Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Resolution For Greek Wine, A Recipe For Avgolemeno #WinePW 8 @DOMAINESKOURAS

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Another Wine Pairing Weekend

This months Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW we were asked to share a New Years Resolution about a wine or wine region we would like to explore in 2015.

I elected to learn more about the wines of Greece. My reasons are personal and are related to the passing of my step-grandfather who was from the island of Crete. Consider this post an homage in his memory.

Having chosen Greece as a wine region, I doubted I would find any Greek wine in town. I was wrong. Happily, unexpectedly, surprisingly, one of the local wine shops had half a dozen Greek wines in stock. I selected a white wine to pair with the Avgolemeno Soup I wanted to make.

Avgolemeno

Avgolemeno is a traditional Greek chicken soup with an egg-lemon sauce. A soup I grew up eating at my grandmothers home. I'll admit that I was not a big fan the first time I tried it. My step-grandfather laughed at the face I made tasting the lemon in my chicken soup. Then he squeezed even more lemon juice into his own soup. Today I crave lemon in my chicken soup and on my baked chicken. Avgolemeno was a natural choice for this wine and food pairing.

Searching online for recipes, I modified a combination of recipes written and in videos. Ingredients are similar from recipe to recipe, I used rice, added oregano, omitted onion and decided not to add cinnamon. Not everyone uses rice, many use Orzo which is a rice shaped pasta.

This year I hope to learn more about Greek wine and especially the wines of Crete. Avgolemeno will always remind me of my step-grandfather Emmanuel Brokos. I hope you try this recipe at your home and appreciate it as well as I do. Tasting notes for the wine follow the recipe.

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A delicious heart warming dish of Avgolemeno.

Recipe Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce)

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, cut in half (include neck and giblets)
12 cups cold water
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 leek, cleaned and quartered
1 stalk celery, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
1/2 tablespoon oregano
2 bay leaves
3/4 cups rice (or orzo pasta)
1 lemon (or 1/2 cup lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

In a large stockpot, combine the chicken, water and sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; at boil reduce heat to medium simmer. Skim the foamy scum from the surface.

Skim the scum from the surface.

Add the leak, celery, carrot, oregano and bay leaves to the pot with chicken, cover and continue to simmer for one hour until the chicken is cooked.

Leak, celery, carrot, oregano and bay leaves added.
Strained for broth.

Remove the chicken from the broth (this is the soup stock) and allow the meat to cool. Strain the broth into another pot. As the broth cools you can skim the fat from the surface. Discard the carrot, celery, leak, chicken neck and giblets - they were just for flavor.

*Tip: I saved the carrot and giblets for the dog.

Remove skin and bones from chicken using two forks.


When the chicken has cooled to handle, separate the meat from the skin and bones (shred the chicken and discard the skin and bones). I chose to shred the chicken. Some recipe variations use chicken pieces and do not shred.

*Tip: I used two forks to easily separate skin and bones from the meat and shred the chicken at the same time. Use a large cookie sheet for this operation as you will need the room.

Return the broth to high heat, add the rice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered until the rice is almost cooked, about 15 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.

*Tip: Remove the two eggs from the refrigerator before adding the rice. You want the eggs near room temperature before whisking.

Egg and lemon juice whisked with pepper.

In a  medium bowl, beat the eggs with the lemon juice and black pepper. Mixture should be slightly foamy and well blended.

Carefully, slowly, gradually add some of the warm stock to the egg and lemon juice mixture, whisking constantly, ladle warm soup stock until about 2 cups have been added. You want to carefully create the egg-lemon sauce without curdling the egg.

Egg-lemon sauce integrated with soup stock.

Pour the egg, lemon, stock mixture back into the pot with the chicken and rice. Add the lemon zest too if you have a lemon. Stir well to blend. Do not boil. Add one tablespoon olive to the soup and stir. Taste and adjust for salt if needed.

Serve soup with sliced lemon on the side and some crusty bread for dipping. Enjoy!

Tasty Avgolemeno dinner and twitter session.
Thoughts

I was happy with how well this recipe worked. It was very close to the Avgolemeno I remember eating at my grandmothers home. Unfortunately, I lost the beautiful lemon I purchased at the store and had to substitute bottled lemon juice. My fault for not paying attention to the lemon. The lemon flavor was pleasant and not intense. As I recall, my step-grandfather always had extra lemon on hand to spike up his soup. If you are not a huge fan of lemon in your soup then you should be happy with my recipe. Have some fresh lemon on hand in case you want to crank it up.

We enjoyed this warming, delicious soup at home over three days. This recipe makes a lot of soup. Serve for a large family or freeze half of it. It was better each day. The Greek wine I paired with this soup was a good match. See the following tasting notes.

More Greek Recipes

If you are looking for a good book of Greek recipes, I strongly recommend Culinaria Greece. It is full of regional recipes and beautiful photographs. It is a large book with wonderful anecdotes about Greece, folk remedies, herbs, regional foods and its many people. Highly Recommended.



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Wine Tasting Notes 2013 Skouras Moscofilero Peloponnese

Peloponnese is the largest wine making area of Greece. Its 22,000 hectares of vineyards produce annually 1,5000,000 hectoliters of wine. 

