Tag Archive | "food and wine pairing"

Find the Right Wine for Your Holiday Meal

Nothing complements holiday meals quite like the perfect wine pairing, write the folks at Go Texan. So, as you plan your holiday menu, keep Texas wine in mind. We have some suggestions on what to pair with your various holiday menus.

It pairs well with…

wine bottleTurkey
Fried, baked or roasted turkey pairs well with dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. If you prefer your turkey smoked or grilled, sip on a dry, red wine, such as Pinot Noir or Shiraz.
If you’re dining on steak or prime rib, pair a red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo or Sangiovese with your meal.

Chicken or seafood
For dishes with chicken, wild-caught Gulf shrimp or fish, try Chardonnay, Blanc du Bois, Chenin Blanc or Gewurztraminer to make the flavors sing.
Wild game
Hunters can sip Pinot Noir or Zinfandel with duck and quail, or Merlot or Syrah with wild boar.
white wine2Side dishes
To sample Texas wine with side dishes alone, uncork Cabernet Franc with cornbread stuffing or wild rice, and serve a sweet wine like a Muscato with your sweet potatoes.
Pair a Port or Riesling with your decadent chocolate, fruits and other sweet treats for a truly special Texas holiday meal

If you’re looking for a way to get out of the house and spend some holiday time with your family this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, look at one of the many holiday events at many of our Texas wine trails.

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At Fiesta Oyster Bake, It’s All About the Oysters. And the Wine.

John King of Glazier's talks with a customer about wine choices.

John King of Glazier’s talks with a customer about wine choices.

For the third year in a row, I had the great fun of working at the wine booth during the opening night of Fiesta Oyster Bake. And it’s a tradition I hope to continue far into the future.

Sack after sack of Gulf oysters cook over hot coals.

Sack after sack of Gulf oysters cook over hot coals.

Because even though the party atmosphere doesn’t always lend itself to serious wine contemplation, I was part of a team that really worked hard to make sure our customers were having a great time. And what better way to celebrate Fiesta, San Antonio and the joyous spring we’ve been enjoying than with a glass of wine that you really enjoy?

We work hard to ensure that each year, though the scene is slightly different each Fiesta. Last year, for example, we poured the selections of only one winery, and the thousands of guests we served gratefully took what we had to offer.

This year, we got to introduce a few wines to San Antonio as we tried to make sure everyone ended up with something that they would appreciate.

“Good evening. What kind of wine do you like to drink?”

We said that to customer after customer as we proffered an array of wines that ran from sweet to dry.

If you’re among the millions of Americans who think that the word “Chardonnay” is synonymous with “wine,” you were in for a real eye-opener. The unoaked Acacia Chardonnay  is crisp, clean and dry with plenty of fruit and citrus acid to make your mouth pucker in delight. It was the perfect accompaniment for a bucket of the grilled oysters that were being prepared just behind our booth.

A bucket of grilled oysters.

A bucket of grilled oysters.

Sack after 75-pound sack of oysters was dumped over the hot coals, sending out a heady aroma of brine, shellfish and smoke that drew hungry customers to the food booths.

The wine was also perfect for any San Antonio summer afternoon when the thermometer rises into the triple digits. I’d also pair it with the chicken on a stick as well as a steaming hot ear of Oyster Bake corn on the cob.

For those who wanted something a little sweeter, there were several selections sliding from the realm of off-dry to super sweet. The Rose ‘N’ Blum Pinot Grigio had a light touch of sweetness matched with flavors of stone fruit such as nectarine and apricot, while the Sterling Vineyards Aromatic White mixed dry and sweet grapes with a marked emphasis on the later. The Butterfly Kiss Moscato and the Rose ‘N’ Blum Pink Moscato both appealed to lovers of unabashedly sweet wines, drinks that would be perfect with a bag of caramelized kettle corn or even the deep-fried cheesecake from a nearby booth.

At the nacho booth, a show of support for Boston.

At the nacho booth, a show of support for Boston.

I found myself pouring more of the red wines, which had a different audience, though matching the right wine to the patron wasn’t always easy. There’s still some mystery out there among wine drinkers about what the words used to describe wine mean, and Fiesta might not be the best place to learn wine vocabulary. But we pressed on in the hopes of pleasing people.

“Do you want a sweet wine or a dry wine?” we’d ask.

“Oh, a dry wine.”

“What kind do you usually drink? Red or white?”


“Do you know what grape you like?”


That’s where the Rose ‘N’ Blum Pink Moscato came in handy.

