Vines & Vittles

Lovely Fall Wines

It’s Labor Day weekend and I’m smiling ear to ear.

Why? Well, it’s almost fall and that means football season has arrived, leaves on the trees will soon be painting our beautiful mountains with a palette of autumn colors and, best of all, the harvesting of wine grapes is in full swing.

In my little corner of the world, the harvest also means a few hardy souls will join me in transforming some of those grapes into wine right here in West-By-Golly. As a matter of fact, this old geezer has been making wine each fall since 1977.

Since I’m not a formally trained wine maker or a chemist, I have learned from other more experienced amateurs how, for example, to use my eyes, nose and taste buds to determine how to coax the best from the grapes or juice I’m fermenting. I’ve also come to the conclusion that a good home wine maker is, first and foremost, a good steward (i.e., keep equipment clean, the barrels topped up, don’t use too much sulfite, etc.).

 

Over the years, I have used a number of different varietals to make wine, including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, petit sirah, grenache, zinfandel and sangiovese. And yes, I am an amateur, but I’m also serious about trying to capture the best possible flavors from the grapes or juice I buy. So, assuming that I acquire reasonably good grapes, I can usually produce a very drinkable wine.

And while I’ve made a lot of good wine over the years, I know most of you will never engage in the process of producing your own wine. So, today I’m going to recommend several wines that will complement your enjoyment of fall. Whether you’re tailgating before that big game, enjoying a hike in our majestic mountains or picnicking in your back yard, you might give these vinous lovelies a try.

2017 Chateau Ferry Lacombe Mira Rose’ ($18) – Ripe strawberry flavors highlight this dry rose’ from Provence in southern France. Pale orange in color, this wine is round, yet has excellent balance and would be a superb accompaniment to a cheese soufflé’.

2017 Izadi Blanco Rioja ($20) –From Rioja in northern Spain, this white, comprised of 80% Viura and 20% Malvasia, was barrel fermented for three months in French oak and features flavors of ripe apples and citrus. Round and ripe, it would be excellent paired with Paella or grilled monk fish.

2014 Collefrisio Confronto Bianco ($36) – This Italian white from Abruzzo in Italy is a chardonnay-like blend of pinot grigio and pecorino (the grape not the cheese) that is a rich and round, medium to full bodied wine. With almond and brioche nuances, this white would be a perfect match to veal saltimbocca.

2015 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore ($17) – From the Veneto region in northern Italy, this Valpolicella is a delicious quaff with flavors of ripe cherries and spice. This medium-bodied red would make a great accompaniment to chicken grilled and basted with a sweet barbecue sauce.

2015 Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors Rouge ($17) – This blend of syrah (70%) and grenache (30%) is a ripe, inky, purple mouthful of wine with smoky, blackberry flavors. Silky and smooth, this French red from Languedoc needs to be paired with a full-flavored meat dish such as smoked beef brisket.

2015 Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna ($20) – From the island of Sardinia, this ripe grenache has fruit-forward flavors of dark cherries and black pepper. Aged in French oak, drink it with grilled Italian sausage and fried (sweet) bell and (hot) banana peppers.

In my last column, I listed eight West Virginia restaurants that received special recognition from the Wine Spectator Magazine for their exceptional wine lists. It turns out, though, that there were eleven.

The three I left out are the Bavarian Inn in Shepardstown (which received a “Best of Awards of Excellence”) along with Savannah’s Restaurant and Bistro in Huntington and Final Cut Steakhouse in Charles Town- both of which received “Awards of Excellence.”

One of the most important Latin phrases I learned as an altar boy at St. James Catholic Church in Clarksburg some 60 years ago was “mea culpa.” Strictly translated into English mea culpa means “through my fault.” In a prayer called the “Confiteor” at the beginning of the Catholic mass, parishioners repeat, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” as a way of repenting for their sins.

