Archive for the Wine Review Category

What the heck is…Zweigelt?

Posted in What's the Deal With...?, Wine Review with tags on August 10, 2010 by winechef

Only my new favorite inexpensive red that you can start drinking first thing in the morning! Well, maybe you should at least wait until lunch time…but that’s not the point! This unpretentious red is light, low in alcohol, and generally pretty damn affordable! Picture a juicy Zinfandel masquerading as a Pinot. The first time I bought a bottle I was going for something eccentric, something new that I didn’t hold much stock in. It came in a liter bottle with a bottle cap. Really, how good could it be? About half way though the bottle I decided. This is farking delicious!

So what is it? A cross between Blaufrankisch and St Laurent, Austria’s other two shining reds. It’s light, often refreshing and has flavors of cherries in varying degrees of ripeness.

What should you eat with it? Pure picnic wine. With its lightness, fun fruit, and nice acidity this wine will go with everything from pizza to BBQ chicken. I’d even dare to say that it would go well with some Chinese dishes, or at least pork fried rice.

Here’s a few:

2008 Martinshof Zweigelt 1L

2007 Walter Glatzer Zweigelt Riedencuvée

2008 Umathum Zweigelt


What the heck is…Blaufrankisch?

Posted in What's the Deal With...?, Wine Review with tags on August 10, 2010 by winechef

Besides being fun to say, Blaufrankisch is a red wine most commonly exported from Austria. Spicy like a Syrah, (minus the roast beef and pastrami flavors that have been making me gag), and light like a Pinot noir. It’s also grown in Croatia, Washington state, and Germany, where it is known as Lemburger. For more on that click here but for now, let’s concentrate on what it is, where it’s available and what it pairs with.
Similarities abound between a killer gamay and German pinots. Cherry and pepper with a nice acid backbone make this for an ideal food wine. The tannins are supple and the alcohol is relatively low. As long as you avoid the overly oaked Blaufrankish’s when they’re young, you shouldn’t have any problem picking one off the shelf of a reputable wine shop to have with dinner tonight.

Here are my picks:

2008 J. Heinrich Blaufränkisch

Another light, unfussed with Blaufrankisch that could easily become your go to Summer red at $13.99 a bottle.

2006 Wenzel Blaufränkisch

Beautiful, light, elegant, and a great price at $17.99 a bottle for  a pure expression of Blaufrankisch

2007 Moric Blaufränkisch

An ageable Powerhouse from a killer vintage. This one will go with your over the top meat dishes.

And for something closer to home try Washington’s Steel “Blue Franc.”

The lighter versions can pair nicely with lighter meat dishes and takes nicely to a slight chill. Burgers off the grill with pepper Jack, and smoked paprika aioli would be a perfect pairing for a cellar temperature Blaufrankisch, where as an older age able Blaufrankisch would pair better with medium-rare lamb chops and a mint and red pepper vinaigrette with roasted potatoes.

Orin Swift Wines

Posted in Wine Review on February 5, 2009 by winechef

orin_swift_prisoner_20052I had listened to a Wine Insiders podcast a couple of years back when they interviewed Orin Swift wine maker David Phinney who had began making a phenomenal cult Zinfandel blend in Napa Valley. I ended up buying a case for family and have since forgotten about its existence until I revisited the podcast recently and ran into a new wine that he is producing. I picked up the bottle after being drawn to it’s label, not knowing it was an Orin Swift wine until the shop owner mentioned it. 

The wine is one of the newest bottled ventures by Orin Swift is the Veladora label. A Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc dedicated to the migrant workers that help make Orin Swift possible. 100% of the profits go to Puertas Abiertas, a coalition which provides health services without checking for immigration status. The label is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, repeated in traditional prayer candles. orin_swift_veladora

The Prisoner is the Zin blend that I immediately fell in love with; a decadent, rich, complex wine that immediately sucks you in and plays with your mind. The label is from an 1867 original etching of a bound prisoner by Francisco Goya that was a gift from the wine maker’s parents. orin_swift_prisoner_20051

The wines of Orin Swift convey finesse and complexity, the labels reflect this unmistakably.

What’s the deal with…Retsina?

Posted in Sommelier, What's the Deal With...?, Wine Review on January 26, 2009 by winechef

retsina-boutariAh, we revisit the “What’s the deal with…” section of the blog with the long awaited Retsina tasting. I’ve had these hidden in my fridge for about a year consuming the attention of a personal dare with anticipation centered on fear and not much else. I selected 2 bottles to compare (these are kind of hard to find in my part of the world) and I believe both were under $10 a bottle, so who knows if they are “typical” showcases of the varietal, but I’m not going to go any further out of my way to investigate a sommeliers’ inside joke, which associates Retsina with pine and turpentine. Let’s see if my palate is indeed on par with these CMC’s and the people that actually grew up drinking this legendary wine, (when and where did that take place by the way?). Read on.

So I expertly remove the cork of the first wine and I am overcome with adrenaline, I’m here and I am going to go through with this! It can’t possibly be as ridiculous as Blue Nun or Cold Duck


It reminds me of the time when I was six, hiding under the Christmas tree finishing off every ones left over wine and chasing it with laps of water from the metal tree base holder! The amount of purple children’s Tylenol it took to get rid of that hangover bordered on an overdose.  Just kidding. But seriously, maybe it happened in a past life because I swear that it must have happened to and inspired the early makers of this mythical Greek wine. 

The labels of both of the wines are borderline cryptic, (but I’m sure if I drank enough of this I’d be fluent in Greek) until they are turned to the back where they profess the love that the Greeks feel for their traditional wine, boast the harmonious blend, and the characteristic “Retsina” taste. Hmmm, where does it come from and is there any chance that it would compliment any food? Doubt it, but try me.

