Tag Archives: Spicy and Smoky

Christmas Wines at My House

Every year, I see a ton of people doing a “What to pair with your Holiday Meal” post.  Therefore my blog would not be complete without a similar post to finish off its first calendar year of existence.  However I’m just going to do a run down of what is being served at my house this Christmas and what I’m pairing with it. Perhaps you can glean some ideas from it. 


Assorted cheese including Humbolt Fog, Manchego, and Brie.

Stone ground wheat crackers

Veuve Clicquot N/V Champagne

 Light and Bubbly: I really love this Champagne.  It’s consistently a good value and widely available.  It is also a perfect intro to Champagne for people who don’t drink it on a regular basis as it focuses on pure fruit with hints of lemon curd and toasted brioche with a fine mousse and nicely balanced dosage. 

First Course

Pumpkin Bisque with holiday spices garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay

Buttery Beauty: Now I helped blend this wine so just be aware that I have a personal interest in it however I really like pairing it with this soup because the wine has such great intense flavors and it complements the intensity and the thickness of the soup.  It has intense notes of tropical fruits, brown baking spices and is dry with a full body.  The wine finishes cleanly with spices and toasted walnuts lingering.

Main Course

Brown Sugar Glazed Baked Ham

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds and Caramelized White Onions

Roasted Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes

Stuffing with Onions, Herbs and Spices

Homemade Cranberry Sauce.

Robert Mondavi Winery 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Spicy and Smoky: I love the Mondavi Reserve Cabernets and have several vintages in my cellar.  The ’99 is drinking very nicely right now and I wanted to share it with my family.  The notes of black currants are highlighted by some lovely fig and date notes that are beginning to develop adding to the complexity of the wine.  The tannins are soft and plush and the spices on the palate it makes a nice complement to the holiday meal. 

Philippe Raimbault “Mosaique” Pouilly-Fume 2008

Fresh and Grassy: With that much herbs being thrown around in my kitchen I must have a Sauvignon Blanc somewhere.  We found this wine on our last trip to France and I really love how the flavors of dried herbs, limes, and chalk mix together to create an old world wine with hints of new world styles in it. 


Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

Seasonal Yellow Pears with Salted Caramel Sauce

Beringer Nightingale 2006 Napa Valley

Sweet and Luscious: Again, in the interest of disclosure I work for the company that makes this wine however I have nothing to do with the production directly and I wasn’t working for them during this vintage.  I just really like it as a well balanced late-harvest wine that conveniently comes in a 375mL as there will not be enough people at my house to finish off a 750mL bottle of dessert wine. The grapes are affected by botrytis which gives the wine beautiful honey and sweet yellow pear aromas to complement the full, sweet body and lingering finish. 

As you can see it will be a busy weekend in the kitchen for me but I hope it will be an enjoyable meal for my family as we celebrate the Christmas Season.  For more information about how to pair wines with food see my earlier Blog post The Pirate’s Code of Wine and Food Pairings  (http://www.novacadamatre.com/?p=72).

Finally, Merry Christmas to you, my readers, and a wonderful and happy New Year’s as well.  Please drink responsibly and enjoy what you drink because life is too short not to drink great wines!

My speed tour of Piedmonte

The day after Verona we headed west towards Piedmonte in search of another Italian tradition…Gelato!  This was something I was very excited about since I had always heard that Italians make Gelato very differently from ice cream as we know it.  We stopped at a little town that was recommended to have some of the best Gelato around and ate lunch.  It was everything that I had heard it would be.

After dining and enjoying Gelato we continued on towards Piedmonte, the home of Asti, Barolo, and Barbaresco.  Our first stop was a winery called Ceretto, the largest winery in the region.  Ceretto produces a large range of products but the largest seller is an Arneis based wine called Blange.  It is an easy drinking everyday style white.

Ceretto Blange Langhe 2009

Fresh and Grassy

Pale Lemon core with light CO2 apparent. Clean with medium intensity aromas of citrus, lemons, white flowers and chalk. Off-dry palate with medium acid, medium alcohol, low skin tannins and light body.  Medium + flavors of lemons, wet chalk, citrus, and white flowers with a medium finish.

