Psychology of Our Stories


, , , , , , , , ,

I recently watched the movie American Wine Story. The movie and the title prompted ideas about story and psychology.

Here are several ideas related to story, psychology and wine:

Now here’s the wine part: Story is important in the wine industry because there are now so many wines available. What will seduce the consumer to buy one wine over another? Sometimes it really is the story. For instance, just look at Chateau Montelena, referenced in my earlier blog post titled The Judgement. That story brings visitors to their winery simply from watching the movie “Bottle Shock.” Their wines have a good reputation, though I have not tried them. Next time you’re shopping for wine, read the back of the bottle. Many New World wines tell a brief story in their packaging. Story isn’t a bad thing, it brings meaning. If a winery’s story resonates with you, then you may just want to  try their wine. The Old World wines seem less about individuals’ stories and more about regional stories (like Bordeaux, Burgundy,Chianti to name a few Old World). New World wines seem more about individual stories.

Now here’s the psychology part: We all have our “story” and sometimes we stay attached to our “story” for far too long.  Working in the field of psychology, I see people are attached to their story. They allow it to define them and if the story is a good one and a time comes when they’re no longer able to live that “story”then their self-image or identity is threatened. If the “story” is a bad one then there’s a risk the person gets stuck and has difficulty seeing their gifts to give to the world.

To tie this all together: Story is important in wine but it doesn’t define the wine.  Story of our own lives is important but it doesn’t define the person.



Here You Go: Another Holiday Season! Enjoy These Wine Selections from Sommelier Christopher Dooley!


, , , , , , , , , , ,


Holiday preparation can be so busy, so many questions arise: what to serve, which wine goes with which course?  Wine and Meaning’s Guest Author Christopher Dooley offers wine suggestions to make your Holidays joyous.

Here is more about Christopher Dooley and his perfect wine suggestions.

chris dooley

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Dooley

Hailing from the exotic wonderland of Cincinnati where tap dancing, singing and acting on stage was the norm, Christopher eventually was bitten by the wine bug. Even with topical treatments and psychological evaluations, the damage was done. He was in full blown wine geek mode. He helped build some of the best wine lists in the city working with the top sommeliers and wine directors. After learning everything he could, he set his sights on the east coast and landed at L’Espalier, the premier fine dining institution in Boston, Ma. Whether it’s competitions, education, or working on the floor of a dining room he loves it all.  He guides the guest through a three course menu, six course degustation, or even a fourteen course tasting journey with style and panache. Christopher has been working his way through the Court of Master Sommeliers and has moved from Boston to NYC  and is now  at Eleven Madison Park. Boston misses you Christopher!

                                        FIVE PERFECT WINES

2013 Jean Foillard, Morgon, “Cote du Py”
– Easily one of the most versatile, crowd pleasing reds from one of the best producers in the area. Should be somewhat easy to find. Plus you get the added benefit of showing people that there’s more to Beaujolais than just Nouveau! Mix of black and red fruit with a distinct floral pop, medium bodied with bright acid. Yum!

Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, CA Sparkling Wine
– Everyone wants bubbles at one time or another (or if you’re me, all the time). This sparkler from Northern California is 100% Chardonnay done in the traditional champagne style method and can fulfill any need. From an expository tipple to a something to sip on throughout a meal this fits the bill.

2013 Domaine Guiberteau, Saumur Rouge
– I have to do one somewhat “hipster” trendy wine. This wine is pure cabernet franc with tart red and black fruit surrounds an herbaceous core. It’s a fantastic example of some of the great wines the Loire Valley has to offer without breaking the bank.

Patrick Piuze– All of them.
– This rock star in Chablis makes some of my favorite wines. He makes 20+ different cuvees and many of them have found their way into Massachusetts. While not coming in with high numbers, his staggering amount of bottlings he produces means that if you look in enough places you shouldn’t have a problem finding them. His Val de Mer Cremant de Bourgogne is fantastic and drinks like a Chablis with bubbles. To his Premier Cru Butteaux Chablis, while needing a decant, opens up nicely with laser like focus and minerality. I could go on for hours about his wines and he’s one of the most exciting producers in Chablis right now. I would recommend decanting most of his wines to really uncoil the tension and energy within the wine.

