A Little Wine and Chocolate (Therapy)

I had the pleasure of meeting Pam and David Griffin, owners of Chocolate Therapy in Framingham, MA at a grand tasting just about a year ago. When I became the sommelier and EVP of Product Development at Sail to Trail WineWorks, Worcester’s only urban winery, I knew we needed to offer something unique yet irresistible alongside our flight of wines. The mind blowing truffles crafted by Chocolate Therapy immediately came to mind, and I think our customers will agree, was an excellent addition.

When you visit the Sail to Trail tasting room, you have the option of enjoying a flight of the five wines in our portfolio. In addition, we offer a customized flight of Chocolate Therapy truffles to accompany each wine. Each wine is incredible on its own, as is each chocolate truffle, but when paired together, the explosion of flavors and textures is something that cannot be accurately described in writing. You’re simply going to have to visit and try for yourself!

Sail to Trail’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc comes from California’s Central Coast. It offers a beautifully light, refreshing mouthfeel and flavors of soft grapefruit, candied lemon, and stone fruits. I call this our “porch pounder.” Imagine that warm, sunny summer day; this is the wine you want in your glass. Typically, dry acidic white wines tend to be a bit difficult to pair with foods with high sugar content, but that wasn’t even a challenge for Chocolate Therapy. Their Limoncello truffle provides complimentary flavors of bright lemon blanketed in luxurious white chocolate. This pairing is heavenly.

Our  2017 Chardonnay comes from Yakima Valley, WA and is unoaked. This chardonnay was aged in stainless steel, so in lieu of flavors of vanilla and toast, you will enjoy aromas and flavors of pineapple and tree fruit. Bright, refreshing, clean flavors are only changed once you pair this wine with the Sweet Potato truffle. Suddenly flavors of hazelnut explode on the palate. It’s like magic!

Sail to Trail’s 2015 Zinfandel from Sonoma County, CA earned itself 88 points from Wine Spectator and is a favorite among all of our customers. You are left with no words once you pair this wine that offers juicy, ripe flavors of raspberry, blackberry, and plum with the white chocolate Raspberry Gemme truffle.

We offer two Cabernet Sauvignons at the tasting room. The first is our best seller, 2017 vintage from Yakima Valley, WA. This delicious every day cab starts with ripe red fruits and finishes with a spicy note of black pepper. When paired with The Cure (dark chocolate with cinnamon, cayenne, and bay leaf), that spicy kick is amplified and offers a fun, unique marriage of flavors.

Finally, our 2015 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, WA, which earned 89 points from Wine Spectator. This beauty offers layers of deep red fruit, earth, leather, spice, and sweet cedar. The Aristaeus truffle offers sultry dark chocolate with cold pressed olive oil and sea salt, finishing the flight on a truly luxurious note.

Fall In Love with Wine & Chocolate class at Sail to Trail on February 12, 2020

Visit Chocolate Therapy and Sail to Trail WineWorks for more delicious info!

Gift Giving Outside The Box

The holidays are a special time of year, and so should be the wine we gift our friends and loved ones. Special wines don’t necessarily need to equate to expensive or unapproachable. There are a variety of ways you can give a fabulous gift without spending hundreds of dollars on wines your recipient might be afraid to drink.

One of my favorite holiday gifts to create is a gift bag or basket with wine and food pairings. A favorite gift basket combination of mine is a fruit forward red (think an old vine California Zinfandel) alongside a bag of Brookside dark chocolate covered fruits, a bag of Raspberry Milano Cookies, and a block of sharp cheddar cheese. Or maybe your gift recipient is a Cab lover. Cabernet Sauvignon paired with dark chocolate mint is mind-blowing, as is pairing it with horseradish cheddar. Add in an accessory or two, such as a set of unique wine glasses, or perhaps a crystal decanter, and you have a gorgeous gift basket that will be a huge hit.

Themed gift baskets are a lot of fun to give and receive alike. A “movie night” theme is a crowd favorite. Create this gift basket around a bottle or two of buttery California Chardonnay and a few bags of buttered popcorn or kettle corn (the ultimate wine and snack pairing). Select a block of locally made cheese and some artisanal crackers, perhaps a few salted caramels or some white chocolate truffles to include a sweet treat. Add in gift cards for Netflix and/or Hulu, and your recipient will have a fun, cozy plan to enjoy the first snowstorm of the season. Get creative!

