Category:Wine reviews

Wine and food pairings 11: Croque monsieur, turkey style

croque monsieurThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with croque monsieur, the French grilled sandwich,  and all that leftover holiday turkey.

Tired of seeing all that leftover turkey in the fridge? The Wine Curmudgeon has a plan — variations on the theme of the French croque monsieur, a grilled ham sandwich that bears more than a passing resemblance to the grilled cheese our moms made when we were kids.

In this, once we substitute leftover turkey for the ham, the possibilities are endless. The adventurous among us can go traditional (save for the turkey), making the sandwich with a bechamel sauce.  Or, you can go Julia Child, grilling the sandwich in clarified butter and cutting off the crusts. My preference? A turkey Reuben, which uses leftover turkey but also offers a change of pace. How often do Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut show up at Thanksgiving?

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. A turkey Reuben lends itself to a variety of wine; these three suggestions will get you started:

• La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): This French white blend is much, much better than the old days, with more fruit (pear?) and a very soft finish. In this, it’s a little too soft to be a wine of the week, but it’s certainly worth buying on sale and keeping around the house. Imported by Vineyard Brands

• Herdade do Esporao Alandra 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This is an old-fashioned, almost rough and tannic, red blend from Portugal. Having said that, its dark fruit and longish finish is oddly pleasing.. Needs food. Imported by NOW Wine Imports

• Etienne Besancenot Cochon Volant 2019 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink is fruity (red cherry?), thanks to the 60 percent grenache in the blend. But it’s dry and and enjoyable. Imported by Wines with Conviction

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

Full disclosure: Yet again, I neglected to take a picture of the dish; the one accompanying the post is from the Serious Easts blog.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 10: Lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs
Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wine of the week: Monte Antico Toscana 2015

Monte Antico ToscanaThe Monte Antico Toscana is an Italian red blend not to be overlooked

The Monte Antico, an Italian red blend, is one of those wines that I see in stores, make a note to check out, and then forget about. How else to explain that I have only reviewed a well-made and very Italian wine that costs $10 – and often less – only a couple of times in 13 years?

Because the Monte Antico Toscana 2015 ($10, sample, 13%) does what all great cheap wine should do. It tastes like the part of the world that it comes from, it’s enjoyable, and you want to buy another bottle when you finish the one on the dining room table.

The blend is mostly sangiovese, but there’s enough cabernet sauvignon (10 percent) and merlot (five percent) to round out any rough edges in the sangiovese. Look for dark red fruit and an almost minty aroma, plus that biting Italian acidity that means this wine needs food. The finish is longish, and almost berryish.

Highly recommended, and especially when you can find it for less than $10. Pair this with red sauce and sausage on a cold winter’s night.

Imported by Empson USA

Wine of the week: Garofoli Amarela 2018

Garofoli Amarela The Garofoli Amarela combines a weird grape with quality and value — just in time for the holidays

Weird grape? Yep. Italian value and quality? Indeed. Fair price? Certainly. So, just in time for the holidays, the Garofoli Amarela.

The weird grape in the Garofoli Amarela 2018 ($13, purchased, 12%) is passerina, found mostly in Italy’s Marche region on the Adriatic coast, east of Florence. It produces small grapes with lots of sugar and acidity, mostly used for blending, so it’s not common to find a varietal passerina from a quality producer. And, as is common with weird Italian grapes, it has about a dozen synonyms.

In the Amarela, the passerina makes a bright and clean, almost spicy wine, with hints of lemon fruit, though not especially acidic. It’s quite different from similarly-priced Soave or pinot grigio, and that difference may be off-putting to some. But if you’re looking for something that’s not the same old Italian white for the holidays, it’s spot on.

Pair this with seafood, of course, since Marche is on the coast. But it would also match something like lemon chicken with couscous. Highly recommended.

Imported by Garofoli USA

Holiday wine gift guide 2020

holiday wine 2020The Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2020, and even a couple of things that aren’t wine

The big trend in wine gifts this year? Non-alcoholic products, if the mail in my inbox is any indication. Or — shudder — a $426 decanter. We can do much better than that; after all, why else does the blog exist? Keep in our wine gift buying guidelines in mind, as well.

Consider:

Joe Roberts’ “Wine Taster’s Guide” ($14.99, Rockridge Press) is neither pretentious nor expensive — which is why it’s on this list. Joe, who I’ve known almost since I started the blog, is passionate about the failings of post-modern wine writing, and especially that we buy wine we may not like because the process is so intimidating.

