Monday, November 29, 2010

Top Ten Steak & Wine Pairings

On average each person in the US eats over 200 pounds of meat annually. That's more than half of a pound a day! Couple that with the fact that we, as a nation, consume more wine at 760 million gallons than any other country in the world, and you have yourself this week's blog topic.

Even though the grill is a steak's best friends, wine and steak pairings aren't just for the summer months. While those of us crazy enough to live in states that reach -20 degree F do put away our grills come fall, we don't put down the steak knife. So let's cut into this delicious list of pairings.

1. Rib Eye
Caymus - Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa, California 2006 - $70
The rib section is home to the Prime Rib and Rib Eye steaks. These cuts are loaded with flavor thanks to heavy marbling. Rib Eye is the boneless interior of the Rib steak, and some argue it's the most flavorful cut because it's so tender and succulent.

The reason I selected the Caymus Cab from Napa for this pairing is because of its tannins. Tannins (mouth-drying astringency) beg for protein, and can cut right through fat. Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa has plenty of grippy tannins, making this wine a great pairing for the Rib Eye. Caymus is an iconic producer in the region, and consistently makes good-quality wine year after year. The 2006 vintage in Napa was great for Cabs. While it was a bit rugged in its youth, this wine has had a little time to mellow and harmonize. Being only four years old, however, its tannins are still firm enough to hold up to the steak.

2. Flat Iron
Torres - Salmos - Priorat, Spain 2005 - $32
Our Flat Iron steak is the Butler's steak in the UK or the Oyster Blade in Australia and New Zealand. This relatively new cut comes from the shoulder, and also has a significant amount of marbling. The Flat Iron was rated by the North American Meat Processor (NAMP) buying guide as the second most tender cut after the Tenderloin.

Priorat is a DOCa (Spain's highest quality) located in the Northeast of Spain. The region is well known for producing big, powerful reds from native and international varieties. The Torres Salmos is made up of Garnacha (Grenache), Syrah (Shiraz), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carinena, a classic Mediterranean varietal. This wine has the body and tannins to hold up to the marbling in this cut, and a symphony of flavors to enhance the pairing. The '05 received a 90-point rating from the Wine Spectator.

3. Filet Mignon (Tenderloin)
Chateau Frombrauge - St. Emilion - Bordeaux, France 2005 - $37
In the hind quarter, directly behind the ribs we find the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin runs along the sides of the spine, and is usually taken in two long, snake like cuts. Although this cut doesn't have the marbling or intensity of flavor of the Rib Eye or Flat Iron, it is supremely tender, hence the name. Filet Mignon is the French term for the cut taken at the large end of the Tenderloin. This is traditionally one of the most expensive cuts of beef.

The Chateau Frombrauge from the St. Emilion sub-region comes from the Right Bank of the greater Bordeaux region. While the Left Bank, with regions like Medoc, Pauillac, St. Estephe and many others, is dominated by the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, the Right Bank tends to make the majority of their wines from Merlot. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has plenty of weight and structure. But Merlot tends to mellow a little better than Cab. The vintage I suggest is 2005, a monster in Bordeaux. While 5 years aging is not enough to drink this bad boy on its own, it will have the perfect tannin structure and balance to enhance this tender cut of beef. Plus, I figure this is kind of a play on the "grows together, goes together" concept of food and wine pairing seeing as this wine is French and so is the cut, although not necessarily the beef.

4. New York Strip
E. Guigal - Cote Rotie 'Brune et Blonde' - Rhone, France 2006 - $70
The New York Strip, like a portion of the Tenderloin, is taken from the short loin just behind the ribs. Because it comes from a muscle that doesn't do much work, Strip steak is very flavorful and incredibly tender, although not as tender as a Rib Eye or Filet Mignon. Internationally it's called the Club steak, but it also goes by the names Strip Loin, Shell, and Kansas City Strip in North America.

Cote Rotie, found in the Northern Rhone region of France, produces big reds from Syrah with just a dash of Viognier to soften them. The term Brune et Blonde goes back to a story of the land owner having two daughters, a blond and a brunette. On their wedding days the father/land owner gave each of his daughters a piece of his land and named one Brune for the brunette and one Blonde after the blond. This wine is a blend of grapes from each site. E Guigal is a great producer who makes rich and full-bodied, yet elegant wines from Cote Rotie. The 2006 has plenty of tannins to chew through the meat, but has matured with time, so it won't overpower the tender cut. A great marriage of power and finesse.

5. T-Bone
Castello di Brolio by Baron Ricasoli - Chianti Classico - Tuscany, Italy 2006 - $55
The T-Bone is like a twofer because it's cut from both the short loin and tenderloin. The "T" shaped bone divides a small Tenderloin and a large Strip, making it an indecisive diner's dream come true. This steak has the best of both worlds - the most tender cut on one side, and one of the most flavorful on the other. Due to its large size and high-quality, it is often one of the priciest steaks on the menu.

Because we have two cuts of beef, we want a wine that will be gentle to our little Tenderloin, but in the same breath one that won't get overshadowed by the rich Strip. Chianti Classico is a sub-region inside of the greater Chianti region of Tuscany that is classified as the "original" Chianti delimitation. The wines here are made up primarily of the native Italian Sangiovese grape. This full-bodied, spicy little devil is an incredibly food-friendly varietal. Baron Ricasoli is one of the oldest producers in the world, and is still family owned and operated in its 32nd generation. The 2006 Castello di Brolio by Ricasoli was given a 96-point rating by the Wine Spectator, solidifying its spot as number five on their top 100 wine list. While I'm not a ratings whore, I will agree this is a great quality wine. This wine will be able to chew through the Strip without overpowering the Tenderloin, a tricky balancing act.

6. Porterhouse
Chappellet - Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa California 2006 - $42
The Porterhouse Steak is basically a thicker T-Bone with a larger Tenderloin. There's some debate over what truly separates the two, but for our purposes, it's not really important.

With this pairing I wanted something with structure, but also something that had a bit of age to it so it wouldn't overpower either cut. As I mentioned earlier, Napa makes big, robust, tannic Cabs. Chappellet is a quality Napa producer that instead makes well-balanced reds, showcasing good levels of alcohol, acid, and tannin. With its apparent tannin, but mellowed flavors and textures, the 2006 has had enough time to soften for our Tenderloin, yet still retains enough structure to take on the Strip. A great wine with a great steak.

7. Top Sirloin
St. Hallett - 'Faith' Shiraz - Barossa, Australia 2006 - $16
Now we come to the sirloin, located between the short loin and the round section. Although less tender and traditionally less expensive than cuts from the short loin, these puppies are still incredibly tasty. The sirloin section lies on top of the tenderloin, with the top sirloin beneath it, and bottom sirloin below that. The bottom is less tender and much larger, usually what you get when you purchase a steak simply labeled Sirloin. When selecting a Sirloin steak from your butcher or on a mis en place at a restaurant, try to get a cut as close to the loin as possible. Cuts close to the short loin have a flat bone, those closer to the round section have a round bone and are less tender. Of course the most tender and flavorful of your sirloin options is the Top Sirloin, and it's always labeled as such.