Yankee Swaps are a blast, and everyone always seems to fight over the wine! Whether your swap has a $10 or $25 price limit, you cannot go wrong with easy drinking wines with fun, eye-catching labels. People are fascinated with the 19 Crimes line of wines which have a special app: when you point your phone at the label, it comes to life and tells a story. Personally, I love wine labels that have dogs on them, such as Bar Dog. Middle Sister wines are a huge hit among women with their quirky names, such as “Drama Queen,” Mischief Maker,” and “Sweet & Sassy.” Not only will the recipient love the wine inside the bottle, but the adorable labels will be raved about.

There is always a place for high-end or premium bottles of wine, and the holidays are certainly the perfect time of year. With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, this is the ideal time to gift a bottle of nice Champagne, whether mid-range price points such as Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot, or the higher end $150+ range, such as Dom Perignon, Cristal, or Krug. These are perfect wines that the recipient could save to open for a special occasion or celebration if they wish.

Cheers to a wonderful holiday season!
– Missa
winedowntastings.com

National Taco Day!

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

Suggested varietals: Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

The juicy tenderness of the pork shoulder is a natural pairing for the spectrum of our red wines, from the lighter bodied with red fruits to the fuller bodied, bold deep fruits and spice.
Try this delicious recipe from CookingLight.com
Photo cred: cookinglight.com

Suggested varietals: Syrah/Shiraz, Malbec, Zinfandel

Chicken Tinga Tacos

From the spice of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to the savory roasted red peppers, these tacos will dazzle the palate with a refreshing off-dry white or a dry rose.
Try this delicious recipe from PinchOfYum.com
Phot cred: pinchofyum.com

Suggested varietals: Riesling, Torrontes, Chenin Blanc


Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

National Tailgating Day!

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.

Buffalo ANYTHING!

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.

Featured recipe and photo cred: Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings from JessicaGavin.com
Shop medium-dry wines here: VINOvations


Jalapeno Poppers/Stuffed Jalapenos

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,

clean, crisp, refreshing wine with aromas of white flowers, melon and mineral.
Featured recipe: Baked Stuffed Jalapenos by SimplyRecipes.com
Photo credit: Elisa Bauer
Shop Pinot Grigios here: VINOvations


Pizza

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.

Featured recipe and photo cred: Classic Margherita Pizza by SallysBakingAddiction.com
Shop Italian wines here: VINOvations


Chili

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.

Featured recipe and photo cred: The Best Classic Chili by TheWholesomeDish.com
Shop Viognier here: VINOvations


Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders

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!

Featured recipe and photo cred: Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders by TheBlackPeppercorn.com
Shop Pinotage here: VINOvations


BBQ

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!

Featured recipe and photo cred: Perfect Pulled Pork Recipe by kevinandamanda.com
Shop Syrah/Shiraz here: VINOvations


Visit NationalDayCalendar.com for more information on #NationalTailgatingDay

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

Summer With Sangria

Written for and published in the July 2019 issue of South Shore Senior News

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, sangria.

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.

Based upon White Sangria with Mangoes and Berries

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!

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

Pairing the New England Clambake

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.

The Sides

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!

Join Our Clambake and Wine Pairing

None of the work, all of the fun! Enjoy the cuisine of Chef J. Rex poolside at Lantera Boston Landing on Wednesday, July 31st at 6:30pm as I guide you through the perfect wine pairings with each course!
Click here for tickets and more information or find our event on Facebook

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

Summer Grillin’ and Sippin’

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.

Mesquite: Mesquite 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 flavors.

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.  

Wine and grilling spices

Visit us at vinovations.us for the perfect wine selections shipped right to your door!

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

Cheers To Lobster Day!

Celebrate Twice A Year

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?

Lobster Rolls

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.

Lobster Salads

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.

Lobster/Seafood Paella

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!

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

Rosé All Day!

Published in June 2019 issue of South Shore Senior News

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.

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

National Cheese Day

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.

  • Herbed goat cheese with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Delice de Bourgogne with Chardonnay
  • Gruyere with Gewurztraminer
  • Feta or Gorgonzola with dry rosé
  • Buffalo mozzarella with Sangiovese
  • Smoked Gouda with Syrah/Shriaz
  • Horseradish cheddar with Cabernet Sauvignon

Want to learn more? Join us at one of our VINOIsLife public wine and cheese pairing experiences in the greater Boston/MetroWest areas! Click here for our experience schedule.

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com