Put Down the Pumpkin Spice Latte and Bring Me A Bottle Of Burgundy: 11 Ways To Enhance This Fall (and life in general) With French Wine.

IMG_20131119_095447791_HDRI fully embrace coffee in copious amounts every morning and I enjoy the occasional splurge on a coffeehouse creation, but when did Starbucks take over the Fall season? Yes, Pumpkin Spice lattes are adorable, frothy, six dollar treats that you can drink while driving, but is this really the beverage that embodies Fall?

A gigantic seasonal latte is an illusion of relaxation. True, it’s warm and spicy for those few moments, but those sips provide imitation nostalgia. Those memories are likely of previous Falls of which you spent wired on caffeine to make it through a work day or Black Friday. It’s a way to trick you into feeling temporary comfort while simultaneously slipping you a dose of stimulants (say that ten times fast) to keep you going in the traffic and crowded shopping centers.

Forgive me for sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but let’s be honest: we all drink coffee to get us through our week.  But we also know that the opposite is true for wine; wine equals relaxation.  And the French take particular pride in enjoying a slower-paced, pleasure-filled lifestyle. So when Fall comes, the time that marks the beginning of family time, food and festivities, let’s sidestep the java, take a page from the original wine country and vive la France!

The following are 11 ways to incorporate French Wines Into Your Fall Favorites:

My current White Burg obsession.

My current White Burg obsession.

1.  Trade in your buttery Napa Chards for White Burgundy. The cooler season demands a crisper style of Chardonnay and Burgundy brilliantly showcases the varietal as well as terroir.  Chablis is so crisp that no oak whatsoever is used, so Sauvignon Blanc drinkers will love it, too!

2.  Speaking of Sauv Blanc, drink White Bordeaux with vegetable dishes. Forget about New Zealand this season. White Bordeaux offers Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon, giving a rounder texture. Therefore, it stands up to a heartier vegetable dishes like green bean casserole. Don’t be afraid to add some of it to your vegetable stuffing, too!

3.  Swap jammy reds for Cote du Rhones. For those of you who love fruit-forward reds, Cote du Rhone will give you fruit plus so much complexity. I often find notes of rhubarb pie or tangy chutney that really gets me in gear for holiday foods. Plus, it’s lower alcohol than your typical Californa zin and far less oaky, which allows it to be paired with so much more!

Rose Cremant de Bourgogne at work.

Rose Cremant de Bourgogne at work.

4.  Pair rose with poultry. Be it Thanksgiving Turkey or Roasted Chicken, there is a rose out there for every bird of every feather. France offers multiple wine regions with many styles of Rose. Want more strawberry notes? Think of Provence’s warmer softer wines. Want a a bit more acidity and stone fruit to cut through that extra butter in Grandma’s recipe? Choose a rose Burgundy. Either way, you can’t go wrong; exploring French rose is so much fun!

5.  Alsatian Gewurtztraminer is the new apple cider. Gewurz is slightly sweet with a subtle spiciness. This is a wonderful aperitif to sip while cooking, socializing and is also a fabulous pairing with honey baked ham!

6.  Add red Burgundy to your crockpot. Maybe you aren’t going to make Coq au Vin and go full on Frenchy, but there are a multitude of rich dishes that channel Julia Childs. Get creative with savory mushrooms, rich sauces and definitely add wine to the recipe as well as drink it with the meal.  You will come up with a “pin-worthy ” recipe, guaraIMG_20131114_171823354nteed.

7.  Splurge on Left Bank Bordeaux with Pot Roast.  Throw a rich roast into the mix and decant a favorite Cab-based Bordeaux. The wines of the left bank can be quite the collector’s item in many cases. So drink French wine into Winter time; make this for Christmas Eve when family and friends are around to celebrate the special occasion.

IMG_20131114_172129502

2009: such a fantastic vintage!

8.  Drink Right Bank Bordeaux in place of plain Merlot. While the Right Bank is Merlot-based, the additions of varietals like Cab Sauv and/or Cab Franc adds a structure and perfume. Combine that with Bordeaux’ legendary soil and it will make you think of wet leaves and rainy days. So put some blankets in the dryer, pour a big glass of St. Emillion and cozy up for a day indoors with Rom-Coms and board games.