Ridge, “Geyserville” Alexander Valley Zinfandel
– Sometimes you just want a nice big, comforting red wine and Ridge delivers on that while not forgetting complexity and nuance. Geyserville is a versatile wine during the colder months when we want heartier food and friendly fruit. Ridge is one of the best old school producers in California. While you can’t go wrong with any of Paul Draper’s wines, the Geyserville is a crowd pleaser through and through for the novice and expert alike.

Thanks to Guest Author- Christopher Dooley

twitter : @chrisdooley

100 Perfect Pairings Just In Time For Holiday Entertaining: Interview with Jill Silverman Hough


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor who makes food and cooking simple yet special.  Jill notes “A recipe doesn’t have to be complicated to be indulgent.” She says “Sprinkle a roast chicken with lavender, substitute dried cherries for raisins in a batch of oatmeal cookies, serve grilled salmon on a bed of arugula—all these things take almost no effort, yet they’ll make your otherwise ordinary dishes taste and feel like fancy food.” (Bio with permission from

In her book, “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” (Wiley, 2010), Jill Silverman Hough helps the average cook prepare sensational food and wine pairings. There are 12 chapters, organized by grape variety and organized from lightest whites to heavier reds. Simply search the table of contents for your favorite wine variety. Turn to the chapter and find recipes researched and proven to pair perfectly with your wine choice. At the beginning of each chapter, Jill provides two pages with facts about the variety, other names by which the grape variety is known, general and easy to follow tips on pairing with that variety, suggestions for fine tuning and other “nuances.” For example, I love Viognier and when I turn to the Viognier chapter, I see recipes for Hazelnut Shrimp Salad in Butter Lettuce Cups, Prosciutto Carpaccio with Asian Pears, Orzo with Spring Vegetables and Lavender, just to name a few! I’m getting hungry!

I commend Jill for creating a food and wine pairing book that pairs the recipes with a grape variety, not a specific wine or brand of wine. In other words, each recipe is proven to pair nicely with ANY bottle of that grape variety. This means you don’t have to search for a specific brand of wine or a specific winemaker. You will see that this is very different than most food and wine pairing recipes, which tend towards suggesting a specific wine producer or specific year.

How about a Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Focaccia with Coffee-Pepper Dipping Oil? Recipe is included at the end of this article. Enjoy!

Photo Courtesy of Lucy Schaeffer

Photo Credit Lucy Schaeffer

Let’s look at another favorite of mine: Gewürztraminer. In this chapter, I find recipes for Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches, Cold Peach and Mango Soup Shooters or Curried Onion Rings with Apricot Dipping Sauce. There are more but I have to stop now and go make myself one of these recipes. I will be back shortly… 🙂

OK, I’m back and ready to keep going. Wow, that was delicious! Now, I have a few questions for Jill:

W & M: What is your everyday wine?

Jill:  Any Rosé wine that costs $10 or less. One of my favorites is Menage à Trois. It has a little sweetness to it and I think sweetness in wine is very good for drinking and for food and wine pairing.

W  & M: What is your favorite splurge wine?

Jill: Mumm Napa Cuvée M is my choice for a splurge wine. My husband and I once had a private tour with their winemaker and then a memorable lunch during this rainy, stormy Napa Valley day. The kind of day when the only reason to leave the house is to have a private tour with a Mumm Napa winemaker and a five course lunch with each course paired to a different sparkling wine! The flavor profile of the Mumm Napa Cuvée M is peaches and cream and we enjoy the memories of that day and this wine.

W  &  M: Do you have a favorite wine quote?

Jill: W.C. Fields said “I cook with wine and sometimes I even add it in the food.”

W  &  M: What is the meaning of wine to you?

Jill:  The meaning of wine represents the good life, treating oneself well, wine and food can make times more special and remind one to take time to appreciate and to be happy.

