Posts Tagged ‘lamb’

THANKSGIVING WINES

October 5, 2016

We are heading into our Thanksgiving Day long weekend up here in Canada, and every year I get questions about what wine to have with the big celebration dinner.

So here are some ideas!

First off, it always depends on what you are having to eat, particularly if the food – or significant components of the meal – is going to be sweet. That sugar can play havoc with both red and white wines, so it is important to plan accordingly.

If you are having a sweeter meal – ham with a sugar glaze, sweet yams or mashed potatoes, lots of cranberry sauce – then I would recommend two kinds of wines.

For whites, go with a Riesling. They are naturally on the sweet side (even the dry ones), so can stand up to just about any level of sweetness in your food. Also, they come in a wide range of price categories! You can get really nice ones from BC, Washington State and California for under $20, for example. Europe is the home to great Rieslings, of course – from France, in the Alsace region, and Germany – so you can also go there if you want a potentially great wine. One caveat, though – some of the best of those wines can get quite sweet, so if you or your guests don’t like sweet wines, that could be a problem.

For reds, that is tougher. Any kind of oak in the wine will not mix well with the sweetness in the food, potentially ruining the taste of both the wine and the food.

My “go to” red wine for sweeter or hotter foods is Zinfandel. It is chock full of sweet (ripe) fruit itself, doesn’t have oak or jamminess to it, and the alcohol level can help combat the sweetness in the food. California is the place, of course, to find it, and you can find options from $10 to $50++++.

It is easier to pair wines with more savoury dishes – turkey/lamb/chicken/beef with herbs, meat stuffing, that kind of thing.

My favourite red wine choice for these kind of meals is actually Grenache-based wines! Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras – all of these wines, even when young, have great herbal (called garrigue) component to them that pairs really well with herbal, meaty food. And they don’t have to be expensive! Basic Cotes du Rhone – solid wines – can be had for under $15.

As for whites, you do need to watch the oak. If you – or your guests – like it, then go for the big Chardonnay or Semillon/Sauvignon-based wines. They will be rich enough to stand up to the herbal meaty flavours. If oaked wines don’t work, you can try Pinot Gris or even Chenin Blanc – the best ones are full-bodied enough to handle the food without the oak.

That should give you enough to make Thanksgiving Dinner – here or in the US – enjoyable. But one last piece of advice.

If you really love wine and/or a certain type of wine, then have it! There are too few excuses to treat yourself, and not matter what the food is, you can still enjoy a fabulous bottle of wine.

Life is too short…so go for it!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

BURGUNDY vs PINOT NOIR

April 23, 2014

Okay…seems like an oxy-moron for a title, right? After all, Burgundy — at least red Burgundy — is made from Pinot Noir.

So what’s up?

Well, after drinking a 15 year old Premier Cru Burgundy with Easter dinner this past week (the ’99 Maranges ‘Clos Roussot ‘ by Doudet-Naudin), it left me wondering about the relationship between the grape and how it expresses itself.

I admit to not drinking a lot of Burgundy. It is expensive – sometimes frighteningly so – and can be extremely variable in quality. I have had a few great ones over my wine lifetime (the memories of an ’83 Echezeaux and ’83 Clos de la Roche still bring tears to my eyes), but also more than a few disappointments.

The flavours are also not always in my style. Earth, herbs and mushrooms often dominate the dark cherries, and cedar/oak can sneak in, along with strong tannins when the wines are young. If and when the tannins resolve and everything comes together, Burgundy can be amazing (as in the above wines), but it can also taste dried out to me.

Before I go further, I should say I enjoyed the Maranges! While still tannic and not on the fruit-forward side, it was complex and in amazing shape for 15 years old. It also went extremely well with the prosciutto, goat cheese and pesto stuffed leg of lamb I prepared!

But I couldn’t help compare it in my mind to the new world Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon and here in BC. Ripe red and black cherry fruit can explode out of the glass, along with tantalizing vanilla overtones (can you tell I like it?). True, some can be almost too ripe, taking on an almost candied taste. But the best – like Kettle Valley’s Hayman Vineyard and Blue Mountain’s Reserve – add in enough earthy/herbal and even mushroom flavours to make them very complex, particularly after 5 – 8 years.

I bet if you served a good Burgundy blind next to one of these wines, the average wine drinker would think they are made from completely different grapes.

I’m not saying one is better than the other (although my guess is more people would pick the new world version).

The point is how different they taste and what that means for what people expect when they buy ‘Pinot Noir’.

The wineries in Burgundy have been making that style for over a thousand years and — after Bordeaux – it might be the wine world’s most respected wine. So I am definitely not saying they should change!

But what does that mean for modern consumers, most of whom will never be able to taste the best wines from Burgundy, and instead may judge them based on average –or less than average — versions?

In their minds, I think the definition of ‘Pinot Noir’ will be what comes out of the new world. And that may have interesting consequences – including for Burgundy producers – should they then proceed to Burgundy in the future

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

EASTER WINES TO HAVE WITH HAM, LAMB…OR SPAM!

April 16, 2014

Easter this weekend, and many will be looking for a wine – or wines – serve to family at a holiday meal. Everyone knows that the food plays a big role in picking the wine, so I thought I would offer some ideas on what to serve with some of the favourite Easter foods – ham and lamb (the spam was just a marketing gimmick to get your attention).