9.  Add Northern Rhone Syrah to Venisson stew. The savory, peppery flavors of a cooler climate Syrah goes amazingly with gamey meats. Plus, pairing savory wine with a savory meal brings out the fruit in the wine. It’s basically a great way to combine rustic with luxury; the shabby chic of food and wine pairings!

10.  Celebrate with Champagne! Not only are tiny bubbles so much fun to drink, but Champagne is the most labor-intensive style of sparkling wine, with the sceond fermentation taking place in the bottle. Plus, ChamIMG_20131119_092003848pagne, France only permits certain varietals, making it the strictest Sparkler possible. But rules aside, you pay top dollar for a great Champagne because of its unique complexity. So toast to your guests for gathering together, pair it with anything (I truly believe that sparkling wine goes with everything) and celebrate in style!

11. Peach Cobbler with Sauternes. Little known fact: most wines don’t truly compliment a dessert (except sparkling!) Disagree? Pair a dessert properly and you will see the light. You need a lusciously sweet wine to go with a super sweet dessert. Peach Cobbler and Sauternes is my absolute favorite, but I’m betting Pecan and Apple Pies would be fantastic, too!

Have any other French Fall favorites? Please share!

How To Pair Fine Wine With Cheap-Ass Food. Or: How to “Church Up” Your Guilty Pleasures

Let’s face it, sometimes you have a great  bottle of wine at home that you want to enjoy but you don’t have the time, energy or interest in preparing a fancy-shmancy meal to go with it. For days like this, remember the principals of wine and food pairing and you can improvise with pairings like these.

Alternatively, if you love high-end wine but can’t shake your addiction to fast food-level “cuisine” Here are some great ways to dress up your favorites in their Sunday best and “Church it up”!

Champagne with Potato Chips. The acidity of the Champagne plus the saltiness of the golden--potato-chips--bowl--potato_3295146chips is perfection.

Wanna “church it up?” Top the chips with creme fraiche and caviar and you’ve got an hors d’oeuvre worthy of pairing with Cristal.

Bordeaux and a Burger. Red meat’s chewy proteins are melted away by the chewy tannins of a sturdy, terroir-driven Red blend.

Wanna “church it up?” Use grass-fed beef, top it with Brie de Meaux or Camembert, add sauteed mushrooms and serve on a brioche roll. Bon appetit!

Coindrieu and Fried Chicken. This is actually a favorite of a good friend and mentor of download (1)mine. With this pairing, it’s all about matching the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. A beautifully heavy Viognier from the best region possible aside the guilty pleasure of the crispy, rich chicken is sinful and heavenly all at once.

Wanna “church it up?”  Skip the drive-thru and make the chicken yourself. Consider adding crushed toasted nuts to the breading for a bit of complexity.

Chianti Classico and Frozen Pizza. There really is no good excuse for freezer food but let’s be honest – it happens. I can’t tell you how many times my co-workers and I have resorted to it after a long work day. Besides, a red sauce and hearty cheese, no matter the resource, will go well with any Sangiovese-based wine.

Wanna “church it up?”  Chianti Classico with artisinal, wood-fired, authentically Italian pizza with hearty salamis, bright tomato sauce and rich cheese. Duh…

Old Vine Zinfandel with Baby-back Ribs. The juicy, jammy fruit and typically American bbq2-620x406Oak takes on the spicy sweetness and mouth-watering gristle so well it’s as if Bacchus himself planned their union.

Wanna “church it up?”  Why? Is there really going up from ribs?

And furthermore: Spanish Wine (Priorat, Rioja, Tempranillos) go amazing with slow cooked BBQ. A favorite of mine is pulled pork. “Pinterest” yourself a crock pot recipe if you’re a twenty-something wineabe. Smoke yourself a Brisket if you have hair on your chest.

Wanna “church it up?” Lamb riblets with mint and raspberry preserve. Mmmm.

Cooked_BaconTokaji and Bacon. …Or bacon with any dessert wine, really. The acidity and sweetness of the wine with the fattiness and saltiness of the bacon is basically an amazing “last meal.” It’s the perfect pairing of flavors before a Diabetic and/or Cholesterol-induced death.

