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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Tasting Room

The Luke Wilson of Wine, Not Quite the Leading Grape

Ray Isle Illustration by Kathryn Rathke
Ray Isle Illustration by Kathryn Rathke

Ray Isle Illustration by Kathryn Rathke

It’s rare that one family will tolerate two stars. Think about it—Alec Baldwin? Definitely a star. Other Baldwins? Sort of famous, but just not quite real stars. Ditto Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson. Luke, excellent actor, really appealing on-screen, but just doesn’t quite have the particular audience-drawing whatever-it-is-ness that his oddly nosed older brother has. The same is pretty much true of wine regions. Usually, one grape gets to be the star. Napa Valley, for instance, produces a lot of very good Merlot, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—but Cabernet Sauvignon is without doubt the leading grape there. 5 great red wines. »

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Tasting Room

Wine with Fajitas, Otherwise Known as “Fa-HEE-tas”

© Iain Bagwell. Food styling by Simon Andrews.

© Iain Bagwell. Food styling by Simon Andrews.

When it comes to pairing wine and fajitas—a situation that might occur for some people only after every last margarita on earth had been drained—here’s a general thought. Fajitas, which are typically served with onions, grilled bell peppers, cheese, pico de gallo, possibly guacamole, maybe sour cream and who knows what other fixings, fall into the broad pairing category of “It isn’t the meat, it’s the sauce (or condiments).” Essentially, you’re picking a wine to go with a mass of wildly different flavors. So you want one that goes with, more or less, anything. How to pick that fajita-pleasing wine. »

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Wine Wednesday

Mysterious Wine Blends

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© Cedric Angeles

© Cedric Angeles

It’s easy, with wine, to drown in the details. Most of us want to know what grape a wine is made from—Cabernet Sauvignon, say—and where it’s from. Knowing the vintage doesn’t hurt either. And before buying a wine, people usually would just as soon have some idea of whether it’s any good. But beyond that, there’s a hyperabundance of information that is fascinating to the few (wine writers, for example) and mind-numbing for almost everyone else. Try saying “You know, it's kind of amazing, but the grapes for this Central Coast Syrah were grown on a combination of decomposed granite and sandy loam soils!” to someone you're on a first date with. You’ll definitely be watching TV later, alone. 5 refreshingly unpretentious reds that are just plain good. »

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Wine Wednesday

Rosé for Turkey Day

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© Fredrika Stjärne

© Fredrika Stjärne

Here’s the deal with Thanksgiving. You need a wine that goes with turkey (easy enough, turkeys don’t taste like anything). You need a wine that goes with stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted on top (a concept I find revolting, personally, but what can I say?), creamed onions, mashed potatoes with gravy, brussels sprouts, you name it. And, because who wants to make more than one trip to the store for this crazy holiday, you need wine that goes with pizza, too, because pizza is the single most popular food for the night before Thanksgiving. To put it more briefly, what you need is a wine that goes with everything. And that’s a dry rosé. "It’s not too big, it’s not too small; as Goldilocks would say, if she were old enough to drink, it’s just right." »

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Wine Wednesday

Wines by Veterans

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Ray Isle Illustration by Kathryn Rathke

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke.

We don’t usually think of wine and the US military as going hand in hand (I doubt many of our guys are pouring themselves glasses of Napa Cabernet while on duty in Afghanistan), but there are actually a quite a few top-notch winemakers who also served in one of the branches of the armed forces. Why not buy one of the wines they’ve made and lift a toast to them—and everyone else who’s a veteran this week? 5 great veteran-made wines for Veteran's Day. »

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Wine Wednesday

Wines for October Breast Cancer Awareness

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Courtesy of Peju

Courtesy of Peju

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Though that's not normally a wine-related subject, in fact several wineries have made commitments to help fight breast cancer. Some donate profits to help fund mammograms, some help support medical center, and some contribute to breast cancer research—no matter which route they've chosen, it's a good road to take. Here are four that are doing their share »

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Wine Wednesday

Hot Dogs and Wine

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© Doug Ridgway

© Doug Ridgway

There are some folks who might think it a bit much, pairing wine with hot dogs—but think about it. What is a hot dog, after all, but a subspecies of sausage? And sausages, in all their varied everything-but-the-squeal wonderfulness, go great with wine. "I suspect the majority of corn dog consumers aren’t actually legal to drink, but for those of us adults who languish in eternal childhood and love these things, there ought to be a vinous option." »

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Winemakers

All Good Things

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You know the rest of that line, right? Well, it's with some small amount of sadness that I am saying that about this blog: It must come to an end. I've had a terrific time writing it, but we've decided that in the end it's a bit strange, for a magazine that's all about bringing together food and wine, to have separate blogs on those topics.

So, from here on out, any wine blogging that I (and Megan Krigbaum, Kristin Donnelly, and various other stalwart folks) do will instead appear in F&W's primary blog, Mouthing Off. No less wine coverage, just a different venue. See you there.

