pinot noir


Labor Day with our family sometimes begins local craft brews; such as not your NOT YOUR FATHERS ROOT BEER and you most defiantly can’t go wrong with good, cold beer in a tub of ice. My husband like me, are committed to being wine fans. Choosing the right wines isn’t as easy as you might think.  Often times, he would say it’s totally about the meat, the technique, and the sauce! I happen to agree

.  bbq-wine

There are many flavors you’ll come across while barbecuing: umami, smoky, salty char, and sometimes sweetness and savory. They’ll vary by which area you are eating the BBQ like in Texas barbecue, beef rules, either brisket or ribs, and is often served with a sweet, hot tomato-based sauce. The flavor is deeply smoky, the meat rich. On the other hand Southern-style like North Carolina pork barbecue, hang on on vinegar-based sauces and lighter spice rubs.


So for a stern wine-and-barbecue conversation, big, heavy, high-alcohol reds seem heavy with rich meat goes great with chilled rosé.


What you want for all types of barbecues are wines that rub the smoke and sauce off your tongue so you can take another fresh bite.  So with dense, ingratiating brisket needs the difference and refreshment of acidity and bright fruitiness. We are great drinkers of Super Tuscan wine barbecue pairing. These big, heavy, high-alcohol reds seem ponderous with rich meat. We feel biased just thinking about the combo. Here are some tips on what to try instead:

  • Rosé (“the beer of the wine world”) with barbecue.  Me, too—and the fruitier the better, to hold its own with smoked meat.
  • Syrah or some people call it Shiraz with your spicy chicken wings
  • White wine with barbecue only if it’s grilled shrimp or chicken with citrus-y rubs can be delicious with tart, floral-scented vinho verde, we’d rather drink bubbly or a chilled rosé.
  • Reds – Save big, bold, tannic, high-dollar reds, such as cabernet, for char-grilled steaks. The quick cooking doesn’t break down the meat’s fat the way hours in a barbecue pit do, but the wine’s tannin will do the trick.
  • Forget oaky wines. The meat is already smoky enough, and a spicy sauce will make the wine’s oak character stand out even more.
  • Keep your choices simple. Grilled foods and barbecue have so many intense flavors that wine nuances will be lost.
  • Pulled pork and succulent ribs go very well with lively pinot noir and with other high acid, lighter reds or rosés that can be chilled.

Wine Names Usually Indicate Location or Grape Varieties



Most European wines are named after their geographical origin. One very famous example would be the Bordeaux wine which is produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Bordeaux wines are made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and to a much lesser extent Carmenere and Malbec.

Non-European wines almost always have the name of the grape (aka the varietal) on the label – for instance Cabernet Sauvignon from California.

Now you know!

How to Find the Perfect Wine for You

F&W’s Ray Isle investigates the sommelier strategies that can help you find an ideal bottle of wine all on your own.Image

he Jordan Pond House, in Acadia National Park, Maine, serves lemonade in an unusual way. You’re given a big glass of unsweetened lemonade and a little pitcher of sugar syrup. Then you pour in as much syrup as you want until the lemonade is to your liking. Some people like their lemonade very tart, some people like it very sweet and most people are somewhere in the middle.


Thinking about wine in the same way isn’t such a stretch; like lemonade, some wines are very tart, some less so. In fact, although wine can seem dauntingly complex, it shares a lot of characteristics with other things you eat and drink—sourness, bitterness, sweetness and so on. If you don’t like intensely tangy lemonade, you probably won’t like intensely tangy wines. The problem is, if you’re looking at a list of unfamiliar wines, how do you know which ones you’ll like? You don’t. And, unlike lemonade, you can’t adjust a wine to your taste.


In a restaurant, of course, you can ask the sommelier—a good one can divine which wines you’ll enjoy, even if you don’t know yourself. At The NoMad in Manhattan, wine director Thomas Pastuszak refers to these skills as “the Jedi mind tricks of the sommelier,” a phrase I like if only because it brings to mind an image of Alec Guinness in Star Wars, pointing to a wine list and saying, “These aren’t the Cabs you’re looking for…”


Of course, most people don’t have sommeliers at home. So why not become your own sommelier? With that in mind, I trailed Pastuszak at work, listening to his conversations with customers who asked for help. (Most do; there are about 1,000 selections on The NoMad’s list.) Then I got in touch with Matthew Kaner, wine director at Los Angeles’s Bar Covell, who has his own approach to helping customers make choices.


