Food and Wine Pairing Tips with a Sparkle of Disney Magic

I’m freshly back from a business and pleasure trip to Florida. Today I’m sharing wine and food pairing tips that The Zin Diva and guests discussed at a private wine and cheese tasting party held in Florida last week. Also, check out the best wine deal in Disney World in the photo, below! This delicious sparkling wine from Iron Horse Vineyards is the ONLY beverage I found at the Disney World Resorts that sells for retail price ($35). On to the wine and food pairing tips…

Tip 1. Choose a wine that is sweeter than your food. Sweet food can make a dry wine seem flat and acidic. Ideas: Chocolate and port wine; sauteed pork chops, pears, & onions and an off-dry Vouvray; sushi rolls with a sweet sauce drizzled over the top with an off-dry German Riesling.

Tip 2. Spicy foods go better with sweeter wines. Let’s take that sushi roll and have a sweet & spicy drizzled sauces on top; it could still pair with the off-dry German Riesling!

Brut Sparkling Wine: Low Sugar, Higher Acid, No Tannin

The Iron Horse Vineyards FairyTale Celebration Cuvee 2008 is made specifically for the Disney World and Disneyland resorts. This brut sparkling wine is from the relatively cool Green Valley in Russian River Valley in CA. I tasted green apple, lemon zest, yellow cherry, brioche, and cream.
This wine is relatively high in acid and low in sugar with no tannin or oak aging. Since it’s a higher acid wine, it should pair well with many different foods. Because it has no oak, it can pair with fish and seafood. It’s relatively low in sugar, so we should avoid sweeter foods like chocolate or French toast and spicy foods like a spicy tuna roll.

Tip 3. If you are having fish or seafood, choose a wine with low tannin levels that is unoaked. Tannins + Fish/Seafood = Metallic taste. For example, unoaked Chardonnay may taste fabulous with your crab while oaked Chardonnay leaves a bitter metallic taste in your mouth.

Tip 4. Higher acid wines (think zippy, tangy, racy) pair well with foods esp. seafood, like the effect of squeezing a lemon over your food. Higher acid wines tend to be from cooler climates like Germany, Austria, France, Northern Italy, Northern Spain, and New Zealand.

Tip 5. If your wine has higher tannin levels (makes your tongue dry), pair it with a protein like steak or cheese. The protein will bind with the tannin and make the wine smoother.

Dry vs. Off-Dry: For still wines, a “dry” wine means little to no residual sugar, i.e., no perception of sweetness on the palate. An “off-dry” wine means a bit more residual sugar, so a little sweet to the palate and often sweet enough for those moderately spicy foods or dishes with a sweet ingredient like apples.

Brut vs. Extra-Dry vs. Dry: For sparkling wines, a “brut” bubbly means relatively little residual sugar, i.e., no (or very little) perception of sweetness. An “extra-dry” bubbly means a bit more residual sugar, so it’s a little sweet to the palate. A “dry” bubbly is sweeter yet.

Have a fabulous weekend, and enjoy your wine and food pairing adventures!

Warm Winter Drinks

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I served these two warm, spice-infused drinks at a recent holiday party. At the host’s request, I made a mulled wine to evoke memories of his time in Germany and spiced apple cider to satiate non-imbibing guests. Several guests asked for the recipes, so here they are!

Mulled Wine

  • 1 box (3 L) Bota Box Zinfandel or other fruity red wine
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 24 whole cloves
  • 24 whole allspice berries
  • 24 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 large oranges, zested and juiced
  1. Place whole spices in a large spice ball (optional).
  2. Add all ingredients to a large pot (5 quart or larger) and heat over a medium low heat, stirring til the sugar dissolves. Hint: Prep oranges while all other ingredients are heating up to save time.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until flavors are melded.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh sieve to strain out the solids.
  5. Serve warm, such as out of a crockpot. Cheers!

Spiced Apple Cider

  • 1 gallon apple cider (such as TreeTop)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 16 whole allspice berries
  1. Place whole spices in a large spice ball (optional).
  2. Add all ingredients to a large pot (5 quart or larger) and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 to 30 minutes or til flavors are melded. Remove spice ball or pour through a fine mesh sieve to strain out the solids.  Hint: This can also be prepared in a crockpot on the high setting.
  3. Serve warm, such as out of a crockpot. Cheers!

Free French Wine Giveaway!

Win a 3-Pack of Wine for the Holidays from The Zin Diva, LLC!

Sign-up The Zin Diva Shares Her Passion for Wine at an Art Galleryfor The Zin Diva’s Email Newsletter for a chance to win a 3-pack of wine for the holidays!

I’ve selected three French wines for this drawing: a sparkling, a Saumur (Chenin Blanc), and a Cotes-du-Rhone. I especially adore this Saumur. I served it at my Loire Valley dinner party and the guests and I all wanted “some more” Saumur. 🙂

Enter for a Chance to Win 3 French Wines Here: Sign Up for Our Newsletter to Stay in Touch

The Zin Diva creates fun, passion-filled wine events that bring people together. Plan your next cocktail party, dinner party, nonprofit fundraiser, or homeowner’s association event with The Zin Diva, LLC, or consider using us at your upcoming bridal shower or wedding reception. Serving the greater DC Metro area.

Subscribe by December 18, 2012 to enter the drawing! Drawing will be held on December 19, 2012. US Residents only.

beth.taylor@zindiva.com
703-249-WINE
@Zin_Diva
www.facebook.com/TheZinDiva

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

Creating fun, passion-filled wine events that bring people together

Musings on Company Philosophy… and Putting the “Fun” First in The Zin Diva!

