Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Persimmon and Wine Pairing

Before I started working on this post, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never tried a persimmon. I’d seen them at the grocery store, but I had no idea what to do with them or if I would like them, so I just took a pass. When I was approached by Persimon brand persimmons to do a wine and food pairing with this unique fruit, I thought it was a good opportunity to learn about another healthy food item I could incorporate into my diet.

Persimon persimmons are from Spain and they’re always ready to eat – they don’t need to be ripened like other persimmons. This is a bonus, as we were able to start working on our recipe right away once they arrived.  They’re also bigger than most persimmons I’ve seen (about the size of a large tomato) and they are sweet – sort of like a mango or peach. They’re actually pretty darn delicious and I would love to try then in a dessert or as a cocktail. These would even work on top of cereal or in yogurt.

Persimons actually have a Denomination of Origin designation from the Spanish government – sort of like some wines have designations for being specific to their area. I thought that was an interesting note. Persimons are grown in the Ribera del Xuquer area of Spain by more than 5000 registered producers.

Shawn and I flipped through the suggested recipes for this challenge and were worried about what to try – my cooking abilities (limited) and food restrictions (no red meat), meant a few of the recipes were off limits.  The one item that we both thought sounded interesting? Gazpacho. That’s a dish with the potential to be both healthy and delicious, but it’s a bit of a wine-pairing conundrum.

Gazpacho has lots of acid (this recipe even calls for vinegar – a wine-pairing no-no) and it’s a tough one to flavour match. So faced with this dilemma, I did what I usually do when dealing with a wine pairing mystery – I picked up my copy of What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page. This book was recommended to me by The Wine Sisters (who have an awesome wine blog and wine events company that you should check out) and they were absolutely right about how useful it is.

There are some pairings that are just tougher than others and having an easy-to-use resource like this one is a huge help in figuring out which wine to choose. So what do they recommend for gazpacho? Dry Sherry, which makes a huge amount of sense. However, I didn’t have any on hand, so I went with the second choice – Sauvignon Blanc. The earthy, vegetal notes in a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would likely work extremely well with this very earthy and veggie-heavy dish. My pick in the photo, since we weirdly had no Sauvignon Blanc either, is the 2009 Stratus white blend, which is 32% Semillon, 31% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier and 4% Gewurztraminer. Would that be a perfect pairing? No, but definitely in the right direction - I'd choose a 100% Sauvignon Blanc if we were to make this recipe again. I would also like to try this with the dry Sherry. And, yes, we'll be stocking up on both soon.

There are a wealth of recipes available on the Persimon website, as well as a contest to win a trip to Spain. I highly recommend you pick some up and try your hand at your own pairings. We won’t be passing these fruits by in the grocery store anymore and look forward to making some Persimon cocktails next!
The fine print: Persimon provided me with the Persimons and a gift card with which to purchase the needed ingredients to make this recipe. All opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wine and Chocolate Holiday Pairing Party

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few wine and chocolate pairing events. It’s a fun alternative to cheese pairing and I am always fascinated by the diversity of flavours and how unique some of the pairings can be. So when Ganong offered me the opportunity to try doing some wine and chocolate pairings for the holiday season, I was quick to say yes.

Chocolate is definitely a sometimes food in our household, but over the holidays it’s nice to indulge a little. I think a wine and chocolate pairing experience can be a great addition to your holiday party and I wanted to provide a few tips from my own experiments to help make yours a success!

A little chocolate goes a long way.
I love the idea of a wine and chocolate pairing party, but when I started my planning I quickly realized that it’s a great companion to a fabulous event. Focussing exclusively on sweet treats sounds awesome in theory, but your guests (and you) may max out much faster than you expect. Try saving the pairing for after your holiday dinner or as a fun addition to a holiday cocktail party where you’re also serving savoury snacks (and lots of water).

