Cheese, wine, and chocolate are a friendly trio.
With so many delicious wine and food options,
keeping it simple over the Christmas and holiday season is ideal.
Cheese and wine make for a great starter, or dessert course.
Chocolate and wine, especially red wines, are best friends.
Aged, hard cheeses can be served along side wine and chocolate.
Cheese & Wine Pairing tips for the holidays
...and for 2019!
Brie & Bubbles.
Serve Brie with dry Champagne/sparkling wine. The yeast of the Champagne elevates the
musty-ness of the Brie. Expand the flavors with dried Slab apricots.
Try a Santa Cruz Mountain Champagne style wine...Equinox Wines (link)
locally crafts some of the best sparkling wines!
Pinot Noir & Bleu d’Auvergne.
Sharp and creamy, blue cheese is notoriously good sprinkled over grilled steak.
The tangy cheese pairs classically with a dried cranberry, walnut, spinach and bacon salad.
A Pinot Noir with a bit more body elevates these foods.
Go for a flavor explosion and add dates, honey, and dark chocolate.
Try Morgan Winery's Pinot Noirs (link.)
Chardonnay & Comte'.
One of my new favorite cheeses, Comte'
is produced in large wheels, up to 85-100 pounds.
Enjoy hints of stone fruit, toasted nuts, and cream.
Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery offers 3 local Chardonnays to choose from (link.)
Enjoy a Late Harvest Zinfandel (dessert wine) or Port with dark chocolate.
Try Storrs Winery's Late Harvest Zin (link.)
Or tuck into a glass of Merlot with chocolate cake.
Go for a cool weather Monterey County or Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot.
Bargetto Winery's 2016 Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, would be spot on with the cocoa flavors (link.)
Cheeses of Europe
hosted a cheese and wine pairing at the WBC.
Recently my lactose intolerant friend was in Portugal.
Being the gracious guest she is, she ate the local cheese and was fine!
But once back at home, she had difficulty with chain grocery store cheese.
I find that “cleaner” foods (natural, un-mucked foods) work better for our bodies.
Cheeses of Europe served cheeses that were from specific regions,
aged with natural methods, and made with natural, whole ingredients.
Qualities that make for an excellent product.
For recipes and cheese tips, visit Cheeses of Europe.
So find a local cheese producer or look for European cheeses made with all natural ingredients.
You may have success with that...and get back together with cheese!
Pair with Bay Area wines and celebrate the season.
Cheers to your Christmas season and to the love of cheese, wine, and chocolate!
For more flavor profiles, visit my Nose & Palate page and taste away!
The Wine Blending Seminar at Scheid Winery was a chance to explore
different combinations of wines & flavors.
If only school were this enjoyable!
I had the chance to mix and pour wines at the
Blending Seminar at Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room in Carmel.
The evening was a chance for guests to try their hand at
creating their own signature blend of wine.
To top it off, the feature was published on Edible Monterey Bay Online (link to story.)
"Guests introduced themselves. Then they started tasting each varietal. Next came the combining, and spilling, of wines. Then more tasting, as table-mates shared their concoctions with each other and chose a favorite wine. An eye catching name was a must!"
"Names flew across the tables as tasters tried to summarize their wines.
Alliances quickly formed as judging began. Shouts and enthusiasm grew as the wine took
hold of tasters and people cheered for their favorite wine."
A special thanks to Scheid Vineyards (Link) and Monterey County Wines (Link.)
It was a wonderful collaboration!
A toast to your wine journey--spills, new acquaintances, and all!
For the full feature, visit my story on EMB.
Instead of traveling and tasting from winery to winery,
one ticket gave guests a wine tasting tour of Salinas Valley wines, all at one location.
Nine Wineries. Five food trucks. One band. All in one day of tasting at the
Salinas Wine Trail's Trucks, Tunes, and Tastes.
The Salinas Wine Trail runs north-south and is Monterey County's inland wine region.
Paraiso Vineyards in Soledad hosted the Salinas Wine Trail's one day tasting extravaganza.
Paraiso is Spanish for paradise. And when you look at the winery's location in the Salinas Valley, well, the winery is aptly named. Vistas of the valley floor spread below the winery. The towering hills line the valley west and east.
Owners Jason Smith and Jennifer Murphy Smith are second generation grape growers. The Smith family are primarily local grape growers. The Smith parents started growing grapes in the Santa Lucia Highlands in '73. In the past, most of the grapes were sold to other wineries. Then the family decided, “why not showcase Monterey County wines?” So the family started making wine in '89. Now, the family offers three lines of wines. (Paraiso Link.)
Winemaker and owner Denis Odonata has wine roots in Santa Cruz. Now his winery, production site, and tasting room are in Salinas. Estate vineyards in Santa Cruz, and vineyards in Monterey and Santa Clara offer premium local fruit for their wines. (Odonata Link.)
Al Scheid started growing grapes in '72. Now Scheid Vineyards grows four thousand acres of wine grapes and over 39 varietals. They keep the top 2% for their family line of wines, and sell the rest of their grapes throughout California, Washington, Oregon and beyond. Enjoy tasting Scheid wines at their Carmel by the Sea tasting room, or their newly remodeled tasting room in Greenfield. (Scheid Link.)