Color: Silver Gold.
Nose: Savory with peach and orange blossom,
Palate: Honey, lemon, savory, it finished with orange yogurt cream. Gentle drinking, acid and viscosity showed restraint, nothing over the top.  Enjoyable sipping wine. Fun, almost elegant
After 45 minutes more intense and focused. Honeyed vanilla, with orange zest. Was a good match to Avgolemeno Greek soup.
Day two: Just as good. Reminded me of a Grüner Veltliner. Acid more present on finish with a lovely floral quality.
Day Three: Acid visible with a floral orange and rose water quality. Yum.

Thoughts: Paired well with this recipe. The acid and floral qualities became more obvious on day two and three. It was a good wine experience. Perfect for chicken and seafood. I would like to try this wine with green vegetables. Strongly Recommended.

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I strongly recommend the 2013 Skouras Moscofilero.

Fermented in stainless. Short skin contact, no malolactic fermentation, short aeging over fine lees.
Country: Greece
Region: Protected Geographical Indication Peloponnese (PGI)
Appelation: Nemea
Vineyard: Mantinia (2400ft altitude, 25 years old)
Varietal: Moscofilero 100% (pink skinned)
Closure: Nomacorc
ABV: 12%
Paid: $16.95
Learn more: http://www.skouras.gr/us/

Skouras Winery was established in 1986 in Pyrgela, Argos by oenologist George Skouras. Over the years, the demand for their terrior-driven and estate-bottled wines has grown, in 2004 the winery relocated to a larger, more modern facility in Malandreni. Focused on indigenous grape varieties, the vineyards are planted with Nemea, Argolida, Arcadia, Mantinia, Roditis, Moscofilero and Aghiorghitiko, as well as Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Greek Wine Resources

Check out the New Years Wine Resolutions from my fellow #winePW bloggers!


Don’t forget to join us for our next Twitter Chat on Saturday, February 14th at 8 a.m. Pacific using hashtag #winePW.


The Greek Influence I Grew Up With

The reason I chose Greece and Greek wines for this post was because on Christmas Eve I learned my grandmothers 2nd husband, Mr. Emmanuel Brokos, had passed away in 2011. This was unexpected news to me. I was upset that no one had told me and very unhappy. At least he was buried besides my grandmother.

"Out in the dark blue sea there lies an island called Crete, a rich and lovely land, washed by the waves on every side, densely peopled and boasting ninety cities."
Homer Odyssey 19, 172-174

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Emmanuel Brokos 1929 - 2011.
Mr. Emmanuel Brokos

I never learned Greek, though I heard it spoken occasionally over many years. I was never close to my grandmothers second husband, Mr. Emmanuel Brokos. He was and remains an enigma. I am saddened that I was not there for his funeral. It would have been the least I could do for him, to say a few kind words.

He never shared any thoughts about his life with me. Only my grandmother whispered to us some of the events of his life, and only when he was not home.

Today I'm sharing with you the little I know about this man and some of the historical facts surrounding his life.

In September 1969 he married my grandmother. We were introduced to him for the first time when I was 8 years old. Soft spoken, reserved, a conservative man we learned that he preferred quiet, or out of sight children.

Grandmother and Emmanuel soon purchased a 1906 three story home in Aberdeen, Washington. It had changed hands many times. By the time they bought it, it was in disrepair with a vagrant living in the attic space. I'll be kind and call it a fixer-upper. It took a lot of his labor to make the first floor livable. My brother and I spent most of our summers in Aberdeen in that big old home.

Emmanuel worked for the Weyerhaeuser mill as an Electrician. He worked long hours and many weekends. Most often we only saw him for dinner or reading the paper after dinner. His values were old world, old fashioned, traditional values. One afternoon we were with our grandmother in her bedroom, she was telling us stories of growing up in Oregon, of raiding the neighbors watermelon patch late at night, and making us laugh. When Emmanuel came home for lunch, we learned that day that we were not allowed in their bedroom. At least not when he was home.

"According to Greek mythology, Zeus was born on Crete. Two caves high in the Cretan mountains contest the honour of being known as the birthplace of the greatest god of ancient Greece: the Dikteon Cave in south-central Crete and the Ideon Cave on the highest mountain in Crete, Mount Ida or Psiloritis."
http://www.explorecrete.com/mythology/zeus-birth.html

Over the years I learned that Emmanuel was from the Island of Crete and the village of Kritsa. His parents lived there and he would visit them every other year. Grandmother said he brought the first washer and dryer to the village for his parents. He loved them and took good care of them. On the family lands were archaeological digs. They could not dig on their own land without permission because of the numerous buried antiquities. Often he would return from his trips to Crete with a large bag of almonds his mother gave him to share with us. He would also bring back Feta Cheese made by a family friend in the hills outside his village. I grew fond of Baklava, Greek olives, almonds, Feta and a variety of Greek dishes that Emmanuel shared with us. Including Avgolemeno.

He was formal in manner and discipline. I learned table manners and how to show respect from him. I knew he was watching and he would promptly correct me if I did not behave well. We were rowdy kids. Later, when I was in college, I came to visit with a freshly pierced ear. He instantly told me that he did not approve of my earring and to remove it in his presence. I also recall a disagreeable summer morning, hungover, with head throbbing. I had come back to the house late, drunk and ready to drive off with friends to Seattle. He chewed me out thoroughly. And I knew I deserved it. That never happened again and afterwards, I began to make changes to my life and friends.