Offer a few pairing options.
Wine pairing success is partly skill and partly luck, because a certain amount of your success depends on personal preferences meshing with your selections. While I think dark chocolate and Cabernet Franc is pretty darn awesome (and is one of my personal pairing picks for Ganong plain dark chocolate), a lot of my wineaux friends turn up their nose at that mix of sweet and savoury. Have small wine glasses available and two wines to test per sample. While my Cabernet Franc pick may fall flat with some, they may find their heart soars for dark chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon or even Syrah.

Don’t count out white wines.
While red wine and chocolate seems a lock, don’t completely discount white wines. One of the best Ganong pairings I tried was their white chocolate and orange truffle with Chloe Chardonnay. The citrus notes in the wine were a delicious match for the orange in the truffle. And, if you’re a fan of orange chocolate, those truffles are pretty darn spectacular – pulling out a plate full of those with the Chloe Chardonnay to end off a holiday dinner may just keep you on the ‘nice’ list well into 2016.

Be a little adventurous.
When I tried the Ganong Chicken Bone Nougat (a sweet red mix that tastes like Christmas, with lots of cinnamon notes and a little bit of mint), I was stumped for a pairing. They recommend Cabernet Sauvignon, and that could work, but I was curious about other options. The closest taste match I could think of was Swedish Fish (they share a cinnamon heart sort of taste) and I checked in with my friends on Twitter for suggestions. Their thoughts? A slightly sweet Prosecco, Vidal Icewine (maybe a bit too sweet on sweet, but a fun experiment) or even a Pinot Noir. What would I pick? Likely the Prosecco because you can’t ever go wrong with bubbles and I think the hint of sweetness would be a good balance. Another option? Port! And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Chloe Chardonnay was actually a pretty good match for this chocolate too. It could be fun to try a few options and see what your guests think.

In the photos, you can see some of my picks for wine and chocolate pairing this holiday season. These may not be the wines you’d choose, so I look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comment section. What pairings would you pull out to impress your guests?

Thanks to Ganong for the chocolate samples to make this post possible. They currently have a contest where you can enter to win some of your own for the holiday season. Click on the banner below to learn more.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide

When I was putting together my plans for this holiday gift guide I thought it would be fun to include some ideas from a few of my favourite wine bloggers and writers. These are the people I turn to for suggestions, so I thought my readers might enjoy hearing their holiday gift picks. I wasn’t disappointed in the ideas I received and I’m so happy to be able to share these recommendations for what to get the wine-lover on your gift list.  

Tyler’s Pick:
My pick is a fun, yet useful wine-related item available this season at Home Outfitters.  It is a five-piece wine accessory kit in the shape of Bordeaux bottle for $24.99 and a token of good taste for the would-be wine enthusiast on your list this year.

Read more of Tyler Philp’s articles on wine at www.tylerphilp.com – A member of the Wine Writer’s Circle of Canada, Tyler is an expert on wine cellars and a great resource for all sorts of wine information.
Jason’s Pick:
Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2010 
A big, seductive Ontario red from the great 2010 vintage, this edition sports a traditional Bordeaux-blend consisting of 53% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Malbec. Would make an excellent gift that can be enjoyed now or over the next 5-8 years for that red wine lover in your life. You will find this in the VINTAGES section at the LCBO (#505610) for $38.20.

Read more of Jason Solanki’s wine reviews at his Vintages Wine Picks & Reviews site – this is a great resource to read all about the latest LCBO Vintages releases and more: http://vintagewinepicks.blogspot.ca/

Shawn’s Pick:
My suggestion is one of the most useful (and least expensive) gifts you can buy for your wineaux friends. This is a cork puller, and it is used when removing corks from aged wines. After about 10-12 years, the corks may start to break down and as you approach 20 years old, they are almost impossible to remove in one piece.

The cork puller solves this problem. The two prongs straddle the cork and you gently rotate the handle and slowly pull the cork out. It has saved me many times, sometimes when I started with a conventional corkscrew.

I acquired mine at Strewn Winery for about $8 several years ago. If you can't find any locally, Amazon.ca has some starting at about $11, and quite a nice metal one for $16.75.

