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Ask The Wine Guy!
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Are you planning a food and wine event, are you looking for a fantastic wine recommendation for home or work, do you have a strange pairing question that you need answering or perhaps you just want to look a whole lot smarter than your F&B Director or restaurant manager. Do you want to go to your meetings or friend's homes prepared and ready to be wine savvy? Then just click to ask the wine guy...

Here are the Qs & As so far:

Febuary 2003
I am looking for an inexpensive ($20) yet good wine that will pair well with rosted chicken, roasted potatoes, fresh green beans, and acorn squash (baked with honey and brown sugar). A hearty, thick crusted italian bread will be served as well. Suggestions?

Mr. Lee,
If I wasn't hungry before I read your letter, which I was, the adjective on the bread really pushed me over the edge. Especially since my new restaurant does not serve any.

With the components of fowl, potatoes and squash I'm already imagining a wine from the Rhone Valley in France. When you add brown sugar to the mix I'm heading down South to the Southern Rhone Valley thinking about a wine that has high percentage of Grenache in the blend. There are two wines I'm currently serving on my list that would match that style and price. From France, Chapoutier "Belleruches" Cotes-du-Rhone 2000 or how about something from South Eastern Australia, Trevor Jones "Boots" Grenache 2000.

What are the red wines that are served chilled and the white wines that are served at room temperature?


Marlyn,
Like many things in the wine world, or my family, personal preferences play a big part.

The serving temperature does have a dramatic effect on the taste and flavors of wine. The higher the temperature the more of a wines aroma will appear. On the flip side making a not-so-special wine cooler can make for a more enjoyable taste as it hides aromas and alcohol levels.

When it comes to white wines the standard serving temperature is 45-50°F. Though a truly complex white can really show well up to 60 F. One example would be a grand cru white burgundy. But if a wine passes the 68 mark it can become very unbalanced.

As for Red wines, wines with tannins traditionally are served from 60-65°F. When the temperature gets lower their tannins/bitterness are very noticeable. Lighter Reds can be served a little cooler due to a higher level of acidity. A general guide would be 55-60°F.

My father will only drink red wine chilled, sometimes with ice, I've never
agued with him on the subject. I'll admit the ice part gets under my skin but otherwise it is an ideal temperature for his palette, so to speak!

January 2003
Two of the recipes I plan to make for call for port, although one calls for tawny port and one calls for ruby port. Can I substitute one for the other?
Port is a fortified wine, which means it's fermentation is ended when pure alcohol is added. That is why they are higher in alcohol then still wine and sweeter, due to the fact there is unfermented sugar left over.

Basic Ruby Port is the cheapest available. Though these often see little or no time in wood, there are some Superior quality ones that do see up to 4 years in wood. Tawny Ports are blended wines that can be aged in wood up to 8 years but not all are.

So the answer is yes you can substitute. For your needs I would suggest Ruby Port, but a quality product such a Graham's Fine Ruby or if you want something really nice that you can put with pride in a glass try their famous Six Grapes.

I have been thinking about buying a wine cellar. Really one of the electric climate controlled type,(like a Haier type it holds about 30 bottles)They are like a small apartment refrigerator. Do I keep both reds and whites in it and what temp. would I keep it at, to do the best for both wines.
Chuck, The old saying about a cellar is, how even many bottles your cellar holds, you will end up buying 50% more then that amount. I say this because 30 bottles is not that many. Some people buy small refrigerators to have their whites and champagnes ready to be at service temperature. Which I then would keep the frig at 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan to use the cooler to cellar wines to be enjoyed years down the road, keep both Reds and Whites in it at 52, but then the temperature is only one part of the equation, humidity is the other. A wine corks health is a crucial part to its aging potential.

I'm not sure if I'm answering or asking a question. Either way my one piece of advice is to decide what your needs are and then set the temperature.

