A Bouquet of a Dozen Rosés


Spring, is considered the official Rosé season, when everyone starts thinking it’s Rosé o’clock somewhere!

As we enter pink wine season, we find ourselves in a category run amok. Ten years ago, I was begging my customers to try the dry, refreshing Rosés of France, Spain and elsewhere, and to stop thinking all pink wine was sweet White Zinfandel. Even with in-store tastings , it felt like I couldn’t give a fantastic Rosé away. Fast forward to today and the Rosés are practically flying themselves off the shelves.

Where do Rosés come from? Well, there are the regional pink Rosés from such traditional locales: Provence, Rioja, Tavel, the Côtes du Rhône—with more pink wines from these classic places than ever before,  we need to pay attention to quality. Not only that, lesser-known regions are taking advantage of demand, many have no Rosé tradition at all and yet, are astonishingly good. The “newer” Rosés include grapes like Blauburgunders from Germany, Blaufränkisches from Austria, Agiorgitikos from Greece (surprisingly refreshing and delicious), Blaufränkisches from Austria and Cab Francs from the Loire (yum!). So you can basically find a Rosé from anywhere, even locally in New Jersey!

A good Rosé, by definition, should be bright, crisp, dry and mouthwatering with moderate alcohol. In the mouth, they should offer great acidity, a pithy tannin and a hint of minerality. Unfortunately, most domestic bottlings are sweet white zins, with quite a bit of residual sugar and a “thicker” texture. This is because many rosés are made using the saignée method, juice bled off a fermenting tank to concentrate what remains, not so much a product as a byproduct. Often these are high in alcohol (more than 13.5%) rendering them too ripe and too fleshy to be refreshing. 

Rosé should not be an afterthought or a byproduct, but something that had to be grown and made in the vineyard, harvested early to ensure good acidity and low alcohol, and made judiciously to preserve aroma and freshness. Settling for anything less is selling yourself short.

Prices for Rosé can range all over the map from $6 to more than $25 a bottle. It’s worth remembering that a pink wine’s main function is to refresh, and that can be done at a low price point. There are some Rosés, however, that have the pedigree, consistency and excellence that are absolutely worth the higher price: Bandol, older Riojas and certain Txakoli Rosés. Normally, if you’re paying more than $25 a bottle, you’re probably paying too much; more than $30, you’re being gouged, plain and simple.  It’s a good idea to ask your retailer for wines that are every bit as good for less money.

Here are a dozen serious Rosés that we happened upon in our travels. The prices range from $8.99 to $18.99 with one exception that is over $20. Most are in the 11 – 13% ABV — only one was 13.8%.

Pedroncelli Dry Rose of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2017

The Pedroncelli family has been producing zinfandel-based Rosé since 1954 and they’re one of my favorite California wineries. The focus here is on crisp acidity and true varietal character allowing the fruit flavors to shine—and shine it does with bright aromas of strawberry, orange, rose petals, and spice. It offers full flavors of candied raspberry and cherry with a hint of white pepper spice. Even though it is made in a dry style, the wine retains a hint of sweetness because of the fruitiness of the zinfandel grape. This pink is refreshing, clean and crisp with a delicate berryspice finish. This one is so delicious and can be found in many shops and retailers. 

La Belle Collette, Côtes de Provence, Provence, France

I found this one at Tinali Wines in Brick. A classic French Provençal Rosé blend, it comes from the sunny hills of the Château de Saint-Martin – one of the 18 Grands Crus Classés in Provence. La Belle Colette  takes its name in memory of Colette, the Provençal writer. The wine’s bright fruity style is produced from six different grape varieties: Syrah (57%), Carignan (25%), Cinsault (9%), Grenache (7%), and Tibouren(2%). The floral nose is delicate offering intoxicating fragrances of raspberry and strawberry with a hint of lavender. The palate is round and fresh, tasting of summer’s red fruits—strawberry, raspberry, hints of apple, pepper and caramel flavors. At once it’s thirst-quenching and the velvety structure combines the fragrant flavors Provence in the fresh and delicate finish.

This Rosé is perfect as an aperitif on bright sunny days accompanied by Provençal style dishes, appetizers, summer barbecues and garden parties. This surprising wine is sure to become a summer favorite. 

Rose par Paris, Côtes de Provence, France

Another find at Tinali Wines, Rosé par Paris is a versatile, bright rosy pink Provençal blend of 30% Grenache and 70% Cinsault. Produced by Domain de l’Allamande, a 74-acre family vineyard in the heart of the Pierrefeu area. The property has characteristic limestone soils and a continental climate with a maritime influence, which give this wine a high minerality.

The nose is fresh and fuity with delicious aromas of citrus and berries. The flavors are refreshing with notes of rose water, cherry and strawberry backed by good zip. The  finish offers a fresh burst of citrusy ruby red grapefruit and a zingy minerality. Delicious chilled on its own, or with salads, meat, or a Provençal meals. 

Rhone to the Bone, Côtes du Rhône, France 

Clear light pink Rosé comprise of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. We found this one at Wegmans for under $10. The label was bold and definitely demanded our attention.  Once opened, the nose offered notes of red  currant, cherry, citrusy grapefruit and  a hint of mint. Sharp, viscous mouthfeel backed by a pleasant freshness on the palate, balanced by a touch of minerality. It was great for burger night and will become a regular in our lineup.

Rivarose Brut Salon de Provence, IGP Méditerranée, France

This was an accidental purchase at Wegmans. I planned to get another Rosé but this landed in my cart and at the checkout line instead. since it wanted to go home with me, I figured, why not give it a try? Made with 100% Syrah, this sparkling Rosé has gentle effervescent bubbles that offer a flavorful bouquet of berries and grapefruit. Apparently, Rivarose has made sparkling rosé in this region since 1909, and it is the only Brut Rosé from the heart of Provence. On the nose, strawberry and raspberry aromas dominate, while in the mouth the strawberry flavors and notes of exotic fruit combine with a fine and elegant mousse crating a bright sparkler with notes of citrus fruits and spice.

Enjoy on its own or as an aperitif pairing with cured meats, crudités, Provençal dishes or chocolate-based desserts. With its rose-petal hue and yummy crispness, you may just find that any occasion is special enough to pop the cork and celebrate! 

Fleur de Mer Côtes de Provence Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France 

Fleur de Mer is crafted by winemaker Florian Lacroux of the 50-year-old cooperative, Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint-Tropez. A brilliant coral pink blend of 46% Grenache, 21% Cinsault, 14% Syrah, 19% Other (Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cabernet), Fleur de Mer evokes aromas of fresh watermelon, cherry, subtle citrus, peach, lavender and Mediterranean herbs. The flavor profile is a mineral-infused strawberry and mild grapefruit blend with notes of lime and tangerine. On the palate, this wine is light- to medium-bodied with nice controlled acidity that leads to a mouthwatering feel. This balanced, medium-bodied wine is fresh and elegant with a soft texture, a minerally finish  and refreshing acidity. This is a versatile wine that will pair with lots of foods, perfect for sitting oceanside or poolside on a hot summer day.

