Sunday Dinner – Grenache Noir

Man what a day… I mean seriously, an entire day of sitting on the couch watching House of Cards.  If that doesn’t merit a good dinner and a beautiful bottle of wine than I don’t know what does ;).  Yes, thats right… ALL DAY, ALL DAY watching House of Cards.  Lyon has turned from cold to freezing… this California girl is FREEZING.  So we stayed indoors all day, caught up on our good American TV series, and then rewarded ourselves with a wonderful meal.  What was our wonderful meal… Sunday dinnerPorterhouse Steak with a smoked paprika mayonnaise accompanied by Domaine Ogier Côtes du Rhône Le Temps est Venu.  This wine is a base of grenache noir and syrah.  Let’s talk grenache noir a little bit…

Grenache Noir is a grape with a sugar content… HIGH sugar contact equals HIGH alcohol content.  Therefore it often ends up having high alcohol content and less fruit taste.  The winemaker has a difficult job of keeping the alcohol level down, while simultaneously converting all the sugar to alcohol.  Not easy.  Most often it is blended with other grapes of a lower sugar content and therefore a lower alcohol content.  When made as a single varietal, often times, because of the high sugar content it is a wine that works very well as a late harvest or sweet wine.

Le Temps est Venu is a bright fruit, strawberries and tart cherries with higher alcohol and mild tannins.  For me it is difficult to drink all by itself, but explodes with the right food.  For Sunday dinner, I choose to pair this wine with a very flavorful piece of steak as well as a mild fat sauce in the smoked paprika mayonnaise.  What I did, was cut a little bit the hot alcohol of the grenache noir and made it mild with the addition of the fat.  Together, they made for a wonderful winter dinner!!

French wine and food… a match made in heaven!

Often times the dinner I make is based SOLEY on the bottle of wine I want to drink… Last nights dinner was exactly that.  Here was the wine…Domaine Coste-CaumartinDomaine Coste-Caumartin 2009 Pommard 1er Cru Le Clos des Boucherottes

This is a wine that my husband and I bought about 2 years ago and you can see that since being in our cave, the ticket has started to mold off.  Fortunately, however, the wine had not spoiled at all!  It smelled like a barnyard in my glass- and I LOVE THAT (like really love that)!  The nose was dirty, dirty, dirty!  After about 5 minutes with my nose in dirt- I moved past that dirt- hints of violet, cherry, black cherry, even blueberry.  Again I have to mention my nose is being worked on.  Like everything else, if you don’t practice it fades.   My apologies- I’ll keep on practicing!  On palate it was round, light tannins, tickled my throat, but finished a little short :(.  Unfortunately… we drank it too soon.  It needed another year in the cellar before really being amazing.  But its okay- we have another bottle for next year.

So, what did we eat with it?  Well, I wanted something basic, easy to make, and wintery.  It is currently SNOWING in Lyon, so warm plates are a MUST these days.  I decided to go with my favorite food of the moment- butternut squash.  I know what you are thinking… NO!  not with a Pinot, but let me finish…Butternut Squash PastaButternut squash and sage pasta with grilled chicken.  Now, with the Pommard- you all are right… not the match made in heaven as I had expected, but there was a little something that made it quite interesting.  With the acidity level in the wine and the sage in the pasta the match was in competition, yet brought out the flavors of each.  I actually really enjoyed the pairing.  It was untraditional and you had to give it a sip or two to confirm it worked, but it worked!  I was very happy :).

Sometimes we focus to much on the HAVE TO and SHOULD DO and loose the ideas of just TRYING.  I live of life where I try and I fail, I get back up, I try again and succeed, then try something new.  IF you can’t branch out and try something new or risk something… You’re never really going to GAIN anything.  Am I right?

Also.. I bought a fish to keep me company during the day.  Meet Maximus.  He is named by my husband after the film Gladiator because he is a warrior and will fight for what he wants- and wins! Maximus Welcome to the family Maximus!

