Vines & Vittles

Springtime: bring on the spicy barbecue and wine

Despite snow flurries and frigid temperatures to the contrary, I am confident that springtime is about to break out and that means firing up the trusty old Weber grill for some spicy barbecue treats.

But first, let’s define the term barbecue – which seems to mean different things to different people.

For some, it’s a verb as in: “I’m going to barbecue some hot dogs.” For others, barbecue is a noun and refers to a type of cooked pork or beef (usually rib meat) that is dry-rubbed and/or immersed in various sauces, chopped or pulled and then served on a bun.

I define barbecue as a style of cooking, and you will find just about every kind of food on my grill, including (but not limited to) pork, beef, lamb, fish, vegetables and even fruit.

I am also a “true believer” in using charcoal or wood to cook the animal, vegetable or fruit on my grill. I have used every brand of gas grill – from the most expensive to the most economical -and they all share one fatal flaw: uneven heat distribution.

It’s also a pain in the posterior to try and use smoking woods such as hickory, mesquite or apple on a gas grill, and that’s a problem for me since these woods add a wonderful flavor dimension to barbecue foods.

And okay, I confess, there’s just something compelling and deliciously barbaric about setting charcoal on fire, and then using the coals to sear animal flesh or things that grow. (I’m not sure I want know why this practice is so appealing to me).

So here’s a recipe for my original Barbarian Barbecue sauce that you can use on just about any meat or fish (especially salmon). Of course, I’ll provide you with a few wines that are among my favorites to complete this spicy meal.

Barbarian Barbecue Sauce

Combine a cup of ketchup with half a cup of white vinegar in a cooking pot
Pour a 12-ounce bottle of beer and two ounces of orange juice to the pot
Add a tablespoon each of brown sugar, molasses and Tabasco
Add one teaspoon of dried mustard, Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes until it thickens
Brush the food with the sauce and serve.

Barbarian Baby Backs
Barbarian Baby Backs

Here are some excellent wines to sip that are especially good and will help you release your inner Barbarian.

2013 Moulin Gassac Guilheim Rose ($10) From Languedoc-Roussillon, this dry rose is a blend of each grenache, carignan and syrah. This baby is full of strawberry and red fruit flavors with a crisp acidity that makes it a great pairing with barbecue.

Fisher Ridge Syrah ($12)– From Putnam County, Fisher Ridge is the oldest West Virginia winery and does a marvelous job with this fruit forward and lighter styled version of syrah. Excellent balance and bright cherry flavors marry well with barbecue.

2011 Paul Mas Estate Carignan Old Vines ($11) – This red wine from is also from France’s Languedoc region and is produced from vines older than 50 years. With aromas of spice, tea and just a hint of oak, the wine exhibits dark fruit flavors that finish dry and pair well with just about any barbecue dish.

2011 Las Rocas Garnacha ($15) – From the Aragon region of Spain, this grenache is produced from 30 to 50 year old vines which exhibit blackberry, cherry and tea flavors to create a robust and full bodied wine. This would be excellent with grilled baby backs slathered with the aforementioned barbecue sauce.

2011 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($32) – Produced from 100 percent sangiovese grapes, this round, rich and full-bodied wine will meld its black cherry and cola flavors exceedingly well with a grilled and barbecue-sauced pork tenderloin.

Pairing wine and food: No rules, just do it !

Wine without food is like, chips without dip, Adam without Eve, spring without ramps, or love without a partner!

Yeah, yeah, I know, we all occasionally sneak a glass or two of wine at a cocktail party to be social, but that little sip tastes so much better with just about any morsel of food. And while finding the perfect pairing is akin to discovering the Holy Grail, even the imperfect matches are so much better than consuming wine or food alone.

While there is some legitimacy to the old adage of red wine with red meat and white wine with fish or white meat, pairing food and wine is a lot more complicated. Today we’ll examine those complications and hopefully provide you with some helpful tips.

Of course, I must provide the disclaimer that what I am about to recommend is the subjective opinion of an avowed hedonist. Still, some matches are so good that they are almost universally embraced. Take steak and cabernet sauvignon for example.

Most carnivores I know agree that cabernet, particularly from California, South American or Australia, is a wonderful accompaniment to a grilled or broiled rib eye, filet, strip steak or prime rib.