November2002
What would you serve with beaujoliais nouveau for an open house or a light, small dinnerparty?
I can't believe its already the third Thursday of November! I was in this sub region of Burgundy earlier this year. I'm a big fan of the Gamey grape and the wines are truly age worthy as well as food friendly. Especially those from one of the 10 Cru Vineyards in the North. Beaujolais Nouveau is as about as close to white wine as a red wine can get. Due to the way it is made, the must is pressed after three days so the tannins, normally found in red wines, are not there, leaving an easy to drink, fruity wine. As for food recommendations I would say, pate, pate, pate, cheese, cheese, cheese, with some baguette. By the way, if you asked me what I was served during my stay there I would also say, pate, pate, pate, cheese, cheese, cheese, with some baguette! See you at midnight (official release time)
October 2002
For the past 10 years, I've been developing my knowledge as an oenophile. However, recently I've noticed that about four hours after drinking a 1/2 bottle or more, I wake up in the middle of the night with a rapid heart beat (like I've had a expresso). Seen my doctor and he isn't concerned. Have you heard of this. Is there anything I can do, short of drinking less wine.

Not only am I not a Doctor, I've never even dated one! Though I have heard of many different symptoms related to wine from guests as well as myself.

To me it sounds as if it an allergy of some sort, I only say that because I have had many people tell me of their own allergies to wine as well as the reactions that they can cause.
As for myself, alcohol effects me in such a different way then it did only 5 years ago. My problem is headaches the next day, they are not hangovers in any way since I do not drink in excess and in every other way I feel fine. The way I combat my problem is to religiously drink an equal amount of water to wine consumed.

Tell me if my remedy works for you!

I am serving an asian dinner.....some chinese and some japanese.........what would you suggest for a wine? I think our guest prefer reds. Is there a red you could suggest?

Champagnes or Alsatian whites are a tradition pairing with Asian foods. What these 2 styles have in common is acidity. Acidity works well in both matching the heat of some of the spices and roots used but also to intensify the clarity of flavors. So then thinking about your question of pairing a red wine, I would think of one with acidity in its style.

Actually, Alsace does produce Pinot Noir, about 5%, mostly for local consumption but some does come to the States. The wine is normally very light in color, simple and straight forward. Since we now are speaking of Pinot Noir, both Burgundies from the Cote D'Or as well as Oregon Pinot's might be just what your looking for. French producers which are not too expensive, considering the current pricing structure that is, are, Domaine Daniel Rion, Hubert de Montille, Louis Jadot, and Michael Lafarge. As for Oregon wineries which I really like are Ken Wright Cellars, Elk Cove, Ponzi, Rex Hill, Beaux Freres, and Domaine Drouhin.

Enjoy the dinner Party, September 2002
Would like to purchase an extra-special cabernet type wine to
celebrate our anniversary. Serving prime rib. Priced from $50-100. What do you recommend? Thanks, Susie

This is the question I am asked the most by friends, family, or co-workers. Sometimes I'll just stop by Sam's Wines & Spirits (Hugh collection that does sell via the Internet, 312.664.4394) and shop for people. I do this because with so many great wines, not every store has every product or vintage, but might have a bottle I didn't mention at a price I wouldn't imagine. The great news is that we are in a buyers market and you can get some unbelievable deals lately.

The last time I did pick up something for a friend with this exact price range and request for a California Cab I found a bottle of Heitz Wine Cellars "Bella Oaks" 1997 for $78.00. I almost didn't want to give it up. The time before that I also had a hard time parting with, Araujo Estate " Eisele Vineyards" 1998 for $100. Again, if you can't find these 2 wines put some trust in a reputable local wine shop for a recommendation, they need you business and love repeat customers.

But if you need me to stop on the way to work and pick up something for you just let me know! But you would have to come by the Ritz-Carlton, I hope you live close by.

I live in Washington,DC and went to a restaurant, Restaurant Nora, and had a beautiful bottle of heidler thal novemberlese. I can't seem to find it anywhere can you help me? Thanks, Toni
Toni - I see you are a convert as well. I've heard from many of my contemporaries of the upswing in sales of Austrian white wines from Gruner Veltliner grape. These wines are dry, crisp, with acidity and sometimes a mineral characteristic. These adjectives all equal a great food wine. By the way, the producer Weingut Ludwig Hiedler wines are very sought after. His annual production is 8,300 cases and is known for high quality products with hand care given thought the wine making process.

