wine pairing with food

7 Wine tips to increase your palette

Have you ever been to a restaurant with the intention of buying a glass of wine, only to be handed a binder full of selections to choose from? Well, it’s times like these where knowing a bit about wine can go a long way.

  1. Try not to exclusively drink the best (read: expensive) wine that you can find at all times. Sometimes, you will notice that some of the best tasting wines are medium grade and not the creme of the crop. Explore all types of wine and try them with different meals to determine your favorites. Also note that when you ask for a server’s recommendations, a good server will not exclusively recommend the most expensive.
  2. If you are having red meats, stick to red wine. This is the general principle, and should rarely be veered away from. Red wine helps to bring out the flavor in the steak or meat that you choose and vice versa, giving you the best possible experience. While red wine may also be appropriate for fish, white is never a good balance for steak.
  3. wine and food pairing

    Always pair red wine with steak

    When purchasing a wine for dinner, make sure to ask in the merchant if the wine is ready to drink. Some wines need to age in order for their true flavor to come out. This might mean months or even years should go by before the bottle is enjoyed. By asking if the wine is ready to drink, you have a better chance of walking out with a bottle you will enjoy.

  4. Read everything you can get your hands-on with respect to wine. Check out blogs and reviews. New ones are coming out all the time, and they can be very valuable in helping you select wine that you might enjoy. Hint: when you find a wine you like from a certain reviewer, make a note that you have similar tastes and this a reviewer you should heed reviews from. There are even apps for your phone that can help with wine selection.
  5. Choose your food and wine pairings carefully. Typically, white wine is suitable for light dishes, salads or fish. Red wine goes well with heavier dishes and dark meats. The rule of thumb is the heavier or darker the dish, the darker the wine that you choose. If you have having a multi-course dinner, start with white wine and progress to red wine.
  6. Be mindful of wine experts and what they say, yet also take their considerations with a grain of salt. Any expert worth his weight in salt will admit to his own fallibility. Also, their personal tastes will never identically match your own. You should never allow an expert opinion to override your own feelings.
  7. Go to wine tastings. There are plenty of free wine tastings at restaurants to get patrons in on slower evenings. Check these out to taste wines you may not otherwise, feel comfortable purchasing a full bottle. Here you can also network and make friends with other wine newbies.

As you now know, there is a lot of information to deal with when it comes to wine. However, when you have the right information and put in a little effort, you can be a wine expert in no time. Just make sure to enjoy your wine education, as it is supposed to be fun!


Stunning Georgia Wineries

While most think the west coast has the market cornered on the best wine, a wine renaissance has been happening in the Southeast. Several wine makers purchased land in North GA and built some stunning wineries. And the wine doesn’t disappoint.

“Wines from Georgia?” Yes, Georgia is more than just fried foods and moonshine. Here are three wineries in North Georgia that are worth the one and a half hour drive from Atlanta.

Kaya Vineyards
Kaya is a lovely new Georgia winery with arguably the best view of the mountains. The 1600 square foot tasting room includes a large patio, perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon. Future plans include building cabins for weekend getaways. Whatever you try, don’t miss the Oola red wine at Kaya. On weekends, Kaya features a guitarist with a velvety voice to serenade you while you enjoy the dog friendly patio. Tastings start at $11, and the winery is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Montaluce Winery
The winery is open daily and tours are free, but it’s best to book the $45 tour and five-wine tasting. Then enjoy dinner at Le Vigne, the posh restaurant overlooking the vineyards. The cuisine at this Tuscan-style winery is just as outstanding as the vivacious wine. The property even has beautiful villas on site where you can stay overnight.
Yonah Mountain Vineyards
Yonah is the beautiful mountain that can be seen from the many wineries in Cleveland, close to Helen. Want to see a magnificent winery that has spared no expense? Yonah Mountain Vine yards is it. Built for special events (mostly weddings), there are even wine caves where some special wine dinners take place. Not a Chardonnay fan? The un-oaked, buttery Chardonnay at this Georgia winery might just change your mind. But the Genesis 7, a blend of Malbec, Merlot and several other reds was is stunning. Tastings start at $10, and the winery is open every day.

Since it is only a one and a half hour drive to these wineries from Atlanta, a day trip is feasible. But what’s even better is taking time to enjoy each winery for its merits. Do the tasting and pick your favorite vino, then relax and enjoy a glass or two at each of the wineries. Many wineries have live music or festivals (especially in the fall), so totally worth spending the afternoon or even overnight.

serving wine for dinner parties

Helpful Tips for Choosing Wine

Do you feel like you’re out of the loop when it comes to entertaining or cooking with wine? Don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to enjoying a good wine. Sure, we all have a favorite stand-by, but that doesn’t mean something different cannot be enjoyed as well. If red is your go-to wine, investigate the possibility of a Pinot Grigio tonight or be really daring and try something you’ve never even heard of!

