new era, fresh thinking: inauguration celebration wines

Wine with BreakfastWhether you are in the majority for or in the minority against our next President, chances are you are getting a bit wrapped up in the fervor that surrounds us. Almost everyone I know – correction: everyone I know – is ready for change in 2009. And we’re bound to see some soon enough!

Where wine and the Inauguration is concerned, a few things have been on my mind lately…  First, when we were looking at our post-New Year’s bubbly stock at the store last week, we had to decide if we had enough depth and range to satisfy our customers’ demand on Inauguration day; bubbly is a natural, but truth be told, the festivities really start over breakfast. Will people be drinking that early on a weekday? Second, is bubbly too ‘just-done’ (with the holidays just behind us) such that folks will be looking for something else special to open later that night?

And then, last Wednesday, my fellow wine bloggers took on a challenging topic for Wine Blogging Wednesday: Wines for Breakfast Foods (no bubbly and no rose!).  Things were too nutty after the New Year for me to participate in the fun, but I was intrigued by the challenge. Eggs are considered one of The Hardest food/wine pairings, and bubbly is the given answer – but that wasn’t allowed.

Since I’m always a proponent of trying something unknown and since we’re about to take on the world from a different perspective (Obama’s), today it seemed natural, with just a few hours left under the old world order, to get us thinking outside the box about our Inauguration Celebration wine.  And since Inauguration festivities will begin tomorrow morning, it’s only appropriate to start with breakfast…. Below I’m going to link up a few of the posts from last week’s Wine Blogging Wednesday and another article or two I’ve come across lately. Hopefully this will give you enough time to think about where your plans will take you tomorrow  – and to get to your local shop to pick out something special to accompany them!

For those of you starting early, here are a few WBW Breakfast Wines…

Three fun reds? Who knew. It’s a Twisted Breakfast(s) extravaganza!

Having a party? Pairing wines for each (breakfast) course. Too much fun.

Anyone who thinks to describe a wine’s texture “like wearing some kind of tasty satin underroos for your tongue” deserves a closer look-see, I’d say. Definitely outside of the box thinking on that one!

Or…

If you want to stay domestic in your celebratory sipping, while taking it outside the box (aka NOT California) and giving yourself a real treat, check out the musings of Gaiter and Brecher…. Those two know where it’s at.

Are you toasting over breakfast? Which wine do you have in mind?

Wines for Fall: The sweeter finds (and Wine Blogging Wednesday)!

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a rare treat in the larger wine world, particularly here in North America: Pineau des Charentes. When I saw that Joe the #1 Wine Dude had expanded this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme (maderized dessert wines) to include fortified wines, well, it was all I could do to hold off all reports on this fabulous little dessert/aperitif-perfect-for-apple-pie-or-in-front-of-the-fire-or-before-a-chic-meal find!

Pineau des Charetes is made from 2/3 unfermented must of fresh grapes and (drum roll please!) 1/3 COGNAC. This is my paradise.

Old wives tales (or perhaps actual history) has it this fun beverage was created by mistake. How so? Well, apparently a grower back in the 16th Century poured grape must (the juice, skins, stems…) into a barrel that already contained Cognac (brandy). The barrel was out of sight/mind for another 5 years or so until a huge harvest came in and additional barrels were needed. Soon enough, the concoction was discovered. The stuff tasted so darn good – fruity, sweet, yet lighter and not cloying in texture – the folks in Charentes, France perfected the process and began peddling it to eager consumers.

This aperitif thrills me for a number of reasons. First, it is a rare find here in the United States. Somehow, the masses have failed to catch on to the glory that is this sweet, little libation. Second, most producers have not chosen to make Pineau, considering it a mere byproduct of Cognac; they simply use Ugni Blanc grapes, which is also used in the production of Cognac. Among those who do make Pineau part of their repertoire, the best wines are made from the freshest (read: from field to barrel in a single day), hand-picked grapes. Only by hand-picking can they know the moment when full maturity is acheived, when the golden grapes turn to a deep topaz color and, for the red wines, when the black grapes turn from crimson to brown.

Pineau des Charentes is often found at 18% alcohol – the optimal level. It must remain in bottle for at least one year before it is sold (and often the best producers wait as much as five years before releasing it). As I alluded above, Pineau is offered in Or (white) or Ruby (red) varieties. In the case of the Ruby, Cabernet, Cab Franc or Merlot varietals are used.

If you’ve never enjoyed Pineau before or after a meal, please do. You are missing out! For those who don’t prefer overly sweet dessert wines, this should be a good fit. Pineau certainly can accompany a little pastry, tart, or ice cream dessert. But it is also delightful with foie gras, oysters, poached fish, goat cheese, Roquefort and even fine game. (Use your gut instinct on which – red or white – variety pairs best with each of these suggestions.) Just avoid consuming Pineau with any ‘strong’ flavored sauces or dishes, even as simple as olives. It’ll taste a little funkity funk….

For Wine Blogging Wednesday I served the Domaine du Perat Or with apple pie two weeks ago. The fruits in the Perat were reminiscent of stewed peaches and ripe apricots. But it also offered a depth of flavors you’ll find reminiscent of cognac (burnt caramel nuttiness) – without the burn.  Serve chilled, for optimal flavors.

I’m curious how well received Pineau still is in France these days… do you know? If you’re from North America, is this post a throw back to days of old for you? Or is Pineau de Charentes a new one on you?

Wines for Fall, aka Wine Blogging Wednesday

Once again I find myself scribing another Wine Blogging Wednesday post so quickly, it feels, since the last. Fortunately this month’s theme does not stray beyond the parameters of my own Wine Wednesday series of late: Wines for Fall.

Russ at Winehiker Witiculture is October’s host. Given his passion for the great outdoors and wine, it is no surprise he chose a linking theme: “Which wine will you pour in the great outdoors?” This may be the first theme I didn’t even think twice about. For me, the Great Outdoors means a nice bike ride, a grassy knoll and  – if my romantic destiny is every fulfilled – a picnic blanket (with some fall leaves scattered here and there) and a bit of sweet bubbly.

Brachetto d’Aqui is one of the greatest forms of bubbly I have encountered. These wines, named for the grape used (brachetto) and the area from which they hail (the Piedmont, Italy DOCG, Asti), are perfect “Picnic Wines”. Just two weeks ago I was sharing this theory of mine with a couple of colleagues. They couldn’t have agreed more as we tasted Garitina’s 2007 Brachetto d’Aqui release. And we thought 2006 was a good year for this wine. Hello, fresh, ripe, red raspberries and strawberries! Tiny, tiny, bubbles that funnel up to your nose bringing scents of baby roses and violets? Check! Mouthwatering acidity? Check! Gentle tannins to coax your desire for a gorgeous brunch spread?? Check! A sweetness that simply satisfies you??? CHECK!

I don’t think Carrie ever unpopped the cork of this small production (aka special) wine with Mr. Big, Miranda, Charlotte or Samantha – but at least one of them should have. Lightly sweet, pink bubbly is the absolute perfect thing when a picnic blanket, red berries, peach tarts, marscapone or pastries are involved. Chocolate, well, now there’s a match made in heaven, too. Friends or lovers could actually be considered optional it is so charming all on its own.

User-friendly tips: A traditional “champagne” cork is NOT used for this wine, much like the Moscato d’Asti I blogged about last WBW re: wine & politics. So make sure you have your corkscrew on hand. Champagne flutes are necessary only if you feel so compelled – no need to run out and buy any.

What’s your outdoor wine of choice this fall?