Thanksgiving – Let the Holiday Season Begin!

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Can you believe how quickly this year has passed?  It seems like we were just ringing in 2016…yet we are just weeks away from 2017. How will you describe this year?  It has definitely been a wild, emotional ride.

Since several people have started asking me for suggestions, I decided to post some Thanksgiving food/wine pairing options. Your personal favorite is always a good bet, but there are some “safe” choices that work well with traditional Thanksgiving (holiday) foods. Look outside the “bottle” and explore! Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when pairing your food and wine.

Cooking method: How you prepare the food matters! Roasting deepens flavors in meats and brings out natural sweetness in vegetables.  Grilling will add a smokiness to your food.  Sautéing keeps foods light and fresh.

Seasoning/Sauces/Herbs/Sweetness/Spice (heat): When pairing wine with seasonings and sauces, the name of the game is balance!  (Acidity vs. sweetness // fat vs. tannins.) Experiment and find flavors that work together.  Keep in mind that “heat” and higher alcohol wines do not play nicely together…opt for a lower alcohol, off-dry style instead. No need for a food riot in your mouth!

Weight and texture: With both food and drinks, finding harmony in the textures of the dishes and the weight of the wine/food will help everything meld together.  Contrasting or complimenting  helps them enhance one another, bring out the best in both.

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I realize our “traditional” Thanksgiving feasts vary from family to family.  I am offering the mere basic of pairings and reasons why they work together. You may have found different pairings based on your own preferences…that is the beauty of wine… there is something for everyone!!! Extra tip: with white wines the pairing priority is finding a wine with well-balanced acidity, with reds you should opt for lighter, milder tannins that will yield to and support the flavors of the food. Let’s start pairing!

Sparkling Wines: Nothing says “celebration” better than bubbles!  Sparkling wines (Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, French Champagne, etc….) have by nature good amounts of acidity which helps when pairing with food.  Bubbles go with everything!  Tart and effervescent, a bubbly will cut through fatty, salty, savory, or sweet flavors, all which make up ther dishes found on any Thanksgiving table. From “brut” to “extra dry”- which is a little bit fruitier, your guests will enjoy the festiveness brought by these wines.

Riesling: From bone dry or fairly sweet, excellent with any dish that is spicy, salty or sweet, Riesling wines are an outstanding for pairing with Thanksgiving dinner. Riesling’s innate flavors of apple, apricot, honey and its noticeable acidity make it a perfect foil for the likes of sweet potatoes, turkey meat and spice-laden or herb-filled stuffing.

Pinot Grigio: A lovely, white wine that can handle garlic and onions, herbs and rich, flavorful, high-fat dishes, making it a natural choice for the Thanksgiving table.

Gewurtztraminer: This white wine delivers an aromatic punch and spicy palate that works beautifully with turkey and gravy, bringing out the best in both. (You don’t have to be able to pronounce it to enjoy it!)

Albarino and Viognier: Want to reach out of your comfort zone? Try one of these! They offer the perfect opportunity to liven up your Thanksgiving meal and provide an international feel, while still maintaining perfect pairing power.

Sauvignon Blanc: Citrusy and herbaceous, with good minerality makes it a delightful pairing partner for turkey and mashed potatoes. It is also a great match for many vegetable side dishes like Brussel sprouts ans asparagus.

On to the reds…

Pinot Noir: My personal favorite red for Thanksgiving.  I love the earthy, “mushroomy”  flavors found along with the bright cherry, red fruit notes. It works so well with roasted  turkey and and savory stuffing.  These are two of the best parts of the dinner in my opinion- the turkey and stuffing- so pairing it with my favorite red varietal makes me smile!

Gamay:: The Gamay grape is the star in the Beaujolais wines…from the Beaujolais Nouveau to the Beaujolais Cru. The wines range from light and fruity to complex. This lovely little grape makes wines that go quite well with turkey and all of the fixings. Check out the Beaujolais Nouveau wines which will be released from France next week (always the third Thursday of November), just in time for Thanksgiving!

Zinfandel: A fuller bodied red wine, with big fruit and intensity, is able to keep the needed balance with many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. When Pinot Noir and Gamay just aren’t “big” enough for some of your guests, this is a great wine choice for those who prefer those spicy, bitter and sweet flavor profiles. Zinfandel is a lovely partner for ham as well!!

Syrah/ Shiraz: Another big, almost meaty, red, can work well with the abundance of flavors found in your Thanksgiving meal. Its complexity, its spicy, peppery notes pair nicely with the herbal, savory stuffing as well as the white and dark turkey meat. Not a real turkey fan, Syrah is an amazing partner for lamb and beef.

Rosé:  As with sparkling wines, Rosé provides a a great alternative that can go from start to finish with the meal. Dry Rosé offers the best pairing and is an excellent value.  The possibilities are many when talking Rosé… so try a Rosé of Pinot Noir or Sangiovese…or perhaps one from Provence.  Remember, Rosé isn’t just for summer!

What is a holiday meal without dessert? This is one area where I usually do not participate in…I am not, I repeat, not a pie person.  I know, weird, but that’s just how it is! That being said, when pairing pie and wine a few combinations come to mind.