Honoro Vera Rosé 2017, Jumilla, Spain

Another inexpensive Wegmans find, this Spanish Tempranillo/Syrah blend was a delicious discovery. This beautiful salmon colored Rosé shows hints of watermelon rind on the nose. The palate shows primarily red fruit: cherry with a touch of strawberries and watermelon. The finish is very smooth and bright with watermelon and strawberries. Medium-bodied and dry it offers a nice lively, crisp acidity, that is both refreshing and approachable. Served chilled, this wine is a very refreshing and surprisingly versatile—perfect with food or just sipping on a hot day. It may be sipped as an apéritif or it can go with an array of foods: salads, seafood, side dishes, pork or chicken. A refreshing Rosé for any occasion including outdoor dining, picnics or backyard barbecues. It will be invited back.

El Coto Rosado, Rioja, Spain

This Rosado is a delicious Rosé made from  90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, and it is one of our summer staples. A lively, pale  pink Rosé that at first offers up a sweet nose of fresh strawberries and raspberries with a hint of caramel. Silky and delicate, the wine follows with tangy, red cherry aromas with piquant herbal notes leading to ripe, juicy flavors on the palate. Dry and easy drinking, the palate is fresh as well as sweet, displaying a wide range of sharp and crispy red and dark fruits, strawberries and cherries. The cleansing acidity helps balance the fruit and the long, clean finish. It is versatile, ideal as an aperitif, great with salads, Mediterranean and Oriental cuisines and very easy to enjoy. 

Frog’s Leap, La Grenouille Rougante Pink, Napa Valley, California

There’s something fun about this wine, even though it’s kind of spare. The word “Rouganté” in the name seems to mean “blushing Frog.”  Made from 87% Carignane 8% Valdiguié (Napa Gamay) 2% Mondeuse 1.5% Charbono  and a half-percent of  Mourvedre/Riesling, it’s bone dry, and acidic, with modest strawberry flavors. This Californian is directly comparable to a Provençal Rosé.  Very aromatic, with aromas of apple skin, white flowers, a lot of strawberries and red fruits, gooseberry and raspberries that introduce this medium to full-bodied wine with vibrant acids and crisp fruit flavors. Delicate floral aromas and fresh fruit flavors come together in this classic style. Lifted by bright, natural acidity and low alcohol, this wine is the perfect companion to a warm, sunny day. A light tannic structure makes this wine food-friendly, with a clean and lingering finish. Nice and easy to drink and a perfect accompaniment to any meal!

Sidebar, Russian River Valley, Rosé, Russian River, California, USA, 2016

Made entirely from 100% Syrah, Sidebar Rosé hails from old Syrah vines in the Russian River Valley. This dry, succulent wine is a light pink-orange in color and begins with a robust flavor bursting with watermelon, cranberry and bristling acidity. There are classic notes of strawberry and watermelon, hazelnut and savory lemon peel that introduce a crisp, energetic and chalky palate which over-delivers flavor.  Dry and crisp, it remains lighthearted in the glass, finishing with a tease of grapefruit. This is one generously flavored wine, and is admirably dry and refreshing, with zesty red fruit, citrus and spice notes. Seamless, it’s medium bodied and has plenty of texture to offer around a crisp, meaty finish. 

Heitz Cellar, Napa Valley, Grignolino Rosé, 2016

Every year, Heitz produces a limited amount of their unusual and rare Grignolino Rosé and since 1961.Ruby grapefruit-red, it’s sultry with strawberry, watermelon, orange zest and salty spice flavor, highlighted with a vibrant and seductive nose of sweet red cherry, wild berries and floral aromas. This wine is built around great acidity, with just the subtlest hint of savory phenolics on the back end that cry out for al fresco dining. This one is a splurge Rosé.

Lest we forget New Jersey, here is my favorite home-grown New Jersey Rosé:

Four JGs Monmouth Blush, Colts Neck, NJ 

4 JG’s combines the crisp fruity flavors of Vidal Blanc with the French vinifera Cabernet Franc to create a delightful blush wine. With a medium salmon pink hue and the profile of a classic French Loire Valley dry rosé, this wine presents a beautiful balance of fruit flavors, refreshing acidity, and a clean, crisp finish. On the palate you get bright red fruits of cherry, watermelon, lime, and raspberry which continue to a crisp, dry finish of minerals, white flowers and savory herbs.This vintage of Monmouth Blush has a  label featuring Molly Pitcher…a local Monmouth County heroine. This wine is thirst quenching!

There you have it a bouquet of a dozen Rosés!

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?

Super wines for super bowls


It used to be that football and beer were synonymous. Today,  the big major games are for everyone, from hardcore football fanatics to Bowl-day bandwagon hoppers to the I’m-just-here-for-the-commercials-and-halftime crowd. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t just about touchdowns and beer ads; it’s about good food, good drink and good company —so it’s not unusual to hear football fans talking about the wines they planning to drink during the game.

Since football get togethers are often meaty with lots of spices and zesty sauces, you will want to have a few bold, fruity reds such as Malbec, Syrah or Zinfandel to balance the flavors of the food. You will also want wines with good acidity to cut through the fat of your manly beefy and meaty dishes. Of course, for the side dishes like veggies and dips, you may want a delicious white and we found a few rich whites with plenty of acitity to stand up to football.
All of the wines on this list are affordable and most are under $15.

Punta Final Malbec

Bodega Renacer Punto Final Malbec Classico 2013,  Mendoza, Argentina
All of the grapes come from Uco Valley. This full-bodied red delivers ripe cherry, plum, black currant and raspberry ganache, with sweet spice notes of black pepper and clove. It offers round intense tannins, good acid and a long medium-weight finish. Perfect with red meat, burgers, flavorful sauces and intense cheeses. Drink now.

 

 

Bogel Old Vine ZinfandelBogle California Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, Lodi and Amador County, California
A versatile wine to pair with everything; from rich and unique dishes to your favorite barbecue or weeknight takeout. This soft and lively red shows easygoing cherry, red cranberries, sassafras, pink peppercorns and caramel notes. Rustic and refined, there are hints of a hillside briar patch wafting through the wine, while spicy clove heightens at the finish from the oak aging. Drink now.

 

Charles Smith Boom Boom! SyrahCharles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah 2013, Columbia Valley Washington
A blend of  97% Syrah, 3% Viognier, this is a smooth and polished wine, featuring aromas of fresh picked herbs and wet earth. Rich black cherry, fresh currant and cooked plum character at the center, are followed by hints of tobacco and lavender —finishing with a touch of roasted fig. An explosive dark cherry bomb that pairs wonderfully with lamb dishes, rich meaty stews, chili or slow-roasted pork tenderloin. Drink now.

 

CSM-SyrahChateau Ste. Michelle Syrah 2012, Columbia Valley Washington
This Syrah is blended with a touch of Viognier, Mourvedre and Grenache for layers of flavors. Soft and supple, this jammy Syrah offers pretty raspberry and cherry flavors on a medium-weight frame. Approachabe and fruit-forward this wine has a soft and delightful finish. Excellent with beef, grilled salmon and strongly flavored cheeses. Drink now.

 

5-Guigal CdR redE. Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2011,  Rhône Valley, France
This classic wine blend of 60% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre offers top quality year in year out. Fresh cherry aromas greet you from the glass. Full, round and racy, it wine offers dark red berry fruit flavors with spice and pepper notes. Round and smooth tannins offer a lightly mulled character to the plum and currant fruit, with coffee and roasted mesquite notes on the full long finish. A full-bodied, rich and intensly aromatic with plenty of elegance and finesse due to the well balanced tannins and fruit. Drink now.

