Our Thanksgiving Wine List


We are so ready for our Thanksgiving meal!

Our menu is planned and wines are all pre-selected because we believe the wine should enhance food and food should enhance wine; creating a symbiotic relationship improving our holiday dining experience.

The key to a successful wine pairing at Thanksgiving is versatility. Why? Well, we don’t serve Thanksgiving Day dinner as individual courses each paired with a different wine, followed by the next course and wine (although it would be nice). Our table is already set with the lovely presentation of yummy side dishes and condiments when the turkey shows up in all its glory ready to be served. We pass the plate and load up on a little bit of everything—knowing that at the end of dinner belts will be too tight and we will be as stuffed as the turkey was. This is the time to serve your wines ‘family style, the same way you serve your meal — just open your selections and let your guests help themselves to their favorite.

To do this, we avoid the extremes and stay balanced—low to mid alcohol levels (11-13.5 percent), good acidity (not too ripe or too green), minimal to moderate complexity and no huge tannins — lower tannin levels are better suited to the vast array of flavors the wines are meant to complement. From appetizers, to white and dark turkey meat, mashed potatoes, yams, herb-filled stuffing, cranberry relish, pickled this and peppered that, all the way to pie — wine selection is largely a matter of personal preference.

Just remember, with Thanksgiving wines, think balance, balance, balance!

Here are some of my favorites for my Thanksgiving table

Gruet Non-Vintage (NV) Brut, Albuquerque, New Mexico. This wine is a terrific example of an American sparkling wine from New Mexico. It’s balanced, has great acidity and flavor, and the citrus/yeast elements complement each other nicely. The higher acidity in the wine lets it pair with heavier, starchier foods like potatoes and turkey with dressing. The lower alcohol doesn’t over-exert itself and mask the flavors of the food like a high-alcohol wine would do. A favorite reason for having this bottle on the table: the bubbles are a nice palate cleanser between eating the different food selections.

Girard Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California  is one of my all-time favorites and a crisp white wine that is noted for its bright flavors – a prime candidate specifically for turkey and herb-filled stuffing. (Let’s face it, this one comes to dinners, parties and snacks a lot!)

Freemark Abbey Viognier, Napa Valley, California is a white wine with low levels of acidity and characterized by light floral flavors often surrounded by delicate touches of peaches and pears. A good choice for the non-Sauvignon Blanc drinkers at my table.

Riesling is  a white wine that may either be bone dry or fairly sweet, and it is excellent with any dishes that may have a bit of spice to them. The low alcohol and well-balanced acidity are evident in Hogue Cellars Terroir Dry Riesling (Yakima Valley, WA) — a great Thanksgiving wine exhibiting subliminal sweetness, nice flavors of petrol, tart apple and touches of steely minerality.

I also like to keep another white on hand: Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer be dry or sweet, depending on the style. Hogue Cellars Gewürztraminer (Columbia Valley, WA) has a zestiness that allows it to pair nicely with side dishes that may have a bit more kick to them, but also settles well with a variety of dessert options. This wine has an excellent balance of acidity with a slight minerality. Low alcohol, restrained and off-dry, it offers an abundance of great flavors: spiced apple, floral, and warm spices.

Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Los Carneros Rosé, California. We always need a “pink” and a Pinot Noir and this fits the bill. This is a wonderful Rosé. This wine offers zippy acidity and heady wild strawberry and white peach fruit aromas and matchinng flavors combined with rose petals and candied cherry on a long finish — a fabulous Thanksgiving wine!

Speaking of Pinot Noir, you know it’s a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. It is easy going enough to complement just about any flavor you can throw at it.

We like to serve American wine at Thanksgiving, and Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County, CA) is the perfect bottle. This wine shows how amazing California Pinot Noir can be — this wonderful vintage is a great value for a stunning California Pinot. It offers delicious floral aromas combined with a bright cherry palate filled with flavors of strawberries and raspberries joined by anise and clove that all mesh beautifully with every dish on the table — including the classic cranberry sauce.

For my dining companions who like their wines a little bolder and more fruit forward, I have Frog’s Leap Zinfandel, (Napa Valley, CA.) Made in the classic field blend style with significant portions of Petite Sirah and Carignan, the flavors are vibrant and perfectly balanced with bright, tart-cherry aromas and a hint of baking spices. This garnet colored red ups the intensity from a Pinot Noir, but still maintains a balancing effect on many traditional side dishes. This is always a great pick for those looking for a heartier wine with deeper flavors.