Apparently the pine, I’m not even going to call it a scent because it is most certainly a FLAVOR, comes from the addition of pine resin to the grape must. What?! According to Wikipedia pine resin was used 2000 years ago to seal the container the wine was stored in and masked any spoilage in the wine, then became a popular taste component, and was thus added to the wine once they started using barrels which made the resin unnecessary. Here is a historian Liutprand’s account of being served Retsina:

According to Liutprand, he was treated very rudely and undignified by the court of Nikephoros II being served goat stuffed with onion and served in fish sauce and “undrinkable” wine mixed with resin, pitch and gypsum-very offensive to his western tastes.

Nailed it. 

I had to stop drinking the infamous Boutari that I started with because I was starting to associate it with what Santa’s urine probably tastes like. The second bottle, the Achaia, was much more subtle, but I don’t think I am going to make myself finish the pour. 

Key things to know about Retsina:

  • It is not a varietal but a style of wine that was recently protected under the European Union. (who knew that would be necessary?!)
  • The primary varietal used is savatiano
  • Modern Retsina is made following the same wine making techniques of white wine or rosé with the exception of small pieces of Aleppo Pine resin added to the must during fermentation. The pieces stay mixed with the must, and elute an oily resin film on the liquid surface; at racking the wine is clarified and the solids and surface film are removed from the finished wine.
  • Vintage Retsinas are rare (though I couldn’t find any explanation for the reason). 


Now that I know what Retsina is maybe I should find out what turpentine is…

Favorite things of 2008

Posted in Book Review, Chocolate, Cooking at Home, Food News, Personal, Podcast, Pork, Product Review, Sommelier, Wine Review on December 29, 2008 by winechef

Sure it’s a random list, but it’s been a random year. Who knew I’d still be serving at the same restaurant after a year? Add getting married, a trip to Thailand, adopting a Teacup Dane, and pursuing Rogue Chefs full time has made for some amazing experiences. Here is a list of the little things that have contributed to making life just that much better.

M. Chevallier Carte Noir Brut Cava cava

A wedding on a budget. I tasted 6 methode traditional bubblys under $10 to serve at our wedding (the difference? no headache being at the top of the list) and was beyond pleased with this one. At about $60 for a case I made sure to stock up, so the wedding was just the beginning of the experiences with this awesome cava. It served for everything from last minute gifts to Hibiscus tangerine mimosas to an excuse to practice sabreing. Available at Trader Joe’s for $4.99

Metrokane Champagne Sealermetrokane

And on the off chance that you haven’t removed the top of your champagne (or beer) bottle with your trusty 12 inch chef knife and have some champagne left over, this easy to use sealer works better than anything I’ve used. You can store your opened bottles on their sides and never lose a drop. They remove with hardly a flinch and apply with little to no effort. Available online and in stores at Bed Bath and Beyond (I covet the 20% off coupons).

Moo Cards

These are inexpensive unique customizable business cards that can be designed and received within 2 weeks. High quality and always sure to leave an impression on the receiver. I’ve used mine to promote the blog, the book, my chef and sommelier services, and photography. Available online 100 for $19.99 plus shipping and handling.


I did not start out liking this. If it weren’t for my genius techie husband in the adjoining room it probably would have ended up following the sewing machine out the window. The problem? It’s just too easy. It makes too much sense. It practically knows me. And now I can’t imagine life without it. I even love the screen saver. I would however have opted for the bigger screen (24″) if I were to do it over again. And a laptop is on the short list of things to get when I receive that enormous advance for the book I’ve been counting on. Available online and in stores for $1199


My iTunes audio faves of 2008 in order of awesomeness:

goodfoodKCRW’s Good Food, Splendid Table, NPR’s Kitchen Window and NPR Food, and Vinecast.


I wonder where I would be without my iPod, it’s Podcasts, and membership. Needing something to distract from the hour and a half that I spend commuting daily I have become practically addicted to audio distractions. Yes, there is always a print book next to my bed or in my bag, but I have come to rely on audiobooks to help me get through the growing stacks that I have accumulated during the year. There aren’t as many food related audiobooks out there but here are my faves of 08:

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, Waiter Rant by The Waiter, and Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This may have you fall asleep on the road and still not clear on the concept.

Blue Bottle Coffee

blue-bottleAh, legal crack in the morning. Not available in as many places as necessary but you can find it here. Order more than you think you need.

Breville Stainless Steel Electric Kettle

And make it with this awesome, sleek, effective water heater that can allow you to make perfect batches of french presses at home or while catering…Available online and at Bed Bath and Beyond for $79.99 (use the coupon!).breville

Bacon and…

Oh Vosges, only you could get me addicted to a chocolate that I can’t afford on a regular basis. So thanks to a recent podcast I’m making my own version. And thanks to my husband, I can’t stop dipping my bacon in maple syrup. There was also a drink “Bacon and Eggs” at Epic that used bacon dust to rim a martini glass. Oh and the Maple Bacon lollipops from Lollyphile. The bacon lip balm that I have yet to try. Bacon and Cocoa Nib infused whiskey that I’m making. The Bacon, Chestnut, and Brussels Sprout dish that I am still swooning over. And Bacon and Skulls blog where I can stay up to date on everything Bacon.

That’s about it, now on to 2009…

Blockheadia Zinfandel

Posted in Wine Review on December 6, 2008 by winechef

2005_zinfandelAt an indulgent dinner at the counter of Ubuntu I was treated to a taste of Blockheadia Zin to pair with a crepe filled with wild mushrooms and sprinkled with black trumpet chips.

This Zin was like taking an old lovers tongue into your mouth. Longing, fulfilling, passionate, and resonating. Just the right amount of spice and linger…but after a few laps of the tongue, you remember why you let it go.