During a lifetime full of embarrassing blunders, I’ve had to invoke that phrase much too often, and I was about to use it today to beg forgiveness for the egregious error I made in my last column. But before I dawn my sackcloth and ashes and seek your forbearance, there is more to the story.

When I went online to the Wine Spectator site to determine which WV restaurants achieved the award designations, only eight eateries were listed, and those are the ones I wrote about in my last column. However, the print edition of the magazine, which must have come out after the online story, lists eleven.

So yes, I screwed up, but I had some help. And while I’ll say mea culpa, mea culpa, I ain’t saying mea MAXIMA culpa!

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I have tasted some excellent wines recently that you may wish to seek out. The first two wines listed below are from the Languedoc region of southern France and were presented at one of the Capitol Market Wine Shop’s recent tastings. Trying to pronounce theirlong names will make you thirsty – but that’s a good thing.

2016 Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Blanc ($14) – This blend of grenache blanc and grenache gris has some surprising heft to it. The wine has aromas of citrus and slate-like minerality with flavors of ripe pears, anise and toasted almonds. This would be a treat to pair with a grilled, rich, white fish like grouper or Chilean sea bass.

2017 Chateau Coupe Roses Bastide Minervois ($16) – This was a total and very pleasant surprise! Zinfandel-like, this blend of grenache and carignane is full of ripe blackberry flavors with spicy black pepper notes. It is round and rich, yet has a nice dollop of balancing acidity. Try this with barbecued baby back ribs slathered with a Kansas City-style sauce.

2014 Montefalco Sagrantino ($40) – From Umbria just north of Rome, Sagrantino is a rich, medium-bodied wine and is also the name of the grape from which it is made. Ripe black cherries, tea and hints of smoke characterize this tannic red. I would advise decanting it for at least an hour before drinking. This would be a delicious accompaniment to veal osso buco.

State Wine Spectator Award Winners

I spend a considerable amount of time cruising around our town and state in search of the perfect dining experience. Of course, an essential component of any excellent meal is an appropriately matched wine that is reasonably priced.

We are blessed in the Kanawha Valley to have several fine dining establishments with very good wine lists. I am always on the lookout for those eateries that understand the importance of wine and attempt to craft a list that complements their specific menu.

So today, I’ll report to you on the best wine restaurants in West Virginia as rated annually by The Wine Spectator magazine. Wine and food lovers in our state should be proud to know that eight West Virginia establishments are among those receiving the lofty honors in 2018.

According to the magazine, Wine Spectator’s restaurant awards program recognizes places whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to the cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. To qualify for an award, the list must present complete and accurate wine information and it must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines by the glass.

The three categories of awards are: “Awards of Excellence;” “Best of Awards of Excellence;” and the “Grand Award.” Only 2453 restaurants across world have received the “Award of Excellence,” including six restaurants in our state. Two other WV restaurants received “Best of Awards of Excellence. ” That’s quite an honor since only 1215 restaurants on the planet achieved that distinction. And only 91 restaurants around the world received the highest honor. Unfortunately, none are located in our state – yet.

The state restaurants receiving “Awards of Excellence” are: Bridge Road Bistro; The Chop House; and The South Hills Market and Café – all in Charleston; The Wonder Bar Steakhouse in Clarksburg; Provence Market Café in Bridgeport; and Sargasso in Morgantown. The two restaurants that received “Best of Awards of Excellence” designations are: The Greenbrier’s Main Dining Room in White Sulphur Springs and Spats Restaurant in Parkersburg (at the Blennerhassett Hotel).

The Wine Spectator recognition is a special tribute to the winners in the Mountain State, and we lovers of wine should do our best to patronize these restaurants. We should also encourage our other favorite eateries to upgrade their lists and/or submit them to the magazine for future consideration.

Here in Charleston, one restaurant that should considering entering their wine list for a Spectator award is Laury’s. Not only do they have some of the best food in the city, but they also have the most comprehensive and reasonably priced wine list too. Other restaurants in town that should consider submitting their lists are: The Block; Paterno’s At the Park; Noah’s Restaurant and Lounge; Bricks and Barrels; and The Barge Restaurant.