Here’s a day in the life of Jill Silverman Hough while preparing for and writing “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love.” Jill would make 3-5 of the recipes she created everyday and then tried each with at least 3 bottles of the type of wine with which it was designed to pair. For example, she would have 3 different bottles of Sauvignon Blanc in researching the dishes in the chapter on Sauvignon Blanc. Constellation Wines generously donated wines to her for the research. Jill and her husband would taste the dish with the wine and decide if they paired well and if not, then Jill would look to adjusting the recipe to make the pairing work. Each recipe and pairing in her research was also tasted by independent recipe testers. During Jill’s research, she spent several weeks on one grape variety, affording a real in depth study of each variety and many producers, comparing similarities and how she could create recipes that would work with the wine.

Jill already knew intellectually what makes a good food and wine pairing. In researching this book, she experienced exceptional pairings over and over. If you’ve ever had a tremendous experience with a food and wine pairing, you know what Jill means when she told me that she heard the Angels sing! Jill notes what a difference even a small change to a recipe can make, thereby making food and wine each more delicious through a sensational pairing.  Her books and her blog aim to keep the wine world inviting, reminding people to play and that Life Is Good!

Jill couldn’t give me a favorite recipe in the book (I suppose it’s like choosing a favorite child) but she mentioned the White Cheddar with Wine Soaked Cherries and Herbs in the Merlot chapter as a nice recipe for cooler weather which is now approaching.

Jill  teaches at Ramekins Sonoma Valley Culinary School and is a well published writer and recipe developer. She has created recipes printed in magazines such as Fine Cooking and Bon Appétit. In fact, her recipes have been on the cover of Bon Appétit Magazine. She contributed recipes to the cookbook “Shortcuts: 130 Almost-From-Scratch Recipes” (Weight Watchers, 2008) with her recipe on the cover!

Jill developed recipes for “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)” (Running Press, 2007) and she co-authored “The Clean Plates Cookbook: Sustainable, Delicious, and Healthier Eating for Every Body” (Running Press, 2012).  She has written “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love” (Wiley, 2011) and the book I own and love, “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love.” She notes it took about 6 -8 months to write this book of 100 recipes.

While working at Copia, Jill taught food classes which always included a wine element. Between working at Copia, taking WSET classes and living in the Napa Valley, she was steeped in wine and food. She explains that her inspiration for this book came from these rich and varied experiences. She found food and wine pairing books that would call for a specific wine producer or that would teach the reader the elements of pairing and then send the reader off to pair on their own. She decided to make it simple for the everyday home cook. She put it all in perspective when she said “I don’t need to know how my car works in order to enjoy driving it, I don’t need to know why this wine pairs well with that food in order to enjoy them together.” This is what I enjoy about her book. The reader can simply make the recipe, buy the wine and enjoy the combination, without necessarily having to know why the pairing works well. However, each chapter includes pairing tips and nuances of pairing. Growing up in a family with one grandmother who was a traditional Jewish cook, making things such as brisket, and another grandmother making things such as crown roast of pork, helped shape her love of food and cooking. She had a wide spectrum of interesting and very good food being prepared around her. Her parents were also great cooks and thus Jill developed a genuine appreciation for eating and food.

I asked Jill which writers inspire her. She notes that overall, she’s inspired by journeymen cookbook writers that aren’t necessarily well-known, but keep coming up with great book ideas and coming out with great books. These include friends and colleagues like Ivy Manning, Carla Snyder, Domenica Marchetti, Nancie McDermott and Jill O’Connor. She notes there are many more and this is just a few of the writers she finds inspiring.

I bought “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates To Enjoy With Wines You Love” on Amazon. The local bookstores can order them, if not already in stock. Also, there is more information about each book, as well as where it can be purchased on her website where Jill also invites you to subscribe to her blog.

Enjoy the recipe below for Focaccia with Coffee-Pepper Dipping Oil paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough.