We all know red wine is a great choice when eating red meats such as steak or beef dishes. Drinking red wine with these foods can really help to bring out the flavor of both the meal and the wine. You can also use the red wine while cooking to help add to the flavor of the meat.

If you are planning to cook with wine, examine your recipe closely. If it calls for dry white wine, this means that the recipe will not work well with a wine that is sweet. Look for a wine that states that it is dry, and you will avoid ruining a potentially fantastic dish.

Don’t shy away from ordering or buying a bottle of something that you can not pronounce the name of. The proprietor or employee is not going to judge you. Don’t deprive yourself of tasting new wines because you can’t speak the name.

When serving wine at a dinner party, try to have at least one variety of red wine and one variety of white wine on hand. While many individuals are not particular to a specific region or winery, most will prefer a red or white. By having both on hand you are sure to please all of your guests with ease.

Before leaving the house and hitting up the local venue, know what you are looking for and have a firm goal set in mind. Leaving without knowing exactly what you want might end up as a night spent hopping hopelessly from cellar-to-cellar. Have a goal ahead of time and when you find the selection that fits, purchase it and return home to enjoy the work.

When you find a bottle of wine that really hits the spot, put away the whole case for a slightly higher price and you’ll save money in the long run. A case is usually 12 bottles of the same age and flavor. The net cost of a single case is reasonably lower than 12 individual bottles in most venues.

Next time you go to buy a bottle of wine, whether to entertain socially or use to cook, you should be more equipped with the right knowledge. Use what you’ve learned here to make things easier on you. Wine can be used to impress, and you now have the tools.

India’s Rapidly Expanding Wine Industry

Image source:

Image source:

When you think of a fine wine, India isn’t the first country to come to mind, is it? Sure, spicy, fragrant food, haggling in markets for trinkets and visiting the Taj Majal would be high on any tourists’ list, but you probably wouldn’t expect to indulge in some fine Indian wine.

Over the last handful of years, India has seen a small, but surprising explosion in the number of wineries throughout the country. The area of Nasik in India is known for it’s grapes and some of the wineries that have set up there buy grapes from local farmers, sustaining them.

India is ripe for the wine production, as many Indians are upwardly mobile and can afford to purchase wine on a regular basis. This has led to wine tastings, clubs and even wine dinners.

Indian wineries are not without challenges though. The calendar is turned upside down. Grapes are pruned in September and picked in February and March to avoid the heat and monsoon season.

White wines like sauvignon blancs, and chenin blancs, are good complements for vegetarian dishes like bhindi masala, (okra) or saag paneer (cheesy spincach).Reds can hold their own against dishes seasoned with cumin, mustard seed, fenugreek and other musky flavors. They pair very well with items prepared in the tandoor oven.

Don’t expect to find many Indian wines outside of the country though. Almost all the wine produced there is consumed there. Maybe it has to do with the slightly different taste of smoky earthiness that isn’t present in the red wine us Westerners are used to. One thing’s for sure, it is a nice match for the spicy foods it is served alongside.

Wine Varietal Substitutions: Change Up Your Holiday Party

holiday parties wineAs the holiday season officially kicks off, no doubt there will be parties to host and attend. Here are some fabulous wine substitutions to be made whether you are the host or guest. 

•  If you like white zinfandel, consider a Riesling.
White zin is the “Kool-Aid of wine.” It can be a good introduction to the wonderful world of wine because it’s sweet, and everybody likes sugar. But there are a number of wines at many price points that are also sweet and carry a much more interesting profile — a fuller body, honey and pear or apple notes and much more. Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines are a great place to start.

Fun fact: red zinfandel hails from the same grape as white zinfandel, except the red variety includes the grape’s skin – white does not. The skin gives the wine a more robust flavor and color than its popular cousin, deep, rich and full of zest. It’s quite different from white zin, but worth investigating with a curious palate.

•  If your go-to white wine is strictly Chardonnay, try a bottle of white from the Côtes du Rhône or a sauvignon blanc from just about anywhere.
Wine can be confusing because varieties may refer to a grape, a region or both. Chardonnay refers to a specific green-skinned grape and is grown all over the world, most notably in Burgundy, France. Côtes du Rhône is from the region of France of the same name and is usually made from a blend of grapes, none of which, by the way, are chardonnay.