Whether you select the Top Sirloin or the Bottom Sirloin, you'll want to pair it with a wine that is fruit forward and juicy. Australia is the king of juicy, fruit-forward wine, especially when it comes to their Shiraz. St. Hallett is a value-packed producer making stunning wines from Shiraz. Their Faith Shiraz is a great bottle for the price. It displays dark fruit flavors with plenty of spice. One of my favorite ways to season a steak is simply kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. This wine will enhance the black pepper, while the hearty Shiraz grape provides plenty of tannin for the meat.

8. Round Steak
Marchesi di Barolo - Barolo - Piedmont, Italy 2005 - $46
The Round steak comes from the rump. In some countries like the UK, Australia, and South Africa, it actually goes by the name Rump steak. This cut is moderately lean, and generally tough, but can showcase nice flavors. Like sirloin, the round section yields three different round cuts. The Top Round is the best of the three, but can still get a little tough on the grill. These steaks respond better to slow roasting or braising. The Eye of Round often becomes stew meat or a roast because it doesn't respond as well to quick preparation methods commonly used for steaks. And the Bottom Round is usually cut into roasts because it requires slow cooking.

For a tough cut of meat like this, we want a little muscle in our wine. And who better to provide that than the Italians. Barolo is a sub-region in the northwestern Piedmont region of Italy. This wine is made from the Nebbiolo grape, a thick-skinned, dark-colored varietal. Nebbiolo produces rich wines that are big and rich, with plenty of tannin. Many times you pay $100 or more for quality Barolo, but Marchesi di Barolo is a quality producer for the relatively low price. This rugged red will get in there and just tear apart this tough cut. A chewy wine for a chewy cut. I feel like making that noise Tim Taylor made on Home Improvement when I think about this pairing. Argh, Argh. Argh.

9. Skirt Steak
Cline Cellars - Syrah - Sonoma, California 2007 - $10
Skirt steak comes from the plate or belly of the animal, right below the rib. It's a long, flat cut that is prized more for flavor than tenderness. Technically the Skirt steak is divided into two categories, inner and outer, but there isn't a ton of difference between them. The outer Skirt steak is covered with a membrane that needs to be removed before cooking, while this was removed from the inner Skirt steak before it was packaged.

Skirt Steak is often used to make fajitas and Chinese stir-fry. Since both of these dishes display spice, I selected a wine that had a little spice itself in order to draw out these wonderful flavors. Cline Cellars is owned and operated by Fred Cline, and focuses on eco-friendly winemaking practices. This Syrah is big and bold to chew through the tough cut of meat, but has a wonderful spice to enhance any spicy flavors imparted by other ingredients. An inexpensive wine for an inexpensive cut.

10. Flank Steak
Alexander Valley Vineyards - Merlot - Sonoma, California 2007 - $20
Last and perhaps least is the Flank steak. Flank steak, also known as Bavette, is one of the toughest there is. It comes from the strong, well exercised belly of the cow, behind the plate and below the short loin. Many mistake this cut for the Skirt steak, but they are different; the Flank is actually tougher. Like the Skirt, the Flank is best in Mexican Fajitas and Asian or Indian inspired stir-fry dishes. The Flank is best when it has a bright red color.

For this last top-tenner, I selected the Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot. This winery is located in the Alexander Valley sub-region of Sonoma. They produce amazing wines for the price, and their Merlot is top notch. This bad boy drinks more like a Cabernet Sauvignon than it does a Merlot. It has plenty of weight and structure, making it a great match for this tough steak. Fight big and tough with big and tough.

You probably noticed there is not a white wine to be had on this list, and that's because there are very few circumstances that allow a white wine to work with steak. This is generally because whites don't have the tannins that protein, and red meat in particular, screams for. One of the specific cases in which a white will work is when the steak is served with a cream sauce, like a Bearnaise. Here you could pair to the sauce and try a full-bodied Chardonnay with plenty of oak, but still I'd recommend a Barolo or Cru Beaujolais instead.

While some of these pairings are a little pricey, they are equally delicious. I hope you get the chance to try one. For more information about me, more incredible wine picks and delicious food and wine pairings, check us out online at Cru Wine Online. You'll find daily Wine and Recipe pairings just for our users. We pair our chefs' recipes with delicious wines, and bring them to you in an entertaining video short, complete with a brief explanation of the wine, the dish, and the pairing.

Subscribe today and receive a FREE wine aerator, a $14.95 value. Life's too short not to enjoy every sip, so drink it up. Entertain your senses with Cru Wine Online's monthly membership. At only $7.99/month you can't afford not to! And while you're there, don't forget to finish your Christmas shopping in the Cru Wine Shop.

As always, feel free to contact me via email, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment here on the blog. Thanks again for reading.

Nicholas Barth
Wine Director
Certified Sommelier

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Ten Turkey Day Pairings

The Thanksgiving table at our house is a mess. Besides the fact that my uncle will be drunk when he shows up and my aunt feels the need to tell me in great detail about her recent trip to the craft store, our Thanksgiving feast is chock-full of random, borderline non-food ingredients. This year will be with my father's side of the family, and he has 11 siblings, each of which has spawned. This year it will be a small gathering with only 68, which means a plethora of taste preferences, cooking skills (or lack thereof), and most challenging, personalities. Fortunately, wine's got us covered on all points.

This may be completely foreign to you, and if it is, count your blessings. Because we're so big, we have to run our Thanksgiving like a giant potluck. Whoever hosts, God bless them, makes the turkey. Then each guest is assigned a side: potatoes, stuffing, yams, and of course the questionable ribbed cranberry "sauce" and Under the Sea "salad" I alluded to in last week's post.

If you wonder why I got into this line of work, it's because my family drove me to drinking. In this family, holiday cheer comes in 750ml bottles. I like to have a glass the night before Thanksgiving and drink right on through to the New Year. So those of you who have complicated dinner arrangements, and I'm not just talking about food, raise your glass with me and toast a list of my favorite Thanksgiving wines.

1. Dr. Loosen Bros. 'Dr. L' - Riesling - Mosel, Germany - $12
When you have a lot of flavors and textures on the table it's best to throw a little sugar at it. This light, refreshing Riesling won't overpower the turkey, and will compliment sugar in sides like the yams and cranberries. It also has a racy acidity to hydrate the palate after each salty, gravy-laden bite. Plus, that nice touch of sweetness makes it easy to drink, so your uncle who "hates" wine will be able to knock back a few without complaining. For your trendy, ratings-whore cousin, the '08 scored a 90 points in Wine Spectator last year, solidifying its place on Spectator's Top 100 list. That'll shut him up.

