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Girl Scout Cookies Pair Just Fine With Domestic Wine

Girl Scout Cookies are a distinctly, happy, American phenomenon - one of those great traditions from everyone's youth you get excited about all over again each year. If your community is predisposed to the door-to-door Saleschild, first you order them. Then you wait. Sometimes a couple of months as the orders get processed. Then, finally, said child returns bearing gifts at your door. This happened to us last week. And it was a wondrous moment!

But as it was late on a Friday afternoon, we thought why not enhance said tradition with something other than a glass of milk, that also further celebrates their All American-ness?

Today we offer findings from our taste-enhancing research, to further your own on-going enjoyment of this sacred tradition and this Classic line-up of Girl Scout Cookies. Cheers!

thin mints® |  Cabernet Sauvignon.  This grape is predisposed to notes of eucalyptus and mint, particularly when made in Lodi, California+ the dark chocolate on these cookies is ever-more Cab-loving!  (Of course an old vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah or Syrah won’t disappoint either.)

shortbreads|  Chardonnay.  This grape is a no-brainer for these buttery cookies! Try a classic California style like Chateau St. Jean, or experiment with some great Chards coming out of lesser-known states, like Ravines Wine Cellars (Finger Lakes, NY) or Westport Rivers Winery (Cape Cod, MA). Domestic sparklers made from the Chardonnay grape are also a great match! J Vineyards (California) or Gruet (New Mexico) have Brut (dry) selections that would be decadent with these cookies.

samoas|   Roussanne orViognier. These cookies have evolved since the '80s, now incorporating caramel and coconut, but we didn't hold it against the Girl Scouts of America; some change is good! Here try something a little bit more “exotic” like the Stolpman Family Roussanne or White Knight Viognier. Whoop!

peanut butter sandwiches|  dry Gewürztraminer or dry Riesling. In the right hands and even more so when vinified dry, these grapes are a terrific match for these delightfully cloying, lingering, slightly salty cookies. The wines will meet their match, delivering a touch of unctuousness met with a wonderful, mouthwatering pop of acidity to cut through the ‘fat’ of these cookies. Seek out memorable, dry Gewürztraminer from either Gundlach Bundschu  or Navarro Vineyards. Dry Riesling from Dr. Frank (New York) will do the trick, too.



Priorat Travels Continue: Clos Figueras

This post was written while I was on the road - Day 2 - in Spain two weeks ago. Now, where was I? Ah, yes... Leaving the car in its ‘hiding place’ and deciding to walk all of 5 minutes from my hotel to my hosts at Clos Figueres earlier this morning, I am happy to be in a quiet town where the only obstacles in my path are not even dog poop (Barcelona), but mama gatos protecting their kittens as I, an unexpected intruder, walk past. I guess on the directionals, hoping my inner compass will guide me to my destination. Luckily, it does.

At Clos Figueres I find Jaume, winemaker extraordinare, who has been at the winery for three years. We speak largely in Espanol, me understanding mucho, pero hablando muy mal. I learn that they use three different fermentation vats – stainless, fiberglass, and barrels. Each has their call of duty, depending whether the intended wine is for a more approachable, fruit forward offering that lends an ‘introduction’ to consumers, or the more complex wines for which the Priorat is famous.

I had hoped to video tape my time at Clos Figueres with the young expert winemaker/Master Sommelier Jaume, and Miguel, the wine manager. But our conversation was largely in animated spanglish; they both nodded enthusiastically at my very rusty Spanish and, thankfully, my Spanish training meant I could understand nearly all of what they were communicating. Was I romanced? Absolutely. Am I always romanced by the Priorat? No. It is historically a region that I quite love, but my love/hate price-point/value rationalism keeps things real.

Clos Figueres, like many of their elite neighbors, produces wine meant to age. Of course, they produce a wine that is more ‘accessible’ or fruit forward, knowing that many do not have the patience or wallet size these wines demand. They also produce a gorgeous white blend (Font de la Figueres) that is largely Viognier – a varietal that was mistakenly sent to proprietor Christopher Cannan when he set up shop in 1997; fortunately, the Priorat proved an interesting and worthwhile testing ground. I’m sipping the 2009’s worthwhileness while I write (my hosts were too kind in allowing me to take a couple of bottles with me to enjoy at my hotel later, to see how they would open, or evolve with a bit of oxygen in their ‘lungs’).