Another undisputed winner is to pair a rich chardonnay or White Burgundy with lobster and drawn butter. The richness of the lobster along with the oiliness of the butter is married spectacularly with the unctuousness of a full-bodied chardonnay.

While there would be virtually no disagreement on the accuracy of the above two food and wine pairings, more generalized statements can be dead wrong.

For example, if you assume that all chardonnay is always the best choice with lobster and drawn butter, or that all cabernet is perfect with steak you would be making a big mistake. Here’s why.

A chardonnay from Chablis in France is usually austere with crisp acidity and mineral qualities. It is best paired with oysters and/or plainly cooked seafood. It would be overwhelmed if matched with lobster and drawn butter.

The same goes for pairing an older cabernet or Bordeaux with a grilled steak. The cabernet or Bordeaux develops layers of delicate flavors and aromas over the years that would be destroyed by, say, a grilled rib eye.

So how do you make good judgments on pairing food and wine when the answers are not obvious? Well, you can rely on “experts” to provide advice and/or you can use common sense and be adventurous. Here are some tips that may help you out if you choose to go it alone.

Think of flavor, texture and weight of the food and wine pairing. You wouldn’t logically pair a full-flavored red wine with delicate broiled seafood such as Dover Sole. Think about it. The flavors, textures and weight are all out of balance. Instead, try delicate White Bordeaux, an Italian Arneis or a Washington State semillon.

Here’s the closest thing to an absolute wine and food no-no: vinaigrette salad with any wine. Why? The vinegar based dressing clashes with the acid in wine destroying the flavors of both the salad and wine. Creamy or cheese dressings work fine with sauvignon blanc, riesling or viognier, but nothing works with vinaigrette.

This one breaks the rules, but is a definite winner. Try a pinot noir, Chianti, or even Beaujolais with grilled salmon, tuna or chicken. Pinot noir also pairs greatly with spicy foods, particularly Southwestern (US) fare. Ditto, gruner veltliner or gewürztraminer. They go especially well with spicy oriental dishes, especially Thai food.

Roasted Thanksgiving turkey can handle just about any white or red, but I particularly like Rhone reds, Alsatian pinot gris and merlot-based Bordeaux with the “national bird.”

Chocolate desserts love – are you ready for this – cabernet sauvignon. Ices and sorbets are great with Moscato and sweet sparkling wines. Try blue cheese with Port and late harvest zinfandel.

One final thought: if you prefer Mad Dog 40-40 with your Peking Duck, go for it! The best food and wine pairing is what you choose. The key is to do the pairing.

I have never been a big fan of water, though I do know we need to consume a good bit to sustain life. I generally prefer to get my water through the consumption of other beverages (after all, wine is approximately 85 percent water).
I must admit, however, that it has been easier than usual to abstain from water over the past couple of months here in Charleston. Therefore, I have turned our water emergency into an opportunity for you and me.
Since I am only getting 85 percent water out of each  bottle consumed, I needed to rev up my wine consumption in order to remain properly hydrated. Therefore, today I am able to recommend quite a few more wines than normal for your sipping pleasure.

Here are some wines that you might wish to try along with some suggested food pairings.

Voveti Prosecco DOC NV ($20) Fresh, fragrant and light, this delivers a touch of sweetness, followed by aromas of citrus and ripe apples. This wine is crisp, easy and refreshing and would make a great porch sipper or a good accompaniment to mild cheddar, some walnuts and a bunch of grapes.

Mulderbosch Rose
Mulderbosch Rose

2011 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($20) While 2011 was difficult vintage, this barrel fermented chardonnay has apricot and spicy nutmeg –like flavors, balanced by good acidity and toasty oak nuances. Try this with a roasted chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and rubbed with garlic, olive oil and rosemary.

2011 Gary Farrell Russian River Pinot Noir  ($45) Another good wine from 2011, this pinot noir has ripe black cherry and spicy tea flavors. With a backbone of bracing acidity, this wine begs to be matched with a filet of salmon that has been brushed with cumin, lime juice and honey and grilled over a charcoal fire (or gas grill).