2. The Crossings 'Unoaked' - Chardonnay - Marlborough, New Zealand - $16
This clean, refreshing white is a great compliment to the many elements on the table. It has the body to stand up to heavier dishes, without getting lost. Plus, it's nothing like a typical Californian Chardonnay, so you can squash that ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) mentality. This winemaker avoided adulteration to create a perfect Turkey Day wine.

3. Trimbach - Gewurztraminer - Alsace, France - $23
Alsatian Gewurztraminer could be one of the most food-friendly wines in the world. Many people believe all Gewurz is sweet, but in Alsace many are produced dry, Trimbach being one. It has a little weight and a great acidity. In addition, it's spicy. So if you have cinnamon in your yams or cloves in your cranberry sauce, this will enhance them, drawing the spices out of the dish.

4. Willamette Valley Vineyards 'Whole Cluster Fermented' - Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley, Oregon - $19
This wine works on three levels. One, it's delicious. Two, Pinot Noir is incredibly food-friendly - light body and tannin make it a go-to pairing, Thanksgiving dinner included. And three, Pinot is popular. In the post-Sideways world, people love Pinot Noir (even if they've never had it) simply because it was the feature grape of the film. Plus it's approachable and easy to drink, appeasing even non-red I guess there's number four for you.

5. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau - Burgundy, France - $12
You've already heard me rant about Nouveau. While it is plonk, and basically a giant marketing campaign, it does pair well with Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, the 2010 Duboeuf Nouveau wasn't terrible. It's soft and juicy, with a decent acidity. The wine's almost sweet-like characteristics make it a great partner to the varying sugar levels on the table. It's also inexpensive and tastes like bubblegum, so it'll be a huge hit with non-wine drinkers. A great quaffer to get you through the meal.

6. Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot - Alexander Valley - $20
This one's our dirty little secret. While it's almost hip to like Merlot again, some people never got the memo that most of the bottles coming out of California for the last two decades were overproduced fruit bombs. They're still keen on it from the late 80's. Some trends never die...unfortunately. In all seriousness though, it's fine with me. Drink what you like, I say. So show up with this one and you'll look like a hero among the never-updated-their-taste Merlot die-hards. But the secret is this puppy drinks more like a Cab than a Merlot. So while you play the hero, you'll also be able to enjoy it yourself, without any plummy, overproduced madness. Plus, it's got a high ABV, and it never hurts to have a little extra "sauce" for the family meal.

7. Rockbare Shiraz - McLaren Vale, Australia - $18
I love this spicy little devil. Shiraz from Australia is very popular, but much of it is high in alcohol, high in fruit flavors, and low in character or regional identity. This wine found a perfect balance. It still has fruit and weight, but shows depth and complexity. The spice in the glass will, like the Gewurztraminer, draw out any spice on the table. If you're getting wacky and thinking about going Cajun with your turkey (a la the Cru Wine Online recipe), reach for a bottle of Rockbare. You won't be disappointed.

8. Duckhorn 'Decoy' Zinfandel - Napa, California - $22
BEWARE. If your family is anything like mine, you may have to explain that Zinfandel is red. Only when adulterated and artificially sweetened is it the boxed Kool-aid "wine" popular in the 80's & 90's. Wait, that was more of a burn for Kool-aid than White Zin (Oh Yeaahh!). All joking aside, 2008 is the first vintage of the Decoy Zin Duckhorn has ever produced, and they are having a tough time selling it. Hard to believe when their test market batch was around 9000 cases. A lot of stores are discounting this product, so you can usually get it for a steal. Low sales be damned, the wine is great. It's jammy, not tannic, which is what you need for Thanksgiving dinner. A real crowd pleaser.

9. Novelty Hill Syrah - Columbia Valley, Washington - $22
Que Shiraz, Syrah. When you roast a turkey flavors are concentrated on the outside of the bird, creating a little more texture and weight. This hearty Syrah will be do well with the bird and appease the "Big Red" drinkers in the family. It has a slightly vegetal thing on the palate, so rubbing elbows with the green beans and other veggies on the table will also be right up its alley. Novelty Hill does great work. If you haven't already, pick up a bottle for yourself and don't share. Wait...the holiday's are about giving...nope, just too delicious.

10. Roederer Estate 'Brut' - Sparkling - Anderson Valley, California - $23
Last but not least is the Roederer Estate Brut bubbly. Roederer Estate is owned by the infamous Louis Roederer, the man who produces the ultra-popular Cristal. This pairing could be regarded as one of the most generic of those on this list because it lacks creativity. But hey, if it works, it works. Its crisp acidity, lower alcohol, and bright bubbles make it a good match for the various, sometimes dubious components on the table. The texture of bubbles can compliment just about any dish under the sun. If you're stuck and don't know where to turn, reach for this delicious bubbly. It's made using the traditional method, the same process used in Champagne, France. This method imparts more flavor, balance, and depth into the wine. It is dry though, so beware criticism from your old-school family members who's quintessential "champagne" is a bottle of Andre Spumante. And don't let them put cola in it. Just buy a backup box of Franzia if that's the case.

Well, there you have it, the top ten turkey day pairings. If you read this and think I'm crazy because you enjoy spending the holidays with your family, I have just one thing to say...Can I get directions to your house this Thursday? In all seriousness I love my family as much as the next guy, but too much of a good know. So this year I was trying to figure out a way to imply they all need to leave after dinner, without being rude. So I decided I'm going to slip into my nightwear after we eat to send a subtle hint. Boy are they going to be surprised when they find out I sleep in the nude.

These are 10 value-packed, accessible options for your Thanksgiving day meal. I hope you get the chance to try one. I myself am going fully loaded to Thanksgiving. I'm bringing them all. For more information about me, more incredible value picks and delicious food and wine pairings, check us out online at Cru Wine Online. We post Wine and Recipe pairings for our users each day, pairing our chefs' recipes with delicious wines, and bringing them to you in an entertaining video short, complete with a brief explanation of the wine, the dish, and the pairing. Subscribe today and receive a FREE wine aerator, a $14.95 value. Life's too short not to enjoy every sip, so drink it up. Entertain your senses with Cru Wine Online's monthly membership. At only $7.99/month you can't afford not to!

As always if there's something that you think should have made this top ten list, feel free to contact me via email, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment here on the blog. Thanks again for reading.

Nicholas Barth
Wine Director
Certified Sommelier
Cru Wine Online

Monday, November 15, 2010

Top Ten Things You Need To Know About Beaujolais Nouveau

Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrive!!! Translation: Everyone run, the French are releasing that crappy purple-pink fruit juice again!!!