For the sake of argument, I just re-poured the second offering: the 2006 Clos Figueres red. It was a gem, arguably in its prime, even freshly uncorked this morning; now its anticipated chewy black plum and black raspberry (fraboise) fruit, with an edge of strawberry leaf, forest floor (sabroso…), dried herbs, bittersweet chocolate and black pepper spice flourish even more. Yet, I know it will continue to open and deliver even more.

Jaume used his pepito (plastic theif) to “steal” a bit of wine from each of the 2010 barrels enjoying their siesta (pre-aging/bottling) in barrels below the alfresco tasting porch so I could taste them each au natural. What an experience! This is the sort of opportunity that drives home the essence of varietal expression. Grenache is uniquely Grenache, with natural variation depending on the vineyard site; but at the end of the day, a Granny Smith apple is too tart to be called Macintosh just like Grenache is too red-berry fruited to be called Mouvedre, a more smoked meat, gamey, blueberry/redberry fruit flavored varietal. How varietals work together is what makes a particular Clos stand out in their efforts (aka when to pick, in what vessel one should ferment each varietal, and later, what balance of grapes will comprise the final wine).

Clos Figueres delivers an authentic expression of the Priorat. Their reds are structured but elegant, chewy but savory, juicy but teeth-sinking. If you can get your hands on a 2006 (or have one in your cellar) this is the time to uncork!



May's Wicked Wines Uncorked!

3 of May's Wicked (Good) WinesI can hardly believe it's already the second Monday in May - and time to unleash this month's Wicked Wines! These are some real treats to uncork through the ups and downs of the season change. Buying Tip: If you can't find the specific wines I suggest in your home market, consider the varietals (or blends) I've chosen and enlist your local wine buyer to make comparable recommendations.  These are some fun wines you won't want to miss!



the world's most versatile white wine? Albarino uncorked.

Thanks to: you think of Spain's geography as the shape of a bull's head, you realize it doesn't have much of a western coast. Portugal actually comprises much of that area - with only the tippy-top of Spain's left "bull horn" having ocean boundaries. It is in this northwestern area, Galicia - and perhaps more notably, the D.O. Rias Biaxas (said Ree-as Byay-shas) - where arguably the most versatile white wine is created: Albarino. With its northern location and proximity to the sea, it won't surprise you to learn Albarino has its work cut out for itself to avoid rot and ripen fully. (Or, well, maybe the high, spread out trellising by the vineyard managers has something to do with it, since the wind can more easily pass through the vines and help dry things out....) Whether natural selection is at play or not, Albarino fortunately has developed very thick skins - which impart the strong, beautifully floral aromas you should associate with this particular vino.

Actually, Albarino is often likened to two other grapes we've discussed now and again: Riesling and Viognier. It is associated with Riesling for its mineral characteristics and Viognier for the stone fruit and floral aromas that often float from the glass. It also has very low alcohol and high acidity. These factors make Albarino so versatile. (Low alcohol allows it to pair well with spicy dishes too, for example; the heat of the alcohol does not fuel the flames of spicy cuisine while the residual touch of glycerin adds a robustness that complements richer foods' texture. ) And it's not just that Albarino's innate characteristics make it a good match for these "trickier," spicy foods! The wine is also enhanced by the flavors found in these dishes: it tastes even more distinct than when it flies solo!

Albarino is a go-to wine for me particularly around holiday meals. It is so refreshing, has that extra bit of roundness to it texturally, complements so many dishes and is one even red wine drinkers can appreciate. With Easter a few weeks back, I brough home a bottle thinking I would save it for our feast. It never made it that far.... The Vinum Terrae's Agnus Dei Albarino offered such a lovely bouquet of peaches and apricots, it was love reignited. It delivered the same apricot-peachy goodness on the palate and was further enhanced by a serious squeeze of lemon citrus "juice" and a bit of wet-slate minerality. With its low alcohol, it quenched my thirst as I prepared the meal.

There are several Albarino's on the market, probably the most widely distributed being the Martin Codax. Have you enjoyed this varietal before? Which was the offering you tasted?