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs ($22) – This Sonoma County wine is produced using the Champagne-method. Made from pinot noir, this blush colored sparkler is richly textured with a hint of brioche underneath the ripe berry flavors. The wine is round but dry on the finish and would make a good match to grilled baby back ribs with a red sauce.

2012 Mulderbosch Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) This is a very full bodied South African rose that tastes of ripe sour cherries just picked from the tree. It is rich, but dry and would work very well as an accompaniment to lighter styled meat dishes such as chicken coq au vin.

2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton ($27) From Spain, this old vine grenache is rich, ripe, round and full-bodied. Flavors of black raspberries and spicy tea with just a hint of vanilla make this a superb accompaniment to beef dishes such as roasted prime rib with a chimichurri sauce.

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto ($20) – This Italian sweet red sparkler is chock full of raspberry and black cherry flavors and would make an equally good aperitif or dessert wine. Rosa Regale is especially good with most desserts, especially vanilla ice cream and raspberries or any chocolate dish.

If you’re still concerned about the water, you might want to get your hydration the way I do. Cheers.

The Importance of vintage years

I believe the most important factor in making good wine is temperate weather throughout the vintage cycle. Yes, the location and topography of the vineyard is important as is planting the right grape in the right soil, but none of this matters if the year is too wet, dry or cold, or if the vineyard experiences the devastation of hail or a vine killing frost.

With that said, there’s some pretty good news for those who like to drink American wines.

Easton Amador County Zin
Easton Amador County Zin

In California, after an uncharacteristically cool growing season in 2010 and an almost disastrous harvest in 2011, 2012 turned out to be both large and excellent and 2013 is proving to be almost as good.

Amazingly, given the geographic diversity of the state, all AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas) have reported excellent wine in the last two California vintage years. That is already translating into better availability and steady prices for California wines, even those in the premium growing areas of Napa and Sonoma counties.

Washington, which produces more wine than any state other than California, has had good to exceptional vintages in recent years. The 2009 vintage has resulted in very good cabernet, syrah and merlot while unusually good acidity helped the 2010 harvest overcome a cool growing season to produce excellent pinot gris and riesling.

While 2011 was a very challenging year in the state, 2012 produced great quantity and excellent quality, particularly in red wines. The 2013 Washington vintage was very warm with abrupt cooling late in the year, but overall quality, especially for reds, is very good.

There is also good news coming out of Oregon where there has been a string of good to excellent vintages. While 2011 was average at best, the 2008, 2010 and 2012 harvests have produced exceptional wine, particularly for that state’s premier grape – pinot noir. This past year has been called a tale of two vintages. Grapes picked before the rains began (and continued for 11 days) were exceptional while the jury is still out on those picked later.

Why all this information on vintages? Well, as a home wine maker, I know first hand what a poor vintage can yield, particularly in the hands of an amateur. One year, confronted with a half ton of mushy, moldy grapes, I produced a foul smelling, horribly flawed wine that tasted not quite as good as witch hazel.

But even professional vintners hold their collective breaths waiting for Mother Nature’s final verdict. The individuality of vintages reminds us not to take things for granted in the wine world. It is also an opportunity for we consumers to take advantage of an abundant and good vintage to stock up on the wines we love to drink.

One important caveat, though, is worth noting here: even in poor vintage years, there are some hidden gems just waiting to be found.

Here are few wines I’ve been sipping from a few of those good vintage years that you might consider: 2010 Easton Amador County Zinfandel ($17); 2010 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir ($44); 2012 Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Chardonnay ($19); and 2012 L’Ecole No. 41 Semillon ($17).

While we all await with great trepidation the inevitable onslaught of post holiday bills, I’ve got the prefect tonic to assuage our collective mental anguish: open a bottle of good, inexpensive, mood enhancing red wine and sip it with your favorite comfort food.

Hey, there’s no shame in feeling a little down after all that celebrating. The real shame would be neglecting our primal need for hearty sustenance beginning with a spirit warming red wine. We’ll get to the food later.

While I dearly love cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux varietals such as merlot and cabernet franc as well as those full-bodied reds such as syrah, Barbaresco and Barolo, I invariably fall back on my favorite go-to big red – zinfandel.

Benjamin Disraeli was famously quoted as proclaiming: “The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end.”