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Focaccia with Coffee-Pepper Dipping Oil: From the Cabernet Sauvignon chapter of “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” by Jill Silverman Hough (Wiley, 2010) 

You know how when you go to a nice, often Italian restaurant, they pour a little something into a shallow bowl for you to dip your bread into? This recipe is an enhanced version of one of those dipping sauces, the slight bitterness of the coffee making it especially perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon.
And while it’s not imperative that you bake homemade focaccia to go with the sauce—you can buy focaccia in the bakery department at many major supermarkets these days—it’s quite easy to make. There’s nothing like fresh bread, still warm from the oven, and a glass of wine to celebrate it.

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground unflavored coffee beans (*see below)
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Half of a 9 x 12-inch loaf focaccia bread, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought, for serving

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, coffee, and pepper. When the mixture is almost at a simmer, remove the saucepan from the heat. Set aside to steep for 10 minutes.

Whisk in the soy sauce and mustard. (You can prepare the dipping sauce up to 2 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving.)

Cut the focaccia into about 1 x 4 1/2-inch strips. Serve the dipping sauce in shallow bowls on the side.

If you don’t keep coarsely ground coffee beans on hand—or whole beans and a coffee grinder—just buy a tiny amount of whole beans, then use a mortar and pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to crush them to a coarse grind.

Homemade Focaccia Bread

This is the wildly popular focaccia I used to serve at the café I owned in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The recipe doesn’t need a lot of hands-on time, but it does need to be started at least a day before you plan to bake it.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast, divided
2 3/4 plus 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for the bowl and baking sheet
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided

Place 1/2 cup of warm water (118°F to 120°F) in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the yeast on top of the water and set aside for 15 minutes (the mixture might not get foamy).

Stir in 2/3 cup of the flour. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons of warm water (118°F to 120°F) in the bowl of an electric mixer that has a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of yeast on top of the water and set aside for 15 minutes (the mixture might not get foamy).

Add the flour mixture, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the salt, and 2/3 cup of cool water to the mixer bowl and stir lightly. Add the remaining 2 3/4 cup flour and use a dough hook to mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on medium-low for 4 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling it to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate it overnight. (You can prepare the dough in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for several months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding.)

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough on the baking sheet and gently coax it into about an 8 x 10-inch rectangle. Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature until it expands to about 9 x 12 inches and is about 1 1/2 inches tall, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Uncover the dough and use your fingertips to deeply dimple it. Drizzle the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle it with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bake the focaccia until nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the baking pan with the focaccia to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the baking pan and return it to the wire rack to cool completely. (You can prepare the focaccia in advance, storing it covered in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature before serving.) 

Recipe-Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.

Are you serious?

I recently tried this lovely red table wine from Italy- 2012 Amarone Monte Zovo. Here’s what the back of the bottle reads:

“With an intense, stylish personality and a sturdy harmonious body, Amarone della Valpolocella DOCG is an imposing wine with generous heart and a complex fragrance, emanating a wealth of nuances and sensations. From the finest grapes and hand-crafted by the Cottini family like a sartorial dress, its velvety smoothness makes it the perfect attire for important occasions.”


This is really one of the most delicious wines I’ve tasted in a long time but the writing is simply ridiculous and in my opinion, pompous.  The description sounds more like a guy I once fell in love with and less like a wine. Maybe the intent was to be poetic but seriously, the wine itself is poetry with its aroma of violet, dried plum and spice.  In the Boston area, I paid $29.00 US dollars and it’s worth every dollar.


Just lose the ridiculous fanfare and be real about the special aromas and flavors in this wine.


Love you all,






Mourvèdre moves me… {closer to} The Wine Century Club


, , , , ,


Click on this YouTube link to enjoy some music while you read on.

So… when this post was written, I had 47 more grape varietals to taste before I submitted my application to The Wine Century Club. Here is a link if you haven’t heard of this club:

🙂 Here are some facts about the wine and the grape Mourvèdre (also on my FAV list).

2011 Domaine Mas du Bouquet Vacqueyras, Rhone, France ...Grape varietals are 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre (moo-VED-ruh).

