Cart 0 items: $0.00
TOP

Blog

Cindy Lemos
 
October 21, 2016 | Cindy Lemos

Football is Back ... Bring Out the Wine! TROUBLED VERSION

It is gridiron season which means lots of pigskin action, camaraderie and food.  It is also the WinoGal version of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  Granted, my 49ers are currently cellar dwellers – and that is not a good thing when referring to a football team!

If you are not a big football fan, hanging out with friends who are can feel like being in a crowd of people speaking a foreign language.  Not to worry, though.  Knowing a few key words will up your football “creds”.  For instance, pigskin refers to the actual ball thrown in this game, and gridiron refers to the field upon which the game is played.  You might also think that drinking wine with a group of beer-drinking football diehards is out of place, but that’s a thing of the past.

My first experience with fine wine came while working in Yosemite.  Having been a bartender as a college student in San Diego, it was easy to segway into bartending at the popular Loft in Yosemite Village after graduation.  It was seasonal work, though.  Fortunately, in late August, Stewart Good, Food and Beverage Director at the Ahwahnee Hotel, recruited me to join his wine staff.  (By the way, Stewart is still at the Ahwahnee overseeing the food and beverage staff!)

Knowing that there are many things to learn about fine wine, Stewart didn’t allow newbies to pour wine at events or in the main dining room until multiple education levels were achieved.  So my first fall was spent in the Indian Room Bar at the Ahwahnee and, of course, football was in full swing.

Beer is traditionally the beverage of choice for football fans, but with the Ahwahnee touting over 130 stellar wines from all over the world, we served many glasses of wine in the Indian Room.  The hotel also featured a gourmet football menu, and so began my food pairing experience!  My years in Yosemite as a wine steward and sommelier led me to experiment with my own flavor combinations, pairing food and wine to enhance social gatherings on a daily basis.

Today, I enjoy hosting football parties at home and have put together a collection of my favorite game recipes along with wines to pair with each.  I’m happy to share a few of them below.  Pick one or two, add a few more dishes like a fresh salad with dried cranberries and walnuts, and your gourmet gridiron party is sure to be the talk of the season!

Pinot Grigio is the perfect choice for those who prefer white wines.  The Middle Ridge Pinot Grigio is crisp and refreshing with lots of apple and pear flavors and pairs nicely with cheese plates and fall salads, bratwurst or a deep fried turkey.  If you are the party host, try something daring like Truffle Fries.  Fear not!  They are really simple:

Use large russet potatoes – you can even leave the skin on, just wash well.  Cut off both rounded ends and then slice the potato lengthwise repeatedly to get – well, fries!

Be sure your deep fryer has clean oil, and heat to the maximum temperature.  Fry in batches, being careful not to overload the basket because you want crispy fries.

When fries are golden brown and floating on the top of the fryer, remove them and let drain on paper towels.

Move fries to a large bowl and drizzle a healthy amount of truffle oil over them and toss well.  Then move fries to a serving plate and finish with a liberal dose of truffle sea salt.  (Both of these ingredients can be found in gourmet spice shops and/or specialty markets designed for foodies.)

For red wine lovers, Middle Ridge's Lily Rock Merlot is an excellent choice as it is the perfect accompaniment to baby back ribs slathered in a spicy sauce.  Its smooth berry flavors melded with just a hint of tannins are enhanced when paired with another football favorite – chili!  While everyone has their own favorite chili recipe, this one is easy and sure to be a crowd pleaser: 

1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large jalapenos, chopped (with or without seeds)
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 Tbsp each – powdered garlic, powdered onion & cumin
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
OPTIONAL:  up to 1 Tbsp chili flakes, depending upon your preference for heat!
2 large cans of red kidney beans, drained
1 ear of corn, left in the husk & smoked on the BBQ grill
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped (you'll want 2 cups of chopped tomatoes)

Start with a large, deep pan.  Alternatively, if you are planning to transport the chili or keep it warm in a crock pot, you may first use a sauté pan and then transfer the meat mixture to the crock pot when adding the final ingredients. 

Brown the onion and jalapenos in 2 Tbsp olive oil, then add the ground meat and sauté until cooked.   Add in all seasonings and mix well.   Remove the husk & silk from the corn and then very carefully, stand the corn on its large end on the cutting board and cut the corn from the cob using a sharp knife. 

Add kidney beans, corn kernels and tomatoes into the chili and mix well.  Cover and leave on low heat, setting for at least 2 hours to allow tomatoes to break down and the flavors to fully develop. 

Serve with grated cheddar cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes and chopped scallions. 

For those who enjoy a full bodied red wine, Middle Ridge's Meritage is an excellent choice.   The hearty cherry/berry flavors and developed tannins are the perfect pairing for a smoked beef brisket or beef ribs with a hearty BBQ sauce.  A lot of people are afraid to do their own brisket when, in reality, the oven version is really quite simple – the secret is to cook the brisket “low and slow” the day before the football party:

20 lb beef brisket – Keep in mind that you lose approximately half of the weight during cooking, so plan accordingly.  A good rule of thumb is at least 6 ounces of finished brisket per guest.  Having leftovers is a good thing, so don't be afraid to buy extra meat.

