Saturday, March 13, 2021


In March 2021 the Wine Pairing Weekend group is exploring the wines of Yakima Valley, Washington, USA. For a primer on Yakima Valley wines, see the overview in host Robin's preview post. Also join us on Twitter under #WinePW on Saturday, 13 March 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Yakima Valley wine.


The Yakima Valley AVA 
and the other AVAs in the region are on land that was originally inhabited by the Yakama and other native people before colonisation and resulting land grabs. It is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA in the southern part of Washington state in the Pacific Northwest region of the US.

Spanning approximately 70 miles east to west, it lies within the valley of the Yakima River. The AVA has over 18,000 acres of grapevines and has formally been an AVA since 1983, making it WA's oldest AVA. 1983 - not that long ago, right? I know! But grapes have been grown here since the 1860s. 

Today, 40-50% of WA state's wine grapes come from the Yakima Valley AVA, a fertile area that, prior to sharing space with grapevines, was full of fruit orchards and other cash crops. Even today, 80% of the US' hops production is in this area. The volcanic soil and temperate climate is ideal for high acidity in grapes. Cool but also warm enough to allow the grapes to ripen without turning jammy. The majority of grapes here are Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Merlot although as you'll read below, other varietals are also grown here. It's definitely an underrated wine region, one to keep an eye on!

I have been focussed on small wineries with a personal touch for a while now, and the fact that I was sent two wine samples from two small wineries with a personal story couldn't be more perfect. Athough the wines were complimentary, as always, all opinions are mine.

Côte Bonneville is the very definition of a family run winery. Hugh Shiels planted the DuBrul vineyard on a 45 acre in 1992 and established Côte Bonneville in 2001. Hugh, a former orthpædic surgeon and still a part-time doctor, his wife Kathy, formerly a physical therapist, and daughter Kerry who is the winemaker, together run the estate. Hugh and Kathy turned their love for wine into a winery, and Kerry left engineering to study oenology at UC Davis before bearing the mantle of winemaker. Here are three professionals who made an impact on people first through their professions and now through their stellar wines!

At DuBrul vineyard, from where the grapes for Côte Bonneville's vineyard designated wines come, the rocky terrain, poor soil, and deficit irrigation regimen coax small yields of small berries in small clusters from the vinesThe vineyard was awarded Vineyard of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and the wines continue to be acclaimed by critics and sought after by consumers. 

2018 Train Station Cabernet Franc
100% Cabernet Franc
14.1% ABV | SRP $30 | SAMPLE

Sourced from a mere 26 rows of Cabernet Franc with own-rooted vines (not grafted onto different rootstock), this estate-bottled Cab Franc is a special one because there's only so much grape to go around from such few rows. As it turned out, in 2018 there was enough to set aside a small chunk to make a single varietal wine.

Medium ruby

Ripe red fruit - especially raspberry and strawberry, white flowers, vanilla, black pepper at the finish

This is a wine full of gaeity - it will immediately put you in a good mood. With a layered aromatic complexity and a rounded mouthfeel, it has the same notes on the palate as on the nose, and a whiff of dried violets. Medium body, balanced acidity, balanced tannins, medium finish. Despite the 14.1% ABV, it definitely doesn't feel like it. A fruity and very food-friendly wine that's certainly ready now but could also be cellared for up to 3 years.

You don't have to know Co of Co Dinn Cellars long to know how passionate he is about wine making. I was already agreeing with him on everything I'd read in his introduction on his website, and then I had a phone conversation with him. His matter-of-fact intensity shows in everything he says, and the love for the craft of wine-making is more than evident in everything he says. Co will readily tell you that he is not a farmer and does not grow his grapes, but he will also tell you in depth that he is very particular about the grapes he sources and it clearly shows in his wine. Even though I have only tasted exactly one of his wines, I don't doubt for a second that all his wines are elegant and worth seeking out.

Although Co Dinn wines aren't on shelves in the Bay Area, they can be shipped directly to consumers and I highly recommend you take advantage of that.

2016 GSM Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard
41% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre
14.7% ABV | SRP $45 | SAMPLE

The Lonesome Spring Ranch (LSR) vineyard is one of the "jewels" Co mentions in his intro. In its previous life the LSR vineyard was pasture and an apricot orchard. Established in 1996, this 109+ acre property is now a vineyard farmed using Vinewise management practices. But really, the talent is not just in the vineyard or growing the grapes, but in what the winemaker does with the grapes to make superior wine. And that is just what this wine is... superior in all aspects.

Deep ruby

Black fruit, a hint of cooked red fruit, dried savoury herbs, tobacco, black pepper, leather, faint baking spice

The same notes on the palate as on the nose but also black cherry and lingering tobacco and coffee on the finish. Medium body, balanced acidity, soft tannins, long finish. This is a beautifully structured wine that really shines when paired with meaty food.

