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Archive for the ‘The Wine Gospel’ Category

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For great information including wine reviews, pairing tips and other topics on the wonderful world of wine, go to my blog TheWineGospel.

The Wine Gospel is all about bringing you the gospel on wine, aka sharing my knowledge of wine with you.  To follow, click the link above.  The Wine Gospel posts several times a month.

 

 

 

Bordeaux – Wine & Much More

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Bordeaux is More than Wine

Bordeaux-More-DessertMost people know Bordeaux as the esteemed wine region in France. However, many do not realize that Bordeaux city has nearly 4,500 acres declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Historic monuments such as the Pey-Berland Tower and Saint-André Cathedral reflect Neo-classic and Renaissance architecture. Only Paris has more historic monuments. With 18th-century buildings and a lively museum and art culture, Bordeaux is a city with more than a strong wine heritage. No wonder Bordeaux is called “City of Art & History“.

 

To learn more about the art and cultural aspects of Bordeaux, along with the food and wine scene, read the full article at The Wine Gospel.

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The Wines of Languedoc-Roussillon

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Largest Wine Region

Vastness of Languedoc-Roussillon REgion

Vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon Region

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine-growing region is the largest in the world. This vast region west of the Rhône River covers more than 2.4 million acres. Previously considered a cheap wine region, it now holds Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status.  There are 30 sub-appellations that call Languedoc-Roussillon home.

 

 

The most prominent are:

  • Languedoc
  • Muscat
  • Blanquette de Limoux
  • Côtes du Roussillon
  • Corbières
  • Minervois
  • Saint Chinian
  • Faugères

 

First in France

Many people will be surprised to learn that Languedoc was the first wine-growing region of France. Did you know that wine has been produced there for the last 27 centuries? That’s a hell-of-a-long time! It boasts a Mediterranean climate, allowing for a long-growing season. The varied soils range from limestone, granite, rock and schist. This results in a wide range of styles and a diverse mix of grape varieties. Red, white, rosé, sparkling and fortified wines are produced throughout.

Steak with Mushrooms and Risotto

Steak with Mushrooms and Risotto

The red wines make great food companions. You can joy them with barbeque, Asian-inspired dishes like beef and broccoli and stews, as well as vegetarian foods like sauteed or grilled mushrooms.

Bordering the Mediterranean Sea, seafood such as anchovies, grilled fish and octopus make natural accompaniments. Also, due to proximity with northern Spain, the Roussillon region is home to many Catalan people, which greatly influences the cuisine.

Great Pairing with a Crab Cake

Great Pairing with a Crab Cake

In recent years, there has been an influx of outside investment to the area, including Brad Pitt. Also, recent technological improvements have helped elevate the quality of wines. Below are some of the better producing regions, along with perfect food and wine pairing ideas:

 

 

 

White Wines
  1. AOC Languedoc-Picpoul de Pinet
  2. AOP Clariette du Languedoc
  3. IGP Pays d’Oc Chardonnay  ( IGP- Identication Géographique Protégée)

Pairings: Various seafood, fresh goat cheese

Red Wines
  1. AOP Côtes du Roussillon
  2. AOP Corbières
  3. IGP Pays d’Oc Syrah

Pairings: Cassoulet of beans and sausage, BBQ

Rosés
  1. AOP Languedoc-Pic St. Loup
  2. IGP Pays c-Oc

Pairings: Spanish tapas, North African and Asian-influenced dishes

Sparkling Wines
  1. AOC Blanquette de Limoux
  2. AOC Crémant de Limoux

Pairings: Cheese courses, soups, dishes using creamy sauces, salads

Puff Pastry with Ice Cream & Chocolate

Puff Pastry with Ice Cream & Chocolate

Fortified Sweet Wines (Vins Doux Naturals)
  1.  AOC Banyuls  & Banyuls Grand Cru
  2. AOC Maury

Pairings: Desserts, cheeses

 

 

 

 

 

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The Super Bordeaux Rebels

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Bordeaux Rebels

Bordeaux, Hme of Cabernet Sauvignon

Bordeaux, Home of Cabernet Sauvignon and Super Bordeaux?

