I have a new wine crush. Gorgeous, gabby and quite gifted, Gruner Veltliner (pronounced “GROO ner VELT leaner”) is a tall, cool Austrian pour with plenty of perk and personality. This erstwhile known as “ski country” region devotes 1/3 of its grape crop to making this white varietal, and Gruner is fast becoming my desert island pour. Others grow this cold climate lover – Germany, New Zealand and Australia – but none have perfected the groovy wine the way the charming Austrians have.
Read more: The Grooviest of White Wines: Laurenz V and Gruner Veltliner
Folie à Deux (pronounced “folee ah duh”) is one of the bigger success stories in the wine biz. Their sister label Menage à Trois sells like sex on a street corner mainly because it’s sweet, juicy and, well, the name is enticing. I doubt anyone at that winery wonders if sex sells. But the Folie à Deux labels show a more serious wine side to them, with fruit coming from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Dry Creek Valley, which this little drinkable gem hails from. Dry Creek is a neighboring wine region to where I live, and the Zinfandel grape thrives where summer highs can be 8-10 degrees warmer than 20 minutes south in the Russian River Valley. That was something I had to get used to when I moved here. This fruit-forward, low tannin wine has captured my attention for years and I used to drink them more often until their alcohol levels practically morphed into 16% rubbing alcohol.
Read more: Zin love again: Folie a Deux 2009 Zinfandel wine review
Huzzah… this is a tasty good quinoa recipe! I’ve been exploring this fashionable “superfood” in the past few months… buying it by the mega bag at Costco and seeing how I can stretch its recipe legs. A versatile, high-protein grain, quinoa can play cold salad, warm side dish made like rice, or the main course like this faux risotto.
Read more: Recipe: Wild mushroom red quinoa risotto with chicken
Halloween is my third favorite holiday, after Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not the candy (too fattening)… or the kids dressed up (oh, the horrors)… but the deliciously useless kitsch. I have a plastic skeleton, several large, furry black spiders (with webs), and a rather gruesome severed head with protruding eyeballs which don my house on October 31st. I find it entertaining to freak out the little ones while their parents watch (and likely laugh). The addition of the blaring Halloween Pandora channel adds to the drama, of course. But what’s better than enjoying this much macabre fun alone? Inviting friends over to savor torturing the tots in a group…. with wine added to heighten the brazen scare tactics. Sure, Halloween falls on a weeknight but why not embrace the moment… that’s what sick days are for.
Read more: Halloween wine party gadgets that are cheesy yet goofily fun
There’s nothing like sipping a wine that smells like your grandmother’s powder room. It sends you down a memory lane of rose garden, violets and red fruits. Soothing and sweet, like grandma. And Moscato is likely what she drinks too. But whether that memory is pleasant or nightmarish relies on a good relationship with your relatives. And your relationship with sweet wines. Moscato — a low alcohol white wine that’s typically quite sugary and super fragrant — is so popular with millions of people (mostly women, which makes sense), there are actually rumblings of a grape shortage. California producers of this easy going, uncomplicated sipper are considering sourcing grapes from Italy just to fill the orders. Moscato is like the Pinterest of wine. Also called Muscat Blanc or Muscat Canelli, it originated in the Piedmont region of Italy, where it’s often made into a lightly spritzy quaffer to be enjoyed with brunch, fruit tarts and bears the name Moscato d’Asti — named after the region where it’s grown.
Read more: Sweet sweet wine love: A review of Moscato Allegro 2010 California
El Dorado County, a tragically obscure grape growing region east of Sacramento, is not an area that I would dub “Riesling Country.” Known generally as a grape that thrives in cooler climate areas (think Germany, Alsace in northern France, southern Australia, Washington State), Riesling would basically be caught dead in a frickin’ hot area like El Dorado. El Dorado, where the gold rush started… where Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and countless hot-loving Italian varieties roam. (Read more about Riesling) I sure love being shocked. Madrona, who grows Riesling on their estate at more temperate elevation of 3,000 feet above the valley floor, shocked me. And a few other wine writers recently at a blind tasting.
Read more: Wine review: Madrona 2010 Signature Dry Riesling El Dorado
This recipe is one for the home cooks who love throwing a few, uber high quality ingredients together to form a perfect union. In this tomato salad, the ingredients absolutely make the difference and if skimping is the only option, you might not experience the ethereal feeling which comes from a ripe tomato. My husband thinks I’m a bit of a lunatic when it comes to tomatoes but biting into a mealy, flavorless piece of fruit just isn’t my idea of good eatin’. So shop carefully if you can’t grow them yourself. Note: You don’t have to use “heirloom” tomatoes for this recipe but ripe is crucial.
Read more: Recipe: Super simple fresh heirloom tomato salad with feta
The square in rural downtown Paso Robles, California (pronounced “ROBE-less” by purists, “RO-bulls” by locals), is often covered with lush green grass and a sea of smiling tourists during harvest. It’s difficult to believe this sleepy, virtually unknown wine region has been producing wine for a quarter century, but when you taste the quality, you quickly realize this former cow town isn’t hokey-pokey. An extremely warm climate area with the widest swings in daily temperature on earth, Paso specializes in grapes that bask in heat: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel and other French Rhône-origin grapes. One night recently, my husband and I grilled out steaks and I grabbed this unfamiliar label, Ancient Peaks Renegade, from the “samples rack” — which we affectionately dub our wine play area. I’ve found some gems amongst the army of bottles perched in our family room over the years and when I tasted this wine for the first time, the eyebrows raised.
Read more: Wine review: Ancient Peaks 2009 Renegade Paso Robles
Ground turkey is one of those ingredients that sounds ssoooo healthy yet tastes pretty much like nothing. Not even sawdust. The meat is so lean, it doesn’t really stay together by itself in a burger, requiring other ingredients to keep it from falling apart like a sandcastle. So I tend to use it in other recipes, surrounded by other flavors which make it taste great, kinda like tofu. Ground turkey absorbs liquids and flavor like a sponge. It’s versatile that way. So… it’s perfect in lettuce wraps where it can soak up all those fresh, pungent ingredients. This recipe does have some luxurious additions to a traditional Asian lettuce wrap recipe, like bacon, but that’s how I roll… bring on the flavor.
Read more: Recipe: Low fat, healthy Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
The ubiquitous rep of Pinot Grigio is legendary. Grown in Italy for centuries and quaffed at many a trattoria by the ceramic pitcher-full, this humble grape actually bears French roots, not Italian. Pinot Gris is the name elsewhere in the world, from France’s Alsace region to Australia to New Zealand. But it arrived later to America in the mid-1960s, planted by one of Oregon’s wine country forefathers, Eyrie Vineyard’s David Lett.
Read more: Pinot Noir’s pasty cousin, Oregon’s Pinot Gris (aka Grigio)