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The wine guy - Pierre Lasserre. Pierre Lasserre was born and raised in Auch, hometown of D' Artagnan and the 3 Mousquetaires, located South West of France, in the heart of Gascony.

Pierre has been in the Food and Beverage Industry for more than 20 years. He graduated from the Hotel School of Toulouse in 1979, and went on to do his apprenticeship in various establishments throughout Europe, including an Assistant Maitre d'Hôtel position at the famous 3 Michelin Stars Restaurant from Michel Guerard in Eugenie les Bains.

Pierre came to the US in 1985 and attended Cornell University School of Hotel Administration while working as a Sommelier in a local French Restaurant in town.

He went on to join Four Seasons Hotels in 1989 were he presently works as Cellar Master/Sommelier in Chicago.

Pierre's wine philosophy:
Emile Peynaud's book "The taste of wine" is largely responsible for sparking my early interest in wine.

Today, I see wine as part of my roots and heritage. Wine is intensely human and it is the essence of civilizations.

But above all, for me wine is about shared experiences and every day celebration of life. It is a gift and a blessing from Mother Nature, and I truly consider myself fortunate to be its humble servant…

Put him to the test ask the wine guy...

Here are a few of the Qs & As so far:

I plan a romantic balcony evening with my girlfriend. Just me and her looking at the stars. What wine would you recommend for the occasion. especially if we are coming from being out all day and both of us had separate dinners?
Champagne has always been the number one resounding choice for romantic beverage. Joel, can you picture a candle light atmosphere on the balcony with strawberries dipped in Chocolate, that can be sensually feed to each other. A glass of Champagne with Romantic gestures like the intertwining of arms, drinking in each others glass.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé could be the perfect beverage for the evening. There is a vintage bottling of this wine called Cuvée Elisabeth for about $120, or a non-vintage for about half that price. It is very elegant, delicate and sensual with a gorgeous vibrant red color that will put your date in the mood for romance as soon as this tiny and persistent little bubbles start tingling her tongue.

I will be making the dessert for a vintage Yquem?
Classic pairings with this wonderfully wine would include the following : Creme Brulee, Fruit Tart, Creme Fraiche parfait, Sorbets, Pastry Cream, Aged cheeses such as Rockford, Gorgonzola or Stilton.

What wine can i serve with strawberries?Red? White? Dessert wine? Please help I'll be waiting for your answer...
Here are a couple of sudgestions that you may want to try:

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui D.O.C.G. Rosa Regale is a unique red sparkling wine. Sweet and appealing, it may be enjoyed as a delicious aperitif, between-meal or after-dinner sparkler. Aromatic with a hint of rose petals and raspberries, Rosa Regale is perhaps the only wine in the world that marries well with chocolate, especially dark or bittersweet. Delightful, vivacious and aromatic, it can also be enjoyed with strawberries, fruit salads and a wide range of desserts.

Frambrosia Oregon Raspberry Wine Willamette Valley Frambrosia Oregon Raspberry wine takes the category of "berry wine" to a new height. Fine wine shops and restaurants seek out this wine for its pure, concentrated depth of flavor, and its ability to match exquisitely with a wide range of desserts. As an alternative to late harvest wine, port, or sherry -- Frambrosia is a delight to anyone who enjoys the true essence of this marvelous fruit.

I was asked to bring wine to a appetizer and wine sampling party. The appetizers will include,
1-Goat cheese
2-Crostini( Bread with garlic and olive oil)
3-Crab Dip
4-Bean & Roasted garlic (Hummous)
5-BBQ Meatballs

Here are a few wines that I think should be great pairings with your appetizers selection : With the Crostini and Crab dip lets start with a nice light and crisp and refreshing Pinot Grigio : Castello Banfi Pinot Grigio Toscana Le Rime 2003 A fresh and clean white, with sliced apple and melon aromas and flavors, medium body and a fresh finish.

For the beans and roasted garlic hummous and goat cheese: Bonterra Vineyards Viognier, Medocino County 2003 Freshly cut peaches and apricot familiarity radiates in the nose, kissed by honeysuckle and intriguing floral notes with a hint of vanilla. The mouth reflects fresh peaches and cream with a robe of subtle vanilla.