With all due respect to the late and esteemed Mr. Disraeli, I must say that I disagree, particularly when it comes to wine. The first grape I ever had the pleasure of making into wine more than 30 years ago was zinfandel. And even though the resulting liquid was so over-oaked that it resembled toasted wood more than it did wine, I still love zinfandel (made by professionals) to this day.

One of my favorite Zins
One of my favorite Zins

Zinfandel is a very versatile wine. While the actual origin of the grape has been genetically traced to Croatia, it is widely thought of as “America’s wine.” This is a wine many people think is white (as in White Zinfandel) or blush, but of course it is one of California’s greatest red wines.

And while Napa Valley is the premier growing area for most red wines, I feel zinfandel does best in Sonoma and Amador Counties. Sonoma zinfandel is a characteristically full-bodied wine with loads of blackberry –like flavors that, while classically dry, has an almost mouth-filling fruit sweetness.

I suggest you try these Sonoma zinfandels: Ridge Lytton Springs, Ridge Geyserville, Ravenswood Sonoma, Quivara, Dry Creek, Seghesio, Foppiano,
Mazzocco and Pedroncelli.

While Sonoma zins showcase berry fruit, Amador County zinfandel has more coffee, mint and chocolate-like qualities. There are some berry flavors too, but they are not as prominent as in the Sonoma-made wine.

Amador can produce some very highly concentrated wines, but they are wonderful matches with garlic-infused dishes. Try Renwood Old Vines, Montevina, Terra d’Oro, Shenandoah Vineyards, Folie a Deux , Easton and Amador Foothill Winery.

As noted earlier, zinfandel is a wonderful match to fuller flavored foods and hearty dishes. Here is one of my favorites: Pasta with red sauce, peppers and Italian sausage.

One pound of linguine
One-half cup of Peccorino- Romano finely grated cheese
One pound of Italian sausage without the casing
Three garlic cloves finely chopped
One large can of whole tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
One large onion chopped
One hot banana pepper chopped (optional)
Two red peppers and one green pepper cut into two-inch long strips
One teaspoon each of ground black pepper and kosher salt

Sauté the sausage until cooked, drain off fat and remove from the pan
Sauté garlic, onion and peppers until translucent and add sausage
Add the tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes
Cook linguine and drain
Add linguine to tomato, sausage and pepper sauce
Plate and add cheese

Then pour yourself a big glass of zin and forget about the bills to come.

On the lamb with Sparky’s Revenge

Lamb gets a baaaad rap.

I know, I know… my attempt to use this sophomoric pun doesn’t play as well to the eye as it does to the ear, but you have to admit, it does ring true.

And in all honesty, how could anyone abide the traditional English leg of lamb which is roasted (without any other spices save salt and pepper) in it’s own gamy juices and then served with huge dollops of mint jelly to obscure the awful taste.

In my own case, I could never get over the traumatic early life experience of finding out that my pet goat Sparky had not really run off, but rather was the featured centerpiece of an Easter meal that my Italian grand parents prepared decades ago.

For whatever reason, though, lamb is still mostly unappreciated by we All-American beef eaters who have been steer-ed toward and force fed cow meat from the time we could use a fork and knife without hurting ourselves.

Hey, believe me, I am a beef addict too, but years ago I was introduced to a marinated and grilled leg of lamb that was so off the-charts spectacular that I was able to dis-remember the day we ate Sparky.

And I can’t help but think that some of our aversion to mutton has to do with our Wild West forebears who saw sheep as competition to cattle for the huge tracts of land it took to raise beef.

I’m often reminded of the cowboy ‘s disdain for sheep that was recorded for posterity by Johnny Cash on his album “Ballads of the True West. ” A verse from one of his songs of his songs says it best:

“A sheep herder come once and put up a fence,
We seen him that time, but we ain’t seen him since,
But if your needin’ mutton, we got mutton to sell,
Cause we’re cow punchers and we’re mean as hell.”

Well, despite that old song, the truth is lamb has come of age and is widely available on most fine dining room menus. Lamb is raised all over the world – even here in our state – where I regularly get it from the Monroe County Farm Coop and Sandy Creek Farms. I also get New Zealand rack of lamb at Sam’s Club.

Today, I’m going to provide you with my recipe for leg of lamb that is a perfect holiday season alternative to those roasted meat dishes we traditionally prepare. Of course, nothing marries better with roasted lamb than full-bodied red wine, and Ill suggest several for your consideration.

