Sweet Cooking

Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

Healdsburg, California

In Travel, Wine on October 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

We had a wonderful time in California. Yes, the flights were long, and at times challenging. But we arrived safely and had a great time with our friends in Sonoma. We rented a house in Healdsburg and thoroughly enjoyed the town and nearby wineries.

The fam enjoying the beautiful gardens at Ferrari Carano.

The babe sporting her new Healdsburg tee.

We had some lovely wine at Bella. This winery is a perfect spot for a bottle of wine and a picnic.

We also visited Preston, Lambert Bridge and Copain while we were in town. Copain had my favorite wines, but Lambert Bridge was probably my favorite winery. They had really nice wines and a nice garden/picnic area. Plus they had two wine dogs – a yellow lab and a giant St. Bernard. I am a sucker for a winery with dogs.

Our food experiences were also really great. Nice dinners out were tough with all the kids (6 under 4 years old), but the ladies had a wonderful night at the Dry Creek Kitchen. We all ordered the tasting menu, and there was a sweet white corn soup that I just loved. Everything else was delicious too. Oh, and I just love it when a restaurant gives you a little gift at the end of the meal. Our parting gift was a little jar of pinot noir jam. So cute!

My favorite lunch was from the Dry Creek General Store. I had a BLTA. The “A” is for avocado.

I love a good general store.

I learned a few things about traveling with kids during this trip:

1. It’s worth it.

2. Be flexible.

3. 4 nights is plenty.

I’m off to Alabama tomorrow to visit family and to go to the Auburn game. The babe is racking up frequent flyer miles!

Advertisements

Cheese and Wine Tasting

In Miscellaneous on July 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I love cheese. I like all different kinds…stinky, creamy, hard, soft, singles, goat, sheep, cow. It’s all fantastic. I recently went to a wine and cheese pairing “class” at Sydney’s in Westhampton Beach. Erin, the owner, is a self-proclaimed cheese snob, and she really knows her stuff. I didn’t take photos at the tasting, but I did buy some of my favorite cheeses to serve at home.

I could eat this entire plate, but that would be gross.

Out of the ten cheeses we tried, I really loved the five featured above:

Upper Right – Humboldt Fog – ripened Goat’s Milk from Humboldt County, California.

Humboldt Fog is a mold-ripened cheese with a central line of edible ash (the blue line going down the center is ash – crazy, right!). The cheese is creamy, light, and mildly acidic with a stronger flavor near the rind. This cheese was my favorite. It’s got a salty flavor that I just love. It was paired with a Chablis.

Bottom Right – Manchego.

Actually, we did not taste this one. I bought it because my husband is a less adventurous cheese eater, and I knew he would like Manchego. Manchego is made in the La Mancha region of Spain from sheep’s milk. It is aged between 60 days and 2 years. Manchego is firm and has a buttery texture. Manchego has a distinctive flavor – it’s creamy with a little bit of tartness in each bite.

Middle – Fundo di Toscana Truffle from Tuscany, Italy.

This is a traditional pasteurized sheep and cow’s milk cheese studded with pieces of Spring Black truffles, with a touch of salt and aged for 20 days. This cheese is softer in texture and has an unmistakable truffle flavor.  If you are unaware of my truffle obsession, please visit the “travel” section of this blog! We had this cheese with a 2006 Brunello di Monalcino. A Tuscan cheese deserves a Tuscan wine. 2006 is supposed to be a great vintage. Be on the lookout for it on wine lists!

Bottom Left – Krystal Cave Aged Cheddar – Aged Cows Milk from England.

Kilchurn Estate Krystal Pure Cave Aged Cheddar is a very unique cheese which has been aged for 15 months in century old caves.  It has a distinctively sweet flavor, with natural calcium crystals. Now, the people in my class were all about the calcium crystals. But I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I didn’t really notice the crystals. Nevertheless, I did really like the cheese. It’s a good option for a crowd too because everyone likes cheddar! We had this with a rioja which I kind of thought was a strange pairing. The rioja wasn’t bold enough in my opinion.

Top Left – Fromage d’Affinois – Double Cream Cow’s Milk from Rhone, France

This cheese is similar to brie in look and texture. But it differs from Brie in a major way. Before the cheese is made, the cow’s milk undergoes a process called “ultrafiltration”. Ultrafiltration removes water from the milk, concentrating all other components.  Ultrafiltration results in a milk that retains more nutrients and proteins, and the cheese has a relatively high fat content of 60%. So bad for you, but so good! I loved this cheese! We had it with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It was the perfect combination. Also…be sure to eat the rind! The rind is edible in this cheese, as with Brie.

Barolo. Barbaresco. Nebbiolo. Oh My!