Put the brisket, fat cap down, into a deep roasting pan.  Set your oven or smoker to 225 degrees.

2 cups of whole fruit juice, depending on what sort of flavor you wish to cultivate.  Pineapple acts as a natural meat tenderizer, so your meat will break down more and may cause it to finish faster than apple, pear, pomegranate or even cherry juice, so keep that in mind.  A mix of fruit juice can also be used, so be creative depending on what else you are serving that day.

Add seasonings to the juice & mix well:

1 Tbsp each – powdered garlic, powdered onion and cumin
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp each – smoked paprika and chili powder

Using a food syringe found in specialty kitchen stores, carefully draw the seasoned juice into the syringe.  Pierce the meat, being careful not to fully penetrate the meat to the bottom of the roasting pan.  Depress the plunger and watch as the juice swells the meat as it absorbs the juice.

Repeat this process across the top of the brisket, piercing the flesh at one inch intervals.  When the brisket begins to leak juice during this process, you know that you have it fully saturated.

Now make a rub using the exact seasoning ingredients noted above for the juice infusion and rub across the entire surface of the brisket.

You are now ready to put brisket into the oven or smoker.  Expect this to take at least 10-12 hours.  You want the internal temperature to be 195 degrees when finished.  Use a meat thermometer to check this after 10 hours.

And there you have it … wine and football go very well together!  So grab some bottles of your favorite Middle Ridge wine, plan a football-themed menu and tune to your favorite team's game this weekend. 

Cheers! 

Time Posted: Oct 21, 2016 at 3:36 PM
Cindy Lemos
 
October 22, 2015 | Cindy Lemos

Football is Back ... Bring out the Wine!

It is gridiron season which means lots of pigskin action, camaraderie and food.  It is also the WinoGal (that would be me!) version of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  Granted, my 49ers are currently cellar dwellers – and that is not a good thing when referring to a football team!

If you are not a big football fan, hanging out with friends who are can feel like being in a crowd of people speaking a foreign language.  Not to worry, though.  Knowing a few key words will up your football “creds”.  For instance, pigskin refers to the actual ball thrown in this game, and gridiron refers to the field upon which the game is played.  You might also think that drinking wine with a group of beer-drinking football diehards is out of place, but not any more!

My first experience with fine wine came while working in Yosemite.  Having been a bartender as a college student in San Diego, it was easy to segway into bartending at the popular Loft in Yosemite Village after graduation.  It was seasonal work, though.  Fortunately, in late August, Stewart Good, Food and Beverage Director at the Ahwahnee Hotel, recruited me to join his wine staff.  (By the way, Stew is still at the Ahwahnee overseeing the food and beverage staff!)

Knowing that there are many things to learn about fine wine, Stew didn’t allow newbies to pour wine at events or in the main dining room until multiple education levels were achieved.  So my first fall was spent in the Indian Room Bar at the Ahwahnee and, of course, football was in full swing.

Beer is traditionally the beverage of choice for football fans, but with the Ahwahnee touting over 130 stellar wines from all over the world, we served many glasses of wine in the Indian Room.  The hotel also featured a gourmet football menu, and so began my food pairing experience!

My years in Yosemite as a wine steward and sommelier led me to experiment with my own flavor combinations, pairing food and wine to enhance social gatherings.  And every fall, I enjoy hosting football parties and have put together a collection of my favorite game-day recipes along with wines to pair with each.  I’m happy to share a few of them below.  Pick one or two, add a few more dishes like a fresh salad with dried cranberries and walnuts, and your gourmet gridiron party is sure to be the talk of the season!

Pinot Grigio is the perfect choice for those who prefer white wine.  The Middle Ridge Pinot Grigio is crisp and refreshing with lots of apple and pear flavors and pairs nicely with cheese plates and fall salads, bratwurst or a deep fried turkey.  If you are the party host, try something daring like Football Truffle Fries.  Fear not!  They are really simple.

For red wine lovers, Middle Ridge's Lily Rock Merlot is an excellent choice as it is the perfect accompaniment to baby back ribs slathered in a spicy sauce.  Its smooth berry flavors melded with just a hint of tannins are enhanced when paired with another football favorite – my Kickoff Chili!  While everyone has their own favorite chili recipe, this one is easy and sure to be a crowd pleaser.

If you enjoy a full bodied red wine, Middle Ridge's Meritage is an excellent choice.   The hearty cherry/berry flavors and developed tannins are the perfect pairing for my smoked beef Touchdown Brisket or beef ribs with a hearty BBQ sauce.  A lot of people are afraid to do their own brisket when, in reality, the oven version is really quite simple – the secret is to cook the brisket “low and slow” the day before the football party.

And there you have it … wine and football go very well together!  So grab some bottles of your favorite Middle Ridge wine, plan a football-themed menu and tune into your favorite team's game this weekend.