6 Days of Bliss- Day 3

SuisseOh, and what a blissful day it was! Waking up early after my codeine induced sleep, we got the morning started with a hike over to the Swiss / France border. My husband likes to laugh at me because while I have gone to Swiss many a time, it is never more than 5km inside. Today’s hike took us to a waterfall, two different lakes, up a chairlift, down to a valley floor, then a thunderstorm caused us to have to walk up from the valley floor (we were hoping to chairlift back up, especially after taking a beer to wait out the storm… raté there)!Lac VertBut still incredibly beautiful views the entire hike. We were laughing because the clouds were ominous and looming, but we tried to walk a little in the sunlight. We even stopped to have lunch by Lac Vert- the other side of this lake is a deep valley and gorgeous! We have hiked in the Alpes many times, but this Swiss / French Alpes hike took my breath away. Unfortunately, by the time we finished eating the clouds had caught up with us.G, me, and a waterfallOur hike ended up lasting us a little longer than expected due to the storm that rolled in towards the end. It was cool to be able to take the chairlift to different parts of the mountain for hiking, but with thunder and lighting the chairlifts stop- that means a LONG walk home…

We decided on the walk back up from the valley floor that we had earned a good dinner and some good wine to go with it. So we set out to find everything and create our most wonderful meal! My husband had brought with him our friends homemade foie gras, so we had toasted(ish- all we had was a microwave) foie gras with a Vouvray 2003 Moelleux or sweet wine. I have talked about this wine before from our trip to the Loire Valley, but it was in a tasting. Here we paired it with the toasted foie gras… Vouvray Moelleux 2003Tasting notes: In general, I am not a fan of sweet wine. The residual sugar that is left on my palate just doesn’t seem to be my thing. But, when you take the saltiness and the fat of the foie gras in conjunction with the sweetness, the sugar is cut through and creates a refreshing blend. The Vouvray showed notes of honeysuckle, elderflower and mild citrus with a long finish and harmony with the foie gras. Excellent!

Next came the duck! A little background: I have had the great pleasure of finding a mentor in France who has opened a cooking kitchen in Lyon called PLUM Lyon and is constantly helping me as I get From Vine to Wine up and running. She has been amazing and is where I was introduced this amazing duck recipe (she has a TON on her blog if you need some good French recipes). Anyway, this recipe came from a class I attended at Plum and thought my husband would adore- and oh, how I was right!

So, here is the making process. Step one- de-quill the skin of the duck, cut into the fat in a checkerboard manner, then rub it with a salt, paprika, and herb rub. Step two- slowly render the fat out, leaving the duck to cook slowly fat side down for a good 20-30mins. Step three- while the duck is cooking take some of the fat that has been rendered to cook your potatoes (yes, sooo healthy) and I even added some of the salt rub that was left over to the potatoes making them nice and crispy. Step four- when the duck is finished rendering, broil it for 3-5 minutes while simultaneously making the sauce (pic 3). The sauce is a sweet sauce made with white wine, maple syrup and that all important butter! Yes, this is not, I repeat not a healthy, diet friendly meal. This is home cooking, we deserved it after our LONG day of hiking, meal! Step five- cut the duck up, serve, and enjoy!

So what wine to go with it? Hmm… duck that is tender and slow cooked, with a spicy rub, yet a sweeter sauce and potatoes cooked in duck fat (ps. every time I say that, the fat girl inside me starts drooling). Hmm… we went with an older wine, not yet completely aged, but a nice balance of fruit and spice with a finish that would hold up to the sweet sauce. What do you think of our choice….Guigal Chateauneuf-de-Pape 2005Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005

Tasting notes: It was a contrasting bottle of wine and I thought at a basic level the two were so good alone, nothing could go wrong. And while that was true- there was also an aspect of competition in the pairing. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape was complex, fruit forward and spicy on the finish, lingering on my tongue, but never really blending with the duck. Ironically, amazing with the potatoes! So, a little disappointing, but at the same time the two were SO good alone it was okay. We even took the bottle outside after the meal to digest a little and watch the sun go down…Day 3.12Bliss. Simply bliss.

Wine and Cheese! Yes please!

Last night was the first wine tasting with From Vine to Wine and it was GREAT!  A wine and cheese private tasting event to introduce a new couple to Lyon.  Two white wines, two red wines and four different cheeses.  It really is a great way to spend an evening- and this group was fun, energetic, and curious.  Best kind of people for a tasting!  So what did we have?

To start us off….

Crottin de Chavignol

Wine:  Eric Louis Menetou Salon 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

Cheese: Crottin de Chavignol, goat cheese

Pairing:  We often think of goat cheese being paired with red wines, mainly pinot noir.  The Sancerre / Menetou Salon region, however is known for their goat cheese (or Chavignol) and white wine pairing.  Together, the creaminess and mild taste of the goat cheese with a vibrant Sauvignon seemed to smooth the palate.  Difficult to wrap white wine and cheese together, but overall expressive and light on the palate.

Next…

Comte FruiteWine: Domaine Monternot Beaujolais Blanc 2011 Chardonnay

Cheese: Comte Fruité, cow cheese

Pairing: This chardonnay comes from the Beaujolais region and has seen no oak :).  It is light, high acidity with green apple and stone fruit flavors.  The comte fruité is flavorful and bright for a cow cheese.  Together, the two complimented each other with the fruit notes.  Was not the favorite of the group, however.