 

 

 

M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche RougeM. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche, 2013, Rhône Valley, France
This fresh and balanced blend of Grenache and Syrah gives “Belleruche” an extraordinary richness and complexity. Crafted in a light, soft and perfumy style, it offers tea, mulled spice and supple cherry notes framed by a dusty finish. Excellent with lamb, duck, pork and spicy ribs. Drink now.

 

Altovinium Evodia Old Vine Grenache 2013

 

 

Evodia Old Vine Grenache 2013, Calatayud, Spain
This 100% Garnacha offers a lovely perfume of spice box, mineral, and wild cherry. This perfectly balanced mix of flavors lends itself to an intensely fruity wine with loads of taste, a smooth texture, and a pure, fruit-filled finish. Pairs well with white and red meats roasted or grilled, big game, meat casseroles and stews, complex sauces, foie gras and legumes or blue and cured cheeses. Drink now.

 

8-Hogue-CSHogue Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, Columbia Valley, Washington
This Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and complex offering black cherry, spicy oak, cassis, sassafras, and tobacco on the nose. This medium-bodied vibrant red delivers rich black cherry and herb flavors on a sleek frame. Yet, it’s creamy and toasty on the palate, with concentrated flavors of dark cherry and cassis, soft tannins and a silky finish. Pair with roast pork tenderloin, barbecued baby back ribs, or grilled sausages. Drink now.

 

9-4vines chardFour Vines Naked Chardonnay, 2013, Central Coast, California
This is a crisp, concentrated Chardonnay with all its natural acid. Fermented in 100% stainless steel, Naked exhibits apple, white peach, and pear flavors, finishing long with hints of citrus and mineral. This medium- to full-bodied, clean and refreshing white offers a strong Sauvignon-like citrus edge, with notes of lime and lemon. Drink now.

 

 

11-Hogue-ChardHogue Chardonnay, 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington
Light and tangy, with tropical fruit aromas and a hint of lime on the finish, this wine is a blend of  96% Chardonnay, 1% Viognier, 1% Muscat Canelli, 1% Semillon and 1% Chenin Blanc. Classicly balanced, the wine offers spicy and rich aromas of nutmeg, pear, pineapple and creamy butterscotch. On the palate, the wine is complex and balanced with vanilla cream, toast and fresh, crisp apple. The Chardonnay is an excellent match for crab salad, roast chicken, pork tenderloin, or quiche.

 

11-CSM-ChardChateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay 2013, Columbia Valley Washington
This is a fresh, soft style of Chardonnay with bright apple and sweet citrus fruit character with subtle spice and oak nuances. Fresh and light, this Chardonnay deftly balances apple, citrus and spice flavors on a soft frame. A pleasurable, food-friendly Chardonnay, it pairs beautifully with salmon, scallops, crab, poultry and creamy pasta dishes. Drink now.

 

 

Hearty Winter Wines


When the temperature dips below freezing, it’s the perfect time to stay indoors and seek the warmth and comfort of our favorite winter treats. Whether it’s your special chili, the slow-cooked crockpot  beef stew, a prime rib roast or braised short ribs that fall off the bone with barely a touch, winter comfort foods aren’t wimpy!
Winter meals need wines that will stand up to them. Sauvignon Blanc with subtle lemon will fade to nothingness when served alongside spicy chili with cheese. Now is the time to think rich and powerful: luscious Cabernet Sauvignon, robust Syrah, a powerhouse Petite Sirah or a zingy Zinfandel. It makes perfect sense to pair certain wines with classic cold weather staples.

First up is Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the considered “king of reds”, and it is definitely one sought by wine collectors. It’s famous for its role in traditional Old World Bordeaux wines such as Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Margaux, as well as New World wines from California like Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family, Colgin—some of the most sought after wines in the world.

Basically, a typical Cabernet posesses dark fruit (think plum, cassis, blackberry, boysenberry) aromas and flavors. What sets this wine apart from other reds is the earthy, vegetal nuances and sweet green pepper aromas that appear in the bouquet and add to the wine’s complexity. Because Cab spends more time in oak than most wines, the oak-derived aromas are deep and integrated, including vanilla, coffee, chocolate, toast, butterscotch—making for a deep, dark, complex wine.

As far as a food pairing, the classic one is steak. Beef. Think “Cab and cow”—a good fillet mignon seared just right with the perfect Cabernet is almost unbeatable.
Cabernet Sauvignon has a reputation for being an expensive wine. Fortunately, you don’t have to mortgage the house to buy a good Cab.

Root 1: This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon made by the Viña Ventisquero winery has highly concentrated lush fruit flavors born of a hot, dry climate. It’s a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. The description on the back of the label is accurate, “rich red wine with black currant, mocha & cherry flavors”. This wine pours a dark ruby and has aromas of black cherry, plum, and mocha.  Easy-drinking   it offers flavors of cherry, blackberry, and a touch of oak.  It is full-bodied, with medium tannins and acidity. Around $10.

14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon: This one is a must try for cab lovers who value supple tannins. This Washington State wine celebrates the spirit of the wild horses (actually ponies) in the hills of the Columbia river valley. The blend is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a few other select red varieties added for good measure. Aromas of allspice, cherries and oak meld with the distinctive Washington State flavors of chocolate, mocha and cherries. to make an easily drinkable, velvety wine with a long, soft finish. This wine is a gem at around $12.

Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: This Cabernet Sauvignon explodes with dark red fruit (black cherry, plum and black current), smoke, licorice and tar aromas. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, and it’s sleek, elegant and refined. The flavors begin with soft black currant, blueberry and black cherry, balanced with a backbone of acidity with hints of red currant, red cherry and blackberry pie and end with subtle touches of earth and cedar. This is an incredible wine! Around $75.

Another great winter choice is Syrah, it’s flavorful and it has its origins in France’s Rhône Valley. This wine is unmistakable, with notes of cured meats, smoke, coffee, blueberry and iron oxide. Syrahs need flavorful food. This is a wonderful pairing for everything sheep—such as a leg of lamb, lamb stew or lamb riblets. If you’re a vegetarian, try some braised Shitake mushrooms with a little savory and thyme. If you want a traditional Rhône Valley wine, look for Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, or St. Joseph. For a more new world flavor, opt for something from California’s Central Coast or Australia (where they call it Shiraz).

McManis Family Vineyards Syrah 2011: This big rich California wine has dense, big jammy fruit aromas of raspberries, plums and sweet vanilla. Succulent blackberry and cassis flavors lead to a toasty vanilla oak midpalate with hints if clove and cinnamon. The lingering finish is fruity with hints of cocoa and licorice. It has a tight finish with modest tannins. This jammy wine pairs well with lighter fare or spicy food. A good budget wine for buyers looking for value and consistency. Around $10.

Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah 2007: This is a polished and approachable purple Syrah with layers of aromas and flavors. It is a blend of Syrah, with a bit of Viognier and Grenache. Grenache adds depth with notes of wild strawberries, while Viognier brightens the color and contributes floral notes and softens the tannins. The wine exudes aromas of plum, black cherry, blueberry, blackberry and violet nuances, all framed by white pepper with hints of stones, minerals and a touch of vanilla oak. Flavors of blackberry jam, black cherry and vanilla are unveiled as you sip this wine and those notes stay in all the way through the lengthy finish. You’ll enjoy the firm well-integrated tannins. Around $15.