Read more on Ontario and Canadian wine at Shawn McCormick’s fantastic Uncork Ontario website: http://uncorkontario.com/

Shawn is also the moderator for #ONWineChat, which takes place on Twitter every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST.

My pick:
Lailey Vineyard’s 2013 Late Harvest Riesling
Released on the first weekend in December, this is a limited-release wine from one of Ontario’s premier winemakers. They only plant three rows for this Riesling and it’s worth it to scoop some up, if you can. As a late harvest wine, it is just sweet enough to be a perfect pairing for soft, creamy cheese. This is a great gift idea for a wine fan or a special treat to pull out after your holiday dinner.

Do you have another great gift idea to suggest? Be sure to leave a comment below!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Party Pleasers

While it’s not exactly Oprah’s Favourite Things, I’m always excited to share some of the fun finds I come across in my blogging adventures. The holiday season is a great excuse to give you a few hints about what your loved ones might like to find under the tree or at your holiday party.

This year, I’m splitting the post into two parts – today, I present a few of my favourite holiday party pleasers and then I’ll follow-up with a post featuring some of my favourite wine bloggers and writers sharing their gift-giving suggestions. Look for that one soon!

So what should you be stocking at your next holiday party, or bringing to impress the host? Here are a few of my ideas:

Pommies Perry – Most of you already know that I’m a big fan of Pommies apple cider (it’s made in a wine style and I love that it’s crisp, refreshing and a little on the sweet side). I looked very forward to trying the pear version of their cider and, while my heart still belongs to the apple, Perry makes a great addition to the bar at your holiday party. Perry is a little less sweet and more tart than the apple, but just as crisp and refreshing. A nice addition to the Ontario cider menu. Available at select LCBO locations or see their website for province by province availability: http://pommies.com/

2013 Lighthall Progression sparkling wine – Kicking off the evening with a sparkling wine is a great way to toast the season. Progression remains a favourite in our household, perfect on its own, with oysters or to accompany all those salty party snacks (I recently had it with nachos – delicious). This Prince Edward County sparkler is a fantastic and festive addition to any party. Available at the winery or via agent: www.lighthallvineyards.com/

Sprucewood Shores Warm 'n Cozy – When I was offered the chance to try Sprucewood Shores Warm 'n Cozy mulled wine, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve heard all about mulled wine being served in German Christmas markets and warm, spicy wine sounded like a pretty good idea to me. So one cold evening, Shawn and I heated some up on the stove and poured it into mugs – not exactly how we’re used to serving our wine, but a fun alternative. We curled up on the couch and both of us had the same reaction – the first sip is a little jarring. But as we tried a second and third sip, we really warmed to this drink. The flavours are very similar to the German Christmas cookies my Omi used to give us every year during my childhood, so it’s quite different than your traditional wine and it turned out to be a lovely winter warmer. This one would be great for sipping around the fire with friends or for curling up with the one you love. Available now in select LCBO outlets and via the winery: http://www.sprucewoodshores.com/

Fire in the Kitchen Wicked Pickles – I had no idea one of our favourite spice blend companies made pickles too (though apparently they have for years). We tried them recently at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo and I completely fell for them. I want my dill pickles with a huge hit of garlic and Shawn likes them nice and spicy. These come in two different styles – one for each of our tastes! Available via the company website or at select retailers: https://fireinthekitchen.ca/
Little Shop of Lobsters crab and lobster mousse– Shawn and I fell hard for the lobster and crab mousse from Little Shop of Lobsters at the One of a Kind Show this year. So hard, in fact, that we may not feel up to sharing these little pots of deliciousness with our holiday guests. Be sure to get the bigger jars if you don’t want your Grinch-y side to come out! Available via trade show of the company website: http://www.littleshopoflobsters.com/

Do you have any favourite holiday party must-haves? Feel free to share in the comments – and don’t forget to watch for the blogger wine gift round-up coming soon…

* Some of these products were provided as samples and some I purchased. All opinions are my own and all these were chosen because I really liked them and thought you might too.