Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cheers for Rosé Revolutionaries

Two Yarra Valley Aussies have declared the Rosé Revolution. Starting today, November 30, the last day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, Leanne De Bortoli and Stephen Webber have summoned corks to pop worldwide to herald the inaugural Rosé Day.

De Bortoli and Webber want to see rosé take its place as a contender on the world's wine stage, even if rosé isn't quite as serious as many reds, whites, ports, and bubblies. Rather, these Rosé Revolutionaries seek to give rosé respect as dry tasty pinks with texture and finesse to satisfy any wine lover.

While international wine-makers have gravitated towards nuanced rosé production worthy of more refined enjoyment, many still perceive rosé as a one-dimensional, syrupy or candy-like beverage with an alcoholic kick. Blame the cotton-candy we ate as kids or little girls' pink clothing for cementing an association between pink and sweetness. Some rosé snobs point to White Zinfandel to explain their scorn. But the blush wines known as white zins today are produced differently from rosés, with a vastly different result.

The runaway success of White Zinfandel began in 1975 with a wine-making goof at Sutter Home. As told by Bob Trinchero, the mistake involved free-run juice bled off from red Zinfandel grapes. Instead of being fermented to dryness, uncooperative yeast "stuck" the fermentation process, yielding a wine with excess sugar content. Trinchero tasted that slightly pink, sweet wine and decided it was good and different enough to bottle. The rest is history. With a decision that unleashed a sugar-rush of sales, Sutter Home catapulted to success as the second largest independent family-owned winery in the country. In fact, fallout from the White Zinfandel success story is more worthy of praise than scorn. By popularizing Zinfandel in general, Sutter Home's triumph also helped reverse the decline of red Zinfandel viticulture and gave legions of wine newbies their first introduction to the world of wine.

Today's New World rosés look and taste much like their counterparts in the Old World, where the popularity of rosé has never wavered. From tony tourist towns of Provence to sleepy coastal fishing villages along the Mediterranean basin, rosé is a dependable partner for a bevy of fish dishes, fowl, lighter meats, vegetables, legumes, cheeses and dishes with figs or sweeter nuts such as pistachios. Pale or salmon-pink to the pour, these dry roses offer floral and fruity aromas with fresh strawberry to juicy watermelon flavors, often with a delicate streak of dried herbs or a hint of cinnamon spice or nutmeg on the finish.

However you're wired to think about pink, there's a fresh face to rosé that's chiseled, racy and sure to please. A sip of Domaine Tempier Bandol 2009 Rosé at Chez Panisse shows how savory-crisp, food-friendly and sophisticated rosé can be. Try other rosés made from Grenache, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc or Nebbiolo to discover textured and delicate roses or a lush fruit-bombshell worthy of a pop on a hot summer day. In order words, rosé has come calling and today's as good a day as any to take her on. Vive la Rosé Revolution!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Wines

Ah, the flavors of a Thanksgiving meal. With tastes and textures that range from savory to sweet, delicate to heavy and herbaceous to creamy, it can be tough to find wine pairings that work.

We gave you a few tips last year and they still hold as general guides and specific wine recommendations. Here are a few more tips to help you through the holiday meal.

Two whites that work better with traditional Thanksgiving foods than go-to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are Pinot Gris and Riesling. Look to Oregon for Pinot Gris that are richer in style and body than Italian Pinot Grigio, made from the same grape. Most Northwest Pinot Gris have soft fruit and floral flavors with a light earthiness and plump body that pairs well with turkey and traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Try Bethel Heights 2009 ($15 at LQ Wine on Washington, near the La Quinta Trader Joe's), Elk Cove and other reliable producers such as A to Z Wineworks, or California's tangent for a homegrown taste of Alsace style.