I know he wanted me to do well. He wanted me to have a good education and career. His way of showing this concern was by offering to pay for my college. But only if I went to Law School or became a doctor. A generous offer yes. But I did not want to be a lawyer nor a doctor, so I declined. He and I were never close. And our distance was equaled by how far we lived. When grandmother passed in 2003 we were there for the funeral. It was a moving Greek Orthodox service with a priest from Seattle. He spared no expense. It was the last time I saw him. We seldom corresponded. The last letter I sent him was December 2010. I did not receive a reply.

But who was Emmanuel Brokos?

Emmanuel Brokos was born October 7, 1929 in Kritsa, Crete, Greece to Nikolaos and Garyfallia (Skyvalos) Brokos. In 1940 the Germans entered Athens on April 27th.

"As early as June, 1941 the town of Kondomari, Crete was burned to the ground and the men executed as a reprisal for their defense of the island against Nazi paratroopers.  As the frustration of the occupying power grows, these acts are more common, eventually becoming an epidemic of violence against the rural population."

World War II Video - The Battle of Crete 1941
http://youtu.be/X3nm-UcMERo

Emmanuel never shared any of  his personal stories with us. It was my grandmother who told us that when he was a kid on Crete, he had seen terrible things done by the Germans during World War II. He saw people executed for no reason and a young woman shot in the back for asking for food. After the war Greece saw hunger and a bankrupt country. Violence and hunger assuredly has to deeply affect a person growing up in a war zone. It may also explain his quiet and reserved demeanor.

"Over 400,000 Greeks died during the Second World War, the vast majority civilians. The Jewish communities, the most ancient in Europe have been wiped out. Starvation and inflation are so bad that a loaf of bread costs 2 million drachma and people have traded property and homes for olive oil to keep their children alive... The country is economically bankrupt. There is little or no industry as factories have been destroyed and ports and cities are in ruins. The government is in chaos. The whole country has to be rebuilt. But first they have to fight a civil war."
http://www.ahistoryofgreece.com/worldwarII.htm

Grandmother also told us that Emmanuel left home and vowed never to live there again. Why? He was close to his sister. She had been engaged to marry a popular young man. Before the wedding she died unexpectedly and under suspicious circumstances. Emmanuel was never satisfied with the explanation about his sisters death. He swore he would never live there again. From then on his mother wore only black.

Emmanuel was an electrician by trade and served in the Greek Navy and also the Merchant Marines. He became a merchant marine after his sister died so that he could help his parents back home. He was also an electrician for the Greek royal family at the palace in Athens. He was mult-lingual and spoke at least 5 languages.

1967 "In December the King attempts a counter-coup which fails. He and his family escape to Rome. It is the end of the monarchy in the land of the Hellenes."
http://www.ahistoryofgreece.com/junta.htm

He moved to Canada before settling in Grays Harbor. In September 1969 Emmanuel married Claudia Wallace/Pollard, my grandmother, in Canada. She passed away November 6, 2003.

Grandmother shared with us that Emmanuel Brokos was a published Poet in Greece. She showed us his books of poetry, but all the words were in Greek. I have no idea what he wrote. In retrospect, I believe she was proud of her husband and wanted us to know what kind of man he was. A man of creativity, sensitivity, depth and pride who had witnessed and experienced tragedy.

I do know that Emmanuel was also an Artist. He made beautiful wood sculptures from found pieces of wood. Sometimes he would take us with him out to the coastal forest. He had scouted places where the timber companies had harvested trees. Among the tossed stumps were jumbles of roots, torn earth and chunks of trees. When he found an interesting twisted piece of wood he would smile and admire the shape. Back home he would clean, polish and stain the wood and mount it on a cut rectangular block. A couple of pieces I remember were: Hair Blowing in Wind and Jesus at Galilee. Beautiful, expressive pieces.

Emmanuel was an active member of the Greek Orthodox Church; and had served as president for the Order of AHEPA. He started a scholarship fund at Grays Harbor College on behalf of my grandmother Claudia and was involved with many charitable organizations, including Feed the Hungry.

On November 19, 2011 Emmanuel Brokos passed away unexpectedly at his home in Aberdeen. He was 82. He is survived by his niece Sofia Prokou of Athens, Greece and other nieces and nephews in Greece.

Sadly, he remains very much an enigma to me. I have never visited Crete or Greece. Perhaps I can become a little closer by experiencing and learning about their wines.

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"And as a child I was warmed
By the sun and by the constancy
Of life among flowers
Brushed by the cooling summer wind.

But my childhood ended that summer
As the birds, frightened, flew away;
And to my window
Came an invader with bullets
That put an end to song.

‘Come’ cried my mother, ‘we must leave here,
We must find refuge, come now
Your childhood is over.’
I cried as my childhood died.

It was all so long ago.
Today, halfway across the world,
I watch as we all grow old."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wine of the Week! Silvan Ridge 2011 Malbec Rogue Valley, Oregon, Single Vineyard @SilvanRidgeWine

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My first Oregon Malbec. Loved it!

This is the first-ever LIVE Certified wine from Silvan Ridge Winery. Their 2011 Malbec, sourced exclusively from Gold Vineyards in Talent, Oregon. LIVE stands for "Low Input Viticulture & Enology" and refers to the practice of reducing the amount of raw materials (inputs such as pesticides, fertilizer, water, chemicals, fuel, etc.) used in vineyard and winery production.

