Tamales with Wine

Christmas comes and goes in the blink of an eye.  Shortly after buying the tree, decorating, and purchasing gifts, you're eating Christmas dinner and opening presents.  Every year at Christmas time, we'd meet at my grandmother's house for a huge feast.  Because my grandmother is Mexican, tamales are always served alongside our traditional Christmas dinner.  Around 3 o'clock on Christmas day, we all gather around my grandmother's table to enjoy the celebration.  I head straight for the pork tamales, knowing they'll be gone fast.  After piling the food on our plates, everyone is ready to eat and talk about Christmas's past.  This is where the dinner takes a turn for the worst.  It never fails that someone ends up crying, getting upset, embarrassed or arguing.  I like to sit back and watch the show.  It wouldn't be Christmas without the chaos!

My grandmother likes everything hot!  This includes her tamales.  To tame the spice, I grab a bottle of German Riesling (Spatlese for slightly spicy and Auslese for extremely spicy).  German Riesling is amazing with spicy foods because the sugar in the wine helps to counteract the spice. The wine's fruit flavors are set off by the corn and pork filling of the tamale.  The pairing is a beautiful contrast between savory/spicy and sweet.  The wine also has incredible acidity that helps to wash the food off your tongue and refresh the palate.  As well, German Riesling is great for sipping, making it the perfect bottle to open prior to eating dinner.  Here's to wishing you and your family and very Merry Christmas!  Other wines to try with Tamales are Malbec, Rose, light Merlot, Rioja, Pinot Grigio, dry Sparkling wine (esp. Cava or sparkling Vinho Verde) and off-dry to sweet wine.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Wine

I believed in Santa until I was 10. Friends would try to tell me otherwise, but I wouldn't sway. Every year on Christmas eve, I would leave two chocolate chip cookies and milk for Santa right near the fireplace. Sure enough, on Christmas morning I'd wake to find a bite taken out of one of the cookies, half the milk gone, and a note from the man himself. "Courtney, thank you for the delicious cookies, enjoy your presents!" My face lit up thinking Santa was in my living room, eating my cookies. You can imagine how heart broken I was when my mother finally revealed the truth.  Christmas hasn't been the same since.

After trying this pairing, my house would have been the first stop on Santa's list every year.  Although, the alcohol may have gotten Santa a DUI, and a couple of upset kids wondering why Santa never made it to their house.  Banyuls and chocolate chip cookies should be a Christmas eve tradition.  Banyuls is a fortified wine from the Languedoc region of France.  Fortified means brandy has been added to the wine to up the alcohol level.  Banyuls is made from the French red grape Grenache.  Although both Port and Banyuls are fortified, Banyuls is much more delicate, lighter and easier to drink.  Banyuls and chocolate chip cookies are great combination because they are both bitter and then sweet, a rare combination.  The wine has flavors of mocha, coffee and chestnut that play beautifully off the chocolate chips.  The chocolate flavor is intensified after a bite of the food, and then a sip of the wine.  In addition, the creaminess of the wine and the creaminess of the chocolate mirror each-other on the palate.  Other wines to try with chocolate chip cookies are Madiera, Muscat (black or orange), Port, late harvest Zinfandel, California Chardonnay, Grechetto, Cabernet Sauvignon if the chocolate chips are dark, Asti, and sweet Sherry if there are nuts included in your cookies.