Sip it, stir it, sauté with it—cooking with wine is a great way to upgrade your favorite dishes.
(W&S 93 pt., Yet another 2017 Spanish deal for under $15. It’s hearty enough for grilled Ribeye yet not too heavy to enjoy with a hunk of Menchego or bowl of cured olives. I’m also a fan of this wine with dark chocolate. Just sayin’. )
(A super-drinkable Bordeaux for 10 bucks. This mostly Cab Franc and Merlot blend hails from Casteillo Côtes de Bordeaux, a region within Bordeaux. This wine packs a punch, which makes it ideal with everything from grilled, fully loaded burgers to grilled lamb chops. You can buy this by the case. Can’t go wrong.)
(Parker 90 pt., If you’ve followed Jones Is Thirsty for any length of time then you know I’m a big Charles Smith fan—whether it’s his Velvet Devil Merlot or Chateau Smith Cab. This crisp, off-dry, German-style Riesling is flat-out awesome too. Tons of yummy apple and peach flavors. Hands down one of my favorite wines spicy Thai or Indian.)
(Vinous 90 pt., Mathilde is the daughter of renown Rhône winemaker Michel Chapoutier, and the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. This dry, refreshing mid-weight blush is perfect for tailgating or a fall block party. Good stuff!)
(WS 91 pt., A Rhône red blend with lots of spice and dark cherry flavors. Pour me a glass or two with my smoked brisket or grilled lamb chops. Totally worth the splurge.)
(Decanter 90 pt., One of my top picks for Cabs under $15. Even if you don’t live near a Costco, it’s a deal at $15! Better still, Los Vascos is the Chilean outpost for the famed Domaines Barons de Rothschild, so there’s real winemaking muscle in the bottle.)
(JS 93 pt., This hefty red is super-drinkable with tons of fruit and a touch of smokiness. A real value from the Uco Valley, which is basically the Napa Valley of Mendoza. Cool nights and warm days produce a rich red with plenty of acidity.)
(W&S 92 pt., You’ve heard me rave about Albariño at tastings—it’s one of my favorite, off-the-beaten path white wines. I’ve written about Burgans in the past, and this offering from Pazo Cilleiro is another to add to this list. This lip-smacking, medium-bodied Spanish gem is perfect alongside everything from spicy Asian noodle salad to crab cakes.)
I’m very excited to be participating in 2 outstanding wine and food events this month—both events support organizations doing important work in Birmingham and beyond: Toast to the United Way (Thursday, September 22nd) and Hope for Autumn’s Fall Fizz and Fare Festival (Friday, September 23rd).
In addition to me doing a full wine tasting and education seminar alongside light appetizers, there will be a balloon pop filled with special prizes and silent auction.
$60 per person or $100 per couple—tickets must be purchased in advance (tickets not available at event).
For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
Kress Building Rooftop, 301 19th Street North, Birmingham, AL 35205; Parking is available in the deck next to the building on the 2nd floor.
There will be tastings of sparkling wine and local craft beer (the “fizz”), and local chefs will serve their favorite dishes (the “fare”).
Participating restaurants include GianMarco’s, El Barrio, Homewood Gourmet, Bare Naked Noodles, Brock’s, Vecchia Pizzeria and Mercato, and Icing on the Cookie. Craft beer from Cahaba Brewing and Fairhope Brewing, plus sparkling wines and champagnes from United Johnson Brothers Wine.
In addition to live music, I will auction a private, in-home, 5-course wine dinner for 6 hosted by me and a surprise local chef, and an at-home college football tailgate party for 20-25 from Cahaba Brewing Company and Chris Cullen from El Barrio Restaurante.
$102.49 per person or $153.24 per couple—tickets must be purchased in advance (tickets not available at event).
For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
Clubhouse on Highland, 2908 Highland Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35203
All proceeds will benefit the Hope for Autumn Foundation, a local 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to provide new hope and assistance for families battling childhood cancer, to support innovative research in childhood cancer therapies, and to increase community awareness of childhood cancer and cutting-edge treatment options. Our mission focuses on the patients and research of the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, where 90% of children diagnosed with cancer in the state of Alabama will be treated.