We have one person who only drinks Syrah at Thanksgiving and for him I have a Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Syrah, California. This another red wine that picks up the intensity and flavor, yet graciously handles the cornucopia of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Aromas of blackberry, blueberry, smoke, dried tobacco and anise explode from the glass while flavors of black cherry, plum, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and smoked meat coat the palate. The peppery herbal notes accent a flavorful helping of stuffing as well as both the white and dark turkey meats.

It may seem a little played out, but Beaujolais Nouveau still remains a great Thanksgiving wine. Especially for our traditionalists at the table. Beaujolais Nouveau is a light, fruity, juicy and refreshing red wine that pairs well with turkey and all of the fixings. It’s an easily affordable wine and if you’re going to be enjoying wine all day long, this is something that won’t weigh down your palate.

Well, that’s what we’re serving, what are you planning to serve?

Time to entertain with wine


For many a host or hostess, holiday entertaining can be as daunting as it is delightful. Whether your tradition is a casual buffet or a sit-down feast, selecting and serving wines to complement Christmas dinner need not be daunting.

You will be able to reduce your stress and potential disasters by following these simple tips and words of advice: Have a flexible plan, make it fun — but most importantly, serve wine.

Picking wines to accompany a meal is a straightforward process. After all, wine is the perfect beverage solution because it’s easy and there is something for everyone.

First thing to do is to create a budget and stick to it. Wine doesn’t need to cost a lot to be good—there are plenty of delicious wines that cost less than $10 a bottle, and you don’t need to open the most expensive bottles to impress your guests.  Take comfort in knowing that terrific wines to go with your soireé are available in every price range.

Greet guests with a glass of bubbly. No matter the size or scope of your party, sparkling wine is the perfect aperitif, it’s fun, and many believe that bubbles serve to stimulate the appetite. There’s no need to get hung up on the formality of Champagne—there’s an abundance of sparklers and often best values can be found in an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava.

Unless you know your guests’ preferences, look for food-friendly wines that pair well with a variety of foods. While you may have moved on from White Zinfandel and would love to serve a red Bordeaux, there are some people who simply don’t enjoy red wine, no matter how good it is;  so make sure that you have at least one red wine and one white wine available. Look for easy-sipping versions of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Merlot.

If you have guests who insist on drinking wines you don’t care for, such as White Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, or Merlot and only drink one glass at that, no worries.These wines are often available in four-packs of single-serving bottles, so you can graciously serve a glass without opening a full bottle. (You will then have wine for their next visit as well.)

Determining how much wine to have on hand can seem like a shot in the dark. Plan on three glasses of wine per person when wine is the principal beverage being served and estimate five glasses per bottle. It’s best not to get carried away with too many wines and it’s best to purchase wine, using this formula: 60 percent white wine / 40 percent red wine. Think of your event as a great opportunity for guests to try new wines.

When serving wine, serve it at the right temperature. Most people serve their whites too cold and their reds too warm. To attain the correct temperature, remember the 20/20 rule: Chill red wines for 20 minutes before serving; and remove whites from the fridge 20 minutes before serving. That way, the reds won’t be too warm and the whites won’t be too cold.

When serving wine with dinner, your options might include a white with the first courses, red with your main courses and a sparkling or dessert wine to complete the meal.

Offer snacks that are high in fat and protein, to help guests moderate their drinking.  The cardinal rule of food and wine pairing is not so much as what you’re serving as how it’s being prepared. Pair wine to the seasonings and cooking method as opposed to simply the starch or protein.

No matter how much you want to share a special bottle with friends, if one of your guests declines a glass, respect that decision and offer either chilled water or a selection of non-alcoholic beverages.

Don’t worry about having enough pieces of stemware to accommodate your guest list. Any glass can be a wine glass., but if you really want wine glasses, you may want to consider renting. Glasses come to your house clean and go away dirty; need we say more?

Guests might enjoy knowing a little about that special bottle you’re pouring, but avoid a lecture. Don’t call attention to the price or the difficulty you had in obtaining it, and don’t brag about your great taste. Simply pour, sip, let the wine speak for itself and relax, it’s going to be a great evening!

Wine for Fall Get-Togethers


Tailgaiting

These nine wines are always crowd-pleasers.

Fall brings get-togethers and whether your gathering is centered around football, baseball, basketball or any other spectator sport, or a family and frends social, wine is a natural for entertaining. On-the-fly get togethers or sporting events are no longer classified as “beer only” occasions, because more and more Americans are opting to sip wine on the sidelines and at the table.

Wine is a real crowd-pleaser – and scores big points for its versatility. Wine teams up with chips and dip at a lively game day party as well as it does with beef tenderloin at a sit-down dinner. It is easy to find great wine at most wine shops for under $20, or under $15 which means wine is perfect for all types of entertaining occasions. You can stick to pretzels and pizza or opt for a full-blown tailgate party, there is a wine for everything and everyone.

