Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Savvy Cookie and Wine Pairings for the Holidays

'Tis the season and the cookie exchange parties are in full swing. If you're a sampler at heart, preferring to order 3 tapas rather than one entree, then this is your dessert heaven. But why do the foodies get to have all the fun? This year, take one for the oenophiles and incorporate a dessert wine pairing. If you're a novice to pairing wine with dessert, just keep in mind that the wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the cookie you are serving it with. Otherwise, the taste may veer towards bitter or sour. Here are a couple recommendations of cookie & wine pairings to get you started. And if you run out of time to actually make the cookies yourself (tsk tsk!) others will be so smitten by your bottle that they won't even notice ;-)

Sugar Cookies: The bubbles in a demi-sec sparkling wine (which is sweeter than a standard sparkling wine) go wonderfully with the crunchy sugar coating on the cookies. Try Cerdon de Bugey, Demi-Sec, Lingot Martin . This delightful French sparkling rosé is made from the Gamay and Poulsard grapes. It's full of redcurrant and strawberry flavors. ($20)

Gingerbread Cookies
: Try a sweet and creamy Sauternes to accompany the spicy ginger. Le Tertre du Lys Sauternes is a perfect match, showing delicious honey, vanilla & fruit flavors and is sure to be a holiday hit. ($25)

Chocolate & Peppermint Cookies: A holiday favorite! Cabernets and Zinfandels are a great match for any variation of mint and chocolate because they have pronounced minty nuances of their own. For starters, try Rosenblum Zinfandel "Maggie's Reserve" from Sonoma. This California Zin is a cornucopia of rich raspberry, blackberry and cherry, with hints of clove and mint that explode on the palate. ($30)

White Chocolate-Based Cookies: White chocolate tends to be more mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for Moscato d'Asti. This dessert wine, which is dangerously easy to ingest, will pick up the creaminess of the white chocolate. Moscato fabulously accompanies any fruit-filled cookie as well. Moscato d'Asti, G.D. Vajra, from Piedmont, Italy is one of my favorites. ($20)

Dark Chocolate-Based Cookies: Dark or bittersweet chocolate needs a stronger wine with concentrated fruit notes, and perhaps a hint of its own chocolate notes. Cabs and Zinfandels have a history of perfecting the dark chocolate match, resulting in an unparalleled tasting combination. But if you're feeling a bit adventurous, give Banyuls, a red dessert wine from the Pyrenees region of Southwestern France a try. Made from the Grenache grape, it has hints of espresso, plums, and mocha and is credibly presented as one of the few wines that goes naturally with chocolate. Banyuls Clos de Paulilles from Languedoc-Roussillon, France is a great option. ($20)

Milk Chocolate-Based Cookies
: Ruby Port, a fortified wine, is the strongest match with milk chocolate. Its nutty nuances highlight milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavor. Warre's Warrior Special Reserve Port from Douro shows fragrant aromas of fruits and a rich palate dominated by sweet black fruits. A perfect combination. ($15)

Caramel, Toffee, or Butterscotch Cookies: Hungarian Tokaji, with notes of apricot, butter and caramel, pairs well with buttery salt caramels. Try Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos, Imperial Domain of Hétszolo. The level of "puttonyos" refers to the amount of sweetness in the wine and this gem falls right in the middle, with plenty of apricots, honey and peaches on the palate. ($25)

Nut-Infused Cookies: Tawny Port is nutty by nature and the perfect match. Taylor Fladgate 10 Yr. Reserve Tawny Port from Douro is a lovely fortified wine that has notes of dried fruit and nuts with aromas of caramel and toffee. It is best served slightly chilled. ($30)

Shortbread Cookies: A sparkling white wine that cuts through the rich, buttery flavor of the shortbread works best. Try Michel Frères, Crémant de Bourgogne (a Crémant is the name of a sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method, but outside of the Champagne region in France). This wine is dry, mineral-driven, and full of citrus and mixed apple fruit on the palate. ($15)

French Lace Cookies: Like lace cookies, a late-harvest riesling is light and delicate. The wine's peach and apricot flavors also work well here. Richter Estate Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany is an instant crowd pleaser. ($15)

All of these wines can be purchased online or in-store at Astor Wines.

Megan Golliday

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Surprising Bubbly for the Holiday Season

The start of December can mean so many things to so many people, but to me it is the start of the Party Season. Open houses, corporate get-togethers, impromptu drinks out with friends all in the name of the holiday season and cheer often including toasting with a glass of bubbly. If you are going to a ton of parties where the bubbly is flowing and you maybe responsible for bringing some, here are some alternatives to the traditional bottle of methode traditionelle that are often both a pleasant surprise to your host, and a pleasant surprise to your budget!

For Something Different
Princess Royal Station Sparkling Shiraz – Burra Creek, South Australia $21.99.

This sparkling wine is sure to surprise even the most knowledgeable wine drinkers. For your friends who love red wine and love bubbly, this marries the best of both worlds. The wine shows lovely fresh cherry and berry fruits with hints of chocolate and spicy pepper on the nose. The palate displays rich berry fruits with the method champenoise adding a layer of freshness and delicacy.

For The Girls
Mumm's, Napa Brut Rose NV $18.95

This wine is a great option for your holiday season or an all-girls poker night. Bring a little cheer to the occasion (for some reason this wine make me giggle…might be the bubbles). Medium–bodied, this is the signature sparkler for Mumm’s in Napa. It has a rose petal aroma with touches of vanilla, strawberries and melon. On the palate it shows firm acidity and crisp structure. Further layers reveal crisp yet creamy qualities that are rich and lingering.

