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Easter wine recs

Easter is a holiday that not everyone celebrates – nor in the same ways. Traditions are a bit more fluid somehow here in the United States. Maybe your family prefers a delicious Easter brunch after a morning visit to church and an Easter Egg Hunt for the kiddies. Maybe you do your own thing with your family in the morning, then visit with friends in the afternoon over a mid-afternoon dinner of baked ham or a leg of lamb. But one thing is certain: such a lack of specific tradition can cause some level of Easter week “panic.” Of course, there's no need to stress when a little advice is at the ready. Pop over to Wicked Local today to get some ideas for your celebration! Will wine have a place at your Easter table this year? What will you uncork?



February Wicked Wines - just in time for Valentine's Day...

Whether you subscribe to the Valentine’s Day marketing machine or are just anxious for flowers to start popping up this spring, these February picks are sure to set your heart a’flutt’ah! But beware! Their versatility makes them great year round. Each of these is sure to transform your impression of what sparkling wines (and pink ones at that) are ALL about! Pop over to Wicked Local to see what I'm so excited about...

Which wine get credit as your first "Ah-Ha" rose moment?



November's Wicked Wines Uncorked!

Wicked Wines Nov 09Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate the little things in life. Some folks are inclined to do so by picking out one very special bottle of wine to share with friends; for others it is a time to uncork several celebratory bottles (and keeping the average price a bit lower doesn’t hurt). Pinot Noir and Gamay (Beaujolais Nuveau) are the darlings of Thanksgiving reds, offering a delicious pairing with turkey and cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts and other earthy, root vegetables. But with the Pour Favor mini-series on Pinot Noir about to hit full stride Monday's this month, it seems only fair to give a few whites (and one incredible rosé) a fair shot at gracing your dining room table! Head over to Wicked Local to find out where the fun begins this Thanksgiving!

Which one of these selections most catches your attention? Will it contribute to your festivities this Thanksgiving?



local winery continues to ferment great juice

Westport Line upWestport Rivers Winery in Westport, MA first captured my heart 3 years ago with their 2001 Imperial Sec sparkling wine, which is made from the more exotic or a-typical varietals of Riesling and Rkatsiteli.  Tasting others from their line up, I was pleased to discover their winery was the exception to the "rule" as far as local Massachusetts wine goes.... Other folks in and around Massachusetts haven't been able to do what Westport Rivers has achieved even since then because of two reasons, as far as I can tell. First, they have a truly coastal,  cool climate location.  Second, their wines have a sense of place; each wine represents a unique terroir, (so much so that universities have trekked down yonder to take soil sample after soil sample, run tests, and discovered which myriad soils are present on their 140 or so acres. This research has helped the proprietors plant different varietals in specific soil types). Westport Rivers wines exhibit a uniquely satisfying old-world sensibility, with new world panache.

Maybe one day Westport Rivers will be able to solely produce their exceptional sparkling wines. In the meantime, interested sippers can also bring home their well-balanced Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Rkatsiteli among the whites, as well as Pinot Noir rose for the reds or Pineau de Pinot as a dessert wine/aperitif.

The one to catch my particular fancy this season is their rose of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is one of my absolute favorite varietals - and I hold out every year waiting for the best possible expression of it as a rose. This year Westport Rivers delivered the goods. The nose is quiet, exhibiting just a hint of baby roses, smoke and cherry fruit. The palate delivers a crisply satisfying, dry, light package of cherry and strawberry fruit; a unique, almost saline minerality quenches your thirst - and soon enough you've put quite a dent in the bottle!

In next few and last (sadly) weeks of summer, seek out rose with great gusto. You'll probably find a few deals on the market - and if you're lucky, you'll be revived with a splash of ocean air and memories of cold-box red and berry fruits. Yum.

Which Westport Rivers wines are your favorites?



The wonderful world of rose

sutton cellars rose, thanks to nate uri on FlickrRose is one of my all time favorite wine genres. Seriously. I met a woman over the weekend who had just discovered it for the first time - and she was absolutely exhilarated by the find. She and a group had been out to eat at Dante in Cambridge. The wine guru there who I've mentioned before, Chas Boyton, recommended a Californian take on rose: the Sutton Cellars Rose. She couldn't get enough and had popped into the shop to see if we stocked it. We don't, as it turns out, but I happily chatted with her about the wonderful world of rose and helped her choose another. I was pleased she had already learned a lot from her one jaunt with the stuff (and no doubt at the tutelage of Mr. Boyton):  no matter if everyone at your table is enjoying different cuisine, it pairs wonderfully; it is lively and refreshing on a hot day; it is NOT sweet; and it is a terrific way to spice up an otherwise non-celebratory night out.

