Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Salmon pairs up great with different Wines. So Wine with Salmon is a must!

Salmon spend years in fresh water and then migrate to the ocean. Some salmon go through fantastic body changes in this process. Which is interesting. Salmon are found in waters along both costs of North America; but some populations of salmon remain in fresh water for all their lives.

There are Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon consisting of Coho, Chinook, Chum, Pink, Sockeye, Masu, and Steelhead, which are actually really rainbow trouts that think they’re salmons. The majority of Atlantic salmon is farmed.

Salmon are highly prized as food and prepare in many ways and consequently pairs up great with different wines. So wine with salmon is a must!

It can be smoked and served cold; when done this way is referred to as Lox.

It can be Sweet & Spicy, marinated with maple syrup, olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, kosher salt, cayenne pepper and many other seasonings and flavors. They can be subtle or complex the salmon is a fish for that.

Pairing wine with salmon can be eccentric such as with Syrah Rose, Orange Muscat or White blends of Grenache Blanc and Albarino or Viognier (French Rhone Whites or Spanish White wines)… Chenin Blanc with that sweet apple character or even Spanish Cava too…

But let’s explore a several of my favorite ways to pair salmon with wine:

A Pinot Noir served with herb-grilled salmon will taste expressly flavorful. Try not to pair your salmon with any heavy red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. It will over shadow the salmon. The Pinot Noir is a great wine pairing choice... just enough scorched earth ;-)... Especially a Willamette Pinot Noir such as Erath, Archery Summit and Domaine Serene

Chardonnay is big. Pair this richer white wine with buttered salmon. Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine that is full of flavor. A plain white fish would be totally overshadowed by this powerful white. But with a nicely buttered salmon; it is just right. Try a Carneros Chardonnay such as Rombauer, Cuvaison or Acacia is just right.

I also like Riesling with my salmon. The crisp, acidity of the wine matches best with the richer flavor of salmon. Worthy Riesling will also give off a citrus lime flavor that complements salmon. So if you are cooking up a more exotic flavored dish. It just pairs well with the spiciness of the cuisine. A Washington state Riesling such as Eroica or Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl are good profiles to reach for.

Pinot Gris is a bigger bodied white wine that sometimes can overpower white fish or shellfish but pairs fantastic with salmon, particularly smoked salmon. Again, I reach out to the enhanced textural richness of the Oregon style such as the Elk Cove, Adelsheim Vineyards or Chehalem Rieslings.

The united aromas of Sauvignon Blanc can bring out the taste of lemon-flavored or dill and capered seasoned salmon quite well. It also pairs well with sushi. Rutherford California’s St. Supery, Frog’s Leap and Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc with its green lime and grapefruit aromas and lemon zest and caper notes hits the spot.


Now if you are just not a white wine person, a smooth and supple styled Shiraz can act as counterpart to “fishier” fish, particularly salmon; with less fruit and a little more tannins and acid on the finish it can match up very well with a smoky cedar plank salmon. I like Australian Shiraz with salmon.     Try d'Arenberg  d'Arrys Original Shiraz/Grenache blend or d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz or Yangarra Estate Shiraz all from from Mclaren Vale Australia.

So these are my choices but by all means not the only ones. Salmon’s diversity makes it great for pairing with wine and when the wines meet subtle or complex flavors; the differences between wines chosen can make the dish an interesting experience and sometimes the unexpected wine does the job exceptionally well and I think that’s the feeling you are actually shooting for.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Did the Pilgrims drink wine at Thanksgiving?

Let's be BLUNT!

There's no doubt the Pilgrims sure had big balls and ovaries coming over the Atlantic the way that they did. So rest assured they figured out how to eat and drink! 

The Pilgrims did have access to wild turkeys, but there was also cod, bass, venison, eel, varied waterfowl was obtainable.

The Vegetables that were available included corn, carrots, cabbage, leeks, onions, different squashes and pumpkins; nuts, dried fruits, cranberries, and apples.

All that sounds like a good food and wine pairing as with today's Thanksgiving pairing with wines like Pinot Noir, Gamay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc...
Good Stuff!

But back then....the Pilgrims...Wine Freaks? Let's just say they were no strangers to the vino!
Has wine always been a Thanksgiving staple?  A lot of things point to Yes!

Here's a little info on it...

According to information regarding what type of cargo the Mayflower carried – wine was commonly included on its shipping roles. The ship's hold could carry 180 -200 oak casks of wine.  The Mayflower was typically full with wines from Bordeaux and La Rochelle, France (proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its ties to Rome) for the return voyage to England.

Wine was also listed in the supplies that were sent to the New World from England, alongside beer, watered wine and hard cider.  As the colonists learned how to make these beverages in America, the liquid refreshments began to disappear from the shipping supply roles.

