11.29.2009

Rocket Man!

Space Coast Marathon 2009
Finishing time : 3:16:48

CONGRATULATIONS SWEETIE!!!

Sent using AT&T Xpress Mail

8.06.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Vinho Verde

Featured wine: Vinho Verde

Wikipedia description:
Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine from the Minho region in the far north of the country. The name literally means "Green Wine", referring to its youthful freshness rather than its color. About 11% of production is exported, almost all of which is white wine. The main export markets are France, the United States, and Germany, followed by Angola, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The region is characterized by its many small growers, which numbered more than 60,000 as of 2005. Many of these growers train their vines high off the ground, up trees, fences, and even telephone poles so that they can cultivate vegetable crops below the vines that their families may use as a food source.

The Vinhos Verdes are light and fresh, and are intended to be drunk within a year. At less than one bar of CO2 pressure, they do not quite qualify as semi-sparkling wines but do have a definite pétillance. The white Vinho Verde is very fresh, due its natural acidity, with fruity and floral aromas that depend on the grape variety. The white wines are lemon- or straw-coloured, around 9 to 11% alcohol, and are made from local grape varieties Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal. Vinho Alvarinho is made from Alvarinho grapes, from a small designated sub-region of Monção. It has more alcohol (11.5 to 14%) and ripe tropical aromas. The reds are deep red and tannic, and are mostly made from Vinhão, Borraçal and Amaral grapes. The rosés are very fresh and fruity, usually made from Espadeiro and Padeiro grapes.

I've tasted:
Mapreco (Portugal) $6.95
Gazela (Portugal) $8.99
Broadbent (Portugal) $9.99
Casal Garcia (Portugal) $7.99

Food pairings:
calamari
clams
crab
fish
mussels
salad
sardines

Notes:
As you can see from the food pairings, seafood is the order of the day when having this wine, but you could also enjoy it with other light picnic fare. It also goes nicely with lemon/lime and garlic flavours, so Asian food is a good option as well. The slight effervescent quality of vinho verde makes it a good match for lightly fried, or slightly oily foods, so go ahead and experiment with the flavours of summer.

Cheers!

7.29.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Viognier

Featured wine: Viognier

Wikipedia description:
Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) is a white wine grape. It is the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhone valley.

Viognier wines are well-known for their floral aromas, due to terpenes, which are also found in Muscat and Riesling wines. There are also many other powerful flower and fruit aromas which can be perceived in these wines depending on where they were grown, the weather conditions and how old the vines were. Although some of these wines, especially those from old vines and the late-harvest wines, are suitable for aging, most are intended to be consumed young. Viogniers more than three years old tend to lose many of the floral aromas that make this wine unique. Aging these wines will often yield a very crisp drinking wine which is almost completely flat in the nose. The color and the aroma of the wine suggest a sweet wine but Viognier wines are predominantly dry, although sweet late-harvest dessert wines have been made. It is a grape with low acidity; it is sometimes used to soften wines made predominantly with the red Syrah grape. In addition to its softening qualities the grape also adds a stabilizing agent and enhanced perfume to the red wine.

I've tasted:
Smoking Loon (United States, California) $8.99
Cline (United States, California) $10.99
Brooklyn Oenology (United States, New York) $18.49

Food pairings:
Asian/Indian/Thai food
butter sauces
cheese
cream based sauces
curries
fish and seafood
lobster
nuts
roast pork
veal
smoked fish

Notes:
I must admit that it took me a while to warm up to Viognier. I was a bit put off by the floral aroma, which mimicked a feeling of sweetness on my tongue (I'm not a fan of dessert wines). To combat this sensation, I prefer to drink this wine very cold, and with spicy food, which plays well against the aromatic nature of Viognier.

Cheers!

7.24.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Shiraz/Syrah

Featured wine: Shiraz/Syrah

Wikipedia description:
Syrah is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines. Syrahs enjoy great popularity in the marketplace, relatively often under the name Shiraz.

Syrah is used as a varietal and blended into other wines. Following several years of strong planting, Syrah was estimated in 2004 to be the world's 7th most grown grape at 142,600 hectares (352,000 acres).

DNA profiling in 1999 found Syrah to be the offspring of two obscure grapes from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. It should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a synonym for Durif, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880.

I've tasted:
Indaba (South Africa, Western Cape) $7.95
Yellow Tail (Australia) $6.99
Yellow Tail Shiraz-Cabernet Blend (Australia) $6.99
Black Opal (Australia) $14.99

Food pairings:
barbecue
cheese (aged and/or hard)
chili
duck
grilled meat or vegetables
hamburgers
lamb
steak
grilled tuna
venison

Notes:
Nobody really knows why this particular grape goes by two names. It's commonly called Shiraz in Australia and South Africa, but is generally known by its 'old-world' name Syrah in the rest of the world. Either way you spell it, this wine is a nice accompaniment to grilled or barbecued meats and vegetables. Lovely with burgers or a steak, it's the perfect thing to grab and go when you're invited to an impromptu backyard gathering - no chilling required.

Cheers!