And finally with the BBQ meatballs: Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma 2003 Intriguing spicy, briery, dark fruit qualities. The interplay of Zin's black raspberry and cherry/berry fruit lushness is enhanced by carefully extracted sweet oak undertones adding layers of dusty, textural tannins
Enjoy the sampling party !

I just wanted to know if i store the wine bottles on a wine rack should i dust the bottles or does it help the wine age better(i once heard).
She is just Kiding right...?

I have been given a wonderful bottle of Château Haut-Bages Libéral (Pauillac) 1996. I would like to know what I should eat with this great wine.

Château Haut-Bages Libéral is located in Pauillac, on Bordeaux left bank. The blend is therefore of Cabernet Sauvignon base. With such wines, the classic pairing would be high protein red meats such as Filet Mignon, Tenderloin of Beef, Rack of Lamb, Bison or Duck dishes.

Do you chill white riesling wine?
Yes - the wine should be served around 55 dgr Fahrenheit.

Can you suggest how I can learn everything about wines white and red pairing with food since I'm collector and passionate about wine. Also, the wine culture which glass you use for certain wine etc.
Knowing "Everything about food an wine pairing" will require lots of reading along with years of practice and experience. I would suggest you get started by reading some of the numerous books already published on the subject, See link bellow.
I have particularly enjoyed this one :
Book 2

What are your suggestions for matching a consomme. I have heard of dry sherry but is there a wine you recommend. The consomme has finely diced carrots, celery and onion and is quite aromatic.
As David Rosengarden (Food Network) likes to say it "Soup and wine are part of the No-Nos". The main problem being texture. The classic thinking is that wine (a thin liquid) with soup (a thin liquid) is texturally redundant.This especially true with consomme that are very light and thin in texture.

The way around this is, just like you suggested to serving a richer, fortified wine such as sherry or even something bubbly, like Champagne or perhaps a German Riesling Auslese or Spatlese.

Should Chardonnay be served chilled?
If a white wine is served too cold, the fruits and aromas will not be given a chance to emerge and the wine will loose most of its appeal. Simple crisp, dry white wines should be served around 44 to 46 F. Finer wines, such as white Burgundies and California Chardonnays should be served around 50 to 54 F.

Is a bottle of vigerelo red 2000 good?
- "Is the wine still good ?"
- "You bet it is!"
In fact it might not even have quite reached its peak yet. This wine is actually a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Last I tasted it it was peppery with ripe fruit characters and plums. Perhaps a little Jammy, which is typical for this vintage. Full bodied and powerfully finish.

Even so it is true that 2000 was only rated as an average vintage in Tuscany, San Felice Vigorello remains one of my favorite Italian wines, specially because of its consistency in quality over the vintages.

We have a pineapple wine coming to our wine tasting party and we would love to know what would be a good appetizer to accompany this pineapple wine. If you have any suggestions, we'd appreciate it!
Pineapple wine ! Here is something many of us know very little about. With a bracing pineapple aroma and a refreshingly acidic taste, this semi-dry wines are a great match with seafood, particularly mahi-mahi, scallops, and halibut. When the Hawaiian pineapple juice is in perfect balance with a blend of quality white wine, this table wines have just the right amount of tartness, and tropical sweetness for a refreshing and flavorful treat. Great with seafood, it is also used for light lunches, dinners, salads, tropical fruit plates, picnic lunches. But also very refreshing and pleasant to drink all by itself on a summer day by the veranda!

What wine could be paired with Spinach and Artichoke dip?

I find the Viognier Grape to do extremely well with dishes that are driven by vegetable flavors. When paired with vegetables, this wines do not necessarily create additional layers of flavors but rather tend to extend the flavors already contained in the dish.

Here is a delicious wine that should do well with your spinach and artichoke appetizer. And by the way this wine is also 100% organically grown!

Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2003 $18.00
Aromas of freshly cut peaches and apricot with honeysuckle, intriguing floral notes and a hint of vanilla. The mouth reflects fresh peaches and cream with a robe of subtle vanilla.