Silvan Ridge Winery was founded in the southern Willamette Valley near Eugene, Oregon in 1979, They are best known for their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and an effervescent Early Muscat. Hello Malbec.

"Yaba Daba Doo!"

This Oregon Malbec impressed. I encourage you find this wine and enjoy it with your best friends. Add Silvan Ridge Winery to my list, and yours, of must visit Oregon wineries. Well done. Definitely a Wine of the Week! Need to find more of this wine.

Tasting Notes Silvan Ridge Winery 2011 Malbec:

Nose: Soft, with earth, cherry and orange floor.
Color: Clear, bright garnet.
Palate: Delicious. Friendly greeting, cheerful, fresh entry and mid-palate, cherry, bright chocolate, orange zest, fine tannin wrap around, friendly tingle on the inner lips. Big like.
At 20 minutes: Nose present with some funk and espresso. Focused to the front, fluid dark fruit, leathery tannin, cola, coffee, a little light mid-palate, nice grip on inner gums, finish was fresh and lip smacker. Big like.
At 30 minutes: Yaba Daba Doo! Cool nose, not a beast, kind of subtle, but layered and compelling: dark earthy funky  violets, spicy, black pepper, cherry, hit of bayleaf followed by rose petal perfume. Nose stuck in glass for 9 minutes. The taste: Ooh..lovely rush across the tongue, dark fruit, tar/licorice, still relatively light mid-palate, but a lot of flavor focused at front, dry with black cherry and spice on the finish.
At one hour: Expressive, balanced, dark cherry, blackberry, dark notes, leathery, round mid-palate with cherry, some bitter herbs on the medium finish, ready to drink. Big Like.

Day two: Hello spicy dark cherry, enticing deep background to the nose, into earthy blueberry espresso. Tasty, blueberry, espresso, cherry notes, dark chocolate edged, fluid, fine tannin coated the tongue, bright back palate, almost candied cherry and cranberry on the finish. Came together well. Very enjoyable, medium-light body was delightful, hit my sweet spot. Well done.

*Note: Successfully paired with sauteed green beans (salt, pepper, olive oil, added garlic and French thyme to finish) and a Greek salad (lettuce, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese, olive oil and sprouts). If you are looking for a red wine that works with greens, you have found it. Great match.


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Thoughts: My first Oregon Malbec. Impressive. Pair with rare red meat, green leafy vegetables or just drink and enjoy. Strongly Recommended + Wine of the Week + Great Value.

Blend: 100% Malbec
AVA: Rogue Valley
ABV: 14.5%
Closure: Natural Cork
SRP: $20



Silvan Ridge Winery 
27012 Briggs Hill Road
Eugene, Oregon 97405
541) 345-1945 or (866) 5-SILVAN
silvanridge.com

About Silvan Ridge Winery

Winemaker Juan Pablo Valot has worked for Silvan Ridge Winery for the last seven years and became the Winemaker in August 2012. Juan Pablo “JP” was born in Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza is the most known Argentina’s wine country.  JP completed a five years degree in agricultural sciences, with a focus in enology and viticulture at the National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. After graduation JP worked as an oenologist for Esmeralda, one of the Catena wineries.

Before working for Silvan Ridge, Juan Pablo worked for Willamette Valley Vineyards, Soter Vineyards, and Dobbes Family Estate. JP’s qualifications include 12 years of experience in winemaking with 15 vintages between his work in Oregon and Argentina.


Cheers!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide 2014 and 2015


About the time I started middle school, my parents decided to stop exchanging gifts on Christmas. Yep, no Christmas gifts kiddies. The rational for this, as it was explained to us, was that the Three winesmen Wines Kings in the Bible visited the baby Jesus on the 6th of January and gave him gifts. This is known as the day of Epiphany and "Three Kings Day."

So, growing up we exchanged gifts not on December 25th, but 12 days later on the 6th of January. We were not a particularly religious family, but this aspect of the Bible was observed at our home. Yes, with grumbling. Grandmother though, she always gave us gifts on Christmas!

Sharing this story with you is about letting you know that it's okay if you don't give me a Christmas gift this year. You can always give me a gift on January 6th. That's a joke.

I started this list a month ago. And I'm late posting it. That's what I'm sharing today. Keep in mind you can give the gift of wine or wine related accessories any time you want. The following gift suggestions would be wonderful to receive on Christmas, for Epiphany, on a Birthday, or just because someone knows how wonderful you are.

*Note: When you gift on Epiphany, you get to take advantage of all those after Christmas sales as stores try to liquidate inventory.


May your end of year celebrations be festive and full of joy. And wine, good wine, great wine, wine with bubbles and friends. Be safe out there.

Cheers!

~.~

Gift Guide 2014 and 2015

1. Wine

Wine makes a wonderful gift and is always my first impulse. I cannot tell you which wine to give as a gift. You know the gift receiver best. You have to find out what kind of wine they appreciate. If you don't know, then give them a wine you appreciate and help them drink it!


Browse this blog for ideas and also visit my Top 10 Under $20 page.

2. Books

This year I've enjoyed several wine and wine themed books. I still read paper books and I also read e-books. If the gift receiver is lacking room for a physical book, then gift them a gift card so they can buy e-books. If they don't have an e-reader, they can easily and for free, download an e-reader program for their cell phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Or buy them a Kindle. Problem solved.