You needn’t stress about selecting wines to serve at your gathering. The best advice I can offer is to stick to what YOU like and choose food-friendly wines in both red and white and you will be the hero.  To compliment the range of spiciness often found in party foods, try lighter wines, typically higher in acid and often with sweet, spicy or fruity characteristics. Winning white wines include bright Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay. For red wine fans, you might want to lean toward a lightly spicy Pinot Noir or fruity Beaujolais.

If you are serving everyone’s favorite fast food, pizza you will have an easy match. With so many variations in toppings, pizza matches well with so many wines. Keep with the Italian theme and go for Chianti. Chianti’s tart ,cherry flavor and bright acidity meld well with any pizza’s tomato sauce. You might want to try Melini Chianti ‘Borghi d’Elsa.  Melini Chianti ‘Borghi d’Elsa is vinified in a traditional Tuscan style, so it is fragrant with intense and elegant aromas of blackberries and raspberries, with violet notes. It is a dry, full-bodied red that is slightly tannic,  with an elegant aftertaste of toasted almond.

Sometimes, you just want a something other than Chianti, that’s when you might want to venture to Italy’s Piedmont region and the Barbera grape, which also has a nice tang to accompany pepperoni or sausage. Marchesi di Barolo Barbera del Monferrato Maraia 2008 is a blend of 90% Barbera and 10% Dolcetto. This wine has the typical aromas of rose, wild berries, and sour black cherry. Fresh and clean, the flavors are intensely powerful,with a light hint of vanilla and toasted oak. This full-bodied, pleasant, and balanced wine is a perfect match with traditional recipes, meats,  and barbecue.

This time of year, a lot of crock pots get pulled out of storage and two quintessential American foods—Chili and Sloppy Joes—are back on many a gathering menu, especially after a day of raking leaves. These foods call for quintessential American wines. Right now a current favorite get-together wine is Pedroncelli’s Friends.Red from Sonoma. Friends.Red is a young and zesty, proprietary blend of Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Sangiovese. At around $10, this wine is full of lively black cherry and vanilla aromas and firm plum and toasty oak flavors and a true crowd-pleaser—not to mention a great value.

You might want to try a lush, fruit-forward Zinfandel with a sloppy joe, the bright berry flavors will have affinity for the sweet, tomato flavors. For around $15, Rosenblum Vintners Cuvée XXXIII Zinfandel, from California has a super-rich fruit intensity. It opens with a mélange of raspberry, plum, and Bing cherry aromas, followed by sweet mocha and vanilla spices and red stone fruits on the medium-bodied palate. This vibrant, well-balanced wine has good acidity and fine tannins making it suited for all occasions, as it also pairs well with barbecued meats, pizza or pastas.

When it comes to Chili, I like opening a bottle of Rioja from Spain (with flavors of the Tempranillo grape) works wonders, as these wines have the same earthy and meaty characteristics. Lan Crianza Rioja is 100% Tempranillo. This little wine that often runs around $12 garnered 90 points and #44 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010. As this fruity wine has always been on my Top 100 list, I worried that Wine Spectator’s rating would create a run on this wine. This wine has a lot to love about it: smooth, fruit-forward nose of dark cherries, with minimal oak influence, crisp acidity, medium drying tannins, and a long finish. Lan has a bright palate of dusty berry flavors, cranberry, and spice and a velvety, mouth-filling texture. Lan also gets better the longer it is open, so open it at least 20 minutes before you plan to drink it, if you can.

With Nachos and Quesadillas, I have to say one of the best matches for anything with corn, such as chips or tortillas, is Chardonnay because the Chardonnay will compliment creamy cheeses and counterpoint the salsa. Here, I would opt for a California chardonnay like Bogle with its tantalizing aromas  of fruit and spice. The flavors of green apples and juicy pears give way to elegant hints of Meyer lemons, and sink softly into spicy vanilla notes of American oak. This ripe and refreshing wine offers a rich and velvety mouthfeel and the finish perfectly balances the wine’s creaminess and acidity.

In the red category, Zinfandel joyfully accompanies spicy salsa and Merlot can have a cooling effect. Currently, my favorite Merlot is California’s Twomey Merlot 2007 Napa Valley Merlot; it’s a blend of 94% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s supple, complex and has a great expression of berry fruit. It has a a nose of fresh, ripe black cherry and blackberry, dark chocolate and the alluring smell of roasting coffee. On the palate, it is savory and full of explosive fruit and violets. The long finish echoes berry fruit and chocolate and grainy well-integrated tannins. I recommend drinking the reds slightly chilled around 50 – 56°.