I have a bottle of 2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia. Can I pair this with a pepper crusted seared tuna steak? The tuna is spicey.
The Insingnia, especially in 2001 is a superb bottle, comparable in quality to the outstanding 1997 vintage. This blockbuster wine reveals gorgeous aromas of melted licorice, creme de cassis, liquid minerals, and hints of chocolate and spice box. The finish is long, full-bodied, opulent, and voluptuous. Considerable tannin is largely concealed by the lavish richness, extract, and glycerin. — 95 Points It is true that certain high protein fish such as Salmon and Tuna can sometimes handle a red wine. However, this wine will be I am afraid just be too big for the dish. I would stay with red, and would rather recommend something like a medium body Pinot Noir from Oregon, Washington State or Santa Barbara area. Your wonderful Insignia Cabernet blend has the potential to age for many year to come and I would prefer to save it for a red meat dish such as Beef, Fillet Mignon, Steak, Rack of Lamb or even Bison. Good luck !

I've been asked to bring a wine to compliment a particular course in a formal dinner. The wine is to accompany a coconut & spinach soup with infused herbs. The rest of the courses will be Asian. Any suggestions?

Try the following wine. It will do well with the soup and should be specialy good with oriental food. Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2002/2003 Alsace, France.

January 2005
What kind of red would you pair with a homemade chicken parm recipe?

I would love to drink a nice California Chardonnay with this dish. Here is one of my favorite as far as good value goes :

Trefethen Chardonnay 2002
Napa Valley
Retail: $26.00
Aromas are reminiscent of a tropical plantation with notes of mango, spiced with hints of tarragon. The palate is lush with creamy lemon, apple and smoky oak, underscored by bright mineral qualities. The fruit flavors linger through a long, elegant finish.

Hello and help! Please don't leave me hanging, Wine Guy. I am planning a multi-course "tasting menu" for my parents anniversary and would like to pair a different wine with each course. I would greatly appreciate any advice you could give me. Time is running out! Thank you. The menu is as follows: First Course: Tartare of Ahi Tuna with Sesame Oil, Toasted Pine Nuts, Garlic, and Chiffonade of Mint Second Course: Corn Veloute with Crab Begniets with Red Pepper Coulis Third Course: Prosciutto-Wrapped Quail Stuffed with Wild Mushroom Duxelle in Fig-Sherry Sauce on Bed of Grilled Polenta Main Course: Glazed Spare Ribs with Cumin and Coriander accompanied by Roasted Beet, Carrot and Potato Mousseline; Caramelized Fennel; Petite Orange, Plum and Walnut Soufflé Dessert: Black Forest Cake

Dear Steve Grieger, The Wine Guy shall not let you down indeed! I understand we do not have much time, so here we go....great menu by the way. Also most of this wines should be readily available, if you local wine store does not carry some of them, remember, you always have the option to find them on line while using your favorite engine search.

1 - Tartare of Ahi Tuna with Sesame Oil, Toasted Pine Nuts, Garlic, and Chiffonade of Mint
Chablis Louis Latour 2003
Burgundy, France

2 - Corn Veloute with Crab Begniets with Red Pepper Coulis
Joh.Jos Prum Wehlener Riesling Kabinett 2003
Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany

3 - Prosciutto-Wrapped Quail Stuffed with Wild Mushroom Duxelle in Fig-Sherry Sauce on Bed of Grilled Polenta
Steele Pinot Noir, Goodchild Vineyard 2002
Santa Barbara

4 -Glazed Spare Ribs with Cumin and Coriander accompanied by Roasted Beet, Carrot and Potato Mousseline; Caramelized Fennel; Petite Orange, Plum and Walnut Soufflé
Jim Barry, Lodge Hill Shiraz 2003
Clare Valley, Australia

5 -Black Forest Cake
Oak Knoll Frambosia, Raspberry Wine NV

Steve, good luck with your dinner. Happy Anniversary to your parents !

I own a restaurant and we recently had a problem with one of our white wines. it was a viongier made by zaca mesa. the wine had what appeared to be a sugar build up at the bottom and floating around inside. the customer was upset when she saw it in the bottom of her glass. can you tell me what this might have been.

Dear Christopher, Not so fast Christopher ! Don't poor that Zaca Mesa Viognier down the drain yet ! The crystal like build up you are referring to is not due to sugar, but rather the solidification of natural components found in quality wines. Tartaric acid and Potassium are both naturally found in white wines, and when this two components bind together under chilly conditions, they form little potassium bitartrate crystals, which settle to the bottom of the bottle.

