The Thankful Heart

Emerson once wrote, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.” It’s something I try to do in my daily life but it’s not always easy, especially with running here and there getting things ready for the official start to holiday season.

I think that’s what is nice about opening a bottle of wine; time slows for a second when you open the bottle, pour a glass for yourself and those you’re with. You take a moment, think of a little toast (no matter how profound or cheesy) and then take that first sip together. It’s a nice ritual.

After tasting some wines at the annual Heinen’s Holiday Wine Tasting, here a few of my picks to enhance your holiday ritual! 🥂

And, yes, I will happily share my bottle of Papillon with dessert!

Cultivating the habit of gratitude and thankfulness is easy this time of year. And it’s a good thing to remember beyond the holidays.

I am truly thankful for my family, my friends and to all of you who stop by and check out my blog. ☺️

I hope you all have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! 🍷🦃❤️

Cheers! 🍾🥂

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Field Trip: Wine Dining with Orin Swift Wines

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This wine event at Bar Cento in Ohio City couldn’t have fallen on a better night. It was the perfect antidote to the cold November rain that was making me feel dark and drab.

This wine pairing, presented by Chris Victor, National Account Manager for E&J Gallo, and Superior Beverage of Cleveland paired three wonderful wines from the cellars of Orin Swift with an amazing three course menu created by Chef Sean Conroy.

Our first pairing was a 2015 Mannequin Chardonnay with the Amuse Bouche of fall veggies featuring acorn squash, red beet, sweet potato, sultana and Brussels sprouts. The Chardonnay tasted of ripe white peach, jasmine with a nice acidity that was softened bu the creaminess of the food and the sweet of the sultana. We continued with the Chardonnay into the 1st course of halibut, pumpkin, saffron, pine nut, and golden sage. The delicate flavor of the halibut with saffron sauce was nicely balanced with the bright citrusy vibe of the wine.

Next up was the 2015 Papillon Bordeaux Blend that paired well with our 2nd course that included lamb rack, mustard greens, merguez, and eggplant. Yummy! The flavours of ripe blackberry, dark cherry and subtle tannin played beautifully with the mustard greens and horseradish eggplant, coaxing out a flavourful bite spice in the wine.

Our final course was Clafoutis: a baked flan-like dessert of brandied cherries, fresh fig, and DiSaronno Amaretto. Paired with the 2014 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, it provided and unexpected, amazing surprise of the evening; I’ve never enjoyed a Cab with dessert before. I’d always thought they were too heavy. But the silky combination of blackberry and cassis didn’t overpower the delicate, flavourful dessert, it enhanced the richness of the cherries and Amaretto. I had always thought that in pairing wine and dessert the rule was sweet for sweet. This pairing proved that rules were made to be broken.

As the evening came to a close, our group’s discussion turned to the 2014 Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon and as luck would have it, we were treated to a small sample. Outstanding!

Sometimes, even in the darkest, rainiest night, a little light can shine in: great friends, great food and some amazing wines. And if you’re really lucky, you can find all three in one place.

Cheers! 🍷

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©TheWine Student, 2017

 

Freezer Burn

I wish I could say it was a science experiment but it was really just an accident. I’d done what many of us do when a guest asks for a glass of white wine and you have none chilled: throw it in the freezer for a few minutes.

When I went to retrieve it, the wine had pretty much solidified, and thawing it out was going to take some time. Winesicles, anyone??

So what happens to the wine if, say, it’s left in the freezer for a few hours? Or worse. Overnight?!

Cold Snap

During the process of winemaking, a phenomenon takes place called tartrate or cold stabilization ~ where the wine is purposefully chilled down freezing for a short amount of time during fermentation. This is done to prevent the formation of tartaric acid crystals – wine ‘diamonds’ – after bottling. If cold stabilization doesn’t happen, the chances increase that crystals will form as soon as you place the bottle in the refrigerator or if it’s stored for long periods of time. Sometimes the crystals can look like tiny shards of glass in the bottle or when your pour it in your glass. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with the wine if you notice these crystals in the bottle or on the cork; tartaric acid is a naturally occurring function in wine making. After fermentation, some wines have an excess saturation of tartaric acid which solidifies and forms crystals. Chilling it out prevents this from occurring.

