Tradition Domaine Riesling – Mittnacht-Klack

Mittnacht-Klack Sunday Night’s Diner: Seared Pork Chops topped with Homemade Applesauce and Roasted Potatoes

I started on a health kick when I returned from my last trip. While I was away I ate however I wanted; chips, ham, beef, bread from Ireland, fried cheese, kabobs and pastries from Turkey and giant pretzels from Germany. Sure, it was delicious, but I really needed to back off, especially because we have all of those things in America and worse – they aren’t as good so you feel like you need twice as much!

Well here I am off white breads and fries and I’m really feeling the pain. On Thursday I had made some homemade applesauce. There is hardly any added sugar in it, but it just smells and tastes sweet. I took a bunch of sliced apples, skin on and boiled them down with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. This got me thinking of pork chops. I just love the flavours of apple and pork together. Pork chops and apple is such a fall meal too; it’s warm and hearty and decadent. My idea for the potatoes spawned from my NEED for fries, but I couldn’t have them! So I chopped an onion and potatoes and threw them in a casserole dish and baked the crap out of them. I added some cheesy pull apart bread for those that could have it because I thought cheddar and apples – who can go wrong with that.

I chose a dry Alsacian … Alsation – well it was from Alsace – Riesling, from Raleigh Wine Shop. I thought a Riesling from this area would work the best because I didn’t want sweet, but I love the taste of Riesling with white meats and light tasting foods (potatoes, apples). There was barely any smell to it, but the taste was excellent. Medium-bodied for a Riesling, enough weight in the mouth and the citrus worked nicely with the meal. As my family tasted it, we agreed that the meal was making the wine taste better. The flavour of the pork and spiced apples help create the roundness of the wine – to complete it.

For those who think all whites are bad and also that they should be left to summer, I must implore you to change your Riesling Winemind. German whites aren’t harvested in the summer, they are barely grown in any heat at all – it’s cold up North. Although this is a French wine, it takes on the nature of it’s German neighbor – it is great with fall foods, it’s dry and light. It doesn’t even need to be chilled all that much, in fact ours was probably around 40° F. I fear any colder and we might have lost valuable taste. Anyways, that’s just my spiel, wines should get equal tasting!

On the back of the wine, there is a nice little anecdote. It only makes me want to visit the lands between France and Germany more where Alsace resides. It’s an area that has been fought over many times and has resulted in becoming a wonderful mix of cultures. I hope to one day visit and walk from one country to the other, I hear it’s beautiful.

Salut my friends.


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Truant Zinfandel – Four Vines

ZinfandelThere nothing quite like Sunday night dinners with the family and the few here in North Carolina is really only half of mine. For the next few weeks I’m going to plan, buy, create and blog about a dish and wine pairing randomly chosen. (Well, not too random, I’ll choose the varietal) I’m going to pick a dish and the varietal I believe to pair nicely with the food, then go and choose a wine from one of our fabulous North Carolina owned and operated wine stores.

Trying new wines is one of the ways we learn more about wine. There is something to be said for finding our favourites and always buying those, but new wines are being made everyday! Our flavour profiles change as well. One day you may not like beets and the next you find you love them. Beets have an earthy flavour, which could in turn change your love of earthy tasting wines. It happens!

I’ll be doing these Sunday night dinners until Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’ll learn something new, either about wine, about food or about yourself. Let’s get started.

Dad and Bro’s 3 Meat Chili – paired with “Truant” Zinfandel – Four Vines, California 2010

I never really liked chili until I had my father/brother’s recipe. It’s got ground beef, chunks of sirloin steak and italian sausage. It might even have chorizo, who really knows… It also has strange ingredients like chocolate and espresso powder, but there is just something about it that makes it the epitome of comfort food. With a little cheddar cheese and cornbread or like last night we had blue corn chips; it just screams home.