Grenache – Syrah –  Mourvèdre  blended wines – commonly known by the acronym GSM – are the particular specialty of the southern Rhone Valley in France. A group of producers along California’s Central Coast calling themselves the Rhone Rangers began to promote GSM in the 1980s, making wines in the spirit of the southern Rhone. Grenache contributes spice, red fruit and alcohol to the blend. Mourvèdre gives tannins, color and length to the wine. Syrah, with its structure and dark fruit, is very much a French variety and is the mainstay of the northern Rhone Valley. Wine historians suspect that the variety is of ancient origin, perhaps introduced to the Barcelona area of Spain by the Phoenicians in 500 BC.  After the sixteenth century, the variety was brought to France. The grape is thought to have arrived in California in the 1860s.

Vacqueyras is a French wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône wine region of France. Until 1990, Vacqueyras was one of the Cotes du Rhone Villages, but the consistent quality of its wines (particularly the concentrated, powerful reds) earned it an upgrade to an independent AOC.


Mourvèdre can be a difficult grape to grow, preferring “its face in the hot sun and its feet in the water” meaning that it needs very warm weather, a low leaf-to-fruit ratio but adequate water or irrigation to produce intensely flavored fruit that is not overly jammy or herbaceous. The vine is susceptible to many viticultural hazards such as powdery and downy mildew as well as overly vigorous foliage. Due to a strong concentration of anti-oxidants, the wines age well. They are often used for blending with wines more prone to oxidation, such as Grenache.

 Mourvèdre  Wine Characteristics

The wine I tasted is around 14.5% alcohol, opaque, a bold deep red wine with tannins that tickle the roof of my mouth. The winemaker suggest decanting this wine. I suggest pairing this wine with a roasted chicken with lots of butter tucked under the skin along with fresh sprigs of herbs such as sage, rosemary and especially thyme.


FRUIT: Blueberry, Blackberry, Plum
OTHER: Black Pepper, Thyme, Violet, Rose, Smoke, Gravel, Meat
OAK: Usually medium to long oak aging.
ACIDITY: Medium (+)

Avocado, pasta and Rosé

A delicious and healthy pasta recipe for summer: do you love avocado?  I found this pasta recipe on I paired it with Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc 2014 Sonoma Coast but I think it would go well with a Sauvignon Blanc too. I hope you enjoy it. The avocado, scallion and parsley and garlic are full of nutrients and alkalizing. An alkaline diet promotes excellent health.

Unknown-1       Unknown-2         Unknown
Pasta sauce
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Start to Finish: 30 minutes

12 ounces spaghetti
2 avocados–halved, pitted and peeled
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. While the pasta cooks, make the sauce: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the avocados, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.
3. When the pasta is tender, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the reserved water to the avocado mixture and process until smooth.
4. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, portion the pasta onto plates and garnish with parsley.

Food and Wine Pairing. Let’s talk successes but also failures: both are excellent teachers


, , , , , , ,


Most blogs I’ve read, including mine thus far, review successful pairings of food and wine. Today, I am taking a new approach, success and failure. This time it took 3 attempts to get it right. Sure, I could’ve read the wine maker’s notes or researched the grape first then picked a food pairing. But, I’m an Aquarius (aka: rebellious tendencies and when channelled appropriately can be fun, not destructive). I like to challenge myself sometimes, not all the time. 🙂

Onward———– and at the end of this page you’ll find a general guide to pairing food and wine.

Here’s the wine: 2013 Librandi Ciro White Wine, Southern Italy, Grape is Greco. Alcohol level: 12.5%. and I paid $12 a bottle. (45 grapes to go for wine century club and those of you who follow my journey of tasting 100 grape varietals)

Winemaker’s notes:  Food pairings: Excellent as an apéritif, and with fish or vegetable starters. It matches well with egg-based dishes, fish soup; crustaceans (either roasted or with sauces) and it enhances all grilled fish dishes, especially swordfish.

