Winemonger Talk

  • The Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide - Grape by Grape, Cheese by Cheese

    We'll always put some cheeses out on a plank when company is coming over-- not just because of the myriad pairings that bring out the best in both, but we also feel that wine all by its lonesome just doesn't get a chance to show itself off. We were once at a private tasting with Antonio Gaja, and as we sat at the table with him going through about 10 wines, he talked but didn't taste. When asked why, he said he never drinks wine without food. I figure the man knows a thing or two.....

    Your Grape-by-Grape Guide to Pairing Wine with Cheeses from Around the World

    *grapes are listed alphabetically, followed by sparkling wines, sweet wines, and then some of the classic blends*

    BARBERA
    Abbaye de Belloc
    Banon
    Fiore Sardo
    Fontina
    Grana Padano
    Lancashire
    Ossau-Iraty
    Piave
    Taleggio

    BLAUFRANKISCH
    Pair your Blaufrankisch wines (also known as Lemberger) with these cheeses:
    Cantalet
    Feta
    Limburger (esp. from Bavaria)
    Monterey Jack
    Gouda (smoked, aged, or straight up)
    Pepper Jack
    Piave
    Provolone
    Smoked cheeses
    Sublimity (washed rind cheese from Oregon)
    Washed Curd

    CABERNET SAUVIGNON
    A big Cabernet Sauvignon red will pair well with these cheeses:
    Abbaye de Belloc
    Ardrahan
    Bra Tenero
    Chalosse
    Cheddar (sharp)
    Comte
    Danish Blue
    Gouda (aged)
    Llangloffan
    Le Moulis
    Ouray
    Reblochon
    San Andreas
    Tome de Couserans

    Cantal

     

    CHARDONNAY
    Chardonnay (Burgundy, California, Chablis, Pouilly-Fuisse, Morillon, etc.) wines can pair wonderfully with these cheeses:
    Affidelice
    Alpine Shepard
    Bel Paese
    Bucheron
    Brie
    Cambazola
    Cantal
    Cashel Blue
    Chaource
    Cotija
    Dry Jack

    S F Drake Cowgirl Creamery
    S.F.Drake Cowgirl Creamery

     

    Epoisses
    French mountain cheeses
    Garrotxa
    Gruyere
    Jarlsberg (esp. Chablis)
    Panela
    Parmigiano-Reggiano
    Pave d'Auge
    Pecorino (esp. Pouilly-Fuisse)
    Provolone
    Shropshire Blue
    S.F.Drake from Cowgirl Creamery (if you're lucky enough to get a wheel when they have some)
    Tete de Moine

    Camembert

     

    CHENIN BLANC
    A few ideas for pairing Chenin Blanc with cheese:
    Blue Castello
    Camembert
    Derby
    Fouchtra
    Graddost
    Ocooch Mountain
    Raclette de Savoie

    Morbier

     

    GAMAY
    Beemster XO
    Brie
    Camembert
    Cheddar
    Comte
    Durrus
    Feta
    Morbier

    GEWURZTRAMINER
    A nice Gewurztraminer or dry Traminer wine would pair well with these cheeses:

    Alpine Cheese

    Alpine Shepard
    Ardrahan
    Boursin
    Chevre
    Durrus
    Meunster
    Pecorino Romano
    Robiola
    Swiss
    Tome d'Aquitaine
    Tumalo Tomme
    Wensleydale

    GRUNER VELTLINER
    Known as being a great food wine that can pair with almost anything, including artichokes and asparagus, Gruner Veltliner will also pair well with these cheeses:

    Garrotxa

     

    Appenzeller
    Brin D’Amour
    Caerphilly
    Chimay
    Double Gloucester
    Garrotxa
    Harbourne Blue
    Harvest Moon (washed rind cheese)
    Munster
    Livarot
    Ibores
    Mahon
    Vacherin Fribourgeois

    MALBEC
    Malbec wines pair well with these cheeses:
    Cashel Blue
    Iberico
    Manchego
    Mimolette
    Taleggio

    Gruyere

     