As soon as I tasted each wine I knew what I wanted to pair with it. Here in N. CA we're going into spring but with some typical last minute weather vacillations, so I took advantage of the rain and cold and decided to pair the wines with pasta and meat courses at dinner. Farfalle with rapini, olio nuovo, and pecorino with the Cab Franc, and a compound salt-crusted ribeye with braised fennel and potatoes with the GSM.

Pasta, 1st course: The garlic and slight bitter notes of the rapini toned down by the al dente pasta, olio nuovo drizzle, and the salty edge of the pecorino were incredible with the juicy, ripe, fresh, acidity of the Cab Franc. The next day the wine had gone from a juicy wine to a more sombre one that would definitely be excellent with a dish that incorporates tomato sauce... something like meatballs with ricotta and a tomato sauce, bread on the side. Either way, this is a delicious wine and we couldn't have asked for a better pairing! 

Steak, 2nd course: The herbed compound salt-crusted steak along with the fennel and potatoes stood up nicely to the wine. At first, the wine was a bit closed and rather serious wine even after a 60 min. decant. Nevertheless, the complexity of the wine highlighted the slight sweetness and anise of the fennel and of course, was wonderful with the steak. And the potatoes, well, can't ever go wrong with get steak and potatoes! All in all, we really enjoyed the wine together with the food and if I had to summarise this wine in one sentence it would be: This wine needs food, and make it red meat!

As Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, said, "Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit." And so, the first day the wine was quite tightly wound although still terrific with our steak, but when we revisited this the next day, it had opened up to a most delightful wine full of primary fruit aromas leading into greater depth. The structure and mouthfeel did not change drastically but every aroma was deeper, more pronounced, more present, lingered longer. We had it with charcuterie (no bread, cheese, etc.) and it was splendid! I love what Co at Co Dinn Cellars is doing and his passion for his craft is obvious in his wine!

So that was me, but the possibilities are endless so check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped, savoured, and paired with our Yakima Valley wines:
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles leads the way with “Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.”
  • Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
  • Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
  • Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
  • Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
  • Martin with ENOFYLZ WineBlog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
  • David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
  • Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
  • Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
  • Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”

Saturday, February 27, 2021



This month - February 2021 - the World Wine Travel group is exploring the wines of Catalonia, Spain. Between reds, whites, and Cavas coming from this corner of Spain, there's a vast variety of wines to choose from for any occasion and we had a field day deciding on a wine for this review before ultimately settling on a unique wine from an equally unique part of Catalonia. See the overview in host Susannah's preview post and join us on Twitter under #WorldWineTravel on 27 February 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Catalan wine.

Image: Catalonia, Spain.
Catalonia is in the northeast corner of Spain bordering France to the north and the Mediterranean sea to the east. There are four Catalonian provinces, of which Barcelona might be the most readily known globally.

Priorat is in Tarragona province in  southwest Catalonia, however, and is a Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) for Catalan wines produced in Priorat county. The DOQ covers 11 municipalities that primarily produce intense, full-bodied red wines, and was relatively obscure to the wine world until the 1990s.

Priorat DOQ includes the valleys of the rivers Siurana and Montsant, and vineyards are planted on terraced slopes at altitudes between 100m and 700m above sea level. Priorat summers are long, hot and dry while winters are cold with occasional frost, hailstones, and drought. The area is characterised by its unique terroir of volcanic soil comprising black slate and quartz, known as llicorella.

The traditional grape variety grown in Priorat is Grenache, found in all the older vineyards. Amongst other red varietals allowed are: Garnacha Peluda, Carignan (or Samsó), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. White varieties allowed are: Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez, Chenin Blanc, Moscatel de Alejandría, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Pansal, Picapoll Blanco, and Viognier.

Along with Rioja DOCa, Priorat is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada), the highest qualification level for a wine region within Spanish wine regulations. Priorat wines are absolutely worth the effort and price but can also offer terrific QPR!

As James Russell Lowell said, "Fate loves the fearless". In 1988 a young Daphne Glorian, along with René Barbier, Álvaro Palacios, Carles Pastrana, and Josep Lluís Pérez pooled resources to purchase 17 terraces of vines situated ~400m above sea level in a wooded hollow just outside the village of Gratallops in Priorat, Spain, a rugged and wild region rich in history, poor in soil, and largely unknown outside Catalonia.

Fast forward to today, when Daphne's wines have evolved to become some of the most sought-after references for the Priorat region and some of the most desired wines in the world. Since 2004 all of the Clos I Terrasses vineyards are certified organic  with biodynamic practices.

2015 Clos I Terrasses "Laurel"
80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
15% ABV | SRP $45

Sourced from 3 small vineyards in Gratallops and aged in amphorae and oak, Laurel is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is Clos I Terrasses’ second wine (the first and most well known being Clos Erasmus), made from the grapes from younger vines, or the occasional declassified barrel of Clos Erasmus. Nevertheless, it is a dense, concentrated Priorat wine with tremendous aging potential and perhaps it is inaccurate to call it a second wine because it really is in its own league.