Books about Wine
 

  • Walla Walla, Washington
    Anyone who has visited Walla Walla or is contemplating a visit to Walla Walla wine country needs to read "Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History (American Palate) " by Katie McIntyre Walker, 2014. This book is available in paperback or Kindle format.

    Katie grew up in Walla Walla, and is one of the original Washington Wine Bloggers. She chronicles the history of Walla Walla, the establishment of the town and its growth, from frontier days to the modern heady days of wine. Learn about Walla Walla's historical and modern French influence and the people, especially the people, who have brought the community to where it is today. There are special qualities to the Walla Walla AVA. Katie has shown how much she cares for Walla Walla and the people who live and work there today. A good read. Strongly Recommended.

  • Washington Wine
    This book sits next to my bed. If you know little about Washington wine, "Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide" by Paul Gregutt, 2011, 2nd edition, is a must read. Available in paperback, hardcover and Kindle.

    This book is by the well known wine expert Paul Gregutt. It is an essential guide to Washington State vineyards, regions and wineries. With over 700 wineries in Washington, this guide is sure to be a hit with your wine friends. It is the best book I know of for getting a grasp on what Washington winemakers are doing. You will also get a feel for Paul's wine palate. Recommended.
  • California Wine
    An extremely engaging book. This is a must read book, "The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste" by John Bonne, 2014. Available in hardcover and Kindle.

    I was impressed by the writing style of the author. He opened my eyes and redefined for me what California wine is and is becoming. This book will make you want to visit California wine country. Well done. Strongly Recommended.

  • Oregon Wine - Fiction
    I love a good murder mystery. At home we watch a lot of BBC mysteries. It was my great pleasure to read a couple of books by Portland native, Judy Nedry. My personal sentiment is that they could be adapted for TV or Netflix. Hint, hint.

    "An Unholy Alliance: Emma Golden Mysteries Book 1" by Judy Nedry, 2009. The story takes place in the Willamette Valley, the heart of Oregon wine country. Yes, there's a murder and the protagonist Emma Golden is determined to find out who did it. If she can stay alive. A fun romp through wine country, anyone who has visited this part of Oregon will recognize many of the settings and some of the names. Available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle. Recommended.

    "The Difficult Sister: Emma Golden Mysteries Book 2" by Judy Nedry, 2013. I did not find a link to this book. My copy is in paperback. Contact your local book seller for availability. You'll want this book after reading the first one.

Rex Pickettt.
  • Rex Pickett Books
    After engaging with the author of Sideways, Vertical and Sideways 3 Chile on our #Winemuse podcast, I had to mention his books. Last month he released his newest book of the Sideways trilogy, "Sideways 3 Chile " by Rex Picket, 2014. Available in Kindle Edition only. And a man of his word. Listen to the author here while you shop.

    I have not read book 3 as of this post. Downloading it today.

  • Boo Walker Books
    I've read two of Boo Walkers books in Kindle format. "Lowcountry Punch" and "Turn or Burn". Boo works for Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain. I've casually met him a couple of times at the winery. He's originally from Charleston, SC and that's the setting for the first book. The second book I read starts at Red Mountain then travels to Seattle. These are gritty books about tough men who also have an appreciation for Washington wine. They are fun, quick reads. I could tell just from these two books how Mr. Walker is developing his writing style. The second book, "Turn or Burn" was a lot more graphic and intense. Recommended.

  • The Tipsy Sensei & Other Stories
    For anyone who loves short stories about food and drink, this is the Kindle e-book for you. "The Tipsy Sensei & Others " by Richard Aufrey, 2013. Thoroughly enjoyed his story telling. I've met Richard a couple of times and participated on one of his #winechat twitter Sake tastings. He goes deep. Strongly Recommended.

3. Stemware

As I've advised others for many years, the shape of the wine glass matters to the appreciation and enjoyment of wine. Wine glasses make wonderful gifts for new and experienced wine drinkers. An especially delicate subject, I've broken a couple of my Riedel glasses at home and need to replace them. The wine glass does matter. Last year, I proved to myself how critical is the wine glass, "The Importance of Shape to Wine Appreciation" and strongly encourage you to do the same.

Wine Glasses

  • Pinot Noir
    Ah, I've had some remarkable Pinot Noir wine tastings this year. Truly special wines. Pinot Noir can be a remarkable wine, deserving of contemplation. Pinot Noir, especially Pinot Noir, deserves the finest stemware you can find. At home I use a Riedel XL Pinot Noir glass. This glass has a large bulb, perfect for swirling and releasing Pinot Noir aromas and flavors, it then tapers to focus those aromas and flavors, with a lip that gracefully curves outward. I swear I have felt the aromas of the wine pour out of this glass. I'm not trying to be a wine snob. This glass works. Strongly Recommended.



  • Red Wine
    I believe everyone needs an every day, go to, red wine glass. It should be balanced and not feel like it is about to tip over. It should be light and somewhat delicate. It requires a bulb for swirling and a tapered body to the lip. Which is why I use the Riedel Overture Red Wine glass. For me it works and is not horribly expensive to replace when broken. I've broken two of these this year! They lasted five years and provided a huge amount of satisfaction and wine enjoyment. Strongly Recommended.


