Archive for the ‘Pinot Noir’ Category


I know you’re probably being inundated with what you should/absolutely/must have for the best/most exciting/most extravagant Thanksgiving this year for wine and food and I promise I will not do that to you.  Instead, I’m just going to tell you what I’m going to have. As a bonus, I’m even throwing in the recipes.  What?!?!? Aaron is giving us recipes? That’s right. I’m going all mainstream on you.  Not just listing the ingredients like I normally do and making you figure it out, but actual recipes that you could follow if you wanted to do that sort of thing.

This year I’ve decided on a South by Southwest theme.  No, not the festival in Austin, but southern and southwestern cooking mixed together.  My mother grew up in the south, my father in the southwest…so meta.  Anyway, as always, if you want advice, send me an e-mail with what you’re having and I’ll help you pick out some wines.  Happy early Thanksgiving!

The Wines

Aperitif: Pere Ventura Tresor Rosé

Meal time: Scott Paul La Pauleé 2008 (Pinot Noir)

Digestif: Averna Amaro Siciliano Fratelli Averna (Not wine, just in case you were wondering. Amaros are hot this year, oh yeah)


The Brine (Do the day before):

2 gallons water
2 cups Kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 fennel bulb, split
1 white onion, split
2 limes, sliced
4 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 sprigs of oregano
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Toast all the spices in a skillet until they are aromatic, then put all of the ingredients in a stock pot and simmer until the salt is dissolved and the fennel has softened a bit (10-15 minutes).  Let the brine cool, put your turkey in and cover it for at least 12 hours.  Before you’re ready to pop it in the oven, remove from the brine and pat dry.  Preheat the oven to 400F Then add the rub.

The Rub:

1 tablespoon coriander seeds crushed
1 tablespoon fennel seeds crushed
1 teaspoon  thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons crushed dried chilies (ancho, guajillo, etc.)
Peel of 1 small lime (no pith please) grated
1 tablespoon minced onions
4 tablespoons softened butter

Mix all ingredients together and rub all of your turkey.  Get it mostly under the skin.  Yes, your hands will get dirty.  You can wash them later.
Pop that bird in the oven at 400F for 30minutes.  Hopefully, you have a meat thermometer.
Turn the heat down to 325F and continue to cook for 1 hour.
If you have the time, turn the heat down to 250F and cook until the white meat is 165F or the dark meat is 175F, otherwise just leave it at 325 and your bird will finish up within another hour.  If you want to get crazy, go ahead and baste the turkey with the drippings that fall every 1/2 hour or so.  Expect your total cooking time to go up a little when you do this though since heat is escaping the oven.  On to the sides!

Green Chilies Sauce (Replacement gravy)

2 cans green chilies
½ quart cream

Put the first two ingredients in a saucepot and raise to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Make 10 minutes before you serve all the food.  For the advanced user, instead of the canned goods, go ahead and get 4 poblano peppers.  Stick them on the grill with the corn until all sides are blistered and blackened.  Then slide them into a sealed container or bag for a few minutes so they steam up a bit.  Peel off all the skin, then slice and dice.  Voilá. Your own chilies.

Trivia for the dinner table:  The spelling “Chili” refers to any member of the Capsicum family, many of which are used in cooking.  This can also be used to reference the dish which football fans love during the fall.  It can also be spelled as “Chile” or “Chilli”.  The “correct” spelling is debatable.  However, the country of Chile would like to insist everybody spell their name as is.  I have seen this embarrassment in grocery stores and wine shops in which they spell the country of Chile, “Chili”.  

Hot Sauced Brussel Sprouts

1 lb Brussel Sprouts
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 cup your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon Oregano
1 tablespoon butter

Clean, slice of the stems, and halve the brussel sprouts then toss them with the olive oil.  Roast those bad boys at around 350 for 15-20 minutes until the edges get brown.  Meanwhile heat up the butter to melting point and mix it with the hot sauce and oregano.  Once the sprouts are done roasting, toss them in the hot sauce mixture.  Enjoy the ensuing mouth-gasm.

Grilled ears of corn

4 ears of corn
Soak. Pat dry. Grill.

