Tour the World in a Basket: A Food and Wine Pairing Experience

So I created my first Zin Diva wine basket as a contribution to a charity fundraiser at work. Our office designs several baskets for sale at our silent auction open to the workforce. Word on the street is that our office makes THE best baskets out of ALL the offices, so I had to live up to the hype.

I selected food and accessory items first and then paired scrumptious, accessible wines to the selected food items, choosing wines from six different countries. This basket set has something for everyone including bubbly, dry, sweet, red, and white wines; savory foods; chocolates; service accessories; a wine journal; and wine and food pairing recommendations, below. The basket would make a great gift or be a perfect jumping off point for your own wine cocktail party.

 

Wines

Cava, a fruity sparkling Wine from Spain

Vouvray, an off-dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France

Sauvignon Blanc, a dry, mouth-watering white wine from Marlborough, New Zealand

Chianti Colli Senesi, a dry Sangiovese blend from the Tuscany region of Italy

Cabernet Sauvignon, a dry red wine from the Margaret River in Western Australia

Ruby Port, a sweet, fortified, fruity red wine from Portugal

 

Savory Foods

Artichoke Lemon Spread (Spread on Black Pepper Crostini & Pair with NZ Sauvignon Blanc)

Sundried Tomato Pesto (Spread on Garlic & Parsley Crostini & Pair with Italian Chianti Colli Senesi)

Black Pepper Crostini

Garlic and Parsley Crostini

Cheddar Cheese Twists with a Touch of Cayenne (Pair with Australian Cabernet Sauvignon)

 

Chocolates

85% Cocoa Lindt Dark Chocolate (Pair with Portugal Ruby Port & Try with Cabernet if desired)

70% Cocoa Lindt Dark Chocolate with Toasted Nuts (Pair with Portugal Ruby Port)

24 Lindt Dark Chocolate Truffles with Smooth Filling (Pair with Portugal Ruby Port)

 

Service Accessories

2 Sets of Cocktail Napkins: Noel/Joy & Holiday Star

Decorative Glass Wine Stopper

4 Stemless Wine Glasses with Fun Wine Sayings

 

To Cherish the Memories and Discover More about the World of Wine

Wine Journal by Hugh Johnson, one of the world’s preeminent wine authors

 

The Zin Diva, LLC: Sharing Passion for Food and Wine
Elizabeth Taylor, Certified Specialist of Wine & Level 1 Sommelier
www.zindiva.com  703-249-WINE (9463)
Twitter: @Zin_Diva www.facebook.com/TheZinDiva  Beth.Taylor@ZinDiva.com

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Welcome to The Zin Diva, LLC!

I have a big development to announce! I officially own my own business, The Zin Diva, LLC! My business provides personalized wine service and education for parties and events.

As a Level 1 Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine, I love sharing my passion for food and wine both in my business, The Zin Diva, LLC, and through blogging.

The Zin Diva, LLC, provides sommelier and wine education services for your parties and events. I work with you to select wines to match your theme, menu, budget, personal tastes, and guest list. I bring the wines to your event and serve them at the right temperature and in the setting you prefer such as at a tasting table, sit-down dinner, or cocktail party. To indulge the senses further, I use Riedel wine glasses, which enhance the aromas and flavors of your wine selections.

You and your guests will receive the level of wine education you want to include pairing people with wines they’ll like, answering questions, displaying maps, and providing handouts when desired.
When I’m not planning wine events, I blog about my wine, food, and cooking experiences in detail at www.ZinDiva.com and in short form at Twitter using @Zin_Diva and on “The Zin Diva” at facebook.
I love to cook and share food with family and friends. What better way to get the word out on my latest recipe than with blogging? No more forgetting to email a recipe to someone who asked for it–all the information is online and ready to use. 🙂
As you can probably tell, I love learning about and drinking wine, pairing food and wine, and hosting wine tastings and parties. Ask me about planning a wine tasting for your group or providing wine service at your event by contacting me at beth.taylor@zindiva.com or 703-249-WINE.

Around the World in Wine

Last Saturday was a blast! I led a wine tasting for the Norfolk Jaycees that had us traveling around the world—with 50 friends, acquaintances, and strangers as my companions. Through the expressions of six wines, we visited Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, France, and the United States of America, in that order.

Spain

Cava, Brut Rosado, Castillo Perelada, Spain, NV, 11.5% ABV

We started off with a pink Cava from Spain. Unlike many Cavas, this wine had Pinot Noir in it, which gave it a beautiful bright pink color.  Both on the nose and palate, the wine showed notes of strawberry, raspberry, and lemon zest with a hint of white flower and white rock. I love sparkling wines to start a party for several reasons: they get people in a party mood, cleanse the palate, and work with a wide variety of food choices like an appetizer spread.