Water wasn't the safest thing to drink back then and it wasn't until almost 1900! Can you believe that!

Alcohol was normally frowned upon by the Puritans; but only when it was abused—as we know now; it was the actually the prophynols, not the alcohol, that made wine and beer safe for consumption. Hence, it did not have to be very strong.

In those days, the Pilgrims understandably didn't know what the reason was for the water's unsafety; so they didn't think to boil water as we do now to disinfect it. They mostly discerned people didn't get sick from beverages like beer and wine.

Consequently, at the time everybody drank beer, wine and watered down wine. Even children drank due to the fact that the alcohol content killed bugs like typhus and cholera.  It was necessary on land, but was particularly necessary on ships, where you couldn't run away from the plague or sickness outbreaks.

But wine was a celebratory drink then as it is now and it looks like the Pilgrims were also having it on Turkey Day.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Aromas of Tea and it's Flavor Profiles

As a wine drinker I naturally enjoy aromas and in terms of Tea there is an endless amount.

Other than the comfort of a great cup of Tea for breakfast instead of Coffee and a cup on a cool or even rainy day; like being stuck inside a cloud.. :-)

I think that is the attraction.

Predominantly most of taste comes from your sense of smell; as well

As part In Disney Institute program when it really was a program (that's another story) early on I learned about all sorts of culinary undertakings and it included studying Tea. There’s also a great book called Tea by Roy Moxham which covers the addiction and exploitation of Tea that is quite detailed…So I figured I'd share...

So here’s a little bit of info.

Each of the thousands of styles of teas in the world has a different flavor and aroma, but there are some generalizations that can be made about the tea flavor profiles.

We tend to think of England and China when it comes to tea….Let’s talk England.

Believe it or not the English were very slow to discover Tea, but let’s say it just hit them like a lightning bolt from the sky. You know how that can be.

It was not until the 1650 that the first records for its use shows up. It showed up in an advertisement in a London newspaper in September 1658.

The article called it ‘“China Drink”, called by the Chinease, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee’…Wow! That’s how it read in the advertisement. Isn’t that catchy…   ;-)

The first London coffee house was established in 1652; by 1660 there were several... and by the end of the Century there were was at least one for every thousands of the population. Coffee houses were places to discuss business and politics. At first it was only coffee, then came chocolate and tea(sounds like Starbucks!). It’s isn’t known where the first teas came from in London but it was probably from people returning from the East.

Anyways, what dictates the aroma of teas?

It's fairly easy to figure out that each tea has different aroma even from the same region, with same processing and such. So in general; there are several way to conclude aromas in tea terms.

There is Varietal Aroma – which is the essential aroma of a particular varietal (I think of wine as my benchmark)
These varietals hold the essential oils which made them unique without any modification. The aroma may recede but cannot be lost. For instance, Ginger Flower Dan Cong, Yu Lan Xiang Dan Cong.

According to Tea Habitat, these are the most distinctive and should not be altered. They are also the most challenging to make.

There is also Charcoal Aroma – it is a fire wood scent being smoked onto tea. This is fairly common, Lapsang, Russian Caravan, and some pu-erh, green etc…

Another is the fragrant Floral Aroma – it is the essential scent of flowers being absorbed by tea. This is very popular. For example Jasmine or Chamomile Tea

Then there is Production Aroma – This aroma is the natural process of tea which produces and simulates aromas...

For example; Let's use the: Honey Orchid Dan Cong. There are so many Honey Orchid Dan Cong's out there…

How you tell if the Tea is the original aroma or production produced to simulate:

Theoretically speaking, they are not the same at all even though it’s a natural process.

Again, take the Honey Orchid old bush which is essentially aromatic as its name suggested. The commercial production on the other hand is ‘fermented and roasted’ to taste like roasted honey with higher fire and fermentation and the results will reveal over time.

The telling difference is if both teas were left unsealed for 10 months the former will still have the same classic aroma, versus the roasted production version which will lose most of its aroma as the roasting subsides, or alters into something that is not the same.

Roasting can do a number of things to the aroma and flavor of a tea:

High fire roasting usually means sweeter, fruitier and darker teas, due to the sugar transformation from high temperature roasting. The Aroma is significantly changed after high fire.

Low fire and longtime roasting can mellow out the texture and in turn make a smoother cup and the aroma is less modified.