The importer of this and many great wines is Terry Theise, he has been featured in the Wine Spectator for his quality imports and beautifully talented wife, Odessa Piper of L'Etoile restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. Terry's e-mail address is [email protected]

Have fun shopping and buying,

A friend of mine brought me back from France a bottle of "bourgogne epineuil domaine de l'abbaye 1999". Now the questions.....1) Is this a good wine and what types of food would it go with? 2) I left the bottle in the car with heat(it was 80 outside and the wine was in the car for 5 hours) and the cork broke the seal and the cork came half out, (I pushed it back down and refrigerated it after it got to room temperature) does that mean I have to drink it now? Thanks, Lesley

Dear Lesley,
Your gift is a wine from an interesting subregion of the Chablis district in France. When labeled with the AOC Bourgogne three types of wines can be produced from the land, White, Red, and Rose. Epineuil is essentially a Red producing area. They are primarily from the Pinot Noir grape vine but sometimes have a blend of other grapes as well. They normally are straight forward fruity wines and from top producers show outgoing red fruit flavors.

I would recommend a game bird such as Guinea Hen or Quail.

I would try this wine as soon as possible and if you have company over have a back up ready. I would not be surprised if the wine was undrinkable at this point. The only thing worse then heat, is if the wine in anyway would be exposed to oxygen, so since the seal was broken that would begin the oxidation process.

Sorry for the bad news

August 2002
Could you please suggest a wine in the range of $10-15 to accompany pepper crusted rare tuna steak?
I always respond to these question after Dining Room Service is completed. Then I start to think about the food and wine pairings in my head and I truly start to get hungry, which I now am!

The dish seems to be well suited towards a white wine with acidity. With rare Tuna I usually don't want very high acidity but with the pepper crust there is a wide variety of World wines that would work. Speaking of World wines at a good price point it is time to open up an Argentina bottle.

The white wine they do particularly well and is very unique to the region of Mendoza is the Torrontes grape, a producer to look for is Santa Julia.

I am a regular reader of your articles,and find them very useful and informative.With regards to wine pairing,I would appreciate if you could give me some information about pairing wine with desserts.
Thanks for the support, to be honest I'm really enjoying this question and answer process. I think I'm learning more the the people who are writing in.

As for Dessert and wine pairings. There are 2 ways to go about the thought process. Sometimes you can think of the food stuffs and match opposite flavors to accentuate the dessert. Or, you can pair similar tastes to intensify the creation.

For an example, say the dessert your trying to pair with is a liquid center Chocolate cake with caramel sauce and caramel ice cream. I might thing of a Hungarian TOKAJI ASZÚ, "5 Puttonyos" Oremus 1995, the sweetness would be there since it is a Botrytized wine. The unique oxidized flavor would be an interesting contrast to the smoothness of the Chocolate.

On the Other hand say you have a special wine dinner and the dessert wine is a Sautneres, from France. With this example you would want to match the flavors to compliment. Try the wine and find out what shows in the glass, such as, tropical fruits, burnt camel, honey and of course the high viscosity (thickness of the liquid) of this style of wine. Then work those flavors into the Dessert, such as on of En-Ming Hsu recent Desserts for the last Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Dinner. My favorite Pastry Chef served a CARAMEL NAPOLEON WITH VANILLA CUSTARD AND STRAWBERRY GELÉE, PIXIE TANGERINE AND STRAWBERRY SALAD.

As long as we are on Dessert wines, if you haven't before, try the semi-sparkling wine from Italy called Moscato D'Asti with Fresh fruit. It a great summer time treat.

What foods would I prepare with Pouilly-Fuisse? I am looking for appetizers or desserts.
Jane, Pouilly-Fuisse is a white Burgundy from the Maconnais, which is the Southern part of France and immediately North of the Beaujolais. The wines are from the Chardonnay grape and are dry crisp wines with high acidity. Though like always the producer matters greatly since some in the region use oak and others do not.

For my palate, I'm not going to go into my usual tirade about how I salivate over these questions, but I really enjoy shellfish and smoked fish. Also, I've used them to pair with vegetables on many occasions, such as asparagus, spinach and beets.