French wine laws are so strict that certain grape varieties are allowed to be grown in specific regions only. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley but it’s not allowed in other wine growing regions. In Bordeaux, only six red grape varieties and three white ones  can be planted. The region’s famous blends contain only these combinations. This has been the case since 1935. But the times, they are a changin’, possibly.

There is a small trend among Bordeaux wine makers to mix things up a bit. Some “rebel” winemakers have started adding a bit of Syrah, the prominent grape of northern Rhone to their blends. Say it aint’ so?! The bold act has some referring to this new blend creation as a Super Bordeaux, reminiscent of a trend started in the early 1970s by Italian winemakers.

 

The Rise of the Super Tuscan

Italy also had rigid rules governing which wines could be blended in certain regions. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) rule-making authorities prohibited the use of non-native or international varieties. Tired of the restrictions, as well as the resulting “lesser quality wine” that was often produced, a few bold winemakers starting breaking rank. They began adding non-Italian grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other international varieties to their Sangiovese. Of course, there was outrage.

 

Italian DOC Relaxes Rules

Super Tuscans Influencing Super Bordeaux Producers

Since these agitator winemakers were forbidden from labeling their new-style blends as Sangiovese due to the DOC rules, they had to create another name. The settled on Super Tuscan, which was a nod to the region but not the grape. However, these renegade winemakers got the last laugh. The wines became huge successes, scoring high marks with wine critics and accolades among the experts. As a result, the wines commanded lofty prices on the international markets.

In the end, the DOC relaxed and revised some the rules. Today, the use of international grape varieties is common practice in Italy.

 

The Rise of the Super Bordeaux

Will the rise of the Super Bordeaux become the latest trend out of Europe? Undeterred by longstanding blending rules, some Bordeaux producers are branching out by adding Syrah. According to Roger Morris of Palate Press, two top Bordeaux chateaux have already ventured where no Bordelais has dared to go. But will others follow?

 

Rhone producers stand to benefit if this truly becomes a trend. How amazing would it be to have a blend from some of the great Syrahs vineyards of northern Rhone? Cab Sauvingnon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah in one bottle? Sounds like my kind of party.

 

Personally, I’m all for it if it leads to even greater tasting, more structured and longer-lived wines. Do you welcome a change in the ancient blends of Bordeaux or do you think it’s a quickly passing phase? Your comments are welcome.

 

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California Chardonnay

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San Pasqual Winery

2012 Chardonnay South Coast (California)
California Chardonnay

San Pasqual, an Urban Winery

 

The San Pasqual Winery follows the newer trend among California Chardonnay producers to stop clobbering drinkers’ taste buds with oak, allowing more of the fruit to shine through. As a result, you get flavors of pear, golden apple and a hint of butterscotch. This method also imparts far less butter and oak, which is absolutely fine with me. It had a crisp lemon finish.

 

I also got a chance to try the 2014, which hasn’t been released. It is an equally beautiful expression of fruit forwardness.

 

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Peregrine Pinot Noir

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New Zealand Pinot Noir

2011 Peregrine Pinot Noir Central Otago

Great atmosphere at Peregrine Winery Tasting Room

Great atmosphere at Peregrine Winery Tasting Room

I first tasted this Pinot back in 2009 on a trip to the South Island of super-scenic New Zealand. It was a memorable experience for three reasons.

The winery is uniquely gorgeous.  It is set against a backdrop of mountains and looks like the wing of an eagle as it soars high above, catching air currents. Secondly, the tasting room and cellar are as beautiful as the structure, which won awards for its contemporary design. Lastly, the wine was smooth, delicious and exactly what I had hoped for in a New Zealand Pinot Noir.

 

Flavor Profile

This Pinot Noir has a great floral nose that is followed with flavors of black cherry, thyme, dried flowers, wild raspberries and cranberries.  It’s a medium-boded wine with an intermediate finish. The wine comes in at 13.5% ABV. Aging occurs in French oak for 10 months, then is laid down for another three to five years.