    MERLOT
    Merlot, and even some Merlot blends, will pair nicely with these cheeses:
    Abbaye de Belloc
    Alpine Shepard
    Cantalet
    Camembert
    Chalosse
    Doddington
    Gouda
    Gruyere
    Ibores

    Robiola

     

    Montasio
    Pecorino Toscano
    Robiola Bosina
    Roncal
    Toussaint

    MUSCAT
    A white Muscat wine, be it dry, off-dry or semi-sweet, will pair nicely with these cheeses:
    Blu del Moncenisio
    Fourme d'Ambert
    Gorgonzola
    Monte Enebro
    Valdeon

    Piave

     

    NEBBIOLO
    Fontina
    Grana Padano
    Piave

    PETIT SYRAH
    Arina
    Benning
    Darcy
    Pierre-Qui-Vire
    Saint-Florentin
    Soumaintrain

    Fontina D'Aosta

     

    PINOT BLANC
    Pinot Blanc (AKA Weissburgunder) wines pair particularly well with these cheeses:
    Baby Swiss
    Brie
    Camembert
    Dry Jack
    Feta
    Fontina D’Aosta
    Montasio
    Ossau-Iraty
    Pierre-Robert
    Pont L’Eveque
    Robiola Vite
    Sbrinz
    Taleggio

    Banon

     

    PINOT GRIS
    Pair your Pinot Gris with these cheeses:
    Asiago Fresco
    Banon
    Camellia
    Caprino Tartufo
    Crottin
    Garroxta
    Ricotta
    St. Nectaire

    PINOT NOIR
    Try pairing your Pinot Noir with these cheeses:

    Berkswell
    Buche
    Cheddar (light)
    Comte
    Edam
    Epoisses (with a big Pinot)
    French Chevre (Cabriflore is a good example)
    Fumaison
    Gouda
    Gruyere
    Inverness
    Lancashire
    Port Salut
    Saint Andre

    Stanser Rotelli

     

    RIESLING
    Austrian, Alsatian, American and German Rieslings will pair with these cheeses:
    Cheshire
    Colby
    Comte
    Cotija
    Edam
    Gouda
    Monterey Jack
    Morbier
    Panela
    St.Andre
    Swiss mountain cheeses
    Red Hawk, Mt.Tam or St.Pat from the Cowgirl Creamery

    Saval
    Stanser Rotelli
    Tarentaise
    Tomme Fermiere d'Alsace

    SANGIOVESE
    Sangiovese (AKA Chianti) wines will work well with these cheeses:
    Asiago
    Boschetto al Tartufo Bianchetto
    Dry Jack
    Fontina
    Georgia Pecan Chevre
    Mozzarella
    Parmesan Reggiano
    Pecorino
    Piave
    Provolone
    Ricotta

    SAUVIGNON BLANC
    We particularly recommend pairing Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese (many types of which are listed here) but we also love it with these other cheeses:
    Abbaye de Belloc
    Amarelo
    Blue Castello
    Brie
    Bucheron
    Cheddar (sharp)
    Cheshire
    Clochette
    Coulommiers
    Coupole
    Crottin
    Derby
    Double Gloucester
    Drunken Goat
    Dry Jack

    Goat Cheese

     

    Explorateur
    Goat Cheese
    Graddost
    Gruyere
    Mahon
    Majorero
    Neufchatel
    Pave D’Affinois
    Selles sur Cher
    Sonoma Jack
    Teleme

    Taleggio

     

    ST.LAURENT
    St.Laurent, which is a bit like Pinot Noir with a wild side, will pair with these cheeses:
    Comte
    Edam
    French Chevre
    Taleggio

    SYRAH / SHIRAZ
    A spicy Shiraz will pair well with a few cheeses:
    Cheddar (sharp)
    Edam
    Gouda
    St. Nectaire

    TEMPRANILLO
    A good Tempranillo wine will pair well with these cheeses:

    Azeitao
    Cheddar (sharp)
    Cotswold
    Dubliner
    Fium 'Orbu
    Fleur du Maquis
    Havarti
    Mahon
    Manchego
    Serena
    Tomme de Savoie
    Zamarano