I know a lot of parties offer those tasty, yet often messy, Buffalo wings. Piquant and vinegary wings need a white wine with loads of acidity like Columbia Crest’s Two Vines Sauvignon Blanc. This fresh, lively Sauvignon Blanc opens with the typical aromas of lemon zest, honeydew melon, dried herbs and a hint of freshly cut grass followed by juicy melon, gooseberry and kiwi flavors.This affordable wine from Washington state has a lengthy, bright citrus-like finish that compliments wings.

A Spanish Albarino like the seductive Paco & Lola offers a rich, exotic palate of pineapple and mango intermingled with refreshing citrus flavors amplified by minerally accents that stand up to the sharpness of the flavors or wings.

If the wings are exceptionally spicy, an off-dry Columbia Crest Two Vines Riesling could be the ticket to tame the heat. This unrestrained Riesling has aromas of guava, lime zest and honeysuckle, followed by intense nectarine, apricot and mandarin orange flavors resting on a lively acid structure balancing an early sweetness, and ending in a candy-like finish.

If you’re sticking to something slightly lower in calories, veggies, you need to remember crispy and crunchy crudités call for a fresh, zippy white like a Sauvignon Blanc. A current favorite that seems to appeal to everyone is The Beach House from from South Africa’s Douglas Green Winery. The Beach House is a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend and is an easy sipping, crowd-pleaser.

Not in the mood for a Sauv Blanc? Well, the South African Brampton Chardonnay is an unoaked Chard that shows fresh tropical notes on the nose. The palate shows great density and richness well balanced by vibrantly delicious peach fruit and and a crisp clean citrus finish.This wine is also a perfect companion to pears and blue cheese.

Okay, red-only drinkers you might want to try something light and fruity like a chilled Beaujolais or  Pinot Noir from Oregon with those veggies. Cloudline Pinot Noir has fresh aromatic nuances of raspberry, violets and a touch of spice. On the palate, the wine is all cherries and red fruits. The tannins are soft, and balanced with a long finish.

For your gathering you can use these suggestions or make up your own, whatever you decide, have fun with your wine choices, and encourage your guests to do the same.

The Joy of BYOB


This month we explore the joys of BYOB. BYOB is  most commonly meant to stand for “bring your own bottle”.  It is generally recognized that the more modern usage of the term was initiated by drinkers in the 1950s, but in the early 19th century, the term BYOB was used in society slang to mean “bring your own basket”, with reference to group picnics. A basket would of course often include alcoholic beverages, but this is not believed to have been the primary focus of the term. Later, “BYO” (Bring Your Own) emerged to allow guests to bring their own bottle or bottles of wine.

Here on the Jersey Shore Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants represent an incredible windfall to the conscientious diner. Many are exceptionally fine dining establishments to which you may tote along an exceptional vintage of your own choosing and match it up with superior cuisine. This gives us the best of both worlds fine dining and favorite perfectly matched wines.

If you are a relative newcomer to the world of wine, a visit to a BYOB restaurant could seem to you to be a major inconvenience. Not only does it necessitate a trip to your local wine shop, and the time and trouble spent scouring the shelves for what you hope is an appropriate vintage; it also represents the mental anguish of wondering whether your selection(s) will ultimately be considered beneath contempt by some restaurant lackey. But as you become more adept at deciphering oenological esoterica and, perhaps, even begin to lay away a few bottles in that unused hall closet or cellar, your fears will undoubtedly dissipate. In the meantime, console yourself with the fact that you are saving your hard earned dollars by frequenting a bring your own restaurant.

There is only one rule of thumb to consider: Choose a wine that will be compliment both your food and your surroundings. Fine restaurants call for equally fine wines or, more simply put just bring a good wine.

The rules for wine pairing have relaxed a bit, but the fact remains that certain flavors of food and wine mix better together than others. When pairing food and wine, the goal is synergy and balance. While it isn’t unheard of to have a white wine with meat or a red wine with fish or seafood, you don’t want to serve a very strong tasting wine with a delicate entree (think Cabernet Sauvignon with sole), or the other way around. The wine and the food should complement each other, not battle against each other. One way to decide is to remember what some experts recommend, “Simple wines with complex foods…complex wines with simple foods.”

When in doubt about your menu choices, bring  two bottles, one white and one red. This is particularly important when you’re not quite sure where your taste buds may lead, or when you’re dining at an exceptionally fine restaurant. When you tote along two bottles you are not only increasing the spectrum of gastronomic possibilities, you are also serving notice that you take both food and wine seriously. Like it or not, whether purchased on site or ferried across the threshold, wine makes a statement, a statement that restauranteurs are quick to pick up.