 

 The Winery

Peregrine selects grapes from the Central Otago sub-regions Bendigo (47%), Pisa (36% ) and Gibbston (17%). All fruit is 100% hand harvested.

 

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Valentine’s Day Champagne Choices

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Special Day with a Special Person

Valentine's-Day-2015Most people either love or hate Valentine’s Day. The lovers say, “Qui, qui. Bring It On!” while the haters say, “It’s nothing but a retailer’s scheme to have you part with your hard-earned money.”  Love or hate, it is a perfect excuse (if you need one) to savor a wonderful bottle of champagne with someone special to you.

Most Americans only drink champagne on four occasions-Christmas, New Year’s Eve, weddings and Valentine’s Day. So, if you’re in this crowd it’s time for a toast. It doesn’t matter if you sip a glass with your significant other or with a close friend.  Nothing says, “Special” like a bottle of bubbly.

So if you’re looking for great champagne to share, I’ve done a bit of the legwork for you. These are my “can’t-miss” selections. And if you plan to “pop the question”, you should kick it up a notch by selecting a vintage bottle.

 

NV Billecart Salmon Brut Rose, Champagne $40

Immediately, you’re hit with that classic brioche and vanilla on the nose. Then, it brings in fresh-picked orchard apples and pears.

 

Perrier-Jouët NV Grand Brut, Champagne $45

This starts with a floral nose and tastes of juicy apricot, white peach and Washington state cherry. Wonderful minerality.

 

2007 Louis Roederer Rosé Brut, Champagne $70

You’ll think I’st summer when you open the bottle. It’s filled with a flower blossom nose. Summery white peaches fill your mouth, followed by orange marmalade. It has a refreshing, lemon-lime finish that makes it ideal for the dinner table.

 

Pol Roger 1999 Extra Cuvee de Reserve Vintage Brut, Champagne $75

The beautiful ruby color is your hint of the strawberry flavor that dances on your tongue. This is a rich wine that will stand up to a dinner that includes a cheese course, beef entré and dessert.

Single or coupled, remember these song lyrics, “Love the one you’re with.”

 

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Discover South African Wine

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South African Wine

Cape Dutch Architecture

Unique Cape Dutch Architecture

During the past 10 years, South African wines have gained a bit of shelf space in the wine shop. But, for the majority of American wine drinkers this country remains off the wine-drinking radar screen. That is a huge mistake because South African wine vintners produce some of the most value-driven, yet eminent wines in the world.

Storied History

South Africa is considered a New World wine region. However, European immigrants planted the first wine grapes back in 1652, launching a popular wine culture, especially in England and France. But as luck would have it, war, the opening of the Suez Canal and the presence of phylloxera led to an equally grand fall. Twenty years ago with the dismantling of Apartheid, major investments in the wine industry have spurred a reemergence.

Cape Winelands Surrounded by Mountains

Cape Winelands Surrounded by Mountains

The Cape Winelands region has many favorable conditions present for growing quality vines. With an accommodatingly warm Mediterranean climate, rich top- and sub soils, and adequate winter rainfall, this emerging nation has quickly regained a reputation for producing award-winning wines. It is also strikingly beautiful with Cape-Dutch architecture and picturesque wine estates set against mountainous backgrounds.

 

Popular Wine Regions

The more esteemed wine regions include the following:

Constantia Valley – Located a short 20-minute drive from Cape Town, this area is the birthplace of South African wine. Constantia, a same-named sweet Muscat wine was extremely popular among the English and French aristocracy. Today, Sauvignon Blanc, a cool-climate grape benefits from nearby ocean breezes off the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Stellenbosch – With more than 150 wine estates and grape producers, this region is the most popular with tourists, as well as locals.The short drive from Cape Town makes it an easy weekend getaway destination. The hilly terrain, compliments of the nearby Simonsberg, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch Mountains provides favorable soil conditions for growing world-class wines.

The University of Stellenbosch is the equivalent of University of California, Davis for viticulture and oenology studies.