I call this recipe Sparky’s Revenge.

One five to six-pound boned and butterflied leg of lamb
One half bottle of good dry red wine
Six ounces extra virgin olive
Two ounces of red wine vinegar
Eight garlic cloves, chopped finely
One teaspoon of dried mustard
Three tablespoons of fresh rosemary chopped or two of dried rosemary
Two teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
One tablespoon of salt
Two lemons juiced and cut into quarters

A perfect match with Sparky's Revenge
A perfect match with Sparky’s Revenge

Trim some of the thickest fat from the lamb
Combine the salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and mustard into a mixture
Rub the mixture all over both sides of the lamb
Place lamb in a large container or gallon plastic bag
Add the wine, lemons, vinegar and juice and pour in and cover lamb
Put in the refrigerator overnight or for at least eight hours
Prepare a charcoal fire or heat up the gas grill
Remove meat from the marinade and pat dry
Place meat directly over the fire four minutes per side until seared
Cook meat indirectly for 30 minutes or until inside temperature reaches 135 F
Allow the meat to sit covered loosely with foil for 20 minutes
Slice and serve immediately

My favorite wines for grilled leg of lamb are big and red. Here are some that should make Sparky sing: 2011 Easton Amador County Zinfandel ($17); 2010 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel ($32); 2011 Molly Dooker Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon ($25); 2010 Brancaia Tre Rosso ($20); 2011 Ciacci Piccolomini Toscano ($16); 2011 Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon ($32); 2008 Zonin Amarone Della Valpolicella ($42); 2011 Vu ja de Outlaws, Rebels and Renegades ($29).

Wines to give thanks for

Thanksgiving is just a week away and turkey will once again be the centerpiece of this culinary celebration. In the past, I have written about the versatility of turkey to be successfully matched with red or white as well as light or full-bodied wines. The reason this is possible is because turkey has a variety of flavors, colors and textures which can match just about any wine.

Add to these dimensions, the manner in which the turkey is prepared (i.e., roasted, smoked, grilled or fried) and the type of stuffing used, and you have a complex set of flavor components that make matching wine with it fun. Indeed, we should give thanks for this rare opportunity to sample several different wines with the same holiday meal.

Conventional wine wisdom dictates that white meat should be accompanied with white wine. Well, in the case of Thanksgiving turkey, that is only partially true. From an herbal sauvignon blanc (which pairs nicely with a sage-flavored bread dressing), to a medium-bodied, yet rich, Alsatian riesling, to a lighter-styled pinot grigio, to a creamy, full-bodied chardonnay, turkey can accommodate each of these white wines quite nicely.

Paired with Domaine Serene Pinot Noir
Paired with Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir

But what really surprises some wine purists is how well turkey matches with red wine, particularly when the bird has been roasted on a grill or smoked. Full bodied reds like cabernet sauvignon, Rhone wines such as Chateauneuf Du Pape, along with zinfandel, shiraz or Amarone go especially well with smoked or grilled turkey.

Check out my grilled and veggie- stuffed turkey  on this page from last Thanksgiving.

The traditional oven-roasted turkey is also very nicely accompanied by a pinot noir, Beaujolais or even tempranillo from Spain. And, given the celebratory nature of Thanksgiving, sparkling wine and Champagne would be an appropriate match too.

And what about a dessert wine with that pumpkin pie? Well, I’ve got a few goodies for your sweet tooth that will pair especially well with this traditional dessert.
So here are some vinous ideas for you to consider as you plan your Thanksgiving dinner.

A Sparkler to prep you palate: Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Schramsberg Brut, Iron Horse Russian Cuvee, Segura Vidas, Zardetto Prosecco or Laetitia Brut Rose would tickle and tingle your palate and get you primed for the meal to come.

Whites: St. Supery Virtu, Trimbach Pinot Gris, Kenwood Sonoma Chardonnay, Clairborne & Churchill Dry Riesling, Jean –Luc Colombo Cotes Du Rhone Blanc, Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer, Talley Vineyards Chardonnay and Medlock Ames Sauvignon Blanc.

