One of those moments…

Do you ever have those moments in life where you think to yourself… “Holy crap- how did I get here?”  or “When did I become so grown up, so responsible?”  or maybe “When did hangovers hurt so bad?”  This past couple weeks have been moments like these… I feel grown up- not broken and need someone to hold my hand- but decision making, tax paying, accomplished in life grown up.

I’m not gonna lie to you- I am kinda enjoying it…

So what was it?  Well, try not laugh, but it was the little things… my new website, a random Saturday night dinner with no recipe, and a tough workout.  It’s Sunday night and I am thinking to myself… “damn, it feels good to be grown up!”

photo 3This is really an accomplishment… if you know me and you know how RIDICULOUSLY bad I am at anything internet, social media, etc.  You know just how big a deal this is!  I managed (with the amazing platform Squarespace) to actually redesign From Vine to Wine’s website.  I have never wanted my own business and quite frankly never thought I had the personality to do it, but after this accomplishment- I am feeling good!  I can take on anything!  So I did!  I have a NEW booking platform as well that I was able to incorporate into my website with the MARVELOUS help of my new friends at Checkfront!  There are still some tweaks to be made here and there, but I am really proud of myself.

photo 2 Then came this dinner… I mean, it’s just a dinner, but I really enjoy finding recipes and making complex dinners and am completely unable to just ‘throw something together’.  My husband is great at looking in the cupboards and making great things from nothing- me not so much.  But lazy Saturday night came and all I wanted was a nice hot meal is this freezing Lyon weather and a bottle of wine to warm me up.  So, I attempted to throw together pork tenderloin in a herbs de provence, onion, garlic, carrot thing with chunky mashed potatoes and (what we like to call) an American salad.  And it was really tasty!

Paired it with a GREAT AOP Minervois Otonis from Les Celliers d’Onairac.  A small wine with a big heart comprised of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvedre.  It is balanced in tannin and fruit, creating a warm mix for a variety of flavors.  photo 1And… because I do have a tendency to eat and drink a bit… I have once again started Fitness Blender and MAN is it KICKING my BUTT!  My apologies for the photo… but I tell you it was just a good workout!  I couldn’t walk correctly for the entire week I was so SORE!

There are certain things in life that make up feel good.  For me, and I assume most people, when my life is together and well rounded I am doing well.  That means that work is moving forward and I am feeling accomplished in my tasks, my husband is well fed and I can sit down at the table with him to share a meal and good wine, and when my body is NOT expanding ;).  This week was a good week for all those things and I feel grown up.

Sometimes it is just good to dwell on the positive things.

Voila…

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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!!

Edelzwicker in all her glory

Edelzwicker… ever heard of it?  No worries if you haven’t, its like the two buck chuck of Alsace- only given the grapes start at a better quality in the beginning it might be more like four buck chuck.  Tonight, however, I made sweet and sour chicken thighs to go with it… not exceptional, but a fun pairing.sweet and sour chicken with edelzwickerAnyway, Edelzwicker is not a very well know wine in anywhere but Alsace.  I found it when I was recently at the Salon des Vins des Independents.  Domaine Gerard Metz is always are first stop when we go to the salon.  He makes really bright vibrant wines that hold up to time and are really great expressions of the grapes.  Normally, I go specifically for the Pinot Gris, but this year it was a little too sweet for my taste- normally I drink it with a little bit spicy food or when I want a fresh wine with a heavy dish.  This year I took a bottle of the Edelzwicker instead of the Pinot Gris.

Truth be told- Edelzwicker is a blend of different grapes and really nothing to write a blog about.. ;).  In terms of AOC, it is a basic Appellation Alsace Controlée and can be a blend of any of the authorized grapes in Alsace.  In this case, it is 50% Sylvaner and 50% noble grapes, aka. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat.

Tasting Notes:  Simple wine, light fruit notes, lots of citrus- green apple and lime rind.  Nice and refreshing when served at the right temperature- too warm and it is very flat on the palate.  Short finish, not a thinking wine.  Just sipping.  With sweet and sour it was a nice refreshing touch- didn’t add and didn’t take anything away from the plate.Domaine Gerard MetzDinner tonight- Sweet and sour chicken thighs with  carrots, onion and garlic topped with cilantro.  So good! And pretty easy.  Generally, I rubbed the chicken thighs with paprika and cinnamon, pan fried 5 minutes (they were small thighs) and set to the side.  Added the carrots and onions to the chicken juice and sauteed about 5 minutes.  Added garlic to mix.  Re-introduced the chicken thighs, turned heat to medium-low, added 1/2 water, 1/4 lemon juice and 1/4 honey to mix and simmered till I was so hungry I had to eat it.  Topped it with cilantro and…Sweet and sour chicken thighsviola!