This crystals are quite natural and completely harmless. They are also tasteless and do not, in any way alter the aromas and flavors of the wine. The only thing you can do is tactfully educate you guest about it, and handle the bottle carefully so that the crystals remain at the bottom of the bottle while you are pouring into the glass.

And after all this, if your guest is still offended by the appearance of the wine, then no problem, let him return the bottle, I know just what to with it....

What wine goes with Chateaubriand?

This classic dish would be best paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon. There is an endless list of outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons out there that would fit many price ranges. Like with any wine, depending on the country and region of origin, a given grape varietal will express different styles. In order to keep things relatively simple, you should know there are basically 2 very distinct styles of Cabernet Sauvignon. There are often referred to as New World style versus Old World style. Your choice should be based on personal preference, they will both work with Chateaubriand.

New world style can be very full body with rich flavors and higher alcohol content. Usually shows a lot of ripe and intense up front fruit, blackberry, black cherry, plum, current and spicy oak.

Old world style, are often not as big and full body, but they can also be very complex due to a combination of more pronounced earthy and mineral characters along with the fruit. Can show delicate fruits with additional layers of aromas such as tobacco, truffles, coffee, chocolate, anis, licorice and spices.

Here are a few reasonably priced wines that I recently tasted and really enjoyed.

Old World Style
Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Estate 2000
Napa Valley $27.00

Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Alexander Valley $24.00

New World Style
Chateau D'Armailhac 1999/2000
Pauillac $25.00

Clos St-Martin 1999
St-Emilion $37.00

Pat, this wines should be relatively easy to find in most wine shops. You might even consider adding a little fun to your evening by serving one in each style with dinner.

I had a dinner party last night and served grilled salmon. One of my guest asked for a red wine. I was totally caught off guard! All I had bought was white wine because I thought you drank white with fish. My guest informed me that was true, but with salmon you could drink red or white wine. Is that true?

Traditionaly, Pinot Noir would be the way to go if you need a red wine with your Salmon. Depending on the preparation, it could be light to medium body in style. But in general it is best to pick a Pinot Noir from cooler climats areas, such as Santa Barbara, Oregon or Washington state.

One more more suggestion would also be to go with a vibrant and lively red for Norhtern Italy. Look for wines form the region of Piemonte, made from Barbera or Dolcetto grape.

I am having a dinner party where I will be serving a zinfandel. I need a main dish recipe that will pair well with the wine. Thanks!
Very interesting question indeed, I am assuming that we are talking about red zinfandel here...correct ? Well it would have help to know the name of the wine, because all red Zinfandels are not alike. But in general we should expect a wine fairly hight in alcohol, with a deep dark red color. Zinfandel is a spicy, peppery wine, with a hint of fruity flavor - berries or dark cherries . Zinfandel goes well with "typical American" food - pizza, burgers, etc. It's hearty enough to match up with thick red sauces, pasta dishes with rich tomato sauce and usually goes especially well with barbecue sauces.

Where can I learn more about pairing wines with desserts? (I live in Chicago)
Dear Mark, If you have'nt already, please check my question/answers forum at and you will find good information on some classic food and wine pairings, including desserts. There is a also a book and a website that could help you in your research : Wild Sweets:Exotic Desserts and Wine Pairings, by Dominique Duby So, Mark, is it true that Chicago was called the "Windy City", not because of the wind, but rather because of the politicians

What can you tell me about the gruner grape?
Dear Katie,
I believe you must be referring to Gruner Veltliner which counts for about 36% of the total grape production of Austria. The primary wine area is located in "Lower Austria", a region which is actually located in the Northern part of the country, west of Vienna, along the Danube river.

Gruner Veltliner can be very crisp, refreshing and slightly austere with herbal and lime characters, and when at its best, can be very rich and spicy. In Austria it is commonly paired with a wide variety of food, from sea food preparations to herbs accented pork, veal and poultry dishes.

Katie, you should also know that Austria is presently producing a new generation of white wines that are considered amongst the best in the world. The fines wines are actually produced from Riesling grape, made by talented producers such as Knoll, Hirtzburger, Pragen, FX Spichler or Brundlmayer, to name only a few.