I often bring two of the bottle I plan on drinking with my meal. No, not because I plan on drinking more, but in case the first bottle opened is tainted in some way, corked, oxidized or displays some other fault. There’s nothing worse than having only one bottle and discovering it’s gone off.  Of course a stelvin enclosure (screw cap) or zork top will greatly decrease the odds of a bad bottle. (Yes, good quality wines can be found in these easier to open bottles) .

BYO is not only affordable, it’s also a guarantee that you’ll get to drink your very favorite wine or beer, no matter where you are.

Above all don’t stress over the perfect food and wine pairing. The best pairing is good food, good wine and good company. Friends and loved ones are the most important ingredients—we’ll drink to that!

Simple Rules for Pairing wines with your meal

  • Wine drunk by itself tastes different than wine with food, because wine acts on food similar to the way a spice does. Acids, tannins and sugars in the wine interact with the food to provide different taste sensations.
  • A good match will bring out the nuances and enhance the flavors and unique characteristics of both the food and the wine. Remember that if you are having more than one wine at a meal, it’s customary to serve lighter wines before full-bodied ones. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines unless a sweet flavored dish is served early in the meal. In that case, match the sweet dish with a similarly sweet wine. Lower alcohol wines should be served before higher alcohol wines.
  • Balance flavor intensity. Pair light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes.
  • Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavored foods — poached or steamed — pair best with delicate wines. It’s easier to pair wines with more flavorfully prepared food — braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed. Pair the wine with the sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish.
  • Match flavors. An earthy Pinot Noir goes well with mushroom soup and the grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blancs goes with fish for the same reasons that lemon does.
  • Balance sweetness. But, beware of pairing a wine with food that is sweeter than the wine, although I do occasionally like dark chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon. I also like chocolate with a beautiful single malt. Come to think of it, I like chocolate with just about anything.
  • Consider pairing opposites. Very hot or spicy foods — some Thai dishes, or hot curries for example — often work best with sweet desert wines like sauternes, or reislings or torrontes from argentina. Opposing flavors can play off each other, creating new flavor sensations and cleansing the palate.
  • Match by geographic location. Regional foods and wines such as French fare with French wine, Spanish food with Spanish wine, having developed together over time, often have a natural affinity for one another.
  • Adjust food flavor to better pair with the wine. Sweetness in a dish will increase the awareness of bitterness and astringency in wine, making it appear drier, stronger and less fruity. High amounts of acidity in food will decrease awareness of sourness in wine and making it taste richer and mellower — sweet wine will taste sweeter. Bitter flavors in food increase the perception of bitter, tannic elements in wine. Sourness and salt in food suppress bitter taste in wine. Salt in food can tone down the bitterness and astringency of wine and may make sweet wines taste sweeter.
  • If a dish is acidic — citrus or vinegar — then an acidic wine would be appropriate, although a lightly acidic dish can be balanced with a lightly sweet wine. Acidic white wines are Sauvignon Blanc and most sparkling wines. Acidity in wine cuts saltiness, so sparkling wines generally pair with salty foods better than less tart wines such as most red wines.
  • Tannins from the skins and sometimes stems of grapes and the oak barrels used for aging cause the bitter or astringent aftertaste in some red wines. Tannins mellow with age and are one of the components that add complexity to a mature wine. Foods with a prominent salty, sour or bitter taste will make a wine seem sweeter and less tannic. Bitter red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel and Syrah.
  • Alcohol gives wine a sense of body and weight, the higher the alcohol, the more full-bodied the wine. Rich meat, fish or chicken dishes that include cream are well suited to full-bodied wines (13–15 percent alcohol) whereas light, simply prepared and flavored dishes pair better with low alcohol wines (7–10 percent).

It’s Tailgating Season!


To those not familiar with tailgating, I’d like to explain that it is a pre-game ritual that typically revolves around barbeque, a little loud music, flying frisbees, and some very enthusiastic sports fans. Traditionally this activity also involves the consumption of alcoholic beverages such as beer or mixed drinks and the grilling of various meat products.

These festivities, along with delicious food and a vast sea of friends in beautiful team colors all turn a large otherwise empty parking lot into a big, fun-loving neighborhood. Around here, most tailgating begins at Giants Stadium and continues to other venues. Except for the “The Hunt” that used to be held in Middletown, Monmouth County, where people did consume wine, wine lovers were definitely in the minority at tailgating events. There was always a lot of beer. Non-beer drinkers like me had to “settle for” soda or water or nothing. Those were dark days for wine drinkers. Thankfully, there’s been a big turnaround and we wine drinkers aren’t subjected to going without a beverage of choice for lack of a corkscrew.

