Red, White and Blue Wines for the 4th!

Yeah, that’s right… blue wine. I know, I know…. I had the same reaction. But why? How? And, why? It seems some entrepreneurial producers in Spain thought it would be a clever idea to craft a blue colored wine targeted at the all encompassing market of the millennials. Apparently it is a blend of Spanish red and white grapes which gains its color from anthocyanin, a pigment found in grape skins, and iodine that is extracted from the Isatis tinctoria plant. It is reportedly a sweet, young refreshing style of wine meant to pair with sushi and nachos with guac. Having never tried this blue wine before I cannot offer any opinion on the quality or value… but I can say that my expectations are fairly low.

Now for the REAL 4th of July recommendations! Is it me, or did it get super hot super quick to start the summer? I feel like the Chardonnay season came and went and I am
already reaching for more refreshing white options. While Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are always popular, as an overly broad generalization, they tend to seem a little too simplistic (sorry Santa Margherita and Brancott fans). As of late I find myself reaching for that dry style of Riesling from a multitude of regions as well as Chenin Blancs from the Loire and South Africa. The nice part about all of these wines is that they typically offer a solid value.

The Fox Run Rie2015 Den Chenin Blancsling (Finger Lakes) is a staple in my house over the summer months, and the bone dry Willm Reserve Riesling (Alsace) is a tremendously food friendly wine to pair with all kinds of shellfish and chilled seafood starters. The Painted Wolf ‘The Den’ Chenin Blanc is crisp, tropical with just a hint of oaky notes, and their Pinotage from the same line is pretty stellar as well. The Sauvon Vouvray (Chenin Blanc grape) is a value superstar every vintage with its floral character and subtle honey notes, and can actually gain complexity with a few years of age. The best part… all of these wines are under $20.

 

Red wines that are suitable for the 4th, and the summer in general, need to be grill friendly that can pair up with anything from burgers and dogs to filet and lobster surf & turf. That means they have to be versatile, hearty and food friendly (which typically means they need a good dose of acidity). Let’s not forget that it’s hot out there… so some lighter, thirst quenching reds (which can even be served slightly chilled) are integral to any successful July 4th BBQ. I get made fun of all the time for my infatuation with the Seaglass Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, but it remains the best Pinot under $15 for my money. This is one of those lighter style wines that can benefit from a few minutes in the fridge before opening,  accentuating the lively acidity and bright cherry and berry fruit.

I find myself leaning towards the Northern Rhone wines during the grilling season. The smoky and meaty style of Crozes Hermitage and Saint Joseph wines (Syrah based) complement just about any sort of beef you decide to toss on the grill. The Jean Luc Colombo Crozes ‘Les Fees Brunes’ is a stellar under $25 option while the J.L. Chave Saint Joseph ‘Offerus’  is solid just about every vintage and can be found for just a few bucks more. Of course if you are feeling saucy and looking to splurge on something, how about a Cote Rotie for the 4th this year? E. Guigal, Vidal Fleury and St. Cosme are all quality producers and their wines come at a somewhat ‘value’ price under $80. Top tier Cote Rotie wines are easily $100 and up so yes, $50-75 is considered a value for this particular region.

But if you want to keep it simple and patriotic for the 4th, grab some California Zin and Petite Sirah. Both are as American as you can get when it comes to grape varieties, and are big enough to stand up to just about any of your standard BBQ fare. They can offer various spices and boast a firm tannic character to offset those fatty and saucy pork and beef dishes. Zichichi (Dry Creek Valley) is one of my perennial favorites for both varieties, but they are not the easiest to come by. On the Zin side, I always find the Terra d’Oro wines exude great complexity and character without breaking the bank both at their entry level as well as their old vine single vineyard higher end offerings.  Of course if you are from the ‘Go Big or Go Home’ camp, then seek out one of the many Zins from Turley. They range from the entry Juvenille level up to several single vineyard options, all opulent and killer! As far as Petite Sirah goes, Handcraft has a nice one out for under $15 that will certainly please the palate. But for about $40 you can find the Stag’s Leap Winery P.S. which slams you with dark berry, peppery spice and is flat out tasty juice. Talk about a wine that screams out for BBQ ribs and wings! But this is a big boy for sure, so give it a little time to show it’s true colors…none of which are blue 😉

 

 

 

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse Wine Dinners…A Better Value Than You May Think!

Ruth's Chris Steak House and Restaurant Location

Recently I was invited to attend a Napa Wine Pairing Dinner at the Tarrytown Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse hosted by Treasury Wine Estates. It was a five course meal where each course was paired and complemented by a wine in the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio (click on the link to see their brands). I had not been to one of these Ruth’s Chris wine dinners in a while and I forgot how well they pull this off. Upon arrival a glass of wine, usually the first one featured as part of the pairing, is offered to get the festivities under way…a nice touch indeed.

The dinner then started which included an appetizer, a soup, a pasta, the main entree (steak of course), 2 sides,  and a desert all served with appropriately selected wines enhancing each dish. The steak offered was Filet Mignon (usually not my favorite cut but it was cooked perfectly) and it was paired with the 2009 Stag’s Leap Winery Napa Cab, a big gun just screaming for this bloody, charred red beef! Some other wine highlights included the 2010 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir, the 2010 St. Clement Napa Chardonnay and with desert they served the Beringer Nightingale Dessert wine (a Sauternes blend that was more Tokaji in style) which was a perfect way to end the meal. Pretty impressive arsenal of juice all around.

I asked someone what they had paid for this wine dinner, as it was a work function for me so I had no idea (I know…it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it!). When they told me it was $90 a head, I cringed a bit thinking that was pretty steep! But after the sticker shock I started breaking it down. A meal for 2 at a high end steakhouse can easily run $300 a couple factoring in 2 apps, 2 entrees, sides, dessert, coffee, a good bottle of red and maybe a glass of white or a cocktail before dinner. So while you didn’t have the choice of selecting your own dishes, for about $100 less per couple you were offered an additional course, a wide array of different wines (and plenty of it) and a nice presentation on some of the wines you were drinking and why they worked well with each dish. Not to mention the food was surprisingly very impressive.

Moreover, the atmosphere was warm and friendly as I met some folks at my table who were really enjoying their experience. One couple frequented these wine dinners quite often while the other couple were first timers. It can be fun to meet people who you know are interested in food and wine (otherwise they wouldn’t pay to be there) if you are a bit of a social person. If not… this may not be the format for you. But at the end of the day, these Ruth’s Chris wine dinners are a serious bang for the buck and they have the formula down pat so you are almost guaranteed both a delicious meal as well as a top quality dining experience.

Cheers!