Greco wines are some of the most popular white wines to consume in Southern Italy during autumn months, when the grapes are in full harvest. Greco Bianco (or simply Greco) is an ancient, light-skinned grape variety. As its name implies, Greco originated in Greece and was transplanted by Greeks to southern Italy around 600 B.C. The grape flourishes in southern Italy due to the area’s volcanic soil and favorable meteorological conditions, which bring out Greco’s intriguing aromatic flavor.  Armed with excellent acidity and a fresh, clean flavor profile, Greco wines are best consumed young. The simple island wines of Capri are predominantly Greco.

This wine is made from 100% Greco Bianco. After a soft pressing, the must is fermented in stainless steel tanks to keep its freshness. Refined briefly in tanks and bottle for a few months for extra finesse, Cirò Bianco is ready to be enjoyed upon release. The name Greco relates to both white (Greco bianco) and black (Greco nero) grape varieties. While there is more land area dedicated to Greco nero, the Greco bianco is the grape most commonly referred to by the shorthand “Greco”.

After World War II, the fate of Greco was in peril. The wartime devastation of vineyards as well as the mass migration of Italian vine growers from agriculture to urban industries in the cities and abroad, ushered in a period of general decline for viticulture in the region. As plantings declined and vineyards were ripped up, many varieties were on the verge of extinction. The efforts of family winemakers and heritage winemaking projects such as the Villa dei Misteri project headed by Piero Mastroberardino, helped sustain the existence of the Greco vine in southern Italy.

Greco bianco wines are noted for their aromatic qualities similar to Viognier. Greco pairs well with delicate fish such as sole and catfish, especially when served in a light lemon sauce. It is wonderful with savory foods and can go well also with baked, roasted or fried fish. Another flavorful combination is Greco with a light appetizer or salad. Non-vinegar-based dressings work best to bring out the full flavor of the wine.

Tasting Notes
Aromas of peaches and citrus fruits complement undertones of herbs and flowers, some fresh green foliage notes. On the palate, zesty acidity and a long finish showcase this wine’s hints of toasted almonds and macadamia nuts.

Here are my experiences of the 3 pairings…    “3rd time’s a charm”

#1 pairing with pasta – ziti cooked with lots of garlic, broccoli, butter and chicken. The dish remained delicious and the wine did not diminish the taste of the food. The food overpowered the wine, making the finish of the wine much shorter and the complexity of the wine disappeared.

#2 pairing with sliced carrots (recipe seen in earlier blog on Pecorino wine)  dressed with a vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, parsley, white pepper and lastly salt infused with floral (petals of rose, lavender, calendula, and cornflower). This pairing was ok, not bad, not wow. The finish of the wine was longer than in the first attempt at pairing. The almond aromas of the wine did shine through. The herbal flavors of the wine paired well with the oregano and parsley. Although not intentional, the pairing of the floral salt with the floral notes of the wine was clear and complimentary.


#3 pairing with homemade salmon cakes :  flaked pink salmon (which is a very light flavor) mixed with panko bread crumbs, egg, floral salt (as described in #2), pepper, cooked shallots and parsley. Once cooked, salmon cakes were drenched with freshly squeezed lemon juice. I served the cakes with sautéed green cabbage. This pairing allowed each participant to shine. The salmon was front and center, the wine complimented with its bouquet of citrus and herbs. The cabbage being light and green agreed with the green notes in the wine.


Food and wine pairing guidelines I learned in the WSET training at Napa Valley Academy:

The best pairings take advantage of the effects of food on wine and the effects of wine on food so that each offer more taste pleasure. People have different sensitivities to flavor and aroma components, meaning one person may be more sensitive to a particular flavor such as bitterness, sweet, sour, etc. The foods below don’t literally  change the wine but rather they change your perception of bitter, acid, sweet, fruity and the body or mouth feel of wine.

Sweetness in Food: This will increase bitterness of wine, decrease the fruitiness of wine, increase acidity of wine, decrease the sweetness of wine and the body of wine. Pair with a wine with at least as much sweetness as the food or the wine will seem more bitter.