Lunch at Moreson Wines in Franschhoek

Lunch at Moreson Wines in Franschhoek

Franschhoek – Famed for its amazing scenery and an outstanding culinary scene, the “French Corner” also produces some world-renown wines. About an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the valley produces international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, as well as Semillion and Shiraz.

Paarl – If you enjoy fortified wines and spirits, (who doesn’t?), this is your ‘hood. Situated in the Berg River Valley, many of the wine farms also make cheese and grow olives.

 

Take a Sip

One of my goals for 2015 is to “drink outside the box”. Instead of reaching for my tried-and-true favorites, I have started drinking wines made from lesser-known grapes. The wines of South Africa certainly fit into this category. Also, I plan to drink popular varieties from atypical regions. Instead of pouring a Russian River Pinot Noir, why not give one a try from South Africa?  With a climate similar to parts of Sonoma County and rejuvenated winemakers, expect some pretty tasty juice.

Approximately 55% of wine production in the country is dedicated to white grapes including less-familiar wines such as Colombard, Hanepoot (aka Muscat of Alexandria) and Cape Riesling. Steen, the local name for Chenin Blanc is the most popular white wine. It is one of my favorite styles.

Pinotage South Africa's Indigenous Grape

Pinotage South Africa’s Indigenous Grape

A truly unique red wine grape is the indigenous Pinotage. The grape was invented by a University of Stellenbosch professor as a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. This is a wine you will either hate or tolerate; but very few people love it. However, you should taste for yourself.

Here are a few Pinotage suggestions to sample:

  • 2011 Fleur du Cap $12
  • 2011 Neil Ellis $18
  • 2011 Fairview Primo $28

Since South Africa is a southern hemisphere country, all vintages are six months older than wines bottled in the United States.

South Africa exports about 50% of its wine production. The United States markets have started to receive a larger allotment of these shipments. You’ll have to talk to your wine shop owner to help you locate most bottles. As yet, demand hasn’t risen to the point where you’ll find bottle after bottle sitting on shelves. However, when you come across a South African import, my advise is you should reach for a bottle because you will not be disappointed.

 

My Picks
Quality, Value-packed South African Wine

Quality, Value-packed South African Wine

Here are some other fine, reasonably price South African wines I think you may enjoy:

Whites

  • 2012 Graham Beck “Bowed Head’ Chenin Blanc $12 – Dried apricots, tree-ripened peaches, lovely long finish
  • 2013 De Wetshof “Bon Vallon”Chardonnay – Floral notes followed by stone fruit and Bosch pear flavors

Reds

  • 2012 Rust en Vrede Merlot $18 – Chocolate nose,  raspberry and black cherry flavors with a rich, raisin-like finish
  • 2010 Painted Wolf Guillermo Pinotage $19 – Soft blueberry and blackberry flavors
  • 2011 Starke-Conde Cabernet Sauvignon $24 – Dark cherry, blackberry with a lengthy finish
  • 2008 Meerlust Rudicon $27 – Earthy followed by berry flavors and Thanksgiving spices
  • 2012 Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block $32 – You may confuse it with with a like a northern Rhône Syrah with a chef’s heavy-hand of black pepper, coriander, nutmeg and juicy red fruits
  • 2011 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir $40 – Hibiscus tea floral notes, typical strawberry & strawberry flavors along with surprising savory spice notes

 

Let me know your take on any of these picks.

Cheers!

 

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White Wines for Christmas

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Rhône-style Whites for Christmas

 

White Wines for Christmas Dinner

White Wines for Christmas Dinner

If you are looking for white wines for Christmas but dread having to drink another bottle of Chardonnay, then you should turn to Rhône Valley-inspired whites. Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc are four popular and food-friendly options. By drinking outside the box this Christmas season, you’ll start a new tradition while discovering some amazingly delicious wines.

Of the four, Viognier is the most well-known and most likely to be produced as a single-variety bottle. It has a very aromatic peach nose and taste, followed by Springtime honeysuckle and lime. A medium- to full-bodied wine, Viognier holds up nicely to food.

