Wine and cheese pairings are so commonplace that it almost seems instinctual to pair them together. Given their almost universal paring it should come as no surprise that they Have both been around for a very long time.
According to an article in this month's Nature it appears that people may have started making cheese as early as the the 6th Millennium BC:
Notably, the discovery of potsherds pierced with small holes appear at early Neolithic sites in temperate Europe in the sixth millennium BC and have been interpreted typologically as ‘cheese-strainers
You may recall that in an issue of National Geographic last year the first winery was discovered dating back to about 4000 BC:
To test whether the vat and jars in the Armenian cave had held wine, the team chemically analyzed pottery shards—which had been radiocarbon-dated to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C.—for telltale residues.
The chemical tests revealed traces of malvidin, the plant pigment largely responsible for red wine's color.
Now, you may be wondering what people paired their cheese with for 2000 years, but remember that was just the first winery -- evidence of wine making has been found as far back as the fifth millennium BC (and scientists contine to look for older examples).
Either way, both wine and cheese making were at the forefront of civilization. They both herald moving from nomadic peoples to a civilized society. Still no evidence of the first wine & cheese party, but really can that be far behind?
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is invading the USA and bringing the powerful 2010 vintage with them!
There are three official stops during the tour. They will be in San Francisco on January 18th, New York City on January 21st and Chicago January 23rd. There will also be some surprise stops during the tour.
The 2010 vintage has been widely praised for its power and balance. Look for events in your city, you will not be disappointed.
December in Virginia Wine Country means it is time for mulled wine. Pretty soon you will not be able to walk into a tasting room without enjoying the aromas of cinnamon, cloves and orange peels.
It seems that every winery has a favorite wine for mulling. Some, like Swedenburg, even sell bottles of pre-mulled wine. Just heat and serve.
A good mulling wine is one with lots of fruit and soft tannins. You don't want the mulling spices to overwhelm the wine. Similarly, you don't want a mulled wine so astringent that you cannot enjoy the spices.
We are hosting a holiday open house this weekend during which we'll be serving mulled wine as the drink of choice. So, I posed the question to Facebook: Which Virginia Wine is the bet for mulling.
There were two recommendations: Loudoun Valley Vineyards 2008 Dynasty and the Casanel Vineyards 2008 Merlot.
Given that these are both great wines, we had to have a taste off.
The Dynasty is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Touriga Nacional. It has great vanilla aromas, lots of red fruit and smooth tannins.
The Casanel 2008 Merlot has black cherry and currant flavors with tannins that have softened nicely with age.
Both wines are great options for mulled wine.
While you can create your own spice pack, I prefer to use pre-made spices, in this case from Williams Somoma. They recommend 2 tablespoons of spices per bottle, plus 1/3 cup of sugar. I simmered the two wines for 20 minutes in a saucepan and they were ready to go.
Both wines came out really well, it was a close call. But, to find out the winner you have to come to the open house.
Do you have a favorite Virginia Wine for mulling?
There are a lot of wine tastings around the world throughout the year, but hands-down the best one is going on right now at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris.
Le Grand Tasting showcases the best of French wines from all over the country. It is a chance to try Champagne alongside the best of Bordeaux (though bring some coffee for the Chateaux pouring from Bordeaux, many of them are just returning from the UGCB trip to Asia).
Tickets to the event are only 20€ (25€ on site). The event runs today and tomorrow from 10h30 to 20h30 (today) and 10h30 to 19h00 (tomorrow). If you are anywhere near Paris, definitely check it out!
Once again, Château Coutet has made available a full menu, along with suggested Coutet pairings, for Thanksgiving. Each year The team at Château Coutet produces intriguing recipes, and shares them with their fans. Not only have these recipes given me the opportunity to expand my Thanksgiving horizons, they have also helped to make Château Coutet wines a staple of our Thanksgiving dinner. Details below:
In a few days, and for the third time in a row, Aline Baly and her family will be sending out their original Thanksgiving card. With her wishes, you also will be receiving their selected menu and recipes for an all-Château Coutet celebration dinner.
This super idea of pairing Château Coutet to Thanksgiving stemmed from the Baly family’s personal experience of this holiday as newcomers to New England in the late 80s, when for the first time they faced the challenge of preparing a moist, flavorful turkey.
Since 2010, the Balys have commissioned a different chef to create a menu for this feast. This year, Chef Sarah Scott was selected specially for her original style, great sensitivity to food pairing and fine French flair, due to her numerous experiences in Michelin-star restaurants.
Featured for Thanksgiving 2012 will be a Sauternes and Butter Glazed Turkey with Chestnut and Leek Stuffing, recommended with Château Coutet 2002 or 2004, accompanied by Sweet Potato Pomme Dauphine and Château Coutet 1997 or 1998, a Twice-Baked Blue Cheese Soufflé with Quince Compote served with Château Coutet 2003 and, to conclude, a Pumpkin Crème Brulée with Château Coutet 2009.
These delicious recipes can be found on the estate’s website: www.chateaucoutet.com and the matching wines at your local fine wine shop. For more information on wine prices and availability in your area, visit www.wine-searcher.com
Editor's Note: these wines were provided to us for write up. Because I am not a Port fan, I passed them off to our secret taster to write them up.
People either love port wine or dislike it. I am in the love category so was very excited when given the opportunity to taste three different ports.
There was a Croft Pink Rosé Port, a Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port and a Fonseca Bin 27.
Since I had never seen a rosé port I decided to try that one first. I was having dinner with a friend and took the bottle over to share with her. She is in the category of not usually liking port. This port came with a little booklet attached to the neck of the bottle which provided recipes to try with the rose port. We first tried the port by itself. It had a much lighter flavor than other ports and was very food friendly. This is a port that you could easily have several glasses of at one time. I tried one of the recipes that came in the booklet but decided that I preferred it plain. My friend really enjoyed this rosé port. If you like to have a port but feel it is more a cold weather wine this is a good one to try for those warmer weather times.