For those who wanted a really dry red wine, the choices became harder. We had two new reds on the market, both from the Once Upon a Vine Winery in Sonoma County, Calif. They were a Pinot Noir and The Big Bad Red Blend, which was made up of a fruit combination of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. We also had a dry red blend, Stark Raving Red, which was made up of Tannat, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Corn, butter and what wine? Think Chardonnay.

Corn, butter and what wine? Think Chardonnay.

So, trying to get people to figure out if they wanted fruity or dry, light bodied or full bodied became more of a problem, especially since giving out samples really were off the table.

We persisted, in the hopes of finding some descriptor that would clue us in to what they wanted. Sometimes they came up with a word that let us know where to go; other times, we just guessed. (Admittedly, our attentions were occasionally diverted as someone on the line’s cellphone buzzed through with an update on what was happening with the Boston manhunt and the capture of the bombing suspect, but we worked on.)

A few were really interested in what grapes made up each blend, because they, too, wanted to make sure their $3 a glass was being spent well. So, they listened to talk of how, in the Big Bad Red Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were likely used to give backbone to the Zinfandel used, while the same three grapes were used to smooth out the usually rustic Tannat in the Stark Raving Red.

Friday is family night at Oyster Bake.

Friday is family night at Oyster Bake.

Something seemed to work. We began getting repeat customers. Then more repeats. A few wanted to try something else, but most wanted to repeat the experience they’d had earlier that evening — and they wanted it on more than just Friday night. They wanted to know the price of the wine — about $11 a bottle for most of what we poured — and they wanted to know where to find it (Twin Liquors or Gabriel’s are your best bets).

There was a reason for that. Most of what we poured really was something you wanted more than just a taste of. The Stark Raving Red and the Acacia Chardonnay are both wines that I’ll be on the lookout for, and not just during Fiesta. If I find the One Upon a Vine wines along the way, I’d seriously consider picking up a bottle or two. I just won’t be matching them with oysters.

Red wine and oysters are an ugly mix, but that’s another topic entirely.

Here’s hoping that your Fiesta wines are all rewarding and that you enjoy them responsibly.

Walking through the Oyster Bake with corn and without care.

Walking through the Oyster Bake with corn and without care.


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Wine Review: Santa Rita Cab Tastes Great and Promises More

By Cecil Flentge

Santa Rita Winery, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley 2009

I like good wine.  I like to save money.  I love good, inexpensive wine.  So when I looked in the cellar for something to go with what I call ‘Salsabury Steak’ (hamburger, Italian sausage, salsa – made into a patty) the wine right in front of me beckoned. A Santa Rita 2008, I found it scrumptious, I wanted more.  But now the wine on the shelves is the 2009, would it be as good?


This estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon comes from vineyards located in Chile’s Maipo Valley, just south of Santiago.  As you take in the aroma, you get a hint of smoke and cedar, then the ripe cherry laced with earthy minerality.  The flavors built as I sipped with cherry, coffee, and grilled radicchio bringing depth and richness.  The tannins are there but subdued by the balanced acidity and long finish where, after a few minutes, there was a definite cocoa component. I expect that this wine will improve for a year or two and hold for several more.

Widely distributed, this wine is available at HEB for $9.


With or without dinner, this wine was the ever comfortable friend that told my tongue just what it wanted to hear.  The match with the richly flavored beef and pork patty was perfect.  The spicy salsa took nothing away from the wine and the wine wooed a bit more fun out of dinner.  Trying 2008 sent me looking; the 2009 tells me I can relax and depend on this winery.  So buy a case!

Cecil Flentge is a native Texan who tours wine regions, offers wine education classes, and writes an eNewsletter about wine and food. Contact him at



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Spectacular Brilliance: My Pursuit of the Perfect Pairing

Troy Knapp

By Troy Knapp

The process of winemaking, essentially, is quite simple; these miraculous berries almost ferment themselves, with their natural yeast on the outside and the sugars and juice on the inside. When simply crushed, the elements combine and under the right environment can produce something that is mysterious and seductive.

Such a simple process, and the end result can yield extreme complexity in the glass. “Notes of caramel, butterscotch and honey with hints of orange blossom and baking spices, minerality and tropical fruit backed by racy acidity and a long finish that is dry on the palate” — that’s why it’s wine for me. Don’t get me wrong, a hand-crafted beer or cocktail can be quite delicious; however, wine is unique and its relation to food unparalleled.

The more I’ve learned about wine, the more I was seduced: intrigued to a level of excessiveness. As a chef, I felt this was crucial in the pursuit of a heightened experience. It was clear to me, that even if I perfected a dish, it is void of its overall pinnacle that only wine could provide. It was the theory of 1 + 1 = 3. I needed to know more. I started studying and, of course, tasting, quite a bit! Homework has never been so much fun. I had been in the hotel business for 20 years and had always enjoyed a great glass of wine. I had cooked for my fair share of winemaker dinners, lived close to the Central Coast wine region in California, which I visited regularly.

