Peanut Butter & Jelly with Wine

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt about the day I would get married.  Not so much about the location back then, but more about what my dream guy would look like.  And luckily for him, things turned out a million times better than my 9-year-old mind could have dreamed up. AND, he doesn’t have the heebee jeebee’s!

Location wasn't important to me back then but then again – I was 9! It is however, on the top of my list now that I've found The One, Mr. Right, the Omega to my Alpha, The Gate Keeper, The Founder of the Feast; you get my point, right? Any who, this past weekend, my dream guy and I visited half a dozen places in Napa Valley trying to choose the right  location for our upcoming wedding; because like most of you must know, pictures on the Internet sometimes exaggerate a places true beauty or hide its real state of devastation. The first winery we stopped at was way too modern with nothing but a big fancy lawn with little or no real character.  For those who want to invite everyone they've ever met, this place would definitely suffice.  Bugs were a real issue here though.  I know that I’m sweet but it was just ridiculous. Swatting bugs in your beautiful wedding dress wouldn’t make for one’s picture perfect day!

The second stop had the most incredible view in Napa, but unless you have cash to throw in a fire and watch burn, or refinance your home, it was unthinkable!  The third stop that day was even worse than the first two.  Located in an industrial area of Napa Valley, it was on the side of the freeway and full on resort.  Who knew Napa had an industrial section? And though the convenience of having your guests walk from their room to the ceremony area sounds nice, it was exactly the opposite reason one goes to Napa if not for the beauty of the outdoors and for the love of wine.

Wineries number four and five is where things got complicated.  It was like having to choose between a sexy, well-dressed ladies’ man with a ton of swagger and a country boy in jeans and a cowboy hat. Both places had their positives.  However, I've lived enough to know that while the sexy playboy looks amazing on the outside, the country boy has all the qualities I'm looking for in a man and some I never expected.  I clearly had some decisions to make!  So before leaving Napa, we stopped at a large winery serving up BBQ with wine on picnic tables next to large oak trees.  We wanted to discuss the pros and cons of each place plus - we were starving.  The place reminded me of a field trip I went on as child where I had to bring a packed lunch.  I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with juice in my lunchbox; not short ribs with Zinfandel.  I was 9, remember? We made our list while sitting there and decided to sleep on it before making a final decision.

Since I was reminded so much of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on this trip, I decided to pair it up with a little vino as a toast to a great weekend in wine country.  As usual, I chose 2 wines that I thought would work with the dish and along with a group of my friends, had a taste test.  The wines were a 2009 Casa de Campo Torrontes from Argentina and Quady Batch 88 "Starboard" Port from California.  Although both worked, we all chose the Torrontes in the end.  Torrontes is a white wine varietal that is native to Argentina.  This particular wine has aromas of tropical fruits, sweet melon and white flowers; just perfect for a Sunday picnic or Shakespearean Fest in the park.  After a bite of the sandwich and then a sip of the wine I noticed the pairing unfolding in stages like scenes from a terrific movie.  First, you taste the flavor of the bread, then the strawberry jelly heightens your senses and finally the peanut butter lingers at the end.  The jelly even seemed sweeter and as one person put it, reminiscent of the strawberry cheesecake blizzard from Dairy Queen.  The wine's acidity cuts through the oiliness of the peanut butter like a sharp knife and helps the flavors to last incredibly long.  The wine's fruit stands up to the sugar from the jelly as well.  And even stranger, different flavors emerged each time I took a bite.  It was truly an experience and one worth trying!  Cheers!


Wine featured in this photo: 2009 Casa de Campo Torrontes (Available at Khoury's Fine Wine & Spirits $9.99)