Each year on the third Thursday of November, the flood gates open and a river of mediocre to below-average red wine pours into the streets. What am I talking about? Beaujolais Nouveau. France's answer to the German Oktoberfest. Don't get me wrong, there is a time, a place and, more importantly, a dish for Beaujolais Nouveau. But let's be straight; it's just not good.

The hype and marketing behind this slightly-sweet, no-character, nail-polish-smelling, bubblegum-tasting "red wine" is brilliant. Believe it or not, over 1 million cases of this lollipop wine are sold each year. But before you go dashing through the snow to pick up a bottle, here are the top ten things you need to know about Beaujolais Nouveau.

1. Beaujolais is...
Beaujolais is a sub-region in the greater Burgundy region of France. The area is located just south of the Maconnais. The region is predominantly located in the Rhone department, and is actually closer in climate and proximity to the Rhone region than it is to the rest of Burgundy. In some years the Beaujolais sub-region makes more wine than the rest of Burgundy, with over half of it being sold as Nouveau. The grape used to make the wines of Beaujolais is Gamay, a thin-skinned varietal low in tannins. In addition to the climate, grape, and proximity to the Rhone, what sets Beaujolais apart from the rest of Burgundy, is the way the wines are fermented.

Beaujolais is produced in a process known as Carbonic Maceration. The grapes are placed in a vat, and as more are piled on, the weight gently crushes the fruit, sparking fermentation. The grapes almost ferment from the inside out. This results in a pear-drop smelling wine that is juicy and low in tannin. This practice is often viewed as a lower-quality production method. Anthony Hanson, in his book Burgundy, quotes Jean-Marie Guffens describing this fermentation process as "Carbonic Masturbation." In other words, even the French don't much care for the process.

2. Nouveau is...
Like Cru Beaujolais, Beaujolais Village, Beaujolais Superieur, or even basic Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau is made using the Gamay grape. The difference between Nouveau, also called vin de primeur, and the others is the time Nouveau ages, or should I say, the lack of time it ages. Beaujolais Nouveau grapes are picked, fermented, bottled, aged, and consumed all within six to eight weeks.

3. Drink young, very young
Because of the method used to produce these wines, Carbonic Maceration, the young, fruity Nouveau wines of Beaujolais are meant to be consumed young. You see, for a wine to age it requires presence and balance in three of four important categories: sugar, acid, tannin, and alcohol. Nouveau misses the boat in all four categories.

Because the wine is fermented using Carbonic Maceration the tannin, that mouth-drying sensation found in red wines, is low to almost non-existent. That's why many non-wine drinkers enjoy the young, fresh, and fruity Nouveau. It doesn't have the same grippy astringency as, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon from California.Although this wine tastes juicy and fruity, it usually bears little to no residual sugar. When sugar is a factor in aging, it's usually apparent, like in the wines of Sauternes, France or the Trockenbeerenauslese style produced in Germany. Beaujolais Nouveau usually has a mediumish acidity, not quite high enough to bear ageable qualities. It often softens quickly, making these young wines flabby rather than crisp. When it comes to alcohol, Beaujolais Nouveau usually comes in around 12% abv. But because they lack the other three ageable characteristics, what you're left with is faded fruit flavors in a flabby red with burning alcohol.

The majority of Nouveau is best if consumed before the first of the year. Hence the reason you usually find a big sale on the juice that's not sold before Thanksgiving.

4. Beaujolais Nouveau is the celebration of the new harvest
I always say, "Beaujolais Nouveau is not meant to be sipped in enjoyment, it's meant to be chugged in celebration." I mentioned before that Nouveau is France's answer to Oktoberfest. In Germany, Oktoberfest is used as an excuse to consume the beer from the previous year. The festival helps the country get ready for the new beers being produced. So while the two are both celebrations of new products, the French don't celebrate by drinking the old stuff, they celebrate the with their new wines...really new.

Beaujolais has always made a vin de l'annee to celebrate the harvest. Prior to World War II, the vin de primeurs of Beaujolais couldn't be sold until the middle of December. But in 1951 the Union Interprofessional des Vins de Beaujolais (UIVB) relaxed the laws, allowing the wine to be released a month earlier in the middle of November. Seeing a marketing opportunity, the country slapped the Nouveau label on these young wines and shipped them around the globe so the rest of the world could join in the celebration.

5. Beaujolais Nouveau is a mass marketing campaign
When the laws regarding the release date of vin de primeur changed from December 15th to November 15th in 1951, producers realized there was an opportunity to sell their wines around the world in huge quantities and at great margins. Beaujolais Nouveau is vin ordanaire, which simply means it's just ordinary red table wine. The margins on this generic juice are pretty high, especially since only a specific amount of Nouveau is made and distributed, making it slightly (very slightly) rare. Producers realized this was a great way to sell an ocean of mediocre, juicy wine to consumers around the world, and make really good money along the way.

The real pageantry began in the '70's when producers created a race from Beaujolais to Paris. People would run through the streets screaming "Les Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!" This gained media attention, and before you know it, a world-wide race began to see who could get it and serve it fastest. People traveled by motorcycle, helicopter, elephant, balloon, jet, car and foot, racing to get these young wines to their destination. In 1985 the date of release was changed from November 15th to the third Thursday in November creating a world-wide day of celebration. The region has certainly succeeded, because when all is said and done, over 65 million bottles of Nouveau are sold around the world.

If France can figure out a way to encourage people to drink plonk, maybe Greece just needs to stage a celebration to put Retsina back on the world wine map! Just a thought. Or, I know, call Gallo; we'll use Boone's Farm to celebrate the new harvest in the US!

6. Beaujolais Nouveau pairs well with Thanksgiving Dinner
Beaujolais Nouveau conveniently makes it to most retail end caps just before Thanksgiving, and many wine store attendants push Nouveau as a pairing for Thanksgiving. This leaves people wondering if it's because the wine pairs well or because it won't last much into the new year. The answer is...well...both.

Beaujolais Nouveau has a fruity flavor with decent acidity and a lowish alcohol content. This makes it incredibly food-friendly. And if your Thanksgiving dinner table looks anything like my family's, you need something versatile.

At my family's Thanksgiving, we always have the traditional turkey, stuffing, and yams. And you can't forget the cranberry sauce...from the can of course. They don't bother mixing it up; just slide the jiggly red cylinder out of the can and eat, rib marks and all. We also have our "under the sea salad," which isn't a salad at all. It's usually made from green or orange Jell-o, and topped with marshmallows. A table like this requires a lot of patience from a wine. And not everyone in my family appreciates wine. So something fruity and easy going not only pairs well with the many flavors and textures on the table, but it's also an easy quaffer for non-wine drinking guests.

7. Beaujolais Nouveau pairs beyond Thanksgiving
As you can imagine, if Beaujolais Nouveau can pair with the smorgasbord of flavors and textures present at the Thanksgiving dinner table, it also pairs well with a variety of other foods.

