“It’s Grk to me!” The White Wines of Croatia

There are relatively few Croatian wines imported into the U.S., according to Wine-Searcher. I suspect this is due to the garagiste nature of the producers as well as the difficulty we all have with the seemingly odd language – to our way of thinking, there is a dire shortage of vowels in the Croatian alphabet!

This wine is a case in point. Made from a local grape called Grk, it is pronounced much like the word ‘Greek’, but with a less drawn out long ‘e’ sound. It accounts for 13% of Croatia’s planted vines and isn’t found outside Croatia.

But no matter how you spell it or pronounce it, I recommend seeking out a bottle or two. As to its expected price – this one was about $53 on the Ikra restaurant’s wine list (Split, Croatia), so I’d guess it sellls for about $20 in local wine shops. What the up-charge will be for importing to the U.S. is the big unknown.


Fun Fact: Grk is unlike 99% of the world’s grape varietals. In the springtime, its clusters of tiny buds contain only female functional parts. Most grape vines produce buds with both a pistil AND a stamen, and are self-fertilizing.  Before Grk vines can produce fruit, an outside male influence is required, along with plentiful birds, bees, butterflies and breezes!


The result? A delicious wine that rewards the taster with a richness balanced by a zesty, zippy-citrus finish. It compliments a wide variety of dishes, from the rich, briny sweetness of lobster, shrimp or crab to the austere challenge of oysters with a squeeze of lemon. Look for a bottle of Grk wine at your favorite upscale wine merchant, then break out the seafood!

Cheers!

Dave, hard at work tasting wines in Croatia!

The Pošip Master – White Wines of Croatia

After several days of tasting wines made from Croatia’s native grapes, their white wines seem better suited for the global market. Crisp, refreshing, low in alcohol and often quite affordable. Perfect for grilled fish or seafood. 

Among the white varietals we discovered is Pošip (PO ship), which consistently earned high scores on my all-important “yum-for-the-money” meter.

The label seen here is the ‘Pošip majstor’. In the Croatian alphabet, the letter ‘j’ is pronounced as a ‘y’, making this wine ‘PO-ship MAY-store’. BTW, Majstor = ‘master’, and it may seem immodestly named, but accurately so – it was at the top of the line among the many Pošip wines we tasted. Cost at the winery was $37.

The label shown here (back label above, front label below) is from athe Stina winery located on Croatia’s fairy-tale island of Brač (rhymes with crotch). ‘Stina’ is Croatian for stone, and since the island of Brač consists of dazzling white limestone, naming a winery after the local geology makes sense. But packaging your wine with a blank label made from rough paper (suggestive of the island’s stone) is the very definition of a white label wine!

kn to USD? Just divide by six!
Stina Winery in Bol, Croatia
The Stina winery is in the old wine cooperative building (1903), built from the island’s famous white stone
The seaside village of Bol, on Brač island.

Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Get More From Your Wine With These Top Tips!

Many of our wines respond favorably to a bit of careful handling, even if your idea of “aging” a wine is to wait until dinner time!

Here are my top tips for getting each bottle of wine to give you double the pleasure everytime you pop the cork:

Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

UNPACKING – Wine doesn’t like sudden temperature change. Though we  avoid shipping wine during periods of extreme temperatures, nobody can avoid the unexpected spike or drop.  If our wine was delivered to you during a period of heat or cold, bring it to room temperature gradually.

SERVING TEMPERATURES – Americans tend to drink white wines too cold and reds too warm. Try the “20-20 rule” – remove your white wines from the refrigerator for 20 minutes before opening, and chill a room-temperature red for 20 minutes before opening (ten minutes more on a hot day). That way, both wines will be near their perfect serving temperature when opened:

  • Sparkling Wines: 40 – 45 degrees
  • White wines: 50 -55 degrees
  • Pink wines: 45 – 50 degrees
  • Red wines: 60 – 65 degrees
  • Port: 65 – 70 degrees

SHOULD I DECANT THIS WINE?– There are only two reasons to pour your wine from its bottle into a decanter or other larger vessel before serving.

