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Pairing Your Childhood With A Wine? Heck ‘ya!

Pairing Your Childhood With a Wine? Heck ‘ya!

The other night I decided to pair one of my favorite wineries in Napa with a childhood favorite recipe.

I remember learning how to make a mini pizza with an english muffin in my junior high school home economics class. I took the recipe home, and my mom and I used to make them together.

I haven’t made them since. Fast forward 40 plus years. I was looking for some easy recipes to make on busy nights and could pair with a simple salad to make a meal. I remembered the English muffin “pizzas” I had made so long ago, and that they were pretty darned tasty and super easy to throw together. So, for a quick Sunday night supper I decided to give it another try.

I used whole grain english muffins for a healthy twist. I added some of my favorite marinara sauce, some onion, mozzarella and parmesan, and topped it off with some Italian seasonings and popped them in the oven. P.S. If you’ve never made these fun little tasty treats, be sure to toast the muffins first to keep them from getting soggy. Then add the sauce and whatever toppings you like, and put them in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes! As they say, easy as pie. Not that I think making a pie is necessarily easy!

Before beginning the “pizza” process, I had a bottle of 2015 Napanook decanting. Dominus is definitely one of my favorite Napa Valley wines. I’m a big fan of Bordeaux wines (who’s not???), so the Napa (New World) winery of Chateaux Petrus is definitely my style!

Napanook is Dominus’ second label. What is a second label wine? Well, top wineries and chateaux blend together their best grapes’ juice to produce their best possible wine for the Grand Cru or “first wines”.  What do they do with the remaining juice???  Many of them make a second wine. Usually made by the same winemaker in pretty much the same way as the winery’s famous wine, the big difference is that the juice for the second wine is often from younger vines or the second press. Although these wines may not be AS complex, balanced and sublime, they ARE a lot less expensive!  It’s a great way to try big name Bordeaux or other famous wines without the big-time price tag.

The 2015 is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. On the nose are plum, violet and notes of licorice. The medium plus body is silky and lovely to savor in the mouth. The plum is also on the palate, along with dark cherry, chocolate and a touch of spice. The tannins are super smooth and the wine is beautifully balanced. I could drink this wine every night!!!

Perhaps it wasn’t the perfect pairing with my childhood mini pizzas, but it worked. Plus, my husband and I had the rest of the bottle to enjoy as dessert.

There was only one thing better about the meal than this stunning wine; the memories I enjoyed of my mom and me making this cute little meal together. I only wish that she was still here so that she could have joined us!

To discover more about Dominus, Napanook and their wines, check out their website here:


It’s Not Only About Shiraz in the Land Down Under!

When most people think of Australian wines, they think of Shiraz! There’s obviously a reason for that. Syrah, or Shiraz as the Aussies like to call it, is the most widely grown grape “down under”. Cabernet Sauvignon, however, is now number two, and there are producers making some wonderful wines utilizing this number 2 grape!

In the 1960s, Australia was a lot better known as the land of kangaroos and surfing. Fast-forward to the 21st Century and things have changed! From 1988 to 2008 Australian wine exports increased over 98% and today Australia has become known for quality wine. They still, of course, have kangaroos and surfing! In fact, my husband and I had a wonderful Australian vacation a few years ago where we golfed amongst the kangaroos in Geelong!

I recently had the opportunity to taste wines from Bordeaux side by side with four Bordeaux blends from Australia, and I honestly was surprised at the results on my tasting sheet. Now I’ve had great respect for Australian wines for years, even traveling there to further my knowledge, but I have to admit that I thought that I’d prefer the wines from France. I was wrong!

Here are the Australian wines I tasted:

Balnaves The Blend 2012

51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc

This Bordeaux blend is from the Coonawarra region, known for its bright red soil called terra rossa over a limestone base. This soil combination is known for killer Cabernet Sauvignon!  The nose has a touch of mint and cedar, with lots of dark fruit. The palate has the fruit along with some licorice, and has a velvety mouth-feel. What a great wine for about $25 retail!

Yalumba The Menzies 2012

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Also from the Coonawarra region, this wine takes its name from Sir Robert Menzies, former Australian Prime Minster and lover of wine! With cedar, mint and black currant on the nose, this purple colored wine has juicy blackberry, black currant, some tobacco and a bit of olive on the palate. It needs some time, but this wine is going to be lovely. The tannins are nicely structured and balanced with the dark fruit.

Woodlands Estate “Margaret” 2011

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is from Margaret River, Western Australia’s premier wine region known for its wonderful examples of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 “Margaret” is very fragrant with dark fruit, dark chocolate, tobacco and pencil shavings on the nose. The palate is ripe, but well balanced with cigar box and a lovely earthiness. This wine will be absolutely dynamite after some time in the cellar!

Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 2010

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot

Yarra Yering Vineyards is located in the Yarra Valley, a short 28 miles from the beautiful and bustling city of Melbourne. Although mostly known for producing lovely examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Yarra Valley also does wonderful things with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

The 2010 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 is from estate Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1969. This wine is very different from the others. The herbaceous nose has lots of earth, clove and pencil shaving, along with dried black fruit. The palate has violet, some nice dark fruit and some barnyard funk. This reminds me most of a Bordeaux, with great acidity and longevity!