Umami in Food: considered a savory taste and is often seen with other tastes (with saltiness in MSG). Taste a raw button mushroom and you’ll taste umami. It increases bitterness of wine, increases acidity of wine, decreases body of wine, decreases sweetness and the fruitiness of wine. Many foods considered difficult to pair with wine contain higher levels of umami, like eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, some ripe, soft cheeses. Pair with a more fruity wine. Stay away from more tannic wine because the bitterness will be emphasized. Merlot, a more fruity with medium tannin and medium to fuller body, is a classic pairing with mushrooms. A favorite is sparkling wine with Chinese food (known for the MSG).

Acidity in Food: Increases body of wine, increases sweetness of wine and the fruitiness of wine, decreases acidity of wine. Pair with a high acid wine or the wine may taste flabby. Acidic foods might be salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

Salt in Food: Increases body of the wine, decreases bitterness and the acidity of wine. Pair with high acid wine or wine may seem flabby. For example, pair Sauvignon Blanc (high acidity) with salty food will make the wine seem less acidic. One of my personal favorites is Chinese food paired with sparkling wine, generally considered to have high acidity.

Bitterness in Food: Increases bitterness of wine. Pair with low tannin red wines or white wines. Bitter foods might be charred steak or roasted red pepper and of course bitter greens. Try a spicy Syrah, pairs well with grilled meat, spicy meats or cured meats.

Chili heat in Food: Increases bitterness in wine, increases acidity in wine, decreases body, sweetness and the fruitiness of wine. Pair with low tannin red or a white wine. Try a wine that’s very fruity because once paired with this food, the fruitiness will decrease. A failed  pairing would be Cabernet Sauvignon which is a high tannin, high acidity wine. Using these principles, the chile heat would make the wine more bitter and more acidic, and ruin an otherwise beautiful wine.

A few more considerations: It’s typically best if the flavor intensity of the food and wine match, as you read in the pairing experiments above, one could overpower the other. Acidic wines pair great with fatty or oily foods as the wine cuts through the fat. Many people enjoy pairing sweet wine with salty foods, like a port with blue cheese but this is a subjective experience.

Lastly, the more structural components (meaning tannin, high acidity, high alcohol, complex or layered flavors) in a wine, the more possible taste interactions occur. Depending on the pairing, this may mean an exceptional experience or a displeasing experience. Simple unoaked wines with little sugar won’t change much with food. Therefore the food and wine pairing may not be particularly interesting.

All Dressed Up, Sake, No Sake


, , , , ,

Saturday night, I dressed in my skinny jeans and a white t-shirt, my glittery navy blue pumps I bought a year and half ago and looked forward to wearing them for the first time. I completed my classic, simple, sexy outfit with my genuine Chanel earrings and long strand of faux gray pearls. I looked good and I felt confident.

I strutted my way to a meetup dinner at Feng Shui. Meetup(s) are an easy way to meet new people in a group setting and do fun activities with others when you have no friends 🙂  I’ve never met these people and I’ve never been to this restaurant. The group of people who attended were super fun! We really had silly, simple fun at this hibachi dinner. The whole evening was a joy  🙂

Prior to the dinner, I reached out to The Passionate Foodie, a friend of mine and a professional food and wine writer. I’ve never had Sake before and he is a master Sake Educator, I think one of a very select few in the U.S.

Anyway, I copied/pasted the online Sake menu from the restaurant and sent it to him (with what I  planned to order for dinner) for his opinion on which Sake would best pair with my dinner choice. He responded promptly and recommended the Kimoto- dry and umami, which would go well with my choice of strip steak and lobster. Oh man, was I excited to go try this Sake with dinner. I have a lot of experience with wine and food pairs but Sake is new and I get excited to try new things!

Seated at the hibachi table, menu in front of me, I happily and eagerly searched for my Kimoto to order. Ugh, there was no Kimoto and the Sakes on the menu had descriptions with no mention of umami.  I asked the server about the Kimoto, she had no clue. I asked her if they had changed their Sake menu and she answered no, they had not changed the Sake menu.  Her Asian face stared back at me,  confused by my request for Kimoto and discussion of the Sake menu.  I showed her the Sake menu from their website, that I copy/pasted on my phone, she was clueless. She grabbed my phone out of my hand and said she’d bring it to the manager to see if they had this Kimoto! Off she went, my iPhone in her hand, before I could say Sake.