Soak whole ears of corn for 20 minutes in water.  Pop on a flaming hot grill.  Rotate after you see grill marks on the bottom. Take them off when grill marks are on the other side.  10 minutes-ish to cook.

Wild Rice with cranberries

1 cup Wild rice
½ cup Cranberries
3 cups Chicken broth
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ cup chopped Pecans
2 tbsps Butter
Salt to taste

Put the rice, broth and butter in a pot and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and let cook for 20 minutes.  Add the cranberries, sugar, and pecans and some salt if needed.  Stir. Cover again and cook for another 30 minutes or until the rice is fluffy and you don’t see liquid bubbling around.

Pickled Okra and Jalapeños (Make at least a week in advance)

1/2 pound Okra or enough to fit into a big mason jar
1 Jalapeño, sliced
1 tablespoon Dill
2 teaspoons Juniper berries
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
Dash of Cayenne if desired
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 cup Vinegar
1 cup Water

Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil. Meanwhile stuff your your okra and jalapeno slices into the mason jar. Add in the dill, juniper berries, fennel seeds, and cayenne. Once the liquids are boiling, take them off the heat and pour into the mason jar until the dry ingredients are covered. Seal the mason jar closed and refrigerate for at least a week.

Pecan Pie

It’s a secret southern mother recipe. Sorry.


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Thick-cut pork chop with a rub (chipotle pepper, Hungarian paprika, salt/pepper, garlic, rosemary, thyme, cayenne, and clove) put on the grill low and slow basking in the glorious smoke of hickory chips.  On the side: grapeseed oil sauteéd golden beet and kale mixed into some orzo.

Wine: Aaron Berdofe Pinot Noir 2013


F’ing Hipsters.

Sometimes the stars align at the exact moment you need them to.  We in Minnesota have been desperately seeking spring like nobody’s business and yesterday we finally saw an inkling indication that warm weather is on the way.  Naturally, for me this meant it was a chance to use the grill.  Additionally, my latest batch of kit wine, a California Pinot Noir, decided it was ready*.  I don’t really have a label worked up for my small batches of wine, mainly because it’s completely unnecessary, so I did not include a gratuitous label shot.  However, a couple months ago I did happen to capture the moment that I realized I was racking wine in my SW Minneapolis home WHILE wearing flannel on camera…unintentional hipster moment.  So you get a picture of that.  Happy?  Anyway, the food was fantastic and the clove just picked up so nicely in the wine that I may have been somewhat overindulgent in my sounds of pleasure while consuming this concoction.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how long the finish has been in the two wines that I’ve made.  The succulence of the pork, certainly called for a wine to stick around for awhile.  Speaking of which, do you know what wine makers and marketers call wines without a lengthy finish?  “Easy Drinking”


*For those of you who already have a bottle of my Pinot Noir, now would be a good time to start drinking it.  Serve just below room temperature.

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Are you one of these guys? No? Then you can't sing Auld Lang Syne while drunk no matter what you say.

Are you one of these guys? No? Then you can’t sing Auld Lang Syne while drunk no matter what you say.

Alright,  here it is; the only sparkling wine advice you’ll need for New Year’s Eve. It’s all about the science of bubbles!!!  Science Friday, one of my favorite podcasts had chemist Richard Zare on to discuss the persnickety peculiarities of bubbly beverages.  Despite the overly-liberal use of the brand name “Champagne” (Remember all Champagnes are sparkling white wines, but not all sparkling white wines are Champagne.) this was a fantastic episode with numerous tidbits that you can use to tantalize your NYE cohorts.  Take special note of Ira’s suggestion of a pickup line.

Oh, and what sparkling wine should you get this year?  Apparently, sparkling red wines are trendy right now (Gamay, Pinot Noir, and blends mostly).  So there you have it.  I just knew something trendy.

Enjoy this and have a wonderful end to your 2012: The year the world didn’t end. Again.

SciFri: Get the Most Bang From Your Bubbly

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Oxygen.  We keep it out as much as possible when making the wine and then we add as much as we can in when drinking it.  We swirl.  We decant.  We aerate.  Adding oxygen into the wine right before we drink it is such a thing that a good portion of the wine accessories business is devoted to it.  But why?  What does mere oxygen do that improves the experience?