    Livarot

     

    VIOGNIER
    Pair your Viognier wines with these cheeses:
    Blue cheeses (light)
    Brillat-Savarin
    Goat
    Livarot
    Pave d'Auge
    Stanser Rotelli
    Tourmalet

    ZINFANDEL
    A hearty Zinfandel (AKA Primitivo) red wine will work beautifully with these cheeses:
    Asiago
    Canestrato
    Dry Sonoma Jack
    Goat cheese
    Gouda
    Gruyere

    Zamorano

     

    Maytag Blue
    Muenster
    Pau
    Pecorino (esp. Fiore Sardo)
    Piave
    Zamorano

    ZWEIGELT
    Zweigelt, a red wine backed with great spice notes, pairs well with these cheeses:
    Cheddar (sharp)
    Edam
    Gouda
    Salers, A.O.C.
    Selun (a Swiss cows milk cheese)
    St. Nectaire

    SPARKLING WINE
    All styles of sparkling wines, including Champagne, will pair well with these cheeses:
    Baby Swiss
    Beaufort
    Brie
    Brillat-Savarin
    Camembert
    Cheddar (mild)
    Chevre

    Sbrinz

     

    Cooleeney
    Crescenza
    Edam (for dry wines)
    Explorateur
    Fromage de Meaux
    Gouda
    Langres
    Pierre Robert
    Pont l'Eveque
    Sbrinz

    SWEET WINE / DESSERT WINE
    Pair your Ice Wines, BA's, TBA's, Sauternes, Tokaji, and Ruster Ausbruch wines with these cheeses:

    Blue cheeses:
    Bleu des Basques Brebis
    Bleu de Sassenage
    Cashel Blue
    Fourme d'Ambert
    Maytag Blue
    or
    Crème Fraiche
    Marscapone
    Taleggio

    PORT
    Cheddar (sharp)
    Gorgonzola
    Roqueforte
    Stilton

    BORDEAUX (red)
    Brie
    Camembert
    Chalosse
    Gabletou
    Roqueforte
    Tome de Bordeaux
    Tome des Recollets

    CôTES Du RHôNES (red)
    Bleu d'Auvergne
    Camembert
    Chevrotin des Aravis
    Fourme d'Ambert
    Reblochon

    One easy rule of thumb if you don't find what you're looking for here- pairing a wine with a cheese that comes from the same region is usually a fair bet.

  • Moric Reserve and Pork Loin Chops with Roasted Rhubarb - per Williams-Sonoma

    Moric Blaufrankisch, Williams-Sonoma, and a Recipe for Pork Loin

    Moric Blaufrankisch ReserveMoric Reserve 2008

    For their Connoisseur Wine Club, Williams-Sonoma paired up our Moric Reserve Blaufrankisch 2008 with a recipe for pork loin chops with roasted rhubarb. We have to hand it to them: this is an excellent match-up. Clearly they are running a wine club with some more out-of-the-box picks, and doing the testing in their kitchen to deliver great ideas. We'll share with you their notes and recipe, with links to their website for more information:

    Pork Loin Chops with Roasted Rhubarb
    In this recipe from Williams-Sonoma, rhubarb harmonizes with the red fruit flavors in the Moric Blaufränkisch, while a touch of allspice brightens the wine’s savory peppery notes. Pork loin chops, like beef porterhouse steaks, include both the loin and the tenderloin, separated by the rib bone. Here, the chops are roasted on a bed of onions and rhubarb. Select firm rhubarb stalks, either red or green, with bright, glossy skin.

    INGREDIENTS

    Pork Loin with Roasted Rhubarb RecipePork Loin with Roasted Rhubarb, Courtesy Williams-Sonoma

    For the rhubarb:
    1 lb. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into slices 3/4 inch thick
    1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
    2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock 1/2 tsp. whole allspice, ground Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
    1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    6 pork loin chops, each 8 to 10 oz. and 1 inch thick
    2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
    1 cup apple juice
    1 tsp. cornstarch
    1 Tbs. water

    PREPARATION
    Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter the bottom of a roasting pan.
    To roast the rhubarb, in the prepared pan, stir together the rhubarb, onion, olive oil, stock, allspice, and a sprinkle each of salt and pepper. Spread the mixture out in an even layer. Cover with foil and roast until the rhubarb and onion are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle the rhubarb mixture with the brown sugar, stir well and spread the mixture out in an even layer.

