A Tale of Two Carménères

Is there a big difference between Carménère grown in Chile versus Carménère grown in Washington State? I put them to a taste test and was surprised by what I discovered.

Although Washington State is home to roughly 70 varieties, there are not a lot of Carménère vines planted. So when I received a sample bottle of a new release of the variety from Davenport Cellars I couldn’t wait to experience it! I also wanted a point of reference. So I picked up a bottle of Carménère from Chile to see how the two compare.

Washington State vs. Chile

With the first whiff of the ruby red Davenport Cellars wine, one word came to mind. Granted, it’s not something I say in everyday conversation. It is, however, a word emphasized by a sommelier when I participated in an advanced wine sensory class last winter. That word is rotundone. Simply put, it’s a peppery characteristic. In this case, it was present as a pronounced aroma of white pepper. Each delectable sip of this wine confirmed the presence of that spicy compound.

Here’s where things get interesting. When tasting the Chilean Carménère, the first thing I noticed were strong notes of bell pepper. This trait is known as pyrazine, a fancy word for an aroma compound identified by its noticeable vegetal attributes. In fact, Carménère is known for its high level of pyrazines. Sipping this wine was like tasting a bite of veggie pizza with green bell pepper, black olives, tomato sauce, and sprinkled with oregano.

What caught me by surprise was that one wine roused my senses with its vibrant spicy character while the other taunted with an intense green and herbaceous nature. If all Washington State Carménère is this distinctive and lively, I must have more!

It’s not often that I share my tasting notes and opinions of wines. What I taste and experience is just that – my experience. Nevertheless, I hope by sharing this particular tasting it will inspire others to explore Carménère for themselves.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Davenport Cellars in Woodinville Wine Country. I have long been a fan of this husband and wife owned winery.

The Wines

Davenport Cellars 2015 Carménère
Available direct from the winery for $30.
This Woodinville based boutique winery produced just 77 cases of this wine crafted with fruit from acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carménère 2017
Available online via U.S. retailers for around $8.

If this does encourage you to try Carménère, please share your findings on social either via Twitter or Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

Want to learn more? A great resource on wine is the latest Wine Folly book.

Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food

Cabernet Franc is one of my red wines of choice when pairing wine with food. Although the red grape is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is not quite as full-bodied. This makes it a better match for the type of meals I prepare at home. Those meals are often composed of roasted vegetables seasoned with herbs, and void of red meat. With an herbaceous character, and often notes of bell pepper (for you wine geeks, that’s called pyrazine), Cabernet Franc is a wonderful pairing partner.

Food Pairing Cabernet Franc
Herb flecked Farrotto pairs well with Cabernet Franc

Tips for Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food

Match the wine with food using similar or contrasting flavors:
♦ Raspberry ♦ Black Currant ♦ Green Bell Pepper

Use one of these base ingredients:
♦ Beef ♦ Lamb ♦ Game ♦ Duck ♦ Pork ♦ Eggplant

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
♦ Basil ♦ Bay Leaf ♦ Garlic ♦ Rosemary ♦ Oregano
♦ Red Sauce ♦ Roasted Veggies ♦ Mushrooms ♦ Hearty Grains

Use these cooking techniques:
♦ Grilling ♦ Roasting ♦ Stewing

Try dishes such as veggie pizza, herbed farrotto, pasta with hearty red sauce, pepper steak, roasted vegetables, mushroom ravioli, roast pork with fruit sauce.

Paring Cabernet Franc with food isn’t the only way to celebrate this magnificent variety. If you’re a fan of the grape, be sure to mark your calendar! Cabernet Franc Day is on December 4th each year. Many thanks to Dracaena Wines for dedicating a day to this grape.

Celebrate Zinfandel Day

The holiday on my mind right now isn’t Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, it’s Zinfandel Day! Organized by the Zinfandel Advocates Producers (ZAP), the holiday is officially the third Wednesday of November. According to their web site, “Zinfandel Day is a worldwide celebration of the Zinfandel grape variety, intended to give Zinfandel lovers around the globe a platform to express their passion for (the) grape and the wines made from it.”

California Red Wine

There is a lot to celebrate about this grape. Sponsored visits to Lodi, California gave me an opportunity to develop a great appreciation for Old Vine Zinfandel. In part, it’s about gnarly old vines, historical vineyards, and multi-generational family businesses. Not to mention, a bottle of Zinfandel is easier on the wallet than Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there’s the ultimate excuse to uncork a bottle of Zin – it’s easy drinking!

Pairing Zinfandel with Food

Why not celebrate Zinfandel Day with a little wine and food pairing?

Turkey Chili and Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a fruit forward wine that is fantastic with comfort food such as chili, pizza, pasta, and that great classic – meat loaf! Or make a batch of my Berry Barbecue Sauce to complement your favorite protein and glass pour.

food and red wine
What’s not to love about Meatloaf and Zinfandel?

Get Social on #ZinDay

Zinfandel Day is a global experience. So, be sure to follow and contribute to the Zinfandel conversation on social media with the hashtag #ZinDay or #ZinfandelDay. Be sure to tag me, too. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Resources

ZAP
St. Amant Winery
Oak Farm Vineyards
Klinker Brick Winery
DeLoach Vineyards

Tips for Celebrating International Tempranillo Day

Wine holidays are a thing, and the second Thursday of November is International Tempranillo Day. If you’re not experienced with Tempranillo, don’t worry. Read on to learn more about the celebration, the wine, and mouthwatering food pairing suggestions.