  1. Because it’s Young– such wines need some air to allow their various layers to evolve. Most such wines can be jovially sloshed into the decanter, as the objective here is to introduce air, not to baby the wine. Let such wines sit in any sort of clean glass vessel with a wide mouth for at least an hour.
  2. Because its Old! – Old red wines have natural sediment that forms on the side of the bottle. Set the bottle upright about a day before serving to encourage the sediment to fall to the bottom of the bottle. Just before serving, gently move and open the bottle so as not to disturb the sediment. Then pour as slowly as you can, positioning the bottle between your eyes and a bare light bulb or candle, so you can better see when the sediment begins to flow into the decanter – this is the time to stop pouring. The small amount of precious wine left in the bottle is preferable to an unpleasant mouthful of sediment in your last sip!

My Top Tips for Entertaining with Wine

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

WINE AT THE COCKTAIL HOUR – Our wines are popular alternatives to mixed drinks and spirits during the cocktail hour. Wines that work best tend to be big wines with lots of personality that might over-power your carefully-crafted food if served at the table. For a successful evening, go big early and save the nuanced, subtle wines for your meal. The big “Cocktail Hour” wines are high in alcohol, so if you’re preparing a nice meal to follow happy hour, go light on the cocktail wine so your guests can still appreciate your culinary skills!

WINE AT THE TABLE – Wine and food are natural partners, but certain foods go better with certain wines. Click Here to see my archive of wine-friendly recipes. And these basic tips will help showcase your hosting talents.

  • Light, crisp white wines call for similar themes in food. Such wines pair well with foods seasoned with citrus (especially chicken or fish) as well as goat cheese and the (often difficult) vinaigrette on vegetables and salads. With these wines, crisp acidity is the bridge to compatible foods.  These wines include un-oaked Chardonnay, dry Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, most whites of Northern Italy and many others.
  • Full-Bodied White Wines – Such as oaked Chardonnay and Rhône Whites (Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne) and many Iberian whites (Spain/Portugal). These wines beg for richer dishes with some natural sweetness. Effective bridge ingredients include crab and lobster, sauces featuring butter or cream, toasted nuts, garden herbs and spices.

Sparkling and Dry Rosé Wines – These wines are among the most versatile of food wines! Their high acidity pairs nicely with savory dishes, and richer versions compliment rich sauces as well – there’s a famous Champagne house that even serves guests buttered popcorn to showcase their expensive cuvees. Experiment!

Photo by Mc Jefferson Agloro on Unsplash

  • Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are also amazingly food friendly. Bridges include, mushrooms, tuna or salmon (especially grilled) cumin, cinnamon, coriander, vegetables, and anything slow-roasted or braised. Avoid spicy foods, rich cheeses, or fishy fish!
  • Syrah, Zinfandel and Rhône Blends – Look to the wine’s dark fruit as the bridge ingredient to your food. Grilled or smoked red meats often work well, or stews and other brooding dishes. Great with BBQ!
  • Domestic Cabernet and Bordeaux Blends – Often great at the cocktail hour, the oak, tannin and copious alcohol in these wines can prove difficult to pair with food though red meats are always reliable pairings, as are stews, braised meats and dishes with deep, rich flavors. During happy hour, serve with roasted nuts and mild/moderate-flavored, fatty cheeses that won’t fight the low-acidity/high-alcohol but will soften the tannin.
  • Port – Bleu cheese, walnuts and dried fruits – the classic British dessert (often with cigars as well, though I leave that option to you). Also, any dark chocolate is a modern favorite with port!

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
“Discover your new favorite!”

P.S. Expand your wine knowledge while building your collection. Reward and develop your wine curiosity! Scratch that itch!! For more information, Check out my wine club options!

