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Archive for the ‘Chardonnay’ Category

I really do hate to keep bringing up wine producers that I’ve mentioned in the past because there is a megaton of wine in this world and I have a secret goal to experience 75% of it.  Alas, I only have access to an estimated 10% through my local wine shop, a paltry 45 additional percentage points through the internet, and perhaps a lousy 2.5 percentage points more through my worldly travels.  That’s only 57.5% of completely made up figures!  The point is, we all live in a bubble.

Anyway, I had a smashed burger and a glass of Washington Chardonnay so I’m winning at life.

4oz of not so lean ground beef, divided in half and rolled into balls.  1 cast iron skillet perched atop a burner set to 11.  2tbsps butter thrown into the skillet and melted which was immediately absorbed by the two halves of a delightfully fluffy hamburger bun and then toasted.  Oh yeah, you gotta roll that bun in the butter and make sure a little gets on the outsides too.  Just toast one side of each bun half though, let’s not get too crazy.  When the skillet was smoking, the two meat ball were thrown on and smashed as skinny as I could make them.  After they browned in their own fat (Le Burger Confit, no?) in a couple of minutes, they were flipped.  Salt and pepper were then applied.  A 2yr aged cheddar was put on one of the patties because every burger should have cheese.  Once the Maillard reaction had set in on both sides, the patties were scooped a placed on the bun.

Wine: Dusted Valley Chardonnay 2014

IMG_5925Notes:

OK, yes I had a side salad made of who cares and that was nice too.  I just want to get that out of the way for anyone worried about my health.

I don’t know why people still assume red wines pair better with burgers.  Maybe it’s the whole red meat, red wine thing? Regardless, I’m pretty sure everyone who has done it is completely on board.  Why does it work?  Well fat flavor begets fat flavor, for one. The trick with Chardonnay, and we’re talking the MLF, maybe some oak kind*, is always to find one with that delicate balance of butteriness and acidity, primarily in the form of green apple flavors.  Chablis is always the standard-bearer for this style and exemplar of balance, but they are certainly not alone in producing quality Chardonnays.  The best Chardonnays I’ve had are generally from cooler climates than central California, don’t carry too much oak, if any, and pack enough acid to make you not think you’re drinking a stick of butter.  Then when you mix that balanced Chardonnay with a fine cheeseburger to bring out the fact that you’re ingesting some delicious fat, protein, and carbohydrates…well, then you’re just living on the edge.

Oh yeah, the next night I added a dab of duck fat to the pan for a “twist”.  Then the third night I didn’t, but I just used 6oz of beef instead of 4…I may have a problem.  Good thing I ran out of meat.

 

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Homemade pappardelle blended with sauteed leeks, chives, lemon zest, arugula, prosciutto, and a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

Wine: Domaine de l’Aigle à deux têtes Côtes du Jura 2008

cotesdujuraNotes:

Yeah, that was a mouthful just to type!  If any of your are looking to plumb the depths of what wine explorers term “interesting”, you can start with a Côtes du Jura. This tiny little region in France is known for producing some particularly interesting wines such as their vin jaune (yellow wine).  This particular wine was not one of their most interesting ones, but fun and a good pairing nonetheless.  As an extra feature, they even dip the tops of their bottles in wax.  I personally think that just makes it harder and messier to open, but there are people who enjoy the extra touch.  It’s a blend of Chardonnay and a few other grapes that most people (even your most learned wine friends) wouldn’t recognize.  The wine carries a lovely acidity dominated primarily by lemon that brought out the lemon zest in the dish.  The rest of the body was a nice match for a this plate that was perfect for a cold winter’s night without actually being “heavy”.  It was adequately filling and fresh.

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Have you missed the wine and food pairings?  My apologies.  They’ve missed you too!

Rating: 5/5

A coq au vin comprised of browned chicken (obviously) slow roasted over red potatoes, shallots, celery, carrots, leeks, with thyme, salt/pepper in a sultry shallow bath of broth and Burgundian white wine.  Juices were reduced with some butter for sauce.

Wine: Oliver Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc “Les Setilles” 2009

Notes:
Quick review: If it is white and from Burgundy, it’s a good bet that it’s Chardonnay.  This particular one had a bit of oak, but nothing offsetting and it  melded beautifully with the food.  Providing some zip where there was a little fat, and providing some body, where the dish lay a little flat. This is one of those solid pairings that just hits home with me every time.  You may not enjoy this sort of thing if you’re not the sort who enjoys delicious food and wine together, but if you come across a rainy and cool day this summer, give this a try.  It will soothe your soul.  If you instagram your experience, that may soothe your soul too, but I just got an ok picture of the wine bottle out of it.

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-Norman Rockwell

Every year there are countless recommendations given out as to what wine you should be pairing with your Thanksgiving meal. These recommendations are always made with the utmost confidence that this exact wine will be the perfect match to whatever meal you have and no other wine would do. Everyone eats the exact same thing at Thanksgiving, right? The turkey, the gravy, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing; yours will taste the same as your neighbors, right? Except the pumpkin pie! Your mother makes the best pumpkin pie and everyone else’s tastes exactly the same, which is to say…not as good.  You know the scenario:

 You write down the the recommendations you found in the magazine, on-line, on the radio or on TV, while wondering if you’re spelling it right and whether that word is the producer, the type of wine or where it’s from.  Such joy you have knowing you will be bringing the perfect wines for Thanksgiving! The hunt is on! But once you get to the liquor store, the hunt proves fruitless. The store doesn’t carry those wines (assuming you wrote down the correct thing to begin with) because you live in such a small town that they don’t carry every wine in existence. Fooled again, world of wine!  You got me!  What to do? Panic? You start reaching for the boxed wine….