Potato Salad with Wine

Potato salad marks the beginning of the end.  It's a chapter I started almost a year ago.  Every other Sunday, a group of my friends that I lovingly refer to as the "tasting crew" meet at my house to sample the food and wine pairings I blog about.   The very first time we met, we tried a Big Mac®, macaroni n' cheese and Twinkies with wine.  Each food was paired with 2 wines that I had chosen based on things like flavor, cooking methods and texture.  Although the people that joined us for that first tasting have somewhat changed, the process has remained the same.  This past Sunday, the "tasting crew" sampled sloppy Joes and potato salad with wine.  The evening was bittersweet, knowing that it would be the final time we met at my home for these tastings.  My new chapter begins Monday, August 29th at Khoury's Fine Wine & Spirits.  The owner has graciously allowed me to invite the public to his store to try my fun food and wine pairings.  And although I'm excited, the truth is I'm scared.  What if no one shows up?  Or, what if I forget things and people don't have a good time?  I'm not the sommelier who stands there in a suit and spouts off an impressive vocabulary of unknown tasting terms.  I'm just me and although I have more wine knowledge than the average person would really care to know, I wonder if that's good enough?  I could pretend that I'm not nervous, but in writing this blog I've learned to share more with you than just what I think you want to hear.  I'm giving you me with all my insecurities and hang ups in hopes that you'll open yourself up to my wonderful world of wine.  My goal is to connect with you on all levels and in the process of exposing my vulnerabilities, possibly share not only a glass of wine with you, but also a moment.  Here's to writing a new story! Cheers!

I always wondered why it was referred to as "potato salad?"  There's no lettuce included in this dish so how could it be called a salad?  Then I came across fruit salad and tuna salad and realized that anything mixed together can have the word salad added to the end of it.  As a child, I wasn't a huge fan of mayo, which is probably why I can't remember eating potato salad more than once or twice.  A few decades later, I have a hard time stopping myself from devouring the entire bowl.  I'm even further tempted when it's paired with my favorite beverage on earth, wine!  Although several wines will work with potato salad, Riesling is one I truly enjoy.  Recently, we tasted both an off-dry(slightly sweet) and dry (almost no sugar) Riesling with potato salad.  The latter clearly won.  Not only was the 2009 Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany dry, it was also full bodied, helping to mirror the heaviness of the potato salad.  This weight was achieved by spending time in neutral oak barrels that also helped to tame the wine's high acidity.  Upon the first sniff, I notice an incredible spicy citrus aroma spring forth along with green apple, lime and of course, the signature "red slate" minerality.  On the palate the wine has flavors of peach, pineapple and tangerine with a creamy mouthfeel.  After a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine, I notice the mustard and egg flavors come alive first.  It tastes almost as if I'm eating a deviled egg.  The spiciness of the wine works nicely against the spiciness of the mustard.  I also like that I can't seem to pick out the flavors of each on their own.  They've come together and made me think I'm eating something else.  The creaminess of the wine matches the creaminess of the dish yet still retains enough acidity to wash all the flavors off the tongue.  Enjoy!

Wine featured in this photo: 2009 Dr. Loosen Red Slate Dry Riesling (available at Khoury's Fine Wine & Spirits for around $20)

Watermelon with Wine

When I think of watermelon, my mind immediately takes me back to being front row at the comedian Gallagher's show.  My brother worked as a sound tech for Gallagher over the course of several years.  Choosing to sit front row meant suiting up in a protective plastic sheet.  This was because Gallagher saved the final portion of his show to smash items like chocolate milk, toothpaste and more famously, watermelons on the audience.  I giggled and braced myself for impact as he used the "Sledge-O-Matic" to smash objects.  My brother even arranged for me to go backstage and meet the man himself.  It was a fun night that my brother was generous enough to orchestrate but since he was traveling with Gallagher all the time, I couldn't pretend our relationship was great.  It never has been, really.  If the age gap of almost a decade wasn't enough, he isn't the family man type.  He lives by his own rules and is perfectly ok with or without me.  It had been almost a year since I last saw him when he strolled in my engagement party looking as handsome as ever.  He grinned when he told me he bought two new suits just for the occasion.  All my girlfriends scurried over to meet him, as he very gently shook their hands and gave them a sincere hello.  As much as I hate to admit it, seeing him hurts.  I always think I'm ok without him, but the minute I'm in his presence, there's an undeniable ache inside.  We both happened to be in San Francisco at the same time a couple of years ago and decided to meet up for dinner.  I broke down crying about how much I missed him.  And in his usual fashion, he told me he loved me and would try harder.  He always says all the things I want to hear, but never makes good on them.  I've learned to live with the pain of not having my brother around.  But, I will always be here with a glass of wine, waiting to welcome him into my life.