Suggested Wine Pairings for Grass-Fed Beef

Dave the Wine Merchant and Chef Adam Moore discuss the environmental and nutritional benefits of Grass-fed beef, and how the meat’s lower fat content impacts related wine pairings.

Chef Adam Moore creates recipes for Australia’s grass-fed beef & lamb

Pulling on a lifetime of food and wine pairing experience didn’t prepare me for matching wine with lower fat grass-fed beef. And a lifetime of cooking beef didn’t really prepare me for cooking grass-fed beef properly either! I dried it out regularly, and found the results bland and tough. But after this discussion with Chef Adam Moore, I now know the tips and tricks for preparing it perfectly! And read to the end to see how my wine-with-beef recommendations change when drinking wine with grass-fed beef!

Australian Beef and Lamb aims to be completely carbon-neutral by year 2030, and their water usage, land preservation, and greenhouse gas emissions prevention have allowed it to become one of the most environmentally friendly ways of raising cattle. You can find Australian grass-fed beef in grocery stores coast to coast, including Costco, Tops, Wakefern and Savemart. Look for “product of Australia ” on pack or ask your butcher for Australian.

Poolside image - Austrailan grass-fed beef burgers

Here is the transcript from my conversation with Chef Adam, followed by my wine pairing suggestions and links to three of his favorite recipes for low-fat, grass-fed beef!

DAVE: Hi Chef, thanks for your time today. Can you start by explaining to my readers why grass-fed beef is better for us and the environment?

ADAM: Grass-fed beef is a naturally lean source of high-quality protein, with 13 essential nutrients required for good health, including Iron, Zinc, Omega-3 and B vitamins. It has 4 times more iron than chicken. It’s high in protein and low in calories – for example, to get 25 grams of protein (about half your daily requirement) you’d have to consume 3 cups of quinoa (with 665 calories!), or just 4 oz of grass-fed beef tenderloin, which is only 145 calories.

And when grass-fed beef is raised naturally and sustainably like it is on Australia’s abundant open pasturelands, you can feel good about choosing a high-quality protein that’s better for you and better for the environment.

DAVE: Grass-fed beef as a category sounds like a good thing for all of us. How is grass-fed beef from Australia any different than any other grass-fed beef? Can’t we buy from a domestic source and eliminate the emissions from the trans-pacific crossing?

ADAM: For some, it’s the choice of grass-fed beef from livestock that freely graze on open, natural grasslands and pastures for their whole life. For others, the nutritional benefits of lean grass-fed beef as a good source of protein and iron; and lower fat content is a plus.

For many more, it’s the ‘as nature intended’ flavor of a clean, green product. Care for our animals and the environment are at the core of what we do. Our ranchers pride themselves on being stewards of the land, with sustainability as a priority. As a country, we set a high bar for environmental standards, and our grass-fed beef speaks volumes about the results. In fact, one of our latest goals is to be carbon neutral by 2030. And we are well on our way to reaching it. In the last 14 years, we’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 56%.

DAVE: We have a few cattle ranches in California too. When I buy your Australian beef, does it offset the ecological benefits of grass-feeding when it is transported across the Pacific? I mean, I know the crossing has much lower impact than a trans-continental truck ride, but when we’re looking for every sustainable advantage possible…

ADAM: Not all Dave. Actually, shipping is the most environmentally friendly form of transport. Less than 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, water, and energy come from transport.

DAVE: Really?! I knew it was low but not THAT low! Do you have a source for that?

ADAM: Of course! It’s from recent research conducted by the The Journal of Cleaner Production and The Journal of Agricultural Systems.

DAVE: OK Chef, let’s get to the meat of the matter (sorry) – your cooking tips!

In my experience, grass-fed beef tends to be less flavorful and easier to dry out than grain-fed or even grain-finished beef. What tips can you share with our readers to make sure they have a great meal and choose grass-fed beef on a regular basis?