Moving on…

Selles-sur-CherWine:  Domaine du Roncée Chinon 2010 Cabernet Franc

Cheese: Selles-sur-Cher, goat cheese

Pairing:  Cabernet Franc from Chinon is a fruity wine with structure and a backbone to it.  Usually served a little below room temperature to express more of the fruit notes.  The cheese comes from the Loire Valley region as well and is a creamy, mild goat cheese that lingers on the sides of your cheeks.  The two together are magic!  The fruit of the cabernet franc with the creaminess of the goat cheese blends very well on the palate.  Making this the winner of the evening!

Last, but not least…

Matilde and cheeseWine: Domaine la Visoniere Matilde 2007 Mourvedre

Cheese: St. Marcellin, cow cheese

Pairing:  Matilde is a wine that is tannic and dry on the palate.  A ‘big’ wine that needs to be opened an hour in advance to soften a bit.  St. Marcellin is a creamy cow cheese with lots of flavor.  It is the cheese of Lyon- and by that I mean a cheese you find on every menu at a restaurant.  Together the creaminess and flavor of the cheese help to calm the tannins and dryness of the wine.

The favorite of the night was, by far, the Chinon and Selles-sur-Cher pairing and with good reason.  It was delicious!  I’m thinking I need to make this a regular tastings.  I could eat cheese and drink wine everyday- it is part of the reason I came and stayed in France!  Yummy!

Wine for Thought…

So, as many of you have come to learn about me- I am really taking interest in this new idea of breaking down food and wine pairing stereotypes.  Most of this is based on a seminar I heard and book I am reading by Tim Hanni called Why We Like the Wines We Do.   What I have been more interested in, however, is how this new trend will affect he French.  Since I live here and, more importantly, drink here.  This morning I was having my coffee and something came to me…

In France, when you go to a dinner party you normally bring a bottle of wine, a simple thank you gift to the host for having you over.  In the states, the host then opens that wine and it is shared with the party guests.  The guest brings a bottle to be polite and the host opens the bottle to be polite.

Easy peasey.

In France however, the bottle of wine brought by the guest is usually not opened.  Most Americans I have talked to and who are living in France are flustered by this, they feel a bit of an injustice was done… not to mention if it was a nice bottle, they are a bit bummed they didn’t get to drink it.  The kicker is… it is not an injustice for the French.  When French people cook a meal and invite people over to their home, everything is already thought out- wine included.

So, how then are we suppose to separate food and wine?  In France, the one is so essential to the other…

vine guyot

Otonis 2011 Minervois


Otonis

Otonis 2011 Minervois

Well, in keeping with the breaking down of food and wine pairing- last night I tried a wine I really enjoy with a meal I really enjoy, but would never pair together.

The result = disaster.

The Otonis is from the Minervois region in Languedoc.  It is made of 75% syrah, 15% grenache noir, and 5% mourvedre- now I know that doesn’t add up to 100%, but that is what the website says.  It is also grown by my father-in-law, don’t worry, I left him a message letting him know.  Thankfully for my marriage, I really love this wine!  The vines are the ones you see throughout my blog.  My father-in-law and grandfather-in-law work the vines everyday!  It is really amazing to go and see everything they do… for those of you trying to figure out what ‘terroir’ means, I suggest you walk through the vines with someone who actually works them.  It will give you an indication of just why terroir is so important here.

Anyway, this wine is rather smooth for being a syrah from the south.  It reminds a little bit of the American style wines- oak.  The wines are aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, some new, some neutral- but I think the reason the structure is so smooth and rounded has largely to do with the oak.  Often times oak can overpower delicate grapes giving it a taste of oak rather than wine- chardonnay for example will often times taste like oak and nothing like chardonnay.  However, when you have an already strong grape, putting it in oak has a tendency to mellow it out.  I mean, soften it a bit and relax the tannin explosion.   We could talk about oak in wines for hours… so I will just stop here and we will bring back the topic later.

So- the pairing…  I tried this wonderful Otonis with a not so spicy, yet equally wonderful, chicken pad thai.

What a bummer.

I am conflicted with this desire to ‘de-pair’ food and wine.  I really do believe there is a place for the two together.  Now- I agree that forcing someone to drink wine they don’t like is stupid and if someone wants white zinfandel with steak, God bless them.  But, I think there is something to food and wine pairing.  I believe a good wine with the right food can enhance the experience.

But I am open to new ideas and I will keep experimenting…