Medium ruby

Black and red fruit, cassis, liquorice/fennel, tobacco, graphite, ink/iodine, leather, cloves, bay leaf, pepper. Somewhat medicinal.

This is a delicious - although untraditional - Priorat wine with a layered aromatic complexity and an unctuous mouthfeel. The same notes on the palate as on the nose, a bit more obviously medicinal and graphite laden. Full body, balanced acidity, grippy tannins that soften after ~30 min, med-long finish. An elegant, structured rich wine that begs for robust food.

We thoroughly enjoyed this wine with a late night movie and bits and bites - an assortment of charcuterie including f
inocchiona, a Tuscan fennel-studded variety, Idiazabal, Manchego, and Gabietou cheeses, papas arrugadas, and a refreshing herby mojo verde. The charcuterie and the cheeses certainly were perfect with the wine but the salt-crusted papas arrugadas and mojo were outstanding! The fruit and inky fennel notes  in the wine worked marvellously with the finicchiona and the bright mojo. We have another bottle that we'll hold for a few more years to see how it develops. Another splendid wine from Clos Erasmus, and a must for Priorat red lovers!

Also check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped and savoured:
  • Allison and Chris from Advinetures look at “Cava: Spain’s Answer to Champagne”
  • Andrea from The Quirky Cork enjoys “Tapas with Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava”
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019”
  • David from Cooking Chat shines with “Mushroom Fricassee and Red Wine from Priorat”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator brings “Sparkling Wine Secrets: Catalonia Cava from Marqués de Cáceres with Spanish Chorizo Kale Bean Stew”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click looks at “Exploring the Variety of Still Wines from Catalunya”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass showcases “Pere Mata Cupada Rosé Cava: Finesse in a glass”
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest posts “Beyond Cava: Loxarel and Gramona Organic Sparkling Wines”
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “A Taste of Can Descregut; Grower Spanish Sparkling Wine From The Corazón del Penedès”
  • Melanie from Wining With Mel muses about “Innovative winemaking in Catalunya’s Penedès: Torres Gran Coronas Reserva”
  • Nicole from SommsTable pens “On a Hilltop in Priorat”
  • Payal from Keep The Peas joins with “Bartender’s Choice from Priorat”
  • Pinny from Chinese Food And Wine Pairing writes about “Enjoying Cavas of Different Price Points”
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles focuses on “Priorat DOQ in Spain’s Cataluña region and Franck Massard’s 2015 “Humilitat”
  • Steve from Children of the Grape describes “Cava by the Sea”
  • Susannah from thinks about “Two Key Areas in Catalonia Wine Scene: Cava and Priorat”
  • Terri from Our Good Life dishes about “Chicken Empanadas and Azimut Cava”
  • Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm adds “Enjoying Tapas with Spanish Wines from Catalonia”

Saturday, February 20, 2021


Image: Domaine de la Bégude

In February 2021 the French Winophiles, aka #winophiles on social media, are exlporing red wines of Provence. Find out more when the #winophiles tackle all things Provence red wine on Twitter on 20 February 2021 at 8 AM PST.

As I'd mentioned in my preview post, when we hear wine and Provence in the same sentence we almost always - and rightfully so - think of rosé wines of all shades made from grapes growing in impossibly sunny and clement weather in southern France. But in fact Provence offers more than delicately coloured rosé wines and visions of lavender fields near the Mediterranean sea. Formidable red wines come out of Provence just as well as rosé and white wines. Made from from a variety of grapes... something for everyone and for all kinds of pairings. 

Provence has 9 viticultural regions or AOCs (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée). Among those, the ones known for red wine are Bandol (arguably the most famous Provençal red wine AOC), Baux de Provence, Palette, Bellett, and the newest AOC (since 1998), Pierrevert. Red wine grapes here include varieties found throughout much of France such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but also grapes not often seen elsewhere like Folle Noir, Calitour, Tibouren, Barbaroux, and Braquet. All in all about 36 grape varieties are allowed in Provence spanning a few different countries including Spain and Italy, although in Provence they are generally known by their French/Provençal names.

Located 400 m above and overlooking the Mediterranean, this winery spans 1300 acres of land including 57 acres of vineyards. The property enjoys both, Mistral-brushed sunny days and cool nights. Outstanding complex and elegant wines come from the outstanding garrigue-laden mosaic of soils combined with the 7 generations old winemaking pedigree of Guillaume Tari. Although we selected a red, La Bégude makes rosé, white, and red wines, all certified organic by ECOCERT.

2018 Domaine de la Bégude Bandol Rouge
90% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault
14.5% ABV | SRP $35

Deep ruby, almost looks over-extracted

Dark berries right up front, anise, baking spices, herbal notes mixed with earth, a faint hint of dried red roses. Quite lovely and definitely does not smell over-extracted.