The theory (which has a bit of science backing it up) is that when oxygen hits the wine, the aromatics (esters, terpenols, etc.)  that have been tightly bottled up are encouraged to be released.  As more aromatics are released the wine should be more intense on the nose and then more balanced and apparent on the palate as well.  However, a wine has a finite amount of aromatics so there should also be a point of diminishing returns.  How far along the curve (the wine’s lifespan) the wine is generally referred to as the wine’s maturity, so I’ll call this the point of diminishing maturity.  Please feel free to use that term when referring to people as well.


There are a few other factors that go into why the quality of experience in wine starts to decline at a certain point, but here we are focusing on you enjoying your glass of wine at the table which is mostly concerned with the oxygen interaction (and serving temperature).  To test this theory, I decided to put together a little trial using a bottle of Philippe Leclerc’s 1996 Chambolle-Musigny Les Babillaires.  That’s a Pinot Noir from Burgundy for those who haven’t memorized every appellation in France.

The question: Does increasing the amount of oxygen in the wine right before you drink it intensify the aromatics on the nose and also have a positive effect on the intensity, balance and finish of the wine on the palate as well?  Given the existing, although limited studies on this already, one would hypothesize that the answer to this question is certainly yes.  I was also attempting to answer this question because I generally despise wine accessories.  For me, all I need is a double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew and a glass.  Also, I really like swirling the wine in the glass and I needed justification to continue doing it.  With this question I am assuming the wine is going to be served at the proper temperature.  The colder a wine is, the less oxygen can work its magic on it, which is generally why we serve white wines at a colder temperature and reds at a comparatively warmer temperature.


The methods:  Three different applications of oxygen to the wine were tested in this double-blind controlled study.  First, 250ml of the wine was poured into a measuring cup and then split between two wine glasses (the control of pouring directly from the bottle).  The second was 250ml of the wine poured into a measuring cup and then a 9″ x 11″ glass pan to expose as much of the surface of that wine to oxygen as possible. Third, 250ml of the wine was poured into the measuring cup and then a glass blender which was put on a low setting (such as “frappé”) for 30 seconds.

The pan

The second and third methods were then poured into respective glasses just as the first.  Each glass was labeled on the bottom (hidden) with the number of the method (1-3) for a total of 6 glasses, 2 for each method.  At this point I asked my paid assistant (paid in wine!) to leave the room and I rearranged the order of the glasses within each set.  After that, my assistant rearranged the glasses again while I stepped out so neither of us knew which order the wines were in, but we knew we each had one of each method.

Why the chosen methods?  Because I’m a huge nerd.  The first method acts as a control since it’s typically how people open and serve wine.  The added step of putting it into a glass measuring cup first was added to maintain consistency for the other methods.  Also, in the interest of consistency, if a glass was swirled, the other two glasses were swirled as well.  The second method is meant to mimic putting wine into a decanter.  I have two decanters, but by spreading the wine out on a flat surface as thinly as possible, the hypothesis that more oxygen on the wine increase aromatics is better tested.  The third method, the blender or Hyper-decanting as it is called, was popularized by Nathan Myhrvold the former Microsoft CTO that got bored one day and created a cookbook that focused on how to cook instead of what to cook (and it’s really cool).  The idea behind hyper-decanting is that it “chops” oxygen into the wine, moving oxygen through the wine instead of the normal lazy interaction oxygen has with the wine when it just sits there.  If you need a visualization, picture those movies that show an old school dance where the boys and girls sit on separate sides of the room and maybe one or two of them are dancing together.  That’s the normal wine and oxygen interaction.  Hyper-decanting is when the adult steps in a forces everyone to find a partner.  Also, the punch gets spiked.  Hijinks follow.