Elderton Shiraz 2010: This rich full-bodied classic is from one of Australia’s great Barossa valley Shiraz producers, and it’s brimming with ripe juicy plum and chocolate flavors—think Black Forest cake. The aromas echo black forest fruits, chocolate, and vanilla. Flavors of blackberry, chocolate, and spice follow the nose. The wine is medium-bodied, lively and fresh, engagingly delicious. A very good value. Around $20.

For a chunky, earthy, spicy red wine that delivers good value, think Côtes du Rhône. Côtes du Rhône wines exhibit spicy, cherry flavors and aromas along with kirsch, and sometimes offer up earthy, funky tones. The spice flavors often include thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and cloves. These wines go great with a variety of foods, including pasta with rich sauces, pizza and a variety of meats. They range from lighter, fruitier styles, to more full-bodied, complex wines that can age for several years. There are modern and more traditional styles. The common denominator is that the wines are unpretentious, hearty and satisfying.

Guigal’s Côtes du Rhone 2009 is a large production wine that you’ll find easily, and for good reason. It has a smoky nose with cherry, a hint of thyme and other Provençal spices. The silky medium-bodied palate offers a plump cherry flavors, spice, good structure and balanced tannins.  About $12.

Paul Jaboulet Aine St. Joseph le Grand Pompee 2009: Paul Jaboulet has owned vineyards in the Rhône Valley since 1834, and Le Grand Pompee is full and fruit-forward, ripe with raspberry, blackberry, and plum complemented by a dash of cracked pepper. The nose is rich and concentrated ripe red fruits, sweet spice and licorice. This delicious red has firm rounded tannins.  About $30.

For something a little bigger and more in your mouth, go for a Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is often referred to as a rich, big, dark, and brooding wine. The tannin content is very high, given its juice to skin ratio, which means that this wine needs big food. The wine itself actually looks like ink and this dark purpleness will stain stain your teeth and anything else it splashes on. All this color portends the lusciousness in the glass: flavors of plum, dark cassis, prune, hints of coffee and dark chocolate that will make your mouth water.

Pair Petite Sirah with braised meats served in their own reduction stock, hearty beef stew or that hearty meal that’s been cooking in the crock pot all day. A handy cooking tip: this wine is perfect to use when you want to darken a sauce.

Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah 2010: This red makes a great companion to lamb, pork or game in rich sauces. The nose exhibits aromas of ripe blackberry, plum and boysenberry with a dash of cracked pepper and fresh herbs. The full palate is runs rampant with ripe blackberries and plums highlighted by spice notes, supple leather and a toasty hint of oak followed by caramel and vanilla. This jammy wine offers layer upon layer of complexity. Around $10.

Another great winter red  is Zinfandel. It’s hard to pass up all the fresh, ripe, jammy fruit in a Zin. Zinfandels can run the gamut…from fresh and fruity, low alcohol and red raspberry to ultra-ripe, jammy and sweet. For savory dishes you’ll want the lighter style Zins. The lower alcohol content pairs nicely with a large variety of food, but Italian red sauces do especially well—eggplant parmesan, meatballs, or plain old spaghetti makes a wonderful pairing. The fresh fruit just brings out the tangy acid in the tomato-based sauces.

On the other hand, the sweeter, gooey zins will pair well with cheeses and chocolate desserts…so whichever you choose, you will have a winner.

Cartlidge & Browne Zinfandel Amador 2010: This Amador County, California blend of 95% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah offers aromas of ripe black cherry, a little blueberry, licorice and brown sugar. Rich raspberry, black cherry and soft chocolate flavors linger on the palate, mingling with soft tannins and spice.  About $12.
Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel Rockpile 2010 is an intense and smokey Zinfandel that begs to be paired with lamb. Aromas of spice box and red fruit are prominent. This wine is bold and intense, briary with cherry, currant, candied apple, and raspberry flavors, followed by smoke and spice. It’s perfectly balanced and flavorful with focused acidity and an extremely long finish. Around $30.

There you have it: several strong winter wine contenders at a variety of price points. Taste them with care, scrutinize their characteristics, and decide for yourself whether they warrant special consideration this winter. Remember, the beauty of wine is that no two bottles, or palates for that matter, are identical.

You may not make perfect pairings all the time. But, with practice you will have an arsenal full of hearty winter wines for your winter hearty dishes. Enjoy!

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.

A short trip to Napa Valley


Since George Yount planted the first Napa Valley vineyards in 1838, this small valley has grown to be considered one of the premier winegrowing regions in the world.

Though just 30 miles long and a few miles wide, Napa Valley and its famous sub-appellations: Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley, Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Mt. Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Spring Mountain, Stags Leap, Yountville, Wild Horse Valley, Oak Knoll, and Calistoga has a rich wine-making history.

Napa Valley is home to diverse microclimates and soils uniquely suited to the cultivation of a variety of fine wine varietals. Vitis vinifera (wine grapes) that make good wine in other parts of the world outstanding wine in Napa Valley, and in specific locations within the Napa Valley, these very same grapes make exceptional wine.

Once within these superb locations, the discussion becomes not how good the wines are, but about the characteristics of the wines. Some locations favor certain grape varieties, and where a single grape will show distinctive aromas, flavors, color, texture, acidity and “personality”.

Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa is the best known, but this region also produces fine Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc.

You can’t talk about Napa without mentioning Robert Mondavi, a prime force behind wine education and winemaking in the Valley. He is credited with introducing Fumé Blanc, spearheading the Opus One venture and creating very good inexpensive generic table wines such as the Woodbridge label. Today, several generations later, Mondavi family members continue to carry on the family’s rich winemaking heritage. In addition to the wines Robert Mondavi founded, Michael Mondavi Family Estate is home to Oberon and several wine companies including M by Michael Mondavi, Isabel Mondavi I’M Wines, Medusa, Spellbound, Emblem and Hangtime labels.

I’M Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($17) is made at the Folio Winemakers’ Studio in Carneros, Napa Valley and bottled in a Bordeaux-shape bottle. Inspired by Michael Mondavi’s wife, Isabel Mondavi, this Chardonnay is designed to deliver a refined, well-balanced style. Not your typical Chardonnay, this light gold wine oozes elegance with just a slight hint of oak. The wine has ripe orchard fruit flavors and mineral characteristics, lending warmth and lushness. Delicious!

A third generation Mondavi, Rob Mondavi, Jr., learned wine making from his father Michael and grandfather Robert. As a child, he chased winemaker Tony Coltrin around Robert Mondavi Winery. Today, Rob and Tony   their present-day partnership has created the wines of Oberon.

Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2008 ($22) is a deep-colored blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Syrah, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petite Verdot. There is a concentration of flavors: lush black fruits, dark berry and cassis with notes of vanilla and toffee from spending eighteen months in French Oak barrels. The wine’s rich cherry, dark berry and cassis flavors and provide a beautifully rounded mouth feel that pairs beautifully with steak, lamb and duck dishes, and flavorful cheeses.

