Rosé All Day, 2020

Image from Wine Folly, a great source for fun wine info!

The popularity of dry Rosé continued its upward trend in 2019 and now accounts for over 19% of all U.S. wine sales among both men and women.  But today’s demand surge comes after many decades of winelovers shunning the category.

And I’m agey enough to know why! I clearly recall the White Zinfandel craze of the late 70’s and early 80’s – a sweet wine designed to appeal to a generation raised on Colas and KoolAid. The wine was a huge success for a decade, but became anethema to serious wine lovers as they discovered dry Rosés they could take to the table, just as they do in the old world wine regions, where Rosé  is a staple in every seaside village in Europe.

The current Rosé boom can be attributed largely to the efforts of one man, Sacha Lechine, the son of Russian wine writer Alexis Lechine, an influencer in his day and owner of Château Prieuré-Lichine, control of which was turned over to Sacha at the young age of 27.

When Sacha decided to make the greatest Rosé in the world in 2006, he introduced the world to the first Rosé ever to be priced at $100 a bottle (Garrus). Garrus Rosé led Sacha’s more affordable line up – in descending order of price – Les Clans, Rock Angel and Whispering Angel (which now sells for about $20 a bottle), the latter having been dubbed “Hamptons Water” for its popularity there. I’ve made inquiries as to whether Hamptonians actually use it for bathing, but have no reply at the time of this writing. But it’s easy to see how the wine was so named – Sacha’s Rosés are dry and light enough to drink all day, a foundation of the current style of Rosé that has become so popular.

Sadly, Sacha’s wines are so easily found they no longer qualify for my portfolio of interesting wine ‘discoveries’. But with popularity comes higher prices, and many of the following Rosés are even more affordable than his Sotto Voce Angel!

As evidenced by the five arrows that define the family seal (on this bottle, you’ll see it on the necker) this wine is from the Rothschild family (the Lafite side of the family, not the Mouton side). The logo has been in use since  the mid 1800’s, and represents the five siblings that inherited the family business – as the deathbed story goes, the patriarch called the family together during his final days and asked each of the siblings to break a bundle of five darts. When they were unable to do so, he proceeded to break each of the five darts separately, illustrating that the family’s strength was in staying together.  

The Los Vascos is a wine I don’t carry, as it’s commonly available in distribution and doesn’t qualify for my “Discovery” status, so there is no link provided here. But I endorse it as an affordable and delicious Rosé. You can generally find it for about $15. 

From Rothschild’s Chilean property, this blended wine is predoiminantly Cabernet – a grape I don’t care for when made as a Rosé. This wine is a delicious exception! It’s refreshing crispness makes me wonder if acid was added, as Cabernet is not known for high acidity, but manual additions of acid during the winemaking phase tend to leave a wine with slight traces of a flavor that reminds me of children’s aspirin or vitamin C, elements I did not detect here. Or perhaps its deliciousness is from the blend of the more traditional Rhone varieites that make up the balance. Either way, don’t question it, just twist off the screwcap and enjoy!

Bucklin Rose of Old Hill Ranch, $23.99

The Bucklin Rose of Old Hill Ranch is a blend of Zinfandel (62%) and the classic grapes of the Southern Rhone – Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise (38%) . The vineyard has existed since the 1860’s, and owned by the Bucklin family since 1981.

The grapes are harvested early (a sign the Rosé is an intentional product and not just the by-product of red wine produciton), whole cluster pressed, then the juice is fermented cold using indigenous yeast and finished dry. The wine is very pale in color, beautifully aromatic and crisp on the finish. Alc. 12.8%. 282 cases produced.

The Bucklin family history is rich and colorful and deserves more space than I have here. So for the curious with a bit of time on their hands, you can read more here.

