Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Bold Commentaries: Introduction

These commentaries are drawn from the live shows Jane Butel and I put on at every Tuesday afternoon at 5:30pm mountain time. I created these dialogs to share some of the great ideas Jane and I bring to the table. The table, in this case, is laden with foods of the Southwest and wines that can handle the heat.

Here I’ll include wine recommendations and ideas and food pairing choices, particularly for Southwestern cuisine, Jane’s specialty. I’ll summarize some of her choices, but the best way to prepare her menu choices is to get one of her cookbooks. Listeners can hear the show each week following the link above, or select one of the earlier archived MP3 downloads, which is another way to capture my specific wine recommendations.

We put out a lot of information and don’t want you to miss that little gem that will jazz up your dinner, or put a sparkle into your wine pairings. Not only that, you may find just the right combination of wine and foods to put more sparkle in your . . . you know.

July 20, 2010 Show – Tacos and More . . .
Jane Butel does more than discuss recipes; she also has a passion for the history and culture of Southwestern and Mexican cuisines. She mentioned that the Mexican taco began as child’s food to keep the hungry children from getting in their mother’s way while preparing a meal. She would merely take a freshly made tortilla (which she made to start every meal) and place whatever she had on hand into the shell. Then she’d say taco, taco, which loosely translates to “take it and go!” I interjected, wouldn’t it be easier to just roll up the tortilla and cram it into their mouth to keep them quiet. From her look, it was obvious I wouldn’t have made a very good parent.

In her notes, Jane had asked me to talk about Baja Mexico wines that would be compatible with most any taco. That’s why we script the show so there aren’t any surprises, which is good because I have not tried Mexican wines, yet. Here is what I learned.

The one region that has become the leader in reviving the reputation of Mexican wines comes from northern Baja California, centering around the city of Ensenada. The major winegrowing sub-regions – the Guadalupe, Calafia, San Vincente, and Santo Tomás Valleys – all lie close to the Pacific’s cooling ocean breezes and mists. Hot days and cool nights is a classic winegrowing combination throughout the world, as the wines from California’s coast prove. All the Baja valleys feature a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite.

Château Camou seems to be the class act of these wines. Personally, I’d go with New Mexico wines, accessible to taste and buy in state, and many go with tacos. When I’ve been in Mexico, I’ve generally chosen Spanish, Chilean and Argentinean wines for value. I’ve had killer Malbec wines that were under $15. I usually buy Mexican when it’s tequila or beer (cerveza), although Mexican brandies are also excellent. It looks like I’ll have to investigate these wines when I’m in Cancun this fall. The work of a wine writer never ends.

Jane pointed out the difference between Mexican and American tacos. Mexican tacos are made with a soft corn tortilla shell and filled with shredded roasted meat topped with condiments—often cabbage, cheese, tomato and onion with fresh salsa and cream on the side.

Conversely, the American taco is made with a crispy, fried corn tortilla shell. And, as an aside, corn tortillas when fried, gain a minimum of 25 calories of retained fat. So the Mexican taco shell is healthier and tastier too. The health aspects of food are another reason to follow Jane’s recommendations.

So what wines go with meat-filled tacos? Let’s look at wine basics, first.

Tacos benefit from light to medium-bodied wines. Those crispy shells would turn to mush with a Central Coast Zinfandel, for example. Spanish Rioja, which goes with a similar cuisine, always works, and many are bargain-priced, such as the 2006 Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza. At $11 this Old World red of Tempranillo, Garnacha (Fr: Grenache) and Mazuelo won’t hurt the pocketbook either. Earth, leather and smoky flavors will complement many types of meat. Also check out Portuguese, Chilean and Argentina wines for value-laden choices.

Jane next discussed tacos made with guacamole, seared vegetables such as eggplant, squash, bell peppers, onions and various greens from spinach to arugula, and wanted to know if this called for white wine. While lighter reds will still work with grilled vegetables, a cool white wine might go better with the higher temperatures many of us are experiencing this summer.

White wines that are crisp with citrus and mineral notes work quite well. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc always has that crisp acidity for food paring, but New Mexico Pinot Grigio, and dry Riesling wines are also excellent, and many have won gold and silver medals. The Ponderosa Valley Winery 2009 Dry Riesling at $16 is a case in point. Argentinean Torrontés wines are another good choice. This is Argentina’s most popular white wine and companion to their Malbec red wines.

And I don’t want to forget a suggestion from last week’s caller; Muscadet. Calling into our show is one of the benefits of listening live. Yes, you can interact with us, in fact, we love it!