Restaurants wanting to have their wine lists evaluated by The Wine Spectator for a possible award should contact the magazine at www.winespectator.com on the criteria for each award level. Applications must be submitted Dec. 1, through Dec. 31, 2018 for consideration.

Pappardelle for Papa’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and grand dads everywhere! And since I qualify in both categories, I put in my request for a Father’s Day meal a few weeks back. As a matter of fact, I actually cooked the delicious dish I am sharing with you today back then. I want it again!

I know, I know… most of you guys out there in father land are probably going to be celebrating our day by eating a large piece of cow meat. And while I might just fire up the grill this afternoon for an accompanying rib eye, I’m definitely going to make my mushroom and pea pappardelle pasta dish the centerpiece of this hallowed holiday.

So if it’s too late for your chef de cuisine to change the meal plan today – or to add to the holiday menu – hang on to the recipe below because it is a WINNER! But whenever you decide to try the dish, be advised that while I would opt for a full-bodied white wine to pair it with, you could also accompany it with a silky red.

Here are my white and red wine suggestions for this exquisite pasta dish.

2016 Mastroberadino Fiano di Avellino ($30)- One of the characteristics of this white wine from the Campania region of Italy (in the hills above Naples) is the nutty, round and rich flavors of Fiano. It also has some citrus and mineral notes and should be a perfect match to the complex flavors in the pasta dish. If you can’t find Fiano, you can substitute it with a white like friulano or even a rich chardonnay.

2016 Allegrini Valpolicella Classico ($17) – This lighter-styled, silky red is full of fruit forward and ripe cherry flavors. It is perfectly balanced and refreshing with enough acid to be a counterpoint to the richness of the pasta.

Mushroom and Peas Pappardelle

One pound of pappardelle pasta
One half pound of mixed mushrooms (shitake, oyster, baby portabella, etc.)
Three ounces of extra virgin olive oil
One tablespoon of butter
One small Vidalia onion and one clove of garlic
Four ounces of green peas (preferably fresh spring peas)
One-half cup of chicken stock
Three ounces of dry white wine
Three tablespoons of heavy cream
One tablespoon each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley
One teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
Eight or ten cherry tomatoes

Grate one-half pound of Parmigiano Reggiano (or other good grating cheese)
Slice tomatoes in half and thinly slice the onion and garlic
Shuck fresh peas or thaw out frozen green peas
Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth and slice into quarter inch pieces
Sauté onions in olive oil and half the butter until translucent
Add peas, mushrooms and garlic to sauté pan and cook for about three minutes
Pour in chicken stock and white wine and cook for about five minutes
Turn heat down to simmer
Add pappardelle to boiling water and cook until al dente
Drain pappardelle reserving one-half cup pasta water
Add pasta to the simmering mushrooms and peas
Add the remaining butter and pour in heavy cream and pasta water
Sprinkle in the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
Add the cheese and toss the mixture until it’s all integrated
Sprinkle parsley and more cheese on each plate of pasta
Serve immediately

Buon Appetito!

Wines for picnic meals

Can anyone find spring? I think Mother Nature must have benched spring this year for not showing up with more energy and intensity. It seems like we have sprung directly from winter to summer.

Anyway, Memorial Day weekend is upon us and, while this is a solemn holiday, it also heralds the official start of the picnic and barbecue season. And it’s also time to transition from the heavy wines of the cooler months in favor of lighter-styled whites, roses’ and reds.

Of course, you’ll need to pair these vinous lovelies with appropriate hunks of protein like red meat, chicken, fish and pork as well as fresh garden vegetables. And the best way to enjoy warm weather food is to cook it in the great out-of-doors on your trusty charcoal or gas grill. So let’s talk about the most common picnic type foods you will be preparing this summer and which wines are most compatible with them.