(WS 91 pt., One of my top 2016 picks under $15. Plus it’s a 2009, so you might consider getting a case! This juicy red is perfect with everything from grilled flank steak to baby back ribs.)
(W&S 91 pt., This may just be one of the better red wine values I’ve seen in recent weeks. Not to mention Wine & Spirits magazine named this 2013 vintage “Malbec of the Year.” This hefty red is super-drinkable with tons of fruit and a touch of smokiness. As comfortable with a hunk of Parmesan cheese as it is alongside a ribeye steak.)
(If you’ve followed Jones Is Thirsty for any length of time, then you know how much I love Chablis, and not just in warm weather. This crisp French Chardonnay is perfect for those who want something with more flair than, say, Pinot Grigio, but not something as big and oaky as a California Chardonnay. One of my favorite white wines for tailgating.)
(I don’t know that I’ve ever had a bad bottle of wine from Gérard Bertand. White, red or rosé, Bertrand wines are always the hit of the party and an awesome value. This dry, mid-weight blush is perfect for hanging around the grill or relaxing at the lake. Worth seeking out at your local wine store.)
(W&S 92 pt., This powerhouse red from Sonoma’s famed Chalk Hill appellation is rich and ready for that pepper-rubbed, smoked brisket or grilled lamb chops.)
(WA 93 pt., The 2011 was one of my top under $12 picks last year, and the 2012 edition is just as good. Grab rack of baby back ribs, kick back and relax. Oh, and at this price, buy several bottles if not a case.)
(W&S 92 pt., This may just be one of the better red wine values I’ve seen in recent weeks. I’m a longtime fan of Bousquet. This Malbec, made with organic grapes, is a super-drinkable red with tons of fruit and a touch of smokiness. As comfortable with a hunk of Parmesan cheese as it is alongside a ribeye steak.)
(WE 90 pt., If you only know sweeter-style German Riesling, then you need to take a serious look at this Riesling from Alsace, France. It’s a totally different animal. While there’s a ever-so-slight touch of sweetness, that’s take a backseat to the wine’s fresh acidity and bright citrus flavors. This is a personal favorite with boiled shrimp; also terrific with a good ol’ chicken or tuna salad sandwich.)
(Vinous 90 pt., If you’ve ever been to one of my tastings in the spring or summer, then you’ve probably heard me rave about Albariño—it’s one of my favorite, off-the-beaten path white wines. This lip-smacking, medium-bodied Spanish gem is perfect alongside everything from spicy Asian noodle salad to fish tacos.)
(Parker 91 pt., I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Tinto Negra winemaker Alejandro Sejanovich back in 2012—this guy know his stuff. He also happens to be the Vineyard Director at Catena, one of Argentina’s most respected wineries. Tinto Negra is a full-bodied red with just a touch of oak—perfect for that big ol’ grilled ribeye. And for $14, this wine is a real steal. Buy a case.)
(At less than 10 bucks, this is one of those steals I would buy by the crate if I could. This second-lable ace from respected producer De Morgenzon is a dry, mid-weight blush that’s perfect for a warm day around the grill or relaxing lakeside picnic. Worth seeking out at your local wine store.)
• 2013, Albert Brichot, Château Long-Depaquit, Chablis, France $18
(If you’ve followed Jones Is Thirsty for any length of time, then you know how much I love Chablis, especially in the summertime. Gimme a lobster roll or shrimp burger with a glass of this Brichot Chablis, and I’m a happy man. I suspect you’ll feel the same way.)
• Sokol Blosser, Evolution Red, Oregon $13
(WS 90 pt., This absolutely quaffable blend is freaky and delicious. Freaky because it’s like the platypus of wine—mostly Syrah blended with, let’s see, Sangiovese (the grape in Chianti), Montepulciano (makes those awesome reds from Abruzzo), plus a dash of Evolution White, its sister wine. Pair with burgers, pizza, jerk chicken, barbecue...the list goes on and on.)