    Let the pork chops stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Brush the chops on both sides with the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Preheat a large fry pan over high heat. Add the chops and sear for 2 minutes. Turn the chops over and sear for 1 minute. Transfer to the roasting pan, arranging the chops in a single layer on top of the rhubarb; reserve the fry pan. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 150°F, about 7 minutes. Transfer the chops to warmed plates and tent with foil.

    Pour off any fat from the fry pan, set over medium heat and add the apple juice. Boil until reduced to about 1⁄3 cup, 4 to 5 minutes. Add any liquid from the rhubarb mixture to the fry pan and reduce the heat to low. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Whisk the mixture into the fry pan a little at a time and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb mixture and heat through. Spoon the rhubarb mixture over the chops. Serve immediately.

    (Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Roasting, by Rick Rodgers, Melanie Barnard & Bob and Colleen Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2004).)

  • Champagne Survival Kits

    Fans of Zalto wine stems know that these glasses are never discounted, and we are not about to break with this company policy either. Those that do put them on sale will never get to sell them again.

    Zalto Champagne GlassZalto Champagne Stem

    Today we are making a small amount of Zalto Champagne sets of 4 and 6 glasses available in a wine value pack that essentially gives you a bottle of the stunning Marie-Courtin Resonance Champagne (93WA) at no extra cost (2 bottles if you opt for the 6 glass deal). So technically, it’s the incredible bottle of Champagne that’s on sale, because as we said, Zalto wine glasses are never discounted.

    While the virtues of Zalto glasses almost need no introduction (search the blogs and chat boards my friends), here’s a quick primer: these are hand-made (mouth-blown), feather light yet remarkably durable, dishwasher safe and lead-free. They have set a new bar in the top end category for wine glasses and are many wine enthusiasts’ most coveted treasures. Why else would Chef Sommelier Aldo Sohm (Worlds Best Sommelier 2008 & right hand man to Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin) put his name behind the brand? Why would Francois Mauss, President of the Grand Jury European, allow himself to be quoted as saying “I didn’t think there would be anything better on the glass market- this glass is.”

    Marie Courtin ChampagneMarie-Courtin Champagne

    And the Marie-Courtin Resonance Champagne? This is the kind of small production wine that you might not have had a chance to try. Our friends at Joli Vin Imports have made these bottles available to us and were kind enough to keep their promise even after the 93 point write up by Robert Parker that made this wine an immediate sell-out.

    But as for the number of Zalto glasses we have made available for this offer, amounts are limited and orders will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

    Perhaps Pamela Anderson put it best when asked how she planned to celebrate one of her marriages: “I’ve got two words for you- CHAM PAGNE!” Joking. We all know it was Tom Waits with true wisdom on the subject: “Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends.” (no, we don’t care if somebody else may or may not have originated that quote.) Get your Zaltos and your Champers on.

    4 GLASSES + 1 BOTTLE: $297.99 SALE PRICE: $244.50
    6 GLASSES + 2 BOTTLES: $476.98 SALE PRICE $338.50

  • Michael Chiarello Pairs Us Up For His Club

    Napa Style Wine Club & Winzerkeller Andau Gruner Veltliner

    Andau Gruner VeltlinerAndau Gruner Veltliner

    Our very own Winzerkeller Andau Gruner Veltliner was selected for the April shipment of Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle Wine Club. Why would we link you over to another website selling wine? The fact is that what we have here for you at Winemonger are the wines we import-- but we love wines from all around the world, and sharing some other places to get those wines is what it's all about.