Reds for the National Bird: Louis Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon; Zonin Amarone Di Valpolicella, Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino, Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel, MacMurray Russian River Pinot Noir; Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir and Georges Duboeuf Morgon Beaujolais.

For Dessert: Rosa Regale Brachetto, Michele Chiarlo Moscato, Navarro Late Harvest Riesling, J Vidal-fleury Muscat de Beaumes de Venise and St. Hillaire Blanquette de Limoux.

Happy National Bird Day!!

I just put together the wines to go along with the culinary treats at next week’s Wild, Wonderful, Wine weekend at Canaan Valley Resort. I’ll also be recommending some wines to go with your Thanksgiving dinner celebration too.

Check them all out below and join us at Canaan by calling for reservations at 304-866-4181.

The event begins Friday, November 15 at 7 p.m. with a “taste-around reception” where more than 30 wines can be sampled with matching culinary treats from food stations featuring a wonderful selection of delicious goodies upon which to graze.

On Saturday morning, there will be a tasting featuring wines that I will suggest for Thanksgiving dinner. Immediately after the tasting, guests will be treated to a four-course wine-paired luncheon with commentary by yours truly. After lunch, folks will be free to hike, bike, nap watch football or just enjoy Mother Nature’s purple mountain majesty!

Saturday evening’s activities begin at 7 p.m. with a five-course, six wine grand gourmet dinner. The main course, which will be accompanied by two specially selected reds, will feature two portions of beef rib-eye prepared both braised and roasted.

Tasting of Wines for Thanksgiving:

Korbel Extra Dry Sparkling Wine (California); 2012 Acrobat Pinot Gris (Oregon); 2012 Paitin Arneis (Piemonte Italy); 2011 Pedroncelli Russian River Pinot Noir (California); 2011 Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy); 2012 Blenheim Cabernet Franc (Virginia)

Saturday Lunch

Port Pear with Saga Blue Cheese, Chardonnay, Blanched Walnuts & Baby greens
2011 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay

First Entree
Bread Crusted Sea bass with a Lemon Shallot Butter
2010 St. Supery Virtu (semillon and sauvignon blend)

Second Entree
Pork Caprese with Red pepper Corn Fritters and a Sweet Potato Puree.
2009 Falcor Sangiovese
Chocolate Ganache Cake with Banana Foster and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Rondeau Bugey Cerdon Sparkling Rose

Saturday Dinner

First Appetizer
Smoked Salmon Smorrebrod
2012 Medlock Ames Sauvignon Blanc

Cream of White Asparagus & Butternut Squash
2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Second Appetizer
Bacon Wrapped Seared Duck
2010 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir

Lemon Sorbet

Duet of Roasted and Braised Beef Rib Eye
2007 St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon & 2010 Ch. Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon

Chocolate Fabergé Egg
2010 St. Hillaire Blanquette de Limoux Sparkling Wine

It’s that time of year when the frost is on the pumpkin and the good folks at Canaan Valley Resort are preparing to host the annual “Wild, Wonderful Wine Weekend.” And those choosing to stay at the resort will be housed in a beautiful new 180-room lodge with grand views of this awe-inspiring mountain valley.

The “Wild, Wonderful Wine Weekend,” which has become an annual gourmet rite of fall, will be held from November 15th through 17th.

It’s always fun to work with the gastronomic professionals at Canaan Valley Resort and their managing company operator Guest Services, Inc. Once again, I will have the privilege of selecting and commenting on the wines to accompany the multitude of culinary treats throughout the weekend.

Canaan Valley Morning
Canaan Valley Morning

The event begins Friday, November 15 at 7 p.m. with a “taste-around reception” where more than 30 wines can be sampled with matching culinary treats from food stations featuring a wonderful selection of delicious goodies upon which to graze.

On Saturday morning, there will be a tasting featuring wines that I will suggest for Thanksgiving dinner. Immediately after the tasting, guests will be treated to a four-course wine-paired luncheon with commentary by yours truly. After lunch, folks will be free to hike, bike, nap watch football or just enjoy Mother Nature’s purple mountain majesty!

Saturday evening’s activities begin at 7 p.m. with a five-course, six wine grand gourmet dinner. The main course, which will be accompanied by two specially selected reds, will feature two portions of beef rib-eye prepared both braised and roasted.

