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.
These days, life is all about experiences. The gathering of friends, creating of memories, and sharing in experiences. Wine creates more memories than any other beverage in the world, but the old school thinking of wine being pretentious and complicated is gone. Whether in one of my public wine classes or at one of my private in-home wine and food pairing experiences, it has been proven time and time again almost anything can be paired beautifully with wine. A crowd favorite is a “Sips and Dips” theme, which is exactly what it sounds like: the perfect wine paired with a variety of dips. Easy as could be, minimal prep time, and a casual great time for everyone. I have compiled some popular dips and suggested recipes with my personal favorite wine style pairings.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Buffalo chicken dip is my favorite go-to dip at any party or gathering because it pairs incredibly with almost any wine! It’s particularly good with off dry and semi sweet whites, but it’s also a home run with the dry whites and reds, as well. My personal favorite is an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc, but have fun with this one! When in doubt, grab whatever bottle of wine you have and serve up a bowl of buffalo dip, and let the fun begin.
This dip is so easy to make and incredibly delicious. Best of all, it’s low carb and keto friendly! The ol’ “If it grows together, it goes together” applies here, so it’s wonderful with any Italian red, however the salt, fat, and acidity of the dip makes this a fabulous partner to a majority of medium and full bodied red wines. My favorites include Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese, and Nero d’Avola.
Crab rangoons are another favorite staple wine pairing with any white or rose wine, so it makes sense to ditch the wonton wrappers and grab a spoon! I enjoy this dip with a crisp Pinot Grigio from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy, as well as a fruit forward yet refreshing dry rose’ from Provence, France, but in reality, most dry and off-dry whites will be delightful with this dip.
Sweet loves heat, and that’s certainly the case with off dry and semi sweet white wines when paired with this incredible jalapeno dip. All of the deliciousness of stuffed jalapenos with the ease of a dip. Dry whites work beautifully as well, as will a dry rose’.
This is a standard go-to favorite. With its creamy texture and salty flavors, spinach artichoke dip will pair beautifully with a variety of wines. My personal favorite is Sauvignon Blanc. Combined, this varietal with this dip highlights the herbaceousness of both the dip and the wine, offering beautiful “green” flavors.
This dip is just a good time in a bowl! Between the peanut butter, oats, M&Ms, and cream cheese, it’s everything delectable all mixed up in one bowl. Perfect sweet treat for a buttery chardonnay, semi sweet whites, and even some fruit forward reds, such as Pinot Noir, Grenache, or Gamay!
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.
When asked to give my top four chili and wine pairing suggestions, I was all too excited to oblige. Let’s get spicy!
There’s nothing like a bowl of hot, classic chili. Chili is traditional comfort food, a game-day staple, and the subject of cook-offs all across America. Classic chili with mild to medium spice would pair beautifully with a dry or off-dry white wine, or even a fruity red soft in tannins such as Pinot Noir. A pot of chili heavy on the spice would be better paired with a semi-sweet or even sweet white.
Sweet and spicy is a loved, delicious combination. That bit of sweetness blanketing the spice allows you to pair your chili with a nice, fruit forward red, such as a Zinfandel or even a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer white wines, an off-dry Riesling would be perfection on the palate.
If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the unique spices and flavor combinations of the cuisine. Mango and cilantro are a Caribbean staple, providing the palate with a tropical essence. This Caribbean chili recipe offers the best of all flavors, including the heat of habanero peppers with the sweet citrus of orange juice and warmth of allspice. This fusion of flavors pairs well with crisp, fruity white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Torrontés, off-dry whites such as Riesling, and reds soft in tannins but forward in fruit, such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.
Vegetarians rejoice! This chunky vegetable chili provides all the delectable flavors of traditional chili, but brimming with an array of vegetables. This recipe can be made as mild or spicy as you wish, depending on the spice level of the salsa and amount of chili powder. A mild version would be idea with almost any white, red, or even rosé. A spicier version would pair best with an off-dry or semi-sweet white or soft, fruit forward, mild red.
Wine and chocolate, a match made in heaven in this wine lover’s opinion. I tell my students, when in doubt, grab a bag of dark chocolate and a bottle of tannic red wine, and you will have an evening of deliciously paired bliss. There is so much to explore in the world of chocolate and wine. Valentine’s Day is upon us, and what better time than to take our taste buds on a sweet adventure?