Today, more and more tailgating fans are raising a glass, proudly toasting the team with burly Zins and strapping Cabs. I like to think it’s the new perfect pairing: wine and tailgating.
But pairing wine with tailgating means we need to be certain our wine complements the traditional tailgate party staples: hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad, or foie gras, roasted quail, caviar and salad nicoise…or whatever dish you find easy to prepare and eat on site.

Be Guided by the Weather

Choosing wines for tailgating should be guided by the weather. As the weather turns nippier nothing feels better than to sip a big heart-warming red. Besides, the food is more robust and the dark red complexity is perfect for good food and friendly gatherings. I know, most of the foods you might choose to serve at your tailgating party, such a burgers, hot dogs or sausages, might go better with a red wine than a white.
When I provide the wine, I take both red and white. It never hurts to serve crisp, brightly flavored whites for refreshing results (and your favorite white wine drinker). For the red, I look for something easy to drink, affordable, and something that will go with a variety of foods.

Here’s a helpful hint: red wines also benefit from chilling. Softer varieties like Zinfandel, Grenache or Tempranillo taste delicious cooler and even more tannic reds like Cabernet Sauvignons need a light chill to reduce the temperature to a more civilized “room temperature” (56°).  Just don’t over chill, as the tannins will turn the wine bitter.

Make it Flavorful
Whether your wine is full-, light-, or medium-bodied, the wine should be well concentrated. Wimpy wines will disappear when paired with strong-flavored and smoky dishes. Wonderfully tasting grilled foods allow complex wines to shine, but can easily overshadow a less powerful one. Definitely go for the rich and complex, with a long finish, to go with a powerful BBQ ribs dish.

Paringa Sparkling Shiraz isn’t a high-brow wine, but it still tastes very good and more importantly it’s a lot of fun. It is truly a different wine that is a great conversation starter and will be remembered. The wine itself is a bit sweet (20% residual sugar), but it doesn’t seem to be overly sweet. It tickles your palate with bubbles that burst with raspberry and blueberry flavors. The tannins are creamy and smooth, giving this wine a and your toasts bit more sophistication.

Make it Fruity
Fruity and even off-dry wines can taste very dry and succulent when paired with savory smoky dishes like grilled meats and hotdogs. Just be sure that the wine you are serving is sweeter than the entree, condiments, or any added flavoring. Sweet food will make a dry wine taste sour and unappealing.
Try Louis Jadot Beaujolais—a fruity red. This French wine has a musky bouquet of strawberries and salt-water taffy, along with a pleasant weedy scent. Light on the tongue, it has higher acidity than most red wines and for those who like a fruitier wine, this would be a nice choice.
Maybe, you want to impress a few friends with your wine knowledge and try Schlink Haus Red a 100% Dornfelder from Germany. Yes, this semi-sweet red wine is made from the little-known Dornfelder grape. This is a delightfully full-bodied fruity red wine with flavors of blackberries, cherries and chocolate with a hint of citrus. This is a good wine for non-wine drinkers with enough complexity to satisfy the old pro.
This is also where a good fruity white can come into play, like a good riesling. I do like to bring along a riesling or two to any event, basically because they are usually light, fruity, go with anything and are generally lower in alcohol making them, for me at least, the perfect party drink. Hoffman Simon Kabinett Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling 2007 (I know, easy for you to say) is a case in point, at 9% alcohol it provides a focused beam of mineral, along with crunchy apple, peach and citrus. It’s a racy white with good length making it an entirely attractive and characteristic Mosel wine.
Another unique wine that’s extraordinarily food-friendly, especially with spicy foods and the hard to match flavors of ginger, cilantro, chile peppers, mint, and wasabi is Sokol Blosser’s Evolution 9 a blend of nine grapes: Müller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Sylvaner. The nine grapes tie together perfectly, creating a smooth, layered white wine that can hold its own or stand up to just about any food pairing you dare to serve. It pairs well, with anything from light salads to the hottest fusion-style cuisine.

Make it Red
White wines are great with many grilled foods, but when in doubt, always reach for red. A good rule of thumb is the darker the food, then the darker the wine, the richer the food then the richer the wine and when in doubt, drink Beaujolais. Chances are the red or black fruit character of these wines will give some punch to a smoky dish, and even the modest tannins of a red can work wonderfully in counteracting the mild bitterness that comes from charring food on the grill.

If you’re not in the mood for Beaujolais, Snap Dragon Red, 2007 from California is a good choice. The aromas include dark scents of spiced plums, coffee, leather, dark chocolate and sweet tobacco. When I drink this, I taste everything from the aroma, especially sweet cherries and tobacco and it is really easy drinking and a great value. I often recommend this wine for burgers or sausage.