The menus (see below) should get your collective mouths watering in anticipation. I haven’t completed selecting all the wines yet, but you can rest assured that I will do my best to please the palates of those attending.

Guests have the option of attending the entire weekend for a package price ($290 for a single attendee and $499 per couple inclusive of room, taxes and fees) or choosing to participate in individual events ala carte (see prices below). For additional information or reservations call 800-622-4121 or visit online at

Friday Taste Around Reception ($40.00 per person)

Taste of Italy
Mini Veal Oscar
Olive Tapenade
Greens, Beans & Sausage

Asian / Mediterranean
Beef Lo Mein
Pork Fried Rice
Red Curry Chicken
Chilled Trout Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
Mahi Mahi with Mango salsa

From The Bayou
Alligator Gumbo
Frog Legs
Fried Boudine

Apple Fritters
Chocolate Dipped Fruit
Assorted Pastry’s and Filled Chocolates

Demystifying Wines for Thanksgiving ($20.00 per person)
I’ll share my picks for Thanksgiving Dinner

Lunch with Wine Pairings ($35.00 per person)
Port Pear with Saga Blue Cheese, Chardonnay, Blanched Walnuts & Baby greens
Bread Crusted Sea bass with a Lemon Shallot Butter
Pork Caprese with Red pepper Corn Fritters and a Sweet Potato Puree
Chocolate Ganache Cake with Banana Foster and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Grand Gourmet Dinner with paired wines ($75.00 per person)
Smoked Salmon on Pumpernickel with a Dill Sauce
Cream of White Asparagus & Butternut Squash
Bacon-Wrapped Seared Duck
Duet of Roasted and Braised Beef Rib Eye
Chocolate Fabergé Egg

Hope to see many of you at this Wild, Wonderful Wine Weekend.

Try this dish just for the Halibut

With the onset of fall, I usually segue from lighter wine and food choices to the more hearty fare this cool season seems to demand. But just not yet.

Since I was unable to shed my winter coat (i.e., blubber) this summer, I’m forcing myself to eat lighter for the next few weeks. Yes, I hope to shed a few pounds, but I resolutely refuse to deny myself (and those within my ample shadow) the flavorful food or fruit of the vine we so rightly deserve.

And while it may seem oxymoronic to say this, I am going to provide you with a recipe for some healthy comfort food along with a couple of wines that match up to them quite nicely. Yes, that’s right, low calorie, wine-friendly food that is not only delicious, but healthy too!

The dish I’m going to share with you today uses a filet of firm white fish – in this instance halibut – as the lean protein component. Those of you who wish, however, can substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts or any other mild white fish. I will also recommend both a white and red wine to pair with the meal. I call this recipe:

(Just For The) Halibut

The Recipe (feeds four)

Four six-ounce halibut filets
One cup of wild rice
One tablespoon of butter (optional)
Two ounces of extra virgin olive oil
Two large tomatoes chopped
One-half cup of Kalamata olives pitted
Two tablespoons of capers in brine
One tablespoon of minced garlic
One shallot chopped
One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Four ounces of dry white wine (I use the stuff I will drink later with the meal)
One-half teaspoon of red chili flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pairs nicely with the halibut
Pairs nicely with the halibut

Putting it together

Cook the wild rice, add salt, pepper and butter (or oil) to taste – set aside
Sauté the garlic, tomatoes, shallots in olive oil for five minutes at high heat
Add the wine, vinegar, olives, capers and chili flakes to the sauté pan
Cook for five minutes more at medium heat and set aside
Rub the fish all over with salt and pepper
Sauté fish in a tablespoon of olive oil for 4 minutes (2 minutes per side)
Spoon half the sauce onto the fish and roast in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes
Reheat the rice and mound on plates
Place the fish over the rice and spoon the rest of the sauce over each filet
Serve immediately

Here are two excellent wines to accompany the meal.

2012 St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc ($20) – Citrus and melon flavors highlight this fresh, well-balanced wine. Excellent acidity and a long finish make this the perfect accompaniment to the halibut.

2011 Allegrini Valpolicella Classico ($14) – This northern Italian red has bright cherry flavors with a spicy tea-like nuance. This is a light to medium bodied red that pairs well – especially with the sauce in the halibut dish.