Pretty ice crystals... and crunchy, too!

Better Safe Than Sorry

So if wine in the bottle freezes does it go bad? Before we talk about the wine inside, there are some safety issues to consider:

• If your bottle has a cork, freezing might push it out. As the water content of the wine begins to freeze, it can expand and push out the cork especially if there isn’t much space in the bottle.

• Your bottle may burst. As the air surrounding the bottle rapidly cools, the liquid inside rapidly expands and Ka-BOOM! A bottle rocket in your freezer.

NEVER, ever freeze any sparkling wine! The contents are under pressure as it is and freezing will increase the odds of it exploding.

Spin the Bottle

If you want to quick-chill any wine quickly, Somm Brian Smith recommends: “filling a bucket with 50 | 50 mix of ice and water, a little salt, and then take a spoon and spin it around and around the bottle.” The centrifugal force will move the rapidly chilling water around the bottle allowing more of the contents to come in contact with the cold glass. Cool!

Keep in mind that wine that has been frozen doesn’t miraculously become… Ice Wine. Sorry, I know you’re thinking, “It’s iced up, and it’s wine so…” but nope. And honestly, it’s really not worth the risk of popped corks or exploding bottles.

The good news is: for the most part, the wine inside will not be damaged. While freezing can separate the water from other components of the wine, and this has the potential alter the flavor somewhat, it’s generally so subtle that no one will notice.

So chill! That frozen bottle you forgot about might be a little crunchy at first, but as it thaws, it should taste the same as it ever was. Just really, really cold.

Cheers! 🍷

Fright Night ~ Top 3 wine picks for ‘17 Halloween!


What wine pairs well with… horror?! 
If you’re scared enough, pretty much anything will do. But if you’re a brave undead slayer these three picks for 2017 will give you plenty of treats while waiting for Nosferatu to rise from the catacombs. 

2016 HobNob Wicked Red Blend

Blend of: Grenache, Cab Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir

Tasting Notes:

🎃 full body ~ lo acid, med tannin

🎃 roasted coffee, mocha, toasted hazelnut, hint of orange zest provides a nice little bite on the finish. 

Pairing:

🎃 BBQ, red meat, dark chocolate

👻 Definitely decant! This wine is very young fully release the hounds of flavour, this wine needs time to open up and breathe.

    

 2016 Black O’Noir Baco Noir Sue Ann Staff Estate Winery

Tasting Notes:

🎃 medium body~ hi acid, lo tannin

🎃 stewed blueberry, tomato jam, a little smoky

Pairing:

🎃 Aged cheddar

🎃 Charred beef, ribs ~ well done meats rather than rare or medium well.

Higher acidity in this wine means a good pairing with rich, meaty tomato sauce over pasta

🎃 Pizza with extra tomato sauce and spicy pepperoni 

👻 Make sure you decant! Often with young wines, they need decanting for around two hours to open the full bouquet and flavours.

 2014 Ravenswood Besieged Red Blend

Blend of: Petit Syrah, Carignan, Zinfandel, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Barbera

Tasting Notes:

🎃 full body ~ fine, soft tannin

🎃 blackberry, rich black cherry, baking spice, fruit forward

Pairing:

🎃 Beef, pork,

🎃 Salmon with chipotle chocolate sauce drizzle

👻 A 2014 shouldn’t need as much decanting but to bring out the full expression of these rich varietals, using a good aerator (if you don’t have time to fully decant) is a great idea. 

Don’t forget the Menagerie pourers!

Have a safe and happy Halloween! 😈🍷

 Cheers! 

The Heartbreak Grape

Image via gettyimages

Image via gettyimages

Reading the wine news out of Napa and Sonoma has my heart sinking. The accounts of both the devastation and tireless efforts of the firefighters and rescue teams left me in awe not only about the extent of the damage but at the bravery and tenacity of those helping to save people, homes, vineyards, and businesses. Many have seen the dramatic picture of Signorello Vineyards before and as it was engulfed by flames.

