Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Snooth Vouvray Virtual Tasting

I was lucky enough recently to participate in a Snooth Virtual Tasting, focused on Chenin Blanc, from Vouvray in the Loire Valley of France. I received samples of the Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvee Silex 2012 and the Sylvain Gaudron Vouvray Brut 2011. Two other bottles, the Domaine du Margalleau Vouvray Sec 2011 and Champalou Petillant Brut NV, were also discussed. As usual, the dialogue was fast and furious, the live action with Gregory Dal Piaz and Christy Canterbury MW was casually informative and educational, so the evening was a blast. Check it out on Snooth.

The wines were a pleasure to drink, well-balanced with a nice acidity, and a focus on the minerality that the area is know for. These were tasty on their own, but would pair with plenty of food options - get a bottle or two and have some fun finding optimum complementary or contrasting flavors!

Snooth Vouvray Virtual Tasting

Tasting Notes:
Sylvain Gaudron Vouvray Brut 2011:

Pale yellow with tiny bubbles; mineral, stone fruit, and citrus aromas; focus on minerality, with subtle nut and chalky flavors; ABV 12.5%; cork and wire closure; SRP $22.

Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvee Silex 2012:

Biodynamic grapes grown on flint and clay soils; lovely straw color; apple, pear, quince and citrus aromas; fruit forward, mineral, and subtle saline flavors; balanced, medium body; cork closure; SRP $24.
These wines were sent for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Michel Chapoutier’s Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

I recently received three tasting samples from Michel Chapoutier’s Domaine de Bila-Haut, their property in Roussillon. The name refers to an old farm villa which was built high into the mountain slopes , among some old vineyards. The Domaine comprises 75 hectares of land cultivated under bio-dynamic farming techniques almost 150 meters above sea level. The Roussillon vineyards are located on terraces with stony soil, with black and brown schist, gneiss, limestone and chalk.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Tasting Notes:
Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc Côtes du Roussillon 2013: 
Hand-harvested Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Vermentino (Rolle) and Macabeu grapes; vinified in stainless steel; pale yellow color with green tints; lemon, floral, and stone aromas; citrus, melon, floral, and mineral flavors with a subtle saltiness; ABV 13.5%; cork closure: SRP $13.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rosé Pays d’Oc 2013: 

Cinsault and Grenache grapes; vinified in stainless steel; pale salmon color; floral, blackberry, and stone fruit aromas; subtle strawberry, melon, and citrus flavors; ABV 13.5%; cork closure; SRP $13.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2012: 
Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan grapes; vinified in concrete vats; dark ruby in color; plum, blackberry, and earthy aromas; blueberry, mocha, and stewed plum flavors; ABV 14.5%; cork closure; SRP $13.
Trailer Fac & Spera from GFILM on Vimeo.

All three wines are distinctive, tasty on their own, but really come alive with food. Grab some bottles, invite some friends, and create a vibrant menu to showcase these wines. Great QPR to boot!

These wines were provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cheese and Beer [Book Review]

There are endless discussions about food and wine pairings, including the best wines to go with various cheeses. Now, there is a growing movement, tied to the craft beer renaissance I believe, to discuss beer and food pairings, including cheese. I have to admit, that I never really ponder beer with food - if it tastes good, I'm happy. Same for cheese and beer. That's definitely changing now.

Cheese and Beer book cover

When I got a copy of Janet Fletcher's Cheese and Beer (2013, Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing), I was intrigued. Nay, inspired. With so many choices, both for beer and cheeses, it's hard to know where to start. Fletcher divides the beer world into categories and styles of beer, with the caveat that one brewer's IPA may not match anothers. Ditto for Cheddar cheese. Still, there are accepted notions of what each style of beer or cheese should taste like, so removing the outliers gives you something to work with.

Fletcher states that the most pleasant matches come from the contrast or complement between the beer and cheese. Things to take into account are the texture, intensity, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, alcohol level, and aroma. Making sure that the cheese and beer complement or contrast these elements should provide for the best matches. The book is largely a discussion of beers from around the world matched to cheeses from around the world - can't wait to track some of these pairings down. The real fun, in my opinion, is using the table "Which Beer With That Cheese?" Picking a random six pairings, it was time to shop.

Beer and cheese pairings

We invited some friends over, went shopping, and here's what we ended up with:
  • Saison paired with Brie - we all enjoyed the beer and the cheese separately, but not together. We'll try again with a different Saison.
  • IPA paired with aged goats cheese - one of the evening's favorites, the tanginess of both the beer and the cheese were enhanced by the pairing.
  • Amber Ale paired with Manchego - another favorite, but really, what would Manchego not pair with? :)
  • Porter paired with Smoked Cheddar - perhaps too much going on with the smoke aspect, but otherwise a good pairing - wanted this cheese because it was a local.
  • Stout paired with Gouda - another good one, deep flavors of both the beer and cheese enhanced each other.
  • Dubbel paired with blue cheese - sweetness of the Dubbel was a great contrast to the piquant spiciness of the blue cheese.
So much fun to do that, neat to see how the pairings worked (or didn't). My suggestion? Get a copy of Cheese and Beer, get some suggested craft beer and cheese pairings and get ready to be wowed.

About the Author: "I live, cook, garden and write on a quiet street in Napa Valley. My house is not large but my kitchen is…and my sunny garden is bigger yet. Here, I develop and test recipes for cookbooks and magazine features; evaluate cheeses for my classes and columns; and prepare dinner nightly with my winemaker husband. In my garden—a terraced landscape of roses, fruit trees and raised vegetable beds—I find inspiration for daily cooking and an antidote to deadline stress."

This book was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis

A few weeks ago, I was in Minneapolis for work, so I decided to check out the Town Hall Brewery, part of the city's burgeoning craft beer scene. Since it's also a brewpub, I could get dinner while tasting a beer or two (or three), making it a win-win. By the way, if you need a hotel suggestion in downtown, the renovated Hyatt Place is pretty remarkable, and well-located to boot.

Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis

Since my plan was to eat and drink to excess (maybe), I decided to hoof it over, as it was just over a mile, and walking is one of my favorite ways to see a city. Downtown Minneapolis is undergoing some major changes, with Downtown East, a $400 million mixed-use development, going up next to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. It's a five-block project: office towers, parking garage, retail space, 193 apartments and a four-acre urban park. Hope it works for them!

The Town Hall Brewery sits in an old, attractive building, with a beautiful patio for outdoor seating during clement weather. Since it was so busy and I was hot from walking, I opted to sit in the darker, cooler, interior. There are some interesting decorative pieces to adorn the otherwise spare space, featuring seating at the bar, at tables, or in booths.

Town Hall has many, many options for beer, so going with a flight seems the prudent thing to do. If you're still thirsty after a flight, order another or a pint of your favorite. The beers were all tasty, with many having a subtle unique flavor twist - I generally could not identify what made their IPA, for instance, different than other IPAs, but all the beers have their own taste, which is pretty cool. Maybe it's the water.

Food seems to be somewhat of an afterthought, based on the smallish menu and only 2 dessert offerings. I got a burger and fries and the plate came unadorned, looking pretty naked without a garnish or extra side. Still, it was tasty, as were the fries. The two dessert options didn't inspire me to order them, so after beer and dinner, I headed back to the hotel on foot, on the lookout for dessert and possibly an after-dinner drink.

Good, unique beers, great patio, classic bar, decent food, and friendly service make this a good option should you find yourself in Minneapolis. Good craft beer and pub food just can't be beat sometimes.

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery on Urbanspoon

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery on Foodio54

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