At The NoMad, many of Pastuszak’s strategies were familiar, such as asking customers about the last wine they had that they really liked; even a novice sommelier knows that one. Other strategies were more akin to translation. One woman described a Pinot Noir she’d loved as being “so smooth, I just wanted to eat it like ice cream.” In my experience, “smooth” is one of the most common (and positive) words used to describe wines by casual drinkers. Unfortunately, it’s also vague. Pastuszak, though, was able to immediately interpret it as meaning “low-acid and low-tannin.” He often let the customers make the final decision, pouring them two wines side by side—a juicy Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and a lighter, brighter one from Burgundy, say—and asking if they had a preference. They always did.


He also used some very basic strategies, like asking customers to “trust me on this.” Pastuszak is a charming, articulate, good-looking guy, withan infectiously upbeat attitude: It’s hard not to trust him. And really, why wouldn’t you? Personality aside, his knowledge is vast. And choosing a wine requires more knowledge than, for instance, ordering a dish. Think of it this way: If you ask your friends whether they like beets, they’ll tell you. They won’t have to puzzle it out or admit that they’re not very beet-savvy. But with wine, casual drinkers probably can’t say whether they like Monastrell from Spain or Central Coast Grenache, even if they know that they like tart flavors, or that bitter flavors make them shudder. When dealing with a 1,000-bottle wine list, a trustworthy guide is handy.


Kaner, one of F&W’s Sommeliers of the Year for 2013, takes trust to a new level. At Bar Covell, which he co-owns, there is no wine list. There’s plenty of wine—a huge selection, in fact. But he won’t tell you what any of it is until you’ve had a conversation with him about your likes and dislikes.


This approach might seem odd, or even a little bit annoying, but Kaner’s logic makes perfect sense: “Hand someone a list with 150 selections, which is what we have at Bar Covell, and immediately, you’re assuming everyone knows everything about all 150 wines. And they don’t. So how can you expect them to make an educated choice?”


What Kaner does instead is ask his customers questions. “I don’t focus on grape varieties,” he adds. “They don’t help. If someone says they want a Syrah, what does that mean? One from Morocco? From Cornas? From Santa Barbara? They’re all distinct. So instead of varieties, I try to think more about wine characteristics.”


That means asking whether someone might prefer a lighter wine or a more full-bodied one, acidic or not so acidic, dry or sweet. “Say you want a red,” he says. “OK, do you want an earthy red? A fruity one? What we do is direct the narrative.”


Kaner sometimes challenges what customers think they want, too. “We had someone come in recently who said, ‘I want a big earthy Cab, what do you have?’ So I said, ‘Why does it have to be Cabernet Sauvignon? That’s only one of thousands of grape varieties.’ After talking for five minutes about why it doesn’t matter what grape it is, I poured him three different possibilities.” He ended up with a Négrette, an obscure red from southwest France. And he loved it.


Instead of getting the customer what he thought he wanted (Cabernet), Kaner listened to what heactually wanted (an earthy, substantial, tannic red). This method showed me that it doesn’t take many questions to narrow down a person’s preferences. So I decided to stage an experiment at home, based on two of wine’s most basic characteristics: acidity (tartness) and body (how lush a wine feels in your mouth.)


First, I invited two of my wife’s cousins, wine drinkers but definitely not experts, over for dinner. I asked them what they liked when it came to tartness—how much sugar syrup they would pour into their lemonade, essentially. Then I quizzed them about body: Did they prefer rich sauces or light ones? Dark- or white-meat chicken? Finally, I had them taste four wines, bottles concealed in paper bags: a high-acid, light-bodied red (Barbera from Italy), a high-acid, full-bodied red (Brunello di Montalcino), a lower-acid, light-bodied red (Pinot Noir from Monterey, California) and a lower-acid, full-bodied red (Paso Robles Zinfandel).


This approach strips away the nuance that makes wine fascinating, certainly. But it worked. The cousin who likes sweet lemonade, light sauces and white meat chose the Pinot as her favorite. Her sister, who prefers tangier lemonade but the same kind of dishes, went for the Barbera. And my wife, who would just as soon skip the sugar syrup in her lemonade but prefers richer foods on the whole, picked the Brunello.


The point is this: Coupled with some very basic wine knowledge (see the chart here), knowing your taste preferences makes it extremely easy to pick a wine you’ll enjoy. And you won’t have to learn any Jedi mind tricks to do it.





