Friday, May 22, 2020

10 Memorable Wines for Memorial Day

              Gaia on the island of Santorini, Greece had one of the most memorable tasting settings

Wine-Knows has visited more than 25 wine-making countries around the globe.  We've tasted tens of thousands of wines since the first group we took to Europe in 1978.  Selecting a mere ten is a near impossible task, however, we’ve managed to narrow it down.   Nine are wineries; one is an actual wine region.  If you’ve visited any of them with us you’ll understand why they made it on this blog.   (Listed in alpha order by country.)

 Argentina's Catena Zapata: most memorable architecture

                              Austria's Domaine Ott: most memorable Gruner Veltliners

             Chile's Montes:  most memorable mountain top setting for a private dinner 

     France's redecorated Chateau Beychevelle:  most memorable place to sleep in Bordeaux

                                 Italy's  Ferghettina:  most memorable sparkling wine in Italy 

                        New Zealand's Valli vineyards:  most memorable winemaker dinner

Portugal's Douro Valley:  most memorably beautiful wine region 

                           Spain's Binigrau Nounat:  most memorable wine on Mallorca island

    USA's Dehlinger Pinot Noir:  a memorable choice for my recent black-tie birthday dinner

Wishing you a memorable weekend...

Friday, May 15, 2020

Garam Masala Vs Curry

              Fabulous chicken tikka masala (recipe below) uses both garam masala & curry spices

Both garam masala and curry are complex combinations of spices that are emblematic 
of Indian cuisine.   These two important spice blends, however, are used in many countries of the world beyond India----from the Middle East to Pakistan.   (Curries are even popular in Asia).  Garam masala and curry are often confused.  They serve much different purposes and are not interchangeable.

While curry and garam masala contain several common ingredients such as cumin, ginger and coriander, the key differences between these two is the fact that curry is turmeric-based.  Tumeric, a bright yellow-orange root, is the main ingredient in many curry blends.   It is responsible for the classic yellow-orange appearance of many curry dishes.   

Another difference is that garam masala has a sweeter taste than curry (although garam masala does not not a grain of sugar).  Looking at garam masala’s composition one can easily see what’s responsible for creating the illusion of sweetness:  pungent cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom.   Fennel seeds also add to its sweet character with hints of licorice flavor.   Garam masala, however, has a multifaceted profile that extends beyond its sweet spicy nuances.  Pops of black pepper mix with perfume-like ginger, and aromatic mace to create a multi-layered symphony of flavors.

The last difference between these two spice blends is that garam masala is often added at the end of cooking to flavor so that it not only seasons the dish but adds aromatics.  In contrast, a curry spice blend is mostly used on the front end to impart deep flavor during the cooking process (e.g. marinating with curry spices prior to cooking significantly enhances flavors).  Curry is also frequently used to add complex flavors to a sauce that is cooked over a long period of time.

Below is my favorite Indian recipe.  This chicken dish uses both garam masala and a blend of curry spices.  I serve it with a brown rice/fresh spring pea mixture…and a dry Gewurztraminer.

Bon appetit!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Rhone Rangers, Part II

                                 Large rocks provide warmth to vines during cold nights

This is a second article in a two part series on France’s world-class Rhone Valley wine district.  Today we travel to the southern sub-zone of the Rhone.  Many readers may know this southern area because of its famous wines from the town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

The southern Rhone terroir is different from the cold, harsh north.   The Mediterranean Sea exerts a tremendous influence by moderating the south’s temperatures.  Winters in the south are far less dramatic, and southern summers are hot but cooled by the effects of the Mediterranean.   Large rocks washed down over the millenniums from the Alps and other mountains by the Rhone River, also help with the climate:  retaining heat, they provide warmth to vines on cold nights.  Their smaller pebbles create excellent drainage.  

While Syrah is supreme in the northern Rhone, the big kahuna red grape of the southern Rhone is Grenache.  While Grenaches comprises nearly 70% of the south’s vineyards, there are several other red varietals allowed by law.  All southern Rhone wines are blended.    While wines are mainly Grenache, a little Syrah is added to for its color and spice, as is Mouvedre which adds structure and elegance.  The southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre is so popular that it is frequently called simply GSM.  This famous blend has been replicated around the world.

The southern Rhone’s Holy Grail appellation is Chateauneuf-du-Pape (“the Pope’s new house,” named so after the papacy was move from Rome to this area in 1309).  These wines are some of the most seductive I know.  Like all southern Rhones, they are Grenache-centric, however, similar to the northern Rhone, laws allow for combining both red and white grapes.  GSM is strongly represented in the mix, but there are also some white grapes added in small amounts.   

While red wines are the majority produced in the southern Rhone, opulent whites are also made.   They are scare but, oh, but they can be divine.  Made from unknown varietals like Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul (along with Roussane and Marsanne), a white southern Rhone from Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be a religious experience.

Pop a Rhone wine to celebrate the weekend!

Friday, May 1, 2020

There’s No Place Like “Rhone”

                     The Hermitage is one of the northern Rhone’s most famous appellations

France’s Rhone Valley is home to some of the world’s most epoch wines.  This wine region, a huge area with over 6,000 grape growers, is divided into two distinct sub-districts, the northern Rhone and the southern Rhone.  Today’s blog will focus on the northern sub-zone (next week we’ll discuss the southern area, home of the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines).  

The terroir is quite different between the northern and southern Rhone, and no doubt has played a role in splitting the two into diverse areas.   The Rhone’s northern wine district has a harsher climate with colder winters and hotter summers.  The northern district's terroir is also influenced by topography.  Milleniums-old glaciers moved through this area carving out dramatic hillsides.  These steep hills now provide good drainage, complex soils, and excellent sun exposure for vineyards.

Terroir dictates the type of grapes that are the most suitable.  In the northern Rhone, Syrah accounts for about 80% of the varietals.  Thought to have actually originated in the northern Rhone Valley, Syrah is the only red grape allowed by law in the northern sub-region’s wines.   These are cool climate Syrahs at their very best.  White grapes, including Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussane, are also important in the area.  Interestingly, in the northern Rhone, red and white grapes can be blended together to create a red wine.  Whites are used to round out the Syrah, bringing flavor and aromas into the mix, as well as softening the angular tannic structure of Syrah.   

Cote-Rotie and Hermitage are two of the most prestigious appellations within the northern Rhone.  Both of these premier areas allow the addition of white grapes into making of a red wines, however, their percentages of white used are often quite small.  These benchmark, complex and bold reds are frequently nearly 100% Syrah.

While most famous for its red wines, the northern Rhone also makes some drop-dead luscious whites.  They are rare and some of my favorites on planet earth.  A blend often of Marsanne and Roussane, they are pricey due to supply and demand.  These gems are definitely worth seeking out.

Tune in next week for the killer wines of the southern Rhone.