Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Tannic Wines

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is tannic:

* Counterbalance the tannins by serving foods that are high in protein, fat or both.

* Remember that an entrée relatively low in protein or fat may make the wine appear more tannic.

* Remember that tannin and spicy heat can clash!

* Use pepper (cracked black or white) to counterbalance the tannins, as it is somewhat bitter by nature.

* Serve foods that are bitter (eggplant, zucchini, chard, endive, broccoli rabe, etc.) or prepare ingredients in a way that accentuates bitterness (blackening, cooking over a wood fire, or grilling) to achieve taste symmetry.

Ginger & Orange Fried Chicken

I have been on an Asian food kick recently, but taking the easy way out by partaking in mostly carry out varieties.  When I found this recipe, it persuaded me to attempt some recipes at home.

This recipe would pair well with a bright, fruit-forward New-World style Viognier.

Ginger & Orange Fried Chicken

12 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 cups buttermilk

3 tablespoons grated orange zest

2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger

Salt and freshly ground black peper

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Canola oil for frying

* Cut away the tendons from the chicken breasts and discard.

* Lightly pound the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap to a uniform thickness.

* In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk with the orange zest and fresh ginger and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.  (Buttermilk and ginger have a tenderizing effect, so be careful not to marinate the chicken too long or it will become mushy).

* Combine the flour, curry powder, ground ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cayenne pepper in a large bowl or paper bag.

* In a large, deep frying pan or skillet, pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 365 degrees.

* Remove the chicken breasts from the buttermilk and shake off the excess liquid.  One at a time, dredge the pieces in the seasoned flour or place them in the paper bag and shake them to coat.

* Fry until golden brown, turning once, 4 to 6 minutes per side.  If the chicken is browning too quickly, lower the heat.  Transfer the fried chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Serve warm.

Ginger shows well with Viognier and this is a great example of that pairing.  The fruit-forward wine has enough acidity to counter the richness of deep frying and the salt.

Recommended Viognier Producers:

Everyday: Callaway Coastal (multiple appellations, California), Pepperwood Grove (multiple appellations, California), Cline (Sonoma County, California)

Premium: Stags’ Leap Winery (Napa Valley, California), Sobon Estate (Sierra Foothills, California), Kunde (Sonoma County, California)

Splurge: Newton (Napa Valley, California), Joseph Phelps (Napa Valley, California), Cold Heaven (Southern Central Coast, California)

Tasting Exercise: Acid Levels

My goal while learning about different wines is to become proficient in all of the aspects of tasting.  There are a plethora of tasting exercises that can be completed to help accomplish this goal.  This week I will be focusing on learning about acid levels in wine.

* Try a Napa Valley Chardonnay versus a Premier Cru Chablis side by side, then in a blind fashion five times.  There should be a medium and a high acid level.  Repeat five days in a row.

* Try a Napa Valley Viognier versus a Mosel Riesling side by side knowing what they are, then in a blind fashion five times.  Repeat five days in a row.

* Or, put all four in one flight.  Focus on acid impression only.

* Try the same exercise with:

Barossa Valley Shiraz versus Cornas

Napa Valley Merlot versus Washington State Merlot

Gigondas versus Sardinian Cannonau

* Try the same exercise with the same wine from different vintages: one hotter and one cooler.

* If you are having issues, try sucking a lemon (high acid) versus chewing a cantaloupe melon (medium low acid). Taste and cement impressions.

Summer Whites Under $25

If you are looking for wine that is value priced to drink in the last days of summer, look no further!  The following wines have been added to my next liquor shopping list and I hope to report back on any I can find soon.

2012 Sineann Wy’East Vineyard Pinot Gris, Columbia Gorge ($20)

Aromatically distinctive, peanut shells, dried apricot, off dry, broad, textured, vibrant acidity

2012 Aveleda Quinta Da Aveleda, Vinho Verde ($9)

Dry and delicious, food friendly, lemon, grapefruit

2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County ($23)

Taste of crème brulee, twist of lime, heft on finish, solid with food

2012 Ross Andrew Meadow White Wine, Washington-Oregon ($18)

Apple, spice, flowers

2012 Andis Herzog Vineyard Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg ($19)

Off dry with vanilla bean, pear and rose, along with layers of orange and lemon zest

Potosi Brewing Company Steamboat Shandy

Potosi Brewing Company is the closest brewery in my area.  Located in Wisconsin, the home of many fabulous craft breweries, Potosi Brewing Company has a long, rich history.  They celebrate the art of beer at the National Brewery Museum and research library located at the brewery.  I have visited the brewery many times, but always simply for pleasure and never with a discerning eye with the intention of writing about it.  I look forward to driving there again soon and tasting the brews with my notebook in hand.

I typically enjoy a good summer brew, so when I saw Potosi’s Steamboat Shandy, I was immediately interested in sampling it.

Basic Info (via bottle and website)

* Light bodied golden ale blended with pure cane sugar and lemon juice

* 4.5% ABV

* Available April through September

* Refreshing crisp and clean beer

My Notes

This beer was too sweet for me.  As much as I often like a bit of lemon flavor in a summer brew, the addition of pure cane sugar sent it a bit over the edge for me.

