Food+Wine: Vegetarian Inspiration

Vegetarian 2019_Membrillo and Stilton quiche_Ottolenhi_square_v2
We can save the planet by going vegetarian, you say? Well, let’s do it! Here are some wonderful meal ideas with recipes and wine pairings to enhance the experience. You can get inspiration in so many ways…

FAMOUS CHEFS:
Membrillo & Stilton Quiche from Yotam Ottolenghi (pictured above) — a delicious salty/sweet combo that will blow your socks off. Bubbly would probably be the best pairing as would an off-dry white. Reds? Lighter in body and juicy good fruit is the key. Maybe a silky Barbera or a young, fruity Zinfandel.

Vegetarian 2019_Puy Lentil & Aubergines Stew_square_v2
Another by Yotam Ottolenghi: Puy Lentil & Aubergine Stew. The first rule of wine pairings is pair like with like, meaning if the food is acidic, choose an acidic wine. In this case, lentils have a pleasant bitterness, so we’re going with a lighter red with “lovely bitterness” (as the winemaker’s sister says): Schiava from Alto Adige in Italy. Many other delicious options exist including reds from Southern Italy, lighter Garnacha from Spain, Rhône table wines as would a whole host of whites and rosé.
Jamie Oliver is great at simple, yummy dishes with what you’ve got in the fridge: Aubergine & Tomatoes Rogan Josh. Enjoy with a Southern Rhône white or red.

Vegetarian 2019_Ina Garten_Zuchini & Goat Cheese Tart
Ina Garten’s Zuchini and Goat Cheese Tart is another winner. No time? Buy a pre-made crust. No shame in that! Enjoy with some bubbly — Spanish Cava would be lovely!

WORLD CUISINES:
Indian Mulligatawny Soup paired with a nice, pleasant Bordeaux Blanc — always good. Another Indian favorite is Saag Paneer. Enjoy with a glass of Viognier.

Vegetarian 2019_Provençal Eggplant-Tomato Gratin
Provençal Eggplant-Tomato Gratin — a rich, meaty, herbal dish from the south of France. Better at the end of summer, but still tasty in the off season. You’ve got a ton of wine options with this dish, but we’re going with a Reserve Minervois from Languedoc-Roussillon, richer dark fruit with a little herbal note.

VEGETABLES YOU LOVE:

Vegetarian 2019_Ottolenghi_Pan-fried brussels sprouts and shallots with pomegranate & purple basil
Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts and Shallots with Pomegranate & Purple Basil — a big yes to that! Lots of wine choices: Grüner Veltliner, Chablis, or a rounder Portuguese white blend would be lovely.

Vegetarian 2019_Ottolenghi_Asparagus with Mushrooms & a Poached Egg
Or how about Asparagus with Mushrooms & a Poached Egg? Asparagus is tricky with wine. Go with an unoaked white. Sancerre would be delicious as would Alsatian Pinot Gris or Riesling.

EASY:
Satay Sweet Potato Curry — Wine? Lots of wines would taste great with this dish – especially a rosé (good with everything spicy!) or a nice round white such as a Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc or Viognier.

Here’s an easy recipe for Butternut Squash Chili. We’d recommend a lighter red (Nero Buono, Nero d’Avola) from wine regions along the Mediterranean where this type of stewed vegetable cuisine is a staple.

OR TRIED AND TRUE FAVORITES:

Vegetarian 2019_Black Bean Burgers_15Spatulascom
Starting with: Black Bean Burgers! Lots of wines would taste great with this dish — from whites with good acidity to rosé to fruity reds. It’s spring… we’ll go with a Gamay! Tasty, won’t overpower.

Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagne… hits all the buttons, doesn’t it?? And then the wine: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella & pasta… let’s go with a red from Southern Italy: Negroamaro. Would be a match made in heaven!