I'm not sure about desserts, but I can see the wine paired with fromage. personally I would lean towards chevre cheese. My Chef, Sarah Stegner, has really turned me on to a producer in Indiana called Capriole Farms.

I am a culinary student at Johnson and Wales who is very into wine and the whole wine culture. How do I get certified as a sommelier and can you recommend any books on wine that I should read.
I hate to say this but I have recommended the C.I.A. textbook, but don't worry there are many others. The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia is a great reference tool and really strong on Bordeaux. If pronunciation is important at this stage the Wine Lover's Companion is very informative. But the best why to buy wine books is like the rest of us, order a double shot cappuccino and just look through the wine section at Borders, it's my favorite way.

As for certification courses, there are many in America and throughout the world. The one I was excited about and took is probably the most recognized here in the States, which is the Court of the Master Sommeliers. They have 3 levels, the first is a two day program called the certificate course and is a great way to get started, meet people, and develop a base of knowledge to begin learning. The address is 1200 Jefferson St. Napa, CA 94559.

Personally, I think you need to read and taste equally. You just can't get all the knowledge from a book. Also, always remember what you've tried and what it tastes like. Save a label or start a journal if you have too but that is the most important advice I can give.

When you've graduated and are looking for a job (front or back of the house) give me a call at the Ritz!


I am slow barbecuing a beef brisket. The flavors are chipotle peppers, lime, cilantro, etc. What wines (red and white) would compliment this meal?
Deborah, Again, some how it always happens that I read these great questions at the end of dinner service and the description are killing me!

As for this style of food, big flavors need big flavors. In other words, I think you would need some wine of substance to stand up to the components of this dinner. The first thing that comes to mind is California most underrated varietal, Petite Sirah. I say this because it is so unique to our country but not really accepted or enjoyed. Maybe part of the reason is because of the controversy surrounding the vine. I've read that is really the Durif grape of France but there is also the theory that it maybe an ancestor of Syrah after all.

Either way the wine is interesting, big, and with the right food a perfect match. Probably the two most famous producers in California are Sean Thackrey and Turley Cellars. Hold on tight!

What exactly does the term strange wine mean?
John, I've read and used the phrase "Dumb Wine" which is usually a reference to Red Bordeaux's. I've tried some strange wines, and for that matter I've drank wine with some strange people but I not sure if there is a catch meaning to that term. Have you read it somewhere? Sorry for the non-answer,

How about a Spanish Albarino with tomatoes?
Cathy, I love your question, because I get to write about something I really like to drink, Albarino's! The most famous come from Galicia, which is in the Northwest corner of Spain. The DO is called Rias Baixas, which has 3 subregions. We do not see that much in the States, even though in the past 15 years the land growing the grape has multiplied by ten. The growth has been from 300 hectares (750 acres) and today approaches 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres).

As for the wine itself, I think they can be world class food wines. The wine is usual pale in color with a unique floral perfumed characteristic with fresh and lively acidity. They are made to drink young!

As for pairing with tomatoes, it would really depend on the recipe. Tomatoes can be a tough match due to it's own acidity. I would advise trying the wine and food together before serving to a guest or just go for it and get other opinions. Some of my favorite pairings with wine I brought up in an article here at Global Chef's, it under pairing wine and tomatoes.

Now I dyeing to go home and open a bottle of the juice! June 2002

What wine will go good with chicken marsala? I thought a chardonnay.

Dear Helen,
This question has really made me hungry. I also think a Chardonnay would work, it would really help to be a crisper style. Another way to go with this recipe is an Italian red. I think with the rich qualities of olive oil, butter, mushrooms, chicken stock and the addition of the sweetness it could really stand up to a red with some acidity. A Chianti would work, I really like the producers, Fattoria Valtellina and Isole e Olena. Though I personally like the Dolcetto grape and think it would be a winner, one of the best producers from Piedmont is Aldo Marenco. Save me some!

May 2002
I am planning to serve a salmon filet with an orange-ginger sauce. What US wine that would be readily available on the east coast would you recommend? I have in my cellar bottles of Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris but am a little puzzled by the orange-ginger sauce.
As I was reading your question, I also was thinking of an Oregon Pinot Gris, honestly I was! As for the Orange-ginger sauce, a version with more acidity would be important. As for the wines in your cellar, this is the perfect time to open something up.