  • White Wine
    Honestly, I can't find the white wine glass I use. I received it as a sample and love it. But no one is selling it. It's called a "Chardonnay Swirl" and works well for me. Hunting around, I found something similar with good reviews. It's the Stolzle Revolution Classic White Wine glass. A set of 6 at a good price. And they look sharp too. If you drink white wine I'd give these a swirl. Or just drink your white wine out of your Red Wine Glass! I won't tell.



 4. Stocking Stuffers

One of the cool things I like about wine are all the wine related accessories.

  • Corkscrew
    My wine blogger friends, like me, love pulling corks from the bottle. Seriously. There's a deep pleasure going through the ritual of opening a bottle of wine with a trusty, quality corkscrew. And they make for a good stocking stuffer. Also referred to as a waiters key, you'll want to select my favorite double-hinged corkscrew. They are inexpensive and make the process of pulling a cork out of the bottle a non-issue. A gift that will be used many times. Strongly Recommended.




  • Aerator
    I have a couple of different wine aerators I use at home. They assist in opening up the flavors of a wine, especially big reds. When I am short on time and want to show off a favorite red wine, I use my wine aerator. I've found that the Vinturi Wine Aerator does a very good job at aerating wine. Sized proper for a stocking stuffer. Recommended.


  • Infrared Thermometer
    Temperature, the proper temperature, is important to the appreciation of wine. Often, white wines are served too cold and red wines poured too hot. When I review wine at home I careful to pour at proper temperatures. And never, never pour sparkling wine warm...it must be cold. I have my eyes on a no-contact Infrared Thermometer. It's a point and shoot device which gives you the accurate temperature of the surface of where you point. I have no actual experience with this device, but want one.



Well that's my contribution for Christmas and Epiphany gift ideas. When in doubt, gift a bottle of wine. I'm going to quote myself from December 2010.

"Let's not forget, one of the best wine gifts is a gift of wine, one you personally enjoy. My first impulse is to gift someone a bottle of wine for their birthday, anniversary or house warming...If you have time to browse this site, then you should be able to find something you or your friends will enjoy."

Good luck, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings and most of all Cheers!





Thank You and Happy 8th Anniversary


This time of year gets away from me. Whoosh, like the horse I was riding the summer I spent working with my grandfather when I was 16 years old. One moment all was fine, then I was struggling to stay saddled while the horse tried to scrape me off with tree branches!

I'm hanging on. And enjoying the thrill of the ride as I do. Cheers!

8th Anniversary + Milestones

Last week marked the 8th anniversary of this blog - 12 December 2006 was my first post. Admittedly, I've been most serious about this blog since summer 2010 after attending the Walla Walla, Washington Wine Bloggers Conference. Thank you Zephyr Adventures. I needed that infusion.

I'm gradually improving my photography efforts. A better camera, a fetish for lenses and slowly adding more lighting equipment. And trying to take more time for image composition. My photography friends remain an inspiration. Thank you all.


The last couple of years, infused by wine blogging friends, industry connections, weekly twitter tastings and podcast shows, my palate has been stretched, my tasting vocabulary challenged and a world of wine expanded. It's about more than just Washington wine. Washington wine remains my touchstone, the place where I live, my inspiration. But there is a world of wine out there.

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Social Media has been very, very good to me.

There is no way I could remain engaged with social media and wine without the help of some friends. My friend Tina Morey at Protocol Wine Studio has expanded my wine experiences this year. Together, using #WineStudio we've visited wines of the Hudson Valley, Virginia hard cider, Wines of Italy, and many other wine regions. Thank you Tina.

My wine blogger friend Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like, is the Virginia Wine Blogger. He is the host of Virginia Wine Chat, #VAwineChat where the conversation and wine are all about Virginia. I've had some enlightening Virginia wine experiences this year. More soon on the blog. Thank you Frank.

One of the first twitter tastings I became involved with was #winechat a weekly Wednesday night session about wine. This year I've enjoyed even more #winechat twitter conversations. Tina Morey began the year hosting, and handed over hosting responsibilities to Christina Portz of Just The Bottle. Wow. Just wow. Thank you.

Somehow, three months ago I stumbled into a wine and food pairing group of bloggers. They use the hashtag #winePW for their conversations about food and wine. Love this group. They are passionate, focused and engaged. And I have many new recipes and wine pairing ideas to try at home. I think we're just getting started at making this group sing. Thank you.

Focusing on Washington wine, Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report, hosts a monthly Virtual Wine Tasting on twitter. He selects a bottle of Washington wine each month to taste and tweet about. I've been enjoying these @wawinereport twitter tastings for about 3 years. It's a fun way to make friends, compare palates and learn about wonderful Washington wines. Thank you Sean.


Podcast Show

This year I've been co-hosting a monthly wine related podcast on Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. We have loosely titled our conversations about wine, "#WineMuse Podcasts." I've become the wine "expert" on the podcast, which has forced me to learn even more about the world of wine. What a blast!

Host Linda Reznicek is teaching me by example how to interview. We've spoken with many winemakers from Washington, Oregon, California, New York, Chile, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria and New Zealand. We even had an amazing conversation with author Rex Pickett, of the book and movie Sideways. I have great expectations for 2015. Check out our podcasts and winemaker conversations when you have time. Thank you Linda.