This is a very elegant savoury wine with surprising complexity given its young age. The same notes on the palate as on the nose, but with an unexpected savouriness despite the overt berry-laden nose. Medium body, balanced acidity, grippy tannins that loosen up after ~1 hr. A beautifully structured wine that will undoubtedly benefit from 5-7 years in the cellar.

We opened this wine to pair with a lamb chop biryani. Lamb is somewhat of a guaranteed match for most southern French red wines but the surprise was in how synchronised the dark berries, anise, garrigue, and the faint dried rose floral notes in the wine were with the complex aromatics and Kashmiri saffron in the biryani. The fragrance of aged Indian basmati rice was an added layer of elegance in this entire combination. 

I would not recommend this restrained complex wine with spicy food (like fiery South Indian style biryanis) but it is a match made in heaven for the layered complex flavours of North Indian biryanis or Persian food (the birthplace of biryani).

In India we never make things like tandoori anything, naan, or biryani at home because it is a bit of a chore, the flavour is never as good,  and tandoors are usually communal ovens not home cooking equipment. Nevertheless, I'm glad it was the dish of choice for my procrasticooking in the face of a project deadline. I needed a break from work and my post-work trip quarantine so this came at the right time.

Check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped and savoured:

    Sunday, February 14, 2021


    Source: Wine Folly/Flickr

    It's already February 2021, we're in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and trying our hardest to create the new normal while waiting with bated breath to return to the regular normal. Luckily, some things have remained the regular normal. Things such as our blogging community of French wine enthusiasts and professionals who meet every month for a virtual bonanza of wine. This month the #winophiles, as we are known, are exploring the red wines of Provence. When we hear wine and Provence in the same sentence we almost always think rosé wines of all shades made from grapes growing in impossibly sunny and clement weather. But Provence has more to offer than delicately coloured rosé wines and visions of lavender fields near the Mediterranean sea. Provence in fact, makes red, white, and rosé wines from a variety of grapes... something for everyone and for all foods.

    Red wine grapes include varieties found throughout much of France such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault, and of course, Cabernet Sauvignon, but also grapes not often seen elsewhere like Folle Noir (a favourite!), Calitour, Tibouren, Barbaroux, and Braquet. All in all about 36 grape varieties are allowed in Provence spanning a few different countries including Spain and Italy, although in Provence they are generally known by their French/Provençal names.

    Provence has 9 viticultural regions or AOCs (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée). Among those, the ones known for red wine are Bandol (arguably the most famous Provençal red wine AOC), Baux de Provence, Palette, Bellett, and the newest AOC (since 1998), Pierrevert. Provence red wines, although not as known as their sublime coloured siblings, the rosés, are in fact as serious a series of wines as any other.

    Provençal reds are complex, exceptionally food friendly, and cellar-worthy for years. One of my favourite pairings is lamb cooked with an elaborate mix of spices... it works hand-in-glove with the best of garrigue-laden Provence reds. Have I convinced you yet to visit, revisit, and dive into Provençal red wine offerings? Grab a bottle or two of your choice and explore with us on Twitter on 20 February 2021 at 8 AM PST under the hashtag #winophiles to talk about all things Provence red wines. To inspire you, here's a snippet of what you can expect from some of us:
    • Lynn over at has for us "Winning Red Wines from Provence with Lamb Meatballs: Domaine Hauvette and Clos Cibonne"
    • Susannah from is telling us how "Beef stew and A Glass of Bandol Rouge Warms the Heart"

    Saturday, December 19, 2020


    Burgundy via Oregon... or might we say Burgundy in Oregon? Either way, this month the French #winophiles are exploring the houses of Burgundy, France, that also have wineries in N. America. Get the intro here from host LM Archer, and then join in the conversation on Saturday, 19 Dec at 8 AM PST on Twitter under #winophiles. And, read more about what everyone else has to say here:

    I received a Résonance Découverte Vineyard wine sample for this review. Résonance is the Oregon, US based venture of the famed Maison Louis Jadot, a Burgundy maison - house - founded by Louis Henry Denis Jadot in 1859 in Beaune, France. Located in the (somewhat) Burgundy of N. America, Résonance wines and Louis Jadot have a fascinating story starting from 1859, when Maison Louis Jadot and the state of Oregon were both founded, on two vastly different continents. From the winery regarding the eponymous single-vineyard Résonance:

    "It was a crisp spring day in April 2013 when Thibault Gagey and Jacques Lardière set out to survey a well-established vineyard named Résonance. Jacques had just retired after leading winemaking at Maison Louis Jadot for 42 years, and Thibault, whose family has operated Maison Louis Jadot since 1962, was ready to enter the business with a bold new project. They immediately felt a deep connection with the place, and after tasting through dozens of wines made with the vineyard’s fruit, Jacques sat back and said, “Perfect.” Pierre-Henry Gagey, the President of Maison Louis Jadot and Thibault’s father, agreed. They decided to keep the vineyard’s title, and they also named their new winery—Maison Louis Jadot’s first outside of Burgundy—in its honor. With the same meaning in English and French, Résonance evokes many great things to come. They added the tiny but all-important accent mark to represent this small but special connection between Oregon and France."

