Month: June 2009

Chocolate Grappa?

I know what you’re thinking, isn’t grappa for little old ladies that make patchwork quilts after playing bridge all day? That, and if you have to stomach one more hyper-flavored vodka/rum-esque spirit you’ll consider quitting drinking all together! (I’m right aren’t I) Well keep reading for goodness’ sake because this chocolate delight is worth a try.

grappi chocolate grappa

We were all a little doubtful at first, and our tasting went something like this:

Sherry(#2 boss): “Really Shawn I can’t stay, I have to go pick up the kids. You’re sure I need to try this?”

Shawn(#1 boss): “Yes, Sherry, trust me it was really good.” Me (assistant to #1 and #2): (twirling the thick liquor in my cup) “Well it smells good…”

Chris (wine guy): “It looks like mud” (well said)

I got my glass first and I hate to admit it but my expectations weren’t that high. I was hesistant to try it as I’ve certainly had my fill of sicky sweet liquors, and I’m not really even a huge fan of drinking chocolate. That being said, it smelled brightly sweet and since it was chilled it was easier for me to dive in. It took about a full two seconds before the ‘liquid’ made it from the bottom of the cup to my mouth.  While it was creamy, almost pudding-like at first it then half melted and dissolved with rich layers of chocolate and a little kick from the grappa towards the end.  Drinking it straight was almost too much, however, we all instantly started pairing it with other goodies that would be ideal.

Sherry: “wouldn’t this be good for cake frosting instead of grand marnier?”

Shawn: “it’s viscous, almost fudge like”

Me: “imagine this on top of coffee ice cream- oh heaven”

and Chris: “it’d be good in coffee” (genius!)

Moral of the story is don’t judge a bottle by it’s associates, you will probably catch me working on my cross stitch this weekend, and I can’t wait to try this grappa chocolate again (hopefully with some haagen dazs…)

What grows together goes together

humbold_fogHow to match red wine and fresh summer cheeses is a bigger challenge than its sure partner Sauvignon Blanc. A classic pairing that many think they are perfectly harmonious and who needs anything else?


The Bordeaux wine Chateau Cheval Blanc from St-Emilion is predominately Cabernet Franc.

The Bordeaux wine Chateau Cheval Blanc from St-Emilion is predominately Cabernet Franc.

But this idea got me thinking:  During our travel to France last year, we saw first hand the classic pairing of fresh goat cheese and wine  out of France’s Loire Valley, where the cool temperatures keep the Sauvignon Blanc brisk and lively with green, grassy notes–excellent for matching the region’s famed goat cheeses. But once you move downstream from the Sauvignon grapevines, strongholds of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, to the region right around Tours, and the red varieties take over. Many are made from Cabernet Franc (blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style.  It has resemblance to the white in its acidity, lean fruit, and herbal notes. And, if you’re playing “what grows together goes together,” then Cabernet Franc has every reason to go as well with the local cheeses as does its white counterpart.

However, not all Cabernet Francs are created equal. From the Loire, the grape has spread all over the world, most notably into Bordeaux, where it’s used in conjunction with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make tannic, long-lived wines, and also in California, where the warmer, sunnier climate typically produces rich, dark cabs–neither terrific with delicate young cheeses.

Blue black grape- grown in Bordeaux and Loire

Blue black grape- grown in Bordeaux and Loire

Even the Loire makes a wide range of Cabernet Francs that, with some chilling and a blindfold could pass as white. At the other end of the spectrum is tannic, cellar-worthy bottling that would flatten almost any cheese. In general, wines sporting the most general appellations–Saumur, Touraine, and Anjou–on their labels are the lightest ones. Wines from sub regions such as Bourgeuil, Chinon, and Champigny tend to be richer, although most are still light enough to let the grassy flavors of a good goat cheese shine through. (Higher prices tend to indicate which the heavy hitters are better left to the cellar or to a steak.)

Now, after reading all this I am pulling out a gorgeous, a young goat’s milk cheese with a cashmere-soft, grey-mottled rind.  You can now ask me what wine we should drink with it. Of course I would say “A red,” “Why would you have anything else? It’s like meat and potatoes, or stir-fry and rice.”

Later, over a snow-white slice of Humboldt Fog and a Chignon, I begin to see how wonderful this match is. The slight tannins in the wine seem to make the cheese feel creamier; red fruit flavors play up the sweetness of the milk. It seems more fully realized than any match with white wine.

Then I go for the Selles. It’s gorgeous, dense, and as sticky as peanut butter, with an earthy, grassy funk. This time the red pulls out that earthy character while the cheese seems to make the wine feel brighter and fresher. It’s kinetic and delicious. Just for good measure, I cut into a small button of Palhais, a superfresh, salty-sweet goat cheese from Portugal. The salt makes the acid in the wine dance, while the sweet milk plays up its fruit. It rocks with red wine.

I’ve basically found two kinds of cheese that go really well with red: Spanish cheese and goat cheese. It’s that vegetal acidity, something about the fight between the wine’s acidity and that of the cheese that’s really fun. One always wins, coming through with a crisp, cutting note, but the other one doesn’t taste tart at all.  On the contrary: when the wine wins, the cheese never tastes creamier; when the cheese wins, a lean, vegetal wine like Cabernet Franc suddenly seems juicy. Why would you do anything else?

Miguel on a Friday night

miguel torres carmenere (yum)

miguel torres carmenere (yum)

Alright, I would like to preface this with I am not a wine expert. However, that being said most of the guys who work here are.  So when Friday night rolls around, I punch out, grab my laptop and head next door to the wine room where I find myself asking: “so what’s good and cheap this week?” 

DAVID: Well what do you like? ME: Moslty cab, but I’d like to try something new.

D: We just got a shipment of Miguel Torres in, have you had any Carmenere? M: No, what the heck is that?

D: Oh it’s a “________” (he went on to explain it but I was drifting on to think of what I wanted for dinner…) and more of a merlot style from Argentina. Really decent for the price but more along the fruity side.     M: Sold.

Needless to say I took it home and shared it with my roommate (which as I watched her pour herself a second glass, instantly regretted…). It was de-li-cious. 

Looking forward to trying the rest of the Miguel Torres wines if they are even half as smooth and easy to drink. Flavor profile for the wine enthusiasts: Cherry color with fine mulberry aromas, and balsamic touches of eucalyptus that culminate in a sublime hint of mandarin oranges. Elegant on the palate with sweet tannins and nuances of leather and spices. Its aging in French oak lends a pleasant toasted background.

{This entry was brought to you by Molly Mellow}