Keep Your Eyes open for these upcoming Events

Check out what is happening October 27th! It's a field trip!
More Info to Come, just starting to gather info now. Plan is to rent a van and have it tote us around, stopping at Tequesta Brewing Company, Bx Beer Depot, World of Beers, Due South and do tastings at each location. Like I say, I am just starting to do the legwork now, so just save the date state.
Let me know as soon as you know you are interested so I can plan accordingly
the cost of this event will be in the range of $30-$35. Purchasing beer at the stops will not be included so that you can budget your flights or single pints for yourself. Your price will include a delicious "lining your bellies" lunch at the Serenity Garden Tea House and your transportation for the day. Timeline and More to come

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A label by any other name is not really the same or How to read a wine bottle Label

Sunday was one of my favorite kind of Gulp pairings.  It was not only full of great food and wine, it was full of great information which makes me a better Gulper.  LeBeau presented a mini-class on reading wine labels.  We learned the terms for dryness…or not.  We learned quality insignias from different countries.  We learned what an appellation is.  We learned a lot!  Thank you LeBeau for the great  class!  It amazes me how much I have learned since you joined our motley crew.

While this event was about the labels I just want to pause a moment and give some credit to my friend and the founder of this amazing group, Coreen.  In the early years we all brought food and then slowly Coreen began to take on those duties.  It is the core evolution of this group and I just need to say, “Coreen, you have become a chef.  Every single month you create interesting, new and flavorful dishes to pair and most of the time improve the wines we are drinking.  Your food has confidence and fun and I have never been disappointed.  Thank you!”

Enough of the sappy stuff.  Onto the Event!

blanc du blancThe 1st course was a sexy little bite of a pancetta cup filled with pear, gorgonzola, thyme and local honey.  It was paired with a Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc from Washington State.  The pancetta cup was crispy, salty, sweet with just a touch of tartness from the pear.  The wine was lightly sweet and effervescent with a tropical nose.  The flavor was crisp and dry with green apple flavors. At $9.99 a bottle from Total Wine I’d say this was a great option for any toast.   As Jim said,  “It’s a mouthful of awesome!”  It was a really good pairing.  As Tracy pointed out, “The dryness of wine cuts the oil of the bacon.”  The pear and honey popped after a drink of the wine.  Lebeau took the opportunity with this wine to talk about terms often found on sparkling wine labels.  From driest to sweetest they are: 

  • Brut: dry, less than 1.5% sugar
  • Extra Sec: extra dry, 1.2 to 2% sugar
  • Sec: medium sweet, 1.7 to 3.5% sugar
  • Demi-Sec: sweet, 3.3 to 5% sugar (dessert champagne)
  • Doux: very sweet, over 5% sugar (dessert champagne)

I will let Lebeau explain more.

Lebeau talks sweet or not

chicken and riesling

The 2nd course was a cilantro lime chicken with a drizzle of garlic lime cilantro sour cream.  It all sat on top of a melange of leeks, peppers and corn. The chicken was smoky with cumin and beautifully grilled.  The cream was tangy, tart and slightly herbaceous.  I know what you are thinking and you need to wipe the drool off your mouth.  It really was that good.  The wine pairing for this course was a Donhoff Riesling 2011.  This light colored wine was very drinkable.  The nose was floral with hints of honey and slightly medicinal.  The flavor was light, off dry with apple, honey and I know this will sound a little strange, or not, but I tasted mint too.  It worked with the food brilliantly but could easily be enjoyed on its own.  At $20.00 a bottle I would reserve it for company.  It will impress them. The riesling gave a sweetness to the whole dish that made it feel almost comforting to me.  I would say this was my favorite course but then we had the 3rd course and I liked it even better.

But before we get to it LeBeau explained the value the German’s have placed on their labeling.  There is a lot that goes into a wine label and those Germans like to be specific, (I can say that because of my dad), and they don’t skimp just because a wine label is small.  As the Von Trapp children asked Maria”What does it all mean?”  I will use pictures pages to explain.


Learn German Labels

click here for more on reading German wine Labels.