I’ve been working this week to develop my company philosophy and integrate it throughout my website. While developing a core purpose and core values sounded rather abstract to me, I’ve actually really enjoyed seeing how my website and “elevator speech” are evolving based on selling my core purpose of “fun” instead of my Sommelier and wine education services.

So, here’s The Zin Diva’s core purpose: To create fun, passion-filled wine events that bring people together. While this has long been my objective, my website and 30-second elevator speech didn’t reflect that. In fact, peoples’ eyes glaze over when I say I provide “Sommelier and Wine Education Services for your Parties and Events.” Yawn… And then they ask what Sommelier means, and I say a fancy French word for wine steward. But we never really got down to the core of my business model of creating fun, passion-filled wine events that bring people together. Instead of burying the fun deep into conversation, I am now seeking to promote the “fun” up-front.

So here is my new approach and elevator speech: The Zin Diva creates fun, passion-filled wine events that bring people together. We strive to make wine fun and approachable while providing the amount of wine education that you and your guests desire.

I’ve also established the core values for The Zin Diva, so that they can guide us as we plan events, serve guests, hire help, and market ourselves. As we grow, the core values should remain constant.

So, here are The Zin Diva’s Core Values:

  • Passion
  • Warmth
  • Authenticity
  • Diversity
  • Rewarding Relationships

And in summary, here’s a look at how I’m promoting The Zin Diva now:

We plan and host fun, passion-filled wine events for Northern Virginia, Maryland, and the Washington, DC Metro area including locations up to 1.5 hours away from Alexandria, Virginia. Ask us about planning a fun wine event for your group by contacting The Zin Diva at beth.taylor@zindiva.com or 703-249-WINE.

Cheers to having fun!

May I Offer You a Glass of Bubbly?

May I offer you a glass of bubbly this evening? the sommelier asks.

You accept and are surprised that this sparkling wine is dry yet crisp and fruity. “What is this? I really like it,” you ask.

“It’s Cava from Spain,” the sommelier says. “Cava is typically fruit-forward and is made just like Champagne but from different grapes. I love starting an event with Cava because it’s so refreshing.”

You mingle with the other guests while tasting five more intriguing wines and nibbling on cheese and charcuterie. By the end of the evening, you discover a couple of new wines you really like and know where to find them.

You’re also thrilled that your favorite charity just received a lot of donations by featuring The Zin Diva, LLC, for tonight’s wine tasting fundraiser.

Based on actual events

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.

The Zin Diva’s Drinking Wine from a Box!

So what’s more shocking: The Zin Diva is drinking wine from a box OR that the 3 liter box of wine retails for $30?

Surrounded by palm trees, the Zin Diva drinks boxed wine in the Florida sun.

Well, both facts are true. I’m on a work trip for three months in Florida living in dorms with minimal cooking facilities, a low per diem food rate, and few friends (yet) to share my wine with. So rather than see a bottle go bad after drinking a couples of glasses on a work night, I “splurged” on the ultimate wine preservation system: quality wine in a box.

Hah, you say. Quality wine in a box–you’ve got to be kidding! But in this case, I’m not. I’m drinking a Sangiovese blend from Italy that I found at my local wine shop, Rick’s, in Alexandria, VA. While certainly not a splurge wine, this wine is tasty and its longevity once opened is remarkable. At $30 for 3 liters, this works out to $7.50/bottle, quite a deal for a pretty decent wine.

With wine in a box, the wine is contained in a plastic bag inside the box and doesn’t have contact with oxygen. As wine is dispensed, the vacuum within the bag is maintained protecting the wine from the air. This lack of oxygen preserves the wine, allowing it to stay in good condition at room temperature for extended periods after opening.

Here’s a quick wine note to accompany this Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini Red Wine from Toscana I.G.P that clocks in at 13.5% ABV and is imported by Michael R. Downey Selections. Red cherry, dried cranberry, baked strawberry, bright acidity, gray rock, potting soil, soft and approachable tannins with bright fruit on the finish. Pair with a long day at work; freshly grilled chicken, pork, or steak; or Italian food featuring tomatoes or a tomato sauce.

Celebrating Four Years of Joy!

The Zin DIva Presents a Bottle of Joy

Joy! What comes to mind? Celebrations, dancing, levity, friends, family, food, wine, Champagne (or your sparkling wine of choice!)…

In this case, Joy! was all those things and more. I popped the cork on a magnum bottle of Iron Horse Vineyards Joy!, a late-disgorged sparkling wine that had aged on the lees (dead yeast cells) for 15 years before bottling.

The occasion? In the company of close friends enjoying a dinner of Christmas leftovers, we toasted to the four joyous years since I moved to Norfolk and met so many fabulous friends.

I had purchased the bottle of Joy! at the Iron Horse vineyard, winery, and tasting room in Green Valley in Russian River Valley in California, knowing that it would be for a special occasion. The tasting “room” at Iron Horse is actually an outdoor tasting bar where people mingle with friends and strangers alike, heat lamps at the ready for when the fog rolls in as it does daily, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines just yards away on the hillside.

Closer to home, I carefully opened and poured the Joy!, working to use the proper service techniques I’ve learned in my sommelier classes—serve the ladies first, then the gentlemen, then the host; ensure the label faces the guest when pouring; fill the glass 2/3 full; pour slowly so the bubbles stay in the wine; and you get the idea. We toasted to four years of joy and friendships.

When I tasted the bubbly, it was everything I had remembered at Iron Horse and much more: toasted almonds and hazelnuts, the yeasty smell of just baked bread, lemon zest, cream, green apple with peel, and the descriptors could just go on and on. (If I had taken notes during my celebration, I could tell you many more!) So here’s to a joyous new year! Now toast to it with some bubbly!

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