For all intents and purposes, I thought I was pretty well versed on wine. All that changed when I sat in a Las Vegas classroom with the Court of Master Sommeliers for the level one exam. Two days of high intensity lectures, blind tastings and service skills, all culminated with a theory exam that shook me up pretty good. I passed; however, at that moment I realized that although I had been around wine in a fairly high capacity for years, I had never truly actively studied it. If I wanted to learn and delve deeper into my passion I would have take this seriously and dedicate myself to a strict study regimen. There were doubts. Where would I fit this in to my already crazy life of being an executive chef, where a 65- to 70-hour work week was considered normal and still be a good spouse and a dedicated father to my two young children? My wife was extremely supportive and truly became my coach. I worked like crazy to absorb as much as I could to prepare for the next step.

Flash-forward one year later and I was on a flight to Seattle for the level two certification exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Everything I had worked for over the course of the previous year came down to one day of testing. The countless hours of studying, blind tasting and absorbing paid off; I passed the exam and was able to return home with the title of Certified Sommelier. Studying and tastings are now a routine part of my life and continued education will always be important in my passion for food and wine.

Wine pairing can be simple or complex, it all depends on how deep you want to go. A few common “safe” rules can take you far and faithfully deliver a consistent result. However, by delving deeper and taking a leap of faith, you just may create an experience of sheer and spectacular brilliance. This column will explore food and wine pairing possibilities, but more so, inspire you to go outside your comfort zone in the effort to create memorable and lasting experiences.

As the actor W.C. Fields said, “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” Cheers!

Troy Knapp is executive chef at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, including Antlers Lodge. He’s also a Certified Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine. 



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Wines for the Big Feast


When you’re planning your big meal this holiday season, make sure you include wines as part of your menu.

Most wouldn’t serve the same wine with beef tenderloin that they would serve with turkey. A hearty, robust California Cabernet Sauvignon would overpower the turkey; a Sauvignon Blanc that would complement the turkey might get lost in all that beef.

So, the following are a few suggestions of wines to pair with a variety of main courses. Just remember: When in doubt, a brut sparkling wine, from Spanish Cava to French Champagne to Italian Prosecco, will go with just about everything but dessert. And it certainly is festive.

Beef tenderloin: This is the dish that’s perfect for your big California Cabs and Merlots as well as a Bordeaux, a Spanish Rioja or a Chateauneuf du Pape. From Italy, a Barolo, a Barbaresco or a Brunello di Montalcino would all suffice. But there are problems:

  • If you are serving this with a complex sauce, choose a wine that is less complex.
  • If you are blackening the beef or using a spicy rub, then forget the Cab or any big red wine and stick with something lighter and fruitier, such as a young Shiraz or Sangiovese. A sparkling Shiraz with spice would be fine, but this wine does not appeal to all, so don’t spring it on people unawares.
  • If you’re roasting beef, also consider a Malbec, a hearty, rustic red wine most famously made and consumed in Argentina — where the per-capita consumption of beef is one of the highest in the world.

Lamb: Syrah or Shiraz has enough fruit and acid to work well with lamb. If you’re cooking it on a rotisserie or grill outside, put some of the smoky flavor up against a good Argentinian Malbec or a South African Pinotage, a red wine with a robust character.

Pork roast: Pork might be light in color, but it is richly flavored, especially if you’ve put a spicy rub on it. We think a fruity Cru Beaujolais or a New World Pinot Noir, from California or Oregon, would be good. A few names: Rodney Strong, McMurray Ranch, Morgan Winery, Amici, or try the very good Ponzi, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Turkey: If the turkey is blackened, we’d like it with a spicy Zinfandel. If it’s not, a Zin might still work, but lighter wines, such as a Gewürztraminer, would give you some acidic edge to cut through the fat and spice to complement the light flavor of the white meat.

Duck: Duck, simply roasted, is a perfect match for Pinot Noir. But few prepare it simply. So, follow these rules:

  • If you’re making a sweet-sticky sauce, such as orange or sweet cherry, or using a spicy rub, then go with a sweet wine. It could be a Riesling with some sweetness or it could be a Mavrodaphne Patras, a naturally sweet red from Greece. Moscato d’Asti or Muscat Canelli, with its tinge of orange flavor, is another good match.
  • If it’s spicy, think Zin again.

