Comparing and Pairing Iconic California Chardonnays

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You will love the simple and delicious recipes that bring out the distinctive and delicious characteristics of these great Chardonnays.

Brooks Winery – Ageable Oregon

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Meet Oregon’s Brooks Winery, producers of structured, elegant and ageable Pinot Noirs and Rieslings. John and I were thrilled to visit and get the chance to taste their 2002 Janus Pinot Noir (still a baby!), to add to our experience of having tasted some of their extraordinary older Rieslings.

While the Pinot Noirs are indeed superb, its the dry, detailed and mineral-driven Rieslings that really define Brooks. Janie, the owner, told me they bottled 23 different Rieslings this past harvest – I’d call that a serious commitment to Riesling, and I could not be happier about it.

What are they like? Well, Janie loves to remind me of the Pebble Beach seminar where I and several other Master Sommeliers pegged it blind as a top-level Alsace Grand Cru Riesling! I would liken her style to the stony-but-creamy style of Alsace’s Trimbach or Paul Blanck wineries, but you should really try them for yourself.

Janie refers to the Riesling program as the living legacy of her brother Jimi, the pioneering, Riesling-loving vintner who gave life to Brooks’ Riesling identity before sadly passing away just before harvest in 2004. Neighboring vintners kicked into gear to help complete Brooks’ harvest and winemaking that year, and Janie carries on that incredible spirit through the wines and their tasting room, which is a must visit when you are in the Willamette Valley. Here is our video interview of Janie and her winemaker Chris Williams:

Wilson-Daniels 40th Anniversary

I have known Jack Daniels and his partner the late Win Wilson since my earliest days as a sommelier. It was my great honor to be the first recipient of the Wilson-Daniels Master Sommelier Scholarship when I was studying for that test, and to work on the sommelier team for the historic Domaine de la Romanee-Conti tasting, which Jack and Win facilitated for the New York Wine Experience many years ago.

My husband John and I got the chance to sit down with Jack at their historic 40th Anniversary celebration. Over a taste of 2008 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Echezeaux (which was sublime), we talked wine, Win, stemware and much more, spanning four remarkable decades in the wine world.

Beaujolais and Burgers

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French red Beaujolais: you may know it is the Gamay grape, and you probably know the ‘Nouveau’ version, which is released with hoopla on the third Thursday of November – literally just weeks after harvest – for non-cerebral glugging. But also know this: you can have fun with Nouveau for sure, but the serious stuff – Beaujolais Cru- is seriously interesting wine worth exploring, pairing, and even cellaring.

Explore – Beaujolais Cru is the top-level Beaujolais appellation, wherein the wine is named and labeled for one of ten specific crus (vineyard areas) given this official top rank based on soil composition and vineyard exposition, which is basically slope and sun exposure. My favorites among the crus are Brouilly, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie and Julienas. Generally the best artisanal producers are imported to the United States by boutique importers who hand-pick the wines in their portfolios, and then work to ensure they are placed in fine wine shops and on top wine lists. So, best to venture beyond the supermarket to a good wine shop to find worthy examples. In this video we interview Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent proprietor Edouard Parinet, whose family is reviving this classic property in the great Moulin-a-Vent Beaujolais Cru.

Pair – Hard to go wrong here, because Beaujolais cru has the perfect balance of supple fruit, lively acidity and lusty earthiness to match with so many things: French classic dishes like Coq au Vin or an omelette, spicy dishes (no excessive tannin or alcohol to clash with bold flavors), and one of my favorite combos – burgers on the grill. Serve the wine at cellar temperature, which means slightly chilled, and it definitely beats beer in terms of a match with those beefy, smoky flavors. Watch our live video broadcast below for more on this great pairing, as well as my husband John’s tips on making an awesome burger.

Cellar – It’s not something we Americans do much, and for good reason. Storing wine requires space, the right conditions (see my video here for details), and patience. But, if you have the space and the opportunity, great cru Beaujolais is one of the most “affordable agers” – my husband John’s and my category of wines that get better with (proper) aging but aren’t crazy-expensive. I have had cru Beaujolais at 20 years that was sublime.

Here’s the pairing video:

Leflaive Burgundy with Halibut

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If you have tuned in to our other shows you know that John is a great blind taster. Can he pick out the Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet versus the Macon-Verze? My money’s on him! Either way I’m a winner, because he’s demonstrating his absolutely perfect pan-seared halibut preparation to taste with the wines. If you have access to great Alaskan halibut, this is the way to cook it. Let us know what you think!

Tasting Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze

I’m excited to attend this weekend’s celebration of the Wilson-Daniels 40th anniversary this Sunday, and I hope you’ll tune in both here and on Facebook:

6/3/18 – 4 pm PST – Live from Wilson-Daniels’ 40th Anniversary Tasting with Co-founder Jack Daniels

Join us live to talk, taste and reminisce as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of one of America’s most admired wine importers, Wilson-Daniels. My husband John and I will be tasting and pairing some of their wines, and then will (if the wifi fairies smile on us), broadcast live from their celebration tasting in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, where we will interview co-founder Jack Daniels and some of the legendary vintners in the portfolio. Hope to see you there! (The broadcast time is approximate.)

Here’s my video tasting of Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze, to kick off the celebration weekend. Enjoy!