    What it's also all about is that Chef Chiarello created a recipe to pair with our Andau Gruner*, which we're sharing with you here. But first, this is how he describes the wine:

    When the spring sun pops out, reach for Austria’s favorite white wine, Grüner Veltliner. It’s similar in texture and body to Riesling but differs in taste. The wines show tropical or citrus fruit flavors when very ripe, and savory or herbaceous flavors when less ripe. This snappy, crisp Grüner Veltliner is perfect for celebrating longer, warmer days. It has engaging aromas of lemon blossom and pineapple and flavors of persimmon, kumquat, white pepper and citrus zest.

    Beer and Chipotle Battered Fish Tacos
    Cooking Notes: You can’t beat the combination of sour cream, lime and cilantro to serve with these delicious fish tacos.
    Prep Time: 20 minutes, Cook Time: 20 minutes, Serves 12

    Michael Chiarello Fish Tacophoto courtesy NapaStyle website

    Ingredients
    For the batter:
    2 oz canned chipotle peppers
    2 eggs
    2 cups beer (recommended: Tecate or other 2 tbsp lime juice, plus 6 limes, cut in wedges pale beer)
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tbsp cornstarch
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp gray salt
    freshly ground black pepper

    For the fish tacos:
    3 cups sour cream
    1 1/2 bunches cilantro, chopped
    1 tsp gray salt corn oil, for frying
    3 tomatoes, small diced
    12 red radishes, thinly sliced
    24 corn tortillas
    1 1/2 lbs cod or other white fish cut into 1-oz strips

    Directions
    Preheat oven to 300°F.

    To make the batter: Puree the chipotles and egg together in a blender. When well-blended, transfer to a bowl and whisk in the beer. In a separate mixing bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, whisking well to prevent clumps. Add freshly ground pepper. Set the batter aside while preparing the other ingredients.
    In a small mixing bowl mix together the sour cream, 2 tbsp of the chopped cilantro, 2 tbsp lime juice and 1 tsp gray salt, mix well and remove to a serving bowl.

    For the fish tacos: In a large pot or skillet add corn oil about 1 to 2 inches deep. Over medium heat, heat the corn oil to 350°F.
    On a large serving plate arrange the tomatoes, lime wedges, chopped cilantro and sliced radishes to garnish tacos.
    Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in the oven while frying the fish.
    With your fingers dip the fish strips into the batter and carefully place in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes on each side. With a slotted spoon remove the fish to a paper towel. To assemble the tacos, place 1 piece of fried fish on a warm tortilla and garnish with tomatoes, chopped cilantro, radishes and sour cream. Serve with lime wedges.

    For more great recipes and wine pairings from Chef Chiarello, follow this link

    *as of this post, we are actually sold out of this wine, but there are other fine retailers who still have it available. LOOK HERE.

  • Drink This With It - Slanted Door in San Francisco

    The Slanted Door

    Sommelier Chaylee PrieteChaylee Priete

    I have never had a bad meal at The Slanted Door. I have never even had a less-than-incredible meal there. And if you consider the number of meals this place dishes out every day, and the number of times I have eaten there, this is saying a whole lot.

    Wine director Chaylee Priete has put together a list such that one almost cannot go wrong- ranging from grapes you know (hello Pinot Noir) to grapes you likely don't (buon giorno Vuillermin), and all of them the very best examples of what they can be. She's also one of those sommeliers who just instantly make you feel like you are in good hands- She gives suggestions without snobbery.

    So to my favorite pairings... this was a tough one to narrow down. So many wines...so many great dishes...

    Carmelized Prawns

    Two dishes we always order are the Caramelized Wild Gulf Shrimp with garlic, yellow onion, and caramel chili sauce and the Cellophane Noodles with Fresh Dungeness Crab Meat which feature green onions and sesame. Both are a classic Gruner Veltliner situation, and the Hogl Schon Reserve 2007 has just the right amount of heft to hold court with those strong flavors- but again, Chaylee can lead you towards whatever best Gruner (or other wine) to pair that she has on the list when you are there.

    My other favorite pairings would have to be the Easkoot Pinot Noir with the Lemongrass Grilled Devil's Gulch Ranch Rabbit which is done as an olive oil poached leg with braised fennel, thai basil, chives and lemon. Farmer extraordinaire Mark Pasternak is responsible for both the berries and the bunnies, so they were always meant to end up together on the table.