We want to purchase only organic wines. The US, Canadian and Italian wines that we buy that are organic, clearly say so on the label, but the French wines do not. Do you know why?
This is a great question, whether we are wine drinkers or not, since we all share the same planet. For starters, what do we exactly mean by an Organic Wine? First and foremost, it's a wine made from certified organically grown grapes. The fundamental idea behind organic wine is that making wine from grapes grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers is clearly better for our planet AND therefore, in all likelihood, better for you, the wine drinker.

Furthermore, there is more and more evidence showing that since organic vineyards have more natural resistance to poor weather or pestilence, they tend to perform better in poor vintages than non-organic ones. Additionally, many organic vineyards harvest by hand, rather than using mechanical pickers. This allows only the ripest and healthiest bunches to be picked, with the minimum amount of stress to the vine, fruit or soil.

When it comes to French wines, you are correct, it is confusing to the average consumers since the word "organic" is not mentioned on the label. You should however take comfort in knowing that, French organic wines show up consistently among the top ten best wines of any region, being cited in magazines as the most innovative, interesting and personalized products around. This might be the reason why these producers do not feel the need to advertise their farming methods on the label.

For example, for years renowned producers such as Bize-Leroy of Burgundy and Nicolas Joly in the Loire Valley, to name only a few, have taken it to a even higher level with Biodynamic farming, without ever advertizing it on their label.

Gillian, here is my favorite source for French organic wines, with knowledgeable people that can guide you though your choices :

The Organic Wine Company at 1-888-ECO-WINE (326-9463)

What wine pairs well with Duck? What wine pairs well with veal?
Dear Steven,
When it comes to deciding what type of wine goes best with a specific product, in your case Duck and Veal, the pairing will greatly depend on the recipe itself. Keeping in mind things like the cooking method, the spices and seasonings used, the garnish and the sauce will make the difference between an average pairing versus a great pairing.

For example in most cases a medium body red Bordeaux would work well both with duck and veal.

But now lets say you decide to prepare you duck dish with an orange sauce, for the pairing to work it would be critical that you match the sweet sour flavors of the sauce with a wine that can combines a delicate balance of low acidity with layered fruits and citrus aromas. Try for example one of the great 2001 German Rieslings of the Mosel region. Joh.Jos. PrumRiesling Spätlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2001. $27.00

Lets say that you decide to serve sautéed wild mushrooms with your veal dish, I would recommend a firm and earthy Pinot Noir with black truffle, berry flavors and good tannins. Bourgogne Leroy 1999 $18.00

I have no idea what wine to match with creme brullee! Please help
Dear Andy,
The classic match with Creme Brulee would be to serve a Sauternes or Barsac dessert wine from the region of Bordeaux. This wines also refereed to as " Liquid gold", come from grapes that are naturally affected by what we call "the Noble rot". Botrytis forms on the skin of grapes and dehydrates them, thereby concentrating the juice. This process produces naturally sweet wines with distinctive deep flavors of honey and dried fruits, while retaining this very critical balance of sweetness and acidity, which is of crucial importance in order to make a world class dessert wine. Growing Botrytis-affected grapes requires patience and efforts. The grapes are handpicked only one berry at the time in multiple passes. Furthermore there are only a hand full regions throughout the world that have the suitable climatic and geological conditions necessary to naturally grow Botrytis. The yields are usually very low and as a result wines tend to be expensive.

Here are a few suggestions from the wine spectator website. The first one is only to dream for a moment...

Château d'Yquem
Sauternes 1811
Score: 100
Price: $30544
Country: France
Region: Sauternes
The famous "Comet Vintage" yielded this perfect Sauternes that's the pinnacle of Yquem. Full-bodied and very smooth in texture, it offers an exotic combination of whipped cream and freshly crushed raspberry, rolling over the palate with incredible finesse to end on a dreamlike, velvety finish.--Yquem vertical. Drink now through 2020. (PM)

Château Guiraud
Wine: Sauternes 1997
Score: 93
Price: $44
Country: France Region: Sauternes
An elegant and racy Guiraud, with pretty aromas of pineapple, melon and spice. Full-bodied and medium sweet, with an intense, spicy botrytis finish. Needs time. Best from 2002 through.