Amid the tragedy, one bright spot seems to be that the vineyards may have curtailed the fires’ growth in some areas. The reason: the wide space of the vineyards tend to hold more dampness than the surrounding forests. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Fire officials have said they considered the relatively open space of vineyards, which hold more moisture than oak forests, to be a natural firebreak that allowed their forces to concentrate on protecting populated areas and structures.” Meaning the fire patterns tended to stop at and go around vineyards.

As well, it was reported in The Sacramento Bee that many of the grapes had been harvested during the heat spike over Labor Day weekend, and were safely in tanks and barrels. Only the most expensive grapes; cabernet sauvignon and petite syrah still remained on the vine. But even if the vines weren’t seared by the flames, the biggest difficulty will be smoke and heat damage.

Smoke from wildfires cause what’s known as smoke taint which results in off-tasting flavors such as ‘bacon’, ‘smoky’, ‘ash’, ‘campfire’. According a 2012 Viticulture and Enology Extension Newsletter by Washington State University, it occurs when the vines and berries absorb chemical compounds from wildfire smoke. “These compounds are released during alcoholic and malolactic fermentation causing the wine to become unpleasantly ‘pharmaceutical’, ‘dirty, ‘ash tray’, ‘medicinal’, ‘camp fire’, or ‘burnt’ and reduces the perception of varietal fruit aroma.”

For the grapes harvested prior to the fire you won’t taste this. But for the cabs, petite syrah and late harvest varietals, it will be something you’ll notice. And the price points on these wines will be markedly higher, given that the remaining grapes will need a lot of TLC to harvest, and to modify the fermentation process. At this point, it’s difficult for the wine community to fully assess the extent of the damage, and when it might be felt by the consumer.

When we watch devastation unfold, it’s normal to feel helpless. But it doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can help:

The Redwood Empire Foodbank ~ providing food to evacuation shelters:

http://refb.org/

https://sonomacountyfirerelief.com/

Malbec Monday ~ Glama Llama 

It’s human nature to gravitate to what is new; the newest car, shoe, or smartphone. But in the world of wine, it pays to revere the old.

How old is old? This 2015 Belasco de Baquedano Llama Old Vine Malbec is about 106 years old. And old vines have plenty of tales to tell. Namely, what the condition of the soil is, how well they have been tended from year to year, how strong their roots are.

Tried and True

Celebrating their 100th birthday in 2010, these vines began with good roots: they are clones (genetically identical cuttings of mother vines, selected for particular characteristics) of  the French black Bordeaux grape. Nestled at the base of the Aconcagua Mountains, warmer days are counterbalanced by cool nights (dipping down almost as much as 45degrees F) which works to heighten the richness and complexity of the  wine’s flavor and aromatics. The grapes are given even further ‘hang time’ to develop flavors, even after sugar levels indicate that ripeness has been achieved.

While there is scant rainfall in this wine growing region, irrigation is provided in its purest form by runoff (comprised of melted snow) from nearby Andes mountains.

Age Before Beauty

Old vine grapes are generally hand harvested, which is more gentle on the vines and grapes. The higher velocity shaking of machine harvesting can be more jarring to the vines. The wine is then aged at least six momths in French oak which gives qualities of subtle toast, nuttiness and softer tannins. The final product is soft yet structured, and luxurious with rich flavors of ripe blackberry, rich plum and spice.

About the Llama

In Argentina, the llama regarded as a sure-footed, strong, support worker animal helping transport  packages and supplies through difficult terrain. Stalwart but stubborn, if you load them up too much, they will not budge. And they might even spit in your eye if you diss them.

With Age Comes

…Wisdom! But also some spectacular wine. So respect the hard working, old vine, it’s toiled through the ages to produce a wonderful bounty for you to enjoy.

Cheers! 🍷

Feel Good Friday: House of Wine Cards

I see your Petit Syrah… and I raise you a Sémillon! I got these cards as a gift and they’re really cool.

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Created by Inkstone Design, you can learn about 52 red (or white) grape varietals, the wines they become, and even about foods that pair with each one.

 

Like flash cards you can play poker with, they’re a fun way to understand a little more about the grapes that end up in your glass.

 

Got any Cinsault 4’s?? Go fish!!

 

Cheers! 🍷

©TheWineStudent, 2017