Wine And Cheese Perfect Together Forevermore

November 15, 2006

Lustau Sherry

Suggestions for pairing wine and cheese.

Wine and cheese have been enjoyed together for centuries. Served either side-by-side or, like the ancient Greeks, mixed together in goblets, it remains a classic combination. There are no fixed rules regarding the pairing of cheese and wine; however, being careful is necessary to avoid gastronomic conflict. With some combinations, the flavors of one can overwhelm the other. And other pairings dramatically change the flavors from enjoyable to offending. A few guidelines to consider are pairing soft cheeses with white wines and trying to match the flavor intensity of the cheese with the wine to avoid conflict.

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Flavorful Wines Arise From Inhospitable Conditions

October 18, 2006

Rosenblum Rockpile Road

A review of several Rosenblum wines.

Lovers of big, flavorful wines should make a pilgrimage to northern Sonoma County. There, the Rockpile AVA, a recently designated American Viticulture Area, includes more than 15,000 acres extending from Dry Creek Valley to the Mendocino County line above Lake Sonoma. The name fits perfectly since the shallow soil is studded with rocks and water is scarce. Only a few hundred acres within the Rockpile region can support grapevines, and the farms are located miles apart. These remarkably inhospitable conditions are the source of amazingly complex and well-structured wines — including the award-winning Rosenblum Rockpile Road Zinfandel 2003.

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Valley Whirl: Napa Winery Worth Long Day’s Journey

September 20, 2006

Terra Valentine

A visit and tasting at Terra Valentine.

The road from St. Helena that ascends Spring Mountain twists and turns past ancient trees and sheer drop-offs. About four-and-a-half miles up, a gated lane leads to the Terra Valentine Winery. Eccentric engineer Fred Aves, the previous owner, designed the winery and guesthouse, located on a bluff overlooking the Napa Valley. He did most of the work by himself. Each structure features massive handmade wooden doors with gargoyles carved into the ceiling beams, stone archways, spiral staircases and stained-glass windows. The balcony affords a magnificent view of the valley’s vineyards, framed by tree-lined mountains and accented by birds swooping around the property. At night, the numerous stars seem close enough to touch.

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Ceja Vineyards Are A Family Affair

August 16, 2006

Ceja Vineyards

A visit and tasting at the Ceja Vineyards.

Amelia Ceja does everything with passion, style and a smile. The second-generation American met her husband Pedro while picking grapes when they were 9 years old and they shared a dream of having their own vineyards. In 1999, they established the Ceja Vineyards along with Pedro’s brother Armando (a University of California-Davis grad who is their winemaker) and his wife Martha. Amelia, who studied literature and history at UC-San Diego, is the first Mexican-American woman to serve as president of a wine producing company, and the entire family is involved in all aspects of the business.

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Grapes From Cool Climes Produce Subtle Wines

July 19, 2006

Omrah Shiraz

A review of some cool-climate grown wines.

Grapes grown in cooler climates have significantly different flavor profiles than those from warmer areas.‘‘Cooler-climate wines are not fruit driven,” says importer Robert Whale. ‘‘They are more subtle. While still expressing the essence of the varietal, these wines have elegant flavors and are more food-friendly.” Whale, a tireless advocate of cooler-climate wines, insists that ‘‘there is more to Australian wine than big fruit bomb Shiraz from the Barossa.”

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In Appreciation Of Under-Appreciated Sauvignon Blanc

June 30, 2006

Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc

A look at some California Sauvignon Blancs.

A very wise wine writer recently told me that the only people who don’t like Sauvignon Blanc are ‘‘those that don’t like warm weather or don’t like to eat.” Often under-appreciated, but widely planted, Sauvignon Blanc truly is an ideal summer wine. Sauvignon Blanc produced in France’s Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume regions have a touch of minerality from the stony soil, while those from the Graves area have more body. New Zealand has been leading the ‘‘New World” in a more ‘‘grassy” style (and screw-tops) while quality Sauvignon Blanc is also produced in Chile, Australia and South Africa. And a recently tasted Recanati Sauvignon Blanc from Israel was quite impressive.

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Wine-Related Gifts For Your Host

June 15, 2006

Ralph Steadman Untrodden Grapes

Gift suggestions for your wine-loving friends.

If you are going to a special dinner party and want to bring your host something a little out of the ordinary, here’s a suggestion. Everyone who loves wine will also enjoy receiving a wine-related gift. A carefully selected present will usually adorn their home a lot longer than a bottle of wine and you will be remembered fondly every time it is utilized. Just stay away from the more useless items like the figurine decorated wine-stoppers and the gigantic wine glasses that double as cooling buckets.

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California’s Vines Climb In Quality, Popularity

May 17, 2006

De Loach Vineyards

A look at California wines on the 30th Anniversary of the “Judgement of Paris.”

An event that forever changed the wine world occurred in Paris on May 24, 1976. Noted wine maven Steve Spurrier organized a ‘‘blind” tasting to compare California and French wines. Unexpectedly, the nine French wine experts chose California’s Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon as the winners over several well-known French wines. While Europeans were shocked and Americans pleased, California’s reputation as a source of fine wines was established.

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Maison Drouhin Produces Fine Wines

April 26, 2006

Joseph Drouhin Clos de Mouches

A dinner and tasting with Robert Drouhin.

I want to be Robert Drouhin when I grow up. Tall, articulate and refined, he is the Chairman of the noted Burgundy producer Maison Joseph Drouhin with its 162 acres of prime vineyards in Cote d’Or and Chablis. And if that is not enough, he is blessed to have all four of his children working in the family business.

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