Seeing watermelon in the grocery store is a sure sign that summer has arrived.  I remember my grandmother slicing it into triangle shaped pieces as a kid.  I would have a ring on the edge of my face from eating the watermelon all the way to the rind.  Then, I would grab the rind and tell my grandmother to watch as I placed it over my face to look like I was smiling.  She'd always laugh and tell me how silly I was.  I'm still having fun with watermelon today, only this time it's grown up fun.  Instead of using it to make a smily face (which I obviously still do), I'm enjoying watermelon with a glass of wine.  Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose and watermelon become one when paired together.  It's seriously incredible!  This California sparkling rose was awarded 93 points out of 100 by "Wine Spectator."  "A rosé with serious intentions, it has a delicate pink hue and floral aromas of strawberry and spicy yeast rolls. The flavors show good focus, offering raspberry, Gala apple, ginger and fig flavors. Drink now through 2012."  After a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine, I notice how I suddenly can't pick out the flavor of neither the wine nor the food.  They have somehow merged together and created an incredible flavor on the palate.  Watermelon is also only slightly sweet.  The fruitiness of the wine stands up to this touch of sugar even though the wine is dry.  The crispness of the bubbles match the crunch of the fruit and the acidity in the wine helps to wash all the flavors off the palate.  Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose is sure to put a smile on anyone's face!  Its pink, absolutely delicious and can be paired with just about anything!  Cheers!

Wine featured in this photo: Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose

Lays® BBQ Chips with Wine

I envy people with a large family.  My grandmother always told me growing up, "You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family."  As a child, I longed for big family gatherings on weekends like the 4th of July.  Why couldn't I have twenty something cousins like most of my friends to light fireworks with?  I had two cousins and upon a falling out between my grandmother and her son's wife, I was left to torment my grandparents by throwing Pop Its at their feet and writing my name in the air with sparklers.  It wasn't just holidays that I longed for family around either.  I was raised as an only child and hated feeling alone.  I would beg my grandmother to play with me.  On occasion, she would let me pretend I was a hairdresser and curl her hair with an iron.  My grandmother had been a waitress all her life and I loved pretending to be her.  I'd put on her high heels that were three sizes too big and take her order.  She'd pay in me in pennies and I'd return with water and Lays® BBQ chips placed neatly on her beautiful china.  "That's twenty-six pennies ma'am,"  I'd state.  If I wasn't curling her hair or pretending to be her, I'd make her watch me dive in the pool over and over again and yell out "Grandma, did you see that?"  What I wouldn't have given for a number of sisters and brothers to joke and play with.  One 4th of July my grandfather asked me if I wanted him to buy fireworks.  My response was "why?  Who's going to light them with me?"  I know a large family can have its problems.  I'm sure there is a lot of arguing and crying at huge 4th of July family gatherings.  But I can't help but feel deep down inside that life is so much sweeter with people you love around to share the moment with.

If I was still serving my grandmother Lays® BBQ chips, I'd trade out the water for a beautiful glass of sparkling Shiraz.  And I mean beautiful in every sense of the word.  A vibrant ruby red color pours from the bottle into the glass and forms a pink mousse around the top of the wine.  It's the ultimate 4th of July wine in my opinion, since sparkling Shiraz fares so well with BBQ.  In summer,  beware of pouring heavier reds when its hot outside.  You'll need a wine that will go with a variety of foods, including meat for BBQs.  Sparkling Shiraz is bold enough to stand up to the meat, yet sweet enough to stand up to BBQ sauce (the wine ranges from dry to sweet).  And you serve it chilled which helps to cool you off in the summer heat.  This Australian red sparkler is incredible with Lays® BBQ chips.  After a bite of the food, I notice both the sugar in the wine and chips compliment each other.  For a moment I can't pick out the individual flavor of the chip or wine.  It's as if they've become one.  The wine is jammy and peppery and somewhat reminiscent of grape soda.  These flavors match the specks of pepper and BBQ sauce found on the chips.  The bubbles in the wine match the crispness of the chips and along with a fare amount of acidity, help to wash the flavors of the tongue.  Enjoy!