If you’re like me, you don’t mind wolfing down an occasional (less than healthful) food product. I cherish those increasingly infrequent times when I toss caution to the wind and select hot dogs, Italian sausage, chorizo, kielbasa or smoked meats like ham for the grill. I love to match these humble offerings with lighter styled reds like Beaujolais, cabernet franc or grenache-based wines such as those found in the southern Rhone. I also love to pair them with chilled, fruit-forward and dry rose’.

For our vegetarian friends – or anyone else who wants to go meatless – there are wines for you too. Try using a crisp, herbaceous sauvignon blanc or a fresh and fruity pinot grigio with grilled veggies like asparagus, broccoli or with sweet, or with multi-colored bell peppers. You might whip up a cold penne pesto pasta salad -composed of basil, minced garlic, pecorino romano, and extra virgin olive oil – and pair it with albarino from Spain or picpoul de pinet from southern France.

How about scallops or lobster tails on the grill? You’ll want a rich, but well-balanced, chardonnay or a full-bodied and round white like friulano. This lovely wine from northeastern Italy is not well known, but it is worth searching out because it’s a delicious substitute for the ubiquitous (and sometimes over-used) chardonnay.

Sangiovese and pinot noir are my favorite red wines in the warm months, particularly when matched with dishes like barbecued baby back ribs or spiced up (cumin, ancho, cayenne, etc) skirt steak. These reds should be served slightly chilled and are particularly simpatico with spicy foods.

But the sine qua non of all warm weather dishes is red meat. And guess what? You don’t need to forego using full-bodied reds just because the ambient outdoor temperature is sizzling. Simply pop that big cabernet, zinfandel or petite sirah into the fridge for a half-hour or so before you’re ready to eat. Then enjoy that rib eye steak, rack of lamb or filet mignon with the full-flavored wines that were meant to be paired with them.

A sutble ramps recipe ?

If you’re a fan of ramps and willing to forego the traditional Mountain Mama recipes for this less than delicate lily, then boy do I have a culinary treat for you to consider.

Right now, many towns in the state are holding ramp feeds. However, I am not a fan of the traditional manner in which ramps are prepared at these dinners. Most folks fry them in lard or bacon grease and then add them to potatoes or pinto beans. I think they’re prepared in this manner to cover up their rather pungent taste and smell.

My favorite way to consume these babies is to grill them, particularly over charcoal, and feature them as an accompaniment to protein like beef, pork or chicken. I will also sauté ramps in olive oil with just about any vegetable dish from broccoli to green beans to zucchini.

But today’s recipe includes the use of ramps to help spark up the rather bland flavors of white fish such as grouper, cod or halibut, and demonstrates that these odiferous little lilies, if applied prudently, can actually have a subtle influence on a dish.

And this lovely rendition of ramps-enhanced seafood really marries well with
crisp, yet rich, white wines such as verdicchio from around the commune of Matelica in the Italian state of Marche. The verdicchio in this region is much superior to the wine made from the same grape in other parts of Italy.

Here’s my choice to pair with the following recipe:

2016 Bisci Verdicchio de Matelica ($18) – Round, ripe and crisp, this wine has the depth and freshness to enhance the flavors of the dish while also providing a refreshing and thirst-quenching attribute.

 

The Recipe

Two six ounce filets of firm white fish (grouper, cod or halibut)
Six to eight cleaned and ramps
Two ounces of extra virgin olive oil
One-half teaspoon of salt, black pepper and hot pepper flakes (optional)
Four ounces of dry white wine (I would use the verdicchio above)
One-half teaspoon of minced garlic
One half pound of asparagus cut into half inch pieces

Sauté in olive oil the ramps, asparagus, garlic until translucent
Add the white wine and sauté along with the ingredients above for 30 seconds
Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
Remove sauté pan from heat
Sauté the fish -three minutes a side until firm
Reheat the sauté pan with the ramps and asparagus
Plate the fish and pour the ramp and wine sauce over the fish
Serve immediately

Wine Weekend Getaways

Now that winter is in the rear view mirror (I hope) and spring has arrived, it’s time to plan a few nice-weather getaways. And, surprise, all of these jaunts I’m recommending involve exposure to and consumption of good food and wine.