Five Roses Rosato, $16.99

The Wine – A field blend of Negroamaro (NEH groh ah MAH dho, sort of) and Malvasia (MAHL vah SEE ah)  from Southern Italy. The Five Roses Rosato was first produced in 1943 – the first rosé bottled in Italy and the first Italian rosé to be sold in the U.S. For several generations, each of the de Castris had five children, just by chance, hence the name ‘Five Roses’.  This is their most famous wine internationally.

The Winery -Leone de Castris began exporting in the early 1800’s, nearly 140 years after the company was founded in 1665. Visitors can enjoy the exporter’s gourmet restaurant and luxury hotel, Villa Donna Lisa.  Leone de Castris produces only Apulian products, such is their commitment to the Puglia region of southern Italy (“the heel of the boot”) – a region made famous for its food and wine by the famous A-16 retaurants in San Francisco and Oakland. Their mission is to make the highest-quality Apulian products possible – in the land where they were born and raised.

Malabaila, Italian Sparkling Rose, fermented in bottle! $19.99

This is an example of what the Italians can do with sparkling wine outside of Prosecco.  From the Alba region, consisting of 100% Nebbiolo (which makes sense, right?  Pinot is the dominant grape in most sparkling Rosés, and Nebby has similar acidity and body, so…).  Fermented in bottle on the lees for 48 months.  I got the LAST of this wine from the distributor.  Woot! Just 8 bottles left in stock.

Tasting notes – Crisp red fruits blend with rich stone fruits and finish with an herbal note.  The lack of any dosage means this is a bone-dry, crisp and mouth-wtering wine,T so don’t be afraid to pair it with food! Try a bottle before they’re gone!
Provence Rosé “Le Provencal” $19.99

And this final Rosé brings us full circle – back to the Provence region of France where Sacha Lechine started the whole dry Rosé movement over a decade ago.

The Wine
Food-friendly, crisp and refreshing, and with moderate alcohol (12.5%), it even comes in the distinctive bottle shape French Rosé producers nicknamed ‘the corset’ – what’s not to love! Classic Provence Rosé – Strawberry, peach and citrus, with a zingy crispness and added interest from the wine’s native minerality.
 
The Producer
Established in Vidauban in 1922, the Mâitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise today controls 600 hectares of vines in the heart of the Appellation Côtes de Provence. Located on the limestone foothills of the Maures Massif in the southern Var (between the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps) the terroir benefits from the Mediterranean climate so beneficial for traditional southern varietals such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan and Rolle. The various vineyard parcels are vinified separately, allowing for more character and complexity in the winemaker’s final blend.
Dave the Wine Merchant
“Discover your next favorite!”
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

Quote : Audrey Hepburn

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
Audrey Hepburn

Main Course, Shrimp in Sriracha-Butter

Sriracha (Se Racha).  I’m amazed at how quickly the American palate has adopted this spicy-sweet condiment from Thailand.  It is named after the coastal city of Si Racha, where it was first produced to accompany the many seafood dishes such a town is generally known for.  Its use has grown, and it is now a popular addition to any dish that can use a bit of a kick, which in my book, is just about anything that comes after the breakfast cereal.

It’s a simple paste, with just five ingredients – ground chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt.  We found a recipe on line and had it  jarred and labeled within several hours, but you can find it for a few bucks in most good grocery stores.

Here, we use it to form a simple compound butter that is used to flavor this simple fish dish.  Hey, let’s make it even easier and skip making a compound butter, which has to sit overnight, and just add the sauce to the melting butter in the… but I get ahead of myself.  Just read the recipe.  It’s easy as pie.  Easier even.  A lot easier.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp butter at room temperature
2 Tbsp Sriracha
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 – 6 good-sized shrimp per person, peeled (the shrimp, not the persons) with tail left on.
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped

Preparation

Using a fork, combine butter and Sriracha in a small bowl until well mixed.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes, add a little of the butter (to test) – if it smokes, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for about 20-30 seconds before adding the butter.  When well melted, return to heat and add the chopped garlic, cooking just until fragrant, then add the shrimp – don’t crowd the pan, be sure each little bug is in full contact with the pan.

