Sometimes Valentine’s Day calls for a little extra sweetness at the end of the evening. Nothing caps off a special meal quite like a dessert wine or aperitif. It can be the closing note to a symphony of flavors that pushes you over the top into a state of total food and wine bliss. Best savored slowly in the company of someone you love, dessert wines beg for languid conversation and dim lighting.



Not only have I been exploring the world of sparkling non-alcoholic beverages, but I have also undertaken a quest to taste my way through every ginger beer I can get my hands on. When craft brewing exploded onto the beverage scene it also opened the door for a wide variety of non-alcoholic ginger beers. Originally ginger beer was indeed alcoholic, the product of fermenting ginger, sugar, and water with a yeast known as “ginger beer plant”. In the 20th century this process changed as ginger beer moved from a true beer into the soft drink category. A few producers of modern ginger beer still use a brewing process to achieve complex levels of flavor but stop short of producing an alcoholic beverage. For a pregnant lady this creates the perfect balance of a beverage with interesting beer-like complexity without the negative effects of alcohol. So in the name of science, pregnancy, and for all those out there who are searching for something exciting to drink when alcohol is off limits, here are the results of my ginger beer taste-off:



The last 7 months have been interesting to say the least- not only does pregnancy make your body feel like it is no longer your own, but it also requires foregoing many of my favorite things. Espresso, green tea, alcohol, sushi, downhill skiing, hunting, jeans that fit; the list goes on and on. Yet, on the upside, having these limitations has introduced me to a whole new category of beverages which I previously overlooked.



Mai Tai with Blood Orange and Coconut Rum

How can you feel like you’ve spent three hours in the tropics without leaving the house? Why, throw an indoor beach party of course! Come check out my guest post at The Daring Kitchen for more recipes, crazy party ideas, and music that will kick the winter blues far away.
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Note from Phoo-D: Stop by tomorrow for our first ever blog giveaway!

Mestizaje, Bobal 2005

OK so you think you know a thing or two about wine and then along comes a Spanish wine featuring the Bobal grape. Yes the Bobal grape. You think, “This must be obscure because it is no good.” Right? One sip proves just the opposite and suddenly you find yourself thinking, “This mighty wine may be the Rocky Balboa of my cellar!”



In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Mr. B and I collaborated to bring you a bit of mad mixology. We don’t do green beer around here. In fact artificially colored drinks are probably not something you’ll ever see. Instead we mixed together a few of our favorite flavors with an Irish twist.
Continued after the jump »



Robert Foley Charbono 2006

Are you looking for something new and different? An obscure grape variety called Charbono may be the wine for you. Charbono is better known in Argentina as Bonarda where it is the most widely planted red grape variety. Why would well known Napa proprietor Robert Foley give up any of his prime California land for this oddball grape? To follow a passion for making fine wine and sharing great varieties with those willing to explore them. Let’s see where this passion has led.
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What do you drink with Beef Guylas? I had no idea so I plucked this bottle of Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles from my budding collection thinking that it would drink similar to the Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz. I anticipated a warm spiced hearty dish that could handle some heavy Australian flavors-especially this Rhone-style blend of grenache, mataro (mouvedre), and syrah.
The tasting notes:
The wine is pale in color-more like a pinot noir than a stout Rhone. The nose is akin to green meyer lemons (slightly sweet and herbal). The taste is spicy and lithe with a hint of cigar on the finish. There is just enough acidity for the wine to work with this dish. The remarkable thing about this wine is that it has brown edges. What do I mean by that? There is a noticeable change in color to brown as you tilt the wine in the glass. More importantly, there is a raisiny flavor at the edges-sort of like a tawny port-though not as sweet.