Cheers!

Time Posted: Oct 22, 2015 at 11:06 AM
Cindy Lemos
 
June 30, 2015 | Cindy Lemos

Introducing ... Lily Rock Cellars

There's a new wine label in the Middle Ridge family and after trying their debut wine – the Lily Rock Cellars 2009 Merlot – I have to admit, I am smitten. Also known as Tahquitz Rock, this huge monolith of granite rises over Idyllwild and was made legend by native tribes who told tales of disappearing maidens and boulder battles between braves and an evil chief that tore deep holes in the earth, forming the local lakes.  Today it is a favorite of rock climbers as the sheer granite pitches rival some of the challenging climbs found in Yosemite.

Merlot is my favorite wine grape, bar none.  It was disparaged for no good reason by Miles in the popular wine flick Sideways, which led to a real life collapse in Merlot sales.  However, it turns out his coup de grâce 1961 Cheval Blanc that he opens at the end of the movie is made from Cabernet Franc and yes, MERLOT! 

Merlot is a sibling of Cabernet Sauvignon, and both share Cabernet Franc as their proud papa.  It is one of the five grapes of Bordeaux that can be used in any combination in the popular American Meritage blends.  (Note:  Pronounce Meritage like “heritage”.  After all, we are Americans, not stuffy French oenophiles!)

Merlot's mother is a little known, but prolific grape varietal called Madeleine de Noire Charentes.  She also begat Malbec, another of the five red grapes of Bordeaux blends.

The fruit in the Lily Rock Cellars 2009 Merlot hails from the esteemed Russian River Valley, and I was hooked by the first sniff.  An intoxicating bouquet of cherries rushes your senses and is carried through in the taste of this delightful wine.  It is silky smooth with lush Bing and bright red cherries, and it finishes with a strong undertone of well-developed tannins – no bite here!  There's a hint of northern California produce throughout, reminiscent of baby spinach, which adds to the complexity of this wine.

It is the perfect match for a bacon-wrapped filet mignon with grilled asparagus.  It also would be stellar with a salad of baby spinach sprinkled with dried cherries, roasted walnuts, and a bit of crumbled Mexican queso fresco, all generously coated in a warm bacon dressing served with crusty sourdough garlic bread. 

Cheers!

Time Posted: Jun 30, 2015 at 7:20 AM
Cindy Lemos
 
June 29, 2015 | Cindy Lemos

Nothing Sweet About This Rosé

2014 Vin Gris of Pinot NoirNormally, when a rosé is poured into my glass, I expect a sugar rush to accompany the first sip.

Not the new Middle Ridge 2014 Vin Gris!  The color is a beautiful salmon pink and it is decidedly on the dry side.  Winemaker Chris says it has aromas of pear and lychee – I'm unfamiliar with lychee so I looked it up.  It is the sole member of the Soapberry family. {wildly unhelpful!}  I also see that it's popular in southern Asian cuisine.  As I have no experience with it, I'm putting it on my shopping list to check out.  However, the pear on the nose is unmistakable.  

Rolling it around in my mouth, the pear is still there and is joined by a burst of strawberries, finishing with a smooth cranberry love bite. 

This is a blush of Pinot Noir.  It retains earthy undertones of the varietal and I immediately went to the refrigerator to pull out some gorgonzola.  That was a bit too much, so I added a wedge of brie, put both in the microwave to warm them up and voila!  The melding of sharp and creamy cheeses pairs perfectly with this wine and really brings out the strawberries in this delightful rosé. 

The fruit for this wine was sourced from the Santa Rita Hills, home to the Pinot Noirs made famous in the movie Sideways.  The region's fruit has always been stellar, however, Pinot Noir is extremely finicky and hard to grow.  It is a thin-skinned grape and needs the cool ocean breezes and almost perfect soil to reach its potential.  It's a wimp of a grape really ... you won't find Pinot Noir clinging to a steeply terraced hillside like Cabernet Sauvignon.  Then even with the best fruit, it requires a talented winemaker to create a truly exceptional wine. 

Hence, you'll rarely find a rose made from a Pinot Noir.  Most winemakers simply aren't up to the challenge.  Our Mad Scientist from Idyllwild was not daunted.  Nor would he knuckle under to popular thought which would dictate a sweeter wine in the finished product.

The result is a smooth, dry, crisp rosé with gorgeous color and perfectly balanced acid.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled salmon or a juicy pork chop – either of which would be awesome with a savory pear sauce.  I plan to enjoy another glass with some bacon/gorgonzola/brie stuffed mushrooms on a bed of greens with pear balsamic vinaigrette.

Cheers!  Oh, and while you're enjoying a glass of Vin Gris, read more about it in the summer newsletter, including an interview with Winemaker Chris.  Carry on!

Time Posted: Jun 29, 2015 at 7:50 AM
10% Off!
Sign our guestbook to receive news & updates ... & get 10% off your next wine purchase.