    Given the intertwined past and present of Maison Louis Jadot and the families that have made it a label synonymous with Burgundy wine accessible to those looking for high quality wine across two continents, it seemed fitting that, for an (maybe) apples to apples comparison, I also open a bottle of a Louis Jadot Bourgogne. Read on to find out what I found out about both the wines.

    100% Pinot Noir
    13.5% ABV | Sample (SRP $65)

    Medium ruby

    Ripe red fruit, flinty notes. A whiff of baking spices and black pepper.

    Similar to nose: ripe red fruit, black pepper, baking spices, and a refreshing minerality. Juicy acidity, plush tannins, a medium body, with a lengthy finish. The wine opened up as it sat in the glass but overall it could use a rest in the bottle. I think it would be great in ~3 years.

    100% Pinot Noir
    13% ABV | SRP $20

    Medium ruby

    Red fruits, black cherries, leather, forest floor, dried roses, white pepper, slight hint of capsicum

    This is a very elegant savoury wine with surprising complexity given its young age. Plums, raspberries, cherries, and fresh red fruit flavors on the palate with earthy red flowers, leather, mushroom, mineral notes, and a faint meaty/barnyard sort of note. Balanced acidity, prominent but welcome tannins in a medium bodied wine with a medium finish. This wine is delicious now, especially as it sits in the glass, but would also be terrific in 2-3 years.


    The wines were different but similar, harking back to their different but similar terrior. Expectedly, the Louis Jadot Bourgogne, despite being a regional classification, was a serious and restrained wine. In comparison, also as expected, the OR wine was a more open, fruit-driven, plush, but also elegant wine. Both wines opened up beautifully with time.

    We paired both wines with charcuterie, two washed rind cheeses, and homemade whole wheat bread. The charcuterie and cheeses were a superb match with the wines. The bread: an emphatic no. It has honey in it and that coupled with the sweetness of the whole wheat made a distracting flavour that did not clash but did nothing great to either wine. Because of Covid I was trying to "make do" rather than go out just for bread but next time I'll have biscuits if getting a baguette is not an option! Also, next time I'd pair the Bourgogne with herbed roasted chicken or quail and cherry compote, and the Résonance Découverte with garam masala lamb chops and pickled quince.

    Saturday, December 5, 2020


    Photo: Payal Vora

    In December the Italian Food Wine Travel folks are exploring the sparkling wines of Italy in An Exploration of Italian Sparkling Wines for the Holidays hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam. Read her invitation post to find out more. Fraciacorta, Prosecco, Lambrusco, they're all going to be there! So see what everyone's poured and paired below, and join us on Twitter under #ItalianFWT at 8 AM PST on 5 December to tell us your thoughts!

    Susannah Gold of Avvinare, who is a Vinitaly International Italian Wine Ambassador, generously provided two Prosecco samples for review.

    Photo: Payal Vora
    Prosecco is a wine dear to me... it brings back memories of family summer holidays in Europe, of parties at university where Prosecco was often the affordable sparkling wine of choice, of summer in Treviso a few years ago. Little else is more perfect for a sweltering Italian summer than cold Prosecco and good company. A few years ago I had grant money I needed to finish up before I moved on to my next project and an architect friend in Munich happened to be free that summer so we drove over and explored every corner of Treviso. We stayed in agriturismos everywhere and every afternoon just when we got back to relax before dinner the staff would greet guests with a complimentary bottle of Prosecco... per room. Between Rolle, Conegliano, Asolo, Cison di Valmarino, and every other village in Treviso, we had a glorious summer full of photography, buildings, art, fashion, food, espresso, and all manner of Prosecco.

    Prosecco is arguably the most well-known Italian sparkling wine in the US although it ought to be more popular - it is light, bright, crisp, great with food, and a perfect porch sipper. Made in the Veneto region in NE Italy primarily from the native grape Glera (85% min. in a blend), although only the sparkling type is most known in the US, there are three types of Prosecco: tranquillo (still), frizzante (lightly sparkling), and spumante (sparkling). The Treviso province in Veneto has the perfect climate and soil types for the higher-acid Glera grapes which are well-suited for dry sparkling wines. The best Prosecco comes from the steep hillsides but even the wine from the plains is perfect for casual drinking. As such, Prosecco is classified as Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Prosecco DOC is a broader, less stringent category and the DOCG is stricter and the wines are from specific areas of Veneto, and supposedly better quality.
    Read more about all things Prosecco and the region's recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2019) here.