Oberon Cabernet’s “Big Brother” Oberon Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2007, is another delicious blend (99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Merlot) from Rutherford, Oakville, Atlas Peak and Pope Valley appellations, but be prepared to spend a bit more for this opulent and delicious wine as it commands a  $79 price tag.

Also in Napa Valley is Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, considered one of Napa Valley’s first-growths. The historic Stag Leap District estate vineyards are renowned for producing the most highly regarded and sought after Cabernet Sauvignons worldwide. Founded by the Warren Winiarski family in 1972, this winery brought international recognition to California winemaking and Napa Valley when the 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won the “Judgment of Paris.” in 1976.

Karia 2008 , Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley ($28) is a graceful seamless integration of fresh-fruit aromas and flavors, crisp acidity and subtle oak spice.  Bright, juicy apple and pear, minerality and citrus notes run rampant. A light touch of oak and malolactic fermentation accent the fruit without overwhelming it. Aromas of mineral, apple, pear and spice lead to complex, layered flavors of spiced golden apple, Meyer lemon and candied ginger, with just a hint of hazelnut and caramel. This medium-bodied wine sports balanced ripe fruit, understated spice, mouth-filling texture and refreshing acidity. Karia pairs perfectly with a wide range of dishes: crab and corn chowder, roast chicken or salmon.

The wine that made Napa famous, S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 ($100) remains true to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars house style of complex and balanced wines capable of long-term cellaring. In 1976, Stag’s Leap Vineyard (S.L.V.) Cabernet Sauvignon, 1973 burst upon the scene and stunned the world when it bested top-flight Bordeaux and California Cabernet-based wines in the “Judgment of Paris” blind tasting.

It’s easy to see why the 2007 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was rated 91 Points by Wine Advocate (December 2010), it has dark blackberry/black plum aromas and flavors, as well as notes of cassis, bramble, Chinese five-spice, caramel and vanilla. There is an elegant mineral quality on the nose and lingering finish. The tannins are like raw silk: slightly nubby, yet still smooth. Serve S.L.V. with filet mignon or, for non-carnivores, an earthy wild-mushroom risotto.

Also at the now-famous Paris Tasting was Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, 1973. It too, beat the best of France by coming in first. Shortly after that win, in 1977, wine maker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family founded Grgich Hills Estate in the heart of Napa Valley.  Today, Grgich Hills is biodynamic using holistic farming practices and organic preparations without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. One example of their fine wine is Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2008 Estate Grown, Napa Valley ($37). This elegant Chardonnay is alive with delicious acidity, aromas of ripe peach, mango and tropical flowers, plus a note of minerality. This aromatic Chardonnay did not undergo malolactic fermentation and it showcases fresh seafood, roasted chicken, grilled pork, or creamy cheeses very well.

The next winery of note is Conn Creek. Founded in 1973, Conn Creek quickly established itself as one of Napa Valley’s premier Cabernet houses with the release of its 1974 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Named for the winery’s location next to Conn Creek near the Rutherford Crossroad, Conn Creek has earned top scores by crafting a portfolio of limited production Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons — including Anthology, blended from the best appellation grapes of each vintage.

A good value is the Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007 ($20). This 100% based Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of fruit from nine of the 15 Napa Valley sub-AVAs. It offers a complex mélange of aromas and flavors beginning with rich, dark fruit and subtle hints of chocolate and toasted oak. Dark, luscious cherry and plum flavors come alive on the palate and meld with notes of spice, chocolate and licorice leading to a rich finish. Pair it with hearty beef  dishes or ripe cheeses.

A relative “newcomer”, Hall Wines Napa Valley is a premiere winery with estate vineyards that encompass more than five hundred acres of classic Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Owned by former U.S. Ambassador Kathryn Hall and her husband Craig, Hall employs organic small-vine viticulture, precision winemaking, native yeast fermentation and micro-block blending. Although they make elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s worth taking a look at some of their other wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

The richly layered and textured Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 ($18) was rated 91 Points by Wine & Spirits Magazine, (June 2010). It’s a fresh and focused Sauvignon Blanc balanced with ripe fruit  and bright acidity. The backbone of this fruit-forward blend delivers vibrant citrus flavors of pink grapefruit, Meyer lemon, minerality, tropical aromatics and opulence—all complemented by a lush cascade of guava and lychee on the palate carrying through to a crisp finish.

Hall Napa Valley Merlot, 2006 ($25) is a rich, intensely concentrated wine  from two premier estate vineyards. Rated 93 Points by Wine News, (November 2009), this wine has great structure, backbone and elegant mid-palate. There’s an alluring nose of bing cherry, violets, cocoa and baking spice that seamlessly leads to generous red fruit and a velvety texture. The expressive flavors of dark cherry, toasted oak and blackberry jam will continue to evolve for the next 5-7 years.

With more than 400 wineries, mostly small family-owned operations, and numerous more brands. You’re sure to find something delicious that suits your fancy.

Wine Tasting with Polaner Selections and the Wine Concierge


Micheal Hoffmann of Polaner Selections and The Wine Concierge of Allenhurst hosted a spectacular wine tasting in  a gorgeous private home in West Long Branch.

The tasting of the selections began promptly at 7pm  with a sparkly little number from Italy: Sorelle Bronca Prosecco. It’s interesting to note that this prosecco is made primarily of the prosecco grape with a smattering of the indigenous varieties Perera, Verdiso, and Bianchetta and all of the the grapes are certified organic. The wine is classified as a Prosecco Colli Conegliano DOCG, the region having recently achieved DOCG status as of April 2010. This wine deliciously captures all of the original aromatics and fruit flavors of the grapes, and features sweet pear, nectarine and white blossoms in perfect condition.

The Bronca family team works hard in the vineyard and in the cellar to produce this purest and outstanding Prosecco Extra Dry, and they have succeeded. It is a truly stunning example of Italy’s favorite sparkler—perfect as an aperitif, with delicate dishes and fish, and for celebrating any special occasion.

This was immediately followed by a very full racy mouthful: Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2009. Located in the heart of the Muscadet appellation, fourteen kilometers southeast of Nantes in the Loire Valley, the Domaine du Haut Bourg was built by four generations of winegrowers. The “Côtes de Grandlieu” AOC is formed by nineteen townships that surround the Lac de Grandlieu. Made from from sustainably farmed 45-year-old  Melon de Bourgogne vines, this is classic Muscadet—bracing, salty, racy, and vibrant with delicious mature fruit flavors.

The third wine hailed from the slopes of Mount Etna  in North-eastern Sicily. This white was simply called Calabretta Carricante. This is considered to be a rare white wine made from old vine Carricante, interplanted with Minella Bianca for acidity. The winemaker, Massimiliano Calabretta, is also a part-time college professor at the University of Genova, and he makes only about 2,000 bottles of this a year.  This intriguing white is redolent with melony fruit and hints of straw and almonds. This medium-bodied white has a beautiful texture, lovely acidity and a lingering memory on the palate. It is a perfect wine to pair with nearly any sort of warm-weather foods or to serve as an aperitif. It was truly a unique wine.

The Calabretta Carricante was followed by a wine from one of Italy’s top “superstar” winemakers—Elisabetta Foradori’s Myrto I.G.T. Vigneti delle Dolomiti Bianco. Myrto is made from a blend of sixty percent Sauvignon Blanc and forty percent of a little-known grape, Incrocio Manzoni. It is a classy, medium-bodied and zesty dry white wine that perfectly captures the bounce and classic soil expression of the best white wines of the Trentino-Alto Adige. Myrto comes from the biodynamically farmed Foradori vineyards that lie in the side valley of Campo Rotaliano. Needless to say,  Myrto is a beautifully made delicate expression of elegance that offers up outstanding value.

