Monday, January 24, 2011

Not All Rhônes are Red

I love red Rhône blends. They're zesty, spicy, and offer great value. Even wines from well-known appellations like Châteauneuf-du-Pape are relatively inexpensive when judged by the standards of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Most wine drinkers are not as well-acquainted with the delicious white blends that are made with Rhône varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Marsanne. These whites are classy, elegant, and provide a welcome break from the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc you might be drinking.

Rhône whites can be a bit pricey, in part because three quarters of the grapes grown in the region are red. But Rhône varietals are also grown in the US and in other parts of the world and can provide a good starting point if you want to learn more about these wines.

One great example of a Rhône white blend, for instance, is the 2008 Eberle Cotes-du-Robles Blanc from Paso Robles (suggested retail $24; available in the market for $20-$29). This delicious blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier has aromas and flavors that are reminiscent of a summer day, with lots of pear, Golden Delicious apples, and even a touch of apricot. Rhône whites typically have herbal notes as well, and in this case I was reminded of the grassy and floral flavor profile of chamomile tea. Even though the price of the wine is slightly more than $20, it represents excellent QPR.

Like most wines made with Rhône grapes, the white blends are excellent food wines, too. I especially like Rhône white blends when I'm making a dish that uses lots of herbs and spices, where the aromatics in the wine enhance the food. We had this with amazing Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings from Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinners. This is an easy-to-prepare yet impressively tasty dish that has tomatillo and herb salsa--not the easiest thing to pair with a wine. Yet it was delicious with the white blend from Eberle.

If you are interested in learning more about check out the resources on the Hospice du Rhône website. And enjoy your adventures into the world of white wine made with Rhône grapes.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for review.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inspired by Mustard--and Merlot

In late December, I went on a cookbook binge. I was not feeling inspired in the kitchen, and my cooking needs had changed from "meals that can be done in thirty minutes" and might involve 28 minutes of standing at a hot stove to "meals that can be thrown together in 5 minutes and then put in the oven for an hour while you answer your email."

One of my great finds was Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. ($27.50) I've made up many of the dishes from this book (and you'll be seeing more recipes from it on the blog), but one that immediately stood out as a "cook me NOW!" selection was this one for chicken parts roasted in the oven on a bed of country bread with garlic, thyme, and mustard. These are some of my all-time favorite flavors, and the prospect of having bread made crispy with mustard and chicken drippings was too good to pass up.

As soon as I read the recipe, I knew that Merlot would be perfect with the dish. So I bought the ingredients, flung them into a heavy roasting pan, turned on the oven, and searched through the wine closet for a Merlot.

The bottle that I found was a 2007 Chateau Souverain Merlot Alexander Valley (suggested retail $17; available for $12-$19). This excellent QPR wine will make you remember what is great and good about Merlot. It's one of the best examples of the grape that I've had recently, with luscious blueberry, huckleberry, and plum aromas and flavors. There are hints of ground coffee in the midpalate and the aftertaste has a distinctive note of cedar.

Those rich, fruit elements, the dark coffee notes, and the cedary spice all went beautifully with the robust chicken and its mellow mustard and garlic flavors. It was the perfect, comforting pairing for a cold winter's night.

Full Disclosure: I purchased the cookbook, but received a sample of the wine for review.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Game On! A weekend food and wine pairing

This weekend you might be having friends over to watch sports on tv. No matter what your game, you need something that is comforting, fun, and not too much of a hassle to prepare. You also need a wine to go with it.

If so, pick up a bottle of Zinfandel and the ingredients to make these relatively healthy, entirely decadent-tasting Buffalo Chicken Paninis. They have all the taste you love in that bucket of spicy wings, but they aren't going to make you feel guilty (well, not that guilty!). Toss a big green salad together--maybe one with shredded carrot, romaine, sliced celery and blue cheese dressing to complement the sandwiches--and you'll be ready to settle down in front of the TV.

As for the Zinfandel, I'd recommend the very good QPR 2008 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi (suggested retail $13; available in the market for $8-$15). Ravenswood makes good Zins from a variety of appellations, but this one is my favorite with this sandwich. Its cool blueberry and rich plum aromas and flavors are accented with nice cracked pepper notes. The pepper and spice continues through the juicy aftertaste, and stands up nicely to the hot sauce and blue cheese in the sandwich.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for review.