ADAM: Well Dave, funny you should mention that. You know that journey to America we were just talking about? It actually improves our already tasty grass-fed beef! The fresh meats are immediately vacuum-packed after processing, and while on the water our temperature-controlled meat begins the 14-day wet-aging process which improves tenderness and flavor quality relative to domestic versions.

But I also have a few tips when cooking grass-fed beef vs. grain-fed that can certainly help:

  1. First, about an hour before cooking, take the meat out of your refrigerator and allow it come up to room temperature before cooking. This helps to keep it from drying out.
  2. Because grass-fed beef is lower in fat, it cooks up to 30% faster than grained beef. So my #1 tip is don’t be afraid to pull the meat off the heat well before your instincts tell you it’s ready!
  3. When grilling, handle lightly, flipping only once.
  4. And finally, let the meat rest for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting to keep it nice and juicy. If unsure of the proper cooking time, take advantage of our handy ‘steak mate’ tool at www.trueaussiebeefandlamb.com. Just plug in the details and we’ll do the rest.
Dave at the Wine Shop

DAVE: Thanks Adam, those are some helpful tips! As a wine merchant, I can’t let you off the hook without asking about your favorite wine pairing for this lower-fat beef.

ADAM: Now Dave, you’re the wine expert, I just serve up the delicious food! What wines do you suggest? We’d love to pass along your recommendations to our followers.

DAVE: (Laughing) I’ll be glad to. In general, I like to make general recommendations rather than specific wines. That way, people can find delicious pairings even though specific wines may not be available.

REDS: Though beef and Cabernet Sauvignon are a classic pairing, it’s only true because the tannins in Cabernet-based reds is a nice foil to the fat in grain-fed or grain-finished finished beef. Because grass-fed beef is 30% lower in fat, I’d recommend Cabernet only to its biggest fans. Most others will find pleasure in lighter reds such as Pinot Noir, the Sangiovese-based wines of Chianti and Tuscany, or the Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. But any lighter-bodied red will pair nicely. Shop my current portfolio of red wines here, or while we’re branching out from the old standards…

ROSES: My regular club members and readers may be tired of my mantra that dry Rose wines are among the most food-friendly on the planet! Especially when paired with lean grass-fed beef served with a chimichurri or salsa or other bit of heat, a dry Rose will outshine most other pairings. Plus, a dry Rose is lower in alcohol and calories – an appealing benefit for our health-conscious times. Shop my current portfolio of dry Roses here.

WHITE WINES: Pairing beef with any white wine is not my favorite idea. Though wine generally improves any savory dish, my white wine and beef recommendations are only for those wine fans who only drink white wine! So my advice here is to go big and bold – a CA Chardonnay, for example, or a wine from the Rhone Valley featuring Viognier, Roussanne or Marsanne. Shop my current portfolio of white wines here.

And of course, as always, much depends on the method of cooking and side dishes! Click here for my wine pairings to go with three of Chef Adam’s dishes featuring Australian Grass-Fed Beef:

Chef Adam’s “Better Burger” featuring Aussie Grass-fed Beef

Aussie Strip Steak Sandwich

Caesar Salad with Warm Australian Beef

Cheers!

My Wine Recommendations for 6 Soups You’ll Love!

Carrot-Ginger soup from Good Stock
The Carrot-Ginger Soup from Good Stock calls for an off-dry or fruit-forward white wine.

In the wine world, there’s a common belief that wine makes pretty much everything taste better. With the exception of sugary breakfast cereals and one or two other dishes, I’ve found this old trope is generally true.

But soup? Does wine improve on something as light and ethereal as basic broth? I’d been meaning to answer this question with my soup-and-wine recommendations for ages. I just needed a little push to get going.