Port: That decadent, sublime wine from Portugal works beautifully with the sweet spices in pumpkin pie and gooey, lush pecan pie. I have often brought a late harvest wine- Riesling or Gewurtztraminer- to my family’s holiday gatherings. They offer decadent, honey flavors to desserts. It is the sweetness and the viscosity found in both fortified and late harvest wines that are needed to balance the richness/spiciness of pumpkin pie as well as caramel notes found in pecan pie.

With whatever you choose to grace your table, at Thanksgiving or even Christmas…yes, I said it, I wish you and yours a very happy, safe, peaceful holiday season.  Cheers!

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Wine Wednesday Women into Wine Study Group Update

This year seems to be flying by!  I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Our wine study group has had some fantastic sessions. We took advantage of a warm September evening to tackle Rosé and to welcome a new member, Stephanie.  She brings over 15 years of wine industry experience in the area of marketing/brand development.  She is also an old neighbor and classmate of Paula and I!

The goal was to select Rosés from single varietals.  We sat out on the deck, tasting, talking, sharing…and discussing more than studying, but it was still a beautiful night!  We even had a small birthday celebration thrown in the night’s activities.

These were our wines: Broken Earth Rosé of Grenache, California; Charles Smith Rosé of Sangiovese, Washington; and Liquid Farm Rosé of Mourvèdre, Santa Barbara, CA.

Each one paired well with most of our food pairings, some better than others, but for the most part they were all delightful and so different.

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October rolled in and found us learning about Cabernet Franc.  We again welcomed a new member to our group, Natalie, a young women who recently passed her Court of Master Sommelier Level 1 exam and who is a wine rep for a small distributor. What I appreciate most is the diversity of our knowledge base!  We come from such different realms of the wine world, but it is our passion that ties us together.

Our tasting of Cabernet Franc was amazing!  Used more often as a blending grape, we were able to find these single varietal treasures that took us from the Loire Valley in France, to Oregon, to the Seneca Lake area of New York. Such different terroirs… but all showing the basic Cabernet Franc profile in some way.

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We find ourselves entering into the busiest time of year in the wine world.  We meet in a few days to delve into Syrah, then again at the end of November for our study of bubbles…Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and domestic sparklings.  This will be our final session of 2016 and also our  holiday celebration!  I will get our finding out in December!  Cheers

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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I work for a wonderful company!  For the entire month of October, Boisset will be donating $2.00 per bottle from any rosé in our collection!  Message me (sjonzac@aol.com) if you wish to help the cause!  We have several options available… from still to sparkling. Since my mother is a survivor, this is near and dear to my heart. You will be doubly rewarded…great wine and a sense of helping others…how can you go wrong?

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BIN 36 Presents- Alceo Wines Dinner

An evening to remember… Bin 36 Owner, Enoch Shully, Brian Duncan, Founder at Down To Earth Wine Concepts LLC, and the Direttore Commerciale of Priduttori Vini Manduria- Giovanni, created an outstanding wine paired dinner that highlighted the wines from Puglia, Italy with the artistry of Chef Shane!  The results were magical.

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**I love Wine Folly’s wine region maps.  The bottom right, green corner is Puglia…known for its wines made from the grapes Negroamaro, Primitivo, Malvasia Nera, Uva di Troia, and Chardonnay.  Our 4 course meal featured several of these varietals…all were perfectly paired with tantalizing dishes.  Check out the menu below.

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Brian Duncan greeted us with a glass of 2014 Malvasia/Chardonnay/Verdeca, Alceo Salento Bianco.  We sipped this refreshing white with some antipasti – lovely charcuterie and cheeses before being seated for our first course.  Grilled calamari with cherry tomatoes, Calabrian chili, lemon, and fresh herbs…zesty, a hint of spice,and quite light.  The Salento Bianco was carried through to this course, and it brought out the flavors beautifully.

Our second course featured red and green kale, smoked onions- everyone at my table’s favorite component- sweet 100 tomatoes with a poppy vinaigrette. The smokiness of the onions made this dish!  I reveled in the 2015 Negroamaro Alceo Salento Rosato!!  Being a huge rosé wine lover, this was perfect.  The Rosato attains a brilliant, almost coppery orange hue, even though the maceration period is only about 5-7 hrs, then the skins are separated quickly from the must. I was in heaven!

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Next on the menu was cider braised lamb neck with Geechie Bay grits, wild mushrooms, and “first of fall” apples.  I am a lamb lover and have never thought to pair it with apples… but it worked.  We sipped on the 2013 Alceo Primitivo Di Manduria and the 2014 Alceo Salento Negroamaro.  Both delicious, both extremely smooth, both hearty enough to stand up to the mushrooms and lamb… I can see why these are the top reds from Puglia.

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Finally, dessert-ahhhh!  A scrumptious chocolate Pave- flourless, chocolate cake, fudgsicle, caramelized cherry, cocoa nib soil…a chocolate lover’s Nirvana!  The powerhouse, full bodied wines we delighted in made the end of the meal We indulged in the 2014 Neama Salento Negroamaro and the 2013 Lirica Primitivo Di Manduria…similar wines as our third course, but they are considered the “higher end” wines, more elevated, the “cream of the crop” so to speak!  That they were indeed.