The 3rd course was delicious.  Coreen made a cider glazed pork with LeBeau’s cole slaw, (I WANT that recipe!), and an apple cranberry tart.  Can you say Fall Harvest!?  It was paired with a Georges DeBeuf Boujelais.  I have to preface this course commentary with I am not a fan of boujelais and this tasting did not improve my opinion.  The food was off the charts.pork and beaujolais  The pork was nicely cooked and I was expecting some tartness from the cider but I think it just infused a deeper sweetness to the meat that made me want more.  The coleslaw was crunchy, bright and light and was a wonderful offset to the tender pork.  The tart finished the course up with more lightness and crunch. This was my favorite food course.  The wine was scarlet in color and smelled like raspberries.  The flavor was red berries and very acidic.  Deb felt the food made it even drier.  Bryan liked this course the best while Tracy felt the pairing was “just ok”.  I felt neither enhanced or diminished the other. It was kind of flat as pairings go.  For those who love beaujolais this one is very reasonable at $7-8.00 a bottle.

In between this course and the next Chris Pawloski from Palm Beach Organics gave us a mini-class on the history of organic labeling.  Take it away Chris!


Click here for the Certified Organic Label Guidespaghetti and chianti

The 4th course was classic, classic, classic… Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast and chianti.  While I enjoy Coreen’s style of plate presentation I have to say this one gave me a tickle.  The sweet haystack of pasta with the sauce on top and the meatball next to it with the garlic toast put me in mind of one of my mom’s favorite restaurants in St. Louis called Rich and Charlie’s.  They served the best spaghetti and meatballs and they stacked the pasta just like Coreen did only it was a MUCH bigger stack.  They also did an amazing antipasto salad that made us feel like we were from the “old country”.  Back to this meal….  The chianti was from Ducarusso.  It was rust color and smelled like raisins and cedar.  The flavor was light bodied with tanin and acid as well as the raisins and cedar.  The bottle itself was the coolest with Italian Artwork.  Who knows the work?  Anyone? Anyone?  Paired with the tangy tomato sauce of the spaghetti the tannin and acid were reduced and the fruit was brought to the forefront.  The food transformed the wine and for this reason it was my favorite course of the day!

The final course was a palate cleanser and a fun little treat.  Coreen took white grapes, dipped them in caramel and rolled the end in nuts.  She then froze them.  Holy frozen treats Batman!  These were awesome!  I am sad to report I was so busy scarfing them up I forgot to take a picture.  You will just have to take my word for their sweet deliciousness.


That does it for this tasting my friends.  We head to Sonoma on September 26th for a wine vacation!  I will be diligently taking notes and pictures.  I will have one hell of a recap when we return!  Until next time, read those labels and eat as close to home as possible!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Isaac didn’t dampen the Gulpin’ Spirit


I felt like a mail carrier last Sunday.  “Neither snow nor tropical storm nor heat nor gloom of night stays these Gulpers from the sweet completion of their appointed courses.”   Twenty plus devoted club members braved the bluster and rain of Tropical Storm Isaac to enjoy South African wines paired with traditional South African fare.  Due to the inclement weather Cook’s Studio very kindly opened their doors to us at the last minute so we could be out of the rain.  We missed you Bx, Sally and Corey!!  Thank goodness the Tiki didn’t suffer any problems in the storm.southafrica

This event is one Coreen has long been wanting to do because she visited South Africa several years ago and fell in love with the country, the people and the wine.  At the top of the afternoon she shared a couple of videos from the trip with her brother and I can see why she fell in love.  The scenery was breathtaking and the “walk like an Egyptian” dancing with her brother was pretty cool too!

Onto the pairings!

chenin blancThe first course was a lovely set of appetizers.  One was a small phyllo tart filled with caramelized onions, bleu cheese, and bacon crumbles.  It was served just warm.  The cheese was soft, the onions sweet and the bacon was well, bacon-y!  The pastry cup gave a nice crunch to the small bite.  It was delicious.  The partner on the plate was a sweet potato haystack.  This was a trifecta of goodness.  Coreen mixed shredded potato, sweet potato and Chinese sweet potato then added a little beaten egg to make them stick and baked them off in muffin tins.  The result was a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside nugget of potato.  I could tell the potato flavor versus the sweet potato but it was my tablemate Ashley that mentioned the flavor of the Chinese potato.  It was earthy sweet; kind of like a rutabaga.  I love rutabagas!  These savory bites were paired with a Raats Origin Chenin Blanc. This light bodied wine hails from the coastal regions outside Capetown South Africa.  Raat’s Chenin Blanc is made entirely of the chenin blanc grape.  It is fruity with a background note of mineral.  There is also a light buttery quality to this wine which I found delightful. 