Our guide at Ceretto was Ellen Whetten an American Ex-pat who has now made her home in Piedmonte.  The winery is family owned with 5 production sites of which this one is the largest.  1,000,000 bottles per year are produced most of which are Blange Arneis although Dolchetto, Barbaresco, and Barolo are also produced as well as some 250,000 bottles of Muscat.  Arneis experienced a rebirth in the 1980s and is now the region’s signature white grape.  The estate has 80 ha of Arneis which is typically vinified in Stainless steel tanks.  Usually 40% is cryomacerated at 6 degrees C for 12-16 hours on the skins to add texture.  3-4 kinds of different selected yeasts are used for Blange.  CO2 is usually added to boost acidity perception because Arneis tends to loose acidity quickly.  Finished at 5 g/L of sugar to balance the mouthfeel and make it more approachable.  Only one yeast is used for the reds although the cellar worker answering these questions did not know the name of the individual yeast strain used.

Ceretto Barbera d’Alba “Piana” 2008

Elegant and Floral

Medium – pink ruby core. Medium + aromas of cherries, strawberries, and wet stones. Dry palate with high acid, moderate alcohol, low to medium – tannins, with a light body. Moderately intense flavors of Bing cherries, strawberries and wet stones with a medium finish. Excellent with aged meats and fruit.

The high end wines of Ceretto are produced at their Bricco Rocche Winery including the Monsordo Cellar Blend made up of Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Noir.  This blend is aged in both large and small French oak casks for 18 months.

Ceretto Barbaresco 2006 Bricco Asili Winery Bernardot

Spicy and Smoky

Medium – Garnet core. Medium + aromas of dried cherries, fresh figs, earth, and baking spices.  Dry palate with medium + acid, moderate alcohol, High tannins, and Medium + body. Moderately intense flavors of dried cherries, figs, earth, and cloves, with a long finish. Aged for 18 months in wood.

Ceretto Bricco Asili Barolo 2005 Brunate

Spicy and Smoky

Medium – Garnet core. Moderately intense aromas of Bing cherries, figs, chocolate, hazelnuts, spices and soil.  Dry palate, moderately high acid, medium + alcohol, high tannins, and moderately full body. Moderately intense flavors of cherries, chocolate, fresh figs, earth, stones, and spices, with a long finish.

The Barolo is aged for 2 years in a combination of large and small barriques.  The large barriques are resurfaced every 6-7 years.  After bottling the aging process continues for 9 months in bottle before release.  The combo of large and small barrels is a melding of traditional Barolo production with modern techniques to come to a happy medium between old age-worthy style and new more approachable wines.  Around 50% new is used every year with 5-6 different coopers all light to medium toast barrels.

Vignaioli di S. Stefano Muscato d’Asti 2009

Light and Bubbly

Pale lemon core with moderate CO2 level. Pronounced aromas of floral notes, peaches, nectarines, and apricots.  Sweet with moderately high acid, low alcohol, and Medium body.  Moderately intense flavors of apricots, white flowers, orange blossoms, and white peaches with a long finish.  Served with locally produced hazelnut nougat.

Our next stop was the Dante Rivetti Winery which in addition to having beautiful vineyards also made fantastic home aged salamis and was the home to 15 or so dogs that pretty much had the run of the place anywhere outside the actual production winery.  We had tasted some of the wines the day before at the show however we were able to see more of their operation which includes producing and holding Muscat juice for the regions most popular export, Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante. We were fortunate enough to meet the two generations of winemakers at this winery. A father and son team, neither one of whom spoke English so it was also an interesting challenge for our guides  to translate questions and answers back and forth.  We had dinner at a restaurant across the street that night and were treated to a wonderful 5 course meal and several wines including a 2001 Reserva.

Dante Rivetti Barbaresco Bricco Riserva 2001

Spicy and Smoky

Medium – Garnet core with Ruby tints. Moderately intense aromas of licorice, dried cherries, spices, and earth.  Dry palate, with moderately high (bordering on high) acid, moderately high alcohol, high tannins, and a moderately full body.  Moderately intense flavors of cherries, licorice, herbs, and wild asparagus (a newly acquired descriptor because of the wild asparagus risotto served a few courses before although I am more that willing to admit this may have been the power of suggestion at this point in the evening) with a long finish.