Red Truck, 2007 also from California is another red blend favorite for outdoor drinking. The nose is full of dusty scents of black cherries, saddle leather, baby powder, unsweetened chocolate and a hint of cassis.This red blend is dusty and dry, round and smooth, soft and fruity sweet. perfect for grilling. Other good barbecue choices are Malbec, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Zinfandel.

The key thing to remember is that the requirements for a tailgating wine are simple: inexpensive, easy to drink, no major flaws, and save your best wine for a more elegant occasion.

See you at the stadium!

The Dining Dozen of $12 & Under


The current economy has most of us cutting back on non-essentials, driving less, and trying to find ways to save a few bucks and with  the recent tax hike on wines and spirits,. choosing a good wine you  enjoy thats affordable can be a daunting task..  So,  this month we  are sharing our favorite finds.  These budget friendly wines have good consumer accessibility at very welcoming price points — all  under $12.
We all have our favorite well-know name brand inexpensive wines, and  those who know me know I love my $6 bottle of Rene Barbier
Mediterranean White for everyday drinking, but even I need to venture  from the tried and true and try something new every now and then. For
me, my favorite varietal, sauvignon blanc, seems to be the most  interesting of inexpensive whites— they always seem to have a crisp,  summery character and personality. It may be that because of its  piercing flavors, sauvignon blanc is more adaptable to an inexpensive approach than chardonnay, a grape that can reach greater heights when treated to costlier winemaking. That being said, we set out to find  12 great easy drinking wines slightly off the beaten path under $12 it’s worth it to give some of them a try.

Whites:

Fazi Battaglia Titulus S.p.a.
I remember the first time I ever had this wine. It was the 1980’s and  good friend insisted we (my then boyfriend & I) try this dynamic wine – the best she ever had, she said. I did and we were both underwhelmed by this thin acidy stuff. I recently tried it again,  and what a difference a few decades can make! This Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi is a prime example of the changes in the wine  industry and the pursuit of excellence. This  is 100%  verdicchio, hand harvested and then fermented in stainless steel  tanks prior to additional time in the bottle. The resulting wine is a
lovely pale yellow-green. It’s gossamer light with hints of almond  shell and golden apple on the nose, then softly fruity with a fresh,
clean mineral finish. You’ll want to slurp it with a straw, but  control yourself. Practice a little decorum. A lovely aperitif and  ideal with light seafood (particularly shellfish) and it comes in a  classy green bottle — all for around $8.

Snap Dragon Winery Chardonnay 2007
This wine was a big hit at the in-store wine tasting events. This  Chardonnay’s  flavors and aromascurl and whirl across the tongue in a myriad of sprightly tropical flavors, fleshed by ripe yellow peaches  and warm apple notes. Accents of vanilla and allspice enhance the of this inviting and enjoyable wine. Sipped on a warm summer day, this wine makes an excellent complement to grilled chicken salads, poached fish or tasty prawns. This is a supple and refreshing chardonnay for around $9.

Bohemian Highway Chardonnay
Another wine that is a pleasant surprise Inspired by the legendary Bohemian Highway, that winds through the rural landscape of Northern  California’s wine region, Bohemian Highway strives to create a style  that captures the easy-going California approach to living. Lightly oaked and fruit-driven with enticing pear and apple flavors and just  a touch of refreshing citrus, this Chardonnay bursts with ripe flavors of apple and pear. Being lightly-oaked it has a full, creamy  mouth feel. Its creaminess and bright citrusof lemons and granny  smith apples flavors are rounded out by a lingering finish. This  unpretentious c hard is truly fun to drink for a pricetag around $8

Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc 2007
No wine list from me is complete without at least one sauvignon blanc and this one is organic from Chile. Elegant, expressive and dressed  in a green-yellow shade of color, this Sauvignon Blanc impresses with  its citrus notes of grapefruit and green apple, which mingle in with  herbal hints. In mouth, its freshness and balance with clean citrus  and herbaceous notes stand out, along with its pleasant mineral  finish. It’s a great wine for an aperitif. and an excellent choice to  serve with vegetarian combinations. It also goes well with soft and  fresh cheeses. Go green with this one for around $9

Chateau Mayne Sansac Bordeaux Blanc 2007
This is our second wine to have a bit of Sauvignon blanc in it, well,  Mayne Sansac is 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon, and 25%  Muscadelle. This white wine combines all the qualities of elegance  and finesse that you look for in a great white Bordeaux: perfect  expression of the best Bordeaux soils and premium grape varietals.  This wine has been extremely well-made and aged. Like me, you are  sure to appreciate this wine’s brilliant color, fruity, floral  bouquet and excellent balance on the palate. Mayne Sansac starts out  crisp and fresh wine. It is very round and full-bodied and a fabulous  deal at around $9.

