HELLO SoS readers!!!!

First of all- THANK YOU to Heather for letting me ramble on entertain you all with my musings! I am Sarah, and I blog over at Savoring Sarah. Usually it is about food, restaurants, and festivals, but, with a wedding looming in July, there is a spattering of wedding/fashion chatter in there as well! Oh, yeah, and sometimes I run races and sprint triathlons.

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(FYI, it was VERY VERY hard to find a picture of myself either A)not making a RIDICULOUS face, or B)drinking wine. Hard, as in impossible. See how much fun I am!?)

You *might* remember me from this summer- I was one of Heathers’ roomies at HLS!

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And other than being a HUGE SoS fan, I am a public health educator and I live in the boonies. AKA, Northern Michigan. If we were standing face to face, I would be pointing at a random spot on my hand to explain where I live. The mitten, you know??

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No? Okay, well anyway. WAYYYYY up there. But living in the boonies has its perks. I am skilled at starting fires with sticks, shucking more ears of corn in a minute than you could in an hour, I am immune to the smell of manure, and I have a lot of time to cook & drink wine.

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In fact, I think I started cooking because of my love of wine! Northern Michigan is-surprisingly-becoming known worldwide for its vineyards. My experience with wine started at 18. My first job was as a waitress in a hoighty-toighty high end restaurant..like, they actually served food on REAL PLATES! I kid, I kid. But I did take SEVERAL classes on wine, and – before I had ever even tasted wine- I could pick out aromas.

Nowadays, I spend most of my spare time wine tasting, going to food and wine festivals, and drinking wine on the weekends. I wanted to share with you some pointers on pairing wine with your food, and some great recipes to start you out!

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Rule #1:

There are no rules. Drink what you like! What you like to drink always takes precedence over any recommendation that I might make.

That being said, wine and food could be comparable to an intimate relationship. Any 2 (or 3, or 4, or more…a la the Bachelor Pad hot tub?!) can be paired together, but certain combinations are dynamic, or sensual, or explosive, or straight up dysfunctional. This is simply my guide to making the most of your culinary marriages Open-mouthed

Start by thinking about the dish or meal as a whole. Is it mild or flavorful? Spicy? Sweet? Is it rich or acidic? Light? Heavy? Ultimately, the wine you choose should taste good on its own yet elevates the flavors of your food by complementing, mirroring, or contrasting. Brush up on some terminology here.

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I am skipping over the basic wines we generally hear the most about- chardonnay, cabernet & merlot..not to mention the “big three’s” wild step sister, white zin. White zin really is best served out of a box during a rousing game of slap the bag. You KNOW I know you know what I’m talking ‘bout…

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So let’s dabble into some lesser known, but INCREDIBLY delicious and versatile varieties.

Gewurztraminer:

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Exotic and fruity aromas of lychee, rose petal, apricot, pear, and clovelike spice (gewurz is  German for spice). Gewurztraminer is most often made in a dry or off-dry style, though sweet versions can be found (dominant in Northern Michigan!).

Dry/off-dry pairs well with fruit, poultry, and dense fish like swordfish or mahi mahi. It also is perfectly paired with spicy foods. The sweet versions are best suited for appetizers like bruschetta, cheese plates and desserts like fruit pies & milk chocolate dishes.

From Savoring Sarah (SS): Mango Curried Chicken

From Side of Sneakers(SOS): Salmon with Mango Orange Salsa

Pinot Gris:

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Pinot Gris has flavors ranging from apple, pear, and peach to melon, citrus, banana, and tropical fruit. Occasionally, there’s also a vaguely smoky, nutty, or vanilla taste that suggests oak. Pinot Gris is known for its soft texture and good acidity; few dry white wines are as silky smooth as a good Pinot Gris. The wine is called Pinot Grigio in Italy, where it is made in a leaner (lighter) style with crisp acidity.

Pinot Gris brings out the best in pasta, ravioli, anti pasti, mild fish (tilapia, whitefish), and briny seafood like oysters. Because of its acidity, it does not do well with cream based sauces (think of what happens when you squeeze a lemon into milk…curdle!!!).

From SS: Spaghetti with Spicy Sausage, Artichokes and Peas

From SOS: Tilapia ‘Fish Sticks’

Riesling

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Riesling, aka the MAC DADDY of wines in Northern Michigan, is considered by most connoisseurs to be one of the world’s greatest (if not the greatest) white wine. It can be made in the full spectrum of styles, from bone dry to incredibly sweet and rich. Rieslings age best of all white wines, so the longer that bad boy sits, the more complex the flavors become.

Rieslings typically have strong aromas of apples, peaches, pears, with crisp mineral/steel background. When made with riper, late-harvest fruit, Riesling displays varying intensities of a honeylike character.

Rieslings go wonderfully with fruit salads, soft cheeses, veggie centered poultry dishes, crostini, and savory desserts (to balance the sweetness Rieslings posses) like goat cheesecake, bittersweet chocolate, and shortbreads.

From SS: Herbed Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

From SOS: Pineapple Cashew Quinoa

Sauvignon Blanc

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A dry wine made in a variety of styles, sometimes called Fume Blanc in the United States, Sauvignon Blanc has a grassiness or green herbaceousness, like the fresh scent of spring in bloom. White melon, grapefruit, and subtle fig to white peach, pineapple, mango. Sauvignon Blanc ranges from buttery and rich to crisp and light.

Personally, I like my Sauvignon straight up. This is my go to sipping wine because it is so light and balanced and flavorful. When paired with food, however, I think it tastes best with spicy asian foods, grilled foods, white and cream based seafood dishes and pizza.

From SS: Grilled Satay Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce

From SOS: Shrimp and Grits

Barolo:

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Made from the Nebbiolo grape; other reds made from this grape include Nebbiolo (lightest), Barbaresco (medium), Barolo is deepest, fullest flavored. Bouquet of violets, smoke and rose, with flavors of cherry, truffle, fennel, licorice and tar. High levels of tannin- which some people are sensitive to, so be careful!

Pair with earthy &  rich foods, like beef, lamb, mushrooms, full flavor cheeses and coffee based desserts.

From SS: Sundried Tomato & Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabellas

From SOS: Pimento Cheese Smothered Filet with Roasted Broccoli

Sangiovese

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Sangiovese is a unique grape that has high acidity and a thin skin, which makes it difficult to master. Spicy black cherries, plum, vanilla, oak and other unripe fruit flavors are most prominent. The dryness makes it a great wine to pair with entrees, but can be difficult to find an appropriate dessert that matches well.

The acidity makes it perfect to drink with any tomato-based dish, pastas, and hearty meat stews, particularly of the Italian style.

From SS: Tomato & Leek Braised Chicken
From SOS:
Vegan Eggplant Parm

When it comes to pairing food with wine, never forget Rule #1- NO RULES! The more you experiment with wine and food, the more you teach yourself. And that really is the best way to learn- in the kitchen, with a glass of good wine.

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Are you a wine lover? What’s your favorite kind of wine?