Chardonnay is very popular and, it is said, a rite-of-passage grape for wineries. While Chardonnay is a relatively straightforward selection, Côtes du Rhône offers white and red varieties that will be fun crowd-pleasers at parties, and it’s inexpensive. An export grape from the region is Syrah, remarkable for its now-global prevalence, from Washington state to South America to South Africa to Australia, where it’s called Shiraz. For something completely different and light, try sauvignon blanc, which can be herbal and tart , with good acidity and complexity.

“Sauvignon blanc can be like drinking passion fruit – not quite orange, cherry or lemon – just passion fruit,” he says. “I’ll never forget one time I had it with tuna sashimi. It was such a perfect pairing…These are the things that make life great

•  If you like Moscato before dinner, try Sauternes or port wine with dessert.
Again, sweet wines are popular, but Sauternes from the region of Bordeaux with the same name, has a distinct flavor because of a unique geographical attribute. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by a fungus that usually causes souring. But, thanks to the weather in the Sauternes region, the fungus instead adds sweetness and complexity to wine. Varieties range from very sweet to dry as a bone. Port, Portuguese fortified wine, and Sauternes are amazing with nuts, blue cheese and foie gras, or goose liver pâté, slathered on baguette, Kleinfeld says.



Door County Cherry Wine

Wines of Door County

Wine really is everywhere. I was surprised when I headed up to the Buffalo / Toronto area and found so much prevalence of Ice Wine. Most recently when I visited Door County, Wisconsin (they just call it Door County – no city names are used), I was surprised to learn that they have wineries there as well! And you thought all Wisconsin produced was cheese!

Door County is well known for their cherry production. Cherries are a staple at every restaurant, dessert and yes, winery in Door County. So, while in Door County, give some cherry wine a try. I had the opportunity to do just that when I visited Orchard Country Winery.

While we did sample more standard wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, we also got to sample their cherry wine. Simply named, Celebrate, this is a tad sweeter than a Merlot or Cab but certainly a pleasant tasting wine. Orchard Country Winery describes it as a well-balanced semi-sweet blend of white grapes, apples and cherries and recommends pairing with fried chicken or medium cheddar.

cherry pit spit door county

After touring Orchard Country Winery and sipping on some tasty wine, try out your cherry spitting prowess. How far can you spit your pit?

Dial M for Merlot: Advice on Wine

wineIn the past two decades, zins, cabs and chardonnays have soared in popularity among imbibing Americans. The preference of just one in four in 1992, its now the alcoholic beverage of choice for 35 percent of us, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Here’s some advice from author and wine expert, Howard Kleinfeld, author of the book, Dial M for Merlot

1.  What’s the best wine?
You’ll find all kinds of lists purporting to distill the top 10 or top 100 best wines of the thousands upon thousands of new releases each year. They are a wonderful resource for information and a great starting point, but there is no substitute for personal exploration.
“The best wine is always whatever’s in your glass at the moment,” Kleinfeld says, “unless whatever’s in your glass makes you grimace, in which case …”

2.  Don’t drink it if it doesn’t make you happy.
Life really is too short to not make the most of every moment – and every sensual experience.
“I learned that in 2007 when I was diagnosed with throat cancer at, what I felt was, a very young age,” Kleinfeld says. “I got through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with the love and support of my family and friends, but I lost my sense of taste for a few years.”
Cancer-free and with all of his senses intact, Kleinfeld says he has resolved to enjoy every sip of life.
“Don’t waste your time on wine you don’t enjoy. Save it for cooking,” he says. “Drink something that puts a smile on your face. And remember – there are all kinds of smiles.”

3.  Go ahead and shell out $50 or $100 on a wine you just have to taste again.
A lot of us think California and Napa Valley when we think domestic wines, and while The Golden State is the No. 1 producer in the country (followed by Washington, Oregon and New York), every state now has wineries. That means that wherever you are, there’s a wine tasting room within driving distance.
“If you go to a wine tasting and you sample something you absolutely love, something you know you want to taste again – maybe with a steak, which they don’t usually have at wine-tasting rooms, go ahead and buy it,” Kleinfeld advises.
“Forget that it costs three or four times what you (might) usually spend for a bottle of wine. Splurge. See tip No. 2.”

4.  Forget the red with meat, white with fish and chicken rule – unless it works for you.
The idea of pairing red wines with red meats has to do with the bolder flavor of both. Fish and chicken tend to have milder flavors, as do many white wines.
“But there are so many exceptions to those ‘rules’ you may as well just toss ‘em,” Kleinfeld says. “They don’t take into account the range of flavors of meat, fish and chicken, especially when you consider all the different ways they can be prepared. And if you’re not a fan of Riesling, for instance, you won’t like it no matter what you pair it with.”
Be an adventurer, he advises. Open a few different varieties of wine when you sit down to eat and explore different pairings.
“The entrees and wines you best enjoy together are the perfect pairings for you.”