Tempranillo Day Explained

The first annual International Tempranillo Day was organized in 2011 by the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) to celebrate the Tempranillo grape. It’s an opportunity for wine lovers to open a bottle of Tempranillo and share the experience online via social media with the hashtag #TempranilloDay or #Tempranillo.

About Tempranillo

Tempranillo, Spain’s top variety, is a full bodied red wine that often has a tobacco like flavor. What I love about Tempranillo is that a great bottle can be procured without breaking the bank. Or, for a bigger spend, a truly stellar wine can be had.

The Tempranillo based wines of Rioja have different tiers providing clues as to how long the wine has been aged. “Crianza” level wine has been aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. A “reserva” has been aged at least three years, with at least one of those in barrel. “Gran reserva” means the wine was aged at least five years, with a minimum of two years in oak.

Recommended Tempranillos

Vivanco Crianza Tempranillo
The smoky nose of this Tempranillo hints at its 16 months of age in French and American oak barrels. This is a wine that offers a taste of red berries, as well as depth and a long finish.

LAN Rioja Reserva
This wine made my list of Top 10 Wines of the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Force Majeure Estate Tempranillo
There is not a lot of Tempranillo grown in Washington State. Not to mention, the care that goes into the vines and wine by artisan winery, Force Majeure, is staggering. Consequently, this limited production wine carries a higher price tag and may be harder to find. It’s worth it, though. What strikes me most about this wine is that the fruit shines through unmasked by oak. It’s absolutely lovely.

Pairing Tempranillo with Food

Salad for Tempranillo
Super Grains Tabbouleh Salad

Believe it or not, tabbouleh salad makes a fantastic pairing for Tempranillo.

Entertaining doesn’t get much easier than a cheese and charcuterie platter. The mantra, “what grows together goes together” rings true. So, to complement Tempranillo from Spain look for Manchego, a Spanish cheese made with sheep’s milk. Majon, a cow’s milk cheese originating in Majorca is another winning pairing. Include some chorizo, and perhaps some Marcona almonds and you’re all set!

Food for Tempranillo
Paella

In keeping with the Spanish theme, try a Paella Recipe from The Spanish Table.

A great option for vegetarians is the Zucchini Chickpea Tagine recipe from Herbivoracious.

A dish like Arroz con Pollo makes it easy to feed a group. Here’s a recipe from the humorous David Lebovitz, whose site is a treasure trove of recipes and stories.

For a hearty meal Joanne Weir offers a recipe for Spanish Lamb Stew.

Now, choose how you’d like to celebrate. Then, go purchase some Tempranillo or pull a bottle (or more) from the cellar. To maximize the fun, invite friends over for some delectable food and wine. Be sure to photograph it all, and share your experience on social media using the hashtag #TempranilloDay. Tag me, too, so I can see what you come up with!

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition Book Review

Let’s face it, sometimes the subject of wine is a snooze fest. To avoid nodding off while reading about wine, I suggest books and web sites that combine visual appeal with a solid base of information on the topic. For this reason I have been following the Wine Folly web site from the start. I am grateful to Avery Books for providing VinoSocial an advance copy of Wine Folly: Magnum Edition for review. Read on for a little Wine Folly history and my take on the latest edition of this master guide to wine.

The story of Wine Folly is an enviable one on how to create a successful career in the wine industry. It all began while Madeline Puckette was working with James Beard Award winning chef Jerry Traunfeld as a sommelier at his Seattle based restaurant, Poppy. Joining forces with two friends, Madeline began the blog Wine Folly with the goal to become the number one wine education site. What I absolutely admire about Madeline is that she figured out a way to combine her background in graphic design with her skills as a somm. Plus, she and her partner, Justin Hammack, were savvy enough to run the blog like a business. They created posters from her dazzling and easy to interpret wine infographics, then offered them for purchase on the web site. Eventually a book deal came along and the rest, as they say, is history.

What’s New

If you have that first book, Wine Folly: the Essential Guide to Wine you may be wondering whether you really need the new Wine Folly: Magnum Edition. I say, yes, you do. There are some key updates that definitely make this new edition worthwhile.

wine growing regions

First of all, the Magnum Edition is hard cover. Then there are updated colorful graphics. Also, there is a lot more content and additions to the chapters on “Grapes and Wines” and “Wine Regions.” Overall, this Wine Folly book is somehow more sophisticated while still being approachable.

Thankfully, all the wine varieties in the Magnum Edition are organized alphabetically without being primarily organized by style and body. This makes looking up wine varieties ever so much easier! No more referring to the index to find a wine. Information still appears for recommended glass type, serving temperature, average cost for quality, and cellaring ability. Now readers also receive information on common styles and suggested wines with a similar flavor profile.

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition Food and Wine Pairing

Wine Pairing Guide

Be still my heart, this book includes a fantastic section devoted to food and wine pairing, my favorite subject! Wine Folly: Magnum Edition has twelve colorfully illustrated pages with practical pairing infographics.When it comes to making better wine choices for dinner, this is the easiest to interpret guide I’ve seen. Whether you’re interested in pairing with cheese, pairing with protein, or pairing with vegetables it’s covered in this book and presented in an updated easy to read table format.

If you are looking for a great resource to learn more about wine, I highly recommend the book, Wine Folly: Magnum Edition. Get your copy now!