South Africa

Chenin Blanc, essay, Western Cape, South Africa, 2009, 13.5% ABV

From Spain we traveled to the Southern Hemisphere and checked out South Africa’s signature white grape, Chenin Blanc, but with a bit of a twist—a touch of Viognier. A beautiful yellow-gold with green highlights, this wine expressed itself as yellow apple with peel, yellow peach, under-ripe apricot on the nose and ripe apricot on the palate, lemon zest, lemon juice, and honeysuckle with a hint of oregano and muddy river rocks on the nose. I’d pair this wine with pan-sautéed pork chops with caramelized onions and sautéed red or yellow apples, such as Braeburn. I’d add a touch of white wine at the end to make a bit of a sauce and incorporate the browned bits from the pan.

New Zealand

Sauvignon Blanc, Yealands Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2009, 13% ABV

Staying in the Southern Hemisphere, we traveled to New Zealand, which has a cool climate with long growing days. Even though its own prohibition preventing the wine industry from developing until recently, New Zealand has a reputation for making only quality wines. This wine was no exception. Yellow with gold-green highlights, this Sauvignon Blanc screamed for attention with flavors of fresh-cut grass, white grapefruit juice, gooseberry, lemon zest, green apple with peel, white rock, basil, and jalapeño. With the medium acidity level and intense flavors of this wine, I’d pair it with an herb salad topped with sherry vinaigrette, herb-encrusted chicken or fish, or a Caesar salad.

Australia

Merlot, Thorn-Clarke, “Terra-Barossa,” Estate Grown, Barossa, Australia, 2008, 14.0% ABV

Taking a jaunt over to Australia, we tasted a Barossa Valley Merlot from a reputable winery, Thorn-Clarke. Ruby red fading to a salmon-colored rim, this Merlot burst with flavors of blueberry jam, blackberry, black cherry, black plum, cinnamon, and black pepper with secondary notes of dried mint and dark chocolate. After sitting awhile, the wine flavors integrated into a spicy barbecue sauce, reminiscent of BBQ spareribs. The tannins in this wine were soft and integrated. I’d drink this on its own or with meat like steak or the above-mentioned ribs. It would also be delicious with a Thanksgiving meal, playing off the rich flavor accents of cranberry sauce and stuffing while marrying nicely with the neutral turkey meat.

France

Bordeaux Superieur AC, Comtes de Tastes, “Chateau Haut Gay,” Bordeaux (Right Bank), France, 2009, 14.5% ABV

Flying back to the Old World in Bordeaux, France, we enjoyed a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc from the Right Bank. Ruby red fading a to a pink rim, this wine showed blackberry and black cherry fruits, cinnamon, and vanilla with notes of forest floor, dust, and oregano and slightest hint of dried mint. Atypical of a Bordeaux, this wine emphasized fruit and new oak flavors more than earth though pleasantly the earth was still present. I’d definitely be happy pairing this with a steak, perhaps a filet mignon encrusted with pepper and served with sautéed mushrooms and onions to pick up on the earthiness.

United States of America

Zinfandel, The Other Guys, “Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel,” Lodi, California, USA, 2009, 14.9% ABV

Finally, we returned home to the USA but over to the west coast in Lodi, California. Plungerhead Zinfandel taunted us with unconventional wine packaging, including a wine label featuring a man with a toilet plunger on his head and a plunger-shaped synthetic cork. In the glass, this Zin treated us to blackberry brambles, blackberry jam, black cherry, huckleberry, black pepper, cinnamon, and something sweet and green on the nose—almost like running through a field of wildflowers and tall weeds. I’d happily drink this on its own, with a pork chop or chicken breast that’s been sautéed and then has a balsamic or cherry reduction sauce or in place of a Chianti with Italian-inspired food. For a vegetarian option, I’d try a rice pilaf, quinoa, or mixed greens featuring dried cherries, perhaps some diced yellow apples, toasted pecans, and a touch of a mild blue cheese, like a Danish blue, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.

We finish our brief tour around the world in wine. We’ve learned more about wine, wine and food pairings, art, and each other.

I look forward to hosting another wine tasting event soon!

Thank you so much to the “Around the World in Wine” supporters:

Sheila Giolitti and the Mayer Fine Art Gallery for generously allowing the Norfolk Jaycees to use the Waterside gallery in Norfolk, VA, for our tasting. http://mayerfineartgallery.com/

Mike Adams at Bon Vivant Market in Smithfield, VA, for his help in selecting the wines and for extending a discount to the Norfolk Jaycees. All wines tasted and described here can be purchased through Mike Adams at Bon Vivant Market. http://www.bonvivantmarket.com/

The Norfolk Jaycees for hosting the event, obtaining the ABC license, and taking care of all manner of logistics details. http://www.norfolkjaycees.com/

Christopher B. Taylor for shooting and editing photos of the event, including the three featured above, and assisting with all logistics of the wine tasting.

