The LBDs of wine

| August 10, 2012 | 0 Comments More

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Like the essential little black dress, a few go-to wines let you build your signature style

~ By Leslie Sbrocco.

Just as you pull together outfits to reflect your style, you can build a wardrobe of wines to please your palate. Start with the basics, then layer and accessorize. From classic picks to exotic and less-recognized wines that add sparkle to your staples, creating a wine wardrobe is deliciously simple. The following suggestions are good in any vintage.

Whites

Chardonnay: Wine’s basic black

What’s not to love about black? It’s classy, slimming – and you keep buying more. The same is true of Chardonnay. Crafted in styles from light to lush with only about 125 calories a glass, it’s America’s most popular wine for a reason. From elegantly crisp versions that pair with Brie to creamy, fleshy ones to match grilled salmon, there are shelves full of choices.

Places:

Iconic spots planted with the grape variety Chardonnay are the Burgundy region of France and throughout California. The latter versions are often noted for their ripe fruit flavors and kiss of oak barrel aging, while French styles lean toward lightness.

Tastes:

Classic Picks

  • Beringer, Napa Valley, California, $17-$20
  • Ponzi, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $18-$22
  • Joseph Drouhin “Puligny-Montrachet” Burgundy, France,
    $48-$53

Avant-garde Options

  • Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand, $34-$36
  • Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast, California, $33-$36
  • Antinori “Cervaro della Sala” Umbria, Italy, $48-$52
Accessorize:

If you like Chardonnay, try Grenache Blanc. A unique white variety hailing from northeastern Spain and southern France, this full-bodied, spicy dry wine is one to watch for in California, too. Try Tablas Creek from Paso Robles and Beckmen “Le Bec Blanc” from Santa Ynez Valley.


Riesling: The dressy wine

Autumn in the Bay Area is usually the best weather of the year, perfect for racy Riesling. With zesty freshness, floral aromas and flavors that span the spectrum from bone-dry to delicately sweet, Riesling is the ideal sip to ring in fall. Whether pairing alongside fiery Latin fare or sausages topped with spicy mustard, it’s as versatile as your favorite frock.

Places:

Germany’s Mosel region produces ethereal, sweeter versions, while France’s Alsace area begets richer, drier bottlings. Australia’s Clare and Eden valleys produce bone-dry, citrus-scented wines. Washington and New York states are home to a rainbow of Riesling styles.

Tastes:

Classic Picks

  • Dr. Konstantin Frank “Dry Riesling,” Finger Lakes, New York, $14-$17
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle “Eroica,” Columbia Valley, Washington, $20-$22
  • Dr. Loosen “Blue Slate,” Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany, $20-$22

Avant-garde Options

  • Wolf Blass “Gold Label,” Clare Valley, Australia, $18-$22
  • Grosset-Hill Smith “Mesh,” Eden Valley, Australia, $20-$22
  • Craggy Range “Te Muna” Riesling, Martinborough, New Zealand, $20-$22
Accessorize:

If you like Riesling, try Moscato – a lightly sweet, lemony sip that’s lower in alcohol and often slightly frizzante. Well-regarded wines come from northern Italy and are called Moscato d’Asti. Look for bottles from Marchesi de Gresy, Batasiolo or Michele Chiarlo.


Sauvignon Blanc: The crisp white shirt

An impeccably pressed white shirt under a jacket or atop a pair of jeans is the fashion equivalent of Sauvignon Blanc. With bracing vibrancy and aromas of green apples and fresh herbs, you can smell sunshine in the glass. Sauvignon Blanc marries beautifully with fresh-from-the-garden salads or rounds of goat cheese.

Places:

New Zealand’s Marlborough region is famed for its pungent, sassy savvies, as they’re dubbed in Kiwi country, while France’s historic Loire Valley spots Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are also planted with Sauvignon Blanc. California’s fruit-driven versions (some called Fumé Blanc) express the state’s warm climate.

