The best wines are the ones we drink with friends
BRUNELLO DI MONTALICINO
Produced in the vineyards surround the town of Montalcino, located south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region, this red DOCG wine is produced with 100% Sangiovese grapes. It is one of the most well-known and expensive wines in Italy. Often compared with the Pinot Noir wines with its smooth tannins and ripe, fruit driven character, Brunello di Montalcino have a more fleshy texture with common aromas and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, chocolate, leather and violets. The high acidity of the wine allows it to pair beautifully with food.
Pairs well with: Grilled Meat & Game, hearty Pasta Dishes, Rich Stews, stinky Cheese
Made in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, this red wine is made from the Nebbiolo grape and is often referred to as one of Italy’s greatest wines. Barolo is often described as having the aromas of tar and roses, and needs to be aged at least 38 months after the harvest, but it can take more than 10 years for the wine to soften and become ready for drinking. Given that this is a big, powerful, tannic wine, Barolo needs to be matched with foods of similar weight.
Pairs well with: Meat Dishes, Hearty Pastas, Rich Risottos
The somewhat leaner sister of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc is often grown in the same places and is usually blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The one noteworthy exception to this is the Loire Valley of France where cabernet franc alone makes the well known wines Chinon and Bourgeuil. Cabernet franc often has a unique violet aroma and a slightly spicy flavor.
Pairs well with: Roast Chicken, Pork, Grilled Beef, Duck, Sausage, Lamb, Veal
Often called the “king” of red grapes, cabernet sauvignon is, along with merlot, the famous grape of Bordeaux, and is also grown in other renowned wine regions throughout the world including California, Washington state, Italy, Australia, and Chile. Cabernet sauvignon possesses what can be an impressive structure along with deep, rich cassis flavors, as well as blackberries, plums and black currants.
Pairs well with: Beef, Roast or Grilled Lamb, Burgers, Portobello Mushrooms
One of the most popular white grape varieties in America and throughout the New World, as well as the white grape of the Burgundy region of France. Very easy to enjoy thanks to its full, round body and buttery, appley flavors laced with toastiness (the latter comes from the oak barrels used in the making of most chardonnays).
Pairs well with: Seafood, Chicken, Fish, Vegetables, Pasta or Risotto with Spring Vegetables, Creamy Vegetable Soups
The famous sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France, about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Champagne is generally a blend of three grapes–two red: pinot noir and pinot meunier, and one white: chardonnay. It is made by a labor-intensive method known as methode Champenoise in which the secondary bubble-causing fermentation takes place inside each individual bottle. Made in a variety of sweetness levels, Champagnes range from bone-dry to sweet. The most popular of these is Brut. Champagne often has apple, pear and citrus flavors with a vanilla finish.
Pairs well with: Everything.
The classic red grape of the Beaujolais region of France, and also grown in California, gamay possesses a super fruity, grapey flavor not unlike melted black cherry Jello. The wine is often at its best served slightly chilled.
Pairs well with: Spicy Chicken, Spicy Fish, Gingered Pork, Smokey Meat
The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux, merlot, a red grape, is also grown in most of the same places as cabernet sauvignon. And in fact, the two are often blended. Because merlot in general has somewhat less tannin than cabernet sauvignon, it often feels softer on the palate. Merlot is often thought to be easiest red wine to drink with it’s fruit flavors of plums, blackberries, boysenberry, as well as mocha.
Pairs well with: Any Red Meat, Pâtés, Charcuterie, Pork, Chicken
One of the white grapes of the pinot family that includes pinot grigio (also white) and the red grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier. While some pinot blanc can be found interspersed with chardonnay in the vineyards of Burgundy, the grape is more renowned in Alsace. In North America, California boasts several top producers of pinot blanc, though the grape is not widely grown. Pinot blanc often has flavors similar to chardonnay, though the wine is generally lighter in body and somewhat more delicate.
Pairs well with: Fish, Shellfish, Chicken, Turkey, Mild-flavored Cheeses, Butter Sauces
PINOT GRIGIO (PINOT GRIS)
Like pinot blanc, one of the white grapes of the pinot family, and like riesling and gewürztraminer, pinot grigio loves cold climates. The most renowned pinot grigios come from the northernmost regions of Italy, especially those regions that border the Alps, as well as Alsace, where it is known as pinot gris or, confusingly, as “tokay.” In the U.S., Oregon is emerging as the top state for delicious lively pinot gris’ with light almond, lemon and vanilla flavors. They are mostly known to be dry with fruit flavors of pear and apple with hints of lemon.