Goose: Goose is a fatty meat, like duck, so whatever you choose will need some heft, acidity, a little spice.  A Zinfandel that is not too heavy (ask the wineseller about this) would be a good choice, but also consider some of the white wines from the Alsace or Germany — dry or off-dry Riesling could work, too.

Shellfish: Champagne is made for lobster, whether you are serving it steamed or covered in a creamy sauce. Here again, choices must be made based on your recipe. If you are making a sweet thermidor sauce, you want an off-dry Champagne (the wine must always be sweeter than the food you serve it with). If the sauce is not sweet, then a brut Champagne or a California Chardonnay should be ideal. Sauvignon Blanc is perfect with oysters and scallops, but also consider a steely French Chablis. A Riesling with a touch of sweetness is excellent shrimp in a spicy sauce. Moving to the Old World, don’t forget the edgy Sancerre, or even a Sancerres rosé (usually made from Pinot Noir), if you’re lucky enough to put your hands on one.

Vegetarian feast: Take your tip from your main course. If it’s something earthy, like portobello mushrooms or potatoes, think Pinot Noir or French Burgundy.  If it’s lighter and sweeter, including onions or carrots, think about a German Riesling, a spicy Gewurztraminer or a sparkling wine labeled extra dry (which means it has some sweetness to it).

(Photos: Wong Mei Teng)

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Thanksgiving Wines, From Traditional to New

MulderboschFinding the right wines to serve at Thanksgiving is never an easy task. You have to start with what you’re serving.

Get beyond the turkey and look at your side dishes. Are you having candied yams and a sweet cranberry relish? Mashed potatoes and stuffing? Green bean casserole? All of the above?

Each of those foods calls for a separate wine, so you may want to have a couple of glasses on the table or offer a couple of wines to suit people’s tastes.

With the candied yams and the relish, both loaded with sugar, you’ll want a sweeter wine, something like a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer from Washington state. That’s because your wine should always be sweeter than the food you’re pairing it with or the wine will taste shrill and bitter. Hogue Cellars and its sister label, Genesis, make fine examples of both starting at about $10 a bottle.


Hogue Cellars Riesling

If your plate will be filled more with roast turkey, mashed potatoes and a not-too-herbal stuffing, then think about a Chardonnay or a Burgundy (either white or red, but not California’s “hearty Burgundy” out of a jug). The bold flavors of these wines will bolster the meal without clobbering it into submission.

An elegant Pinot Noir, with plenty of acid, is supremely food friendly. Fine examples of this can also be costly. But, we like the 12 Clones Pinot Noir from Morgan, which runs in the $20s. If you want to spend more, Morgan has a line of single-vineyard Pinots as well, each equally stunning.

Another red suggestion could be a Rhone blend, either from France or the United States. These are lighter bodied wines that won’t clobber your dinner with its brashness. Llano Estacado Signature from Texas is a fine example of this at a reasonable price of about $10 a bottle.

There are many lighter-styled reds that are very good matches with giblet gravy or a gorgeous goose. Inexpensive Spanish Tempranillo or Garnacha, Chilean or New Zealand Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Villages, and even Italian Montipulciano reds can slip right into your Thanksgiving dinner beautifully.

Cool, refreshing rosé certainly pair well with many Thanksgiving favorites. The acid cuts through the sauce of the green bean casserole and gives turkey a little pick-me-up. Plenty of youthful rosés from the southern hemisphere have begun appearing in the market now, with the Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon ($12-$16) being a perennial standout. Also, be sure you’re purchasing a dry rose — white Zinfandels and other blush wines will be sweeter.  (So, maybe have those with the candied yams!)

If you have to have Cabernet Sauvignon, especially a big one in the California style, then feel free to do so. But think about serving it after dinner, so you can enjoy the wine on its own and be thankful for every drop in your glass. Remember, these wines are more geared to go with beef than turkey. Serving one will only help disguise all the flavors of what you’re eating.

If there is one ubiquitous wine for the multifarious dishes on the Thanksgiving table, it might be the most logical choice for a celebration: sparkling wine. Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, all sparkling wines and all worth exploring. An off-dry Prosecco like Zardetto often sells for $10-$15, while the ever-reliable Domaine Ste. Michelle series from Washington state sells in the same price range. We recently judged a wine competition where both the Korbel Brut Rosé and the Korbel Blanc de Noirs (very light rose color) took top prizes. These are under $15.

You could also use a less-expensive sparkler in the following Thanksgiving-inspired cocktail, the Relish: Mix 1/2 ounce cranberry juice and 1 ounce orange juice in a Champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling wine. Serve.

Bonnie Walker and Cecil Flentge contributed to this article.

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