Friday, April 24, 2009

Making New Friends

Coachella Valley Alumnae Panhellenic spring-loaded our Spring Fling at Centre Court Restaurant with plenty of energy and laughter. Those lovely ladies came early, stayed late and made every minute in between a party.

All elements that make being part of Winewomenpsp so rewarding were there: A world-class venue in La Quinta Resort and Spa, nature's dramatic mountain backdrop, inventive cuisine and unexpected wine pairings. Layer that with interesting people to meet, friendly conversation and a charity that awards scholarships to ladies who graduate from our local high schools and you can bet it was a rousing night.

Tasty courtside hors d'oeuvres tipped us off to the treats that lie ahead. To stave away thirst, we kept Creative Wine International's cheerful Phil Molnar busy pouring food-friendly 2006 Godwin Floral Clone Russian River Chardonnay. Inside the tennis-decorated restaurant awaited light and refreshing chilled white heirloom tomato consommé with cucumber relish paired to Pushback Sauvignon Blanc. Newbie 30-year-old Napa winemaker Nick Floulis blends a small amount of Semillon to his first-release wine for added body, floral notes and versatility with food.

After the grilled shrimp course came the crowd-pleaser: Fork-tender braised short ribs served with Mettler Epicenter Old Vine Zinfandel. The unzinny zin lacked the one-dimensional raisiny flavors that make some zins unpalatable with many foods or too assertive to sip alone. Instead, we found the Epicenter rich with ripe berry fruit, espresso backflavors and balanced tannins. Straight outta Lodi, the 2006 Epicenter snagged silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – thanks for serving up an award-winner, Phil.

We probably did enough swooning over Sauternes in our last post. Thanks to Kathleen, CVAP, Ed, Phil, Michelle and all who made this a special event. If you missed it, book your lunch reservation at Centre Court and call Dan at Dan's Wine Shop in Palm Desert at 760.674.0305 to find out if he salvaged any Godwin chard or Mettler Epicenter zin we didn't polish off.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game, Set, Match at Centre Court

Chatter and giggles filled the room at La Quinta Resort's Centre Court Restaurant Saturday night. Our Spring Fling of culinary delights and home-run wine pairings was coming to a close. As plates of warm tart tatin arrived to sway us into sweet indulgence, our resort hosts treated Winewomenpsp to one last surprise: 1975 Château de Malle Sauternes.

Regardless of your taste in wine and spirits, uncorking a 1975 Sauternes warrants a moment of silence. The liquid gold was sunny in the glass and rich on the palate. Full-bodied flavors of spiced honey, almond and apricot ushered in a long finish with just-right sweetness and texture. The wine's arrival seemed to quiet the room just enough for us to say our goodbyes with plenty of hugs and smiles to go around.

Bordeaux is home to the great French dessert wine known as Sauternes. The blend's sweetness and viscous mouth feel develops from a seemingly unappetizing natural process known as "noble rot." White Bordeaux grapes Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle stay on the vine until they are infected by Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that eventually makes the grapes contract or shrivel, which concentrates flavors. Once perfectly rôti, grapes are picked and their juices vinified, blended and aged to become Sauternes.

Ordinarily we wouldn't recap an event by starting with the end but in this case, the finale deserved top billing. We promise to tell you about Centre Court's other pleasures next time. For now, thanks to our hosts for sharing an over-the-top finishing touch – Chateau de Malle 1975 Sauternes. Merci.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wine and Food Matcher

It's no secret that we're all eating in more often. While the food is great, at times we wish a sommelier genie would appear to suggest interesting wine choices to complement our dishes. That's when having a useful wine-food pairing tool comes in handy.

Thanks to accredited sommelier, author and wine judge Natalie MacLean, we now have an easy-to-use pairing widget on this blog you can access anytime. Just pick a food or wine you want to pair and start exploring the possibilities. Try it before you sweat through your next dinner party or to honor your latest slow-cooked wonder. Nat writes with flair and humor while serving up plenty of great information, wine reviews and more on her Web site. Visit and let us know what you think. Bon appetit!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring's Go-To Wines

The job description for a go-to wine is pretty straightforward. It should be appropriate to the time of year and marry well with the types of foods you typically enjoy or serve to guests. Think versatility rather than edginess. Go-to wines should also be easy to find and affordable enough to keep a decent stash on hand.