Lebeau shared an interesting fun fact.  This wine is aged in stainless steel tanks so there should be an absence of the creaminess but these wines get an extra aging step.  For six months the wine sits on the “lees” or yeast and allowed to age.  This process is called sur-lees.  From Wine Wisdom, “Even when those little gods of wine, the yeast, have done their fermentation job, they still do good work on wine, adding flavour, aroma, body, structure texture, weight, complexity, even petillance (that’s a faint sparkle, not a petulant little wine), and both protein and tartrate stability.”  Thanks to the lees the wine gets that lovely touch of creamy.  The pairing was wonderful.  The bleu cheese tart really balanced the wine.  The sweetness lessened while the dryness increased.  The bacon brought out the apple in the wine.  The potato haystacks actually brought out the light mineral in the wine to the forefront and increased the sweetness in the potatoes.  This pairing, for me, was new and interesting.  I liked it a lot.

The second course was a LeBeau family specialty called Jollof Rice. It was filled with savory spices like turmeric, thyme and curry.  Then he added chicken, onion, perppers, green beans,jamjar carrots which makes this a main course dish in my house.  We got a little insight into Lebeau the boy as he shared with us the memory of his dad making this for him. That tidbit made the dish all the more tasty for me. When he brought the bowl to the table, for family style serving, my mouth watered from the amazing scent wafting from the bowl.  Tasting was pure pleasure.  The rice was creamy, the spice was more herbal and comforting rather than hot.  It was paired with Jam Jar Moscato.  Hailing from the Western Cape area this winery is known for its sweet wines.  This moscato lives up to that reputation.  It is filled with ripe stone fruit flavors like peach and apricot.  For all its sweetness it is light enough to be enjoyed on its own.  Now, I have to say while I love fruity wines I am not the biggest fan of very sweet wines.  They remind me too much of one bad teenage experience with Annie Green Springs….enough said.   I can say this pairing worked because the savory flavors of the rice dish tempered the sweet of the wine and I actually could taste the fruit and a light grassy note.  The wine added a lovely sweet note to the dish and added a touch of moisture to the chicken which I appreciated.  Jim didn’t think they wouldn’t work together until he tasted it and said it surprisingly really tasted great together.  Kristina said, “It’s like having sweet tea; a bit of refreshing with the heartiness of the rice dish.”

pinotageThe third course was another tasty example of South African foodie goodness.  Bobotie is a casserole dish.  It is made in two layers and each one, as delicious as it is on its own, makes the next one even better.  The first layer is a meatloaf mixture made with ground beef, milk soaked bread, apricots, raisins, and spices.  It is cooked together and then about 25 minutes before it is finished a custard mixture is poured over the top and it bakes until golden brown.  It is the strangest, most delicious bread pudding I have ever eaten in my life!  It was savory.  It was creamy.  It was sweet.  It was eggy.  My mouth felt warm from the curry and pepper.   It had more going on than, a bunch of Gulpers on a trip to Sonoma!  It was paired with a Fleur du Cap Pinotage.  This dark red wine had notes of cloves and dark fruits like plums on the nose.  The flavor was acidic with lots of tannin and smoke.   The food made the wine taste peppery to me. This pairing didn’t really work for me.  Actually, I think the Chenin Blanc would have been better.merlot

The fourth and final course was a lot of fun.   We did a blind tasting with this course’s wine.  I led with what it looked like: scarlet in color, a defined meniscus and not much legs.  The nose was smoke, ash, dark fruit like cherries or plums, a touch of mineral and vanilla.  The flavor followed the nose with the dark cherry notes.  It was acidic and tannic.  It was more dry than sweet with a bit of mineral in it.  I thought Old World but because it comes from South Africa it is actually considered New World.  The finish was moderate to long with the tannin and vanilla lingering at the end.  Have you guessed it?  If you guessed Guardian Peak Merlot you are either brilliant or you knew already!  Yep, it was a Merlot.  We celebrated our amazing palates with a fondue of chocolate.  Bananas, marshmallows, strawberries, pretzels, pineapple, and let’s not forget the bacon all got the chocolate love and I loved every bite.  The pairing was ok.  I like a bigger red like a shiraz or cab to got with chocolate but, I cannot lie, I didn’t push the glass or the plate away.

cooks studio groupSo there you have it!  Another educational and entertaining day of food and wine with some of the best darn wine drinkers around.   Don’t forget we head to Sonoma this month on the 26th.  For those who aren’t able to travel this month Coreen and LeBeau are putting together a very special tasting on September 16th.  The topic will be “Understanding Wine Labels.”  It will be held at BxBeerDepot.