 

Get with the Blend
Wines for Christmas

Wines for Christmas

Many Americans tend to think that blends, two or more wines combined to produce a single wine, are inferior. This false perception is fueled by the predominance of wines produced as a single variety in America. However, in Old World wine regions, blends are the norm.

In the Rhône Valley, Roussanne and Marsanne are integral blends in the production of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage wines. In the esteemed northern Rhône Côte-Rôtie region, up to 20% Viognier is added to Syrah. Southern Rhône winemakers blend up to 10 different wines, and on occasion more.

 

Christmas Dinner Selections

Christmas Wines

These Rhône-inspired whites are superb wines for Christmas dinner:

  • Tablas Creek Vineyard, located in Paso Robles, focuses a lot of their blends on Rhône-style wines. Their 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc is made using Roussanne primarily.  The wine’s taste brings back memories of a summer day with citrus, apricot and white peaches.  The abundant minerality allows it to pair well with Christmas foods including seafood appetizers such as shrimp or a main salmon dish.  $45
  • Santa Barbara County winery Beckmen Vineyards 2011 Le Bec Blanc gives a bow to France with a blend of  Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier.  At only $18, it offers all the classic flavors noted above.
  • E. Guigal La Doeriane Viognier (Condrieu, France) This is a quintessential 100% Viognier that’s a little pricey at $100 but worth it if you can drink in this neighborhood.
  • I started drinking wines from this producer about four years ago and have never been disappointed. The 2012 Cline Cellars Viognier has lush honeysuckle, white peach and ripe pear flavors. It pairs well with turkey and gravy. Priced near $16, it’s not an overly complex wine but carries enough acidity to earn a spot at the dinner table.

Merry Christmas!

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Thanksgiving Wine Pairing

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Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Selecting a wine for Thanksgiving

Select an unoaked Wine for Thanksgiving

The holidays can be an incredibly fun time for making new memories and reliving old with family and friends. But for some, it’s also a time for high stress as many people are juggling too multiple tasks with limited time and competing agendas.

If you are hosting for Thanksgiving, then delegating is essential. As hostess (or host) will be super busy with the star of Thanksgiving, the meal. If you are an invited guest, realize anything you can do to help reduce their stress will be greatly appreciated. If you take the liberty to select and/or bring the Thanksgiving wine, you’ll be removing a huge burden from your hostess, who will be forever grateful.

Having volunteered to bring the wine, now you are in a panic. Well, don’t you stress. I wouldn’t leave you twisting in the wine aisle.

 

Here are some Thanksgiving wine pairing tips. You’ll also find wine selections broken down into styles.

 

Myriad Dishes

Fall LeavesThe variety of foods served on the typical American Thasnkgiving table will run the gamut. Expect a host of foods ranging from salty to sweet and from fruity to earthy. There will also be a mix of creamy dishes, for example mac n cheese, as well as dishes with acidic flavors such as Brussels sprouts.

The thought of pairing a wine with some many foods may seem daunting. However, the key to choosing the right wine with these foods is to focus on wines with high acidity and mild, balanced fruit.

 

A Balanced Wine

It’s critical to pick a wine that has adequate fruitiness, but also is not cloyingly sweet. A balanced wine will offer a perfect contrast to tangy salad dressings too. You need to pick a wine that isn’t too dry nor too sweet. Easy, peasy right?

A perfect choice is a rosè. Did I just hear you say rosè is a wine for old ladies or limited to summer barbeques? Oh no you didn’t! First, nothing could be further from the truth. Secondly, open your mind and your taste buds will follow. They’ll also give you a big shout for for hooking them up. Thirdly, after you try this pairing, you’ll swear you hear me in the background saying, “I told you so.”