Let’s start close to home.

Taste of Parkersburg
This gourmet extravaganza kicks off on Friday evening, June 1, with a special wine and food dinner. On Saturday June 2, (from 5. to 11 p.m.) attendees will be able to graze outdoors and sample the edible wares from more than a dozen local restaurants. There will also be more than 40 wines from which to select. Call 304-865-0522 or email wendy@downtownpkb.com for more information on the Taste of Parkersburg.

West Virginia Wine and Jazz Festival
This event will be held on September 15th and 16th (Saturday and Sunday) at Camp Muffly near Morgantown. Local and regional wines will be available for tasting (Saturday: 11 AM – 6 PM, Sunday: 12 noon – 6 PM.) Admission is $20 per person/per day and includes a commemorative wine glass. Contact http://wvwineandjazz.com/tickets/ for tickets.

Wine and All That Jazz
This annual fest will be held on Saturday, June 23, on the lawn at the University of Charleston. The event is hosted by The Fund for the Arts and offers a variety of foods as well as West Virginia wines. In addition, the entertainment will feature a full day of performances by several renowned jazz musicians. Tickets are $30 each ($35 the day of the festival). Contact http://www.festivallcharleston.com/ for more information.

For those of you who want to make your wine and food adventure a vacation, you might check into these two special gourmet events: The Food and Wine Classic at Aspen, Colorado and the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in McMinneville, Oregon.

Food & Wine Classic, Aspen, CO
This is among the top five food and wine weekends (June 15-17) in the nation. You will be fed by some of the best culinary talent in the country and be able to rub elbows with the wine illuminati while sampling their vinous products.
The days are filled with cooking demonstrations, seminars and tastings with more than 300 wines represented at the Grand Tasting Pavilion. This is not an inexpensive undertaking at $1700 a person. Check out the itinerary at http://www.foodandwine.com.

International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon
This spectacular celebration of pinot noir is held each year on the last weekend in July (27-29 this year) at a small college campus in a town about 45 minutes south of Portland. While the weekend focuses on different aspects of producing pinot noir in Oregon and around the world, you’ll also spend a great deal of time sipping wine. And the food is absolutely phenomenal since you will be catered to throughout the weekend by the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve been to IPNC four times and I’m considering making it five this summer. It’s also very expensive at $1295 a ticket, but you might be able to rationalize the expense (like I did) if you call it a vacation. Anyway, it is a very special wine and food experience and I highly recommend it. Go to their website: ipnc.org for more information and to sign up.

Three memorable food and wine pairings

I’ve always stressed the importance of pairing your favorite wine with a complimentary food – or vice-versa. Why? Well to quote Aristotle : “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

In other words, if you think that thick, bone-in rib-eye is culinary nirvana, pair it with the right wine and the whole experience is elevated to a completely new level of sensory satisfaction. Sound hedonistic? Maybe, but hey, why only treat your palate to half the potential pleasure?

Today, I’m going to tell you about three recent food and wine pairing experiences that have been real “Aha Moments” for me. These occasions reminded me just how satisfying and fun it can be to find that perfect marriage of a particular wine with a complimentary dish.

It started with a meal at Sam’s Uptown Café during Restaurant Week. I love the varied menu at Sam’s, and the weekend brunch offerings are always superb. But this particular course at Restaurant Week was absolutely spectacular: Boar sausage roll with hen of the woods mushroom, heirloom tomato ragu, sautéed escarole and house ricotta. I selected a 2014 Wente Riva Ranch Arroyo Secco Pinot Noir to pair with the course. Sometimes selecting the right wine can be the result of a thoughtful and reasoned approach or it might just be the right guess and a big dose of dumb luck.