By the way, the “No. 1” stands for their Bordeaux Blend, while the “No. 2” is their Northern Rhone blend!

While visiting Australia a few years ago, my husband and I had only two days to taste in Yarra Valley. I had my heart set on tasting at Yarra Yering, but unfortunately they were closed BOTH of those days due to the horrific bushfires that overtook the region the month before. Instead we went next door to Warramate Vineyards where we had a lovely tasting. Warramate also makes some beautiful wines, and we counted our blessings that they were open. We no longer have any of Warramate’s wines in our cellar, but we do have fabulous memories of their wine and the lovely young lady who hosted our tasting! I’m including a photo of us sitting on their deck overlooking their vineyards.

Back to my Bordeaux vs. Australia tasting, there obviously wasn’t a dud in the bunch! I of course still LOVE the wines of Bordeaux, but this tasting reminded me of the high quality of wine coming out of Australia and the fact that they can totally compete with the finest wines of the world!

If you every have the chance to visit Australia, jump on that plane. Not only is it a beautiful country, they have great wine and beer and some of the nicest people in the world!


Some of the Lovely Wines & People of Bordeaux!

Oh how I love France.  I’ve been a Francophile since I can remember, and it only increased after catching the wine bug.  I’m blessed to have traveled to France many times exploring many of their wine regions, but I have yet to go to Bordeaux.  Well this past week, Bordeaux came to me!

More than 30 chateaux from Bordeaux stopped in Orlando during their “North American Tour”.  This night’s tasting was sponsored by ABC Fine Wine and Spirits.  Representing these chateaux were owners, winemakers, marketing reps and some distributors.  None of the First Growths were there for tasting, but many of the other Growths, as well as some lovely Cru Bourgeois and fabulous wines from the Right Bank!

Almost all of the wines being poured were from the 2012 vintage.  Here are some of my favorites of the evening:

 2012 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (2nd Growth from Pauillac) – Winemaker Jean-René Matignon was pouring his lovely 2012, which is comprised of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  On the nose are tobacco, forest floor, blackberry and black cherry.  The palate has the dark fruit, cassis and vanilla.  The finish seems to go on and on and on.

2012 Château Lynch-Bages (5th Growth from Pauillac) – This needs time, but oh it will be worth the wait.  Made from 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, some earth and licorice come through on the nose.  The palate is rich and yet fresh, with dark fruit and a touch of baking spices. 

2012 Château Clinet – From Pomerol on the Right Bank, this wine is a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc.  With aromas of cherry, wet earth and licorice, the palate explodes with black cherry and blackberry.  There is a hint of chocolate on the finish as well.

2012 Château Gazin– Again from Pomerol and considered one of the great wines of Bordeaux.  Christophe de Bailliencourt, the delightful Co-Owner and Co-Manager of Château Gazin, was pouring their lovely wine.  Gazin is located in the eastern part of the Pomerol plateau.  The 26-hectare vineyard adjoins the vineyards of L’Evangile and Petrus.  On the nose are cassis, blackberry and smoke.  Chocolate covered black cherry and the cassis and blackberry come through on the palate, leaving a long and lush finish.

Truthfully, there wasn’t a dud at this tasting.  I wish I had room to write about them all.  Perhaps I’ll do that as they have more time in the bottle.

Meanwhile if this tasting comes anywhere near you and you’re a lover of the wines of Bordeaux, don’t miss it.  For me it was a night that won’t be forgotten.  I have a feeling that my next adventure in France will include a visit to Bordeaux!

Opus One’s Second Wine – Overture

Top wineries and chateaux blend together their best grapes’ juice to produce their best possible wine for the Grand Cru or “first wines”.  What do they do with the remaining juice???  Many of them make a second wine. Usually made by the same winemaker in pretty much the same way as the winery’s famous wine, the big difference is that the juice for the second wine is often from younger vines or the second press. Although these wines may not be as complex, balanced and sublime, they ARE a lot less expensive!  It’s a great way to try big name Bordeaux or other famous wines without the big time price tag.

Opus One is a winery in Napa that produces a second wine.  Founded as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and renowned Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Opus One’s goal was to create a Bordeaux style blend based on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The other four Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) are also used.  They use grapes from some of the most well respected vineyards in Napa.  The winemaking, however, is modeled after the techniques of Bordeaux.  This happy marriage produces some of Napa’s finest wines.

While their signature wine is called Opus One, their second wine is appropriately (especially if you’re a music enthusiast) called Overture. Overture is only available at the winery or on their website.  We had a tasting at Opus One a couple of years ago, and had purchased a bottle then. We cracked it open the other night.

I decanted this wine for about an hour before pouring.  The color is a medium purple and has a wonderful aroma of chocolate-covered cherries.  On the palate are some nice dark fruit, specifically black cherry and currant, as well as some tobacco.  It is well balanced with some earthiness and a hint of baking spices.

Yes, the vintage Opus One is a fabulous wine with a lot going on.  I wouldn’t mind having cases upon cases of it resting in my cellar.  With the going rate of about $235 a bottle, not many people can afford that.  Overture isn’t cheap, but at about $80 a bottle most of us are a lot more likely to be able to afford multiples.  If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with a price tag over a couple of hundred bucks, but you’d like to splurge a bit, Overture is a very nice option.

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