The next wine was a Vouvray. Chenin Blanc has been identified with Vouvray for at least 11 centuries, and many of its great vineyards were known by the 14th century for producing some of the world’s most compelling white wines. By those standards, the 80-year-old Huët estate is relatively young. Yet, Domaine Huët Vouvray Le Mont 2009 , the fifth offering of this tasting has been the standard-bearer for great, ageworthy Chenin Blanc since its founding in 1928. Domaine Huët’s founder, Victor Huët, purchased the first of his great vineyards on Vouvray’s “Première Côte”in 1928. In 1957, the estate purchased the prime Première Côte vineyards: Le Mont. Le Mont Vouvray shows a fascinating level of transparency, purity, and knife-edged balance. Presently, this young wine is full of intense minerality. With age, this wine will develop great length and finesse. This is an epic vintage, it was exciting to taste this latest offering from one of the earliest adopters of biodynamic practices in the Loire Valley.

From the Loire, the tastebuds travelled to Livermore, California’s Kalin Cellars. Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvée W Livermore Valley 1994. Yes, 1994. One taste, and even the most anti-Chardonny drinker will discover a unique California wine experience. Located in Marin County, the goal of winemaker Terry Leighton is to “produce wines of enduring value with traditional European style and character.” Terry is also professor emeritus of microbiology at UC Berkeley and understands the science of winemaking. The grapes were sourced from the Wente Estate Vineyard located near Livermore. Kalin Cellars makes this an artisanal wine of substantial depth, complexity and style. The aromas are reminiscent of lime blossoms and freshly toasted bread. The flavors are rich, powerful, but counterbalanced by an extraordinary, racy mineral acid fruit structure. This singular 100% Charonnay is a wine to match with food.

After these six Beautiful whites it was time to think about sampling the magnificent reds that were featured this evening. What better way to ease the transition than with a glass of Bedrock Wine Co.’s Bedrock Rosé? Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop and their 2009 ‘Ode to Lulu’ Rose Sonoma Valley is a fabulous rosé. For all the point counters, last year’s vintage of “Lulu” received the highest score for rosé ever given. It received  90 points from both the Wine Spectator and Steven Tanzer. This rosé is made from Mourvedre and the vines are 120 year-old vines.  The Mourvedre has bright aromatics of red currents, cherry, and hints of white pepper, bordered with the added complexity of the  funky mustiness of the Mourvedre grape. The palate is clean and vibrant with dusty minerality leading to a lengthy finish. This wine paired beautifully with the offerings of cured meats, cheese, great bread, fresh tomatoes, and basil.
The first red of the evening was Evodia 2008 from Altovinum. Altovinum is a new project—a joint partnership between Eric Solomon, Jean Marc Lafage and Yolanda Diaz. The wine is 100% old vine Garnacha from the D.O. Calatayud’s  village of Atea. This wine is fresh with pure strawberry and raspberry deepened by notes of licorice, black tea and pungent herbs on the nose. Supple in texture, this young garnacha is velvety, offering sweet red fruit flavors, hints of spicy pepper and a nice smokieness that only adds to the complexity. The wine is incredibly smooth with nicely persistent, red berry-dominated finish. It was extremely easy to drink paired beautifully with the cheeses and meats that were offered.

The second red was from Mendoza Argentina: La Posta Bonarda. Bonarda is a grape that has taken off in Argentina,  and this 100% example is one of unusually high quality. This winery has been growing grapes in Mendoza since 1887, and the present Bonarda vineyard was planted  in 1963. This Bonarda sports bright aromas of fresh red & black raspberries and subtle smoky oak notes. The flavors are of freshly-crushed raspberries, white pepper, dark chocolate, a touch sandalwood and mint. Though quite rich and hedonistic, the seamless structure of this wine makes it a candidate for drinking inow or over the next few years. It will pair well with just about any food with which you would drink a fruit-driven red or  a Zinfandel.

The first Pinot Nor to be sampled came from Sonoma, 2008 Mary Elke Pinot Noir. The 2008 Mary Elke Pinot Noir is 100% Donnelly Creek vineyard fruit that reflects the cool climate and soils of the Anderson Valley. Elke Vineyards practices organic farming as much as possible, yet they describe their vineyard practices more accurately as “sustainable,” allowing them to use very limited chemical inputs to the vineyard and do canopy management practices that help to reduce spray applications. The Pinot exudes rich, ripe, red fruit flavors combined with a slight spice element and a slight mid-palate tannin to produce a “bigger” style Pinot Noir. This is an an elegant wine characterized by ripedark chrry fruit, a spicy backbone, and velvety texture which will continue to develop with bottle aging. Elke is a limited production Pinot Noir with 1,200 cases.

L’Angevin Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 is a  Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. This Pinot has a traditional and refined feminine character of fresh black cherry, bergamot, mint, and tea leaves. There is an intense layered bouquet of strawberry, raspberry, orange blossom with notes of vanilla and spice. On the palate, there is a beautiful acidity, silky tannins and red fruit flavors that makes for a well balanced medium-bodied wine with a moderate finish and smooth texture. Simply put, the wine is delicately smooth and is full of beautiful cherry fruit from start to finish. This  Pinot paired with the pasta, rice, cheese and meat platters offered.

The next red was the latest signature blend from winemaker extraordinaire Karen Culler, Culler Wines La Palette 2005. When Karen Culler started producing her own wines in 1997, she wanted to make wines that she liked to drink—just in case they weren’t a hit with the public. This Cabernet is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot, all from Alexander Ranch fruit. The wine is big, dense, and jammy, with gobs of black currants violet, and spice flavors of licorice and bay leaf. The nose is aromatic with roasted herbs, black currants, leather, minerals and toasty oak. The fruit-driven flavors  and ripely tannic structure define this  medium-bodied red,  culminating in an elegant finish. Delicious!

The cab was followed by a 100% California Zinfandel: Outpost Zinfandel Howell Mountain 2006. Outpost creates world-class 100 percent varietals from their hand-cultivated, organically farmed 42-acre estate vineyard, and this Zin shows why Howell Mountain Zinfandel attracts such a devoted following. The old vines add aromatics and acid backbone while the younger vines provide mid-palate weight and rich elegance. There is a  fragrant floral nose, hints of rich ripe  black raspberry, black currant, and a spice-scented bouquet. Full-bodied, with espresso, mocha and chocolate, a good texture, a layered mouthfeel, and a long finish, it went very well with the chocolate dessert and oatmeal cookies.

The flagship Barbera from the Trinchero estate: Barbera d’Asti “Vigna del Noce”, was to be the last wine tasted for the evening. The vines for this Barbera were planted in the hills of Asti in 1929. This vintage was the 1999. Trinchero makes one of the longest-lived and most profound examples of Barbera to be found in all of Italy, and this wine lived up to the reputation with impressive complexity and the depth. Aromas of ripe dark cherry, figs, truffle, mushroom, prune, leather, stony minerality, and hints of smoke wafted up from the glass. The palate was earthy, juicy, with layers of cherry, truffle and fig with more smokey, earthy tones intermingled with spice accents that seem to expand in mid-palate. The long finish is dark, earthy, with dry tannins and  minerals. This wine is the perfect wine to end an enjoyable evening.
All of these wines can be found at the Wine Concierge in Allenhurst and at Gerard’s Liquors in Point Pleasant.

