Birthdays, Blessings and a Glass of Biltmore

Lately, I’ve been writing about white wines on Wednesday but I wanted to push it back for a very special occasion. It’s my girl’s birthday. What makes it doubly special is that her day is also my late father’s birthday. I still celebrate with a toast to him. My sister used to make the joke that while she and our other siblings got him traditional birthday gifts, I gave him a grandchild. On that one particular April 16th, I got marks for creativity, and timing (I wasn’t expecting her debut until the 18th). And her birth had no other inducement than a warm bath and watching the movie Jerry Maguire. I wonder how many other births have been brought on by hearing Tom Cruise yell, “show me the money!”?

To toast the occasion, I wanted to find something that would pair a simple but spicy dish. Riesling came to mind. Instead of finding the traditional Alsace version, I wanted to find an offering that was closer to home. The 2013 Biltmore Riesling fit the bill. Cultivated on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville North Carolina, the combination of mineral rich, yet tough soil and cooler climates create the perfect environment for producing some fine, complex Riesling.

Qualities of Riesling ~

  • thrives in cool climates and poor soil ~ cooler climates increase its acidity which gives it the bright complex quality.
  • aromatic and floral. stone fruit vibe : apple, apricot, peach, pear. clean in taste, clear in the glass, complex aromas in more mature vintages including a gasoline (yes).
  • the compact bunches on the vine make it prone to noble rot (botrytis cinerea) which is actually a good thing.

Noble Rot serves two distinct purposes to wine:

  • It intensifies a wine’s sweetness while adding intensity and complexity. It does this by causing grapes to dehydrate while at the same time keeping sugar levels constant. Grapes affected by Noble Rot are more syrupy, sweeter and some may have a higher alcohol content.
  • It adds flavor ~ noble rot grapes have have higher levels of phenylacetaldehyde, an aromatic compound that can be described like honey, rose, or beeswax.

If you can say ‘phenylacetaldehyde quickly three times, you get to take a sip!

On the scale of dry to sweet, this Riesling tended to be more on the sweet-ish but with a distinctive spice finish. It was full-bodied with a honey-like, viscous mouthfeel. Subtle floral notes of stone fruit (apricot) were prominent on the nose. Paired with grilled chicken tacos, it brought out a nice spiced pear vibe that was most satisfying.

One of the things about enjoying a glass of wine is that it allows you the chance to sit back and reflect on times shared with those you love. It helps to slow the world down to savor the moment because, as I’ve found over the past few years, those moments can be fleeting. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my daughter is growing up so quickly; and that my dad has been gone for almost five years. And while I miss him every day, I feel very blessed that he and his granddaughter will always share this day. There’s a beautiful continuity in that, and it fuels the belief that some blessings were meant to be.

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent. 2015

Pun for Play

If you know my rule for puns, start sipping. If you don’t take a sip anyway. Yes, they are cat toysAnd, yes, I thought they were cute in a punny wine-y sort of way.

I had my above picture all set to shoot, and then the kittehs caught the scent. I snapped my pic just as they toppled everything and started batting and rolling around with the plush ‘wine bottles’.

I can tell you that when I find a vintage I really love, I can be enthusiastic but not to that extreme. At least not that I can recall…

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2015

Of ‘Cards’ and Men

“Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.” – Frank Underwood –House of Cards

House of Cards Season 3 has been streaming all over the world today, and like a good kid who is waiting to open gifts on Christmas morning, I am being patient. And waiting… to bingewatch. To pass the time creatively,  I thought about what type of red wine might personify the two main characters, Francis and Claire Underwood.

Zinfandel (Frank Underwood) ~ Despite having some deep, dark secrets, this American beauty has a deceptively light-bodied feel. It also sounds like ‘sin’ so there’s that. Famous for its intense fruit flavors like deep raspberry, rich mocha and spicy strawberry, Zin is typically higher in alcohol than most light-bodied reds. Which is a good thing when you’re dealing with drama of Shakespearean proportions.  You just know that choosing this red, you’ll be getting into the kind of trouble that reaches the highest levels. I wonder how it pairs with ribs?

Lambrusco (Claire) ~ On the surface this is a cool, lightly effervescent wine. Yet the more you get to know it, the more the delicate texture and flinty flavors of strawberry and blueberry begin to give way to just a hint of underlying bitterness. Which is a delicious and dangerous combination. Sometimes it’s good to enjoy the bitter and the sweet.

If you’re like me, you’ll be parked on a couch, bearing witness to an epic tale of deception, woe and political machinations. Make sure you pair it with the appropriate beverage. And watch your back!

Cheers!

Cover image via Netflix, and my laptop

©TheWineStudent, 2015

White Wine Wednesday: Chablis!