If you wanted to try something a bit esoteric maybe something from the Pinot AOC in Alsace. These white wines our not always 100% Pinot Blanc, many are a blended with Auxerrois. Of course Zind-Humbrecht leads my list but also Josmeyer, Hugel and Albert Mann make great versions.

May 2002
Can you tell me if there is a Pouilly Fuisse Red or is it excusively white?
Dear Anne,
Throughout the wine world all regions have adopted some sort of Appellation system. These refers to an official geographically-based designation. France started this idea in the 1930's and has some of the stickiest laws pertaining to both wine and cheese. This laws are called Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) and it in its simplistic form, it is to ensure that by seeing a name on a bottle you will know it's style and quality.

Pouilly-Fuisse is within the The Maconnais which is a subregion of Burgundy. It's AOC laws state that it is from the Chardonnay grape. So the first answer would be no, there is no Reds with that name. Why I mention AOC laws is because in the Maconnais they do grow Pinot Noir and Gamey (both red varietals). So if you were traveling through Pouilly-Fuisse I'm sure you would see red vines growing, they just couldn't be bottled with that label. They would probably be bottled as Macon AOC or Macon Supererieur AOC.

April 2002
Can you tell me what wine to pair with smoked ham...
Hi Bill,
When growing up my best friend down the block's Mother had a different type of Smoked Ham for every occasion. Mainly they were just sweeter or smokier as it turned to Winter. So without tasting, I'm assuming, your family recipe I would think of the following styles.

Alsace Gewurztraminer: I'll suggest the wines from Domaine Weinbach (I just tried the new vintage last week), both the Cuvee Laurence and Cuvee Theo were big, fat, rich succulent wines which could easily stand up to the Smoked Ham. Also, the regions Late Harvest wines, know as V.T., would work but the sweetness level to the ham would be the deciding factor.

Pouilly Fume: These smoky white wines from the central vineyards of the Lore Valley, have a characteristic of gunsmoke but at the same time they are very crisp with a gooseberry flavor. If you can find the wines of Didier Dagueneau, he makes his Sauvignon Blanc with lots of muscle.

My husband is not a wine drinker, but wants to have a glass of red wine every day, as he has heard there are health benefits. He does not like dry or bitter...prefers something sweet and fruity. Can you suggest a red wine that he may like?

When I have had guests here at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton ask me this same questions these were my thoughts. A warm weather Pinot Noir, maybe something from California's Central Coast, such as Wild Horse. Also, I like and think the Gamay grape should be considered, I know many people like to turn their nose at Beaujolais Nouveau or Beaujolais-Villages but it might just be the perfect wine for your husband. Now if you really want to try something red and sweet go to your local wine shop and ask for a Banyuls. This wine is from the Languedoc-Roussillon in France and is usual a blended wine with at least 50% being Grenache. It is deep in color and rich in flavor, it is a famous pairing with Chocolate. I would be very interested to find out what he thinks, so we all hope to hear back from you and your Husband.

How long do you wait befor serving a Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon after you open them?

I put this same question to thought for many bottles with many guests.
Opening a wine early to let "breath" is best done with a decanter. The more surface space of the wine that is exposed to oxygen the quicker it will achieve desired results. As for letting a wine aerate I think it is of personal taste. Some people insist on tasting right when a wine is open to see how it changes as it is in the glass. Others want as much time as possible, especially when dealing with Cabernet, young and old. As for myself I don't drink that too fast and would not find it necessary to wait before pouring the Shiraz. As for Cabernet, if it was 5 years or younger I would at least open it 20 minutes before serving, as for an old Bordeaux, I am from the camp of wanted to try it at every stage of development. Which means I would want to savor the bottle over a 2 hour dinner.

In my experience certain wines have clearly shown much improvement over a 3 to 4 hours of being open. Though this is a dangerous practice because some wines will completely fall off with that type of time span. Unless you buy a case of a wine and drink one bottle every couple of years where you'll become completely intimate with it's aging process, I would stay away from taking a gamble with something special.