    Slanted Door Restaurant Shaking BeefMaking Shaking Beef

    And then I love the Jagini Blaufrankisch or the Moric Blaufrankisch, or the aforementioned Vuillermin from Institute Agricole Regional with the Grass-fed Estancia Shaking Beef, which is cubed filet mignon, watercress, red onion and lime sauce. I know- I should be narrowing it down here to one wine- so blame Chaylee for giving so many options. This dish is perhaps the one that chef/owner Charles Phan is most famous for, and he generously shared the recipe in an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle. And so, without any permission whatsoever, I am sharing it here:

    Shaking Beef
    Charles Phan, The Slanted Door

    The Meat
    2 T chopped garlic
    1 t sugar
    1½ t salt
    ¾ t fresh black pepper
    2 T neutral cooking oil, such as canola or corn oil
    1½ lbs filet mignon, cut into 1” cubes

    The Vinaigrette
    ¼ c rice vinegar
    1 T sugar
    ¼ c rice wine
    4 T light soy sauce
    1 T dark soy sauce
    1 T fish sauce**

    The Dipping Sauce
    Juice of 1 lime
    ½ t kosher salt
    ¼ t fresh black pepper

    The Stir-Fry
    4 T neutral cooking oil, such as canola or corn oil
    3 stalks green onion, cut into 1” pieces
    ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
    2 t butter
    2 bunches watercress, for garnish

    1. Prepare marinade by combining garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a large nonmetal bowl. Add filet mignon, combine and marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for two hours.

    2. Prepare vinaigrette by combining rice vinegar, sugar, rice wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and fish sauce**. Set aside.

    3. Heat a wok over high heat. Divide beef, green onions and red onions in half, as you will cook in two batches.

    4. Add 2 T oil to the wok. When the oil starts to smoke, add first portion of the beef in an even layer. Let it sit until a forms a brown crust, about 2 minutes. With a spatula, flip the beef over to brown the other side, about 1 minute.

    5. Add first portion of the green onions and red onions and cook for 1 more minute. Pour half of vinaigrette down the side of the wok, and then shake pan to release the beef and toss with the vinaigrette. Add 1 t butter and continue to shake pan until butter melts. Remove the meat and onions from the wok. Keep warm.

    6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with second portion of meat, green onions and red onions. Place the watercress in the middle of the serving plate and spoon hot beef and onions on top.

    7. Prepare dipping sauce by putting salt and pepper in small ramekin and squeezing lime juice over it. Serve alongside the beef. Serves 4.

    **Tip from me- we participated in a charity event for one of Phan's favorite causes, One Vietnam, and as a gift he gave us a bottle of the fish sauce he uses. It is incredible stuff- pure umami in liquid form. It's called Red Boat 40 degree N. Obviously the brilliance of this dish has a lot to do with the actual ingredients used, so at least you can get that one right!

    all photos are from the Slanted Door website - follow this link to see many more

  • Drink This With It - Oxheart in Houston

    Oxheart

    Sommelier Justin VannSommelier Justin Vann

    We admit it. We have not been to the much-buzzed-about Oxheart (oks-hahrt, as they note on their website) restaurant in Houston, but we know the resumes of the players and we're impressed with everything we've read, heard and followed. And so we will simply have to defer to the skills of Team Oxheart and believe it when Sommelier Justin Vann tweets "New pairing: 2008 Moric Blaufrankisch with Chef's beef shank dish tonight. It's a rock opera you can eat and drink." He must mean this item from their new spring menu: Beef Shank with Roasted ‘Yellow Lunar’ Carrots, Seaweeds and Preserved Lime. Rock opera indeed!

    You can follow the tweets of the Oxheart crew: @OxheartHouston @Whiskyplz (Justin Vann) and @TetsuJustin (chef Justin Yu)

  • Greet the Grape: Neuburger

    There are many unique grape varieties in Austria, some several of which produce memorably flavorful wines. And among these varieties, many turn out to be spontaneous crossings of two previously established type, and certainly Roter Veltliner wasn’t always all too concerned about whom he woke up next to in the morning.