When I used to think of Chablis, I always had the vision of it being like Chardonnay’s little sister; always just too young to sit at the grown-ups’ table. And when I shopped for a white wine, I’d pretty much bypass it for some other (any other) alternative.  That was very short-sighted.

Produced in the Northern district of Burgundy, Chablis is comprised of Chardonnay. Cool regional climate produces a, dry,  higher acid, less fruity wine than its big sister. Chablis is generally less oakey, due to less time maturing in the barrel.

Chablis has three quality levels:

  • Petit Chablis ~ Produced on the outskirts of Chablis, varies in quality, is matured in stainless steel tanks and should be enjoyed young. It is the least expensive Chablis. Pair with cheese, cooked shrimp.
  • Chablis Premier Cru ~ Cultivated on the best site vineyards, Premier Cru comprises 1/4 of the total Chablis production. Pairing suggestion: unbaked: grilled or poached fish with buttery | creamy sauces. Naked: buttery seafood, crab, roast chicken. The acidity of the wine will help cut into the butter.
  • Chablis Grand Cru ~ Grown on west-facing hill directly above the village of Chablis, which allow maximum heat accumulation to grow and ripen the grapes. Both Premier Cru and Grand Cru Chablis spend some time maturing in oak barrels, but less time, generally, than traditional Chardonnay. Premier and Grand Cru chablis can be safely cellared for 10 years or longer. Pairing suggestion: roast veal, steamed or grilled lobster, heavy rind cheeses.

The flavors tend to be reminiscent of wet stones, stone fruit with a bit of citrus. It is pale yellow (almost green) in color, with earthy, savory rather than sweet aromas. Since the flavors are more subtle, it’s really important to serve it lightly chilled: 10-13C (50-55F).

So go ahead, invite the little one to dine with the grown-ups. You’ll find it to be a subtle and very interesting dinner companion.

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2015

Funky Cold Medina

We did it for love. And we did it for fun. It didn’t matter how cold it got, and it got very cold. HubbyDoug, our friend Shelly and I got suited up in our warmest winter wear, and ventured out to the 21st Annual Medina Ice Festival in Medina, OH. We wanted to check out the sculptures, and the speed ice carving competition. The artists had about 20 minutes to take an oblong shaped block to completed creation. It was amazing to watch them wield their chainsaws to create beautiful, icy artworks. We thought better of pulling a ‘Flick’ from Christmas Story, even though the photo op would’ve been awesome. Instead, we found a perfect warm place at Main Street Cafe, had dinner and let our extremities slowly thaw. The wine helped. I chose an interesting Pinotage from South Africa which paired really well with my Filet sliders. We finished the evening with a Cinna-Heart Martini, a quick stop at H2 Wine Merchants and toasted a fun prelude to Valentine’s weekend.

The Medina Ice Festival continues today, February 14, through Monday, February 16.

No matter how cold it may get where you are, I hope you are able to enjoy warmth in your heart from those you love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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©TheWineStudent, 2015

White Wine Wednesday ~ Torrontès

When I was buying white wine for a recent dinner party, I was looking for something with a bit of weight but different than Chardonnay.

Light and crisp with touches of peach and citrus, Torrontès is similar to Voignier in its structure (nice body but delicate ceatures), aromas and acidity. It is a uniquely Argentine white variety. Vineyards in the Cafayate Valley are situated in their own microclimate; approximately 9,800 feet above sea level, with scarce rainfall, creating the perfect environment for light, well bodied wine. Tasting notes suggest enjoying it young ( this was a ’13). And it is well paired with smoked meats, medium-strong cheeses, sea delicacies and Thai food. I paired it with soy- marinaded chicken stir fry with red and green sweet peppers. The soy brought out more of the spice on the finish that was refreshing and enjoyable.

Even though it’s bone chilling here in the Cleve, I wanted to break away from my omni- present reds. I love them but this lightish white was right. For tonight.

Cheers!

©The Wine Student, 2015

A Fireplace, a Wine Book, and Me

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Today, most of us are getting our game faces on, deflating (or inflating) our balls, cooking our favorite chili recipes, and waiting for the coin toss. But with the weather in the Cleve being what it is today ( “Snow likely” ) and finding myself with a little free time, and cold toes, I poured a wee glass and cracked open “Wine With Food” by NYTimes wine writer Eric Asimov and Florence Fabricant.
What I’m enjoying about the book is the precise way the wines are categorized and paired with a variety of unique dishes. Lately, i’ve found myself in a bit of a rut; cooking the same meals and pairing them with the same wine. This book inspires me to break out of the mundane menu, and makes pairing easy without being intimidating.

Have an awesome Super Bowl Sunday!

Cheers!