I would like to give a gift of late harvest wine as a gift in a food basket and would like to add some cheese, fruit, nuts etc. What specific things would go well with an Inniskillin late harvest Riesling?

Dr. Thomson, I'm a new Canadian wine fan. I took a 4 day trip to Vancouver on Sept 10 of this year and ended up there for 10 days. I had sometime to indulge in my favorite professional pastime, trying wines. To be honest I think I did as much drinking as tasting. By far the whites and sweet wines outshined the reds I sampled. The Inniskillin wine really stood out. I had noticed the advertisement of the winery in certain periodicals and I tried a few things. The 3 wines I had were an icewine from the Riesling grape, a Vidal hybrid, as well as a demi-sec sparkling wine. The Riesling was a very rich, thick and sticky sweet wine with a bit of acidity. As for foods to enjoy with the gift I would think of dried apricots, fresh fruits, hickory nuts and Blue Cheese. You might want to visit there website inniskillinil.com.

Can you suggest any published resource on pairing wine and vegetarian food ?If you think it's a good idea and you write a book about it, let me know.

I do think it is a good idea Especially with the vegetable trend here in my City (Chicago). When it come to pairing food and wine I really enjoy cultivating a individuals wine preferences. In other words finding what a guest likes and dislikes and picking combinations with that information in mind. Like many people I sure have my favorites and after awhile of exploring you come to the conclusion, you never know!

A couple of books dealing with food and wine pairings that I particularly enjoy or use for staff training our: Georges Blanc The French Vineyard Table, Charlie Trotter's Vegetables and the classroom style format used in the C.I.A.'s introduction to Exploring Wine.

Can you tell me, why red wine is red? and white wine is white? Thanks, Jocelyn

This is the analogy I've used to quickly explain the scenario to a guests. Though the answer can be much more detailed if needed.

In the Champagne region of France, producers use three grapes in their Sparkling wine which are white in color. The three are, Chardonnay (white grape), Pinot Noir (red grape), and Pinot Meunier (red grape). So it is what a winemaker does with those grapes in the winery that dictates the color.

The first step in winemaking, red or white, is to crush, not press the grapes. Then for a red wine it is it's Maceration time that creates the color. Maceration is the period during which the juice is left in contact with the red grape skins. The longer the contact time the deeper the color and greater the tannins.

Cheers! Steven.

We are looking for suggestions for the proper wines to serve with the following dinner. Appetizers-Olive spread with walnuts on toasted baguette's, salad-baby greens and fruit with lime vinaigrette, main-grilled sea bass with mango salsa, lemon couscous with fresh spinach, dessert, white chocolate mousse. Any direction you can give us would be appreciated. Rockrimmon gourmet group, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Though to be a true romantic about wine, to properly choose accompanying wines, little things are so important. First and foremost the guest list, it always fun to pull something from the cellar that you know one of the guest really likes. Also, where the party is taking place, the weather, the china the list can go on and on. But looking at the menu here our some thoughts.

Always Champagne to start: Krug would be great especially to stand up to the olives but a Rose would work as well. 1st Course: I think a white Burgundy would be ideal because of the crisp acidity as well as the subtle notes in this style of wine. You don't have to spend the "Big Bucks" on a Cote D'Or bottle, The wines from the Cote Chalonaise and Maconnais offer terrific food wines and at a value. A Saint-Veran would be cool, I like the producer Thevenet or even a Pouilly-Fuisse, Verget does a great job, Main Course: Call me crazy but this looks like a perfect match for a Gewurztraminer from Alsace. The spiciness of these wines would really compliment the Bass and Mango flavors as well as they our rich enough for the Spinach. Like every wine nut I can't help but recommend almost and wine from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, but also a couple of other producers I really like are Schlumberger, Sparr, and Josmeyer. The Best Part, Dessert: Something sweet of course but a wine that has a little acidity to balance it out is nice with Mousse so the combo isn't too overboard sweet. A German Trockenbeerenauslese is always a treat but if you want something in that style but maybe even better for your item is an Austrian producer named Kracher his "TBA" would be a serious change of pace.

After all of the writing about food and wine pairings I'm really hungry! Keep in touch and tell me what you end up with. Cheers Steven.

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