Then out of the blue Good Stock asked if I’d be interested in writing about their soups, and now here we are. Good Stock is a young company with a real human at its core, a Louisianan in New York – Ben LeBlanc. He describes them as a modern company doing things the old fashioned way, and by that, he means their fresh-frozen soups are the real deal. They’re made from ingredients any home cook would have in their pantry, with no lab-generated stabilizers, flavor-enhancers, brighteners, or color-savers.  Check out the ingredients on the back of their Carrot-Ginger Soup package (duplicated in the caption for those with eyesight challenges):

Good Stock ingredients
Carrot & Ginger Soup Ingredients: Water, Carrots, Onions. Less than 2% of Black Pepper, Garlic, Ginger, Kosher Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Agave Syrup.

A quick topical detour here about Good Stocks – note in the image above how they have a completely realistic definition of serving size. On each of their soups, the entire 16 oz package is shown as a single serving, and the Nutrition Facts section reflects this.

In this sense, they are way better than, say, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, who seem to believe there is more than one serving in each of their pints (whaaa???) or than either company in Battle Creek, whose nutrition facts reflect a scant amount of cereal constitues a single serving. It’s more like a large bite, really!

For example, the Nutrition Facts in the image above shows a calorie count of 140 for the entire 16-oz package, not some unrealistic (and deceptive) fraction thereof. That said, for anyone watching their sodium intake, I’d scan the sodium content on each package, as they tend to be quite high, as is common with soups. One final thought – I loved that I could tear open these containers without the need for scissors – nice package design!

OK, back to pairing wine with soups. My pairing suggestions are written for each of the six types of soup listed below, not just those from Good Stock. Also, while each of Good Stock’s soups was delicious, each one was even better when enhanced by some additional ingredients from my kitchen – a bit of grated cheese, crouton, popcorn or fresh herbs (and of course, by wine).

Here are my suggested wine pairings for each of the six types of soup I tasted:

  • Carrot & Ginger Soup: (140 calories, 53% DV for Sodium) The sweetness of caramelized carrots is offset by a nice pop of ginger spice that makes wine pairing a bit more difficult.

WHITE WINES: Reach for an off-dry Riesling (Kabinett – Auslese), an un-oaked Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and other old-world white wines that lean towards the richer side of the spectrum. A Petit Chablis was also a nice match!


 

Roasted Tomato Soup
  • Roasted Tomato Soup: (180 calories, 43% of DVfor Sodium) By roasting the tomatoes, Good Stock achieves a deeper, more caramelized richness to the bright flavor of tomatoes.

The soup is good on its own, but it enjoyed a significant boost in pleasure delivery when enhanced with a splash of grated Parmesan and some fresh basil. Crouton or a grilled cheese sammy would have been the crowning touch, had I not wanted to avoid the oven on a hot summer day.

The wine-pairing challenge here was the natural acidity of the tomatoes (wine pairing pro tip – pair acidic foods with acidic wines) argues for one element in your wine, while the sweet/caramelized elements from the roaster argue for another (wine pairing pro tip – pair sweet foods with sweet or fruity wines).

WHITE WINES: Reach for the crisp, aromatic whites of Austria and Germany as the answer here – Gewurztraminer, Riesling or Pinot Blanc will amplify the soup’s tomatoey deliciousness.


 

Roasted Onion Soup
  • Roasted Onion Soup: (190 Calories, 61% of DV for Sodium) To me, onion soup is predominated by sweetness from the caramelized onions. So it seems oxymoronic to add sugar to the stock, and perhaps that was why this soup was sweeter than I prefer. Or maybe it was the copious amount of salt, which amplifies one’s perception of sweetness. Either way, this soup was greatly enhanced by the addition of two ingredients from my kitchen that can’t be added to a frozen soup – a piece of toast placed on the surface then topped with grated Gruyere and popped under the broiler until bubbled and browned!

RED WINES: This wine stands up to a fruit-forward red wine such as Barbera, Beaujolais, Lambrusco and cool-climate Zins.

ROSES: It also works well with richer versions of the ever-versatile dry Rose, one of the most flexible of food-friendly wines.