Two wines comprise our short list of go-to wines this spring season – a French Côte du Rhône and a New World entry from the Santa Ynez valley near Santa Barbara. While each wine has its own distinct character and style, both pair well with a range of springtime dishes. Right now, with daytime temps comfortably warm and evenings refreshingly cool, it's time to fire up the barbie, entertain outdoors and uncork some Syrah.

Locally, we found the 2006 Saint Cosme Côte du Rhône at LA Wine Company for less than $12 a bottle. Its medium-bodied richness is well-balanced and smooth with aromas of smoke and earth. Flavors of blackberries and spice are soft and pleasing, yielding a wine that marries well with robust or grilled meats to springtime vegetables, cheese and pasta. The 100% Syrah from the Southern Rhone wine matches up to strong-flavored fish too, as we discovered with grilled salmon topped with a barely cooked sauce of fresh tomatoes and capers.

We landed our other go-to choice during a visit to the Andrew Murray tasting room in Los Olivos, outside of Santa Barbara. The winery's 2005 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah is made in a New World style with greater fruit-forward character and heady aromas. Medium-to-full bodied in the mouth, the wine conveys rich flavors of wild berry, cranberry and cassis. White pepper dominates spicy notes that add a bit of heat to this American beauty. It makes a satisfying pairing with pizza or spice-rubbed grilled chicken. We took advantage of the tasting room's half-off case price to stock up at about $13 a bottle.

Find go-to wines that work with your specific dining preferences, taste and budget. They'll help you conserve wine dollars, save shopping time and avoid wine angst. Best of all, they'll deliver no-surprises, flavorful value every time you pop the cork. These spicy, aromatic Syrahs should take us through springtime's steak, lamb and barbeque bacchanalia. After that, we'll be trolling to find other, perhaps lighter go-to wines to get us through the dog days of summer.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What To Pour Primer

We've got to hand it to sis. Even though she credits others for sparking her interest in wine, the refined palate she's developed and wine knowledge she's amassed are all hers. She combines both with journalism skills that allow her to share wine wisdom with loyal So Cal readers. So when we spotted her San Diego Union Tribune article about wine survival tactics, we threw conflict-of-interest cautions to the wind in order to share it with Winewomenpsp readers. It's just too good.

If the credit and earnings crunch is putting the squeeze on your wine budget, try some of the tips served up by sis. In the meantime, you'll find us flipping through wine books to learn about Austrian blaufrÄnkisch. After all, one of the greatest joys of teaching is what you learn from your students. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hollywood & Vines

Going back a few months, it turns out our January event at Louise's Pantry was another score for Winewomenpsp. One of the wines we tasted was FOUR, a premium Cabernet Sauvignon served in an eco-friendly tube. The upscale package (we won't call it a box) holds 3 liters of wine, or the equivalent of four 750ml bottles. A few of you ordered some to take home and enjoy with family and friends.

Share this tidbit of news with them: FOUR was the exclusive red wine served in the VIP Celebrity Lounge at the Global Green pre-Oscars party in Hollywood on February 19. Co-hosts for that event included Leonardo DiCaprio, Penelope Cruz, Kate Bosworth and other A-listers. We hear Sheryl Crow performed in support of Global Green's Schools initiative. Cool - and we got to taste that wine a month before they did!

Our same friends at Creative Wines International who introduced us (and the stars) to FOUR will also be pairing our wines to the delicious menu that awaits us at our April 18 event at La Quinta Resort and Club's Centre Court Restaurant. They have an intriguing portfolio of boutique California wines that are sure to surprise and delight. Make your reservations now: Call Kathleen at 760.799.7076 or download/share the flyer from our Web site. Our April designated charity is Coachella Valley Alumnae Panhellenic. Come out to support them and all the good they do raising scholarship money for local young ladies who graduate from our public high schools.

See you at Centre Court!