Just before the shrimp turn fully pink, add the lemon zest, mint and basil.  Toss to coat.  When shrimp are done and herbs have wilted, serve immediately.  We like this with good side dishes of Jasmine Rice or Quinoa cooked in chicken or veggie broth and a salad dressed with rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame oil.

My Recommended Wine Pairing

The heat in this dish requires something with some sweetness and lower acidity.  Relax, relax, I’m not talking about disgusting cheap stuff that’s going to shred your cred with your date, friends, spouse or family.  It’s all about balance here, and with your tongue dancing with spice, you’ll be begging for a wine with these characteristics.  Look for a German Riesling (preferably Spätlese or Auslese) or a muscat/Moscato.  An off-dry Rosé would also be nice, but avoid the dry ones, I think they will clash quite badly with this dish.  To pull the dish more towards a drier wine, amp the garlic and turn down the Sriracha.  

Cheers!

Dave “the Wine Merchant”

Adapted from Bon Apetit, though altered to make the dish far more wine compatible.  See their original recipe here.

Grilled Salmon with Mushrooms, Bacon and Oyster Sauce

A member recently asked me “Why don’t you suggest more salmon recipes with your pinot noirs?  That’s the classic pairing!”  Yeah but…as with any rule of thumb, blind application can be disastrous.  Salmon is an oily fish, which is why it’s so good for us.  But that oil fights with big pinots, leaving an almost tin-like aftertaste that is offensively unpleasant.  What to do?  Two things – first, grill the salmon, the caramelization reduces this interaction.  Second, select a wine that leans towards the austere side – Burgundy, New Zealand, Oregon, Sonoma Coast, cooler years in Russian River or Carneros.  Then you’ll have a perfect pairing!  (other wine considerations, Riesling, Albarino, Vermentino, or bigger dry or off-dry Rosés)

Ingredients (serves 4)
1+ lb Salmon fillet(s)
Salt and pepper to taste
5 Slices bacon cut into 1” squares
1 Cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley
3 Tbsp Chinese oyster sauce
½ Cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped parsley or chervil

Procedure
Prepare your grill for direct heat (coals directly underneath the fish).  Season the salmon with olive oil, salt and pepper and return to refrigerator until ready to grill (it’s almost always best to grill fish cold, but meat at room temperature).

In a bowl, combine the oyster sauce and the chicken broth. Set aside.  Heat a heavy sauté pan over medium high heat for two or three minutes, then add the bacon.  When crispy but not too dark, place bacon in a mesh strainer to drain the fat, and reserve 1-2 Tbsp of the fat in the pan.

To the pan add the shiitake mushrooms and sauté until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the parsley. After 1-2 minutes add the minced garlic and cook another 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the oyster sauce/chicken broth mixture and reduce over medium-high heat for several minutes.  Keep warm.

Mop your hot charcoal grill with oil and then quickly put the salmon on the grill – if you have skin on your salmon fillets, place the non-skin side down first, cooking for a long minute before flipping to the skin-side down.  Grill the salmon until done to your liking – I like to use a fairly high heat so the skin gets crispy and the center is still pink and moist.  Note, salmon often takes longer to cook than is often thought.

Meanwhile, back on your stove top – crumble the bacon into the sauce and combine.  Top each salmon fillet with sauce and garnish with chopped parsley or chervil.

Suggested Pairings – Wild rice pilaf and grilled spring peas tossed with extra virgin olive oil and good sea salt.  Pure heaven!

Nacho Mama Surprise – Guest post

Part of my meandering career path found me in Chicago for several years, where I came across a direct marketing wiz named Elizabeth “Sunny” Heyer.   Little did I know she was also known as Naco Mama.  Here’s why.