A huge thank you to Wine Sellers, Ltd. for sponsoring many of our #WineMuse podcast shows this year. They supplied us with quality wines from around the world to share with listeners. We kept the retail price below $20 for each show and Wine Sellers, Ltd. did an amazing job of delivering truly excellent wines. They are importers and distributors. Check with them for availability. Thank you!


Quality is Strong

You may have noticed that I don't write negative wine reviews. I mean seriously, who has the time and inclination? There is so much wonderful wine out there, that is what I want to share with readers and listeners. Quality of wine is strong around the world. I've learned that much.

Prosser, Washington Wine Country Tour.

I am sitting on several posts, partially due to time constraints, and also, I want the words to be correct. Some wine related experiences are too big and deserve thought, consideration and introspection. You are on my mind and will be shared.

This holiday month is a crazy time of obligations and celebrations. Still, I hope to get to some of those sitting posts and share them before this year is ended. Where is my holiday wine gifting guide? Oops.

Sleep has been rough this month. I've been wide awake in the early hours. Spending those hours reading and not writing has not helped. If I can get more words and photos posted over the next week, perhaps I can sleep an entire night without waking. When I can't sleep I should write.

Columbia Crest Head Winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca.

Thank you to all of the amazing growers, winemakers and wineries for making your lifetime commitment and passion the making of wine. I will try to impart to my readers some of  your passion. For me, it is no longer enough to enjoy a wonderful bottle of wine. I must know the winemaker and what drives them. My deepest thanks for your openness and the sharing of your passion.



Plus a sincere thank you to my fellow wine bloggers. Our community is scattered around the globe, but we all have in common a deep appreciation for wine. I enjoy your humor, camaraderie, and honesty. Your friendships are deeply appreciated. Let's get together soon for a glass of wine.

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wine of the Week Columbia Crest 2013 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills

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I could not resist posting today about this wonderful wine.

This month I have several forthcoming posts about wine and wine related products. While I am working on a post about Columbia Crest Reserve wines and uber talented Columbia Crest Head Winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, I could not resist first sharing my enthusiasm for this wine.

Did you know that Columbia Crest has a Reserve line of ultra-premium Washington wine?

Sourced from premier vineyard sites and meticulously hand-crafted in their Petit Chai, a "winery-within-a-winery" Columbia Crest Reserve wines represent the height of winemaking skill by Columbia Crest Head Winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca. These are special limited production wines.

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Hand of the Head Winemaker and his Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

Regular readers should know that I am a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc. My participation these last three months with #WinePW a twitter group of mostly food bloggers, has brought a greater focus to my wine and food pairing planning. When I was contemplating opening this special bottle of Columbia Crest Sauvignon Blanc, I spent some time contemplating what food to pair it with. Yes, this post is about the wine, but it is also about how more enjoyable a wine can be with a proper pairing.

Tasting Notes Columbia Crest 2013 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

Color: Pale gold.
Nose: Toasty with ripe mango, passion fruit, mineral quality.
Palate: Tropical, zippy, grapefruit, passion fruit.
Wine expanded after 45 minutes. Honey suckle breeze, serious flavors, solid, dry, citrus with salinity, almost grassy with essence of mandarin on the savory finish. Focused and balanced. Killer finish. Hawaii was on my mind. Wonderful.

Thoughts: Loved this wine. And it was a fantastic pairing with King Crab Salad. I had two leftover King crab legs, so I decided to make a simple salad/appetizer. This turned out to be a wonderful match. The flavors of the crab salad complimented and enhanced the flavors of the wine. Very pleased with both. Strongly Recommended.

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King Crab Salad.

King Crab Salad Recipe:
I decided to class up the presentation by serving this salad in martini glasses.

1. For the dressing I used lime juice, salt and black pepper.
2. Stirred dressing until the salt dissolved.
3. Added olive oil to the dressing and stirred.
4. Added shredded crab meat to the dressing.
5. Added sliced celery to dressed crab and stirred.
6. Layered mixed greens in martini glass first.
7. Added sliced avocado on top of mixed greens.
8. Added the dressed crab meat on top of avocado.
9. Topped with fried wonton.

This wine and crab salad were made for each other. Enjoy.

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Blend: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Closure: Natural Cork
ABV: 13%
Production 75 cases
SRP: $24
Purchase direct from the winery

Visit the Columbia Crest Winery
Hwy 221,
Columbia Crest Dr.
Paterson, WA 99345
Telephone (509) 875-4227
Open Daily 10:00am - 4:30pm

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Columbia Crest Winery, Paterson, Washington.

If you are ever passing through the Tri-Cities where I live, the Columbia Crest winery is about a 40 minute side trip from Richland. They have a very nice facility and an impressive tasting usually available. My last visit was in October during harvest. Lovely time.

Well, we should have a new #winemuse podcast show uploaded this month - look for it. A bunch of wine related posts almost ready to go as well. Thank you for the new twitter follows and positive feedback. It has been a true pleasure and privilege to share so many wonderful wines this year.

Cheers!

Friday, December 12, 2014

#WinePW 7 Butterflied Spicy Prawns and Treveri Sparkling WinePairing @TreveriCellars

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#WinePW Wine Pairing Weekend Holiday Entertaining!

December is holiday festive party time! Our job this month is to create some great sparkling wine and appetizer pairings. If you see this early enough, please join us December 13th at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. We’ll be chatting on twitter using #WinePW about our creative holiday sparkling wine pairings.