For The Budget
2005 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Exclusive Reserva $10.99

If what you love about champagne is the small bubbles tingling your tongue, the creamy texture and the warm biscuity flavors and aromas, then you really have to stick with methode traditionelle: that 27-step process that makes champagne so wonderful. What isn’t so wonderful may be the price tag that this hard work brings to the bottle. Thankfully, the Spanish are willing to bring us our M.T. fix on the cheap. This is a great budget option, with tart apple flavors carry over in its crisp and creamy mouthfeel, with a gentle hint of sweetness in the background.

For The Splurge, But Not Too Splurgy
Hiedsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top $34.99

When nothing but champagne will do this is a great option. It was my wine instructor’s favorite champagne. And it is easy to see why. It is perfection in a glass. A textbook example of why Champagne is Champagne and everything else is sparkling wine. The nose reveals buttermilk biscuit and toasty notes with floral components and a touch of honey. It has a creamy mouthfeel and a touch of richness. At this price point, it is a great Champagne.

Anu Pohani

How to Pick a Summer Wine: The Gentler, Lighter Side of Wine

Summer’s soaring temps beg you to step away from heavy Cabernets and check out the gentler, lighter side of wine. When choosing the perfect summer wine for your outdoor engagement party or wedding, think light, crisp, refreshing--and because people tend to drink more in the heat--lower in alcohol. Nothing more prettily suggests summer than a dry (i.e. not sweet) rose. Avoid the simple, syrupy versions and try French roses from the Mourvèdre grape or roses made using the Saignee method for more complexity. Pick wines from countries where you imagine the locals sipping leisurely at sidewalk cafés while basking in the sun, like Spain. A Spanish fave is Albarino from the Rias Baixas region. Made to drink young, Albarino is a crisp, white wine with intense fruit, lively acidity and generally a lower level of alcohol. It pairs perfectly with summer foods from seafood to grilled vegetables. But you don’t need to swear off red wine for summer. Look for light bodied wines like Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Valpolicella from Italy, both capable of standing up to barbequed foods. And don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on your red wine. It is summer after all!

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain, “Exceptional with Everything” Oh Really?

There's nothing we love more than a challenge. It's in our makeup. We're two women, thirties. One Indian. One Filipina. The first, founder and CEO of a business in the arguably male-dominated wine world. The second, building experience to be a future proprietess of a wine store. Add to this: In New York City. So when presented with the opportunity to play wine and food critic for a night—to pair Rías Baixas Albariño wines, proclaimed to be "exceptional with everything" with Mercat’s offerings —it is impossible and simply against every ounce of who we are, to refuse.

Mercat means “market” in Catalan, the language of the northern Spanish region where owner, Jaime Reixach, is from and where the restaurant’s menu draws its inspiration. The albariños we’ll be drinking also originate from the northern region, and so we’re already anticipating more perfect wine pairings than tragic mismatches.

It’s a beautiful warm Thursday night—and we are tasting two Albariño wines: Alba Rosa from Martinez Serrantes and Pazo San Mauro, both 2006 vintages. We take our time with each wine—assessing them alone and then side by side. At the end, we agree that both are delightful: the Alba Rosa is sparkling with surprising depth while the Pazo San Mauro would bring life to our springtime picnic. Further, we imagine that if each wine were to be personified, they might just be these two ladies, described as such:

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"
This golden blonde hued wine gives an almost effervescent quality that shoots racy brightness into your mouth. It has the usual grassiness and citrus qualities one expects from this wine. The reason why this wine fits Scarlett most is because it has the quality of lightness but comes with surprising depth of character and fullness in body. The comparison would be perfect were the wine to show great legs, but its light-bodied, lower alcohol nature doesn’t allow it.

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”
Cameron would be a fun addition to any springtime outing. Her lightheartedness would make everyone smile and this wine does the same. The light yellow straw color gives way to granny smith apples, peaches, melon, and citrus scents that jump at your nose, smelling like springtime in a glass. This wine begs to be explored further. The crisp and pleasantly tart apple is balanced with pear and makes it the perfect brunch wine.
Now, we move on to the heart of our challenge: Exceptional with everything? Oh really? How do these two beauties handle themselves in company? After the three and a half hours of glorious sipping, chewing, and chatting, among ourselves and the restaurant staff, here are our findings:

No surprise, our lovely wines get along splendidly with their classic and traditional partners: we have raves for the nicely seasoned patatas bravas—not too spicy, not too garlicky—and the padrones/blistered shishito peppers, the char and oil offset by the tartness of the wines. One of us goes wild for the Canelons de Verdura/eggplant wrapped spring vegetables, manchego, and cranberry reduction. And then Chef Lowder sends over Trencat d’Ous/mushroom with salsa verde topped with a fried egg, which again, goes splendidly with our wines. Even the suckling pig/Cochinillo, which we think will surely clash, in fact becomes the surprise of the evening. Like the beauty and the beast, our wines and the pig make an unlikely but harmonious pair.

We ask ourselves for the last time: Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with Everything?

If not for being the gluttonous bottomless pits that we are, we would certainly have answered YES with an exclamation point. But since we order those two desserts—Torrades Sta. Teresa/fried bread with lemon yogurt and Pa Amb Oli Xocolata/bread, olive oil, and chocolate, our answer must be: Almost. These two desserts with our two Albariños — are disastrous.

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with almost Everything.

--Anu Karwa and Marie Estrada

Visit http://www.riasbaixaswines.com for more info on Rías Baixas Albariños from Spain

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