Ray Isle

Wines Under $20

Wines for Dads

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There are people out there—and they know who they are—who missed Father's Day. You forgot to call, you were traveling, the gift got eaten by the dog; whatever the case, now's a good time to make it up to dear old dad. In fact, speaking as a father myself, it's always a good time to give gifts to fathers. Nothing warms the cold cockles of the heart more than a thoughtful present from a dutiful child, except maybe an all-expenses-paid trip to a Caribbean island plus a speedboat-driving butler, but hey, that's hard to come by. In any case, should dad be a wine-lover, here are some handy gift ideas, good for any occasion whatsoever.
 
Grilling Dad
Affordable: 2010 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Joven Campo de Borja ($8)
This robust Spanish red is a great partner for burgers off the grill.
Sky’s the Limit: 2007 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($100)
A benchmark Napa Cabernet. Velvety, rich and deceptively powerful, it’s drinking great right now—especially with some sort of troglodyte-size T-bone.
 
Eco-Conscious Dad  
Affordable: 2009 Fetzer Valley Oaks Zinfandel ($9)
A juicy red from one of the world’s largest farmers of organic grapes.  
Sky’s the Limit: 2008 SokolBlosser Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir ($50)
Sokol Blosser farms organically, participates in salmon-safe run-off programs, uses biodiesel fuels and has solar panels in its vineyards. Plus, its Pinot Noir is terrific.
 
Beach Dad (no glass bottles)
Affordable: 2008 Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon ($8)
Dark fruit and lots of flavor in a one-liter cardboard Tetra Pak.
Sky’s the Limit: 2009 Wineberry Chateau du Chatelard Bourgogne Blanc ($45/3 liter box)
New York–based Wineberry packages small-production French wines in cool wooden three-liter boxes.
 
Sports Dad
Affordable: 2009 Arnold Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)
A straightforward and appealing red from a golf great.
Sky’s the Limit: 2008 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon ($85)
Former NFL star Drew Bledsoe grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, with Chris Figgins, whose family owns one of the state’s top wineries, Leonetti. They reunited to create this structured, intensely flavorful Cabernet.
 
Never-Met-a-Party-I-Didn’t-Like Dad
Affordable: Mionetto Il Prosecco ($9)
A lively Italian sparkler from one of the best-known Prosecco producers.
Sky’s the Limit: 2002 Dom Pérignon ($140)
Dom Pérignon lives up to its reputation, especially in the terrific ’02 vintage. Plus, dad will definitely impress his friends with his bottomless wallet (well, your bottomless wallet, but who’s counting?).
 
Related Links:
 
Bargain Wines
 
35 Fantastic Father's Day Gift Ideas

The Best Barbecued Ribs Recipes
 
Chef-Dad Mario Batali’s Best Grilling Recipes

20 Great Brunch Recipes

Wines Under $20

A Grape That Could Use Some Love: Dolcetto

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Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausages with Three Peppers
Dolcetto has a tough time getting the attention it deserves. Mainly its problem is that it’s grown in Piedmont, in Italy. The other red grapes that are grown in Piedmont? Well, first there’s Nebbiolo, the grape in Barolo, which means Dolcetto is competing against a beverage that’s been known since as the mid-1800s as “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” Not a fair fight. Then there’s Barbera, which is kind of the Avis to Nebbiolo’s Hertz. It’s number two. It tries harder. Which leaves Dolcetto as, what, the Rent-a-Wreck of grapes?

When I am the emperor of reality, after the bazillion dollars and the private island and the sudden ascent to George Clooney-like savoir faire, I am going to give Dolcetto a little boost. It’s a nifty grape. It makes juicy, lively, affordable and delicious reds, with a flavor that suggests black cherries and a faint, intriguing touch of bitterness. Dolcetto isn’t meant for deep thought but simply for happy drinking. You can chill it lightly. You can serve it with burgers. Hey, you could put it in a CamelBak and take it up a mountain. Dolcetto is fine with that. It would make me think of my Italian grandmother back in Alba and her great homemade agnolotti, except that I’m mostly Irish plus some random Welsh-German craziness and the only thing I remember my grandmother cooking was toast.

So, Dolcetto. Go buy a bottle. Invite some friends over. Get a pizza. Drink the stuff. Don’t think about it—there are plenty of other things think about. Besides, how can you not love a grape whose name translates as “little sweet one?”

5 Dolcettos to Hunt Down

1.     2009 Elio Grasso ($17) The rich fruit here recalls pomegranate rather than cherry.

2.     2008 Renato Ratti Colombè ($15) Mild tannins make this a good candidate for a light chill; an ideal picnic red, in other words.

3.     2009 Cavallotto Vigna Scot ($16) Dark fruit and soft tannins make this a good introduction to the Dolcetto variety.

4.     2009 Borgogno ($20) An old-school producer making old-school wine: earthy and herbal, rather than fruity and ripe.

5.     2009 Massolino ($20) Clear, precise flavors define this streamlined red. 

Related Links:

Wine 101: Dolcetto

15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Bargain Wines

Beyond the Mimosa: Sparking Wine Cocktails You’ve Never Heard Of

Cooking with Red Wine

Bottles from the Best Blogging Winemakers

(Pictured above: Try pairing Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausages with Three Peppers with a great Dolcetto)

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