WHITE WINES: The herbal notes, the vermouth and the browned cheese pull this dish towards full-bodied whites such as a rich Chardonnay, an aged Corvina (Gavi) and most whites from Southern Italy and Spain. Other standouts will be Viognier from a warmer climate and other Southern French varietals.

SPARKLING: Sparkling wines are known for their affinity to salty foods, and the intense saltiness of this dish makes them an attractive alternative here. I’d avoid the recently popular non-dosage versions in favor of richer/fuller versions – look for those with a heavier proportion of red grapes in the blend, such as those from Montagne de Reims.


 

Coconut Corn Chowder
  • Coconut Corn Chowder: (390 calories, 61% DV for sodium) In addition to the traditional corn chowder ingredients, this soup included a nice pop of mild heat from Poblano peppers and a hint of Jalapenos as well, nicely offset by the sweetness of the corn and coconut. It was one of my favorite soups for the season, as it uses summer ingredients and can be served cold. But I like it hot.

WHITE WINES: A lightly oaked Chardonnay works beautifully here, (Chablis, again!) as well as rich wines like Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and the white wines of Southern Italy and Spain.

What About Rose? All day! When made in the dry or slightly off-dry style, this versatile, food-friendly wine tends to be low in alcohol and flatters both the heat and sweetness of this dish.


 

Roasted Mushroom Soup
  • Roasted Mushroom Soup: (320 Calories, 50% DVfor Sodium) This soup proudly offers flavors dominated by the earthy notes of roast mushrooms. When I make this at home, I like the mushrooms roasted to a darkness that brings out the natural umami. And to me, a mushroom dish without Thyme is like Romeo without Juliet (and we alll know how THAT ended). The soup popped up a notch or two when I added some, and other candidates for enhancement include Cardamom, fresh nutmeg (trace amount), Cumin, Tarragon or Sage.

WHITE WINES: The earthy richness calls for wines offering similar flavor profiles, such as Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, an Etna Bianco or Vermentino.

ROSE: Opt for a richer version of dry Rose – one with a darker color will better pair with the richness of the soup.

RED: I’d happily pair most reds with this rich soup, though I’d be very, very partial to Pinot Noir – mushrooms being one of its greatest combinations. Sangiovese also works well, as does a Langhe Nebbiolo!


 

Lentil Soup
  • Lentil Soup: (310 Calories, 59% DV for Sodium) This version of Lentil Soup was quite light and thin vs the mushy style made popular by split pea soup. This dish has bright flavors of lemon and herbs that make it a nice summer option. Wines that work well with this bright lentil soup include:

WHITE WINES: Lighter whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Moschofilero and Albarino/Alvarinho will enhance the wine’s lemony citrus and herbaceousness. Other pairing candidates include Chenin Blanc, Chablis and the aromatic whites of Austria/Germany.

ROSES & SPARKLING: The acidity of these wines will bridge nicely to the citrus in the soup, and I’d opt for lighter-bodied versions of both of these styles of wine.

Dave at the Wine Shop

Cheers!

Dave

Love Hot Sauce? Let Lola’s Spice Things Up!

To add the ZIP one wants in a hot sauce, Lola’s relies on lime juice instead of vinegar, bringing great flavor in addition to acidity.

As a guy ‘of a certain age’, I grew up deprived – there was only one hot sauce (McIlhenny’s) I knew of. Then I went to college in San Diego and discovered Crystal. About a decade later, hot sauce started to explode, at least on the grocery store shelves that I saw. In came Tapatio, Cholula and many others until finally, Sriracha burst onto the scene in the early 2000’s, leading to a growth of 150% – faster than any other food category.

Sriracha became popular because it delivers a punch of heat, for sure, but also exotic flavors. There was more to it than just a melt-your-face-off experience – it actually tasted good.