Coravin: A Sexy New Wine Tool

coravin wine system

Want to know what the latest, sexy new wine tool is? It’s the Coravin, a device that lets you sample small tastes from wine bottles without disturbing the cork. Why is this such a neat offering? Well, what it means is that restaurants can now offer small tastes from wines that they only have limited supply of. This means that they can now serve a high end wine to many more customers than before. And for customers who aren’t looking to spend $100 more on a bottle of wine, they can simply get a taste of the wine.

The way the Coravin works is that a needle is inserted right into the cork to release a small amount of wine for a glass or less. The bottle is then pressurized with argon, an inert gas that’s in the air we breathe. Once the device is removed from the bottle the cork reseals itself. This means that the oxidation process never begins. When oxygen is introduced to wine it begins to lost it’s initial taste.

Here’s and excerpt from Coravin inventor, Greg Lambrecht “My dream was to magically pour wine from bottles without ever pulling the cork. The remaining wine could then go back in my cellar, so that I could enjoy it again, whenever I desired. What followed was a decade of development and testing until I had a system that delivered great glasses of wine, indistinguishable from untouched bottles, while never pulling the cork.”

Are you a Supertaster?

Did you know that as you age, you ability to taste goes down? This is why your grandparents are always adding too much salt to the food they eat – they can’t taste it! When it comes to tasting, there are three different types of tasters: a Supertaster, Average taster and a Non-taster. Which would you rather be? Without knowing the definition most would most commonly answer that they’d want to be a Supertaster, right? “Super” sounds better than average, so why not?

Well, a Supertaster as the word implies, means that you taste food in every nuance much more strongly than others. This means that something bitter like kale or collards are much more bitter to your than the average person. Supertasters are more likely to favor bland foods simply because the taste to them of everything is so strong. They wouldn’t much like a bitter IPA beer either.

An average taster, tastes the same things that a supertaster does, though not at the same intensity. You can enjoy earthy wines and bitter foods. On the other hand a non-taster doesn’t really taste much of anything. You can order your food “Thai hot” and it won’t phase your mouth one bit. For this reason, non-tasters may not develop a true love or appreciation of food as other tasters.

Out of the three groupings which every person falls into one or the other, it would seem the best taster is the average taster. This person can appreciate fine food and wine and learn to develop an even more refined palate. As I said above as you get older you lose your ability to taste, so you might as well try to enjoy it while you can.

Here are a couple tips for becoming a better taster no matter what stage in life you are:
Smell first. Even when eating you smell before you eat. Take time to smell the flavors of what you are eating.
Texture. Feel the texture of what you eating which is another big part of consuming and enjoying food. Take time to experience the texture of different foods.

Don’t Swallow Too Soon: Lessons from a Riedel Wine Tasting

How does Georg Riedel begin a wine tasting? By making guests start with water. Yes, water. The best way to learn about why the glass is important is by learning how the liquid  falls on your tongue. So instead of trying to taste the wine, we began by filling our three glasses with water. We started with a flared glass (Pinot Noir), small opening (Syrah) and big glass (Cabernet). It was interesting to note how the glass opening can affect where the liquid falls on your tongue.

Once we dispersed the wine into the various glasses and went through the various tastings, we could truly taste and SMELL a difference. The shape of a wine glass really does affect the smell. It can also affect the acidity and the saltiness you pick up when sipping. Wine has first and second aroma. It is important to smell the wine before drinking, taking deep breaths.

Georg Riedel demonstrates a Riedel Decanter

“Don’t swallow your wine too soon”, says Georg Riedel. He likes to savor it in the mouth first. There are calories in wine, so if we are going to drink it, we should really swirl it around in our mouth before we swallow. “If we commit to a sin, at least we should enjoy it,” he says. I have to agree.

If you plan to decant your wine, it is important to have superior tools for that as well. See above where Mr. Riedel shows off his luxury Riedel decanter to the audience. Yes, it’s full of wine.

Here are some other gems, Mr. Riedel shared with us:

  • Flared glass is also great for champagne.
  • As we get older our preferences for different reds change. In his mid 60s, Riedel loves Pinot Noir a change from Cabernet in prior decades.
  • The narrow opening glass (Syrah) is the best universal glass for any red wine. Though most people don’t want to use it because it isn’t that aesthetically pleasing and is hard to dry.

But that wasn’t all. Alcohol isn’t the only nectar that deserves it’s own speciality glass. Riedel has been asked by Coca-Cola to develop a glass specifically for this fizzy product. As Coke is headquartered in Atlanta, it made perfect sense to debut the glass at the Atlanta Riedel wine seminar.