Tastes:

Classic Picks

  • Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $18-$20
  • Villa Maria “Cellar Selection,” Marlborough, New Zealand, $17-$20
  • Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, France, $19-$21

Avant-garde Options

  • Middle Sister “Surfer Chick,” California, $10-$13
  • Casa Marin “Cartegna,” San Antonio, Chile, $16-$18
  • Efeste “Feral,” Columbia Valley, Washington, $20-$22
Accessorize:

If you like Sauvignon Blanc, try Albarino. Hailing from northwestern Spain’s Rias Baixas region, this grape variety produces crisp yet fleshy whites ideal for shellfish. Seek out Fillaboa, Vionta and Martin Codax.


Reds

Cabernet Sauvignon: The classic suit

Whether it’s the designer version or inexpensive but well-built, a classic suit gives structure and sophistication to your wardrobe. Cabernet Sauvignon is powerful yet plush, and because of its palate-cleansing grip of tannins (the healthy component in red wines that lets them age well), it’s the ideal pairing for a power lunch of filet mignon.

Places:

An equal-opportunity grape that thrives in a variety of climates, Cabernet is planted worldwide. From its home in the blends of France’s Bordeaux area to its perch in the Golden State’s Napa and Sonoma valleys, Cab is king. But don’t miss versions from Chile and the sunny reaches of western Australia.

Tastes:

Classic Picks

  • Silver Oak, Alexander Valley, California, $70-$75
  • Louis Martini, Napa Valley, California, $30-$32
  • Chateau Greysac, Medoc, Bordeaux, France, $18-$22

Avant-garde Options

  • Leeuwin Estate “Art Series,” Margaret River, western Australia,
    $46-$48
  • Simi “Landslide Vineyard,” Alexander Valley, California, $30-$35
  • Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile, $12-$15
Accessorize:

If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, try another hearty red, Malbec. Part of the blend in Bordeaux’s reds (along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot), Malbec has become a star in Argentina. Check out Argentinian Malbec from Alamos by Catena, Bodega Colomé and Massimo.


Pinot Noir: Sexy satin

Pinot Noir is my favorite red. It’s silky, sleek, sexy – the same feeling you get when slipping into a satin nightgown. With an elegance that’s the hallmark of the grape variety, it’s an ideal red to pair with fish, as it won’t overwhelm. But because of Pinot’s telltale vibrancy, it’s also a wine that will match spicy cuisine.

Places:

The finicky grape (thin skinned, hence its lighter color) only grows well in select places. Anchored as the red variety producing the great wines of the Burgundy region of France, it’s also risen to prominence in California’s cooler reaches of Carneros, Russian River, Monterey and Santa Maria Valley, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s also a rising star in New Zealand, South Africa and even coastal Chile.

Tastes:

Classic Picks

  • Irony, Monterey, California, $14-$16
  • Elk Cove, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $25-$28
  • Domaine de la Vougeraie, Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France, $45-$48

Avant-garde Options

  • Solomon Hills, Santa Maria Valley, California, $55-$58
  • Cameron Hughes, Russian River Valley, California,
    $15-$17
  • Hamilton Russell, Walker Bay, South Africa, $45-$48
Accessorize:

If you like Pinot Noir’s elegance, try Chianti/Sangiovese. Chianti is a region in Tuscany, and the whole area is planted primarily with the grape variety Sangiovese, which produces wines of depth yet delicacy. Don’t miss affordable Banfi “Centine,” Antinori “Peppoli” Chianti Classico and Ornellaia’s “Le Volte” blend.


Merlot: The cashmere of wine

You know the feeling of draping a luxurious cashmere scarf over your shoulders: It makes you feel special. The same is true of Merlot. When you sip a well-made bottle that showcases the succulent, stylish nature of the grape, it can be a special experience.

Places:

An early-ripening grape, Merlot leans toward refinement in Bordeaux’s right bank areas of Pomerol and St. Emilion. Domestically, Long Island in New York is known for Merlot, and California sports famous versions, but Washington State’s warm/cold Columbia Valley is the star spot.