Wanna “church it up?”  Take extra large red or white grapes, remove the seeds, stuff with a strong cheese like Gorgonzola, wrap the bacon around it while it is still malleable and secure with a toothpick!

Red Burgandy and Stuffed Mushrooms. The savory quality of the mushrooms brings out the fruit and the Garlic highlights brown-sugary notes in this French Pinot Noir. Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy a football tailgate party in style.

Wanna “church it up?” Saute the garlic in butter and olive oil and de-glaze the pan with the wine itself. pour the reduction over the mushrooms before serving.

Auslese Riesling with Chinese Takeout. the sweetness of this later-harvest German white cuts the mild heat of General Tso’s Chicken and the acidity leaves your palate refreshed. Going really spicy? Be super extravagant and trashy all at once by choosing the Beernauslese; the German nearly-dessert wine instead.

Wanna “church it up?” Trick question, you can’t church up take out. But you can take a bottle with you to an Asian Fusion restaurant. Try a mild coconut curry with a Kabinett, too; I love this combo.

Barbaresco and a Meatball Sub. Honestly, A big, masculine, tannic, acidic and full-force downloadRed deserves a big, masculine, hearty and Italian-inspired something. Think about it: decadent meatballs, acidic and ripe marinara sauce topped with Provolone, carbohydrates and Italian spices! It’s perfect. I think even the Italians would agree.

Wanna “church it up?” Swap out the bread and sauce for wild mushroom risotto with shaved Romano cheese

imagesNew Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Arugula. In the world of leafy vegetables, Arugula makes a high-end salad. But in the wine pairing world, no one really talks about pairing wine with a vegetable; it’s difficult to do. However, Sauvignon Blanc, like a Sancerre or from New Zealand,  can be a refreshing pairing with a spicy arugula salad. This is is a very convenient truth for those of us who kid ourselves and pretend to diet by pairing wine with salad…

Wanna “church it up?” Toss in a tangy cheese like Chevre and heirloom tomatoes and you’ll feel spoiled.

Wine with Life. I’m not from an Old World region so I don’t always follow the rule of wineIMG_20130926_123325_701 with food. Sometimes, i just kick back and make a bottle of wine my bitch.

Wanna “church it up?” Wine with friends. Nothing enhances wine more than sharing it with loved ones that are equally enthusiastic about a good bottle and good conversation. 

Cheers!

Blog No.2: Belated Post due to Working Hard and Playing Hard

boat partyWell my plan was to half-ass my second blog post and just make a picture diary of my 10 days back in San Diego, but my technological “learning disability” hindered this and I self-sabotaged. I know! I will take tons of photos and download that Instagram thingy to make them pretty for my blog! I am so smart, S-M-R-T…

So Instagram turned out to be an entirely new social network; who knew? Everyone. I first found out because my mother “hearted” every single one of my photos and I couldn’t figure out how she saw them. You know you’re behind the times when your mother is “with it” and you aren’t.

But after I, A: sobered up from my over-indulgences and B: figured out how to hook up to the WiFi at the local bar (okay, so not so sober) I made an effort to fix the situation. You can now access the photos from my weekend in San Diego via the Instagram widget on my blog. This may or may not be a great idea. There are a few photos of me being a bit unprofessional. I have a tendency to treat my escapes to San Diego like a trip to Las Vegas. I can’t help it, there is just so much to do and so little time to cram it all in! But my clothes are on in all of them and there are some great pictures of my job and our office Summer party on the Catamaran in San Diego Bay, so I am willing to risk sharing them with you. Plus, at this point, my only followers are my husband (I forced him) and perhaps my mother, from whom the apple does not fall far.

Being back in San Diego was wonderful. It was so nice to be around the tasting table again for new wine releases and being with people who nerd out over wine as much as I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, but the man falls short as a Wine Consultant. Sometimes I just want to get geeky with my bad self and coo over a new sample bottle and will say something to him like, “Do you get a hint of herbs on the nose??”