Pairs well with: Seafood, Pasta, Light Vegetable Dishes
One of the most renowned red grapes in the world for its supple silky texture and mesmerizingly earthy flavors. Pinot noir, like riesling, requires a cold climate and in fact, its ancestral home is the cool Burgundy region of France. The grape, which is very difficult to grow and make into wine, is also grown in Oregon and California, but rarely elsewhere. Tastes of red fruits like cherries & raspberries, earthy notes with age.
Pairs well with: Salmon or other fatty Fish, Chicken, Duck, hearty Pasta Dishes, Stews, Lamb, Steaks, Mushroom dishes and Japanese Cuisine
The famous fortified sweet wine from the Duoro Valley of Portugal. Port, a blended wine, is made with up to five red grape varieties: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Touriga Francesa, and the most highly regarded: Touriga Nacional. All Port can be divided into two main categories: wood-aged Ports and bottle-aged Ports. Predominantly wood-aged Ports are ready to drink right after they’re bottled and shipped. They should be consumed within a year and a half to two years after bottling. These Ports do not need to be decanted. Predominantly bottle-aged Ports, on the other hand, start out in barrels for a brief period of time but then mature and age for a longer, and sometimes very long, period inside a bottle. As a result these Ports usually throw a sediment. Vintage Port, for example, always needs to be decanted. Port-style wines are also made in California from a variety of grapes including zinfandel, petite sirah, and cabernet sauvignon.
Pairs well with: Crème Brûlée, Fruits, Cheeses
The renowned white grape of Germany, Austria and the Alsace region of France, though it is also popular in Washington state, New York state, and certain parts of California and Australia. The grape loves to grow in cold climates and when it does, it can exhibit exquisite delicacy and elegance with crisp, clean flavors of green apple, pear, lime and light peachy/minerally flavors.
Pairs well with: Spicy food, Poultry
A pink wine which can be made from any number of red grape varieties. In southern France where rosés are extremely popular, rosés are often made from grenache. Rosés can be made in numerous ways, the most common of which is simply to draw the wine off the red grape skins before the skins have fully tinted the wine red. Rosé wines, like white wines, are crisp and taste best served chilled on a hot day.
Pairs well with: Light Pasta & Rice Dishes, Raw & lightly Cooked Shellfish, Fish, Cheeses… and Sunshine
The famous white grape of the Sancerre region of France as well as New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc also grows in Bordeaux, South Africa, and in California and Washington state. Its wonderfully wild, untamed flavors are often reminiscent of grass, herbs, green tea and limes. In California, sauvignon blanc can also take on green fig and white melon flavors.
Pairs well with: Seafood, Poultry
The famous fortified wine from the Jerez region of southern Spain. Sherry is made by an extremely complex method of fractional blending called the solera system. The grape variety used is principally Palomino, though small amounts of Pedro Ximenez may also be included. Like Champagne and Port, Sherry is made in a variety of styles and at a variety of sweetness levels. From driest and lightest to sweetest and fullest, the styles of Sherry include manzanilla, fino, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso, and cream Sherry. The unique flavor of all of these styles is due in part to the fact that the wine is partially intentionally oxidized (exposed to oxygen). Sherry-style wines are also made in California though they usually do not go through a solera system and most are sweet.
Pairs well with: Olives, Cheeses
The classic red grape of the northern Rhone Valley of France and also grown throughout southern France, syrah is also the leading grape of Australia (where it is known as shiraz). In the late 1980s and 1990s, California vintners also became increasingly fascinated by the grape which is now grown in many parts of California. The wine often has an unmistakable whiff of white pepper along with wild gamey, boysenberry flavors.
Pairs well with: Meat, but pairs well with a variety of foods
The classic (though rare) white grape of the northern Rhone Valley of France where it makes the expensive wine known as Condrieu. In the early 1990s, more than thirty top California producers began making viognier to much acclaim. The wine has an opulent, lush body and dramatic honeysuckle, white melon and jasmine flavors.
Pairs well with: Shellfish, Fish, Grilled Chicken, Veal, Pork, Spicy Flavors, Asian Cuisine
The much loved red grape of California, Zinfandel is grown in few areas of the world. In fact, its history has been mysterious. Zinfandel has recently been established as being identical to the Italian grape Primitivo. Zinfandel has a mouth-filling, thick berryness that is sometimes described as being jammy or chewy. White zinfandel (not a separate grape variety) is made when zinfandel grapes are fermented without their dark purple skins.
Pairs well with: Meat, Barbecue Pork, Lamb, Poultry, Hearty Pastas