OMG, now this turned into a huge deal and she had taken my phone!

My table mates found this quite entertaining and teased me that I was needy 🙂 and we had a good laugh. She returned and informed me that they in fact did change their Sake menu and I had the “old menu” listed on my phone. She left again. She returned – brought me a bottle of some random Sake and asked me if this is one I would want to have ” Many customers order this one” she told me, yet she was unable to provide any information about this Sake. Now mind you, I had already told her I know nothing about Sake and therefore know not which one to order. This random bottle she showed me meant nothing to me. Huh? Now, my confused face  stared at her. I asked her if she’d tried any of the Sakes on the menu. She answered she doesn’t drink 😦  I wondered- was this server even 21 years old?

For the love of God! now what? I found this all quite hilarious but at the same time, I really wasn’t looking for this absurd drama.

Wanting my new-found meetup acquaintances to see my kind and thoughtful side and a quick ending this server drama, I thanked her for the time and effort she put into this, but assured her I would figure it out.

In the end, I ordered a scorpion bowl, which is a safe bet and always a pleaser.

FS chel

#49 and counting down… The Wine Century Club


, , , , ,

So…en route to becoming a member of The Wine Century Club a few years ago, I researched 100 grapes and tried many wines. The entry level requirement is 100 grape varieties. There are higher levels as well.  Here is a link to the club website:

Please check out the poll found in my earlier post titled The Wine Century Club.

Here are some facts about the 2 wines (both are now on my favorites list) and a couple of grapes that were new to me.

🙂 🙂

2013 Colomé from Valle Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina… grape variety is Torrontés.


Salta, Argentina

Torrontés has quickly risen to become Argentina’s signature white-wine grape, and one of the most widely grown. Torrontés wines range in style from light and fresh to heady and intensely perfumed, often expressing spicy character and aromas of white flowers. The cooler climate here helps with the retention of acidity, yielding a light, refreshing white wine with tones of jasmine and orange blossoms. The wine I tasted had a longer finish, good acidity and floral notes. It reminded me of a Viogner or a Gewürztraminer, both noted for floral a bouquet.

Salta, in the far north of Argentina, is home to some of the world’s most extreme vineyard sites. Many sit at lower latitudes and higher altitudes than anywhere else on Earth. Interestingly, these two factors balance each other out; the cold temperatures associated with high altitude are mitigated by the high temperatures found at these latitudes, producing bright, intensely flavored wines.

2011 Kanonkop ” Kadette” from Stellenbosch, South Africa… grapes varieties are Pinotage 57%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26 %, Merlot 14%, Cabernet Franc 3%.


Stellenbosch, South Africa

Pinotage grape is a native product of South Africa, developed in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and the more obscure Rhone varietal, Cinsault, was born in South Africa. The professor hoped to combine the virtues of the two grapes. Pinot Noir is  recognized for its aromas and flavors, but can be difficult to grow. Cinsault yields an abundant crop and is resistant to disease. Pinotage typically produces deep red wines. Some have been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone. The wine I tasted had no aroma of nail polish. Pinotage tends more toward dark fruits, tar, tobacco, and chocolate; sometimes touches of banana have been noted. The grape also tends toward high tannins and low acids.

Pinotage is easy to grow and ripens readily. Plantings didn’t really get started commercially until the 1960s, and, despite a few successes, acreage dwindle from then until the 90s and then the end of apartheid  and end of international boycotts on South African products. Interest in South African wines was high, and Pinotage in particular as it was unique to the country.Kanonkop’s Pinotage vines were some of the first commercially planted Pinotage to be established in the Cape and most are over 50 years old. Hardly any irrigation is needed due to the ideal soil type and location.

Kanonkop is a fourth generation family estate, which was originally purchased by JW Sauer, a cabinet member in the parliament of the Union of South Africa. The name Kanonkop was derived from a kopje, something from which a cannon was fired in the 17th Century to alert farmers in outlying areas that sailing ships had entered Table Bay for a stopover at Cape Town.