• 2012, Castelli del Grevepesa, Clemente VII Chianti Classico, Italy $14
(WS 92 pt., If you like Chianti, then you need to jump on this one. For real. In case you’re keeping score at home, Wine Spectator handed Clemente VII the same score as other 2011 Chiantis three and four times the price. Remember, by law, Classico is 100% Sangiovese, so this old school red delivers lots of dark berry, cherry flavors with a hint of smokiness. Throw a rack or two of baby back ribs on the smoker and get ready for one dandy of a food and wine pairing.)
Every year folks ask for recommendations on great wines suitable for gift-giving or an extra-special occasion. For me, few things are as elegant and celebratory as sparkling wine.
That said, it’s important to remember that all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.
True Champagne blends three grapes: Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir (red), and Pinot Meunier (red), all from the Champagne region of northern France (about a 11/2-hour drive northeast of Paris).
However, sparkling wine is made all over the world—from the United States to Italy to Spain (and practically everywhere in between). As a general rule, Méthode Champenoise (“the Champagne method”) is the phrase you’re looking for on the sparkling wine’s label. This tells you, among other things, the wine has undergone a second fermentation in the bottle, producing millions of tiny bubbles.
Spain’s easy drinking Cava (KAH-vuh) is made in the Champagne method and may just be one of the best values around—it can often be found for less than $12. The most notable Italian sparkler, Prosecco (Pro-SECK-oh), is a fun-loving wine with loads of fruitiness, a touch of sweetness, and soft bubbles.
The market is loaded with terrific sparkling wines from all over the world—here are a few of my favorites:
Using the traditional Champagne method, but a blend of Spanish grapes, creates a rich, mid-weight wine with plenty of complexity. Two years of bottle aging adds a layer of richness to this creamy sparkler without the added price at checkout.
Blanc de Noirs (“white from blacks”) is made from the clear juice of red grapes (typically all Pinot Noir). While there’s no pink tint to the wine, it’s fruitier and more full bodied than regular Brut. Like the still wines under their Chateau label, Domaine Ste. Michelle knows how to deliver quality and value.
The traditional Christmas wine in the Piedmont region of Italy, Moscato d’Asti is more like a sparkler-lite (with less bubbles than it’s peppier cousin spumante). However, the fresh, fizzy (frizzante), lightly sweet qualities of this frothy, low-alcohol wine make it one of the most festive sippers around.
Made using the Charmat method where wine quickly undergoes a second fermentation in large tanks, rather than the slower, in-bottle Champagne method. This speedy step creates a refreshing, easy-drinking sparkler that’s loaded with ripe fruit flavors. No brunch-time Bellini is complete without it.
Non-vintage (NV) Brut is by far the most popular, food-friendly style of sparkling wine. With ripe apple and citrus flavors, this California offshoot of French Champagne house Piper-Heidsieck has a touch of elegance usually reserved for pricier offerings.
When French sparkling wine is made outside of Champagne, it’s called Crémant. But we’re talking the same classic production method, the same high quality grapes, and often at a fraction of the price. This crisp, all-Chardonnay sparkler from Burgundy delivers real bang for the buck.
This is the hot, new category in the world of Champagne, epitomizing the notion of keeping it local. Often referred to as “farmer fizz” by those in the know, these top-notch wines are handcrafted by small, family-owned wineries—and Aubry is one of the best. You pay a few bucks more, but the craftsmanship is unmistakable.
Blanc de Blancs (“white from whites”) is 100% Chardonnay and the lightest style made in the classic Champagne method. With green apple and melon flavors, Schramsberg is a few bucks more than non-vintage Brut (which blends in Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), but it’s a well-crafted wine and solid value if you’re looking for something a bit more refined.
Don’t confuse this rich, full-bodied sparkler with a sweet blush wine, because they’re light years apart. With regal Moët & Chandon parentage (of Dom Perignon fame), étoile uses a small amount of Pinot Noir for its rosy hue. You pay for the limited production and extra bottle aging (in this case, five years). But it’s worth the splurge.