    Neuburger (the word translates to “new citizen,”) is one of these extraordinary products of ampelographic promiscuity: Roter Veltliner crossing with Sylvaner.

    Legend goes that a bundle of grape-cuttings was fished out of the Danube some hundred years ago, planted for kicks, and turned out to produce a hardy vine that needed so little moisture that, as Josef Högl puts it, “sometimes the dew is enough.”

    The wines can be light and spicy in style, as proven by Karl Alphart, in the Thermenregion south of Vienna. His Neuburger “Hausberg," out of deep brown soils with a bit of limestone, not only comes in at a modest 12.5%, but also shows intense aromatics.

  • Greet the Grape: Zierfandler

    To begin: Roter Veltliner has tested positive for paternity in the case of  three unique and wonderfully Austrian white grape varieties: Neuburger, Rotgipfler and Zierfandler.

    We focus here on Zierfandler.  A precious and endangered species peculiar to the Thermenregion, with a few rows of vines planted within the city limits of Vienna, Zierfandler resulted from a spontaneous crossing of Roter Veltliner and an unidentified Traminer-like vine.

    Bottled as a monovarietal, and also frequently blended either as Gemischter Satz or Cuvee with Rotgipfler,  Zierfandler (also called Spätrot) is the most highly spicy and delicate of these three crossings. The plantings of this variety have diminished in recent years; there are perhaps fewer than fifty hectares of the grape under vines today, due to the fact that it is a late-ripener and prone to most any disease or distemper that affects the vine. An additional factor comes from viticultural progress made with the husbandry of Neuburger, whereby similar results are obtained with much less effort and risk.  Zierfandler shares the typical almondish nuttiness of the other Roter Veltliner crossings, but in the case of later-harvested wines, the aromatics develop elements of tropical and exotic fruit. This homegrown classic ages very well, and develops nicely expressive secondaries in the process.

  • 7th Annual Marin County Wine Celebration

    Marin County Wine Tasting 2011

    PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE HERE

  • Bio Vio - Producing Organic Wines in Liguria

    BioVio is the kind of winery that you get to know about only if you hang out with the Ligurian locals- nearly all of the tiny production is poured into their glasses to be enjoyed with the local cuisine (the famous Cappon Magro- a seven layered pyramid of local herbs, vegetables, lobsters, prawns, oysters and sea bream, drenched in a sauce of anchovies and olive oil, all to be followed by a sweet Sacripantina.) It is the rare drop that is spared for export.

    When I was heading to my appointment with Mr. Giobatta Vio, I became completely lost in the hills of Albenga: partly because I was totally taken by the beauty of the landscape and partly because his winery and home are so remote that not even the GPS had a clue how to find him!

    Vineyards of Liguria

    When I finally did arrive, I found the air rich with the scent of flowers and basil (this is also the land of pesto); the same bouquet that you then find in his wines. The cellar consists of just 4 small steel tanks in 3 square meters of space-  but it can be tiny because his secret is not the winemaking but the vineyards. Gio (“Chiamami Gio!”) has some of the best plots in the entire Albenga area, with vines of up to 40 years of age. This is why his wines are so intense, so mineralic, so unique. They are a summer day in Liguria, the salt breeze in your face-  they are the very definition of terroir caught in a bottle. They are also all certified organic (called Biologic in Italy, thus the Bio)

    The BioVio Marene' Pigato shows intense notes of basil, thyme and honeysuckle with that strong influence of the warm sea in the forefront while it keeps rolling with an almost velvety long finish.
    The Aimone Vermentino is more delicate and feminine, it has a more subtle minerality and an elegance that simply lingers….
    Meanwhile, the U Bastio Rossese di Albenga is pure fun: fruity, fresh and young with hints of wild strawberry.

    The wines can be found in restaurants and shops all over California, including: Animal, Camino, Domaine LA, Gjelina, Go Fish, K&L Wines, Marco's, Poesia Oesteria Italiana, Slanted Door, Terroni, Traverso's, and The Wine House... (to name a handful)

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