7.14.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Gewürztraminer

Featured wine: Gewürztraminer

Nickname: Gewürz

Wikipedia description:
Gewürztraminer is an aromatic wine grape variety that performs best in cooler climates. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz, and in French it is written Gewurztraminer (without the umlaut). Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a "white wine grape" as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as "red wine grapes". The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Indeed, Gewürztraminer and lychees share the same odorant compounds. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz (fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).

Its aromatic flavours make Gewürztraminer one of the few wines that are suitable for drinking with Asian cuisine. It goes well with Hirtenkäse, Münster cheese, and fleshy, fatty (oily) wild game. Smoked salmon is a particularly good match.

I've tasted:
Hogue (United States, Washington) $9.99
Trimbach (France, Alsace) $18.99
Covey Run (United States, Washington) $8.95

Food pairings:
asian food (spicy)
cheese (strong and/or soft)
chinese food
curries
tropical fruit
ginger
ham
cinnamon
indian food
sweet onions
duck
smoked food
sausage

Notes:
Gewürztraminer holds a special place in my heart, being the very first wine I ever bought for the purpose of pairing with food. I was spurred on by David Rosengarten, the self-taught chef, author, restaurant critic, and host of one of the very earliest Food TV cooking shows Taste. I watched, spellbound, as he assembled a lovely choucroute garnie, an insanely delicious Alsatian dish made with sauerkraut, potatatoes, and pork in every imaginable form, which he paired with an Alsatian Gewürztraminer. Not yet being confident enough to undertake a choucroute, I decided to pair this wine with a shrimp curry, which Mr. Rosesengarten also recommended as an accompaniment to Gewürz. I was quite impressed with myself, and Mr. Rosengarten, to say the least!

Since then, I've managed to produce many plates of choucroute, curry (both Caribbean and Asian), and lots of other tasty treats to go with my Gewürz. I hope you enjoy this wonderfully aromatic and food-friendly wine with as many great meals as I have.

Cheers!

7.05.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Chenin Blanc

Featured wine: Chenin Blanc

Nickname: Steen (in South Africa)

Wikipedia description:
Chenin blanc (also Pineau de la Loire and Gout fort), is a variety of white wine grape from the Loire valley of France. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines, although it can produce very bland, neutral wines if the vine's natural vigour is not controlled. Outside the Loire it is found in most of the New World wine regions; it is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen.

Chenin blanc (or simply Chenin) is a particularly versatile grape that is used to make dry white wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines and brandy. It provides a fairly neutral palate for the expression of terroir, vintage variation and the winemaker's treatment.

In cool areas the juice is sweet but high in acid with a full-bodied fruity varietal palate. In the unreliable summers of northern France, the acidity of underripe grapes was often masked with chaptalization (the addition of sugar before fermentation to increase alcohol content) with unsatisfactory results, whereas now the less ripe grapes are made into popular sparkling wines such as Crémant de Loire. The white wines of Anjou are perhaps the best expression of Chenin as a dry wine, with flavours of quince and apples. In nearby Vouvray they aim for an off-dry style, developing honey and floral characteristics with age. In the best vintages the grapes can be left on the vines to develop noble rot, producing an intense, viscous dessert wine which will improve considerably with age.

I've tasted:
Koopmanskloof (South Africa) $9.95
KWV Steen (South Africa) $8.99
Indaba (South Africa) $5.99

Food pairings:
asian food
seafood (especially sauteed and/or with lemon)
smoked fish
fried foods
spicy food
vegetables
roast pork

Notes:
Chenin Blanc is another grape that lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations. I tend to enjoy the dry and citrusy styles most common in South Africa, but I've been told that this grape also makes lovely dessert wines as well. I think it makes an excellent match with many of my favourite Caribbean foods - jerk pork, curry shrimp, stewed chicken, etc., so it will certainly be a frequent and welcome addition to my dinner table year-round.

Cheers!

7.04.2009

Man Does Not Live by Wine Alone

As you may have deduced, the holiday weekend's activities have pre-empted the weekly Wine Down session. However, I managed to squeeze in a trip to the local greenmarket. The offerings were not only tasty and fragrant, but rather photogenic.

This may be your only serving of vegetables on this hot-dog, hamburger and barbeque filled day, so I hope you enjoy.

Happy 4th of July!

Sweet red peppers.


These strawberries smelled divine.


Fish was going really fast (making a mental note to get there earlier next time).


Almost too pretty to eat. Almost!


I figured it would have been rude of me to totally ignore the wine.


Zucchini and yellow squash.


Garlic scapes. Possibly my favourite summer veggie.

6.23.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Chardonnay

Featured wine: Chardonnay

Wikipedia description:
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It is believed to have originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand.

For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a "rite of passage" and an easy segue into the international wine market. The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavors commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the elegant, "flinty" wines of Chablis to rich, buttery Meursaults and New World wines with tropical fruit flavors.

Chardonnay is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne. A peak in popularity in the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine drinkers who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalization of wine. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most widely-planted grape varieties, with over 400,000 acres (175,000 hectares) worldwide, second only to Airén among white wine grapes and planted in more wine regions than any other grape – including Cabernet Sauvignon.