Here’s a different take on nachos . . .  I used to make this when I lived in Boulder . . .from leftovers initially.  Take a baking dish and line with refried beans – a thin layer . . . then make ‘stripes’ across the beans using everything and anything that’s left over.  We started with a small piece of steak from a doggy bag, sliced, it made our first stripe.  Then we laid down some slices of leftover chicken next to it, then a stripe of sour cream, then a stripe of salsa, then some chopped veggies (any kind will do), and then… you get the drift!! One layer was different types of olives, then peppers – roasted or chili . . . depends on your taste. Once we added a stripe of rice and topped the whole dish with shredded jack cheese.  It’s fast, easy and you can put anything in it . . . I added cubed tofu to the rice and no one was the wiser – given that it was a meat eating, sprout stompin’ crowd.

Pop it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes and serve with chips on the side . . . or spoon it directly into the mouth. . .  I named it ‘Nacho Momma Surprise’  and it became a huge hit at parties . . .

I always had it with wine. . . but it goes well with beer too!

Thanks Sunny!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion tart with anchovy & olive)

File:Pissaladiera.jpg
Image from Wikipedia - click for entry

To those following my recipes (thanks Mom!), I apologize for including onion tart recipes two months in a row. But as I flipped through our old copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” this particular version evoked a visceral reaction (i.e., hunger) and a memory (i.e., fond) of a 1996 bicycle tour through Provence.

Perhaps it was the beautiful scenery, or maybe the number of calories we burned every day, but by lunch time I was game to try anything I could recognize on the menu.  In what may be a male extension of never asking for directions, I equally refused to break out the translation book to interpret French Menus – I figured an occasional culinary surprise might make the trip more memorable.  I mean, what could possibly be so bad?

Except for ancovies, which I hated.  Until this little tart came along, gave me a seductive wink, and took me for a ride I’ll never forget.  If prepared properly, the anchovy adds a barely discernable enhancement you can’t quite identify as “fishy”.

A very wine-friendly dish, as long as the wine is not too tannic – the saltiness from the olives and ancovies only serves to enhance the roughness.  Otherwise, pair this with most any medium-to-full bodied white or light-to-medium bodied red.  Avoid dry rosé wines at all cost, unless you feel you deserve a heavenly experience!

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Lbs chopped onion
  • 1 Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, and 1/2 bay leaf, tied in washed cheesecloth)
  • 2 Cloves unpeeled garlic
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pâte Brisée Tart Crust, partially cooked (recipe follows, below)
  • 16 Stoned (pitted) black olives – the dry Mediterranean type
  • 1 Pinch of ground cloves
  • 8 Anchovy fillets, whole

Preparation
Cook the onions very slowly in the olive oil with the herb bouquet, garlic and salt for about an hour.  Discard the bouquet and garlic.  Stir in ground cloves and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the onions in the pastry shell. Arrange anchovies over the onions in a sun-burst shape.  Distribute the olives evenly across the tart and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Bake in top third of oven for 10-15 minutes or until bubbling hot.

Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
  • Scant ½ tsp Salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 6 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Chilled Crisco, Lard or other
  • 6 Tbsp ice water

(Ratio for a “short” crust = 2 parts Flour to 1 part Fat)

Julia’s recipe was written 25 years before the food processor, but I think she’d have found it a useful addition to her kitchen.  So I recommend its use to simplify the making of your pie crust and assure fool-proof results!

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your processor and pulse briefly to combine.  Add the cold butter while pulsing repeatedly just until it combines with the flour and resembles small gravel or clumps of oatmeal.  With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the dough comes together in your bowl – stop as soon as it forms a ball.  Remove everything from the bowl, dust with flour, kneed twice or thrice and then form into a ball, flatten to about an inch thick, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Remove your crust and let it warm for just a few minutes.  Unwrap it and sprinkle four over a flat surface and begin rolling out your crust, working from the center to the edge, turning ¼ turn, roll, turn, roll, turn…and repeat until dough is sufficiently thin and well shaped (add flour to rolling surface as needed.)  Place crust in an 8” tart pan, and bake at 400 (F) for ~9 minutes.  Remove and cool completely before filling.