No suffering at all. Cheers!
Julie, Co-Owner
Portalis Wines

Turkey Dinner in 4 Wine Lessons

Ryan Kirby's Time Lapse of the Wild Turkey Painting_Double Date
Art Credit: Ryan Kirby, “Double Date”

It’s not the bird as much as what we eat with it (sweet potatoes & heaven-forbid marshmallows, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, etc.) that causes the wine challenges with a turkey dinner. Many of these sweet & salty combos can make wines taste tart. Here’s your down & dirty guide to a wine that tastes great with a traditional turkey dinner:

Langa_cava bottles_Darrin Ballman Photography
Photo credit: Darrin Ballman Photography // Bodegas Langa Cava

#1 — Bubbles
Well-made sparkling wine always has good acidity, and acidity is an asset when a food is salty (imagine an anchovy on top of an hors d’oeuvre), sweet (tastes great with chocolate or dessert or sweet dishes such as sweet potato soufflée), and rich foods (cuts through the fat of a cream puff or foie gras or pork rillettes). It can be rosé or white, and any style of sparkling will work with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Champagne, Crémant, Prosecco, Cava and more! We recommend:

Pascal Ponson NV Champagne 1er Cru Brut
Champagne, France // Reg $45.99 | Mixed Case $36.79

Philippe Deval NV Crémant de Loire Rosé

Loire, Italy // Reg $23.99 | Mixed Case $19.19

La Farra Prosecco Superiore Brut

Veneto, Italy // Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59

Bodegas Langa Cava Reyes de Aragon Brut Nature

Calatayud, Spain // Reg $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39

Bruno Zanasi Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro

Emilia Romagna, Italy // Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79

FB_Wines of Alsace_Alsatian Riesling
Photo Credit: Wines of Alsace // Alsatian Riesling

#2 — Round Whites
This style of white is fuller-bodied with nice fruit (not too dry), some acidity for balance but not highly acidic like a Sauvignon Blanc, and key — little to no oak! Round whites can can also be off-dry, meaning that they have a slight sweetness in the middle, off-set by good acidity. This type of wine pairs well with spicy foods (especially ethnic foods such as Thai or Mexican), foods with some sweetness (it’s Thanksgiving, so I’ll return to sweet potatoes!) and rich food (a fuller-body, fuller-flavored wine can balance a richer food). Examples of varietals that fit into this group are: Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sémillon, Kerner, Viogner, Chardonnay (stainless steel aged or with less oak), and many more! We recommend:

Lobo Hills Dry Riesling
Yakima Valley, Washington // Reg $28.99 | Mixed Case $23.19

Illahe Estate Grüner Veltliner
Willamette Valley, Oregon — Reg $19.99 | Mixed Case $15.99

Domaine Moltès Pinot Gris Tradition

Alsace, France // Reg $21.99 | Wine of the Month = 25% OFF = $16.49

Weingut Castelfeder Kerner

Vigneti della Dolomiti, Italy // Reg $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39

Domaine Haut de Mourier Viognier

Languedoc, France) // Reg $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79

FB_Loire Valley Wines_Rose_v2
Photo Credit: Loire Valley Wines

#3 — Rosé

Rosé has never meet a food it doesn’t like. FULL STOP. We recommend:

Domaine de Frégate Bandol Rosé
Provence, France // Reg $29.99 | Mixed Case $23.99

Ozilhan Côtes du Rhône Rosé

Southern Rhône, France // Reg $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19

And although this wine is not technically a rosé (which is made from red grapes), it sure acts like one! Made from Pinot Grigio which has been left to ferment for a longer-period with its grey skins:

Santa Clerissa Pinot Grigio Ramato
Veneto, Italy // Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99

Event_Cheers_v2

#4 — Juicy Reds
Reds are where this meal can be especially tricky because tannic wines go sour with a sweet food and reds that are too big overpower the bird. Juicy reds can be described as lighter or medium in style with good fruit, good acidity, but NOT too tannic! Varietals that fit the bill are: Pinot Noir, Gamay, Grenache, Schiava, Zweitgelt, Zinfandel & more. We recommend:

J. Christopher Volcanique Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon//  $32.99 | Mixed Case $26.39

Orr Grenache
Columbia Valley, Washington // Reg $28.99 | Mixed Case $23.19

Bodegas Maset Monastrell
(aka Mourvedre)
Catalunya, Spain // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $14.39

Weingut Prechtl Reserve Red
(Zweigelt/Blaufränkisch/St. Laurent)
Weinviertel, Austria // Reg $19.99 | Mixed Case $15.99

Le Plan des Moines 2016 Les Charretons Châteauneuf du Pape 

Southern Rhône, France // Reg $54.99| Mixed Case $43.99

Don’t want to think about it this much? Stop in & we’ll get you set up!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Julie + Jens
Owners, Portalis Wines
Thanksgiving_Julie&Jens

Food+Wine // Summer Salads

Summer Salads 2018_Salmon BLT_square_v2
Summer Salads & The Wines They Love!

Whether it’s the main meal or on the side, these salads are simple, fresh, easy to prepare …and oh so good, especially as the weather warms up! Here are some of my favs:

Summer Salads 2018_Cobb_square
Cobb Salad – When all the ingredients are fresh, is there anything better?? Especially if you’re a lover of blue cheese!! Because of the richness of the salad (bacon, avocado, blue cheese, etc), go with fuller bodied white even one with a little oak (Chateau du Grand Caumont Corbières Blanc) or a lighter-bodied Zin would also be nice. Try: Wish Wine Co. Zinfandel (North Coast, CA)

Greek Salad – When tomatoes are in high season (and not before!!), this salad is heaven. It’s light and crisp, so stick with a wine that’s the same: Chablis, Sancerre, or if you want something off the beaten path: Jacquères, a light white from Savoie in the French Alps.

Summer Salads 2018_German Potato_square
German Potato Salad – Boring when it’s flat but get some good acidity in there (i.e. vinegar!!) and it’s zingy and crunchy and salty and delicious! With a brat on the side or without… enjoy with Alsatian Riesling or Pinot Gris, (we recommend small producer: Domaine Moltès) both are round with a slightly sweet middle and refreshing acidity on the finish.

Summer Salads 2018_Waldorf_square
Waldorf Salad – So underrated!! It’s that grape (sweet), celery (vegetal), walnut (nutty) combo that so yummy. Enjoy with Vinho Verde or Prosecco! Both are light, citrusy fruit with effervescence.

Summer Salads 2018_Shrimp_square
Shrimp Salad – Lemon and dill are key, but the richness of the shrimp shouldn’t be overlooked when pairing. Go with an unoaked Chardonnay or off the beaten path: Falanghina!

Grilled Corn Salad – Don’t forget the cilantro! Pair with a lightly oaked Chardonnay (we like: organic producer Bodegas Langa) or a fuller-bodied rosé: Ozilhan Réservé Côtes du Rhône Rosé

Summer Salads 2018_Caprese_square
Caprese Salad – Again, fresh ingredients is key, so wait until those heirloom tomatoes are at their peak, then get some fresh mozzarella, some freshly plucked basil …and a glass of Reserve de Chevalier Crémant de Bourgogne, and you’re good to go!

Summer Salads 2018_Panzanella_square
Panzanella Salad – The tomatoes require that you enjoy this dish at the height of summer season. And with that, a light glass of Sangiovese from Tuscany: La Togata Barengo Toscana Rosso. Good acid on the wine pairs beautifully with the tomatoes.

Summer Salads 2018_Tortellini_square
Tuscan Tortellini Salad – This one has my kids written all over it! It has it all… pasta, cured meat, crunchy veggies, spinach & a touch of sweetness. Enjoy with a glass of earthy Lambrusco!