I've tasted:
Hobnob (France) $9.49
Smoking Loon (United States, California) $10.95
SalmonRun (United States, New York) $11.49
Fat Bastard (France) $11.79
Yellow Tail (Australia) $7.99

Food pairings:
avocado
butter or cream sauces
creamy goat or sheep's milk cheeses
chicken
shellfish
ham
salmon
tropical fruits
pasta/risotto
seafood with rich sauces
Avoid chiles, cilanto, tomato sauces and dill

Notes:
Being a relatively neutral grape, Chardonnay styles can vary tremendously from one producer/region to another. I was first exposed to chardonnay in the 80s, when the heavily oaked California style was becoming quite popular. I found this style to be rather unpleasant to drink on its own, and not at all food-friendly, and as a result, Chardonnay fell to the bottom of my list for quite some time.

Fortunately for me, the pendulum is swinging the other way, and the less manipulated, lighter tasting, steel-aged Chardonnays are gaining in popularity. I particularly enjoy it with lobster ravioli in a cream sauce, or sauteed scallops.

Cheers!

6.18.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Rosé

Featured wine: Rosé (Rosado, Rosato)

Wikipedia description:
A rosé (From French: rosé, ‘pinkish’) wine has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques.

There are three major ways to produce rosé wine.
skin contact
The first is used when rosé wine is the primary product. Red-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically two or three days. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain much of the strongly flavored tannin and other compounds, which leaves the taste more similar to a white wine. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
Saignée
Rosé wine can be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding the vats. When a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration is concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé.
Blending
Blending, the simple mixing of red wine to a white to impart color, is uncommon. This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the saignée method.

I've tasted:
Il Mimo Rosato (Italy) $15.49
Sur de los Andes, Rosado Malbec (Argentina) $9.95
Ombra Rose di Pino - sparkling rose (Italy) $14.99
Big House Pink (California) $10.95
Wolffer Rose (Long Island, New York) $12.95

Food pairings:
Anchovies
Barbecue
Charcuterie
Crab (boiled or steamed)
Eggs
Fish
Pizza
Pork
Seafood
Turkey
Veal
Vegetables

Notes:
Because it can be made from so many different grapes and methods, there is a tremendous variety of rosé on the market. At one local wine shop I counted over 20 different offerings today. This is another wonderful summer wine, but I find that it can be enjoyed year-round with just about any food. One of my favourites is the Il Mimo, which has grown in popularity (and price) over the years. The Ombra is another that I enjoy regularly. I goes nicely with sushi and turns any ordinary weeknight meal into a celebration. Cream sauces and oysters don't play very will with rosé, but just about everything else does. Try it with roast chicken, with fish 'n' chips, with a dinner omelette, with a picnic in the park. It really is an everything wine.

Cheers!

6.06.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Grüner Veltliner

Featured wine: Grüner Veltliner

Nickname: Gru-Vee

Wikipedia description:
Grüner Veltliner is a variety of white wine grape widely grown primarily in Austria and widely also in the Czech Republic, but almost nowhere else. It has a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine – notably, it is the classic pairing for the otherwise hard-to-pair asparagus..

..The steep, Rhine-like vineyards of the Danube west of Vienna produce very pure, minerally Grüner Veltliners intended for laying down. Down in the plains, citrus and peach flavours are more apparent, with spicy notes of pepper and sometimes tobacco.

I've tasted:
Grooner (Kremstal Niederosterreich, Austria) $9.99
Berger (Kremstal Niederosterreich, Austria) $12.99
Grun (Austria) $11.99
Gustav (Wachau, Austria) $12.99

Food pairings:
Artichokes
Asparagus
Rich, fatty cheeses
Fish
Lobster
Pork
Poultry
Scallops
Sushi
Thai food
Veal Wiener Schitzel

Similar wines:
Sauvignon Blanc
Pino Grigio

Notes:
I first discovered Gruner last summer when my sweetie came home with a giant bottle of Berger. Of course, the first thing that struck me was the size of the bottle (1L), since we rarely go for the super-size options. The other thing that stood out with this particular brand was the bottle-cap (yes, like on a beer bottle). Clearly, this was meant to be consumed in large quantities, and all at once, due to the fact that the bottle could not be resealed once opened. Always up for a challenge, I dove in, and was treated to one of the most refreshing sensations ever!

Gruner, to me is an ideal summer wine. Light and acidic with an effervescent feel. Along with the aforementioned food pairings, I think it would be a great wine to accompany an outdoor summer brunch - eggs Benedict (with smoked salmon or the traditional Canadian bacon), a delicately dressed green salad, fresh fruit and a chilly glass of Gruner sounds like a great way to start a lazy Sunday.

Of the four I've tasted, I think my favourite would have to be Grooner, which showed up in my local wine-store a few weeks ago. It has a pronounced grapefruit flavor, and a bit more complexity than the others I've had. But any Gruner at all would be among my list of go-to wines for 'chilling out' in the summer time.

Cheers!