Colombelle Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne 2008
Colombelle,  there is so much to love and enjoy about this wine.  From the eye-catching packaging to the zippy, fresh flavors and the  oh-so-affordable price tag (around $7), this little wine has it all.It is made from  a blend of 70% Colombard and 30% Ugni Blanc. Yes, Colombard and Ugni Blanc – two grapes that you might never have heard of before (unless you drink a lot of Armagnac or Cognac). But this is a wine that is definitely worth getting to know. Classified  as a Vin de Pays de Côtes de Gascogne, this wine is from the  Southwest part of France, below Bordeaux. This wine is pale with  hints of lemon yellow, watery rim with slight tinge of green. It’s  aromatic, with slightly floral, spicy and green apple notes. This  wine exhibits the pedigree of usually more costly wines, with superb  balance of sweet apricot, wild honey and a perfect spike of tangerine  acidity It is definitely dry,with  crisp acid, balanced  alcohol,leading to a pleasant mouthwatering sensation. This is a very  light and refreshing, almost weightless, though intense wine. It would be reckless to miss this type of intelligent bargain.

Now for the reds

Crosby Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
The 2006 Crosby Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious, forward drinking  100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Boasting notes of lush dark cherry, red currant, blackberry, and cassis, that blend well with hints of  vanilla and toasted bread.  A medium-bodied wine, it has rich, well  developed flavors of black fruit and a touch of oak which complements  the fruit nicely.This wine is supple, friendly and ready to drink.  With its $9 price tag, Crosby is an ideal choice for a house red.

Cellar No. 8 Zinfandel 2007
Cellar No. 8 zin highlights the classic flavors of the varietal, and  delivers rich, robust flavors that are enhanced by 100 percent oak  barrel aging. The color is candy apple red with aromas of sweet  cherry, dried cherry, cinnamon, and hints of cocoa and vanilla. A  tasty, medium bodied zin, its a delicious palate pleaser; with ripe, cedary spicy oak overtones that evolve alongside bright cherry and  chocolate flavors. It is pleasant round and soft with a dry finish.A great wine for grilling at $11 (Cellar #8 also makes a great Pinor Noir, Cab and Merlot at the same price point)

Cline Cellars Red Truck Red Blend 2006
The Red Truck California Red Wine’s label was inspired by a 1947 Dodge Power Wagon. This red  is big-hearted, well-made, and full of life with complex, flavors of  chocolate, berries, and cherries. It’s a blend of  45% Syrah 29%  Petite Sirah 20% Cabernet Franc for a juicy berry base then the  winemaker added teensy bits of Grenache, Malbec, and Mourvedre to  round out this wine with licorice and spice for a full-bodied  black
pepper finish with smooth tannins.  About $12.

Ars Poetica’s  Volcano
This is a 100% Aglianico, the second wine of Ars Poetica’s trademark  Aglianico del Vulture. A remarkable value, it has the flavor, body,  complexity, structure, and finish of a Super Tuscan in the $30-45  range but it’s priced around $9. This is a medium-bodied red wine  displaying ripe fruit and surprising complexity. Deep, full aromas  erupt from the glass at first sniff: black fruits, licorice, tobacco,  tar, earth and some vegetal notes.Y.ou’ll taste similar flavors along  with juicy black raspberry and black cherry, with hints of licorice,  black currant, bell peppers and a bit of coffee bean. A rush of ripe tannins, and medium acidity balance out the fruit I’ll take this over  a 50-dollar Super Tuscan any day, and spend the savings on two big T-bones to go with it.

Lello Red Douro
Lello is an elegant, fruity wine made from Portugal’s traditional Douro grape varieties: Touriga-Nacional, Touriga-Franca, Tinta-Roriz  and Tinta-Barroca. Lello has structure and character, it’s luch with  layers of dark fruit flavors, boysenberry and strawberry preserves.  This gives the wine an elegant note of wood and a lingering finish of  cream and spice. Lello is a good accompaniment to grilled meat and  game or can be enjoyed on its own. it’s a great buy around $7..

Dante Coraggio Chianti
For the chianti lovers, I’ve added a chianti in the $10 range. This  is made from 100% sangiovese aand it is a  strong and bold yet medium-bodied wine. Corraggio sports typical Chianti flavors: cherry, plum,  strawberry, spice, almonds, tobacco, vanilla and coffee. Chianti is  often called a “fruity” wine, meaning it appeals to new wine  drinkers.j Chianti goes well with well-seasoned food because of the  juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry and Food pairing.

Well, there you have, 12 pocketbook loving wines. Enjoy!