The rating:  This was a comparative analysis.  Therefore, each glass was analyzed briefly first and then a second analysis would be conducted and rated.  This ensured that if a glass was rated as having the highest level of intensity in the nose and the next glass was found to be more intense, chaos and anarchy would not ensue.  For the nose, Intensity was scored on a 1 – 5 scale with 5 being the most intense.  A Differing Notes commenting field was also included for more qualitative aspects.  For the palate, a 1-5 Intensity scale was also used along with a 1-3 Balance scale, a 1-5 Finish scale and a Differing Notes commented field as well.  In retrospect, the scales could have all been 1-3 since there were three glasses and this was comparative, but that didn’t affect the outcome and it did make the scorecards seem a lot more sciencey.

The results:  The assessments completed by my paid assistant and myself were nearly identical even though they were completed in silence.  The hypothesis that the more oxygen that gets added to the wine just before experiencing it was indeed correct, but with one twist.  The first method of direct pour produced a glass of wine where the experience was less intense and the characteristics of the wine tended to be more to the earthy spectrum while the fruits were more hidden.  The second method was more intense, but specifically with the fruit.  In this case, tart cherry came through and the tannins were more apparent.  The balance had gone a bit haywire.  The third method, which reigned supreme, boosted the intensity all around and the more earthy tones came back in to the picture to balance out the fruit.  The tannins then felt more appropriate and the finish appeared to linger just a bit longer which was most likely because of the improvement in balance and intensity.  As an added bonus, I guessed which glasses contained which methods correctly before the number labels were retrieved!

The conclusion: The wine that was tested was probably just past its prime (past the point of diminishing maturity).  Therefore, the results may change a little with the use of a young wine or an older wine in its prime, but I doubt the changes will be significant.  I can confidently state that forcing oxygen into the wine will noticeably improve the experience of a glass of wine.  However, it does appear that merely letting oxygen sit on top of the wine does not improve the experience and may even detract from it.  It may be related to headspace above the wine as Ron Jackson points out in his Wine Science textbook, pg. 503:

When the bottle is opened, aromatics in the headspace escape from the bottle.  The changed equilibrium between aromatics in the wine and the headspace induces further liberation of aromatics.  This phenomenon helps maintain the aroma in the glass during tasting, but may depauperate the fragrance of wine left in the bottle.  

If we arrange the methods in order of amount of headspace, it would be wine in the glass, wine in the blender and then wine in the pan.  It should be noted that a typical decanter does not have the same amount of headspace that wine in a pan does.  Perhaps, given the vast amount of headspace, the wine decanted into the pan went past its optimal point of maturity as was noted by the lack of bouquet or earthy tones to support the fruit tones.  Depauperate indeed.

Additional studies should be made (by me or at least invite me over if you’d like to do them) to compare all of those wine accessories and how well they actually affect the experience.  My guess is that you could get the better results from your blender than shelling out extra dough this holiday season for a fancy, single-purpose tool though.  Last, I do have to end this with addressing those who view wine as a fragile and ethereal object that should only be treated with kisses and caresses: Get over 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?


  • 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.


  • 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: 3/5

Scrambled egg sandwich on two pieces of whole wheat toast.  Dash of hot sauce on the eggs.  Use butter.

Wine: Mark West Pinot Noir 2008


Yes.  I just went there.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with Mark West Pinot Noir (or an egg sandwich for dinner for that matter).  It’s a good representation of northern California Pinot Noir.  However, trying to pair an interesting dish with the MWPN is kind of like bringing your Toyota Corolla to the red carpet of a movie premier.  You have to keep it simple.  More than simple.  As if the stars had aligned, I simultaneously happened to have an opened bottle of MWPN and next to nothing in my refrigerator besides eggs on the same night.  A peculiar laziness had also asserted itself over me and thus, the pairing.  If you’re ever in a pinch, do the same with a similar Pinot Noir.  It works.  It really works.

I would never try this with an aged Pinot Noir.  The tannin found naturally in the varietal can take on the fats in the butter creating a rather smooth experience.  I used my typical dozen shakes of Frank’s hot sauce.  If the hot sauce tastes too much like vinegar it’ll interfere with the tannins and you’ll get a bad taste in your mouth.  There were touches of that happening in my mouth, probably due to my excessive need for hot sauce, but not enough to get in the way.

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