Winery: Château Roumieu
Wine: Barsac 1995
Score: 88
Price: 50.00
Country: France
Region: Sauternes
I have always liked wines from this underrated estate. This one is thick and medium-sweet, with spicy honey aromas and a hint of smoke. Medium-bodied, with a long vanilla aftertaste. Drink now.

I am choosing wines for a function at which we are being served a salad of aiguillettes of duck with pickled ginger as a starter followed by Roast fillet of salmon with aubergine. I note that you recommend Riesling for the salmon. There is a Pinot Blanc Domaine Materne Haegelin (alsace) on the short wine list which I suspect might be the best white choice but how about those who will want red whatever the menu? We have 7 reds to chose from Chateau du Plantier (Bordeaux), Penfold bin 128 Shiraz,Chateau Roudier Montagne Saint Emillion (Bordeaux), Brouilly, chateau des Tours (Burgundy), Rully Les Villeranges, Faiveley (Burgundy), Hoopenburg, Pinot Noir, and Chateau Montaiguillon, Montagne saint emilion (Bordeaux)
This Pinot Blanc Domaine Materne Haegelin is a very light and delicate wine and it might not stand up to a high protein fish such as salmon. However try it with the Aiguillette of Duck Salad and you might be pleasantly surprised. As far as pairing a red wine with Salmon, If you are limited to the choices from your short list, your best bet would be to serve the Brouilly very slightly chilled. You mentioned Rully Les Villeranges from Faiveley as part of your choices for red. I believe this wine would work with your salmon dish but as far as I know it is a white wine.

Is zinfandel a good choice for grilled salmon?
It is true that high protein fish such as Salmon can do well with certain red wines. However Red Zinfandel is typically very ripe, rich and jammy, which I am afraid, would overwhelm the flavors of the fish. A light to medium body Pinot Noir would probably be a better choice in this particular case. Now, if you really want to stay with Red Zinfandel I would recommend a Grilled Salmon Filet, with a equally rich preparation, such as Barbecue or Hoisin sauce.

Where in the wine selection do I find marsala?
You will have to look in the Italian section of your wine book to find the region of Marsala. This underrated region is located on the far west side of the Island of Sicily. Most people have a preconceived notion that Marsala sweet fortified wines fit only for cooking in Italian cuisine. Try instead a dry version and it will come to you as a revelation. Marsala can be made from different grapes and can come in various styles and levels of sweetness. These include native grapes such as Catarratto, Inzolia, Damaschino and more recently imported Grillo.

What are the best wine(s) to go with poached salmon with a tart sauce.
There is a number of possibilities here, but my first choice would be to go with a Sauvignon Blanc or Fume Blanc. Also generally crisp, dry and spicy, these wines go well with poultry, fish, especially salmon, and shellfish dishes. They will also help cut the richness of the Tartar sauces while standing up to the acidity of the Capers.
If you like a generous up front ripe and fruity style, try one of the following:

Alderbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Dry Creek Valley $13.00
Great juice for the money ! Shows Citrus and pineapple, tangy nectarine, melon and apricot. Also, this wine is blended with a touch of Semillon, which brings a very pleasant creamy texture to the finish.

Emmolo Sauvignion Blanc 2001, Napa Valley $16.00
Ripe and complex flavors of melon, figs and vanilla. Very round on the palate with a nice lemony acidity on the finish.

If you prefer a cleaner, more mineraly, herbaceous," Loire Valley style", I would recommend the following. I personally find this style to be often times much more food friendly, due to the higher acidity contend which brings out the intensity of the flavors. Basically it would work the same way as when you splash a dash of lemon juice over a fish in order to enhance the taste.

Dry Creek Fume Blanc 2001, Sonoma County $14.00
Gassy and herbaceous, Jalapeno peppers with melon and citrus flavors.

Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2000, Oakville $23.00
Very crisp and herbaceous style, with grapefruit, citrus, snow pea, green beans, Finishes with a crisp and mineraly acidity that will be sure to bring out the richness of the salmon flavors.

And yes Don, it is true, I admit it ! It was hard for me not to take, once again, our readers to a little trip down the Loire Valley !

Help! A restaurant we go to a lot got us hooked on having a Banyuls dessert wine (forget which specific one) with their signature sweet dish -- a melting chocolate soufflé!