I knew that the chili was going to be made so after work I ran over to Great Grapes in Cary. I had forgotten they were have a huge sale and wine tasting, but managed to slip in and out pretty easily. It really is Great! now that they have more room with that newly built other side. I walked in and found the Zinfandel section, I knew I needed fruit forward, depth of flavour and a medium amount of tannin. (Fruit because of the chocolate and the spiciness. Depth of flavour to mingle with the chili’s depth and tannin to melt with all the meat.)  I chose two different kinds, Truant and another from the same area, California – chili is such an American food and California has the best zins. I asked Lisa, a lovely woman I’ve spoken with before about wine, which she thought would better handle spice and stand up to the intense flavours in the chili – Truant.

Truant is very new the Four Vines, formerly without a name, now fits nicely in their line. On the bottle they describe Zinfandel“Truant” as a student who intentionally steps away from compulsory schooling without authorized leave or explanation. As Four Vines describes it on their website, “someone who slips away from the confines of everyday routine.” Four Vines is a cool winery because they use grapes from all over and don’t simply pick from one appellation*. In this case Four Vines uses grapes from all over California to make Truant, it also blends other grapes with the main grape, “zinfandel.” Truant is 77% Zinfandel, 13% Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah, 3% Barbera and 2% Sangiovese.

Tasting notes from the website are dead on, “On the nose there are dark berry notes and spicy notes from oak aging. The wine drinks of juicy blackberry, ripe plums and a touch of blueberry. Generous in fruit flavors, plenty of structure and a velvety finish.” I loved that this wine wasn’t too spicy because it didn’t try to overpower the chili. It also cooled the palate and increased the underlying hints of cumin, sausage and sweetness of the tomatoes. I thought this was a good wine and good varietal for chili because they worked so well together!

If you’re going to be serving chili as we move into these Winter months, choose a wine to complement the chili’s good aspects – whether that be intense spice, intense flavour, lots of earthy beans or more beef. Whatever you’re chili is like, it’s hard to lose with a nice Californian Zinfandel.

*Also from the website if you were curious as to where in California the grapes were grown. “Grapes from vineyards in Paso Robles, Mendocino County, Cucamonga Valley, Lodi, Amador County and Russian River Valley go into Truant. Our Old Vine vineyard sources typically range from 30 to 100 years in age.”

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Grove Winery and Vineyards – Red, White and Blues Festival

Grove Winery FestivalIf you know anything about North Carolina you know it’s riddled with the smallest towns you’ve ever driven through, making you buckle your seatbelt, roll up the windows and re-lock the doors (just to be sure). Before GPS, you’d have asked yourself if your final destination was worth it and “maybe we should turn back?” After GPS, you’re still wondering if your iPhone isn’t just playing a joke (certainly this road isn’t a highway?). However, if we had turned back we would have missed a little gem situated amongst cow pastures and corn fields; Grove Winery and Vineyards – Gibsonville, NC.

Though I didn’t know it until now, I’m a sucker for those real North Carolinian events; the ones that make me proud to live here, maybe even to be called ‘Southern’ *gasp*. Wondering what constitutes a “real” North Carolinian event?

  • Beards (there were many, see photo above)
  • BBQ (a smoker full of ribs and chicken, collards and hushpuppies on the side)
  • Music (any instrument with strings)
  • Tasty Beverages (Wine, beer, shine? not here)
  • Outdoor Venues

The Red, White and Blues Festival at Grove Winery though an hour and a half’s drive from Raleigh opened before us with grape vines, seating area, tasting room and the best weather we could ask for. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, Grove Winery is actually the winery I volunteered for during the Great Grapes festival in Cary 3 years ago. Grove Winery has great wine and they have won loads of awards for them! We sat down to listen to Blues music from some terrific artists, drink a couple bottles and eat some local snacks. Some folks brought their own food items, including cheeses, fruit and a whole
lasagna… Yea, that happened.

We tried Roanoke River Red and Haw River White. The Roanoke River Red is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Grove Winery WinesSauvignon, Nebbiolo and Merlot – tannin-y dark fruits with a hint of spice on the palate, nice with cheese to soften. The Haw River White was 100% Chardonel – an interesting varietal tasting more like Viognier than what you may think would have been Chardonnay. Full and heavy mouthfeel, with a medium-high sugar content. It was a nice aperitif to begin with because it was chilled and easy to drink on its own.