Dinner tonight took less than 30 minutes, was the first time I attempted this recipe AND  I didn’t get in a fight with my husband!!!  Woot woot!

Happy Thursday!

Community….

Where would we be without it and holy hell can it get annoying!

Tomorrow starts a wine tasting series with the French Wine Society– where I am currently studying for my French Wine Scholar- and I am looking at buying six bottles of wine to drink all alone.  Now, I LOVE the concept of doing a tasting through the Wine Society, but I am having this deep sadness due to the absence of a community.  Today I went to a tasting at Sofitel near Bellecour in Lyon and met an American girl working in the marketing department as well as getting her WSET training.  She and I talked for almost an hour about wine, French wine, American wine, all wines!  It was an hour that I loved because I was simply in community- sharing, exchanging, learning from each other.  I am sorta bummed to sit tomorrow behind my computer all alone for this tasting :(.  I hope tomorrow, being the first one, will be something of a surprise and hopefully create opportunities to come into community with fellow students.

Now, there is this concept of TOO much community, I mean too much of people’s opinions and statements.  I do not think wine should be shared with people in order to get them to understand what is good and bad.  Wine is an art.  And everchanging art at that!  It takes education and community to help people find their personal palates and preferences.  We don’t taste wines to say they are wrong or bad, we taste wines for the pleasure of it.  Equally today I was tasting with my friend’s father who had an amazing nose- I mean really spectacular!!  It was in that moment I wanted him to tell me everything and I mean everything he was smelling.  I wanted to attach words the way he did to the smells I was smelling.  He and I didn’t share the same palate or preference for wine, but could equally learn from each other.  He didn’t force his opinion on me or mine on him, we just shared.

I want, I hope to, build a community with From Vine to Wine… Talk about a dream come true!Burgundy Vines

Did you know?!?!

Did you know that if you don’t write a blog post no one else will?!  I mean crazy right?  Okay, not really… but I am looking for some great excuse as to why I have not blogged in two months- all I have come up with is that it has to be someone else’s fault.  Maybe I am becoming too French.  It is my fault.  I have lacked the motivation and the self-discipline to get my act together.  BUT not to worry- I have still been drinking!  Some things I am HIGHLY motivated in and need NO self-discipline!

So what have I been doing?  Well, I have the idea to change the blog up a bit.  I am an expat living, breathing, AND drinking in France.  Sometimes the life takes over the drinking and sometimes the drinking overtakes real life.  For those of you living abroad or have aspirations to live abroad one day I think you should know it is horribly wonderful and amazingly bad all at the same time.  Since this blog was about creating conversations about wine and daily life, I have to add some daily life to the mix.  Quite frankly- french wine comes with stories, history and roots.  Since I am starting to create roots here, why not tell you all some of my stories and how my roots are being grounded?  And since I am in France and becoming more and more French… you can take it or leave it, but I’m still gonna do it.

So, here is some of my life through a wine glass…

Wine glass

On y va.

6 Days of Bliss- Day 5

Day 5 of bliss was dedicated to my husband and it comes in the form of raclette.
Raclette and Apremont
We choose not to do any hiking today because our feet needed the break- badly needed the break!  Instead we had a relaxing morning, reading, writing, and hanging out.  By the end of the afternoon, however, a storm had rolled in and the temperature dropped.  What else can you do, but have a traditional Savoyard mountain meal!

And the wine to accompany it also traditional Savoie wines…Chignin-BergeronApremont and Chignin-Bergeron.

Little bit of background on Savoie wines- in general they are meant to be drunk with big mountain meals.  Cheese, meat and potatoes.  In a  sense, they are never truly the best representations of themselves until you had the food.  They are not stand alone and are not drunk to be remembered.  With that said, we like to drink them with our raclette and other mountain meals.

Last night, we compared two different types of Savoie wines.  Apremont is made from 100% of the white varietal jacquère.  Jacquère makes up roughly half of all Savoie wines because it buds late in the season and therefore reduces its risk of spring frost.  As a varietal it is acidic with not a lot of depth- making it good for the fats in cheese.  Chignin-Bergeron is made from 100% roussanne- not like that found in the Cote du Rhone.  This one is acidic and floral, not a lot of sweet notes.  By far the more structured of the two wines.  It is the acidity levels with the food that really help everything come together.