When they first gave it to us, it was chilled (not ice cold, just chilled). But recently, they've decided to serve it at room temperature - read: warm. We like it better chilled.

In fact, a restaurant I went to in New York serves it chilled, and insisted to me they've never heard of anyone serving it warm.

So who's right - the chill brigade or the warm front?

Dear Bob, Go with the chill brigade on this one!

And yes, your New York restaurant is right, the secret is to serve it chilled, not ice cold, just like a Beaujolais or a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. If the wine is too cold, all this wonderful aromas and flavors will loose a great deal of intensity, and the wine will also end up being out balance with the chocolate. A couple of hours in your refrigerator before to serve should be sufficient.

Banuyls is an appellation from Langedoc-Roussillon in the south of France. The one you are referring to is a "Vin Doux Naturel" that can be served as aperitif and dessert wine. This wines must contain at least 15 percent alcohol and be made from a minimum of 50 percent grenache grape. If it is a Grand Cru Banyuls, it must be made from at leasts 75 percent Grenache and aged in wood for a minimum of 30 month. The unique thing about this wine is that it is purposefully oxidized by placing small barrels in the sun during summertime, a style of wine called "Rancio".

Thanks for the great question Bob, as a kid, I used to spend my summer vacations in Banyuls and you are bringing back a lots of good memories !

I am a culinary student at Johnson &Wales University, and I am doing a project on ice wines. I need to know How to pair up ice wines with different courses. For example, whatice wine would I use to pair up with a cheese course, what ice wine would I use to pair up with a beef course, what ice wine would I use to pair up with a chocolate course? Why would I use each of these wines. The problem I'm having with pairing wines with menu items is all the sites I go to list regular wines, not ice wines,specifically. Please help. The project is due This Sunday!
Dear Daniel, It looks like your dead line is approaching fast, so here are a few hints and tips that hopefully will help you complete you project on time. Go to, click on WINE RATINGS, do a search on Ice wine, you will find 108 wines with descriptions ratings, vintages and price. You may have to sign in for a full subscription, but it is well worth the small investment considering the wealth of information available.

When pairing food with any dessert wine, including ice wines, there is a few basic rules that you should keep in mind:

1 - In order for the pairing to work you wine has to be as sweet or sweeter than the dessert, so be careful with chocolate.
2 - Texture of the food is very important. Dessert wines like rich, fatty food. This is one of the reasons why this wines do so well with Foie Gras, Rockeford cheese or Stilton, aged goat cheese or Creme Brullee.
3 - When deciding on each individual pairing, also keep in mind how each wine will flow in relation to the rest of the selections throughout the dinner.

This is very important, the next wine should "never make you regret the previous one".Kind of like building a crescendo. Lighter goes before heavier, dryer before sweeter, younger before older.

I don't know about pairing beef with an Ice wine, that is a tough one, but not impossible if you have the right sauce. I am thinking of caramelized sweet Vedalia or Walla Walla onions, deglased with Marsala wine, finished with heavy cream reduction and a generous amount of Rockeford cheese. You could also do a thick Port Wine reduction with Foie Gras. As a garnish. I am thinking of some kind of Custard Timbale with Goat Cheese.
I know it sounds really rich, but again, it is what this type of wines love.
Well I got to stop there because my mouth is really starting to water now!

Please E-Mail me back to let me know how you project went. Good luck!

I live in Boston and was hoping to find a place where I could take a course in becoming a sommelier.
Dear Thomas, I believe wine classes in your area are available at the Boston Center for Adult Education. You can visit their website at The organization widely recognized as the education leader for setting the standards in our profession is the The Court of Master Sommeliers. The Court of Master Sommeliers was established to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants. To learn more please visit their Website at

Also, Thomas, please keep in mind, that Restaurant Service, Culinary Education and Salesmanship are basic foundations required in order to become a Sommelier.

This is why I still think, the best education one can get starts with working in the industry under the leadership and guidance of a veteran Sommelier.

And yes, it will probably include carrying cases of wine, polishing lots of glasses and conducting large wine inventories. on Sundays.

But if you are fortunate enough to work with the right person, you will get a life time learning experience that hopefully will shape the beginning of a very successful career. Good luck Thomas !

What would be a medium priced wine to serve with Chateaubriand?