© Elizabeth Taylor – 2011 

Loire Valley Wine Dinner

I recently passed my Level 1 Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers! Now it’s time to start studying for Level 2. Since I will need to taste and study specific wines/regions AND I love to entertain, I’m combining the two along with some wine education. Voila! Time to plan a dinner party!

The Loire is home to many medium-body white wines primarily from the Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes, which will be a perfect fit for summer. The Loire also produces light- to medium-body reds including Cabernet Franc and Gamay. I’ve researched food and wine pairings, bought the wine, ordered Loire Valley cheeses, found high-quality maps, and gorgeous photos. I’ll be preparing the food and explaining the wine region and the wine and food pairings.

Before guests arrive, I’ll be tasting each wine using the tasting grid from the Court of Master Sommeliers. This will involve a 4 to 6 minute analysis of the visual components, nose, and taste/mouthfeel. Typically, wines are tasted “blind,” meaning you don’t know what the wines are in advance. Since I know what the wines are, I won’t be tasting blind. However, my goal is to be able to identify these wines with the specific regions (AOPs) of the Loire Valley when given to me blind at a future date.

Here’s the map of the Loire Valley. As you can see from the tentative menu below, we’ll be traveling through the Loire Valley with wines from Muscadet, Saumur, Touraine (including Rose, Gamay, Chinon, and Vouvray), and the Central Vineyards (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume)

The wine regions of the Loire Valley

Tentative menu:

Appetizers: Loire Valley Cheeses, Shrimp Cocktail
Pairing: Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc (Pouilly-Fume & Sancerre), Rose (Touraine), Gamay

Salad: Sliced mushrooms and goat cheese over a bed of mixed spring greens tossed with a lemon juice-olive oil vinaigrette
Pairing: Chenin Blanc (Vouvray & Saumur)

Main Course: Roasted red & green bell peppers, sauteed asparagus, and prosciutto tossed with whole wheat penne and Pecorino Romano
Pairing: Cabernet Franc (Chinon) and Sauvignon Blanc (Pouilly-Fume & Sancerre)

Dessert: Summer berries with zabaglione (alternate is plantation-specific chocolate)
Pairing: Coffee (w/ liqueur as desired such as Frangelico, Kahlua, Godiva)


Old World Food and Wine Pairing: Bison Bolognese Sauce

Cava, Spain; Trebbiano, Italy; Macon-Villages, White Burgundy, France; Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese blend, Italy; Chianti Classico Riserva, Italy; Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva, Italy

I’ve been hosting several parties that I call a “Wine and Food Pairing Experience.” Each person brings a food item and a bottle of wine to pair that fits in with the theme. After I order the bottles in a logical tasting order, we try each wine and food pairing and the person who brought the item explains the food and wine pairing.

For my recent Old World themed “Wine and Food Pairing Experience,” I made a bison bolognese sauce served over whole grain pasta topped with Parmigiano Reggiano and paired it with a Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva 2007. Typically for an Italian meat sauce, I’d choose Chianti Classico Riserva, California Old Vine Zinfandel, or Italian Primitivo. In this case, I needed to stay Old World and I wanted something traditional like Chianti, but a friend was already bringing the Classico so I opted for another one of the seven Chianti DOCGs. Delicious! Several people asked me to post the recipe for the bison bolognese sauce.

So here’s the background on the sauce. I’ve made a few recipes in my Cuisinart electric pressure cooker and have started to get the idea of how to modify the techniques to make the food taste as delicious as if I had slow-cooked it on the stovetop. First, instead of using the low heat of the pressure cooker to saute or brown ingredients, splurge on getting an extra pot dirty and start the recipe on the stovetop. Second, for recipes like stews or meaty sauces that might take several hours on the stovetop to cook, use the “natural steam release” of the pressure cooker instead of the “quick steam release.” This technique seems to integrate the flavors much more thoroughly. My pressure cooker reverts to a “keep warm” setting after the steam is released. Since we’re talking stews or meaty sauces, keeping the pressure cooker on warm is like simmering the sauce longer on the stovetop, which is great for continuing to integrate flavors. Third, make the sauce the night before you plan to serve it and refrigerate it to allow flavors to further integrate. Reheat the sauce the next day in the pressure cooker on the “keep warm” or “low” setting. Finally, taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings (e.g., salt, pepper) as needed. Serve!