Muscadet should not to be confused with Muscatel or Muscat. This Loire Valley wine is very popular and goes great with the local seafood. The grape used is called Melon de Bourgogne, and the majority of Muscadet is labeled as Muscadet Sevre & Maine for the two rivers in this region. Located near the mouth of the Loire River and close to the city of Nantes, the grapes are often fermented sur lie, meaning on the lees to pick up additional flavors.

For example, the 2007 Luneau-Papin "L d'Or" Muscadet Sévre & Maine Sur Lie $19.99 includes that technique in the wine’s name. It received a 92 rating, suggesting these wines can often rise above the vin ordinaire role some folks cast them into. If you’re glued to the TV watching the Tour de France as I am, why not a French white?

Jane then introduced the idea of dessert tacos. Listen to her description of the popular Hot Fudge Taco that originated from her NYC restaurant; it will set your mouth to watering. What wine, she asked with a challenging note, will go with that?

As it happens, I had two suggestions I’d recently sampled. The Jessup Cellars 2005 Cabernet Port (375ml) isn’t as heavy as the ubiquitous Zinfandel Ports, but heavier than Portuguese Ports. The current release is the 2006 at $49; bottled sin they call it.

The Field Stone Staten Family Reserve Port from Alexander Valley uses Petite Sirah grapes from 100 year old vines. The current release is the 2007, and at $50 for a full 750ml, this is also a good buy. It is rare to see a winery produce a port every year, but Field Stone has been doing it since 1992. It’s an amazing wine. This port sings with deep, dark berry flavors, utilizing late harvest picking for additional intensity. It will even stand up to a Hot Fudge Taco. Salut!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Third Annual Corrales Quilt & Wine Fair

The Corrales Quilt & Wine Fair is held in the beautiful village of Corrales, just north of Albuquerque on the west side of the Rio Grande River. The fair begins Saturday, August 7 and ends Sunday, August 8. The fair opens each day at noon and closes at 6pm. Admission is $15 per person and $25 per couple and $5 for children aged 13 to 20. Children under 13 are admitted free.

Alameda Drive off I-25 takes one across the river and then a right turn on Corrales Road brings motorists into the heart of town. Other participants can take Coors Road to the junction with Corrales Road. Once there the clatter of Albuquerque recedes into the background, and the pace slows to a point that wine and art can be contemplated without undue haste.

Several of New Mexico’s leading wineries will be on hand for wine tasting and information about their latest releases. Three different bands will be playing throughout the day, and food booths will offer tasty bites to accompany the wines. Several artists will display their wares, and there will be quilts, quilts, and more quilts. And you thought we were kidding about the quilt part.

I’ll be there in the Wine Discovery Tent for informal wine talks and also to answer your most pressing questions about wine. My Wines of Enchantment wine book will also be on sale. All proceeds will go toward purchasing more wine.

The represented wineries include:

Acequia Winery, Corrales Winery and Milagro Vineyards from Corrales
Casa Rondéna, Matheson Wine Co. and Tierra Encantada Vineyards and Winery from the Albuquerque area
Ponderosa Valley Vineyards and Winery near Jemez Springs
Black Mesa and Wines of San Juan from Northern New Mexico
Luna Rosa and St. Clair from Deming
Guadalupe Vineyards from San Fidel

Just think how much gas you’ll save coming to Corrales instead. Salut!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bold Foods with Bold Wines: The Blog Talk Radio Show

Anyone out there that enjoys listening to tips on wine and food pairing with Southwestern cuisine should check out Bold Foods with Bold Wines, a blog talk radio program that I co-host with Jane Butel, the queen of Southwestern cuisine. The half hour show covers great southwestern dishes that are fun to prepare, and I provide wine pairing ideas and wine fundamentals.

I often mention inexpensive wines in the $10-$20 range that work for most wine lover’s budgets. Not only that, but listeners can call in with their wine or food questions. If we don’t have the answer, we’ll get it. Try to stump the experts, it can be great fun.

Link to Blog Talk Radio, and then enter Bold Foods with Bold Wines into the search field window in the upper right. When at the Bold Foods with Bold Wines location, you will notice three columns; Shows, On Demand, On Air/Upcoming.

Shows provide basic info about Bold Foods with Bold Wines, On Demand permits you to play back or download any of our past shows, and On Air/Upcoming lists the next scheduled shows. Our show starts at 5:30 pm Mountain time. The call-in number is 347-855-8325. Clicking on the next scheduled show will also include the call-in number. During the show you can dial a “1” at any time to request to talk to Jane or myself.

Those a bit shy about talking on the show can email me at with your wine questions. Since I’ve been a teacher for 35 years, I love getting questions. You can also leave comments or requests here at any of my blogs.

Jane and I have a good time doing the shows, so why not call-in and join the fun!