In Travel, Wine on June 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm

We spent 2 days in Piemonte touring wineries. I learned so much about the business (and art, really) of farming grapes and winemaking. Plus we met some pretty neat characters along the way. It was a great experience.

It's hard to see in this photo, but the Alps are in the background.

Here are a few interesting tidbits:

1. Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the Nebbiolo grape. If you had to rate these wines from best to least best, it would go, Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo. The best crus are reserved for Barolo. The worst crus are for Nebbiolo. That is not to say that Nebbiolo wines aren’t worth buying – they are! Nebbiolos are a great everyday drinking wine. We found our favorite to be from a winery called “Vajra”.

Francesa (grand daughter of the owner) gave us a tour and assisted with our tasting. At each of the wineries we toured, a family member was our host.

2. To enjoy Barolo, you must be patient. A Barolo must age for 3 years before it can even leave the winery. It should really age for an additional 5-7 years before being consumed. If you see a young Barolo on a wine list (say 2005 or more recent), I would skip it. It’s not ready yet. Personally, we don’t drink much Barolo at home. They are awesome wines, but expensive. Save Barolo for a special occasion. Drink a Barbera on semi-special occasions. Just an fyi…Barbera is not made from nebbiolo grapes…it’s made from the Barbera grape (hence the name). Drink Nebbiolo anytime, no occasion needed.

This is a great Barbera from Roberto Voerzio. The wines coming out of this farm are amazing. Definitely seek some of this "juice" out!

3. The grape vines in Piemonte are never watered. It is not allowed by Italian wine laws. I thought the reason might be water conservation or the prevention of pests. I was wrong. The reason is to control the yield. If everyone watered their vines, the vines would produce more grapes but of lesser quality. So we would have a lot more wine from Piemonte but it wouldn’t be nearly as good. Having a low yield is one of the most important things in winemaking.

4. Piemonte wines are typically never blended. Meaning the wines will be 100 percent of one grape. If you see a Piemonte blend on a menu or in a shop…I’d be suspicious. This is in complete contrast to wines made in the rest of Italy and most of France.

5. There are not any great white wines coming out of Piemonte right now. If you see a Piemonte white, I’d skip it. The reds are better.

6. We were surprised at the inexpensive wine prices in this region. The average cost of the wines we tasted was $35. There were some great wines for 15 Euros and under! The Nebbiolos were a great value. So why are Italian wines sold in the U.S. so expensive? The winemaker has to sell through a distributor. The distributor then marks up the price and sells it to retail stores or restaurants. So, by the time you see a wine on a menu or at a wine sh0p, the price has been marked up 3 to 4 times what it is sold for in Europe. Such a pity.

This is the perfect everyday wine! If you can find a good Nebbiolo that isn't expensive, you are set!

You’ve probably seen wines from Ceretto and Gaja on wine lists. They are certainly the most well-known winemakers in Piemonte. We couldn’t tour either because Ceretto was closed and Gaja doesn’t allow guests at all. Certainly drink wine from these producers, but also check out some of the smaller guys. Here is our list of wines to try:

  • Anything and everything from Roberto Voerzio
  • 2007 Barbera d’Asti from Marchesi di Gresy
  • Vajra Nebbiolo (any recent year)
  • Anything and everything from Fratelli Cigliuti (we had an awesome tasting here – great family!)

Cheers!

Fend For Yourself

In Just Good Food, Wine on April 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm

My husband: What’s for dinner?

Me: I don’t have anything planned. You’ll have to fend for yourself.

My husband: I’ll order take-out.

Me: (standing in front of open refrigerator) I have some broccoli and rice. Do you want me to make some for you too?

My husband: (disgusted looking face) I’m still ordering take-out.

“Fend for yourself” – dreaded words in our house. Truth be told,  I did have a lot of rice on my hands. You see, our pup, Chance, had a difficult time in the tummy area, if you know what I mean. The vet said to feed him nothing but rice and ground turkey. So in addition to cooking for my husband and me, I was cooking for the dog too. Perfect. So, I made this ENORMOUS pot of rice. Chance loved it, but he didn’t get any better. As a matter of fact, he was marginally worse.

I decided to eat Chance’s rice. I put it with some steamed broccoli, grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.

Gourmet dog food.

I was so distraught about eating the dog’s rice, that I needed to wash it down with something tasty. I chose a bottle of rosé. I am big into rosés these days. They are the perfect spring wine. I’m not sure it was a technically correct pairing with the broccoli and rice, but I enjoyed it,  so that’s all that matters! If you haven’t tried rosé since the last time you had white zinfandel out of a box, please reconsider! This rosé is very dry – not sweet at all.

If you tasted this blind, you would swear it was a white wine. Promise!

I had County Line Rosé (2009). It’s about $20 in a wine store. Give it a try!

P.S. Chance is much better now!