True vintage Champagne is rare, which is always reflected in the price, but it doesn’t always translate to superior quality over its non-vintage brethren. Gaston-Chiquet is a tasty exception delivering both a delicious wine and a great value.
• 2012, Domaine Laroque, France $10
(I’m a sucker for value-priced gems from off-the-beaten-path regions. This 100% Cabernet Franc is from the Languedoc region of France. Historically, this region was known more for it’s massive output of wine than high quality, but that’s changing—and there are plenty of deals for those in the know. Pair this juicy, mid-weight red with everything from sausage and peppers to beef stew.)
• 2013, Burgans, Albariño, Spain $12
(Vinous 90 pt., If you’ve ever been to one of my tastings in the spring or summer, then you’ve probably heard me rave about Albariño—it’s one of my favorite, off-the-beaten path white wines. This lip-smacking, medium-bodied Spanish gem is awesome even in this cooler fall weather. Serve it alongside everything from fish tacos to spicy Asian noodle salad).
• 2014, Albert Brichot, Chablis, France $16
(3 words: Step. Back. Jack. This crisp, unoaked Chardonnay from Burgundy is just what the doctor ordered for lump crab salad, raw oysters or by the glass after a jog around the block. Oh, yeah—Despite what Mr. Rossi says, Chablis is a real place in Burgundy.)
• 2009, Bodegas Abanico Cathar, Spain $15
(WS 92 pt., I love Spanish reds, especially when I can find deals from Ribera del Duero—IMHO a better spot for Tempranillo than Rioja. Anyhow, it’s hearty enough for your favorite grilled steak or thinly sliced smoked brisket. I’m also a fan of this wine with dark chocolate. Just sayin’. )
• 2012, Chateau La Verrière, France $9
(WE 9o pt., A super-drinkable Bordeaux for under 10 bucks. This mostly Cab and Merlot blend hails from Bordeaux Supérieur, a region within Bordeaux. This wine packs a punch, but is surprisingly soft, which makes it ideal with everything from grilled, fully loaded burgers to grilled lamb chops. You can buy this by the case. Can’t go wrong.)
• 2011, Famille Perrin, Côtes du Rhône Villages, France $11
(If there are any bottles of this left by the time I’m through, then I suggest you grab one or two for yourself. This is my go-to Thanksgiving wine. A traditional, full-bodied blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, this dude can easily ride the rollercoaster of textures and flavors at any large gathering.)
• 2013, Burgans, Albariño, Spain $12
(Vinous 90 pt., If you’ve ever been to one of my tastings in the spring or summer, then you’ve probably heard me rave about Albariño—it’s one of my favorite, off-the-beaten path white wines. This lip-smacking, medium-bodied gem is as awesome by the glass as it is with everything from fish tacos to a good ol’ tuna melt).
• 2012, Stelle, Pinot Blanc, California $16
(Like Albariño, Pinot Blanc—yes, it’s kin to Pinot Noir—is also a food-friendly, yet overlooked white. This one comes from cool-climate vineyards near Santa Barbara. This thing begs to be paired with something like sautéed chicken breasts with a lemony butter sauce.)
• 2013, Mollydooker, The Boxer, Shiraz, Australia $23
(WS 93 pt., Listen, the label alone is worth grabbing a bottle. But beyond that, this is a powerhouse red that’s, ahem, a knockout. Full-bodied, rich and ready for that pepper-rubbed, smoked brisket or grilled lamb chops.)
• 2012, Norton, Privada, Argentina $19
(WE 93 pt., This may just be one of the better red wine values I’ve seen in recent weeks. I’m a longtime fan of Norton—one of the top names in Argentina. Privada is a Mendoza/Bordeaux blend that’s mostly Malbec along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The result is a super-drinkable red with tons of fruit and a touch of smokiness. As comfortable with a hunk of Parmesan cheese as it is alongside a ribeye steak.)
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