Pineapple, Lime & Coconut Spritzer

This wine spritzer is a refreshingly cool thirst quencher to enjoy with friends and family on a sunny weekend gathering.

Pineapple, Lime & Coconut Spritzer

3 cups pineapple juice

2 cups coconut water

1/2 cup fresh lie juice

2 cups of sparkling white wine

* Combine pineapple juice, coconut water and fresh lime juice in a large pitcher.  Chill for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours).

* Just before serving, add sparkling wine.

* Serve over ice, garnished with 1/2 pineapple slice.

Guilt Free Cocktail: Green Grape Frojito

I rarely cross over healthy eating habits into the drinking spectrum, but sometimes I am just looking for something light, refreshing and guilt free.  Especially in the summer when calorie laden homemade margaritas sound divine (and are totally worth the splurge sometimes!), there are times when a low calorie option is preferable.  I love frozen grapes, so when this recipe appeared in my inbox via Hungry Girl, I was certainly up for trying it.

Green Grape Frojito

10 mint leaves

2 no-calorie sweetener packets (like Splenda or Truvia)

2 limes, quartered, for a total of 8 wedges

1 1/2 cups green grapes, frozen

3 oz. rum

1 1/2 cups crushed ice or 8 – 12 ice cubes

* Evenly divide mint, sweetener, and half of the lime wedges between 2 glasses (2 lime wedges per glass).

*  Muddle (a.k.a. mash) the contents of each glass.

* To a blender, add the frozen grapes, rum, ice, and 2 tbsp. water. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lime wedges into the blender. Discard these wedges.

* Blend at high speed until smooth. (If needed, turn off the blender, stir, and blend again.)

* Transfer grape mixture to the glasses, and stir well. Drink up and be refreshed!

1/2 of recipe (about 16 oz.): 192 calories, <0.5g fat, 4mg sodium, 26g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 18g sugars, 1g protein

Horchata Cupcakes & Horchata Cream Cheese Frosting

Full disclosure, I have not actually had a chance to try these fabulous sounding cupcakes and cream cheese frosting, but I am always a fan of made from scratch baking.  This recipe will certainly be taste tested this summer at some point when I have a dessert to bring for a picnic!

Horchata is a traditional Mexican drink made from rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.  One of the most popular brands of horchata liquor is RumChata. RumChata is produced in Wisconsin, so I’m not sure if it is popular in my area simply because it is made in a neighboring state and therefore is fairly local or if it is gaining popularity in other regions as well.  To me, it tastes an awful lot like the milk leftover after eating a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and I have heard many others describe it in a similar fashion.  So chances are if you like that creamy, cinnamon milk, you will like horchata.


Horchata Cupcakes

1/2 cup butter (1 stick, at room temperature)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup horchata

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 egg whites

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees

* Combine sugar & butter and beat until fluffy

* Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

* Mix the horchata and vanilla together.  Set aside.

* Alternating, add in the flour mixture and horchata mixture into the butter and sugar.  Start and end with the flour mixture.

* In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  This will be easiest in an electric mixer.

* Fold egg whites into the batter.  Do not do this with an electric mixer, use a spatula.

* Fill cupcake liners.

* Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Horchata Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 packages, at room temperature)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick, at room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

5 tablespoons of horchata

1 two pound package of confectioners sugar

* Combine butter and cream cheese until smooth

* Add vanilla

* Slowly add confectioners sugar

* Mix in the horchata

* Frost cool cupcakes

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: High Alcohol Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine has a high alcohol content:

* Make sure that the dish being served is ample in personality and weight, or it will be overwhelmed.

* Don’t serve very spicy-hot food!

* Remember that food will make the wine appear even hotter.

* Avoid excessive salt, which will exaggerate your perception of the wine’s heat/alcohol.

Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc

Wine Cube (Target Brand)

Sauvignon Blanc


(St. Helena, Napa County, California)

On Box/Website:

* dazzlingly sophisticated, but completely down to earth

* tropical aromas, bright citrus and melon flavors

* crisp, refreshing finish

* vented and bottled by Trinchero Family Estates

* offers delicious, high quality wine with color, aromas and flavors providing fresh, full-bodied tastes

* guarantee the last glass will be as fresh as the first

* one cube equals two bottles

* fresh for up to four weeks

*13% alcohol

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, low concentration, no rim variation, low viscosity

Nose: clean, low intensity, youthful, lemon, citrus, asparagus, grass

Palate: light, medium bodied, confirms nose, mild flavor, medium alcohol, medium minus acidity, short finish, low complexity

For a boxed wine, this Sauvignon Blanc delivered to my decidedly low expectations.  The wine established a very light, mellow flavor.  Non-aggressive and simple on the palate, this would be a decent wine to pack for a picnic or day on the beach.  Ease of transport and no glass are the selling features for this wine.  Although, in all honesty, this wine was more pleasing than many bottled wines I have tasted.