In this case, it was the latter, but what a great guess it was! Pinot noir, particularly from California’s central coast, can have earthy, root vegetable nuances which, in this pairing, particularly complimented the hen of the woods mushroom that was the prime ingredient in the boar sausage roll. Wonderful!

Food and Wine Synergy

The second exceptional marriage of wine with a specific dish occurred at FeastivALL – the annual fundraiser for FestivALL where attendees attempt to pick a winner between wine and beer selections matched with each of five courses. I paired the course featuring lentil soup -composed of herb fennel sausage, roasted vegetables and grilled crostini – with a 2007 Bernard Faurie St. Joseph, a syrah from the northern Rhone Valley in France.

This hearty lentil soup needed a full-bodied and dry red, but one with enough acidity to provide a refreshing balance to the complex flavors of the dish. Zinfandel or a big cabernet sauvignon might have overwhelmed the soup, but the French syrah was perfect. I don’t think a California syrah or shiraz from Australia would have worked either because that style of syrah tends to accentuate the fruit sweetness of the grape.

Oh, by the way, in the beer vs wine throw down, FeastivALL attendees chose wine as the overall beverage winner this year!

The other excellent pairing of food and wine I experienced recently occurred during a visit to my brother Spike who lives in North Carolina. Spike lived the dream many of us have of owning and cooking at our very own restaurant. His five year stint (sentence?) as chief cook and bottle washer at a bistro-like establishment left him with burn marks on his hands and arms, a whole new epithet-enhanced vocabulary and a renewed appreciation for cooking at home.

Spike spent a career in the wine business so, when we get together, we do eat and drink well. This last visit, my brother bought a whole striped bass and rubbed the interior cavity of the fish (which had been dressed) with olive oil, garlic, lemon slices, coarsely ground black pepper and herbs. He then completely covered and packed the exterior of the fish with kosher salt and roasted it in the oven for about an hour.

The fish was moist, fragrant and luscious, and the 2014 Michel Lafarge Aligote made this experience deliciously memorable. Aligote is the other white of Burgundy (which most famously produces chardonnay) and the Lafarge wine is full of ripe green apple flavors, minerality and, in this instance, was a refreshing and harmonious compliment to the striped bass.

So the next time you’re thinking of uncorking a bottle of wine or you’re ruminating about what to prepare for dinner, consider combining the two endeavors. It will surely make the overall experience more complete and pleasurable.

Wine can be a pretty complicated hobby. So much of the language of wine is foreign and intimidating, and the incredible number of choices can be overwhelming. That’s why I try to simplify the process of wine appreciation as much as possible. Heck, I’ll even make fun of the whole wine snobbery thing from time to time.

Those of you old enough to remember my weekly wine columns in the 1980s, may recall that I asked members of the (apocryphal) Southside Bridge Tasting Club (SBTC) to act as a kind of tasting panel. Monthly, in the dead of night, I would visit the great bridge under which my expert panel would gather to sip and then critique the various wines of the time. The group would help me evaluate products for that segment of the wine drinking public that was — how shall I put it — more plebian in their tastes.

Today, I still try to avoid the pretentious aspect of wine appreciation, particularly when I recommend a bottle for your drinking pleasure. At a minimum, I hope you will at least have some idea what the wine actually tastes like. In addition, I hope that my description of the wine’s attributes leads you to understand why I suggest pairing it with a particular dish.

As you might expect, I spend a good deal of time not only tasting and then evaluating wine, I also read the descriptions of wines I have not tasted to determine if I should suggest them to you.

And while I’ll admit my wine descriptors are relatively short and to the point, most of the wine tasting notes I read from national experts are anything but brief. Here’s a typical example of how a critic from one of the national wine publications recently described a bottle of California cabernet sauvignon:

Dark ruby in color. Explosive aromatics feature a mix of ripe cherry, sweet spice, and dried rose petal, all framed by new oak nuances. Richly textured, packed with sweet red fruits, black cherry compote, tobacco, and licorice, finishing with dusty tannins and a juicy acid backbone. Drink now for its youthful extravagance, or hold off until at least 2035.

