Dogs, books, wine and travel-and I’ve been able to enjoy all of them lately.
We welcomed a Westie puppy into our home this summer. He is super cute and fun and we definitely have our hands full. If nothing else, puppies are great teachers of mindfulness!
Meet Gibson Luis Vazquez-Stuber!
I was also really happy to provide the wine for a friend’s book club – she featured it in her blog post for Love Nothing More. Because what’s better than books? Books with wine and friends! This is a new friend to me but I’ve been following her style blog for years. It was fun to meet her in person, find out what we have in common and collaborate on this project.
Speaking of books, I’ve been reading a ton this summer. I’ve become particularly interested in British cozy mysteries as I’m preparing for a trip to Oxford and the Cotswolds. Three series I’m really liking are the Aunt Dimity Mystery series, Her Royal Spyness and the Agatha Raisin Mystery series. Reading them is a little like binging watching Law & Order, except with more charming environments and strong willed leading ladies.
I hope you’ve able to participate in your favorite things this summer as well!
My latest Wine Club arrived this week and I wanted to give you a peek of what the selection is this month. There are three reds and three whites:
2015 Middle Jane Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon – concentrated layered notes of wild strawberry and black cherry with a hint of coffee bean.
2016 Rufus Blanco from Penalvo do Castillo, Portugal – layered aromatics of yellow fruit, spice, vanilla and distinct salinity leap from the glass and continue on a juicy palate before finish marked by bright acidity.
2017 Dove Hunt Dog Chardonnay from Mendocino County, California – yellow apple, pear and a hint of fresh vanilla balanced by mouth-watering acidity on a textured but light-bodied frame. Pair with roast chicken, light pasta and your patio.
2016 Horse & Plow Draft Horse White Blend from Napa Valley, California – mouth-coating but juicy and fresh with aromas of apricot and white flowers and flavors of lemon and white peach.
2016 Middle Jane Zinfandel from Napa Valley, California – deeply colored with boysenberry, cherry and a hint of clove on the nose followed by ripe, smoothly-textured flavors of blackberry jam, plum and sweet spice. Pairs with barbecue, pizza and Gouda cheese.
2015 Chateau Juvenal Jolie from Ventoux, France – Lush, heady and exuberant with red and black fruits, spices, and floral components. This is fresh and balanced yet deep and rich.
I love the wine club option so I can try different clean-crafted wines from all over the world. And it gets delivered to me so it’s super convenient!
For me, an intimidating element about the wine world is trying to match wines and food. Fortunately there are some basic guidelines that I find helpful to follow.
My favorite guideline is to match the wine to food that is grown or produced in the same area. The Graciano from Rioja, Spain goes great with Manchego cheese also produced in Spain.
Match acid with acid:
A dish with lemon will do well with a crisp, acidic wine. The Picpoul (which means “lip stinger” in French) with it’s bright finish goes great with a recipe for chicken and lemon.
Match creamy with creamy:
Going for complementary flavors is an easy way to pair wine with your food. With this pairing, you’re matching the structure of the wine with the structure of the food. The La Tierra Chardonnay with aromas of apples and brioche pairs well with lobster or Brie.
Match spicy with sweet:
Pairing your food and wine with contrasting flavors means you’re trying to counterbalance a taste in either the dish or the wine. The Punkt Sparkling Rose from Austria ends with a juicy, creamy finish that will counter your spicy Thai takeout.
Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats:
The 2012 Qupé Granache from the Edna Valley in California matches well with and cassoulet or chili – the bitterness of the wine balances the fat of the meal.
Some wines are super versatile, like the Girasole Hybrid Red featured above. Suggested to pair with pork and hard cheese, I found it went great with both the pepperoni pizza as well as the ricotta one.
Choose a wine you’d want to drink by itself. That way, even if the pairing isn’t perfect, you’ll still enjoy what you’re drinking.
I’ve gotten into the habit of looking for organic produce at the Farmers Market or grocery store. Just like I only eat tomatoes when they are in season, which in Pittsburgh means for a few short weeks in July and August., I only want to eat fruit and vegetables that have a lot of flavor So, why shouldn’t it be the same with my wine? Essentially, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes. Organically grown grapes are grown naturally with no synthetic pesticides. Pretty simple, right?
Well, it’s definitely a harder way of doing things, but the taste is better. In general, organic farming typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. In order to keep weeds and bugs away from the grapes, organic farmers work with nature, rather than against it. One way they do this is by introducing cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, eating the grass and weeds. The vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem. Hmmm, can get one these sheep for my backyard?
Another challenge is, what happens if one farmer farms organically, but their neighbor doesn’t? The only way to know for sure if there were no chemicals from the neighboring farm blown onto the organic farm is to chemically test the wine produced by the vineyard. Vineyards can also be certified organically but this process is complex. Different nations have different certification criteria and some wineries that are technically organic choose not to be certified for various reasons.
Just like at the Farmers Market, when you can talk directly to the growers of your produce, you dneed to talk to the vineyard directly or to the distributor to really know how the wine is produced. I’m thankful that Sarah Shadonix, Level III Sommelier, founder of Scout & Cellar (and my cousin) is the one who has these conversations and does the chemical testing. All I need to do is enjoy the wine! And what good wine it is.