Wine Pairings
When I first tasted this dish, it was paired with a Rhone wine.  I have difficulty imagining a more perfect pairing, but this first wine is a bit pricey for many budgets, so I’ve also included a very food-friendly Merlot (and no, I don’t need to hear the old joke again) as an affordable alternative.  I’ve also suggested a blush wine, one of the sign post wines of Southern France, and perhaps the most versatile of the still wines when paired with food!

2006LaBrumaPeay Vineyards, 2006 Estate Syrah “La Bruma”, $47″
I’ve selected this subtle, cool-weather syrah to go with the pissaladiere recipe.  Its subtle aromas and flavors of pepper, lavendar and just-ripe blackberrry are intriguing on its own, but also provide a nice foil for a wide range of medium-to-heavy dishes.  From the talented hands of Winemaker Vanessa Wong, formerly of Peter Michael Winery, the Sonoma Coast appellation is undoubtedly proud of this iconic example of their vineyard’s capabilities.  (If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Andrew Lane, 2005 Merlot, St. Helena  $18
Like Miles Raymond in the movie “Sideways”, I am not a big fan of most Merlot.  They can be the dumb blondes of the wine world, wallowing around in the shallow end of the pool with the likes of sweet white Zinfandel.  Not this one.  A relative Rhodes Scholar.  An impressive wine in its own right, I’d dare say you’d peg its price tag well above its modest tarif if tasted in a blind tasting. (Sorry, no image available!  If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Rose bottle shotElkhorn Peak, 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir, $19

Though this wine was not included in our club shipment, that is not a reflection of a lack of quality.  In fact, it’s the only blush wine in my portfolio this year.  Which is saying something.  It’s just that, after four years of evangelizing blush wines, then being stuck with excess inventory after their purpoted popularity exceeded the reality, I finally realized that these wines were best relegated to the specialty shelf.  For those of us who enjoy these great, dry wines, you’ll not be saddened once the cork is separated from this bottle!

A saignee from Elkhorn Peak’s estate pinot production, this wine is relatively deep in color, despite just 8 hours of skin contact at relatively cool temperatures.  It’s flavor is true to type – red fruit notes of strawberry and cherry, with enough acidity to evoke a squeeze of lemon over the whole fruit pile.  See if you don’t also find a bit of sassafrass in there!

A Note On The Recipe
40Th Anniversary, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking

This recipe originally appeared in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Volume One, P. 171 (picture on right).  Published in 1961 by Knopf and 1966 by Penguin Books.  It’s available through ecookbooks.com for $24 (as of tonight, anyway) at http://tinyurl.com/qedfru

Dave with WineCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
866-746-7293

Quote of the Day
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook
~ Julia Child, American Gourmet Food Pioneer, Author and TV Personality (8/15/12 – 8/13/04)

Life through Rosé colored glasses

Wgufor_3 You know summer is in full swing when the wine news is abuzz about this year’s 39% growth in sales of dry rosé wines. 

As an early advocate for dry rosés (these are not your parent’s white Zins, which had over 5% residual sugars!) I take this as a sign that our wine palate is catching up with our foodways.  As our diet becomes increasingly influenced by the fresh, flavorful foods of the Mediterranean diet, we’re learning that lighter wines work deliciously well.

In general, dry Rosés are some of the most versatile food partners this side of dry sparkling wines.  That is, unless the rosé is too high in alcohol, which masks the fruit characteristics that make these wines such good food partners.  Buying tip #1 – look for rosés with alcohol below 15% (below 14% is even better, though often difficult to find) unless you simply want a porch-side buzz on a hot summer day.  Which, actually, isn’t such a great idea unless you’re immune to hangovers.

Food Suggestions for Dry Rosés

Continue reading “Life through Rosé colored glasses”