Grand Cru: Burgundy’s ultimate categorization

At the top of the Burgundy organization system are the Grand cru vineyards, where some of the most desirable wines in the world are produced. the origins of Burgundy’s Grand crus can be found in the work of the Cistercians who, among their vast land holdings, were able to delineate and isolate plots of land that productes wine of distinct character.

Following the French Revolution many of these vineyards were broken up and sold as smaller parcels to various owners.

Since there are so few vineyards classified as Grand cru, understanding them should be easy. But this is Burgundy so there are many exceptions to the rules.
The “if it is white, it’s Chardonnay and if it is red it’s Pinot Noir” rule applies to all Grand Cru classified wines of Burgundy – no exceptions. Any wine designated as Grand cru must be produced from grapes entirely from that cru – no exceptions.
Each Grand cru is its own Appellation or better know as d’origine contrôlée (AOC) – that is, it is documented by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) as a unique appellation AND is also classified by Burgundians as Grand cru.
The exception to this is Chablis. The appellation of Chablis Grand Cru is recognized as a specific appellation, within that appellation are seven climats (climat is refers to a named vineyard in Burgundy) designated as individual Grand crus.

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For extra credit, look up the “eighth” Grand Cru of Chablis, La Moutonne. This monopole (a monopole vineyard is owned exclusively by one producer) vineyard straddles the Vaudésir and Les Preuses Grand cru climats. The complications of why it is unofficially documented as Grand cru are too complicated to explain in the space, but it’s great trivia for Chablis lovers.
Most Grand crus are controlled to producing either red or white wines. Corton (the largest Grand cru) and Musigny are the exceptions – they produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

A common mistake that customer make is saying “I’m looking for some Montrachet.” Most of the time they are referring to the popular AOC wine Chassagne-Montrachet. The Grand cru, le Montrachet, is among the most expensive wines in the world and those who are ordering that wine will say le Montrachet if that is what they want – those who pay $400 to $800 for a current vintage bottle of white wine know how to order it.

Due to inheritance scheme outlined by Napoleonic code specified that all inheritance must be equally divided among heirs further contributed to the parceling of Burgundy’s vineyards, marriages and lost fortunes over the centuries, most Grand crus have many different owners. The Grand cru Clos Vougeot was once a monopole vineyard of 125-acre owned by the church. Today it has over seventy different owners, some of whom only own enough vines to make a case of wine per vintage. There are a few monopole Grand Crus – one of the best is Corton Grancy, owned by Louis Latour.
All owners of parcels of Grand crus can designate the name of the cru on their wine, no matter how little their holdings. Just be aware, if you give the same extraordinary end ingredients to seventy chefs, you will end up with varying results. Not all Grand crus, even from the same vineyard, are equal.
The good news is, the best way to determine which Grand cru you like and which producer of that Grand cru does the best job for you is to taste these amazing wines.

The bad news is, these are among the most expensive wines in the world. So whenever you get a chance to taste Grand cru Burgundy, make notes of what you like. For most people it will take years to have the opportunity to become familiar with Grand cru Burgundy. Here is a link to a number of Grand cru in our stores cellar that you might enjoy without braking the bank:

Memorial Day – Wine & Cheese recommendation



Morbier is a fragrant, yet surprisingly mild French cow’s milk AOC cheese.  It is distinct by the dark seam of vegetable ash streaking through it middle. Customarily, the evening’s fresh curds were scattered with ash to prevent the formation of a rind overnight. The next morning, new curds were laid upon the thin layer of ash to finish off the wheel. Today, the ash is purely decorative, a doze to the method by which Morbier was once produced in Franche-Comté.

 The wheel was then washed and rubbed by hand, forming a rind to protect the rich, creamy interior and create a appetizingly powerful aroma.

 Morbier is aged for at least 60 days and  pleasantly stuns  anticipations. Contrary to its smell, Morbier has a mild taste and leaves a wonderful, nutty aftertaste.

Leboure Roi Les Sangliers $9.99

Leboure Roi Les Sangliers $9.99

  Morbier is excellent served with a Gewurztraminer or a Pinot Noir.  We have enjoyed this great cheese recently with Labouré Roi Les Sangliers 2006 Reserve.

This winery started in 1832 in Burgundy.  It is firmly rooted in local winemaking community, enjoying an excellent reputation for its high quality. The wine has great ruby red color, black cherry and raspberry aromas and a generous finish. 

Morbier Cheese $11.99 per pound available:

 Labouré Roi Les Sangliers 2006 Reserve for $9.99  available at


(this entry is written by Shawn –

Mel and Rose Blogger)