Hahn Family Wines:
Philip Hahn oversees Hahn Wines. His parents, Nicolaus (Nicky) and Gaby Hahn, purchased land in the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) in the the late '70s. Since then the family has made its stamp on the Monterey wine world and further. Nicky spearheaded establishing the Santa Lucia Highlands as an AVA. Now, the Hahns own about 6,100 acres of vineyards in the SLH. (Hahn Link.)
Chalone Vineyard shared--they have the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in Monterey County. Located in the dry, south-east end of the county, the vines grow in temperatures that drop to 50 degrees at night then heat up to 90 degrees during the day. During a heat spike, the vineyards may reach 115! The Chalone team carefully monitors the grapes. The cool evenings let the grapes settle, producing flavorful, yet delicate wines. (Chalone Link.)
So do keep an eye out for Monterey County wine events (Link.)
Plan a day or weekend for wine tasting along the Salinas Wine Trail.
In the summer, the air is warm with coastal winds sweeping
down the valley, and bonus—no pollution.
You won't find fine lodging or dining nearby.
But plenty of lodging is to be had in Monterey, less than an hour away.
Or stop in Salinas before heading down the Valley and pick up some food for a picnic.
Give yourself time to slow down and enjoy the day.
The Salinas Valley Wine Trail is breathtaking
in a wild, desolate kind of way—with its own siren call.
Here's to your next wine trail,
Visit my Monterey Wineries page for more tasting rooms and Monterey wines.
Technology in a sip. Wine science may not be in the forefront of most tasters' minds. But wine enthusiasts do want better quality wines, at a better value, with easier access. And more importantly, we want less stress and waste and kinder stewardship of the environment. A bit of wine science can remedy this.
The ASEV, American Society for Enology and Viticulture, is for the progress—the sciences—of winemaking and grape growing. Its membership includes a world wide collective of viticulturists and winemakers. You'll find a wide arc in the industry; from top global wine researchers, to academic leaders, to students. (ASEV link.)
Why does a scientific conference matter to us tasters? And how does it translate into better wine in our glass at dinner? Because behind every great concept, there is usually a handful of people, or a whole industry of influencers. This can be a mix of designers, scientists, doctors, or inventors. The ones with the specialized knowledge who made your car more aerodynamic. Or your snowboard lighter, stronger, and faster. We consumers reap the benefits of their knowledge.
I enjoyed covering the ASEV in collaboration with Dunbar Productions (link to DP.) The Dunbar group produces 100 Mile Meals, among other media, and features local food and lifestyles (link 100 MM.)
The Monterey County Wine Region had a chance to shine at the ASEV. Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the MCVGA, (link) started the morning off with highlights of the region. Then after a day of science, it was time for the tasting! She hosted the evening's Monterey County Regional Wine Reception. And what's exciting about hosting the ASEV in Monterey? Kim shared that people who like wine are creative, smart, fun, and like to have a good time! And who wouldn't want to be around people like that?
What sets Monterey County wines apart from other regions? Kim explained that at the floor of the Monterey Bay lies the Blue Grand Canyon which is 60 miles long and 2 miles deep.The cold waters of the deep canyon influence the region's weather, providing special ecosystems for growing wine grapes, one that you won't find anywhere else in the states.
Fog keeps the county cool in the morning. The coast stays cool and is ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and other warmer weather grapes thrive inland as the valley heats up in the afternoon. Then, afternoon winds push the cool air from the ocean's canyon down the valley at winds up to 20-30 mph. This is the perfect cool-down, preventing the grapes from overheating or over ripening.
Monterey has great golf, dining, shopping and lodging. It's known for being a vacation destination as well as a desirable destination for wine. The conference was hosted at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Conference Center (link) just steps from the Monterey Bay harbor.
It's always interesting chatting with people in the industry, and seeing people at different events. Nicola Hall is a staff scientist at Scott Laboratories, and to her fame, former President of the ASEV. I've had the chance to hear Nicola speak before at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento. Articulate, fun, approachable, and dang smart! When I asked her what challenges the wine industry faces, she brought up climate change, water issues, and lack of labor. The upswing is the enthusiasm and bold outlook of the young upcoming people in the industry. “They think outside the box. They're not locked into the standard 750 ml bottle.” Nicola shared how they still honor the traditions of their family and established wineries, but often come up with their own line of wines. Something experimental, fun, and made in smaller batches.
David Goldfarb is the winegrower for Clos de la Tech. Their vineyards are perched on top of Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His goal at the ASEV was to get there, be caffeinated, and download—learn—as much info as he could from leaders around the world who share their knowledge.
He shared that the ASEV is not about marketing. It's not romantic. But it's true. Myths that are echoed to consumers and in the industry are busted. He pointed out many of the technological advancements in wine show that the old-timers were right. He made me realize that history and advancements can be good partners.