    The Val d’Oca co-operative founded in 1952 is one of the oldest producers of Prosecco. Their sparkling wines are made from Glera grapes cultivated and vinified in the hillsides of Valdobbiadene. Val d’Oca produces Prosecco Superiore DOCG from the hills of Valdobbiadene and Prosecco DOC from the greater Treviso province. The winery has always had a forward looking approach and their recent efforts include a sustainability budget that follows the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

    Clusters of Glera grapes (Payal Vora)
    Val d'Oca Prosecco
    11% ABV | SRP $13
    85% Glera, 15% Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay

    Lemon, fine bubbles

    Citrus, ripe peach, green apple, white flowers

    Similar to nose: A bright citrusy opening leads into juicy peach, apricot, and green apple with fragrant white flowers bordered by a slight mineral edge. A very crisp balanced wine with juicy acidity, medium body, medium+ finish. This Prosecco would be terrific on its own as an aperitif, paired with a slew of foods, or in a cocktail. Best now or within 2 years but not meant for prolonged cellaring.

    Most meals at our house are lively affairs but in 2020 I think we've been celebrating even more than usual as a way of encouraging the year to just end already! I suspect that we'll continue this throughout December so we can charge on with real life where exciting things happen and where we freely hug and mingle with humans in all corners of the world and where if we get sick we have treatment options. I.e. real life in our real world with boundaries beyond home. And so, on this evening dinner was a bottle of Val d'Oca Prosecco paired with the first course, entrée, and main, and for dessert we had a silky cognac flip with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.

    Photo: Payal Vora
    : We eased into our evening with parmesan-black pepper biscotti and a pour of the Val d'Oca Prosecco. We usually have this biscotti with champagne and it's a superb pairing, so it was a bit of an obvious choice for Prosecco. The biscotti was delicious and so was the Prosecco, but together they were anything but. Something about the combination of the biscotti and Prosecco resulted in a most unappetising metallic taste. A combination to be repeated NEVER AGAIN.

    ENTRÉE: We got past that pairing fiasco and moved on to the thing we were eagerly awaiting: East Coast oysters. Briny, meaty, and perfect for any dry sparkling wine, especially this Val d'Oca Prosecco. We had Cotuit, Blue Point, and Wellfleet oysters with a squeeze of lemon. They were all terrific with the Prosecco but the Blue Points, the briniest of the lot, were exceptional with the fine bubbles and citrusy mineral notes in the wine.

    Photo: Payal Vora
    : We had chimichurri-topped halibut on dressing with bread, celery, etc. and sage-laced roasted butternut squash with cranberries. 
    I usually pair wine to the flavours of the dish rather than a single meat or vegetable and the rounded acidity (red wine vinegar FTW!), hint of herbaceousness, and the savouriness of garlic in the chimichurri were such a lovely complement to the bright notes of the Prosecco. The mild sweetness of the butternut squash and the tart-sweet cranberries we equally delicious with the wine.

    Overall it was a splendid meal and I would absolutely recommend pairing Val d'Oca Prosecco with any course, not just the beginning of your meal. It offers such an excellent QPR that I would extend this pairing to a large dinner party, not just intimate gatherings. You can count on the Val d'Oca Prosecco being offered at our first garden party of 2021 when we reacquaint with real life! I'll take the liberty of speaking for all of us and say: We Cannot Wait!

    Tuesday, November 24, 2020


    Every now and then we come across something in life that blows us away. An experience, a place, a feeling, words we hear or read, a new discovery... something truly sensational and special. For me, most recently, it was sweet wine from Bordeaux. A gorgeous tipple in various equally gorgeous shades of gold. Indian or Byzantine jewellery gold - warm, rich, exotic gold that makes you want to have some. Most of us might be familiar with Sauternes, the prized sweet wine from the Left Bank of Bordeaux. The Sauternes that is Chateau d'Yquem. But few know that there are 9 other appellations in Bordeaux that make sweet wines as well. This month the French #winophiles are exploring those other sweet Bordeaux appellations. Many of us were fortunate to receive four wine samples thanks to Jeff. Read the preview by Linda to know more and then join us on 21 Nov. 2020 at 8 AM PST on Twitter under #winophiles to hear what everyone is saying and pairing with these versatile wines! Don't forget to check out all the blog entries for pairing ideas, recipes, tasting notes, and photos:

    • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Surprise! Pairing Spicy and Savory Dishes with Sweet Bordeaux”
    • Terri at Our Good Life: “Spicy Hot Tacos and Sweet Bordeaux”
    • Martin at ENOFYLZ: “Pairing Sweet Bordeaux with Southern Fare”
    • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish: “Golden Bordeaux Meets Savory Pumpkin and Smoked Bacon Tart: a Delicious Thanksgiving Twist!”
    • David at Cooking Chat: “Pairings for Sweet Bordeaux Wine”
    • Katrina at The Corkscrew Concierge: “Golden Bordeaux Delights in Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Cuisine”
    • Payal at Keep the Peas: “Four Sweet Bordeaux Wines with Four Courses”
    • Jane at Always Ravenous: “Golden Sweet Bordeaux Wines: Tasting and Pairings”
    • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: “Hot Chocolate and Halva Pudding paired with Lion De Tanesse L’Amour”
    • Jeff at foodwineclick: “Sweet Bordeaux Meets the Smoke”
    • Jill at L’OCCASION : “Sweet Bordeaux Wines Aren’t Just for Dessert”
    • Lynn at Savor the Harvest: “Sweet Bordeaux Wines Get Savory Pairings”
    • Rupal at Syrah Queen: “Sweet Bordeaux Is A Sweet Delight – Savor These Perfect Food Pairings”
    • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: “Sweet Bordeaux Wines and pairings from opposite sides of the globe”
    • Pinny at Chinese Food & Wine Pairings: “Sweet Bordeaux Paired with Asian Carbs – Chinese Sticky Rice and Korean Japchae”
    • Susannah at avvinare: “Delightful Sweet Wines from Bordeaux”
    • Nicole at Somm’s Table: “Château Loupiac Gaudiet with Cinnamon Apple Crème Brûlée”
    • Gwendolyn at wine predator: “Successful Pairings of Salty and Savory with Sweet Semi-Dry Bordeaux”
    • Jennifer at Vino Travels: “A Look Into the Sweeter Side of Bordeaux Wines”
    • Linda at My Full Wine Glass: “Appetizers, entrées and yes, dessert please, with sweet Bordeaux”

    The sweet wines of Bordeaux are rare and selective white wines that pair with sweet and savoury foods alike. As the map from the official Sweet Bordeaux website shows, the wines are made in southern Bordeaux on both sides of the Garonne river in diverse terrain, soil, and microclimates that yield diverse wines. Amongst the 10 Appellations d'Origine Controlée (AOC) you are sure to find an estate that makes wine that pairs splendidly with whatever you're putting on the table that day. But there is unity in diversity and these wines have a few things in common:
    • Grapes are left on the vine to get infected by noble rot (Bortytis Cinerea fungus)
    • Slow gentle harvest by hand often done in several passes to select the ripest grapes
    • Slow vinification, gentle maturation in vats or oak barrels
    • Unfortified (no additional spirit is added to the wine after it reaches a certain sugar level)
    • 1% of total Bordeaux wine volume
    • 2% of total Bordeaux wine area
    • Approx. 9M bottles across 350 estates
    • ~1 grape vine = 1 glass of wine
    • 3 main grape varieties: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
    • Two categories based on residual sugar (RS) in the wine: molleux (12-45 g/L) and liquoreux (>45 g/L)
    • The wines offer tremendous variety in aroma and tasting notes and price points. This makes for a very rich selection available for pairing with a vast number of foods, cuisines, and cooking methods
    • Both molleux and liquoreux wines are excellent in cocktails. In this day and age where cocktail making ranges from mixing soda water with whiskey to total alchemy, sweet Bordeaux wines invite creative cocktails.
    Botrytis on grapes (


    I received four bottles of sweet Bordeaux wine and the one way to do justice to a diverse array of wines all from one general area was to pair them with a diverse
     array of food at dinner. We paired each wine with four courses over dinner: starter, entrée, main, dessert. 

    For our starter we went with oysters dressed with nothing but a spritz of lemon. Back in the day in Bordeaux no dinner party began without a palate opener of briny Bordelaise oyters and sweet wine. In the US, west coast oysters are abundant but not briny enough to walk with the semi-dry or sweet wines of Bordeaux. I happened to see fresh east coast oysters at the market and I just had to. So I got three different varieties, in decreasing brininess: Cotuit, Wellfleet, and Moondancer. And my kind fishmonger graciously shucked and arranged them on a tray of crushed ice, so it was a snap to get this starter ready to enjoy with two sweet Bordeaux wines - one liquoreux and one molleux.

    The molleux was certainly the lighter match of the two and paired splendidly with the Cotuits but the liquoreux was right there to complement the Wellfleets and Moondancers. The lemon rounded everything up quite nicely. The acidity of the wines and lemon was perfect with the seafoam brininess of the oysters. I suspect that both wines would have overpowered west coast oysters but were indeed superb with east coast oysters.

    2014 Château du Cros, Loupiac AOC (SRP $30)
    90/5/5 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscadelle
    14% ABV | Sample
    Notes: Beautiful gold colour with white flowers, citrus blossoms, apricots, honey, tropical fruits, candied citrus on the nose and palate. A supple silky mouthfeel but light at the same time. A medium+ finish with a slight hint of baking spice on the taper.

    2019 Château La Hargue Bordeaux Blanc Molleux (SRP $15)
    50/50 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
    11% ABV | Sample
    Notes: Brilliant pale  gold colour with lemon curd, vanilla, tropical fruit, on the nose and palate. Overall a not too complex but balanced, light, wine with a faint hint of stony minerality to end the medium finish.