Because of its fruity flavors, soft texture, and decent young acidity, it is a great pairing for fresh goat cheese. It can also pair well with cured meat platters, often referred to as charcuterie. It has the weight to stand up to these cured meats, with a refreshing acidity. You can also pair Nouveau with chicken, gilled meat, lighter pastas, pork, salmon, and veal. But these pairings work best with young Nouveau, as in consumed before the first of the year.

8. Beaujolais Nouveau producers
There are a handful of Beaujolais Nouveau producers present on the retail shelf. One of my favorites is Georges Duboeuf. His wines are available in most markets, and at a competitive price. Duboeuf is considered the most American French producer in Beaujolais because his wines tend to cater to the likings of US wine drinkers. His Beaujolais Nouveau is consistently good, and is generally a good representation of the region.

You may also find success with Mommessin. They usually have a fun label, and each year they focus on a different place in the world Nouveau is celebrated. You'll also see Bouchard Aine & Fils on your retail shelf, but this is one of my least favorite of those available in the US. Then again, that's not saying much since I don't really like any of them. Some retailers carry the Beaujolais Nouveau wines of Joseph Drouhin, Labour- Roi, Jean Bererd & Fils, Pascal Chatelus, Joel Rochette, and a couple others. While one may be better than another, it's like lipstick on a's still a Nouveau.

9. Plastic bottles?
One of the largest expenses for producers is shipping. Because Nouveau is harvested, fermented, bottled, and aged within six to eight weeks, they must ship it around the globe on planes. And when it comes to air shipping, weight is everything.

Producers like Mommessin and Bouchard Aine & Fils have gone to plastic bottles with a screw top closure to reduce the ship weight of their Nouveau. While I appreciate the effort to save a buck on low grade juice, I didn't notice a price decrease at the counter. Supposedly producers of Beaujolais Nouveau ate a price increase the year prior, but come on, the wine already sucks, and now you send it over in a plastic bottle? At least dress it up a little for the consumer. Retailers and wine bars are trying to sell the stuff to promote wine and celebration, and you send it in a plastic bottle? It's like getting kicked when you're down. Send these producers a message, steer clear of the plastic bottle, buy glass or nothing at all.

10. Beaujolais Nouveau Village is...
Beaujolais Nouveau Village in theory is more respected than standard Beaujolais Nouveau because the fruit selected comes from better sites within the Beaujolais region. While the Village wines may be slightly better, showcasing just a touch more depth and structure, I say save the $2 and just go for the standard Nouveau. Again, even with lipstick, it's still a pig.

Well, there you go, everything you need to know about Beaujolais Nouveau. Some people justify their Nouveau purchase by saying it is an early indication of the year's crop. While that may be true, the wines don't showcase enough character to tell how the vintage will fend. I guess you could make the argument it either really sucks, or just kind of sucks. If it just kind of sucks then perhaps the vintage is going to be good throughout the country. But then again, last year was one of the best Nouveau's I have ever tasted, and it was a 2009, supposedly an instant classic in France. But saying '09 was the best Beaujolais Nouveau vintage I have ever had is like leaving your dentist's office saying, "That was the best root canal ever!" In both cases it was still a painful experience.

In most of my posts this is the part where I qualify my argument or apologize for my rant. But not today. The Nouveau wines of Beaujolais are a disgrace to the region, a mass marketing campaign disguised as a celebration. Drink them or don't, but if you do, know that you're supporting bad behavior.

For more information about me and Cru Wine Online check us out online. We post Wine and Recipe pairings for our users each day. Watch as we pair our chefs' recipes with delicious wines, bringing them to you in an entertaining video short, complete with a brief explanation of the wine, the dish, and the pairing. Subscribe today and receive a FREE wine aerator, a $14.95 value. Life's too short not to enjoy every sip, so drink it up. Entertain your senses with Cru Wine Online's monthly membership. At only $7.99/month you can't afford not to!

As always if there's something that you think should have made this top ten list, feel free to contact me via email, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment here on the blog. Thanks again for reading.

Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director
Cru Wine Online

Monday, November 8, 2010

Top Ten Wine & Cheese Pairings

Many believe wine and cheese make for a fool proof pairing. While the two CAN make a good pairing, more often than not it takes a little consideration to ensure a delicious marriage. Without getting all "cork dork" on you, this is because cheese is salty and often dehydrates the palate, making it difficult to detect the characteristics of the wine. So while many view red wine as a great go-to for pairing cheese, it's more often a crisp, refreshing white than a big, bold red that will best compliment. In this week's blog, we will explore the top ten wine and cheese pairings. The recommended pairings are examples I feel are good quality, accessible, and a good value for the price (no matter how expensive).

1. Sancerre & Chevre
Recommended Producer: Pascal Jolivet - Sancerre - Loire,France 2009 - $27

Sancerre is a world-class wine producing sub-region in the Loire of France, known for making delicious whites from the Sauvignon Blanc grape (reds from the region are made from Pinot Noir). While the whites produced in Sancerre have a racy acidity, they're not quite as extreme as Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Sancerre tends to be more herbaceous, smelling of fresh cut grass. In addition the whites of the region usually display notes of flint, a product of the soil type (flint) where the grapes are grown. Oh yeah, and many describe the ammonia aroma found in Sancerre as reminiscent of cat pee...yummy.

Chevre is a modern soft cheese made from goat's milk. The cheese, like the wine, is made in the Loire region of France. This pairing is the essence of the statement, "If it grows together it goes together." Chevre is firm, yet breakable, and has a slightly sticky texture on the palate. It's fruity, with a distinct almond flavor. But what makes this pairing so great isn't matching the flavors of the two, it's mirroring their acidity. Chevre can almost be described as tangy. The wine's racy acidity will compliment and enhance this feature, while cleansing the mouth after each sip, readying the palate for the next bite.

2. Gewurztraminer (especially Alsatian) & Munster
Recommended Producer: Trimbach - Gewurztraminer - Alsace, France 2008 - $23

The Alsace region of France is one of the northernmost high-quality wine producing regions in the world. The region puts out a lot of white wine, using grapes similar to their neighbor across the Rhine river to the east, Germany. While German whites tend to be light and are often produced sweet, Alsatian whites tend to be dry and more full-bodied. The whites produced in the region have a unique texture and low sugar content, making them great partners for lots of different foods. Gewurztraminer's calling card characteristic is its spicy flavors and aromas. It's often described as resembling the spice of the lychee nut.