At the same time, another segment of the market saw equally expolosive growth. This group of devotees was more interested in delivering heat than flavor. These heat seekers homed in on hot sauces based on their Scovil Scale – a once obscure measurement of heat that was suddenly on everyone’s lips. Or should I say, “on everyone’s burning lips”? Chicken wings began getting hotter, as did sauces of all sorts, and “how hot can you go?!” became the challenge between friends who enjoy enduring pain together, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.

Lola’s Original Hot Sauce adds interest to a cheese omelette

Which brings me to another hot sauce with roots in Southeast Asia – Lola’s.

The Changing Face of Hot Sauce

In the Philippines, “Lola” refers affectionately to a Grandmother. Lola’s hot sauces were created by a Philippina who has been referred to as ‘Lola’ by all her friends and family since the birth of her grandchildren. Her home made hot sauce had been around for ages, shared with friends and family. Her sauce was treasured for its organic ingredients and reliance on lime juice instead of vinegar for the acidity a hot sauce needs to deliver. The lime juice is an expensive alternativeto but it brings flavor as well as acidity to the sauce.  

You wouldn’t be reading this now if Lola hadn’t shared her secret recipe with her son in 2015. He was so enthusiastic about the product he eventually quit his day job to promote Lola’s sauce. A restaurant ensued (Called Lola’s, naturally – 4.5 stars on Yelp), and sales have enjoyed an upward trend since day one (thanks to demand for home delivery during COVID).  Watch the short origin story here:

To see Lola’s short origin story, click on the image above

What Wine Goes Well With Lolas?

While most hot sauces overwhelm wine, Lola’s feature a heat that subsides quickly, allowing for a broader range of pairings than the traditional limitations allow. The trad guidance goes “Sweet with Heat”, so to counter a dish heaping with Scovil points one needs to reach for wines so sweet they’re practically dessert.

While Lola’s sauces afford the food lover a wider range of wine pairing satisfaction, they would be wise to stay away from high-alcohol wines and most red wines, as a general rule. The exception being soft, low-tannin reds with a fruit-forward profile that are best served slightly chilled. Add to those the traditional aromatic white wines (Riesling, Muscat/ Moscato, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris…) and you have a wide array of enjoyable pairings ahead!

Need help thinking of recipes that feature Lola’s Hot Sauces? Look no further than right here.

Dave at the Wine ShopCheers! 

Dave the Wine Merchant

Game Box Wines – An Idea for Our Times?

The new package from Game Box Wines features a sense of fun at every turn.

Remember when wine was fun and nothing more? For many of us, that was likely in our early days of discovery, before we bought wine according to score, prestige, investment value or what food it paired with. We just bought wine to try on the way out of the grocery store. And you know what? We enjoyed most of them.

I thought of those days, long ago for me, when I got an email about the introduction of a new box wine. Wait, wait, wait! Before you stop reading, give me another 10 seconds please – here’s why I think the new Game Box Wines are good for our industry, and the right product for our current times:

  • It’s the environment. Duh. – The #1 contributor to wine industry emmissions is the production and transportation of glass bottles. As much as I LOVE the tradition and romance and sound of a popping cork, the future belongs to alternative packaging such as boxed wines. The industry refers to them as “Bag-in-Box” (or BiB), as it’s actually the mylar bag and the one-way valve that weighs just ~5% of a bottle.
  • Wine Preservation. – As with all boxed wine, the package protects a wine from oxidation for weeks instead of days. And it does it wihtout any expensive technology, gas cannisters that need replacing, or valuable counter space. And speaking of storage space, the box requires far less than the 4 bottles it contains.
A small sample of Game Box Wines’ sense of fun, inspired by childhood cereal boxes. Click for more.
  • Fun. – When a wine doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s more approachable. And that is key to attracting new fans. And Game Box achieves this in spades, with a box design inspired by childhood memories of fun cereal boxes. To get a taste of the humor just click the image, above.
  • Quality! – We’re not talking about the Franzia crowd here. Or if we are, we’re talking about the slice of that vast market who are ready for an upgraded wine experience. On the Quality-Price grid, I put Game Box in the same quadrant as Black Box Wines, which has fairly well dominated the space for over 20 years now. The wine inside the package is reportedly sourced from “quality grapes from appellations adjacent to Napa Valley”, which I suspect to be Sonoma, Lake County (already a significant source of quality grapes used in Napa-designated wines, just below the 15% requirment), and perhaps including the lesser vineyards in Solano and Yolo counties.