This classic dish would be best paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon. There is an endless list of outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons out there that would fit your range price. Like with any wine, depending on the country and region of origin a given grape varietal will express different styles. In order to keep things relatively simple, you should know there are basically 2 very distinct styles of Cabernet Sauvignon. There are often referred to as New World style versus Old World style. Your choice should be bases on personal preference, they will both work with Chateaubriand.

New world style can be very full body with rich flavors and higher alcohol content. Usually shows a lot of ripe and intense up front fruit, blackberry, black cherry, plum, current and spicy oak.

Old world style, are often not as big and full body, but they can also be very complex due to a combination of more pronounced earthy and mineral characters along with the fruit. Can show delicate fruits with additional layers of aromas such as tobacco, truffles, coffee, chocolate, anis, licorice and spices.

Here are a few reasonably priced wines that I recently tasted and really enjoyed.

Old World Style
Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Estate 1999
Napa Valley $27.00

Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Alexander Valley $24.00

New World Style
Chateau D'Armailhac 1999
Pauillac $25.00

Clos St-Martin 1999
St-Emilion $37.00

Susie, this wines should be relatively easy to find in most wine shops. You might even consider adding a little fun to your evening by serving one in each style with dinner.

I am wondering what you think are 2 good whites and 3 good reds that will match Italian foods? I figure I'd ask for your opinion that way because it gives me 5 to try! What's best with each?
Dear Kim,
There are hundreds of good Italian wines on the market and deciding on which 5 to pick can be for me an agonizing task. But here are a few I have recently tasted and I particularly enjoyed.

*Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo Novaserra 1999 $26.00
This is a classic from the Campania region. Subtle mineral, with peach aromas. Full bodied with lots of almond and ripe fruits character.

*Pio Cesare Chardonnay Langhe Piodilie 1999 $40.00
One of the best dry whites of Piedmont. I found the style and quality of this wine comparable to a very good white Burgundy, for about half the price tag !

Aromas of ripe apple and caramel, medium to full bodied with good fruit and moderate oak. Definitely old world style, very elegant and well balanced all the way around.

Both of this wines would do very well with sea food dishes, grilled calamare, scampi, sautéed scallops, or gnocchi with cream sauce.

*Vigorello San Felice 1998 $ 33.00
This wonderful Tuscan sangiovese shows chocolate and berries on the nose, medium to full body on the palate with well integrated tannins and a touch of vanilla.
Great with pizza, pasta dishes, tomato sauce, veal, chicken, pork, mushroom sauces, mushroom risotto.

*Amarone della Valpolicella, Raimondi, Campo San Paolo 1997 $ 50.00
Amarone wines are like no other wines in the world. After harvest, the grapes are air dried on racks for several month. During this time the sugars concentrate and the botrytis oxidizes the grape acids and increases the glycerin content. Sometimes refereed to as " the Gentle Giant of Italy" this wine typically expresses aromas of dried cherry or prune flavors with rich, mouth-filling texture. With age, will develop more complex characters such as leather, mushroom, licorice, tea or tobacco. This wine requires hearty dishes such as game, venison, pheasant, lamb stew, duck cassoulet, coq au vin.

* Lamaione Marchesi de Frescobaldi 1998 $55.00
This Tuscan based Merlot shows complex aromas of black olives, berries and chocolate. Full bodied with soft tannins and silky texture. This is definitely your red meat wine, steaks au proive, rack of lamb, filet mignon.

Kim, the way I see it, you have many good meals to enjoy with friend ahead of you !

What wine would you suggest for a veal stew...
Dear Nora,
Your question takes me back in time to my Grand Mother's house, with many memories of wonderful Blanquette de veau and Fricassee de Volaille. This classic dish would be best matched with a wine from the Center Loire Valley.
Savennieres is well known for its sweet wines, but this region also produces a uniquely delicate yet forcefully dry version the Chenin Blanc grape.
This wines can be very complex, with rich aromas of green almonds, lemon, honey and camomile along with a very clean, pure and lengthy finish. The good thing about this wines is that they also allow you room to experiment with little variations, such as adding a touch of mustard, nutmeg or lemon to the final sauce.

Here are a couple of very good producers :
Savenniere, Nicolas Joly, Coulee de Serrant
Savenniere, Domaine de Baumard, Trie Speciale.

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