However, by the end of the meal (and two bottles of wine) we were pretty done with Savoie and decided the night cap would be ‘Savoie piscine’ or ice in our wine.  Don’t judge.  It was bliss…

6 Days of Bliss- Day 4

Morzine ValleyToday’s bliss came in three different parts… Well, three parts in terms of wine and three parts in scenery.  We have come to Avoriaz, France to hike, break in our new hiking boots, and be together!  After three days, two hikes (one that was 3 hours longer than expected), and about 10 miles later… our feet are killing us!  Today’s hike= short, cheese in the middle, and flat.Day 4.2Thank goodness for the flat.  I mean really, thank goodness for the flat!  Part one of the scenery bliss= flatness.

After our little, flat hike with cheese was lunch.  Part one of wine bliss was lunch.  Saucisson canard, fresh Abondance cheese, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape that was left, and a fresh baguette.Day 4.4Saucisson, cheese, wine.  Really, need I say more?  The spice of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the fat of the saucisson canard and the abondance… all comes together.  Makes your feet stop hurting and your heart happy :).

After lunch, we took a small walk to digest and found this…Day 4.3Green.  Mountains.  Green.  Scenery bliss part two.

Part two of wine bliss- the celebration of From Vine to Wine!!!From Vine to Wine CelebrationAfter 2.5 months From Vine to Wine has officially being TAXED!  Yes, that sucks- but it does mean I am a REAL business!  Clients are low and taxes are high- I must be in France 🙂

Tasting notes:  Bubbles, holy snap, bubbles.  Cava Meritum Brut Nature Grand Reserva Freixenet 2007… bubbles, bubbles, bubbles.  On the nose it was soft with green apple and citrus, but on palate is was bubbles.  Really amazing.  It was like liquid pop rocks in my mouth!  Really the cava for a celebration!

So, what could possibly make this blissful day better?  How about a summer storm and bottle of Pauillac?Day 4.5The storm rolled in mid-afternoon and was an explosion of lightening and CrAzY thunder!  We sat on the terrace all night long watching the storm.  I don’t know about you all, but I LOVE summer storms!  Moreso, when I can sit on the terrace and enjoy it!  Part three of scenery bliss was this storm.

And what could be better (for me) than to share this moment with my wonderful husband and Pauillac, my second love.photoExcuse me for the photo quality.  The sunset after the storm was wonderful.

Tasting notes: Chateau la Fon du Berger Pauillac 2009 was Pauillac.  A mixture of fruit and oak with some gentle tannins to add structure.  It was simple, yet complex.  Big nose with butter, vanilla, and notes of strawberry while at the same time gentle on alcohol.  The palate was refined and finished long.  Perfect for those summer terrace nights of talking, people watching, and sunsets.  Wine bliss part three- Pauillac.

Bliss.

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.

6 Days of Bliss- Day 2

A little background on me, with all things considered- I have the back of a 75 year old man.  So, when it comes to exercise I often find that I get ‘beat up’ rather quickly.  Yesterday’s hike was up and down and on all over the place leading to some severe pain and inability to walk… My Day 2 of Bliss didn’t involve wine, but some heavy painkillers and a lot of sleep…

Still blissful, but not really the same :(.  Thank goodness for codeine! Bliss Day 2Hopefully tonight will be better…

6 Days of Bliss…

BLISS= 6 days, 8 bottles of wine and just my husband and I.  Bliss.  Simply BLISS!

My husband and I are in Morzine, more specifically Avoriaz in the Alpes.  We are spending a week vacation hiking, hanging out, cooking and drinking :).  Best kind of vacation in my humble opinion. We arrived today and for the next 6 days we will be cooking and pairing and hopefully blogging.  But before we get into that… here is the view from where we will be drinking all week- our balcony.  Thats right, morning coffee and evening aperitif… man, life is hard. MorzineSo, we have an array of wines- California, Spanish, French, Sparkling, and Sweet wines.  Tonight’s dinner was a bit of a pate and charcuterie for the aperitif, followed by an artichoke, and finished with a basic steak cooked rare with a mild BBQ sauce and salad.  We choose to pair this dinner with Ridge Geyserville 2007 because a.) my husband has never drank a Zinfandel based wine and b.) it is a spicy, full bodied wine that could help with the fact that I forgot to prepare fully the meal and it was our ‘lazy’ meal. Ridge Geyserville 2007Verdict / Tasting notes: Super spicy and robust.  Really grabs your attention right away, stand alone wine and not French.  Thank goodness.  It was bright fruit, cherries, maybe cranberries with that sense of acidity in the wine.  Cracked pepper all over the back of the palate and long lasting. Not something to drink with artichokes, but the steaks and pate / charcuterie combination was really good.  The spices and the meat complimented each other, while the fruitiness stayed on the palate.

All in all not a bad start to 6 days of bliss.  See you tomorrow for more drinking :).