We finished the evening with Traminette (Riesling-esque) flavoured sorbet. Dumping the last of the red in our glasses on top of the sorbet was like icing on the cake! What a brilliant evening with my parents and sister. Chalk up another point for North Carolina wine/wineries!

Traminette SorbetTraminette Sorbet

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Boordy Vineyards – Maryland

boordy grapesThere were a few things that made my trip to DC/Maryland special. For one, I was able to bike to and through the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was a beautiful hot August day and there’s nothing that makes you feel young again like the wind in your air as you race along the gravel road. Although I didn’t think it possible, the weekend got even better as my family strode through Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. The scenery is breathtaking and if you’re daring enough to do rock-climbing over rushing water, they have that too.

Anyway, let’s get to the point, Boordy Vineyards near Towson, Maryland.

Boordy Vineyards sits tucked in the center of rolling hills filled with vines and vines of grapes. They have another area in Maryland they call the “South Mountain” where there keep even more vines and grow Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot as a few examples. The main house is a giant barn serving as a type of venue; they have an underground store with another event area in the back (you feel like you’re in the cellars). Also, an element I am very fond of, they had a seperate tasting area. This structure had many employees inside where they were able to open at least 5 windows for group tastings. We didn’t have to wait at all to get going on our tasting and some places with just a bar fill up pretty quickly.

You can choose between two series of wine: The Standard Tasting and the Landmark Tasting.  The woman told us that the Boordy WinesStandard Tasting is for those who like sweeter wine as the tasting includes many of their fruit wines, blushes, semi-sweets, Rieslings and sweet reds. This tasting is $5. The Landmark tasting was more our style, not that I don’t like sweet wine, I do, but the call of the Cabernet Franc Reserve and something called the Landmark Reserve were too much for me. We paid the $10 a piece for 10 1-ounce pours of each in the Landmark Series.

Something fun to mention, I fell in love with the art on the bottles. You can see from the picture, the Landmark Series has their rustic picteresque label showing Boordy vineyards (we are told it was taken with a disposable camera!). The Icons of Maryland Series is probably my favourite showing sketches of Maryland’s wild life beside an artsy typeface.  And if art is your thing, beware the colors and images of the Just for Fun Series – Jazz Berry makes me feel like a trip to New Orleans.

Landmark Series - Boordy Wines

Landmark Series

Icons of Maryland Series - Boordy Wines

Icons of Maryland Series









Oh yea! The wine!

Pinot Grigio – Dry with a round aftertaste. Flavours of citrus splash out of the glass.

Chardonnay – Steel tank and oak mix. Hint of melon pulls out the crispness nicely.

Chardonnay Reserve 2011 – Fermented in new oak barrels resulting in a semi-sweet toasty taste on the tongue. Balanced, dry and one of the best Chardonnay’s I’ve had in a while.

Dry Rose – Only made from free-run juices, made from a mix of red grapes harvested from the South Mountain, delicate and light.

South Mountain Red – Easy drinking red for an afternoon or afterwork drink without food. Fresh cherry on the palate, a little astringent on the nose.

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 – A perfect Cab Franc. Less smokiness than others, yet good white pepperiness, the taste of black pepper can be strong. It’s cedar flavours and  long finish is rich. Certainly one of the favourites still.

Landmark Reserve 2010 – Boasting $40 a bottle, we hoped this had a lot to offer. It did. 69% Merlot, 19% Syrah 6% Cabernet Sauvignon 6% Petit Verdot. Close to a Bordeaux, but softer. Still full bodied with its oak aging. More dark fruits than the South Mountain Red.

Eisling – Almost a Riesling, but not. Not overly sweet, still contains the nice fruit flavours of a Riesling. Honeysuckle breaks through at the finish.

Veritas Vintage Port 2008 – The Port is 18% alcohol and 16% residual sugar. It was light and nice to drink without a dessert companion. Aged in barrels for 2 years.

Well, that’s all for Boordy! The drive up is beautiful, the vineyards have so much to offer and I hear they do parties in the summer each Friday or so. Try and make it up there, we don’t think vineyards in places other than California have anything to offer, but the east coast is full of them if you just know where to look.