Let’s keep an eye on Game Box Wines. Of course, there are many hurdles between today and their eventual success in this hyper-competitive, insanely regulated industry. But I have a feeling the minds behind this new product will weather the storm.

Dave the Wine Merchant - Logo

Summer Recipe: Easy Bruschetta on the Grill

Up your summer Bruschetta game!

Grilling your bread instead of toasting in an oven adds a smoky element. And wiping the hot toasts with sliced garlic both cooks and softens its harsher flavors.

Prep/Cooking Time: About 20 minutes, start to finish! Serves 4-6 (or a main course for one!)

Ingredients

  • Sweet Baguette
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes (mixed colors), roughly chopped
  • Big fistful of Basil leaves, rolled into a cigar shape and sliced into thin strips
  • Really good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large clove unpeeled garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • One med-hot grill

Procedure

Once ingredients are assembled, light your grill.

While waiting for your grill to hot up, slice the baguette on the bias (Right), then prepare the tomatoes, basil and garlic (below).

In a bowl, combine and lighlty toss:

  • The chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 of the basil
  • A very generous splash of olive oil
  • The Balsamic
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Brush or spray each slice of baguette with a thin layer of olive oil and place on the hot grill. Monitor closely – those shown here are too crisp/overdone. The goal is to get a bit of flavor and an outer crispness with a chewy center. After flipping, immediately swipe the hot toast once or twice with the raw garlic. Each garlic slice will last for half a baguette, depending on how much garlic you like.

Once toasted and rubbed with garlic, place them on a serving plate and spoon the bowl contents onto the toasts. Top with remaining sliced Basil. Test one or two and adjust seasoning, make sure the wine works, open one or two more bottles and keep testing until the perfect pairing is found. Once all your testing is complete, serve both remaining bruschetta immediately. (kidding)

Wine Pairings

The acid in this dish (tomatoes, vinegar) will defeat most red wines, so I recommend sticking with crisp summer wines – light reds slightly chilled, dry Rosés and crisp whites – exactly like those you’ll find here

Cheers!

Book Review: Sobramesa, a Memoir of Food & Love…

Sobramesa: soap opera meets food journey.

Josephine Caminos Oria provides the reader with unfettered access to her every thought, doubt, insecurity and whim as she takes them through the period of her adult life right before, during and after her breakup with a boyfriend of ten years, her first love and on through her subsequent romance with the man she eventually marries (with a few stops in between).

This sort of soap opera has strong appeal among many. However, after the book was initially described to me, I looked forward to enjoying a book that focused on the Latin American tradition of Sobramesa – the important ritual of sitting around the table after a meal is finished, leaving the dishes and TV and electronic devices until after conversation, family decisions, gossip, stories, arguments and tall tales have all been shared. 

This idea was of particular importance to me, because I live in a divided household when it comes to this topic. My wife describes herself as “a shark who has to keep moving or it dies“, which means clean-up begins shortly as the last bite is swallowed. Whereas I… ‘Sobramesa me, baby!‘ I’m happy sitting at the table until the last glass of wine is empty, chatting about whatever comes up.

While Camino Oria salts her novella with her great family food traditions and includes a recipe with each chapter, her soap opera takes the starring role in every chapter. Should you be looking for a tale of juicy romance that features Argentinian food traditions as a supporting cast, your money will be well spent here.

Buy it through Goodreads