Here is an example where not only did the wine taste different from what I expected but the dish did too. Did it work together? Well, sort of. The guylas was a milder and softer dish than I anticipated. I think a pinot noir would have paired better with it. The Cuvée was a great lesson for me about terroir and wine styles. You cannot assume a New World cognate exists for an Old World style simply because its varietals match that of the Old region. I did find this wine intriguing and of a high quality for its $17 price tag. However I now know that it should be paired with a dish that has a sweeter profile. I think it would be great with Marsala Chicken or a Spanish themed cheese plate with Manchengo cheese, Marcona almonds, and Mazanilla olives.
Cheers! Mr. B



The prospect of Phoo-D’s short ribs braised in porter ale with a maple rosemary glaze meant I needed to pull out a special wine to bounce off the epic flavors. I briefly considered our options and then settled upon this fine Cocodrilo Cabernet Sauvignon. We had our first bottle of this wine last summer with a dry aged ribeye and chimichuri sauce and were blown away by the quality and depth of the wine. I remembered the long flavor with hints of chocolate and tobacco and this seemed like a perfect short rib partner! Cocodrilo is part of the Nativo family of wines from Vina Cobos- Paul Hobbs’ venture in Argentina. From this reasonably priced group, we have also enjoyed the El Felino Malbec. Both wines transcend their price point drinking like a $50+ wine.

Tasting Notes:
In the glass it has a deep color of almost black purple. The nose is huge and pleasing with a hint of blackberry. Some alcohol is apparent. A burst of fruit at the start is followed by a round and concentrated berry flavor through the midpalate. This wine is ripe (but not over-ripe) with a finish just dry enough to keep the fruit in check. The wine is soft enough that it does not overpower the short ribs and the fat in the dish enhances the wine’s supple quality. A fine acidic flourish acts in lieu of dryness to cut the fattiness of the dish.

Typically Cabernet Sauvignon would not be my first choice to serve with short ribs but this wine does not seem typical. I have had other Argentine Cabernets and they seem to drink differently than their North American counterparts: dark, earthy, and slightly smoky. Is this the terroir? The cabs we are accustomed to from California seem to possess more red fruit and therefore don’t seem to go as well with barbecue or the sweetness of short ribs. You should seek out this wine to explore Argentinian Cabernet and all that it can offer for under $20.
Mr. B
P.S. This is one of my favorite wine label designs.



Do you have a favorite lamb shank wine? Last weekend we cooked a fantastic braised lamb shank seasoned with coriander, fennel, and star anise (recipe coming on Friday) and needed a fine wine to compliment these complex flavors. The recipe suggested either a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Gigondas. We had picked up a Gigondas last fall after reading a Wall Street Journal article singing the praises of this region. In the article, Les Palliers was highlighted as a well rated wine and a good value for the type. Fortunately, we were able to purchase this one online from Surdyk’s for $28.99.

Tasting notes:
I uncorked this wine and ran it through a
Venturi into my decanter to give it a maximum breathe. Indeed, I let it decant for over two hours and yet after all that could detect little bouquet. Once poured it let off little more than a smell akin to rubbing alcohol. The first taste was acidic and astringent- causing a slight pucker. I know- you are thinking “Where is the redeeming side of this wine?” It is precisely this acidity that makes the wine a stand out. With the lamb it became more vibrant and piquant, unloading waves of acidity and flavor that cleansed the palate and radiated warmth. This wine is more like an instrument for food than a drink and that is exactly what made it interesting. There was hardly any sense of fruit-just acidity. While I realize this style is not for everyone I think it can be a great tool to highlight a braised meat dish, steak au pauve, or a grilled rib eye.

While I will probably explore more Châteauneuf-du-Papes before buying another Gigondas, the Rhone region is an area that interests me greatly. I found this to be an excellent French food wine that can really brighten a winter meal. I wonder if age would mellow the heat of the alcohol and soften and integrate the flavors. This wine would be unenjoyable without an appropriate food pairing. In a series of food courses paired with wine this Gigondas would stand out for the distinct vibrancy it possesses and be quite enjoyable contrasted with other wine varietals during the meal.
Mr. B




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