The second port I tried was the 20 Year Tawny Port. I decided to have this one with a cheese plate . This is a very smooth port that doesn’t leave a burning feeling on the back of your throat. The cheese enhanced the flavor but I can easily see enjoying this port by itself. This port is made to drink now.
The last port was the Fonseca Bin 27. I tried this one with some dark chocolate on one of the cold fall evenings we had recently. This is what I think of when you mention port. Rich, with a lingering finish. I enjoyed it by itself but having it with the dark chocolate made it my opinion so much better.
Each of these ports had individual characteristics that made them enjoyable in their own way. If you want to try port or retry port I would start with the rose or tawny and move your way up to a richer port.
Château Coutet has a new wine scheduled to be released in the United States later this week. The wine, called Opalie de Château Coutet, is a dry white wine that is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Sémillon from 40-year-old vines.
The inaugural vintage is 2010 and only 250 cases were produced. In the United States the wine is available exclusively from the The Wine House in San Francisco (don't worry, they ship to Virginia) for $42 a bottle.
Congratulations to Aline and the whole team at Château Coutet and good luck on your new venture!
Our friends at Château Gruaud Larose have released a beautiful video documenting the 2012 harvest. It is a great way to provide a harvest report and share images from the vineyard at the same time. Very much worth the watch.
There's going to be another new entry to the list of vineyards in Loudoun County in 2014, and that would be Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg.Stone Tower Winery is the venture of Mike and Kristi Huber, which you may know of them through their other business venture, Belfort Furniture. They recently held a Groundbreaking Ceremony and Inaugural Vintage Release which I attended along with fellow bloggers Paul and Warren of Virginia Wine Time, and Kurt and Carol of Wine About Virginia.
Their family has owned approximately 1400 acres in Leesburg for several years, and have carved out approximately 200 acres of that land for a vineyard. They've scouted a beautiful location that will have some very scenic views for the buildings that will be constructed. They had some of the renderings of what the buildings will look like built on the property, and I must say that no one will complain about the size of their tasting room/space.
Lost Creek Winery recently came under new ownership and we decided to head out on Sunday to see if we could meet the new owners. Unfortunately, when we got there the tasting room was busy and the new owner seemed really stressed, so we did our tasting and left.
Lost Creek is an interesting winery, the previous owners considered it more of a hobby and ran it as such. This has left a bad taste in the mouth of many Virginia Wine Lovers who know that Virginia is capable of producing serious wines.
But, I think Lost Creek can be better. Since I did not get a chance to impart my thoughts (nor am I sure they would have been welcomed) to the new owners, I am going to do it here. Please understand this post is from a position of love, I want all Virginia Wineries to make great wine, but right now, you don't.
First, some things you are doing right: the rumor is you are bringing on Sébastien Marquet, from Doukenie Winery as a consulting winemaker. If this is true, fantastic. Sébastian is great at what he does and he is a perfectionist, his presence will instantly add gravitas to your wines.
Your facility and tasting room are beautifully designed and laid out. Lost Creek is one of my favorite places to spend time. I especially like the dual patios, so if we want to listen to music we can, but if we want to have a conversation we can sit on the other side.
That being said, there is a lot of room for improvement. I am going to give you five tips that I think will help improve Lost Creek, and it's wines:
Many people know some of my own personal favorites as far as vineyards go, and one of them is Hiddencroft. I've long appreciated all of their wines, and their offerings continue to get better and better. During this summer, they released a few new offerings that I feel are very much worth discussing.
The first new offering is aRoséspecifically 2011 ChambourcinRosé This is the first time they've done aone,and it was not initially planned. They had more Chambourcin fruit than they would use for the barrels, so they decided to take what was left over and produce this.What resulted was a very crisp and brightRoséwith a beautiful color. I'm really not normally aRoséperson, but I really do enjoy this. It's a dry styleRosé, but with great fruit up front and a burst of acidity.
It is harvest time in Bordeaux! After a challenging year in 2011, 2012 is looking to be a better year. Our good friends at Domaine de Chevalier sent us this early harvest report:
POWER AND FRESHNESS
After a first pass to harvest early-ripening grapes, the fruit proved to be tasty, aromatic, and with the sort of beautiful acidity that befits great dry white wines. Reflecting substantial natural concentration, the yield was only 40 hectolitres per hectare.
The weather forecast for the next few days is excellent, and should ripen the remaining grapes beautifully. Maturity has been relatively spread out due to the prolonged flowering period. However, the way we harvest is ideally suited to this situation. Our experienced pickers and their supervisors undertake several passes, exclusively in the cool of the morning, to pick bunches at peak ripeness. Tastings of the freshly picked fruit and new wine, as well as laboratory analyses, show that that the hopes raised by the beautiful weather in Bordeaux since early August are fully justified.
We already have a general idea of 2012 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc's flavour profile: powerful and fresh, but also bright, complex and mineral.
A VINTAGE BORN UNDER A LUCKY STAR
After one of the coldest winters of the past thirty years, spring was very wet and replenished water supplies that might otherwise have been deficient after an historically dry 2012. While abundant rainfall meant that flowering was spread out, this nevertheless ensured good vine growth.
Summer was rather timid and cool in July, although there was little rain. Then, beautifully sunny weather set in starting in early August. This has virtually lasted nonstop until today and been conducive to rich, sweet grapes. The thermometer reached nearly 40°C form the 17th to the 19th of August, and then dropped to more reasonable levels. By this time, there was a big gap between daytime and night-time temperatures. At Chevalier, we very much like slightly cool evenings that enhance acidity and aromatic expression in our white wines.