Summer Salads 2018_Salmon BLT_square
Salmon BLT Salad – So, someone had fun making this one up, and it looks delicious. Sort of along the Cobb line, but with seafood. This salad is rich & satisfying. Go with a wine that has a faint salinity for a wink at the salmon: Vermentino or Albariño would be my picks. Prefer a red? Go light & fruity, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt or off the beaten path: Mondeuse!

My inspiration for this post was “The 147 Most Delish Summer Salads” on Delish.com.

Hope you enjoy!
Julie Howe
Co-owner, Portalis Wines

Food+Wine: Simple, Fresh, Good & EASY

Jamie Oliver_5 Ingredients_ginger shakin beef_square
That’s our theme for the new year, and we’re using Jamie Oliver’s new book: 5 Ingredients for inspiration. Back story: We got our 16-year old a cookbook for Christmas. She enjoys food, is an adventurous eater …can’t scramble an egg! Had fun at Book Larder: A Community Cookbook Store getting suggestions for an engaging, yummy, EASY cookbook to inspire a teen. Landed on Jamie Oliver’s new: 5 Ingredients. I don’t know if she’ll learn to cook, but she’ll get lots of good meals out of it for sure, because I’m hooked! We’ll use these simple, fresh, good & EASY recipes at Portalis for some 2018 wine pairing ideas, starting with:

5 Ingredients_Sizzling Seared Scallops
Sizzling Seared Scallops — Pair with Bodages Langa Chardonnay (Catalayud, Spain) — organic, lightly oaked, delicious.

5 Ingredients_Epic Rib-Eye Steak
Epic Rib-eye Steak — Pair with (splurge) Chateau des Gravières Graves (Bordeaux, France) or (bargain) 1851 Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley, WA)

Scrambled Egg Omelette — How very French! Pair with (splurge) Chevalliers Chablis (Burgundy, France) or Ozilhan Réservé Blanc (Southern Rhône, France)

Thai Red Chicken Soup — It’s spicy, so enjoy with a round white that will calm the fire: Domaine Moltes Tradition Riesling (Alsace, France) or Domaine Haut de Mourier Viognier (Languedoc, France) or Weingut Prechtl Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner (Weinviertel, Austria).

5 Ingredients_Easy Sausage Carbonara
Easy Sausage Carbonara — Sausage calls for Chianti from Colli Senesi, full of blue fruits and perfect for sausage flavors. We recommend: Nottola Chianti Colli Senesi or Andreucci Chianti Colli Senesi. Both would be outstanding!

Crab & Fennel Spaghetti — Enjoy seafood meals with world-class fish wine like Albariño (we recommned: Outon Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas) or a light red with some licorice undertones. We recommend Palazzo Malgara Negroamaro from Salento, Italy’s heel of boot. Seafood is a staple in this part of the world, and this wine would pair beautifully!

Roast Tikka Chicken — Curry flavors call for an off-dry white, a juicy red, or bubbly! Looking for something festive? Go with Bodegas Maset del Lleo Cava Reserve from vineyards outside of Barcelona.

5 Ingredients_Pork and Mash Gratin
Pork & Mash Gratin — A little spice from the Muscadelle in this French white blend would be terrific: Chateau des Eyssards Sec (Bergerac, France) or a lighter red with lean pork. Try: Weingut Castelfeder Vernatsch (Alto Adige, Italy)

Ginger Shakin’ Beef — It’s beef, but it’s got some sweetness with the honey. Don’t go too tannic! A Pinot Noir would be great. Splurge with Chelan Cellars Pinot Noir (Lake Chelan, WA). Go thrifty with Louise Dubois 1885 Pinot Noir (Languedoc, France).

Have fun! More to come…
Julie

Cheese & Wine ~ Your Pairing Guide

Wine&Cheese Pairings_Feb 2015
The quintessential match made in heaven, right? Here’s a website that does a great job giving you the nitty-gritty on the cheese: The Cheese Course> We’ve taken it a step further and paired each type of cheese with a wine in the shop that would taste fabulous!