    As our appetiser or entrée, we had a couple of different street food snacks typical to northern and western India. We've finally found two quick service places that come close to the authentic flavours of their respective cuisines. 
    This time we settled on two snacks typical to New Delhi/Punjab and Mumbai. Two places that are polar opposites in language, food, culture, clothing, weather, and everything else. Street food in India, as in all of Asia and somewhat Central America too, is endless and different as night and day from region to region. Even town to town. So it is really fun to make a meal entirely of street food.

    And because the flavours are complex and fresh, coming up with wine and cocktail pairings is just as much fun as is drinking them! We had bread pakoras (Delhi) and vada pãu (Mumbai). Bread pakoras are two slices of bread slathered with mint-cilantro chutney, stuffed with seasoned mashed peas and potatoes, dipped in a chickpea flour batter, deep fried, and served with a couple of different chutneys on the side. Vada pãu is a roll split and seasoned with garlic chutney and stuffed with a fried mashed potato cutlet/fritter/vada. Generally served with fried green chillies on the side - I skipped those because in the US they use Thai chillies which just do not go well with vada pãu - it is not supposed to have heat, just flavours of the spices used in it. Incidentally, this street food dish came about after the Portuguese introduced leavened bread to western India. The bread pakora and vada pãu are both very flavourful and have just enough spices to pair superbly with the Château du Cros. The bright acidity, residual sugar, and floral-citrus notes of the wine balance out the complex flavours of the herbs and spices in the food. 

    2014 Château du Cros, Loupiac AOC (SRP $30)
    Notes: see above

    Next we had Kerala egg curry with homemade layered wholewheat flatbread/parantha and plantain chips on the side. Kerala is a coastal state and heaven if you love seafood, meat, and coconut in all forms. It is also one of the few states in India where the literacy rate is very high and beef is freely eaten - much of the rest of India is too busy making beef a political/religious agenda so they're freely arguing about beef and religion. In any case this egg curry is an Indian-Jewish dis
    h adapted from
    Spice & Kosher - Exotic Cuisine of the Cochin Jews. Jews came to southern India, particularly Kerala, hundreds of years ago for trade and to escape persecution in Spain and Portugal.

    They made Kerala their home and as the Jewish diaspora always does, adapted local cuisine to meet Kosher needs. This egg curry is flavourful and balanced - coconut milk, Asian shallots, garlic, turmeric, and other spices cook into a silky sauce that is perfect for equally benign boiled eggs and the paranthas are light with the slight nuttiness of Indian sharbati wheat. I also added some peas to the curry because we're getting into pea season and I couldn't resist. Indian food has lots of complex spice combinations but it is generally not spicy - extra heat is never the norm, always a matter of preference. The layered flavours of the velvety sauce were perfect with the minerality and bright notes of the Château La Rame. The Château La Hargue was an ok pairing - wouldn't be my first choice for this dish the next time. The velvety texture of the sauce was a bit too contrasted with the light mouthfeel of the La Hargue. 

    2016 Château La Rame, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont AOC (SRP $35)
    95/5 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
    13% ABV | Sample
    Notes: Medium gold colour with an appealing bouquet of faint spice, candied citrus peel, white flowers, and vanilla in the background. Same on the palate along with a racy acidity and minerality. Overall a delightfully balanced and elegant wine with a medium-long finish.

    2019 Château La Hargue Bordeaux Blanc Molleux (SRP $15)
    Notes: see above

    Since it was just past Diwali, the Hindu New Year and festival of lights and levity, we had a great selection of sweets from northern and eastern India at home. So dessert was a nibble of two of those with two utterly delicious Loupiac AOC wines. Both desserts are milk-based: one is a fudgy confection of milk cooked down into solids, mixed with sugar, ground cashews, saffron (and maybe a few other things, not sure) then topped with silver foil. The other is a light ricotta-based dumpling soaked in a light sugar syrup then squeezed to remove the extra syrup. In this case it was also stuffed with a saffron cream.

    In my opinion pairing dessert with sweet wines is tricky. Those with an intense sweet-tooth might love the pairing but I've generally found it cloying. So milk-based desserts that are not overly sugary are a great match. The acidity of the wines matches the creaminess of the milk and makes the pairing quite a delight. And of course, most Indian sweets are generally just 2-3 bite servings and redolent with saffron, cashews, almonds, pistachios, rose water, orange water, and other flowers so bright liquoreux wines like these from Loupiac AOC are a lovely combination. A perfect way to end a meal, really.

    2015 Château Dauphiné Rondillon "Cuvée d'Or", Loupiac AOC (SRP $42)
    80/20 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
    13% ABV | Sample
    Notes: Gorgeous rich gold colour with a fragrant nose and palate full of bright citrus juice, marmalade, candied citrus, and orange blossoms with a light woodiness at the end. Medium+ acidity, rich mouthfeel, overall a very balanced wine. Juicy medium bodied wine with a long elegant finish.

    2014 Château du Cros, Loupiac AOC (SRP $30)
    Notes: see above