Husband: *Crickets chirping*

So it was nice to be around fellow enthusiasts who are also some of my best friends -but not the best of the best- don’t worry Dora and Britany, you’re still my besties! What I love about the Summer party most though, is the re-discovery of wines that my company no longer carries and that the owners have kindly pulled out of their personal cellar. At the beginning of the cruise, when it was still warm and sunny, I re-visited two White Burgundies, a Spanish Albarino,a domestic Sauvignon Blanc and  a tiny bit of our company’s last bottle of DOCG Prosecco. As it cooled down and the sun set, I switched to red, only drinking my favorite Spanish producer, Bodegas Carmelo Rodero’s, Tempranillo Crianza. There were other reds present, too: an awesome Super Tuscan, a fancy Rosso de Montalcino and maybe others- I’m not sure, that’s a lot of wine. The other great thing about the party is that, unlike at the office, the pourings fill a glass, not just a sample size. The not-so-great thing is, I never make it to the rest of the reds.That night I got drunk on some phenomenal wines (that’s the classiest way one can get drunk in my opinion) then caught a ride home and went to sleep!

Aside from work, I really take soaking up San Diego seriously, just ask my liver; I did a lot of research outside my wines. During my stay, I also explored other libations and cuisine that San Diego has to offer.

Wine is actually overshadowed in much of San Diego. The county hosts many craft breweries and tons of bars that specialize in craft cocktails. These drinks are basically the answer to a chef’s culinary masterpiece but in liquid form. My timing to visit was perfect because the Craft Beer and Cocktail Showcase was taking place. The event featured some of the top tier craft cocktail bars and breweries in San Diego County. Here are my favorites:

Favorite Bar:

The Lion’s Share. Our first sales office was originally around the corner from this bar/restaurant, so us wine consultants basically made this our Cheers, where everybody knows your name. The bartenders and cooks are really more like Surrealist painters. I say this for many reasons: the walls are covered with paintings of Narnia-esque animals that take the place of faces in well-known artwork;  the menu consists of obscure – yet enticing and innovative – culinary delights, such as Kangaroo Tartare (delicious) or Wild Boar Meatloaf (friggin’ delicious); and the bartenders have an edginess and artistic vision that would make Salvador Dali proud. Don’t be afraid to order a cocktail that isn’t on the menu or ask the bartender to surprise you, you’ll be glad you did!

Favorite Brewery:

Lost Abbey. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the wine biz, but I love the idea of a beer that can “lay down.” Lost Abbey makes some great beers that evolve over time with complexity, richness and depth. Truly trappist in style with California flare, I could make tasting notes of the subtle nuances without any professional beer background; their beers are impossible not to appreciate. My favorite is the Judgment Day ale: dark, creamy and intoxicating (literally).

PS: San Diego’s beers are known for some crafty IPAs and sour beers. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend the San Diego Brewery Tours to get your fill and get home safely!

I am very religious, by the way; I take Sunday Brunch very seriously. Thou shalt not brunch somewhere without the following on the menu:

  • Omelets
  • Benedicts
  • Potatoes
  • Alcohol

This religion may stem from my Irish heritage…

There are many MANY great places to brunch in San Diego. Want bottomless mimosas that are mostly sparkling wine with a side of live band karaoke? Check out Analog. Want huge portions with flavor and culinary skill? Experience Hash House A Go Go. But as of this past week, my new favorite is Parkhouse Eatery. I’m sorry to offend any breakfast purists, but an Eggs Benedict atop toasted Focaccia with bacon and avocado hollandaise sauce beside mashed red potatoes and garnished with flash-fried spaghetti??? The way to this Irish-American California girl’s heart is through her stomach. A-May-Zing!

So now, I’m back in Fayetteville. I’m fat and retaining water from too much food and too much fun. Lucky San Diegans; getting to enjoy these wonderful places at their leisure. Meanwhile, I  have to justify my gluttony with that new rap song saying, “YOLO.” …That is from a rap song, isn’t it? I’m so old and white…

Anywho, I only had water with lemon yesterday with dinner, went to bed early and am back on my workout routine- for now. We move to Alabama in the next nine days. Stay tuned for the packing shenanigans. I’m betting Blog No. 3 will be titled, “Drinking and Packing” or, if no drinking takes place, I will probably title it, “FML.”