Tra-la! Pop on over to Wicked Local today to learn a bit more about this DRY wine and how to find one to suit your palate. I focus on my favorite style (French) providing but a general overview of one is likely to encounter, but there really is something for everyone on the market. That's part of its magic.

Which rose is your favorite this summer?



Wicked August Wines uncorked!

August 09 Wicked WinesI have now been to the beach a total of 4 days this summer - all of which have been during the month of August. So yes. It's official! Summer weather has finally arrived here in New England. And I just can't help myself! I am happily sipping from all categories of wine: red, white and... rosé! It’s time to make hay while the sun shines, and try something uniquely delicious and satisfying at the end of a sticky, summer day. Head over to Wicked Local to check out which Wicked August Wines you might just want to give a s-whirl!

Have you had the pleasure of tasting any of these offerings? What are your tasting notes?



Episode 1: the love affair between food and wine

Watermelon salad photo care of: weekend my "Supper Swap" group met again for the first time in a while. (We try to meet at least quarterly, picking a theme to inspire our respective culinary adventures for the night and otherwise help us break out of any cooking ruts we may have fallen into.) As we sat around the table discussing our "Summer-is-coming" dishes and what changes we would make to the recipes, I realized I have gotten away from discussing food more specifically in relation to wine on the Pour Favor blog.  I've been talking wine first, then food. But most of the time we work the other way around, right? You pick your meal or what you are going to chef, and then select a bottle to accompany it. Food is important.

I mean, yeah, there is the whole sustenance factor, lol. But in seriousness, wine is meant to be enjoyed with food. There are certainly some that excel on their own; but for the most part winemakers hope their wares grace your table and, ideally, take on a whole new meaning when matched with a wonderful meal.

This isn't to say we should always strive for the perfect pairing. Nonsense! Rather, we should be mindful that the components which make a wine a wine - fruit, acidity and tannin - are elements that, by nature, are designed for food. On that note, let's start talking about the union of food and wine over the next few weeks, shall we?

Supper Swap dish #1:  Watermelon, mint salad.

Apparently this dish was inspired by the Mustard Seed restaurant out in Davis, CA. Now their (online) recipe calls for cucumber, watermelon, mint and feta - but my friend recalled it with red onion, watermelon, mint and feta. Either which way you slice it, this salad was terrific. A true summer crowd pleaser. Fresh, healthy and delicious. And there is literally nothing more to it than dicing up the ingredients and tossing them together.

What wine would pair? This dish is incredibly versatile. But my instinct is to go for a terrific, DRY, rose - still OR sparkling! Rose tends to have terrific strawberry, raspberry or watermelon characteristics. One with more minerality (typically French offerings from areas such as Provence) or a more spice-nuanced flavor profile would be best because of the mint, bite of onion and slight richness to the feta.  You can certainly try one with more fruit-forward flavors.  But the watermelon on its own is so delicious, I'd want something nuanced in other ways to draw out it's more subtle, secondary (et. al.) flavors.

White varietals to consider would be Spanish Albarino or Txakoli or lesser known/sought French offerings like Muscadet, Gros Manseng and Picpoul.  Sauvignon Blanc might be an easier grab-and-go choice that would certainly work.  Simply think crisp, refreshing, minerality.

Prefer red? Try a fruity, ligher-styled, dry summer red. You don't want to upstage the juicy watermelon on your plate!

What wine(s) would you pick for this dish?



EU may meddle with Rose wines...

Rose al frescoSurely my regular readers would agree I am not strictly a "purist" when it comes to wine innovation - whether it is using screwcaps or applying other modern winemaking techniques if/when it is warranted.  My jaw dropped, however, when I read an article this week detailing the EU's desire to allow members to mix red and white wines to create rose (apologies for the lack of accent on the "e" throughout this post). Rose is a tremendously delicious dry wine which we Americans (and others globally) have more or less just "discovered". Sales have been booming for the last several years. Finally the myth of rose tasting sweet like your Grand/Mother's white Zin(fandel) has been revealed! Meanwhile, consumers are going bonkers as they discover how many different styles there are; there is something for everyone and every dish.

Provence, France is arguably the rose capital of the world. Whenever I think of sitting on the shores of the Mediterranean at a little cafe, I transport myself to Provence - and I am sipping rose. The folks there have worked particularly hard over the years to debunk the myth of cotton-candy sweet pink, plonk wines and created more awareness and appreciation for these delightful wines. In my mind at least, I think of it as a local effort to give these wines the international appreciation (or distinction?) of say, Champagne.

If the EU allows a broader definition of rose such that red and white wines are mixed rather than applying the traditional method of pressing the juice from red grapes, I fear the 'cheapening' of this lovely libation. Provencial rose (and other areas that use this traditional, sanctioned technique) will lose their prestige as the wines lose their vibrancy. And so today my question is:

For what real benefit is the EU doing this? Where is the market research that backs up this move?