I served a Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva 2007 with a Bison Bolognese served over whole wheat pasta and topped with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

For this particular recipe, I started with the “Quick Bolognese Sauce” in The Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Tori Ritchie. I’ve made this recipe per the directions before and I wanted to update it to be healthier and reflect my personal tastes (more onion and garlic, please!). First, I replaced the 1 lb. ground beef and 1/2 lb. ground pork or veal with 2 lb. ground bison. Bison is a leaner meat than the beef, pork, or veal and, I suspected, a more gamey or earthy flavor, which would be perfect for pairing with the more earthy Old World wines. Next, I cut down the olive oil by 2/3, increased the pancetta by 1/3 for flavor, and increased the quantities of onion and garlic. Instead of using crushed tomatoes, which have a reputation for being the leftover and less desirable parts, I used whole plum tomatoes and crushed them in the food processor. I eliminated the optional heavy cream.

Bison Bolognese Sauce

Special Equipment: Pressure cooker, saute pan; Active Time: 30-45 min stovetop. Passive time: 45 min pressure cooker to cook including steam release, overnight melding of flavors in fridge, 1 hour reheat in pressure cooker
Serves 6

Ingredients

2 lb. ground bison
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. pancetta
1 jumbo yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk (or 2 if using celery hearts), diced
1/4 cup parsley, flat or curly, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-oz can plum tomatoes, crushed in food processor
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1. On the stovetop, heat a large (3-4 qt) saute pan over medium heat. When you can feel a good heat rising, add 1/2 Tbsp. of olive oil and distribute evenly. Then saute the bison until brown, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain off any remaining fat.

2. Add 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil to the hot pan and distribute. Add the pancetta and allow some fat to release from it. Then add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, onion is translucent, and pancetta is lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes depending on your cookware and stovetop.

3. Stir in the parsley, garlic, a pinch of salt, and black pepper to taste. Cook for about 30 second to 1 minute until the garlic starts to release its aromatics but without it burning. Add the wine and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 2-5 minutes.

4. Return the bison and any accumulated juices to the pan, and stir to combine. Then stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup water.

5. Transfer to the pressure cooker pot. Following the manufacturer’s directions, lock the lid in place. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Use the natural steam release and allow the sauce to sit on the “keep warm” setting for up to an hour before refrigerating. You can transfer to the refrigerator sooner depending on your schedule. Refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

6. Reheat the sauce in the pressure cooker over the “low” or “keep warm” setting. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as desired. Serve over whole wheat penne. Pass the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Enjoy!

 

© Elizabeth Taylor – 2011

A Tour of Europe in Six Wines

I hosted “A Tour of Europe” wine tasting last night for 29 people. I was on a natural endorphin high til 3 a.m.! We had Cava from Spain, German Riesling, White Bordeaux from France, Red Bordeaux from France, Primitivo from the boot of Italy, and a Ruby Port from Portugal! I presented all the wines, answered questions, and showed wine maps to those interested! What a great night!

A Tour of Europe in Six Wines

Here’s the wine menu for the evening:

A Tour of Europe in Six Wines


Sparkling wine, Spain

Cava, Brut Rosé, Segura Viudas, Spain, NV
A beautiful, pink bubbly with balanced fruit and acidity. Pairs well with most food. $9, 11.5% ABV

Light body, off-dry white, Germany

Zeppelinwine Riesling, Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel, Germany, 2009
A fruity and spicy wine with apple, pear, citrus, and floral notes. The crisp acidity and residual sugar helps it pair with most lighter foods including slightly spicy ones. $14, 9.5% ABV

Medium body dry white, France

Bordeaux, Chateau La Roche Saint Jean, Appellation Bordeaux Controlée, France, 2010
100% Sauvignon Blanc. Dry and crisp with grapefruit notes and a long finish. Pair with goat cheese, salad, fish, and a hot summer day. $10, 13% ABV

Medium body dry red, France

Bordeaux, Chateau des Léotins, Appellation Bordeaux Controlée, France, 2009
Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot. Easy drinking entry level Bordeaux. Pair with cheddar cheese, steak or enjoy on its own. $9, 13.5% ABV

Full body dry red, Italy

Terragnolo Primitivo, Apollonio, IGT Salento Rosso, Italy, 2004
Related to Zinfandel, this Primitivo has rich, ripe fruit and will pair beautifully with hot Italian sausage, red sauce, cheeses, and other hearty foods. $18, 14.5% ABV

Sweet dessert wine, Portugal

Ruby Port, Honor, DO Douro and Porto, Portugal, NV
Fortified dessert wine with residual sugar, lots of ripe fruit, and a long finish. Best paired with dark chocolate and rich chocolate desserts.  $22, 19.5% ABV