Tastes:

Classic Picks

  • Northstar, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35-$38
  • Shafer, Napa Valley, California, $46-$48
  • Chateau Clinet, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, $70-$72

Avant-garde Options

  • Wölffer Estate, Long Island, New York, $20-$22
  • Bonterra (made with organic grapes), Mendocino County, California,
    $14-$16
  • Buty, Merlot/Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $40-$42
Accessorize:

If you like Merlot, try Syrah – a spicy red with full-bodied flair. The grape’s most well-known expression is Australian Shiraz, but its home is in France’s Rhône Valley. Try French versions from Chapoutier, and California picks such as Miraflores Syrah from El Dorado foothills and Paso Robles’ Justin Winery’s “Savant” blend. From Australia, don’t miss Shiraz from iconic producer Penfolds, or Shingleback’s Sparkling Shiraz.

Wine expert and award-winning author of “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buy-ing, Pairing, and Sharing Wine” and TV host Leslie Sbrocco founded Thirsty Girl for women with a passion for wine, food and travel. In addition to hosting the KQED series “Check Please!” she is a regular guest on the “Today” show and is a sought-after speaker and wine judge.


Perfect Pairs

Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.

A good wine is even better with food that enhances and complements. Napa-based cookbook author and food and wine writer Jill Silverman Hough couldn’t agree more: She created simple, mouthwatering recipes to pair with specific wines in her books “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy With Wines You Love” (Wiley, 2010) and “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy With Wines You Love” (Wiley, 2011). A few choice excerpts:

WITH RIESLING
Seafood and Andouille Jambalaya

wine.Jambalaya

Copyright Jill Silverman Hough.
All rights reserved.

From “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy With Wines You Love”

Jambalaya might sound exotic — and it does have deliciously haunting flavors — but it’s basically a simple, one-pot meal that, after a little chop­ping and cutting, comes together quickly and cleans up even more so.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 9 to 12 ounces cooked andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups white long-grain rice
  • 12 ounces large, raw, peeled shrimp, preferably with tail on
  • 12 ounces bay scallops or sea scallops, halved or quartered if very large

In a medium stockpot over medium heat, warm the butter and olive oil. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occa­sionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 1 minute.

Stir in the broth, tomatoes (with their juices), thyme, paprika, salt and cayenne, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the rice, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and scallops, cover and cook until the seafood is cooked through and the liquid is almost all absorbed, about 4 minutes. Serve hot.


WITH CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Focaccia With Coffee- Pepper Dipping Oil

Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.


From “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love”

You know how when you go to a nice, often Italian restaurant, they pour a little something into a shallow bowl for you to dip your bread into? This recipe is an enhanced version of one of those dipping sauces, the slight bitterness of the coffee making it especially perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground unflavored coffee beans
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Half of a 9-by-12-inch loaf focaccia bread, homemade or store-bought, for serving

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, coffee and pepper. When the mixture is almost at a simmer, remove the saucepan from the heat. Set aside to steep for 10 minutes.

Whisk in the soy sauce and mustard. (You can prepare the dipping sauce up to 2 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving.)

Cut the focaccia into about 1-by-4 1/2-inch strips. Serve the dipping sauce in shallow bowls on the side.


WITH MERLOT
White Cheddar With Wine-Soaked Cherries and Herbs

Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.

From “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy With Wines You Love”

This is an incredible — and an incredibly easy — dish, one that beautifully dresses up a familiar and easily accessible cheese. Serve it at a party or a picnic, or as an afternoon snack with your favorite bottle of Merlot.

Serves 4

  • 1/3 cup Merlot, or other dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup dried Bing or other sweet (not tart) dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces medium-sharp white Cheddar cheese

        Whole wheat crackers, for serving

In a medium glass or stain-resistant plastic container, combine the wine, olive oil, vinegar, herbes de Provence and salt, whisking to dissolve the salt. Add the cherries, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, stirring occasionally. (You can refrigerate the cherry mixture for up to a week, stirring occasionally.)

Place the cheese on a platter and let it and the cherry mixture come to room temperature. Spoon the cherry mixture over and around the cheese. Serve with the crackers on the side.

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Category: Food & Wine, Uncategorized

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