We’d love to have you join us! Sparkling Wine and Appetizer Pairings.

~.~

This month I wanted to pair a Washington Sparkling wine with something I enjoy serving. I thought spicy prawns on a stick would be perfect. I chose wild shrimp for this recipe because they taste better. Thankfully, I found some medium sized wild shrimp which were perfect for an appetizer on a stick. Cooking time was minimal and could be done as guests arrive. If you don't like spicy you can omit or reduce the amount of chili used. Actually, I reduced the amount of chili for this recipe and I still sneezed like crazy when I was measuring it. The wine I chose was wonderful.

Recipe Butterflied Spicy Prawns

Ingredients and raw shrimp.

Ingredients
  • Wild Shrimp 1.1 Lbs. about 30 shrimp
  • 1 Tbsp diced garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp diced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground chili (I use a Vietnamese brand, it is very potent)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Package of bamboo skewers
  • Sauces for serving: Sweet Chilli Sauce, Memmi/Soy Sauce, Mustard
Steps
  • Soak bamboo skewers 30 minutes in water. I counted 31 shrimp, so I soaked 31 skewers.
  • Shell and devein shrimp. This is the most time consuming part of the process. You want to remove the vein on the back of the shrimp. Ick. Sometimes you can find shrimp at the stores already cleaned and deveined.
  • Butterfly shrimp. Cut along the back where you deveined the shrimp. Not too deep.
Marinating shrimp - deveined and butterflied.

  • Mix garlic, ginger, chili, 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and salt in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and coat well, marinate shrimp for 30 minutes - 2 hours in the fridge.
Skewered marinated shrimp.

  • Skewer the marinated shrimp. Skewer from tail and up.
  • Fry shrimp in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil at medium high heat for 2-3 minutes per side (or grill). You could use vegetable oil or peanut oil if that is what you like to use. I almost always cook with olive oil.
Frying shrimp on gas range.
 
Once the pan was heated the shrimp did not take long to cook. They only needed about 2 minutes per side. I have a heavy lid for the pan I use, so I rested it on the shrimp to minimize oil splatters and to reduce cooking time. It worked well. I was able to fit about 12 skewered shrimp in the pan once the pan was hot. They cooked quickly.
 
Serving
 
Yes, the shrimp were spicy. My son thought they were too spicy alone. I didn't mind and thought they were a good match with the sweetness of the Treveri Sparkling Riesling.
 
I had sauces on the side for dipping, Sweet Chilli Sauce, Memmi (similar to soy sauce) and Mustard. They took some of the heat off of this appetizer and added variety to the taste.
 
Next time I think I will brush half of the shrimp with Sweet Chilli Sauce and the other half with Memmi or Soy Sauce before serving. That should reduce the heat and avoid needing a dipping sauce - because they would already have the sauce on them.
 
This would be a good dish for any festive celebration or with dinner of Soba noodles or rice. The Treveri Sparkling Riesling was fantastic of course. See my notes below on this sparkling wine.
 
Butterflied Spicy Prawns and Terveri Sparkling Riesling.
 
I wanted to pair the Spicy Prawns with a friendly, slightly sweet wine. I chose one of my favorites, a Washington Sparkling Riesling by Treveri Cellars.
 
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Tasting Notes Treveri Riesling NV

Soft bubbles aplenty, sweet and crisp, apple, honey, creamy mouth, cinnamon, mineral and apple peal on the edge of the tongue, a good match to savory heat. Yum. Recommended.
SRP: $17.
ABV: 12%
RS: 34 grams per liter.

Treveri Cellars
71 Gangl Road
Wapato, WA 98951
Phone (509) 877.0925
Shop Treveri Cellars on Amazon

About Treveri Cellars

Treveri winemaker Juergen Grieb has a degree in winemaking and sparkling winemaking from Germany. From the town of Trier on the Mosel River next to Luxemburg, Juergen learned his craft at Kartheuserhof Winery under the tutelage of Herr Ludwig Breiling and worked with owner Christoph Tyrell. He also worked for the Duhr Sektkellerei in Trier which was a sparkling wine facility. After graduating, Juergen moved to the United States to make wine for an early German held winery on the Wahluke Slope in 1983. Juergen has worked in the Washington State wine industry since then, most recently for a bulk wine producer as the Head Winemaker producing 6 million gallons of still wine.

Juergen and Christian Grieb Treveri Cellars.

Treveri Cellars opened its doors on November 23, 2010 with a mission to put Washington sparkling wine on the map. Since its opening, Treveri wine has been served at White House State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation in New York.

Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Riesling and Mueller-Thurgau, Treveri largely focuses on 100% varietal sparkling wines, and is also launching a reserve tier of sparkling wine.

#WinePW 7 Ideas from our group for you.
Try something new this year!

Don't forget our Twitter chat December 13th at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. We'll be talking about our tips and tricks for the best holiday wine pairings. We'd love to have you join us!   

And, be sure to mark your calendars for January's Wine Pairing Weekend, hosted by Christy at Confessions of a Culinary Diva. Join in the #WinePW 8 conversation on Saturday January 10, 2015.

Related Post: #winePW 6 Shepherds Pie Casserole with Barnard Griffin Syrah Port

Cheers!