Muenster is a traditional, unpasteurized, washed-rind cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese is native to the Alsace region of France, so here again we have a "grows together, goes together" pairing. The cheese owes its unique character to the local cows, renowned for providing high-protein milk. The rind's rich color and aroma is a product of the outside of the cheese being constantly rubbed with brine for two to three months. Muenster is intense, with flavors that are both sweet and savory, ending with a spicy finish. What makes this pairing so incredible is the spicy characteristic of both the cheese and the wine. Alsatian Gewurztaminer will draw out the spice, complimenting the flavors of the cheese. The wine's refreshing acidity will also cleanse and hydrate the palate after each bite of this delicious, stinky, salty cheese.

3. German Riesling (especilly Spatlese) & Aged Gouda
Recommended Producer: Dr. Loosen - Riesling 'Spatlese' - Mosel, Germany 2009 - $30

German Riesling IS bottled elegance and finesse. The wines from the country display aromatic purity, and make wonderful pairings to many foods. The country makes over 180 million gallons of Riesling each year ranging from dry to sweet. Some of the best Riesling's from the country come from the Mosel region. The wines produced here display a perfect balance of sugar and acidity. For this pairing I suggest a Spatlese, which translates to "late harvest." Spatlese wines are made from fully-ripened grapes. They tend to be fuller bodied, but still display that wonderful balance of elegance and finesse.

Gouda is a traditional hard cheese made from cow's milk. On the contrary to what some believe, the cheese is actually native to Holland. Many people believe it to be from France, specifically Bordeaux, because that is often the cheese selected to pair with the wines from the area. Gouda accounts for more than 60 percent of the cheese production in Holland. Mature Gouda (18 months or older) is sweet and fruity, with a granulated texture. This pairing works so well because the wine's sugar and acidity cut through the rich texture of the cheese. In addition, the fruity and sweet flavors in the cheese are enhanced by the full -bodied, well-balanced German Spatlese. This wine has the power to stand up to the cheese, without getting lost. I would describe this as a very...Gouda pairing.

4. Champagne (especially Rosé) & Brie de Meaux
Recommended Producer: Nicolas Feuillatte - 'Brut' Rose - Champagne, France NV - $45

With this pairing we wrap two fool-proof wine pairing tips into one delicious marriage. It's often said that rosé wines have the texture (coming through as a hint of tannin from soaking with red grape skins) and acidity to pair with just about any dish. The same goes for sparkling wines; they have a low alcohol content, refreshing acidity, and bubbly texture, making them a wonderful compliment to most foods. Champagne is the Grand Poobah of all sparkling wines. Coming from the heart of France, these wines are an international symbol of celebration and class. Rosé Champagne is a product of blending white and red wines together to create a pink color. The wines are usually flavorful and complex, with a wonderful texture and a racy acidity.

Brie is a traditional, unpasteurized, soft white cheese made from cow's milk. It comes from the Ile-de-France (area around Paris) region of France. The slightly rubbery white rind is called penicillum. It's a mold created during the aging process, traditionally performed on straw mats. Penicillum protects the cheese, but also adds a wonderful mushroom-like, earthy component to the wheel. Good brie should be smooth and creamy, yet not quite runny. This pairing works well because the yeasty, earthy flavors in the wine enhance the flavors of the cheese. But more importantly, the slightly grippy rosé texture and the characteristics imparted through the fermentation process perfectly compliment the texture of the cheese. In addition, the wine's racy acidity cuts through the cheese, and hydrates the palate. These two fool-proof wine tips wrapped into one pairing simply can't miss.

5. Pinot Noir (especially light & Fruity) & Reblochon
Recommended Producer: A to Z Wineworks - Pinot Noir - Oregon 2008 - $20

After the 2004 film Sideways was released, the wine industry saw a boom in Pinot Noir sales, and a crash in Merlot sales. In the film, the main character, Miles, gives a poetic description of the reasons Pinot Noir is his favorite grape. This led to what the industry has coined as "The Sideways Craze." After many saw they film they wanted Pinot Noir, and the wine industry gave it to them in spades...mua-ha-ha-ha. But seriously, Pinot Noir is a finicky grape that should only be grown in a handful of places throughout the world. The grape is native to the Burgundy region of France. However, many steer clear of the reds from the region due to outrageous prices and inconsistency. Domestically, producers in Oregon and California have done well with the grape in select areas, with the 2008 vintage marking potentially the best year ever for Pinot Noir in Oregon. Unfortunately, the perfect climactic conditions in 2008 didn't just increase quality in Oregon Pinot Noir, they also increased prices.

Reblochon is a traditional, unpasteurized, semi-soft cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese is native to the eastern Haute-Savoie region of France, near the infamous Burgundy sub-region. Reblochon has sweet flavors, displaying crushed walnuts, spring grass, and wild flowers. A light Pinot Noir will be able to stand up to the weight of the cheese without overpowering the delicate flavors. In addition, the juicy, fruity flavors and medium-ish acidity of lighter Oregonian Pinot Noirs will enhance the cheese, ensuring a perfect marriage.

6. Barolo & Fontina
Recommended Producer: Marchesi di Barolo - Barolo - Piedmont,
Italy 2005 - $46

Barolo is a sub-region that makes deep, dark, full-bodied reds from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Italy. The big reds from the region often receive high accolades, and are regarded as some of the finest reds in not only Italy, but the world. The Nebbiolo grape grows very few places outside of the Piedmont region of Italy. It requires a specific growing season that is found almost exclusively in Piedmont. The reds produced are robust and rugged in their youth, but after aging for a decade or more, they soften and become balanced.

Fontina is a traditional, unpasteurized, semi-soft cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese is native to the northwestern Valle d'Aosta region of Italy. Fontina is dense, smooth and slightly elastic. It has a delicate nuttiness, with a hint of sweetness. This pairing is another "grows together, goes together," and works well because the dark-fruited, spicy Barolo will enhance the earthy and fruity flavors of the cheese. The texture of Barolo is big and full, but can almost be described as creamy, complimenting the creamy texture of the cheese.

7. Amarone & Parmigiano-Reggiano
Recommended Producer: Zenato - Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Veneto, Italy 2006 - $70

Amarone is an Italian sub-region in the Veneto (northeast) that produces rich, almost sweet-like full-bodied reds from grapes like Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. To produce Amarone, grapes are harvested, then set out to dry to an almost raisin-like state, traditionally on straw mats. The grapes are then pressed, and the juice that runs out is concentrated and high in sugar. That sugar is then converted into alcohol through fermentation, resulting in a full-bodied wine with rich flavors and aromas of black currant, blackberries, more black fruit flavors, black licorice and spice.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a traditional, unpasteurized hard cheese made from cow's milk. It gets its name from the Parma and Reggio sub-regions of the Emilia-Romagna region. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a granulated cheese with sweet and fruity aromas. The flavor is strong and rich, but not overpowering. Hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano are able to support a wider range of wines, including big reds. This wine's rich, dark fruit and almost sweet flavor perfectly compliments those of the cheese. Aged cheeses tend to be more flavorful, so a flavorful wine is important to enhance the pairing. This wine does that beautifully.

