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cookingwine

 

Guess what? The wine you select to cook with does matter. Good color and aromas make for good food. One of the most common misconceptions is that any

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V Wine Bar

V Wine Bar

Approaching V wine bar, I wonder what the V stands for, maybe “very” secret location? Located on Westbourne, the cypress-lined street is a refreshing and peaceful change from a very bustling West Hollywood area.  On the shaded path, the V door is like a golden knob in a sea full of one-size fits all bars and sexy nightclubs.  And although this wine bar is off the beaten path from LA’s notable nightclubs and restaurants that line Santa Monica Boulevard, it’s charm and ambiance make it a must stop.

Walking into V Wine Room you feel like you’ve been transported into

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Caprese Salad

I’ve made many caprese salads in my day. And if anything, I’ve learned that there are over a dozen types of tomatoes you can try including on the vine, pearl, heirloom, plum, cherry, grape, roma, and even yellow. The trick to a great caprese salad is

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Wine does not have to be an extrodinary out of the way journey. It can be as simple as getting in your car and driving to the local grocery store.  Let’s face it, on a weekly basis the average wine drinker doesn’t spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine.  We call this “house wine” for a reason. House wine is like that old comfortable chair in the corner of your living room.  It’s comfy and it’s home.

Recently, I took a trip to Trader Joes and spent half an hour explaining to this very nice wine staff person that I was looking for a Sicilian white wine I had bought there about a month ago. The wine was called Isola D’Oro and it was a fragrant white wine, which flavors I recalled so intensely. I remembered that the wine was about $9.  He assured me that they did not carrry this wine and when I insisted I found it there, he called his manager over to assist me.  I recounted the story to him and I told him that a very large yellow and black bird was on the label. He laughed and said, “Miss, we don’t carry any bottles with birds on them.” And he was right, I had the wrong store!  It was another small market down the road called Bianchini’s. At that moment, I felt like a complete idiot. I was ranting on about this Sicilian white with a bird on it with so much excitement and here I was at the wrong store. But, the staff person made another suggestion for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Australia from a winery called Picton Bay. The wine he described as full of citrus and crisp flavors of apple and pear.

This experience reminded me of two things. One, that drinking too much wine makes you forget. It’s best to write down where you find good wine. And two, that your local grocery store is filled with great wine with knowledgeable people that are as willing to help as much a sommelier at a sophisticated restaurant.

If you are looking to explore the local grocery store wine aisle and not sure where to start, I suggest first that you try Trader Joes, because my experience is that their staff  are always available to offer suggestions and they operate a little differently than the larger supermarket chains. That is not to stay that Albertson’s, Safeway, Lucky’s or other markets will not be good to try and offer less of a bargain.

When looking for a wine, often times people forget to read the back of the label. This is the easiest way to get a sense of what the flavors of the wine are, if it’s a heavy or light wine, and what it will pair best with. Finally, the best way to get to know a wine is to open it and try it. Be a little adventurous and try wines from other countries in the market aisle. New World Wines have come a long way and they are comparable to some of California’s best.

My wine find:

2007 Corbera Isola D’Oro $8.99 . Bianchini’s market or online.

Other Great Picks (Safeway, Trader Joes and other major grocery stores)

Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay

Concannon Chardonnay

Peachy Canyon Zinfandel

Alexander Valley Vineyards  Temptation Zin

Trader Joes Reserve Syrah

J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon

Chicken Piccata Wine Pairing

Chicken Piccata paired with Tablas Creek Wine

Does a dish inspire a wine selection or does the wine inspire the dish? In this case, on my visit to Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, the wine definitely inspired the dish and the chef. Grown and bottled on the estate, the 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel blanc inspired my chicken piccata cooking frenzy this evening. With notes of lemon, honey, spice, and a slight mineral finish, it was the perfect compliment to this traditonal italian dish.

Tablas Creek Winery specializes in Rhone Varietals. The Espirit is a white blend consisting of Roussane, Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul blanc grapes grown in the Rhone Valley of France.  Don’t panic if you have never heard of any of these varietals. This dish could easily pair with any white wine, especially Chardonnay which flavors usually compliment, creamy buttery flavored dishes.

Here are two easy rules to follow when pairing wine and food, which I always use:

1. Compliment the dish with similar flavors in the wine. In this case, the key ingredients in the chicken piccata were lemon, capers, and butter.

2. Go opposite. For example, pairing a rich spicy pork dish with a softer, smoky red wine like Pinot Noir. Or a spicy dish with a slightly sweet wine.

3. There are no set rules to pairings. Try what works for your tastes, but  I suggest trying a few traditonal pairings before you get too adventurous, especially when having dinner guests over.

What’s cooking

Chicken Piccata

4 chicken breasts rinsed and patted dry. Cut crosswise. Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper. Dredge lightly through flour. In a frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Cook chicken 3 minutes on each side and remove to plate.  Add 1/3 cuplemon juice, 1/4  cup capers (rinsed and drained) and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Bring to boil.  Return chicken to pan. Cook 5 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove to plate and pour remaining sauce over chicken. Garnish with parsley.

Wine Suggestions

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2009 Espirit De Beaucastel Blanc. $40. Divine.

Budget Version

2009 La Crema Chardonnay $14.99.  Bevmo and most grocery stores.

It never fails that when I’m in search of a perfect red wine to bring home with me, that somehow a white wine does a sneak attack on my pallette and blows me away. This was such the case this weekend in Amador and Calaveras Wine Country. Both Shenandoah Valley and Murphys offers some great small production finds.

I was hell bent on finding a red, particularily a great Barbera.  By the way, the best Barbera thus far in that region I’ve tried is at Indian Rock Vineyards in Murphys . And for only $18, it’s a steal. Indian Rock Vineyards 2007 Barbera.

But this trip, I wanted to find another great red. At Wildrotter Vineyard in Shenandoah, the staff was friendly and when asked, would you like to taste whites or reds today?, I shrugged my shoulders and said oh, let’s go ahead and start with the whites, I guess. Boom, Viognier!  Luscious, floral, and a great summer wine. I ended up purchasing a bottle. Wildrotter Vineyards 2009 Viognier. Priced at $21.

Down the road inMurphys, the main street is lined with tons of tasting rooms and it’s hard to choose which to try first. On prior recommendation, I stopped at Bodega Del Sur Winery tasting room, located in a little alley behind the main shops. The best white wine on their tasting menu was a portugal varietal grape called Verdelho.  The wine has a wonderful grassy and herbal aromas and although described as equivalent to a sauvignon blanc, I found the wine to be much more luscious and complex. Bodega Del Sur Alta Mesa 2008 Verdelho. Priced at $18. Quantities limited.

Lastly, at Tanner Winery tasting room, you can pick up a magnificent Rose, crisp, not to sweet and perfect as an appertif with cheese and light appetizers.  Tanner Vineyards 2009 Doux Rose. Priced at $17.

Happy Wine Hunting!


Copyright 2014 Laura Ercoli - Wild Wine Woman. Design by Anvil Image Photography

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