Category 1: FRESH CHEESE – fresh, tangy & crisp flavors
o Chevre- goats milk- tangy and crisp.
Pair with: Chateau de la Bigotière Muscadet (Loire)
o Burrata- soft, rich and creamy texture.
Pair with: Nottola Chianti Colli Senesi (Tuscany)
o Triple cream- layers of delicate soft creaminess.
Pair with: Cave de Bissey Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy)
o Feta- herbaceaous and salty
Pair with: Bodega Casto Pequeño Chamelin Verdejo (Rueda)
o Smoked Mozzerella- delicate and moist
Pair with: Domaine de Marcé Sauvignon Blanc (Touraine)
o Ricotta- subtle sweetness with soft creamy texture.
Pair with: La Farra Sparkling Rosé (Veneto)
o Mascarpone- naturally sweet
Pair with: Castlefedder 15er Pinot Grigio (Alto Adige)

Category 2: BLOOMY RIND– soft, delicate flavors
o Boucheron- goat flavors, tangy hints of citrus, and an herbal quality
• Roche de Lune Vouvray (Loire)
o Camembert- mushroomy, garlicky, woodsy flavor
• Domaine Perraud Le Grand Sorbier Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy)
o FROMAGER D’AFFINOIS- aromatic and delicate brie.
• Domaine La Bessonne Rosé (Provence)
o PIERRE ROBERT- Classic triple cream brie.
• Domaine de Frégate Bandol Rosé (Provence)
o GAPERON- assertive cheese, with a Brie-like texture, flavored with chunks of garlic and cracked black pepper.
• Domaine de Nalys Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Rouge (Southern Rhône)
o L’EDEL DE CLERON- gently sweet, slightly woodsy and quite delicious.
• Maison Paul Reitz Vosne-Romanée (Burgundy)
o LANDAFF- flavors, tangy with a clean finish. The open and buttery texture.
• Nottola Tre Pezzi Toscana (Tuscany)

Category 3: WASHED RIND– creamy, funky with occasional brine rind
o EPOISSES- aromatic and creamy.
• Domaine Claude Nouveau Santenay Le Chainey (Burgundy)
o CHAUMES- rich, full-bodied flavor and creamy texture
• Chateau des Roques Vacqueyras (Southern Rhône)
o GUBBEEN- mushroom and earth.
• Palazzo Malgara Primitivo di Manduria (Sicily)
o MUNSTER- supple and golden, slightly sticky and sweet, with huge flavor, rich and beefy.
• Domaine Moltès Riesling Réserve (Alsace)
o RACLETTE- deliciously fruity mountain cheese is traditionally melted over open flames.
• Pelassa San Vito Roero Arneis DOCG (Piedmont)
o TALEGGIO- farm yard and cream
• Vincho Vaglio Serra Barbaresco DOCG (Piedmont)
o L’AMUSE GOUDA- aged amber, hazelnuts and butterscotch.
• Le Gravillas Sablet AOC (Southern Rhône)

Category 4: BLUE CHEESE– pungent, sharp & salty
o CAMBOZOLA- mushroom, lemon zest
• Domaine de Nalys Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Classique Blanc (Southern Rhône)
o CASHEL BLUE- sweet creamy tangy
• Chateu des Eyssards Sec Cuvée Prestige (Bergerac)
o GARROTXA- mild herbal flavors with a hint of hazelnuts.
• Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe Soave (Veneto)
o GORGONZOLA NATURALE- firmer texture with more pronounced, intense flavor.
• Nottola Anterivo Supertuscan (Tuscany)
o MONTBRIAC- blue version of a double-cream Brie
• Bodegas Rauda Tinto Roa Crianza (Ribera del Duero)
o VALDEON- salty, pronounced, piquant and long lasting.
• 5 Oros Vendimia Seleccionada DOC (Rioja)
o STILTON- rich, creamy taste with nuances of honey, nuts and leather.
• Chateau Franc Grace Dieu Saint Emillion Grand Cru (Bordeaux)
o ROQUEFORT- soft, crumbly paste melts in the mouth with an intense and complex spicy, salty, flavor.
• Bodega Casto Pequeño Gravedad Tempranillo (Toro)