Riesling is another white that can carry the Thanksgiving meal. Two German Rieslings that finish dry and have the added bonus of low-alcohol content are Mönchhof Mosel Slate 2009 Riesling Spätlese ($16 at LA Wine Company) and, for closer to $10, Dr. L Riesling by Loosen Bros. in the gorgeous sleek teal bottle (Dan's Wine Shop, Trader Joe's and grocers). Both are screw-cap and go down smooth and easy. Flavors of stone fruit, green apple and lime work well with turkey while both have just enough kick and slatey earth to pair with more exotic holiday spices. If you haven't tried too many Rieslings - or if you think all Rieslings are sweet - here's your chance to discover why this varietal is so food-friendly and a chef favorite.

Rosé is another wine that stands up to holiday fare. Rosés made from Cabernet Sauvignon can be a tad tannic for turkey so look for Provençal and other French styles, or American rosé made from Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. Plus, rosé delivers the biggest bang for your holiday buck, especially if you have lots of hungry, thirsty mouths to satisfy. Look to sunny Spain for the dry 2009 Márques de Cáceres ($7 at Trader Joe's) or 2009 Borsao (also $7 at LA Wine Company). Ask local wine merchants about their favorite rosés from Oregon, France and California producers such as Frog's Leap and Belle Glos. Chances are you won't go wrong with rosé.

If only red will do, Pinot Noir fits the bill. Low in tannin and medium in body, Pinot Noir has bright cherry flavors, floral and baked spice aromas and the mouthfeel to pair beautifully with many traditional Thanksgiving foods. Splurge with a special bottle from Oregon (Shea, Domaine Serene, Adelsheim) or Elk Cove for quality at a gentler price. Our local wine merchants carry excellent Pinot Noirs – ask about their favorites. We love California's cool-climate gems Millworks for value and reliable, delicious Byron. BTW, Byron's Pinot Blanc also makes a good Thanksgiving pick.

Another red alternative is Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. Unless you're feeding a group of guzzlers, spend a couple dollars more for the greater complexity and elegance of cru Beaujolais over fruitier Beaujolais Nouveau. Look for the quality designation cru on the label. And, while you're in the French section, many red or white Côtes-du-Rhône wines are worth a pop with holiday foods.

End your meal with a refreshing Moscato and let the skinny kids devour the rest of that pumpkin pie. Or bust open that bottle of port you haven't been sure about. Enjoy a dessert wine and walk away from your holiday table feeling lighter – and thankful for all we have in this beautiful country.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wine Down with Two November Events

Yes, it's official - season is here. Traffic, horns and more events than we can cram into our already-busy schedules. After the summer doldrums, we're sure you'll agree, it's all good!

Our WinewomenPSP Summerland wine dinner on Sunday, November 21 at Bellatrix Restaurant at the Classic Club promises to be another memorable event at that gorgeous venue. Bellatrix did such a great job for us last time, we heard you wanted to go back for more. Done! See the full list of wines from this Santa Barbara boutique winery and Chef's gorgeous menu here and make your reservations with Kathleen today by calling 760.799.7076. Come out in support of education and local scholarships for students attending Cal State San Bernardino's Palm Desert campus.

Kathleen and Kajon Media are bringing a fall version of the Coachella Wine Festival to Miramonte Resort and Spa this Thanksgiving weekend, too. Be done with that turkey and make your way to Miramonte for some real eating and libations at your choice of three events:

Saturday, Nov. 27: Summerland Winemaker Dinner with Etienne Terlinden; 6:30-9 PM on the romantic, outdoor Piazza Terrace ($85 by advance reservations only)

Saturday, Nov. 27: Just Desserts Soiree with boutique wines and desserts; 7-9 PM at the outdoor Mediterranean Lawn ($30 by advance purchase; $40 at the door)

Sunday, Nov. 28: Tulip Hill Winery Winemaker Lunch with Kristi Brown; 11 AM- 2 PM at the outdoor Piazza Terrace ($45 by advance reservations only)

Multi-event passes or tickets to individual events are available online on the Coachella Wine Festival website - click here.

It's heatin' up - see you there!