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!

Double Bubble: Would You, Should You, Decant Your Sparkler?

When you try to catch bubbles in your hand, they burst. Every so often, you can find that delicate balance of keeping the fragile sphere intact for a millisecond … and then…pop! When drinking a sparkling wine, part of the fun is watching the bubbles catch the light, rise, and burst releasing the beautiful aroma. The idea of decanting a sparkler seems to be the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve by drinking it in the first place: the instant gratification of pop, fizz and sip. It’s a little like putting a hot dog on the end of a dog’s nose and making him wait; it delays the fun and you might end up with some drool on your floor.

But decanting might provide a practical way to get the most out of your sparklers. According to Cellarit.com, decanting sparkling wine, helps to soften and open up younger, non-vintage Champagnes. Quite often, your first glass ~ without decanting ~ may not be as compelling and rich. It may be served too chilled (limiting the aromatics) and may not have opened up enough on first pour to bring out the full flavors. Decanting may help to make your first glass as impressive as your last. For older vintages, many experts insist that decanting is simply not necessary; the wine, with all its depth, nuances and facets, will stand on its own. Only one pour is required.

But wait. Not just any decanter will do if you want to wrangle the bubbles. The lyre decanter is preferred since the pour is more gentle, allowing for the delicate release of the aromatics while preserving the mousse. The key is also in the actual pour into the decanter itself; too fast (rapid aeration) and you’ll quickly lose the effervescence. So be careful and take your time. Sparkling wines, especially Champagnes, are very delicate creations and need a little TLC before you enjoy them. Once decanted, Champagne should be consumed within thirty to sixty minutes to enjoy the conscious coupling of the effervescence and full flavor.

In the cover photo above, I am pouring in the worst way possible. Splashing around does not protect the sparkler but it made for a more interesting picture for me to shoot. I have learned my lesson and shall sin no more. My first resolution of the new year!

Flute, Coupe or … Chard?

As for the appropriate glass with which to serve, current arguments exist for and against a variety of shapes.

  • The traditional coupe Champagne glass (rumored to be shaped like Marie Antoinette’s breast) may have the right idea in terms of a better surface area to enjoy the aromatics but because of the width at the top, the wine quickly loses effervescence.
  • The flute is designed to keep the bubbles in tact and many have a small etching in the bottom to highlight the journey of the bubbles up to the top ~ it’s what gives the ‘necklacing’ effect that’s so pretty. But what you gain in beauteous bubbles, you lose in true appreciation of the wine essence; it’s difficult to get your nose into the flute to experience the subtle aromas.
  • The classic Chardonnay or White wine glass, is gaining more appeal for experts who maintain that the larger shape, and delicate taper, provides more surface area for the fragrance of the Champagne to truly open and display its brilliance. But because there is a larger bowl and no unique etching (it’s not needed for non-sparkling wine) bubbles burst much more quickly. In other words, you get more steak, if you will, but not as much spectacular sizzle.

The choice is yours, ultimately, and there is a vast variety of glasses to suit whatever taste, budget and reason for drinking Champagne and sparkling wine.

I do not have a Lyre-shaped decanter at my home. At $600 a pop, that may be a purchase down the road, but I will try decanting my Champagne tonight, anyway. As any good student will tell you, the fun is in the experimenting. And like the puppy with the hot dog on his nose, I will wait patiently…and try not to drool on the floor.

Whether you decant your Champagne, drink it out of a Chardonnay glass, flute, shoe (yuck) or paper cup, I wish you all a safe, happy New Year’s Eve, and the very best in 2015!

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2014