On pairing wines with steak


For years diners have been stifled by over-generalized, over simplified rules of food and wine pairing: “Drink white with white meat. Drink red with red meat.”

But is knowing that basic rule enough? How does one know which wine to select? The short answer is: the one that you will enjoy the most. But what if you don’t know what you’ll enjoy the most with your meal? Should you pick red? Or white?

First, red wine is a natural accompaniment to grilled meat. The secret is knowing which wines to drink with which dishes. Take a grilled steak, the hearty flavor of steak is always enhanced by the right wine.

Many reds taste better paired with beef­—or lamb—than they would if consumed without food (Chee-tos don’t count as a food group for this article. Note: Champagne works well with Chee-Tos).

Yalumba cabernetA simply-grilled steak pairs beautifully with a full-bodied red wine. A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with black currant, coffee and dark chocolate notes and a long finish would balance nicely with  steak. The tannins in the wine combines with the protein in the meat to create a lush, flavorful taste, and the steak’s proteins soften the Cabernet’s tannins. Summers Adrianna’s Cuvee from Napa Valley, Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from South Australia, Los Vascos Colchaugua Valley, Cabernet  or Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Chile are all affordable good choices.

Not in the mood for Cabernet? A California Merlot or a Hermitage like Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2006 from France’s Rhône Valley are also good choices.

2005 Twomey MerlotAlthough Cabernet Sauvignon will pair well with one of the most delicious steaks available— Ribeye or a Delmonico Steak, a Merlot would be better suited. A favorite is Twomey Merlot 2005 — a voluptuous, robust and balanced concentration of black cherry, blackberry essence, wild game and freshly ground black pepper. This is a full-bodied and velvety wine, with fine-grained tannins and an extremely long finish. This Merlot will continue to give drinking pleasure through 2018, and it  will delight you and your dining companion(s) today. This is a BIG, rich flavorful wine and it will leave you wanting more.

Bogle Vineyard’s Zinfandel blend.
Phantom by Bogle

If you want to add a little spice to your ribeye, cajun ribeye, or New York Strip Steak, a spicy Zinfandel with its blueberry and blackberry flavors is a match  made in heaven for this gorgeous marbling and mouth-watering aroma of beef at its best. Try The Phantom, Bogle Vineyard’s Zinfandel blend. This succulent full-bodied blend combines lush blackberries and blueberries with the fierce spice essences of black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.

A full-bodied, peppery California Zinfandel is always the first choice to accompany a spicy steak, such as a “steak au poivre”. Steaks that are highly spiced or one marinated in a spicy brine, are best paired with a spicy wine. If you would rather not have a Zin, a fruit-forward Merlot, with plum, blackberry, and clove is another alternative. The fruit flavors, when blended with the spicy steak, will appear sweeter and temper the pepper.

Chardonnay lovers, take note…“steak au poivre” is the steak to pair with a lightly-oaked, ripe, crisp Chardonnay. The Chardonnay should be rich with apple, pear, and citrus flavors.  Try  Alph Omega  Napa Valley Chardonnay 2006 with its fresh entrance evolving on marzipan, Meyer lemon, apples, yellow raspberry and pear, with a strong minerality and lingering crisp acidity. This 94 point* rated wine will surprise you—especially the fact that it is long-lived, it will continue to drink well through 2015.

The classic porterhouse is a cut that offers two unique steak flavors in one. The rich taste of the meaty sirloin strip and the tender, buttery-soft filet mignon. The larger filet mignon portion, is sure to satisfy your beef-lover’s appetite, and it just calls out for a medium-bodied Pinot Noir. The rich silkiness of the wine enhances the filet’s soft texture. Pinot’s flavors of red cherry, strawberry and smoky, earth tones shine in Castle Rock Mendocino, California Pinot Noir.  For a French twist, Joseph Drouhin Vero Pinot Noir 2006 is not only a delicious Burgundy, it’s affordable.

Prime rib becomes more of an occasion when paired with a Syrah/Shiraz. If you want a fruity Shiraz, look to Australia’s Peter Lehmann’s Barossa Shiraz. The nose is typical of Barossa Shiraz, with scents of dark plums and chocolate. There are also notes of  sweet cedar and a hint of black pepper. The palate has a good depth of dark berry flavors with a touch of savory fruits and a good tannin structure in harmonious balance to the fruit. This wine does very well with both steak and lamb.

Guigal Crozes HermitageIf you want a more elegant and refined syrah look to France’s Rhône Valley. The Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2006 mentioned earlier is a structured, tannic wine. This well-made, medium-bodied 2006 is a classic example of the appellation at a high level of quality. This  Crozes-Hermitage is richer, and more textured, offering peppery, tapenade, and cassis scents with an undercurrent of minerals. The spicy, fine red berry and cherry flavors mingle with refined tannins thus lending support and a focused peppery quality. All of this leds to  a strong finishing snap.

Somewhere between the two, is California’s Pedroncelli Alexander Valley Syrah . Pedroncelli’s Syrah has rich aromas of ripe berry and black pepper spice with concentrated flavors of blackberry, plum and licorice. This Syrah has well-balanced tannins providing structure. Expect this delicious wine to take on complexities for the next 5-7 years.

Italy’s Rocca della Macie offers an elegant, an innovative blend of Sangiovese and Syrah called Sasyr. This wine is velvety smooth, supple and vibrant, with fruity aromas cherry, blackberry and raspberry. It is intense and complex and as the winemaker likes to say “it will introduce you to an array of flavors beyond your wildest dreams.” Needless to say, Sasyr is both easy drinking and quite elegant with steak.

For something different, a Petite Sirah, is a good choice. No, it’s not a smaller version of Shiraz/Syrah, it’s a hybrid, making it a different grape. Durif is a cross of Peloursin and  Syrah. This grape makes a dark colored, tannic wine with blackberry, plum fruit and mushroom flavors—perfect for pairing with prime rib, a T-bone,  or a  sirloin steak. Try David Bruce Central Coast Petite Sirah 2006. This Sirah exudes bright, spice-tinged, jammy fruit, earthy mushrooms, and dense blackberry, blueberry and white pepper aromas. The wine offers a supple and balanced feel full of red and blueberry fruit with hints of cassis and firm tannins.

Altovinum’s Evodia Old Vines Garnacha 2008 will add some peppery goodness to any steak. Evodia is the Greek word for “aroma” and this red has very fresh, straightforward scents of raspberry and blackberry, plus cracked pepper. Juicy and tannin-free, with spicy berry and pepper flavors and a gentle mineral lift. Easy to drink and a superb value, with a good finishing bite— you won’t need to reach for the pepper mill when you pair grilled meat with this one!