The idea that there are one or two wines that are a “superior” match to everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner is quite frankly ridiculous.  The problem with specific wine recommendations is that they only work for specific meals.  The specific interactions you get between the wine and food with the environment you’re in comprise the experience.  Thus, the whole point of my musings on this web log.  You have to keep in mind though that a good experience is comprised of a range of factors.  Can you have a good day when it’s raining? Yes.  Can you have a good day when it’s 67 degrees instead of 65? Yes.  Can you have a great Thanksgiving meal with a wide range of wines? Yes.

So instead of worrying yourself over whether or not you’ll be able to find the specific wines that were recommended to you, let’s give you a variety of options, shall we?  Just remember to look for the bottles that have a specific region listed on them.  First, let’s think of the flavor components of traditional Thanksgiving meals: savory, herbs, spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, creamy, buttery, jams, tart cranberries, the gamey-ness of the foul.  Now what wines can work well with that?

Whites:

  • Pinot Grigio
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Tokaji
  • or some Bubbly!
I generally lean towards the medium to heavier bodied whites so they don’t get lost in all the heavy foods.  A little acid is nice and can provide some zip through the heaviness if you want to lighten it up.  The idea is to match up wines with more stone fruit components (pears, apples, apricots, etc.) which generally happen in cooler climates than ones that have more tropical flavors (mango, pineapple, kiwi) that generally happen in warmer climates.  So could you get a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley?  Yes, but I’d go with that more specifically if I were making a more herbaceous meal with lemon tones.  If you like your buttery chardonnay, it’ll go great with those buttery biscuits and mashed potatoes.  If you generally like buttery chardonnays, but feel like they are at the top of your butteriness threshold, go with a viognier.

Reds:

  • First pickings from the newly released Beaujolais Nouveaus (Gamay)
  • Grenache or  Grenache/Syrah blends
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Franc

With the reds, the idea is not to get too far into the heavy body realm or too far into the big tannin realm.  The amounts of vinegar and salt in most Thanksgiving meals can typically match the bitterness in the tannins of the above varietals and blends.  The idea with the reds is to match up the red-fruit-jammy and herbaceous flavors while keeping an eye on the tannins.  For some, lots of tannins aren’t a big deal and they kind of like it.  But if you’re having a large number of people over, there are high chances that not everyone is like this.  So if you do want to try a more tannic red, just make sure those who don’t enjoy that sort of thing have a chance to get more vinegar, citric acid or salt in their mouths before they take a quaff.  If your fruits are swaying more to the darker end (blackberries, plums) then you can switch over to the medium-bodied dark fruit wines like Merlot, Syrah, Monastrell, etc.

Just remember, if you really like a couple wines, chances are that those can work for the “perfect” Thanksgiving meal.  You might have to make some small adjustments to your menu, but everything should work out fine.  Those of us who enjoy wine have an expectation bar at some level and as long as it meets that or surpasses it, we’re good.  We don’t fret over prefect pairings, especially if we aren’t doing the cooking or bringing the wine.  If you do have someone who you know has the highest expectation bar, go ahead and tell them to bring the wine.

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Rating: 4/5

Garden salad comprised mostly of darker greens, green bell pepper, baby bella mushrooms, cucumber, tomato and a heavy dusting of chickpeas. Dash of balsamic vinegar.

Wine: Charles Smith’s Eve Chardonnay 2008

Notes:

I’m really not trying to push Charles Smith wines here, but after the fun experience with his Boom Boom Syrah, I couldn’t just pass by this little number.  So I paired it Old Testament style with my favorite versatile and simple garden salad that clearly [sic] evokes the Garden of Eden to pick up on the apple nod from the bottle of Eve.  Let me state that the best thing about this experience was that it was a cool, crisp and clean burst at the tail-end of a scorchingly hot day  (103ºF in Minneapolis in June?  Really?).  Yes, you should pair your meals with the season and the day to some degree.

I generally tend to shy away from buttery Chards (aka: those with malolactic fermentation or MLF) that have heavy oak aging.  Instead, I lean toward a more crisp, Burgundy-style Chardonnay (Read: very limited buttery-ness or oaky-ness and yes, those are official words) and the wonderful people of the Washington wine scene seem to agree.  Eve had just a touch of butter in there, as maturing whites from Burgundy do which really brought out the chickpeas in the salad.  I tend to pile those on so highlighting my favorite part is never a bad thing. What generally prevents a salad and wine pairing from being perfect is the dressing.  Vinegar tends to react poorly with wine (more pronounced with reds) due to a chemical reaction that occurs.  I’ve found that in limited amounts, (dashes instead of dumps) the reaction’s output, a sort of pronounced sharpness, is so minimal that it really isn’t that noticeable.  What about creamy dressings, you ask?  To that I say, I’m not big on them.  While, you wouldn’t get the vinegar/wine reaction, the health benefits you could be getting from your salad sharply decline when using a creamy dressing.  If you really want a savory component in there, add a sprinkling of Feta, which also would have been a nice compliment to this salad.

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