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Aperitifs: The oh-so Lovely Lillet

'Tis the season to be merry! And sometimes merriment is best facilitated by getting your guests in the mood for - in the immortal words of Seinfeld writers - Festivus! Last weekend I had the pleasure of pouring a few holiday libations for just such a purpose at a public tasting event. (I had what happens to be my favorite Champagne Rose on hand, Lillet and two different Ports on offer; oh yes, I was captain of the Fun Team!) Much to my amusement, the Lillet was the fan favorite. In part this was because it's an aperitif that's been around since dirt bringing back memories for many, and in part it's because it's just so interesting. Leave it to a monk, Father Kermann, to "invent" it back in the late 1800's in Pondesac, Bordeaux. Fermann was also a doctor/mixologist, creating elixirs and fortifiers using ingredients like quinine. Enter the burgeoning region of Bordeaux where crazy ingredients like star anise, brandy, cane sugar, et. al. were then descending from all over the world (China, Gascony, West Indies....) and our friend Fr. Kermann is one happy camper! From this epicenter of creativity and fine ingredients came Lillet.

But let's back up for a second... An aperitif is an alcoholic beverage meant to begin a meal. Literally, it gets consumers in the mood for food by stimulating the appetite. For me it's also one of those 'balms' I've mentioned of late that has a welcome touch of alcohol to take the edge off potentially uncomfortable social situations, or to otherwise just get people in the spirit of the occasion (pun intended). It also isn't so strong in taste it will kill the next libation's flavors (e.g. wine with the meal).

On the Lillet bottle it reads: "Since 1872". Apparently there is no official recipe they use to make it year after year, instead relying on each cuvee to dictate the outcome. And apparently in 1985 they revamped their overall approach to appeal to modern-day consumers. Once much more bitter and slightly more sweet in flavor, today the aperitif offers a tremendously floral bouquet with hints of apricots and honey - it reminds me (and others) of late harvest wines. From there it delivers a surprising minerality, and notes of slightly bitter orange peel and apricots. (Technically speaking, it is made from the white wine Bordeaux grapes Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (85%) and "fruit liquors" (15%). It is aged for 10 months (on average) in oak barrels.) I encouraged every person who approached my table to simply try it for themselves - and while each had their own reaction, nearly all was pleasantly surprised by it and certainly excited to add it to their holiday party shopping cart.

Which apertif do you enjoy during the holidays? Have you tried Lillet - whether on ice, with a twist, a'la James Bond or otherwise?

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recreating "the moment"...

You are sitting at a little table in Provence. You have found a quaint cafe, where a small bowl of salted almonds is at the ready before you even have a chance to ask for a glass of water or rose to quench your thirst on a hot day. You quickly find you and your partner are nibbling on local fare - the cafe's own tapenade and a bit of bread seemed like a good starting place - while you wait for your Nicoise salad to arrive. The St. Andre de Figuerire Vielles Vines rose is taking the edge off, too. Ahh... not too shabby. No, better than shabby. "Now, THIS is summer luv'n", you think! Your journal reflects the experience perfectly - even the name of the wine you were drinking... is it possible to have such sensual, tasty goodness at your fingertips again? Once home, you call your local shop and discover they - somewhat shockingly - can get the St. Andre rose you had at that little cafe. Success! The wine buyer agrees to purchase a case for you, just in time to spend the remaining weeks of the summer with your feet up on your own porch patio after a long, hard day back in the daily grind, drinking through that lovely case. And it's guilt-free drinking too, as you know the 2007 rose won't last 'til next year - and who knows what next year's batch will bring?! No need to save it - you're more than willing to dive right on in.

A couple of weeks later you pick up your much-anticipated case. You quickly return home to prepare a bouillabaisse and whip together a little appetizer of pan bagna so you and your honey can snack a bit sipping on your St. Andre and reminiscing about Provence before you dive into the main course. The wine is already chilled and you pour two glasses enthusiastically. The evening is warm, the bugs aren't biting and the tapenade is one of your best concoctions yet. Plus, you've both had fairly easy workdays and even made it to the gym.

The wine - and moment - is pretty fabulous; and yet somehow it isn't quite as mind-blowing as what you had remembered. What the !@#?$???

The last time I had a wine I loved during a memorable occasion was the last game of the 2007 (Boston Red Sox) World Series. We were drinking the Winner's Tank Shiraz. I'll never forget it. First, it was darn good wine that paired well with our homemade pizza; and second, we won (again)!! And yet I haven't been able to pick up that bottle of Shiraz again. I'm afraid it just won't be quite the same...

When's the last time you savored a bottle and dared to try it again, or couldn't quite bring yourself to do so? For all of you hanging out on the Pour Favor blog sidelines, this is your moment to "dish"! ;)

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