Huh??? This sounds like a mish-mash of totally disgusting and incompatible ingredients and a recipe for heartburn…or worse. If it wasn’t for those “dusty tannins and that juicy acid backbone”…

Every now and then, I’ll come up with some pretty obtuse, otherworldly or off-the-grid descriptions, but they’re always done with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. But the above-cited quote is, unfortunately, a pretty standard type description used by today’s wine intelligentsia.

Here are two wines for your consideration described in (hopefully) understandable, but not quite monosyllabic, language:

Gloria Ferrer Va de Vi Ultra Cuvee – This lovely sparkling wine from Sonoma’s Carneros district has aromas of almonds and toast. It is rich, yet balanced, with flavors ripe, green apples. Use it as an aperitif or with brunch foods.

2013 Sant’Antonio Paradiso – From Italy’s Veneto region, this medium-bodied red is full of ripe cherry flavors with just a touch of oak on the finish. Try it with barbecue baby back ribs that have been dry-rubbed with black pepper, kosher salt, brown sugar and cayenne pepper.

So the next time, you read about how a wine is “ethereal, orgasmic, or full of dusty tannin undertones,” go get a bottle of Annie Green Springs, unscrew the cap and toast the members of the Southside Bridge Tasting Club.

Wine and food resolutions for the New Year

Most of us will be out celebrating on New Year’s Eve.  When we wake up the next morning it will be 2018 and, after the obligatory New Year’s morning headache, guilt will set in and we’ll probably begin to think about resolving to seek self-improvement in the year ahead.

Sure, you could go to the gym, cut back on carbohydrates, or even make a concerted effort to think positive thoughts about your mother-in-law. But next month when these resolutions have gone down in flames, you’ll need something to boost your morale and repair your damaged self-esteem.

Well, why not resolve to improve an aspect of your life that you already find appealing and gratifying? How about considering some wine and food resolutions for the New Year that might just take your enjoyment of these endorphin-enhancing staples to new heights.

And keeping these resolutions will be so easy and rewarding that you’ll probably wish to make them permanent. So here are my wine and food related resolutions for 2018. You might wish to consider them too.

sparrkling-wine.jpg

– Try unfamiliar appellations and wines like: pinot noir from Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand (great with grilled salmon); the other white wine from Burgundy – Aligote (especially good with scallops); or Aglianico, the spicy red from the Campania region of southern Italy that is a lovely match with rack of lamb.

– Explore the wines of our sister state. The wine regions around Charlottesville and up the spine of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia have emerged as the best appellations on the east coast. I especially like the cabernet franc, viognier and chardonnay produced there. Rappahannock oysters, local cheeses, country ham and smoked tomato grits pair nicely with Virginia wines.

– Drink more sparkling wines with weekday meals and on non-special event occasions. Champagne and sparklers such as Cava from Spain, Cremant from Alsace and Prosecco from Italy go especially well with spicy dishes from places like Mexico, India and Thailand.

Reexamine the wines of West Virginia. There are more than 20 wineries in our state and, while many of them are producing very good sweet wines and dry French-American hybrids (such as seyval blanc and chambourcin), others are trying to grow the better (vitis vinifera) varieties like cabernet, merlot, chardonnay and riesling.

– Drink more sweet wines as aperitifs and with dessert. Some folks have the misconception that sweet wines are for beginning wine drinkers or the unsophisticated. I think that is a largely an American myth since a lot of us associate sweet wines with the unpleasant experiences we might have had in our youth with sugary, high alcohol products. You might try Sauternes or Barzac from France, late harvest riesling from Germany or California or Vin Santo and Moscato di Asti from Italy.

And while it will be difficult for me to accomplish all of these New Year’s resolutions in 2018, I’ve resolved not to completely abandon moderation in pursuit of them.

Happy New Year!