While Kristen Barnhisel was studying Italian Literature as an undergraduate at UCSD, she traveled a year abroad. It was in that time Kristen discovered, “Wine is a conduit to conversation.” That conversation has continued for Kristen. She's now the Second Vice President of the ASEV and winemaker for J. Lohr's white wines here in the Bay Area. She's been a member of the ASEV for 20 years, and has worked at Jordan, Columbia Crest, Handley Cellars, and Inglenook to name a few. Simply put, she knows wine!
With all of that experience, Kristen said, “If you want to do something very creative, you have to understand the technical—the science—to understand it. Each work of science seems to be finite, but is only a chapter.” That's the basis. Experiment, keep learning, and push the envelope.
Kristen pointed out that the ASEV is active in supporting the next generations in the global wine industry. They provide scholarships and networking opportunities. Student Flash Talks give students the chance to share their research in the field. Early Career Members, or those in their first seven years in the wine biz, gather for workshops, mentor-ships, and networking.
As a catalyst for sharing ideas, the ASEV offers sessions on cutting edge wine knowledge.
Winemakers and growers want to know the influence of berry ripeness on grapes.
For example, if you harvest Pinot Noir grapes later in the season, you'll get less tannins and more spice on the palate. If you harvest earlier, expect a wine with more flavors of strawberry and more tannins. Understanding applications can help avoid costly time consuming mistakes and improve wine quality.
This is good news for us tasters.
At the end of the day, the knowledge from generations past combined
with new advances in wine...taste wonderful!
So here's to your next tasty glass of science,
For a look at another event that's just as tasty, but less technical
see pics of the Amador 4 Fires Festival...
No apologies, and no excuses. That's what I think is characteristic, and comes to my mind, of Joyce Vineyards. Russell Joyce is winemaker of Joyce Vineyards in Carmel Valley. He approaches his winemaking with intention and his own unique style.
Russell prefers his grapes to be pick earlier in the season than many of his peers do. Wines from 2016, and on, are barrel aged in neutral oak. No new oak is used. These factors keep the wine more delicate and fresh in flavor, and lower in alcohol (typically 14% or less.) The wines offer a lighter mouth feel, and don't tend to be heavy or full bodied.
I can picture Joyce wines pairing well with Coastal warm-weather foods, such as fresh crab and sourdough bread, lemon marinated chicken, grilled lamb chops, or grilled veggie kabobs.
Rafael Perez, manager, shared about Joyce Vineyards' beginnings:
Russell Joyce, and father Frank Joyce, spearhead the brand and the wines. Joyce Vineyards was established in 1988. The back of the Joyce family property was sloped, so they decided to plant grape vines to retain the land. The vines matured, grapes grew, and the family started making wine in their garage as a hobby. Russell grew up with family friends in the wine industry. There would be races to see who could pick the fastest during local harvests. Russell took over production in 2012, and the family still takes care of the original small family vineyard.
Carmel Valley is a destination spot, Rafael reminded me, with an abundance of wineries and tasting rooms. With so many options in one place, it helps promote the local wine business and brings in guests instead of taking away business. “Carmel is a small community and we all know each other. There's an open friendship with others in the wine community.” He also shared that it's not a secret—how to make wine. I can see how a cohesive outlook makes a place to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
For the tastings:
This has the fresh, clean hints of a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc, on the nose.
It's fun and offers some tart Jolly Rancher green apple in the back of the cheeks.
My favorite part of the Joyce branding is their logo. It reminds me of the classic 1960s Cadillac insignia. The wine bottles, décor in the tasting room and production site all bring guests back to the Joyce line, in an appealing way. The labeling on the bottle is straight forward, and the varietal and region are easy to read. This is appealing to tasters, especially those new to wine and wondering what they're trying.
*The Carmel Valley tasting room has a great vibe to it, with music,
outdoor seating, and a Members Patio.
*There's even a large casual-chic dining room with seating to host
an intimate event, or celebration.
*Feel free to bring your four-pawed friend. The patio is dog friendly.
The staff cheerfully went out of their way to supply water for a thirsty canine guest.
*The wine production takes place in their Salinas warehouse.
There's room for winemaker gatherings, forklifts, and memorabilia.
*You can find Joyce wines at the Carmel tasting room, restaurants, and beverage shops.
They distribute in the Bay Area, Fresno, and Los Angeles.
Standing in the tasting room, guests can easily see their options in the Joyce line of wines.
Enjoy a taste of the region with wines made with grapes from: the Santa Lucia Highlands,
Arroyo Seco, Carmel Valley, and Monterey County.
The Joyce team works with local winegrowers to personalize their fruit.
They can tell the growers what they want: from when the fruit is harvested,
what kind of yields they're looking for, to the flavor profile they're desiring.
After your tastings at Joyce Vineyards, feel free to meander in the cozy town of Carmel Village.
Wine fans can enjoy a visit at Joyce for a quick pop in, for an afternoon, or
turn it into a vacation including dining and lodge nearby.
Here's to trying new wines in Carmel, and your own wine jaunt in the Village!
For more wineries in the area, visit my Monterey County Wineries page. Cheers!
Join me at California Wine