 

Wine selection: Rosè

2013 Domaine de la Mordoree La Dame Rousse, Tavel France

When you can find this wine at your local wine merchant, then grab it; and grab a bottle for me too. It has gorgeous perfume and rose garden aromas. Don’t be put off by the strawberry flavor because it is a serious wine with a medium body but full-blown acidity. $23

 

2013 Fort Ross Vineyard Rosè of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County

A cool-climate growing region helps this dry wine showcase strong aromatics of rose petals and juicy white peach. You may taste tea leaves and raspberry, while enjoying brilliant acidity on the finish. $23

 

A Light and Refreshing Wine

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner is ladled with high-calorie, creamy rich foods. Yum! So it’s important to have a wine that will cut through the weight of these heavy dishes. A good way to think about wine weight is to compare wine to milk. There’s skim, 2% and whole milk, in ascending order of weightiness. For your crowded dinner table, you’re looking for a wine that has the weight of a skim milk. You want a wine that does not have too much weight, yet provides a perfect contrast to vegetable dishes. After each bite, a sip of crisp wine will cleanse the palate and prepare it for the next forkful.

 

Sparkling Wine - Perfect for Thanksgiving Dinner

Sparkling Wine – Perfect for Thanksgiving Dinner

Wine selection: Sparkling Wine or Unoaked Chardonnay

Graham Beck Brut Sparkling, South Africa

This southern hemisphere sparkling made in the traditional champagne method gives lovely citrus on the nose and that classic toast flavor commonly found in expensive champagne. In addition, it has that great minerality needed for successful food pairing. $18

 

Check out these suggestions for more sparkling wines with pair nicely with holiday meals.

 

 

2011 Val de Mer Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis

All Thanksgiving wines should taste as great is this unoaked Chardonnay from Burgundy, France. It has an apricot, Granny Smith apple and citrus flavor profile. This wine is well suited for seafood, veal, vegetables and cream-based dishes. The chalky terroir shines through with strong a mineral and acid taste, creating balance and a clean finish. This wine should be served chilled. $39.95

 

An Earthy Wine

An earthy can be the perfect complement to foods such as fowl, dressing, macaroni and cheese, mushrooms and gravy. This bottle choice needs to have a lighter structure than a Cabernet Sauvignon, but must still be hearty enough to stand up to these foods without overpowering them.

 

Wine selection: Pinot Noir

2012 Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley

This wine smells and tastes like Thanksgiving. It has cherry pie and cranberries on the nose and tastes like turkey spices and black pepper, along with cherry and raspberry tart. The finish is smooth with no burning heat sensation although the alcohol level is 14.4%.

 

Let’s Not Forget Dessert
Pair Chocolate with Port

Pair rich Chocolate with Port

After you’ve gorged yourself and maybe even pushed away from the table, you’ll want to return for dessert. Port is a beautiful finish for a fabulous meal. Frequently, people overlook a wine pairing for the evening’s final dish. That is a huge mistake. Port will pair with a host of lush desserts ranging from chocolate, apple pie, sweet potato pie and a cheese course.

 

 

Tip: A bottle of port is a well-thought hostess gift. Not only will you be the only one bringing it, it will put the finishing touches to a great meal and an unforgettable gathering.

 

Wine selection: Icewine or Port

2012 Jackson-Triggs Reserve Vidal Icewine, Niagara

Your guests will go ga-ga over this tropical tasting wine. It has lush mango and apricot flavors that are a perfect accompaniment to an evening-ending cheese course or fruit pie. $35

 Note: Be aware that icewine bottles are only 375 ml, which is a half bottle. You’ll use smaller glasses for everyone anyway as a lot is not needed due to the sweetness level but if you are pouring for a crowd, you’ll need more than one bottle.

 

Graham’s Late Bottle Vintage Port, Portugal

The deep ruby color hits of juicy, ripe fruit to come. The nose of this late-bottled-vintage (LBV) port gives off tobacco and overly ripe plums. Its flavors remind you of fig, plum jam, caramel and a little bit of chocolate. The sweetness level is spot on without being syrupy. Get your slice of chocolate cake and pour a glass of this excellent-valued wine. Look for any year from 2005 – 2008. $22

 

Note: A LBV is a vintage port that didn’t get released as such. It spends 4-6 years in casks, which is a longer time than vintage. Afterwards, it is can filtered or unfiltered and then bottled. Unfiltered seems to add a bit more character.

 

You Can Do It!

Pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be a culinary nightmare. With these easy to follow food and wine pairing tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful turkey day.

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