Boordy VineyardsWine Tasting - Boordy Vineyards

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Que Syrah, Syrah! Food and Wine Tasting Anniversary Soiree

Food and Wine Party Details35 years… Phew, that’s a long time. Still happily married and they haven’t aged a bit, my parents must be phenolics! (Well, at least they help the wine age longer). I was so happy when I was able to throw them a party for their 35th wedding anniversary last Tuesday, May 28th.  My family has grown up to become lover’s of food, wine and beer and I wanted to showcase their love with a food and wine pairing party. Cheers to the perfect pair!

As we progress through the evening, I’ll use the pictures to show the menu, some of the food and the decorations, as well as our party favours! Coral is the colour of the 35th wedding anniversary and my parent’s wedding colours were peach, cream and brown. Combining these colours helped establish ours – Coral, Cream, Brown.  We even had a carrot cake, just like the one at my parent’s wedding.


Happy Anniversary!

Our first picture to the right shows a picture of my parents as well as a couple bottles of Chateau Montelena.  You may remember this winery from a previous post on Bo Barrett. Chateau Montelena was the winner of the 1976 blind international tasting where a Californian Chardonnay beat out a French Chardonnay.  In 1978, my parents went to Chateau Monetelena on their honeymoon and were able to taste their Chardonnay just 2 years later.  Also, surrounded by the case in the middle are our party favours, bottles of Monogamy and Pro-mis-Q-os to give to our guests.  The bottle of Monogamy comprised of just 1 grape (Cabernet) and the bottle of Pro-mis-Q-os, a blend of reds – guests could decide how they were feeling when they left that evening.


Menu Preparation

The preparations started early and were long and arduous. Pretty much everything was done by hand in the hardest way possible.  What can I say our family just likes to do things the hard way… builds character! The menu was built from scratch. Researching wine and food recipes for days, I compiled tasting notes and food flavour profiles to get the desired pairing I was hoping to achieve. I wanted to choose wines that people may not have ever tasted as well as food that stepped outside the norm of people’s meal library.

The food preparation took 2 days, beginning with a duck in need of drying, apricots in need of dipping and melon in need of draping. My brothers, sister and two friends helped create the night, cooking and serving food as if it were made from thin air. The night ran smoothly and it’s credit to them I must give that the party went so well. I chose difficult items to prepare, but there was a madness to my method and we pulled it off.

My menu was as follows:
Aperitif: Prosecco, Cecilia Beretta, Treviso Italy 2012 – Asparagus and Melon wrapped with prosciutto, assorted cheeses
1: DeMorgezon, Chenin Blanc , Stellenbosch SA 2010 – Fois gras on toasted brioche with apple chutney
2: Bourgogne Blanc, Jean-Philippe Fichet, Burgundy France 2010 – Dover sole meuniere
3. Cune, Crianza, C.V.N.E., Rioja Spain 2009 – Chorizo stuffed dates wrapped with bacon
4. 7x, Red Blend, Tucalota Creek Ranch, Temecula CA 2007 – Stuffed mushrooms
5. Footbolt, Shiraz, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale Australia 2009 – Hoisin Roast Duck
6. Black, Port Quinta do Noval, Douro Valley Portugal 2009 – Apricots dipped in dark chocolate rolled in pistachios

It went so well and I’m so glad for the 40 people we had in attendance, the 6 planners, chefs, servers and the 2 parents who made it all happen. Thanks a million to everyone and cheers to many more to come!

Food and Wine Pairing

Menu and Tasting Notes on the Back

Food and Wine

The Shopping List

Roasted Duck

Roasted Duck on Scallion Pancakes with Hoisin Sauce

Chocolate Covered Apricots

Apricots dipped in Chocolate and Pistachios


Cheese display

Table Decorations

One of our table decorations

Party Planning

The guest’s “kit” for wine tasting


More Decorations

Wine, Monogamy, Pro-mis-Q-os

Keep Calm and Drink Wine

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Great Grapes Wine Festival (Abridged)

ImageAll right, all right… I know. It’s been forever. Good wine takes time – and that’s all I have to say about my lack of focus and contribution to my own blog. I am, however, back in the United States and still looking for the next break-through in wine, beer, spirits and food. It’s nice being back just for the selection and craft breweries here in North Carolina alone. That’s a different post though. This one is strictly about the wine festival about a month ago. A month! What? My assistant didn’t tell me this at all! Who’s in charge here? Oh.