Category 5: SEMI-HARD RIND– full rich & bold flavors
o APPENZELLER- herbs, spices, white wine, and salt which contribute to its sophisticated, fruity flavor.
• Torre Gajo Pinot Grigio delle Venenzie IGT (Veneto)
o BEECHER’S RESERVE CHEDDAR- smooth, grassy and slightly sweet.
• Wish Wine Co Cabernet Sauvignon (Northern Coast, CA)
o BRA TENERO- soft, delicate and aromatic.
• Vinchio Vaglio Serra Dorato Gavi DOC (Piedmont)
o EMMENTHALER- sweet, nutty flavor
• Weingut Prechtl Satzen Zweigelt (Weinviertel)
o FONTINA D’AOSTA- firm, but supple paste with flavors of grass, nuts, and fruit.
• Zuazo Gaston Finca Costanillas DOC (Rioja)
o CABRA AL VINO- aka Drunken Goat, due to the dousing in red wine that gives this cheese a sassy edge, while the interior is mild and smooth.
• Señorio de Fenojal Reserva DOC (Rioja)
o GRAFTON 4 YEAR CHEDDAR- sharp, earthy flavor and a slightly crumbly texture. Made from the raw milk.
• Les Chevaliers de Dauprat Pauillac Rouge (Bordeaux)
o PETIT BASQUE- sheep cheese with an oily and slightly woodsy flavor.
• L’Adage Saint Emilion Rouge (Bordeaux)

Category 6: HARD RIND– mature & developed flavor
o WENSLEYDALE- It has a smooth thin natural dry rind which is bound in muslin with a moist hazelnut creamy taste and salty tang.
• Pelassa Bricco Enrichetta Langhe Barbera/Nebbiolo DOC (Piedmont)
o TOMME DE FEDOU- a mild earthiness to the aroma and flavor of the cheese while the interior has a firm texture and flavors of hay and nuts.
• Domaine de la Croix Bouquie Sauvignon Blanc (Touraine)
o PIAVE- an intense, full-bodied flavor, reminiscent of Parmigiano Reggiano, that intensifies with age and makes this cheese absolutely unique
• Palazzo Malgara Shiraz (Sicily)
o OSSAU-IRATY- lactic, nutty, rich slightly oily, firm texture.
• Bodegas Maset Reserva Cava Brut (NU) (Penedès)
o MANCHEGO- delicious briny, nuttiness; earthy, hearty and wonderful.
• Bodegas Tavera Cendal (La Mancha)
o MAHON- bold, magnificent one that could never be called mild. The yellowish-orange rind conceals a soft, salty and decidedly spicy interior.
• Domaine Le Mourre Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Southern Rhône)
o IDIAZABAL- buttery, balsamy taste and a nutty finish.
• Cruz de Piedra Umbral de los Tiempos Malbec (Mendoza)

Any questions? Stop by and visit with us about it. You’d make our day!
Jaci Kajfas, Sommelier

Chocolate & Wine for Valentine’s

Food_Cadeaux Chocolates
Janet Shimada’s beautiful, award-winning Cadeaux Chocolates (above)

As with food, when pairing wines with chocolate, match lighter-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines, and more “intense” flavored chocolates with more full-bodied wines. When pairing wine with chocolate, you can look for wines with have the same flavor profile as the chocolate (nutty, cherry, other fruit, mint, etc.), or look for contrasts. Most experts would recommend “sticking” with fortified wines (ports), because the sweetness of the wines match well with chocolates. But there is more behind it. Let’s take a journey beyond fortified wines.

Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar, and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate). In addition with its higher milk content, milk chocolate is a milder, sweeter product with fewer aromas and flavors.  Wine pairing suggestions: a Tawny Port (try: Quinta De La Rosa 10y Tawny Port) is the ultimate match. Its nutty, caramel flavors highlight the milk chocolates’ own flavors and intensify the overall chocolate flavors.

Semisweet Chocolate
Dark chocolate with 50% to 69% cacao has strong, complex flavors, with notes that are nutty, spicy, floral, earthy, fruity, and/or caramel. The aftertaste is balanced, not too sweet. Wine pairing suggestions: fortified fruity wines like Banyuls and Ruby Ports (try: Niepoort NV Ruby, Quinta De La Rosa Finest Reserve) have cacoa and chocolate aromas and flavors as well as cherry, raspberry or other berry fruit, and are classic companions with chocolate. Vintage Ports should be matched with caution: The high sugar and alcohol content can overwhelm the chocolate. Banyuls and nonvintage Ports have softer, rounder tannins than vintage Ports and pair better with chocolate.  Another classic choice is Cabernet Sauvignon (try: Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon or Sparkman Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon) or Bordeaux (try: Château Pibran Pauillac or Château Pichecan Margaux). It brings out the fruity-peppery-grapey notes in the chocolate. Zinfandel brings out chocolate’s spicy notes. Tawny Ports, which have nutty, tobacco and leather notes, also make good pairings.

Bittersweet Chocolate
The most intense, richly-flavored dark chocolate is 70% to 100% cacao. Bittersweet chocolate can have bitter, roasted, fruity, earthy, woodsy, ashy and/or nutty notes. The same wines will match bittersweet and semisweet chocolate.

Chocolates with Caramel or Toffee
Wine pairing suggestions:  Hungarian Tokaji, with notes of apricots, butter and caramel, pairs well with buttery salt caramels. Young Madeira (try: Broadbent Madeira 5y old) has classic caramel and toffee flavors and good acidity to pair with that kind of chocolate. Buttery caramels and toffees pair well with buttery wines. Mersault from a ripe year, with rich, lush fruit and low acid or a rich buttery Chardonnay from California (try: Shannon Ridge Chardonnay) complements the brown sugar and caramel flavors as well as the cocoa flavors of the chocolate. The nutty bouquet of a dry Oloroso Sherry complements the nuts in toffee. It’s also great with salt caramels. Sauternes, a rich sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux, has honey, apricot and peach notes, also pairs well with caramel and toffee chocolates. The chewiness of the candy stands up to the viscosity of the wine. Tawny Port enhances the nutty notes of toffee, and to a lesser extent, caramel.

Chocolates with Cinnamon and Ginger
A spicy, dry Zinfandel (try: Four Vines Maverick Old Vines Zinfandel) or a sweet Late Harvest Zinfandel (they can almost be port-like) are good options to complement the spicy notes of chocolates with cinnamon and ginger.

Chocolates with Coconut
Brachetto D’Aqui (try: Giacomo Bologna), a light sparkling dessert wine from Piedmont, with typical aromas and flavors of strawberries and roses, is a great match with nuts and coconut. Sauternes or a Late Harvest Semillon or Moscato from Australia (try: Two Hands) are other options.

Chocolates with Coffee Flavors
Chocolates with espresso, mocha, coffee bean and other coffee flavors. Oloroso sherry or cream sherry (coffee, nutty flavors) or Australian Shiraz (try: Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz), with dark fruit, mocha, coffee, espresso flavors.

And last … Chocolates with Nuts
Including hazelnuts, almonds, and other nuts and pralines. Wine pairing suggestions: nutty Tawny Ports are the perfect match for chocolates with nuts. Sherry that is not too sweet is a good companion to almond-based chocolates, ideally a Pedro Ximinez with its almond aromas and flavors, or a well-rounded Fino. Cream Sherries match well with hazelnuts. Lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Sauternes. Other options would be Brachetto D’Aqui and Cabernet Sauvignons.

