is more popular to use the saignée method of production, which allows the juice to macerate for a 8-24 hours, then is bled off the skins to be fermented into rosé. This results in a deeper color, fuller in body, and more aromatic than the direct press method.
Rosé wines, both still and sparkling, have been considered a trend on the rise for the past several years in the US. In 2017, rosé sales increased by 53% with no slowing down in sight. Considered a refreshing, summertime wine, rosés appeal to white and red wine lovers alike, providing the red fruit notes of a red combined with the refreshing crispness of a white. It offers the best of both worlds!
When it comes to food pairing, dry rosés pair quite well with lighter or medium weight foods and summer fare, such as salads, seafood, grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, and an array of salty cheese and snacks. Adding fresh red berries and fruit really brings its fruit flavors to the forefront. Think fresh strawberries in your salad. Or make a nice charcuterie board containing an array of meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts, and berries for a variety of textures and flavors. Rosé is typically served mildly chilled and makes for a refreshing sipper during the warmer summer months.
Enjoy some of my favorite hand-picked salad recipes with the dry rose’ of your choice for the ultimate summertime meal.
June 4th is National Cheese Day! Cheese boards are a staple of my home entertaining. There is nothing simpler, yet delicious and enthusiastically received by my guests than a variety of cheeses to pair with whichever wines we will be sipping on. Cheese boards can be inexpensive with easy to find, traditional cheeses most Americans are familiar with, or they can be an eclectic spread of costly gourmet cheeses from all over the world. I often enjoy having one or two gourmet cheeses that are new or unique to my crowd of guests, accompanied by several common “ol’ standby” cheeses to offer a little something for everyone. In honor of National Cheese Day, I offer you seven simple, easy to find cheeses and my favorite varietals to pair with them perfectly.
There are countless numbers of world wine regions I am incredibly fond of for a variety of reasons, but Oregon is one of my very favorites. If you have yet to enjoy a wine from Oregon, you are in for a wonderful surprise. This region produces some of the purest, highest quality wines in the world with a large focus on sustainability. Oregon boasts more than 700 wineries and more than 1,000 vineyards growing 72 grape varieties.
Pinot Noir is the predominantly grown grape in Oregon, making up 72% of the region’s grapes, with Pinot Gris a distant second, comprising 14% of the region’s grapes. Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon are also grown and produced here, among many others, and offer superior domestic wines to the US market.
Oregon wines are often discussed as being similar in style and even quality to the wines of Burgundy, France. Both Oregon and Burgundy produce wines that distinctly reflect the individual terroir in which the grapes were grown. You can actually taste the difference in terroir (soil type, slope gradient, slope aspect and sunshine hours, climate, etc.) from vineyard to vineyard, even if only a mile or less away. Although I would never consider Oregon in the shadow of Burgundy, I do believe Burgundy has been a source of inspiration to its Oregon counterparts for many decades.
Oregon’s winemakers focus on small batch, high-quality wines. The grape growers and winemakers take incredible pride in their craft, and that is represented well with consistently high ratings by Wine Spectator and the like. In fact, Oregon wines made up 20% of Wine Spectator’s 90+ scores on domestic wines in 2017.
There is a culture of sustainability among Oregon farmers and winemakers, something more and more of us are prioritizing when it comes to the preservation of our planet. 47% of Oregon’s vineyards are certified sustainable, a higher percentage than any other domestic wine region. Oregon also accounts for 35% of US Demeter Biodynamic vineyards. Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator remarks, “It’s here in the culture; it’s here in the air. The very DNA or Oregon winegrowing is sympathetic to this non-interventionist, naturalist, small-scale form of farming and winemaking.”
With incredible respect and admiration for sustainability and biodynamic farming, I will more often than not choose a wine from Oregon over any other if it is available on a menu while I am dining out. I know I am getting a wine that a community’s heart and soul went into growing and making, and that spirit is reflected in each savored sip.
Since 2012, the Oregon wine industry has celebrated Oregon Wine Month annually in May. I invite you join in and celebrate with your own bottle of wine from Oregon, and discover a new favorite wine region to enjoy for a lifetime.
Back in 1993 at the age of 18, my family and I moved from Massachusetts to Louisiana. You can imagine the culture shock this Yankee was in for, having been born and raised in New England! I had never visited Louisiana or anywhere in the deep south, and truth be told, I didn’t know much about the culture. Being a foodie for all of my life, spending time in Louisiana was nothing short of one delicious adventure after another. I soon learned what the incredible appeal was about visiting cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, between the culture, the history, the music, the wonderful people, and of course the food. Although New Orleans is known more for its mixed drinks such as daiquiris, hurricanes, and even hand grenades, I find wine to be the ultimate complement to the local cuisine.
All these years later, whenever I make a trip to Louisiana to visit my family, the very first thing on my list is stopping for a fried shrimp po’boy. Incidentally, my favorite po’ boy isn’t from a restaurant in New Orleans, but from a quaint little restaurant in my mom’s town of Gonzales, LA called Philay’s Catfish ‘n More. The shrimp are fried to juicy perfection and dressed with just the right amount of toppings. Whether fried fish, fried oysters, or fried shrimp po’boys, the meal simply isn’t complete without being paired with a dry, crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Grüner Veltliner, or perhaps a nice dry rosé.
Another seafood favorite of mine is boiled crawfish. For years, I thought the term “crawfish boil” was actually “crawfish bowl”, clearly my inability to decipher the charming New Orleans accent. Once I attended my first official crawfish boil, it all made sense… a giant pot of seasoned crawfish, corn on the cob, and potatoes that once cooked was dumped on a giant table covered in brown paper. An experience everyone should enjoy at least once! A crawfish boil begs for several bottles of Chardonnay on the table, from unoaked versions to oaked versions. It is simply a pairing made in heaven.
No trip to Louisiana is complete without enjoying some authentic gumbo and homemade jambalaya. In my experience, I’ve found the little hole-in-the-wall food stands and take out restaurants have the best jambalaya and gumbo in the state, such as The Jambalaya Shoppe. Not only is an individual portion of jambalaya here enough to eat for about 3 days, but the giant seasoned chunks of chicken and sausage can’t be beat. I absolutely love pairing these spicier dishes with an off dry white, such as Vouvray or German Riesling, or even a light to medium bodied red with softer tannins, such as a Pinot Noir or Gamay.
We cannot forget about the endless amount of delicious desserts Louisiana offers. From the traditional Mardi Gras dessert King Cake, to creamy Louisiana pralines. But no trip to New Orleans is complete without visiting Café du Monde in the French Quarter to enjoy their famous beignets. The light, fluffy, French donuts are fried to perfection and smothered in powdered sugar. Any of these delectable, sweet desserts will pair perfectly with an off dry white, a semi sweet white, or even a sweet dessert or ice wine.
At one time I saved my Louisiana cuisine for when I would visit, but those days are long gone. Although I once again live in New England, I regularly cook Louisiana style cuisine so I can enjoy that unique taste of the deep south paired with the perfect wine in the comfort of my Massachusetts home.