• The Benziger de Coelo Quintus Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($68, sample, 14.1%) is a gorgeous, structured — albeit not especially subtle — Sonoma Coast pinot noir. It’s full of dark fruit, maybe even some tea, and the soft tannins that used to be common in California pinot. Not quite sure how I got a sample, but very glad I did. Highly recommended.

• The Wine Curmudgeon has a drawer full of wine-stained tablecloths, mostly from dripping wine bottles. Hence, the marble wine coaster ($19.95), which not only would have saved many of my tablecloths but looks good, too.

Ice wine is one of the great joys of the wine world, but is increasingly difficult to find and increasingly expensive. And it wasn’t easily available or cheap to begin with. So when a winemaker reader tipped me to the Kiona Vineyards Chenin Blanc Ice Wine 2018 ($50/375 ml bottle, sample, 9%), I asked for a sample — something I rarely do. And I was not disappointed. This is ice wine in all its glory — lusciously sweet, but balanced, with pineapple and tropical fruit and refreshing crispness. Highly recommended.

More holiday wine gift guides:
Holiday wine gift guide 2019
• Holiday wine gift guide 2018
• Holiday wine gift guide 2017

Mini-reviews 139: Black Friday edition 2020

Black Friday 2020Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month: two reds, a white, and a rose for Black Friday 2020

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): Long-time reader Rich Liebman always insisted I was too hard on this French red blend, which I’ve been drinking off and on for longer than I care to remember. And he was correct — it’s nowhere near as old-fashioned as it used to be. It’s less harsh, there’s more dark fruit, and there might even be something that could be oak. But I’m still not sure it should be part of my regular wine rotation. Imported by Vineyard Brands

CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($6, sample, 12.6%): This California white is notoriously inconsistent, so the good news is that this vintage tastes like $6 sauvignon blanc — more sauvignon blanc in character (some grass, some citrus fruit) and less cheap tasting.

Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($18, sample, 14.5%): There’s nothing very subtle about this Washington state red. It’s a standard big, fruity (black cherry?), over-the-top cabernet (though it tastes more Lodi than Washington state). If this is your style of wine, it’s a fair value.

Notre Vue GSM Rose 2019 ($29, sample, 12.7%): This California pink is a pretty, well-made, and enjoyable wine. Look for crisp berryish fruit, and a long, clean, mineral-driven finish. But is really three times better than a top-notch $10 rose?

Wine of the week: Volver Tarima 2018

Volver TarimaThe Volver Tarima is not traditional Spanish red wine, but it is a value

Spanish wine producers, save for some notable exceptions like the reds from Ribero del Duero, have resisted the impulse to Parkerize their wines. Most are still lower in alcohol, restrained in fruit, and taste like Spanish wine has traditionally tasted.

The Volver Tarima 2018 ($11, purchased, 14.5%), a red wine made with monastrell, inhabits the mid-ground between the too ripe, cocktail-like Parker wines and a 12.5 percent Rioja. In this, it’s a pleasant surprise for those of us who want something different, but not something so different that it doesn’t taste like wine.

Yes, the wine is a bit hot, so that the alcohol shows on the back. Having said that, it’s very well-made and surprisingly balanced. There is lots of black fruit (blackberry, black cherry?), but it isn’t too ripe. There’s a little spice, and the tannins are under control – not always easy to do with monastrell. It’s mostly used as a blending grape (known in France as mourvedre).

This is a food wine – braises and stews as the weather gets colder.

Imported by Winebow

Expensive wine 138: Panther Creek Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee 2017

 Panther Creek Pinot Noir Winemaker's CuveeThe Panther Creek Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee offers quality and value in time for Thanksgiving

One thing we can count on this year, despite all of the disasters and sadness, is quality and value in Oregon pinot noir. Yes, premiumization made some inroads, and I tasted some disappointing wine.

But, for the most part, wines like the Panther Creek pinot noir are all they have always been.

The Panther Creek Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee 2017 ($28, purchased, 13.5%) has long been a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, but I haven’t always been able to find it on store shelves. So when I saw it this summer, I bought it immediately.

The 2017 is typical of the producer’s style: An earthiness that I like and that is almost Old World; restrained berry fruit, so not quite brambly but not California, either; and refined tannins. The latter are noticeable, but don’t get in the way and are not easy to do with pinot noir. Too many wines, even at this price, either forgo the tannins entirely or boost them so it seems like they sould be in cabernet sauvignon.

Highly recommended, and more than a fair value. This is on its way to being quite complex, and should be even more interesting in a couple of years. Yes, Thanksgiving wine, but a red wine for any occasion that calls for something well-made and a step up.