Cheers & Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jens

Gina goes Truffle Hunting in Piedmont


Gina’s led her most recent Premier Vineyard Tours group on a truffle hunt:

Truffles are hypogeal fungi that are born and live under the earth (think of it as a subterranean mushroom). They can be found as shallow as a few centimeters beneath the earth or, in rare cases a meter underground. Their size can also greatly vary from just a few grams to a kilo. (Wow!) Truffles grow in symbiosis with the roots of trees in specific microclimates. The most common truffle trees are oak, lime, poplar, beech, hazel, willow and douglas fir. The best growing conditions for the truffle are calcareous soils with spring and summer rains versus long hot summers. The most sought after truffle is the rare white truffle (also known as tuber magnutum pico) the “king of truffles!” This rare truffle can be found in Northern & Central Italy, Croatian and Istrian peninsulas.

One of the highlights from my recent wine tour of Piedmont, Italy, was a truffle hunt. We took a break from the wine road and headed to nearby La Casa del Trifulau; a fifth-generation family of truffle hunters or “trifulaus”. La Casa del Trifulau truffle farm is now run by brothers Natale & Giorgio Romagnolo in Costigliole d’Asti. Upon our arrival, both brothers greeted us with an introduction to their hunting dogs as well as a brief history of truffles. There are hundreds of species of truffles, but our goal for that day was to hunt for the summer black truffle or “scorzone.”

We set out late in the morning to the forest across the street from their farm. With our truffle dogs Diana (Roman Goddess of the Hunt) and Brio (her son) racing ahead, Giorgio started calling out orders to them and gently tapping his staff on tree trunks to keep the dogs focused. As we walked up the forest trail, the dogs were diligently sniffing the earth, darting back and forth with Giorgio’s voice never far. Then suddenly, Diana barked and started to dig frantically near the base of a poplar tree. Giorgio kneeled down beside her and called Brio over to help. He explained it was important for Brio to be a part of the discovery so that he can learn to find his own truffles. When Diana got close to the truffle, she started digging with one paw, so as not to damage the truffle. At this point, Giorgio took over with a zappino: a pick-like tool that helps set the truffle free. Within a few seconds he had the truffle in his hand, congratulated the dogs, and gave them a treat. It was an exhilarating moment for all of us as we took turns holding and smelling the precious discovery! We were lucky enough to go through this excitement two more times on our hour long hunt, and even witnessed Brio ‘the rookie’ find his own large truffle. Bravo, Brio!


When we returned, Natale prepared some local salumi, with a local goat cheese and a generous amount of shaved truffle on top. We even took turns shaving our own truffle! Natale told us stories of his childhood and shared his favorite truffle recipes as we sipped on local Barbera wine and feasted on fresh truffles. This was a very good day indeed. I look forward to returning in the fall sometime to join Diana and Brio on their quest for the rare white truffle!

The most surprising thing I learned on our truffle tour is that the intoxicating aroma of truffles only lasts a few weeks. After that, the spores die and it no longer has its enticing scent. Natale warned us about truffle oils in the market, explaining that the majority of them use a synthetic chemical that mimics the smell of the truffle. How do you know if your oil is authentic or not? Check the label and if it says “truffle essence” then it is synthetic. As of today, there is only one known white truffle oil in the US market that doesn’t use a synthetic chemical and it’s produced by Oregon chef & truffle hunter Jack Czarnecki. Thanks to his background in bacteriology, Jack has developed a method that safeguards the oil from bacterial growth and keeps the truffle perfectly preserved. Check out his products here: https://oregontruffleoil.com/

What to drink with your next truffle dish? I suggest the following wines available at Portalis:
Vinchio-Vaglio Serra 2009 Barbera Tre Vescovi
Pelassa 2009 Barbera d’Alba San Pancrazio
Nottola 2008 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Nottola 2009 Chianti Colli dei Senesi

Buon appetito!
Gina

For more information on Gina’s tours to Italy visit her website at: www.premiervineyardtours.com