Okay, your steak is slathered in barbecue sauce, what do you drink? Chianti. Chianti is the traditional wine to accompany red tomato-based sauces. That’s why Chianti is the preferred wine for pizza or to drink with spaghetti and meatballs. The high acid content in Chianti balances well with the high acid content in red sauces, such as barbecue sauce. Marchesi de Frescobaldi’s Nippozzano Riserva Chianti Ruffina proves itself year after year. This classic Chianti is from the sub-region of Rufina in Tuscany. The smooth, supple wine is full of red fruits, violets, cinnamon spice, fine tannins, and gentle cedar complexities that lead to a beautifully fine tannins a clean finish. Chianti is the traditional wine to accompany red tomato-based sauces.

Serve a red Bordeaux with grilled lamb steak. A smooth, subtle Red Bordeaux, such as Chateau du Taillan Cru Bourgeois Superieur Haut-Medoc 2005 is an ideal companion to grilled lamb. A Spanish Rioja such as El Coto Rioja Crianza also pairs well with grilled meat.

Many classic examples exist of food and wine pairings that are tried and true: grilled steak and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or grilled lamb and red Rioja. These are reliable, low-risk ventures that will likely result in an enjoyable overall dining experience. Just remember to open these wine 20 minutes prior to mealtime to allow for the flavors in the wine to fully develop.

*Wine Spectator rating

Red White and “The Grill”


Conventional wine wisdom often highlights young, fresh white wines with plenty of crisp acidity for summertime, but reds can make their mark for summer. They work best especially around the grill with red meat.

If you are having a backyard barbecue, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing wines with your grilled classics, but there are guidelines to help you get the perfect pairing. Just remember,  pairing wine with grilled foods is a forgiving task.

Generally, red wines go well with grilled red meats – basic burgers, steaks, ribs and more. These meats are often somewhat salty, a bit smokey and, when grilled with marinades, sauces, or added condiments, and tend toward being a touch sweeter or spicier.  Most grilled dishes are relatively simple; there’s a main ingredient (usually a protein of some kind), plus seasonings in the form of marinades, rubs and sauces.

To choose a wine to pair with something off the grill, consider two things: First, how hearty is the food, and second, what’s the dominant flavor?
For lighter foods—white-fleshed fish, vegetables, chicken breasts—pick a lighter wine. For heartier foods—sausages, burgers, steaks—choose a more robust wine. (You can find light-, medium-, and full-bodied wines in both red and white.)

Now we tackle flavors. The dominant flavor is a key thing to consider when selecting a wine.  If your meat dish contains a heavy-duty dose of sauce — barbecue, teriyaki, brown sugar, or your own secret recipe— give it wine pairing priority over your meat.

For steaks and butterflied legs of lamb—even if they’re marinated beforehand—the dominant flavor will almost always be the meat itself. If any of these are the mainstay on the plate,  spicy wine lovers should opt for a solid Zinfandel or Shiraz. For those who prefer their wine more fruit forward, a more mellow Merlot will fill the bill. If  your standard palate preference is a Cabernet Sauvignon with a firm backbone, go for it, will also give the meat a hand-up.

If you find chicken, fish, or pork chops on your plate and you really, really have your heart set on a red wine, then a Pinot Noir with its smoky background or a fruit-forward Merlot would be a safe bet. Don’t forget if the chicken is slathered in barbecue sauce or the shrimp is covered with a fiery garlic-habanero vinaigrette, the sauce or seasoning is by far the main flavor of the dish and the wine should compliment those flavors.

Okay those are the guidelines, but how do you decide which varietal is best for your grilling expertise?

America’s favorite red, Zinfandel, is able to handle a wide variety of red meats. This bold red wine bellies up to meaty, smokey flavors. Zinfandel’s black pepper spice, acidity and ripe tannins can often carry your meat’s fats and texture to a new dimension. A Zin works well with barbeque sauce, steak sauce and mild salsas. One thing to remember if there is too much spice in the sauce the wine and sauce will compete and both will end up as losers.

With the characteristic fruit-forward flavor profile, Merlot will support the spice and not aggravate it. Yes, Merlot is the spicy sauce answer to the above dilemma. Grilled pork chops, chicken and garden-variety salads with lighter dressings also mingle well with Merlot.

Number three on the grill-friendly wine list, Syrah or Shiraz is delicious with just about any red meat. Offering dynamic, somewhat aggressive fruit flavors, balanced with more mellow tannins and a softer-fuller body – this wine’s place to shine is definitely at a barbecue gathering! Consider a bold, Australian Shiraz with a plate full of nachos or buffalo wings. Rhône Valley Syrahs tend to have a smokier flavor characteristic and lend themselves extremely well to smoked meats.

Cabernet lovers, you know Cabernet Sauvignon is made for steaks with a higher fat content and beef or turkey burgers. The tighter tannins of this fourth choice are significantly mellowed by the meat’s fat, producing a palate pleaser to remember! Top your burgers with bold cheeses, such as Humboldt Fog or a sharp Vermont cheddar and this varietal gets even better!

Number five is a flexible varietal that is known for being extremely food-friendly: Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir can go from grilled fish to a juicy burger in a single sip. An ideal candidate for grilled fish – especially salmon, burgers and chicken both show their best   in the presence of a good Pinot Noir. If you aren’t sure what wine will work with your grilled dinner, Pinot Noir will probably be your best choice.

The lighter meats and sauces are more apt to flow better with white wines that share similar flavors as the foods they are meant to accent. Chardonnay or Spanish Albariño will perk up chicken, shellfish, and grilled fish. Chardonnay also works wonderfully with creamy sauces, and grilled corn on the cob with lots of butter!

My favorite Sauvignon Blanc has a herbaceous quality that supports marinades and sauces with similar attributes. For example, grilled chicken that has been doused in Italian dressing or a citrus marinade will be unbeatable with a Sauvignon Blanc. Roasted peppers, veggies in fresh herbs, grilled fish with dill and lemon and an array of appetizers will all be highlighted in tandem with a Sauvignon Blanc.

The perfect varietal for grilled bratwursts, shrimp, barbecue chicken, grilled pineapple and a variety of grilled veggies is none other than Riesling. Bone-dry, Kabinett, Auslese, or Spätlese, all offer the beautiful flavors of ripe fresh fruit,  to balance these dishes. It’s hard to beat an off-dry Riesling (the higher residual sugar does it’s part to tame the heat)

If you’re not sure about Riesling then Gewürtztraminer often offers a balance to spice with its slightly to moderately sweet character. This varietal would is a great choice to go with blackened Mahi Mahi, or grilled Cajun chicken with fresh mango salsa.

Don’t forget your sparklers! Champagne from France, Cava from Spain, Franciacorta from Italy and all manners of sparkling wines from across the globe are great in the summer for their natural acidity and refreshing bubbles. Not just for celebrations, sparkling wines are excellent additions to the dinner table and work well with many types of seafood. Believe it or not, sparkling wine  is amazing with salty, greasy potato chips! Try a sparkling Cava for chips and salsa. A light sparkling wine will also handle cheesy nachos well, especially if there is a bit of spice to them.

Wine may be the most versatile food partner there is, so whatever you decide to pair with your favorite grill, make certain that your wine serving temperatures are on target. Summer heat can turn a good red wine into an overly warm alcohol bomb, and whites stranded on ice until poured and then stuck back in the ice bin, can find their aromatics and fresh flavors muted by the frigid temperature.

Ultimately, it is your palate that your seeking to please by the wine pairing so happy grilling and see you around the barby!

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!