8. Fino Sherry & Manchego
Recommended Producer: Domecq - Manzanilla Sherry - Spain

Sherry comes from the south of Spain near the town of Cadiz. It's a fortified wine, which means a spirit is added to boost alcohol and make the wine more stable. Sherry is made from the Palamino, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscatel grapes. This particular Sherry is dry, which means the spirit was added after fermentation, versus during, like in the production of port. Manzanilla Sherry is a dry, fino style sherry made in the Sanlucar de Barrameda sub-region of Spain. Fino style Sherry showcases a salty, almost seaside aroma, with a distinct nutty flavor, crisp acidity, and a full body.

Manchego is Spain's bread and butter cheese. It's a traditional hard cheese made from sheep's milk. It comes from the La Mancha sub-region, the same place Don Quixote supposedly tipped over wind mills and protected the people. The cheese is ivory in color, with a hard black rind. Manchego is sold in various ages, but usually displays a nutty, burnt caramel flavor with a salty finish. This wine's crisp acidity and Spanish roots make this a perfect pairing. The salty flavors in the wine will enhance the cheese, and the crisp acidity will refresh the palate. A truly outstanding pairing for Fino Sherry.

9. Sauternes & Roquefort
Recommended Producer: Chateau d'Arche - Sauternes - Bordeaux, France 2005 - $31

Sauternes is a sub-region in the Bordeaux region of France that produces the world's greatest sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. The wines from the region are vibrant, with flavors and aromas of honey and lush stone fruits, like apricots and peaches. These wines have a high sugar content and acidity in their youth, but over time mellow to become intense, powerful and complex.

Roquefort is a traditional, unpasteurized blue cheese made from sheep's milk. The cheese maker pierces the wheel of the cheese with long stainless steel needles to ensure the mold reaches all parts of the cheese. The mold was traditionally introduced by leaving loaves of rye bread beside the cheese wheels in the caves. Roquefort has a distinct aroma of blue mold, burnt caramel, and a flavor that comes across as creamy yet sweet. The rich, powerful whites of Sauternes cut through the stinky blue mold and firm texture of the cheese. The sugar in the wine enhances the sweetness in the cheese, and the powerful acidity cleanses the palate after each sip. This is considered by many as a classic food and wine pairing.

10. Vintage Port & Stilton
Recommended Producer: Taylor Fladgate - Vintage Port - Douro, Portugal 2003 - $92

Port is a fortified wine from Portugal. The port name carries with it special regulations and geographic requirements. A fortified wine should only be called port if it comes from Portugal and follows the specific guidelines set up by the Portuguese government. In the production of port, unlike sherry, the spirit is added in the middle of the fermentation process to kill the yeast, leaving sugar behind in the juice. The wine produced from this process is high in alcohol and sweet. The term vintage means that all the grapes used in the production of the wine come from the same year. Vintage ports showcase the best years in Portugal, and only happen about three times a decade.

Stilton is a traditional English, unpasteurized, vegetarian blue cheese made from cow's milk. It's made in the same process as Roquefort, with the cheese maker piercing the wheel to promote mold growth. Young Stilton is bitter and dry, but as it matures it becomes creamy and sweet. Good Stilton displays flavors and aromas of old leather, dark chocolate, and a distinct blue mold. The rich, powerful vintage ports of Portugal have the body to stand up to this hard cheese, the flavors to compliment the dark chocolate and old leather, and the sugar to contrast the stinky blue mold. This is another example of a classic food and wine pairing. I like to say sweet and stinky rather than sweet and savory when it comes to pairings like this.

While some of these wines retail for $50 or more, they make great pairings for these cheeses, and are good values for the price, no matter how high. Some or all of these pairings could be described as classic, but the reason they are in this category is because they are outstanding matches, a tougher feat than you think. As I mentioned before, it's easier to find success in pairing wine and cheese when you select a crisp, refreshing white wine over a big, powerful red. Also, sweetness almost always does well with cheese, because you get a sweet and savory sensation on the palate. So if you're stumped, reach for something with some sugar.

I tried to choose cheeses that are accessible, with wines that are found in most retail locations. I hope you get a chance to try some of these because they are truly mind-blowing. To learn more about fabulous food and wine pairings, check out Cru Wine Online's NEW Daily Wine and Recipe pairings. Wach day we pair our chefs' recipes with delicious wines and bring them to you in an entertaining video short, complete with a brief explanation of the wine, the dish, and the pairing. Subscribe today and receive a FREE wine aerator, a $14.95 value. Life's too short not to enjoy every sip, so drink it up. Entertain your senses with Cru Wine Online's monthly membership. At only $7.99/month you can't afford not to!

As always if there is a wine you think should be on this top ten list feel free to contact me via email, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment here on the blog. Thanks again for reading.

Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director

Monday, November 1, 2010

Top Ten Wine & Classic Rock Pairings

Wine writer Andrea Immer-Robinson compares the new and old world styles of wine, to music. She explains that old world wines (classic European wine producing countries: France, Italy, Spain, Germany, etc) tend to be subtle, similar to the style of music found in the region. Where as new world wines (any place classic European wine producing countries sent prisoners or explorers: Australia, Chile, USA, etc) are bigger, bolder, and more intense, also similar to the musical influence in the regions. She compares old world wines to symphonies - lighter, and more elegant - and new world wines to rock and roll big - bold, intense, and loud. I think this is a great way to illustrate regional styles, and her explanation led me to this week's blog post.

Pairing music with wine can truly entertain all of the senses. To taste, smell, feel, see, and hear a pairing is mind blowing. For the on-site (rather than online) tasting part of my business, I paired wine and live music with symphony orchestra clients for a fundraising event. The musicians selected a piece, and I chose a wine that would enhance the tasters all-senses experience of both the wine and music. For example I paired a piece by Mozart with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Austrian Gruner compliments Mozart's music wonderfully because both are subtle, clean, complex, elegant, and classic.

But I find that wine is only paired with symphony music and occasionally jazz. Rarely do you find someone who will write an article about a Napa Cab and Rage Against the Machine pairing. While I didn't go as far as hard rock, with this blog I decided to focus on a genre dear to my heart...Classic Rock! It is with great pleasure I share with you the top ten wine and classic rock pairings.

1. Simon Sig Chenin Blanc from South Africa with Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven
Some argue that Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin is the greatest classic rock song of all time. While I would not call the Simonsig Chenin Blanc the best white wine of all time, it does make a stellar pairing. Both the wine and song start out soft and round. The song begins with string plucking, while the wine plucks and entertains the senses with aromas of pear and green apple flesh. The aromas are fresh, ripe, and round. The middle of the song gives way to a monster guitar solo, just as the beat of the wine picks up once it's on the palate. Racy and lush, leading into a finish that is loaded with energy, much like the song. The hint of sweetness softens the wine just as the song is softened by swaying back and forth between soft and hard rock.

2. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with Aerosmith's Dream On
Dream On begins with a medium tempo that is wonderfully complimented by the medium weight of this wine on the tongue. The rocky edge to the song is enhanced by the razor sharp acidity this wine showcases. The wine is steady and clean, just like the song. When the tune finishes, your heart is overtaken with the feeling that you've just run a marathon. The wine follows as the last sip leaves you sitting and thinking, "Whoa!". But I would say above all, the most important characteristic about this pairing is that both the song and the wine scream. Steven Tyler loves a good scream, and the best way to describe New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc's acidity is as screaming! DREAM ON with this pairing!

3. Mumm Napa Brut Rose from California with the Eagle's Hotel California
Pink Champagne on ice...enough said. While this wine is from California and should therefore be called sparkling wine, Mumm is a very successful wine producer in Champagne, France as well. And both in Champagne and California, their wines are made using the traditional method, also called the methode champenoise. Both the wine and the song can be described as lively and balanced. The wine's bubbles create little bursts of tingling in the mouth, much like the continuous crashing symbols from the song. The wine is complex, and changes direction much like the song's tempo as it rises and falls. And again, the obvious: "Pink Champagne on ice."

4. Rockbare Shiraz from Australia with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama
To me, nothing says rock and roll quite like Australian Shiraz by Rockbare. Heck, flip over the bottle and you'll see a picture of the winemakers; the photo looks like a CD cover. This is because the winemakers are also in a band, and that rock star mentality is showcased in this bottle. Sweet Home Alabama is forward and spicy, much like the fruit-forward style of the wine with its spicy cracked pepper flavors and aromas. Both are big and loud, yet easy to enjoy. Plus, the wine and the song have the whole southern thing going on...Rockbare is just a little further south.

5. Talley Vineyards Chardonnay from California with Boston's More Than A Feeling
Think big and powerful with a mellowing factor. Brian Talley's Chardonnay falls under the category of "Burgundian in style," which means it showcases big, buttery aromas, with plenty of oak on the palate. This wine IS quintessential Californian Chardonnay. And Boston IS quintessential Classic Rock. They are both lively and vivid. The Talley Chardonnay has undergone malolactic fermentation, resulting in a soft, yet balanced palate. More Than A Feeling rocks, but somehow has an easy listening component, making it a great jukebox tune on a Saturday night. Big, bold, and the definition of their industries is the moral of the story here.

6. Gaja Barbaresco from Italy with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
When people think Barbaresco, they often think Gaja. His wines break down barriers and define a new style of Italian wine. Queen, along with their song Bohemian Rhapsody, are in the same boat. Queen is equally innovative in the Classic Rock category. Bohemian Rhapsody broke down borders to define a new style of Classic Rock. The wine and the tune are both powerful, yet elegant. This wine has depth and layers, while maintaining harmony and balance. The song, layered with harmony to the point that it's more like a symphony piece than a rock song, mirrors the wine. In addition, Barbaresco is considered the feminine red of the Piedmont region of Italy, queen to king Barolo. As for Queen...well...they have Freddie Mercury.

7. Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from California with the Rolling Stone's (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
The Stones, while Euro, helped define Rock and Roll in the United States. Their upbeat music and rocky edge make them a great partner for a young Californian iconic Cabernet like Caymus. Youthful Cabs are tannic and rustic, but when done well show great depth and complexity. The harder sound of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction is a perfect compliment to the rugged tannins in this youthful cab. Plus, the the wine and the band are known and respected by all, whether you care for them or not. When you think Stones, think Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon.

8. Newton 'Unfiltered' Merlot from California with Steve Miller Band's Keep On Rock'n Me
Baby, baby, baby, keep on Rock'n Merlot! Did you know it's almost hip to like Merlot again? The grape is making a big come back, and it's taking names and kicking some a$$. When I think of the rock'n, up-tempo style of this song, I think a good-quality, artisan Merlot. While Merlot grows all over the state of California, the best come from Napa Valley. This wine is big and bold, with structure and complexity, much like the song. Big guitar riffs, monster vocals, but complex with its harmony and depth. The unfiltered style of Newton's Merlot showcases the unadulterated side of Merlot. Much like Steve Miller Band's Keep On Rockn' Me showcases an unadulterated style of music. This pairing deserves a platinum record.

9. Penley Estate Shiraz/Cabernet 'Condor' from Australia with Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way
Great rhythm, bold, harmonious. That's what the Penley Estate's Condor blend is to me. This pairing works well because, like this wine, Fleetwood Mac is blend of unique voices, talents, and personalities. This song highlights the harmony-rich, yet upbeat music the band is capable of delivering. A powerful red is needed to stand up to the rockin' tempo that Go Your Own Way brings. When you close your eyes and taste this wine, you experience the bright red fruit and spice from the Shiraz wrapped in the dark fruit and structure of Cabernet Sauvignon. Same with the song, you can hear the structure of Lindsey Buckingham softened by the beautiful and spicy Stevie Nicks.

10. Seghesio Zinfandel from California with Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride
The final pairing on this top ten list has a special place in my heart. Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride starts with a key rock 'n' roll ingredient, electric guitar. The song is powerful and loud, leaving even your 80-year-old grandmother tapping her food. To stand up to a song like this, we had to bring in the big guns, California's former flagship varietal, Zinfandel. Seghesio makes outstanding Zinfandels that are big, bold, powerful, and spicy. This is the perfect compliment for a rockin' good song like Magic Carpet Ride. The energy and power of the song is enhanced by the intense flavors and aromas of the wine. While Steppenwolf is from Canada and Zinfandel is a US wine, together they make a pairing that rocks the North American continent.

Well, there you go. A list of the top ten wine and classic rock pairings. Some of these descriptions may sound like a stretch, but try them out. The music will fill your ears, while the wine satisfies the rest of your senses, and together they'll take you places you've never been. And at the end of the day if you don't like the pairing, at least you have great music and great wine!

I realize plenty of great classic rock bands and songs didn't make it on this top ten list, so please feel free to shoot me an email, look me up on Facebook, or simply leave a comment right here on the blog with your favorite wine and classic rock music match.

Looking for more pairings? Check out Cru Wine Online's NEW Daily Wine and Recipe pairings. We have chefs from across the country sending us recipes, that we pair each day with delicious wines in an entertaining video short, complete with a brief explanation of the wine, the dish, and the pairing. Subscribe today for a 6 Month Membership and receive a FREE set of Cru 'Daily' Glasses, a $19.95 value. Life's too short not to enjoy every sip, so drink it up. Entertain your senses with Cru Wine Online's monthly membership. At only $7.99/month, you can't afford not to! Until next time thanks for reading.

Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director