Moving on. Two years ago when I attended the Great Grapes festival – it tornadoed. Or tried to. People ran to their cars! It was a false alarm and my sister and I reaped the benefits of an empty, slightly rainy wine festival area. We calmly walked up to the booths and were able to talk to the owners, winemakers, visitors, volunteers. This year I had to work at 4pm, I got there at 2 and we basically ran around trying what we could. This is serious stuff people. The Needle’s don’t mess around when it comes to trying new wine. So instead of going through the wine I tasted with notes and comments, I’m going to just make a list of the wineries I was able to visit with the name of the wines I like the best. Here goes…

Oh wait… some quick things to know before we proceed. Chambourcin: A grape hybrid, like new hybrid cars with a little more zip. Flavours of Cab Franc, Merlot etc. Traminette: Viognier-like, another grape hybrid, a cross between Gewurtztraminer and grape 4344566 or something like that. It’s good, just know that.

Old Stone Winery (Salisbury, NC) – What She Said Red (Blend), 2010 Cab Franc, 2009 Chambourcin

Southern Charm Winery (Lincolnton, NC) – Edisto Black

Skull Camp (Mount Airy, NC) – Anticipation, Euphoria, Confusion, Flirtation, Dedication

Shadow Springs Vineyard (Hamptonville, NC) – Meritage, Cherry Smash, Apple Mead, Ratafia, Dark Shadow

Owl’s Eye Vineyard and Winery (Shelby, NC) – Traminette, Celebration, Chambourcin

Stonefield Cellars (Stokesdale, NC) – Synchronicity, Dread Pirate Robert’s Bloody Red Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Midnight Moonlight

Rocky River Vineyards (Midland, NC) – Scarlet

Old North State Winery (Mount Airy, NC) – Bare Bones, 2010 Fish Hippie Merlot, Restless Soul

Chatham Hill Winery (Cary, NC) – 2009 Cabernet Sauv, All of their fruit infused wines, Cab Franc, 2011 Riesling

Treehouse Vineyards (Monroe, NC) – “Her Way” Cabernet Sauv.

Slightly Askew WInery (Elkin, NC) – Slut Dog Sin, Numb Knutz, Spiker Dude, Nasty Bastard

Stony Mountain Vineyards (Albermarle, NC) – Sangiovese/Syrah

Grove Winery (Greensboro, NC) – Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Nebbiolo

Herrera Vineyards (Dobson, NC)Tannat, Malbec Rose, Sangria

Hope you can make it next year to see what else North Carolina based wineries have to offer!! A little something more than muscadine!




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A Valley to Fall in Love With


Torbreck Vineyards

The Barossa Valley in South Australia near Adelaide. What’s different about this valley? Simply that Torbreck vineyards can be found nestled, safely located in the Barossa Valley. This vineyard is something to talk about, I’ve had a few different selections and the name has always stood out, but it was only after drinking Cuvee Juveniles that I knew I’d never forget about Torbreck.

Down to it’s differently distinct label, this wine is pretty unique, especially when it comes to taste. You can read up on Torbreck Vineyards as well as Cuvee Juveniles, by clicking on the two names. The abridged story goes like this, Tim Johnston opened a wine bar in Paris called Juveniles. Tim asked David to make a wine especially for the wine bar and David Powell (winemaker of Torbreck wines) did. David also ask Tim’s daughter, Carolyn, to design the label as her other paintings hung on the walls of the wine bar.  Simple, yet captivating.

The link to Cuvee Juveniles gives tasting notes, the break down of the grapes and all the stats. I can only agree that the wine was velvety and full, with a touch of sweet flavour from an overly ripe piece of fruit. Rounded like a nice mulled wine, Cuvee Juveniles had added spice and texture.  Enjoy with game and hard cheeses.

So if you’re bored of the same old Rioja and you’re looking for a new wine or a new region to be excited over, I highly suggest Torbreck Vineyards in the Barossa Valley.


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