With ham, it really depends on how you are going to serve it. It is usually on the sweet side, with maple or sugar or any of those kinds of coatings, I would actually go for a white wine that also is a touch sweet. Rieslings or Gewurztraminers are great choices, even if they have just a touch of residual sugar, because they have big enough body – and enough fruit – to handle both the sweetness of the glaze and the meatiness of the ham. Germany and Alsace (from France) make the best ones, but if you have/come across the Small Lots by La Frenz from BC go for it! It is an amazing wine and, at about $20, a ridiculous bargain!

Wines for lamb follow the same kind of strategy, although there are savoury options as well. If it is a very “English” mint jelly kind of lamb, stick with the Riesling. But if you are going with the more French version – with mustard, rosemary and other herbs – there are lots of great red wine options!

Pinot Noir is one, especially if you can find one that has earthy and mushroom undertones to match the flavours in the lamb. Burgundy is the traditional place to go, but that can be very expensive and, frankly, unreliable (if I had a dollar for every expensive but disappointing red Burgundy I have had, I would be a rich man!). California can also be a source of good Pinot Noir, but – ironically – the ripeness of many of the wines can work against the lamb combo, with the almost candied cherry flavours coming off as too sweet for the meat and the flavoring.

My recommendation is from BC again – for some very special wines! Kettle Valley makes two of them – the Hayman Vineyard and the Reserve. The former is very “Burgundian”, with ripe dark cherry fruit but nice earth and mushrooms to go with it. The latter is a little more Californian, but still works. The other option is from Blue Mountain. Their Reserve Pinot Noir is a great Burgundy/Cali cross, especially as it ages! All these wines can be tough to find because they aren’t made in big quantities, but worth looking for. Other options almost as good include Pinot Noirs from Eau Vivre, Howling Bluff, Averill Creek and NkMip.

If not Pinot Noir, though, go for a Grenache-based wine from the Cotes du Rhone. The inherent lavender/rosemary aromas – called “garrigue” – are perfectly suited for lamb, as are the ripe but dried cherry flavours. Chateauneuf du Pape with six to eight years of age is a great bet, especially if it is from a first rate producer like Beaucastel, Clos du Papes or Le Vieux Donjon. But a younger Cotes du Rhone from a great vintage like 2010 or 2012 also will work.

And if spam is the Easter meal of choice? Well, if you are not drinking beer…pick the best wine you can find! It will make you forget about the food you are eating.

Happy Easter!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Spain Makes a Come Back at Hart House Restaurant Dinner!

August 23, 2013

It’s nice to get a pleasant wine surprise, especially when you really weren’t expecting much!

In my case it was Spanish wines. Anyone who reads this blog or my Twitter feed knows that I have been increasingly disappointed by Spain over the last few years. Whether it is a change in style or my tastes (or both), most Spanish wines have been coming off as too woody and herbal for me — even the Rioja Reservas I used to love so much. As a result, I rarely buy them to drink or put in my cellar anymore, and the ‘Spanish’ space in the cellar is getting smaller and smaller.

But that may have all changed as of a dinner at Hart House Restaurant in Burnaby, BC on Wednesday. The theme was ‘Spain’, and we (my wife and I) were going more for the food than the wine, based on our recent experience at a Provence dinner (although the wine there was also very good).

The format of these dinners is a wine tasting from 6 – 7, followed by a gourmet buffet dinner from 7 onward — all for $55 a head (plus any wine you want with dinner). It is an amazing deal and, no, ‘gourmet buffet’ is not an oxymoron – how do options like gazpacho, mackerel, paella and roast leg of lamb sound? The food was very good, served family style outside in a beautiful setting.

So we were going for the food…as for the wine, well, I thought a few glasses of Cava (which my wife loves), maybe a half decent Rioja…and that would be it.

Boy was I wrong!

The two Cavas were basic but good values — the NV Segura Viudas Brut Rose and Codorniu Classico Brut. Nice bubbles to get the night started, and meeting expectations.

Then there were a few Roses, very dry, a bit tart, certainly no challenge to Provence or even BC.

Next up were the whites and, as expected, they were nothing to write home about. A couple of Ruedas were okay, especially the ’11 Basa by Rodriguez, but at about $20 retail ($42 on the wine list), I couldn’t say it was worth it.

All that was left was reds…so I took a deep breath and headed over to the first table. And…wow!!!

First up was a 2005 Rioja Reserva from Lopez de Haro. I sniffed — hmm, nice vanilla and currants! But I expected wood and herbs to follow in the mouth — but nope! More vanilla covered ripe black currants, with dusty tannins! It could have been a mid-level California Cabernet! And about $25 retail ($46 on the list). A really nice wine!

They had another red wine, so I tried that too… it tasted younger, but maybe even better! When the guy told me it was Garnacha, I just about fell over…it tasted like a Cotes du Rhone! Which, when he showed me where it came from (the northeast corner of Spain, almost on the French border), made sense. The wine, by the way, was the 2011 Proyecto Garnachas Moncayo (from Ribera del Queiles). And it retails for about $25 as well.

And so it went! Another very nice Rioja Reserva (2005 from Beronia), a toned down version of the Los Rocas Garnacha…and then the star of the night! A 2010 named Pasion del Bobal from Utiel-Requena. It was amazing – big, ripe and smooth! Afterwards I found out Parker gave a previous vintage 91 Points, and I can see why! We both had a glass at dinner.

As we were heading home, I was trying to decide what the night’s wine experience meant.

That I should go back to tasting Spanish reds was the obvious learning. But perhaps more importantly, the lesson might be never to give up completely on a wine!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com