White chocolate and Pinot Noir is probably the most surprising and delicious chocolate and wine pairing I’ve ever experienced. Pour yourself a glass of Pinot Noir, then put a square of quality white chocolate on your tongue and savor. While the chocolate is melting, raise the glass to your nose and breathe in the aromas of the wine. You will start to taste an incredible vanilla flavor that wasn’t noticeable before. Once you’ve enjoyed this sensation, take a sip of the wine, coating the white chocolate as it continues to melt, and enjoy pure bliss.
Old vine Zinfandels are some of my favorite wines, and I’m absolutely obsessed with pairing them with dark chocolate raspberry, such as Ghirardelli dark chocolate raspberry squares. Zinfandels are so jammy and fruit forward that these chocolate squares will turn that wine into liquid raspberry on the palate in the most heavenly of ways.
Cabernet Sauvignon tends to have undertones of eucalyptus or mint, which makes these hefty reds the ideal partner for chocolate mint. You can go beyond dark chocolate mint candies and pair them with Mint Milanos, Thin Mint cookies, or even grasshoppers.
I enjoy the flavor of coffee in pretty much anything, and chocolate is no exception. You will bring out a delicious earthy, mocha note when pairing red wine with dark chocolate covered espresso or coffee beans. Earthier varietals like Cabernet Franc and Pinotage will truly impress with this delightful pairing.
A fun and unusual combination I have grown to love is dark chocolate chili, which provides a nice spicy kick. Enjoy this with a nice Syrah/Shiraz, and watch the fruit and spice dance happily on the palate, switching off who takes the lead.
What about white wines? These can be a bit tricky, especially the drier ones, as too much sugar will amplify the acid, resulting in an unpleasant bitter taste. I have found the heavier bodied oakier whites, such as Chardonnay, pair wonderfully with creamy white chocolate, or even milk chocolate covered nuts or turtles. Try an off-dry white, such as a Riesling, or a sweeter white, such as a Moscato, with milk chocolate caramels with sea salt.
Want to explore a little outside the box? Try chocolate covered bacon for a new and exciting twist. This gives you the best of the wine pairing world: salt and fat blanketed in decadent chocolate. You could even drizzle chocolate on some salty kettle chips for a similar effect.
When it comes to wine and chocolate pairing, the best part is the “research”!
I have always been a fan of wine cocktails, whether a morning mimosa or bellini with brunch, sangria in the summer, and especially mulled wine. Also known as glögg, Glühwein, and many other names I cannot pronounce, mulled wine is a wine beverage served hot or warm, particularly in the colder winter months. It is typically made with red wine and various baking spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, ginger, cloves and dried orange peel with the addition of some sort of spirit, most commonly brandy or vodka. Born and raised in New England, I have experienced my share of Nor’easters and blizzards, and nothing makes me feel cozier than watching the snow fall from the comfort of my living room while cozied up fireside with a mug of nice hot mulled wine.
Not only is mulled wine incredibly simple to make, the house smells incredible from the simmering baking spices. By keeping a few simple ingredients on hand, you can be prepared to whip up this comforting recipe in a pinch. I also find this fun to make for cocktail parties, get-togethers, the random “pop-in” visitor, and especially as a dessert beverage after dinner parties. Mulled wine can be made stovetop or in a slow cooker, whichever you prefer.
You can find hundreds of different recipes for mulled wine on the internet, but I have my own personal favorite that is simple, inexpensive, and delicious. You can certainly buy your own personal favorite combination of spices separately, but I choose to purchase a pre-mixed combination of mulling spices from Atlantic Spice Co. in North Truro, MA (https://www.atlanticspice.com/), which contains cinnamon chips, orange peel, allspice, and cloves, as the base of my spice mix. I purchase small muslin bags to contain the spices while simmering for easy removal; however, you can choose to add the spices to the simmering pot on their own, then simply strain them when it is time to serve.
Missa’s Mulled Wine – 1 (750 mL) bottle of the red wine of your choice – 1 muslin bag (or cheesecloth pouch) containing 2 Tbsp of Atlantic Spice Co’s mulling spice mix – ¼ cup brandy or vodka (or your favorite liqueur) – 2–4 Tbsp of sugar, maple syrup, or honey (or your desired sweetener) to taste – optional garnishes: orange slice, cinnamon stick, star anise
Steep mulling spices and wine for 30-60 minutes on the stovetop or in a slow cooker on low just to a simmer. Do not boil, making sure to keep the wine under 160 degrees. If no pouch or bag is used, strain the wine into a mug, top with desired garnishes, and serve hot.
This can be made in a non-alcoholic version, as well. Simply simmer the spices stovetop or in a crock pot with a gallon of cider or juice and omit the wine and liqueur.