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Listening to Giovanni describe all of these wines made me wish I could hop on a plane to Puglia and meander through the vineyards, soaking in the sights, smells, and of course, tastes.  Next time you are wanting to break away from your “go to” wines, try a few of these varietals from Puglia.  Cheers!

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WINGS, INC- Women in Need Growing Stronger

This past Saturday I had the honor of attending an event for WINGS, INC at the WTTW Studios in Chicago. Amazing people, great food and music, inspirational speakers all there to support this wonderful, truly needed organization. We were shown videos of some of the newest sites in the Chicago area available for women in need to find security for themselves and their children.  It was a beautiful, emotional evening. There are many ways in which people can help- donations of clothing and household items to their resale store, monetary contributions, and word of mouth information of what is available for those in need are always welcome.  Please visit their website…you may help someone grow their wings!  (www.wingsprogram.com)

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“WINGS began  in 1985 as a grassroots organization by members of a local church.Their desire was to help homeless women and children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, an area with few resources for these families. The program was called HASP, Housing and Shelter Program, and began interviewing homeless individuals about their living situations.

Over the progression of the first years of the organization, the leaders of HASP learned that female-headed families were a rapidly increasing segment of the homeless population in the Chicago suburbs. The organization changed its name to WINGS and enhanced its mission to specifically focus its commitment to survivors of domestic violence.

WINGS is now one of the largest domestic violence service and housing providers in the state of Illinois. Single women and women with children are able to receive temporary safe shelter through WINGS housing. Staff provides one-on-one, individualized assistance that allows women to set personal goals that will enable them to work, continue their education, and care for themselves and their children.”

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One of the women who spoke, VersAnnette, is a talented artist and writer, who has grown stronger and spread her “wings”.  Her paintings are thought provoking, calming, and beautiful! She is a Healing Arts Practitioner, owner of Soul Revival Healing Arts, and has a Pop-Up Art Gallery and Shop that features her work. If you have a free time in the evening of Oct.15th, Nov. 12th, or Dec. 10th, from 5:00-8:00 pm, head over to “Tribe- 1819 W. Belmont in Chicago and spend some time with VersAnnette and her work.  You won’t be disappointed!!  I can’t wait to get her painting on my wall!  (mysoulrevival.com)

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Wines of the Wild, Wild “North”West

The opening class for the fall-winter Wine 101 series at Bin 36, located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, was held on Wednesday, September 14th.  Four wines were featured, 2 each from Oregon and Washington.  All were fantastic!  Great questions were asked by the attendees. Information on the history, climate, AVAs, varietals, and key players within each state was shared.  The highlight of the night was, of course, the tasting!

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Oregon’s treasures were up first, with a 2014 Pinot Gris from A to Z.  Grapes are sourced from 30 vineyards and fermented separately to create this beauty.  Each vineyards brings a little something special to the blend- spice, floral notes, citrus, etc…The winery doesn’t allow any malolactic fermentation to occur, choosing  instead to retain the bright “freshness and purity” of the fruit. (A to Z)

The “king” of grapes in Oregon is Pinot Noir…my personal favorite red varietal!!!!  The 2013 Van Duzer Pinot Noir- Willamette Valley is a true winner…taking multiple awards in its short life.  French-born winemaker, Florent Merlier, uses 8 Pinot Noir clones to bring this gem to life. This wine danced across my palate…almost making me want to sing! I will be adding this to my Pinot Noir collection.

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We then moved to our two wines from Washington. 2014 Milbrandt Traditions Riesling from the Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes, Columbia Valley region was surprisingly refreshing.  I am usually not one for “off dry” wines, but the short, stainless steel fermentation keeps the wine crisp with vibrant acidity that plays well with the bit of residual sugar I tasted on the finish.  It may just have converted me!  I could see this pairing well at Thanksgiving, as many in my huge family prefer wines on the sweeter side.

Finally, our last wine, also came from Columbia Valley…Charles Smith’s Velvet Devil Merlot.  Sourced from seven vineyards, the Merlot blend (94% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc) was true to its name…is was luscious, like velvet, full body, dense, and smooth.  The tasters were imagining drinking with red delight with a number of their favorite dishes.

Class 2 will be held at Bin 36 on Wednesday September 28th- How to Build Your Own Wine Flight.  Registration is still open.  Go to http://www.bin36.com and join us for another fantastic evening.

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Good to be Back!

Our journey in life is never set in stone, is always changing course, continually has bumps in the road, and sometimes we just hit a roadblock!    The past few months have been both eye-opening and challenging.  Words like “cancer” and “blood clots” have made me stop and re-evaluate my priorities. Family has always come first, now it means even more than before! It is good to be back to “work”, but I must admit, my brain seems to be still a bit preoccupied, so please bear with me over the next few weeks and continue to follow me and my adventures.  Thank you and cheers!

 

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