So there you have a little history and technicalities on Tea, its English origins and their aromas

Enjoy a cup!...and especially enjoy those Aromas!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Last Great Wine Region: Canada’s VQA Ontario Appellations of Origin, and the Cellared in Canada, International Canadian Blend labeling

Oh Canada! As the consumer learns more about their wine regions, it gets better and better.
Folks sometimes bring up "Cellared in Canada" issue when it comes to Canadian wines...
The "Cellared in Canada" label; When you saw that on a wine bottle it meant Canadian wine producers can import pre-fermented grape must from grapes grown in other countries to produce wines under their own wine label. They’re designated on the label as being made or "cellared" in Canada, even though they may contain no Canadian-grown grapes. Which is very misleading.

Can you imagine wines from Washington State, California, South Africa, Argentina and Chile being called Canadian just. It’s just a good idea to  know where the juice come from. But that was the way to get affordable wine too people. It’s just the way it is; sometimes. because they’re “Cellared” inside Canada; meaning basically just stored in the country. It’s just odd. It’s not clear cut to the average consumer and these wines are often sold in government-run liquor stores.

Times are changing, but what’s this really all about…

The "Cellared in Canada" mark was coined in the early days of the Canadian wine industry in the 1980s and during this time grape growers received incentives to pull out existing plantings of Vitis labrusca and replace them with Vitis vinifera, which of is more suitable for winemaking.

So what happened???

There is an advantage to the producer. Wine producers who use the "Cellared in Canada" designation claim that it is a dynamic business component that permits them to compete in the "under $10" price category for table wines

Further, wine can be made at potentially lower production costs using imported grapes when compared with locally grown Canadian grapes and "Cellared in Canada" practice became a necessity due to the fact of the country having way too many grapes planted near the lakes and growers charging inflated prices which makes it hard to compete in the marketplace. That so called “Lake Effect” affects wine quality as well. It has happened in other regions.

A couple very important things came about…

1.       On June 30, 1999, the Canadian wine industry announced the formal establishment of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) of Canada (It’s just had its 15th anniversary). VQA is about place. Which is great. It is comparable to other regulatory classifications in place in countries like France (AOC), Italy (DOC), and Germany (QmP)

2.       In the fall of 2009, local and international criticism of the "Cellared in Canada" practice developed. Grape growers in Ontario began complaining and objecting to the practice as a hazard to their means of support and employment, claiming that thousands of tons of Canadian grapes were left rotting on the vine because producers were using imported grapes to make wine labeled as "Canadian"

WINE CONTENT AND LABELLING ACT, 2000 was eventually amended as follows:

A winery that uses imported grapes or grape product in the manufacture of wine shall, in manufacturing all such wine during a year, use an average of 40 per cent of grapes grown in Ontario or grape product produced from such grapes to which no water has been added at any time, for wine that is packaged on or after September 1, 2010.

In Ontario as of April 1, 2014, the wineries which existed prior to 1993 will be allowed to produce "International - Canadian blends" which contain no more than 75% foreign content (meaning that they in fact contain only 25% Ontario wine, which may be from labrusca varieties). Historically, this percentage has fluctuated wildly, due to periodic shortages and surpluses of Ontario grapes, and lobbying by both the grape growers and the producers.
I hope this helps in understanding a little bit more about Canadian wine .


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Politics of Wine... distributors, mobsters, environmentalists, regulators, and critics

Unlike what we just experienced this past Tuesday, with the US elections; The politics of wine often operates out of the limelight. Celebrity winemakers may come off as all powerful when it comes to making wine, but they are subject to all kinds of political forces.

Politics controls not only which grapes grow where, what can be written on the wine label, which wines are exported or imported, which wines are obtainable in local stores, and how much a wine costs, but, practically most significant, it also affects the quality of the wine in the bottle.

For example there’s distributors, mobsters, environmentalists, regulators, and critics and all of them have a hand in the producing, selling, and delivering the glass of wine we ultimately drink.

For instance, both France and America produce a lot of the quality wines we enjoy today and there are all kinds of battles regarding  the soil and the societal influences and each has different aspects that affect outcomes that have predisposed both the rise in quality and the broad social acceptance or rejection of drinking wine; just like politicians.

Heck a lot of the grapes wine ends up in other places to the consternation of winemakers such as fuel products and probably not why the wanted to be in the wine business at all.
A lot of the time the term politics is often understood negatively. It is an as an obstacle to a desirable result; that definition applies to the wine industry insofar as politics often increases red tape, reduces consumer choice in wine and raises prices. But in the United States, which will eventually be the worlds largest consumer of wine, shifting fortunes and odd alliances have now led to groups aligning to produce some positive results for consumers.

While in France there’s anxiety due to an abundance of French producers’ associations which may not be providing the vitality and social capital needed now to improve quality sufficiently to enable their products to compete.
There’s a great book by Tyler Colman called Wine Politics that goes into depth on the subject with statistics as well as the insightful writing of Time’s writer George Taber and author/educator Kevin Zraly which touch on these developments.