xoFOOD: Completely Amateur Wine Tasting with Claire

I have no idea what I'm doing.

Apr 21, 2014 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

Let me be perfectly clear: I don’t know anything about wine. The wine I drink has to meet maybe three requirements:
  1. Not very sweet (unless I’m in a very weird mood)
  2. Alcoholic
  3. Made from grapes (I rarely like kiwi wine, or blueberry wine, or any of that noise.)
I have vague preferences, but I doubt they are based in reality. I think that Malbecs are my favorite and I suspect that I have a fondness for South American wines, but I’m 87% sure that a blind taste test would prove me wrong.  I thought I hated Merlot, but then someone handed me one without telling me what it was first and frankly, it was delicious.
 
And unlike my beer-related snobbery, I have no desire to maintain an aura of expertise. I’m perfectly happy to defer to anyone and everyone. I will order exactly what the waiter tells me to. I will let the bartender pick their favorite.  I will let press releases tell me how to pair.
 
Which is why it’s fortunate that I received a couple of wine-related press releases.  At first I was like “Guys, are you sure you meant to send this email to me?” but then I wised up and was all “Uh, of course I’ll take your free alcohol.”
 
So here we are.
 
I received a total of three bottles: two from Estancia and one from Woodbridge. I drank two of them in the manner suggested by the press releases and one however I wanted to because I needed some freedom.
 
Woodbridge 2013 Pinot Grigio by Robert Mondavi
 
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So far, so good.

 
The Price: $7.99 for 750 mL or $10.99 for 1.5 L.
 
The Suggestion: The “Pinot-Grita”
 
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This looks like it may violate Claire's first rule about wine.

 
The Taste: I took a swig straight from the bottle before pouring the required amount into the blender. Not bad. It was not overly sweet and kind of cirtrusy? I guess? I’m terrible at this. I will say this: sometimes white wine has a kind of funky, almost rotten fruit taste to me. I don’t hate that taste, but this wine did not have it.
 
The Recipe: I followed the suggested Pinot-Grita recipe almost exactly, with the exception of omitting the salt from the rim. Because there was no tequila involved, I didn't think the salt would be needed.
 
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It makes a large batch.

 
Please note that this takes almost an entire bottle of wine, so if you like the wine itself, maybe just drink the wine. Less sugar, less work, etc.
 
Anyway, this Pinot-Grita was very sweet. Not undrinkably sweet, but this is definitely for those who aren't huge fans of tasting their alcohol. If I were to make it again, I would omit the frozen limeade concentrate and add real limes (when the lime crisis is over, obviously) and maybe a little simple syrup. And more ice; it definitely needs more ice.
 
Perfect For: Someone who needs to be drunk but needs to not taste ethanol.
 
Estancia 2012 Chardonnay 
 
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So fresh. So clean.

 
The Price: $11.99
 
The Suggestion: Pairing with Gail Simmons' Grilled Fish Tacos with Mango-Cucumber-Mint Salsa. Gail has recently become the National Wine Ambassador for Estancia and as part of her official duties has come up with two recipes for two different types of wine. I chose to showcase the Chardonnay because I drank all of the Pinot Noir while making/eating spaghetti, but we’ll get to that later. I've always liked Gail. She's pretty and tough and loves food. Also her first answer in this interview is my favorite.
 
Some Notes from Gail: 
 
  • The Estancia Chardonnay’s refreshing and light tropical fruit flavors perfectly complement the delicacy of the fresh white fish for a smooth finish
  • Gail enjoys the crisp honey and apple aromas in the Chardonnay as they balance the refreshing mango-cucumber-mint salsa
 
The Taste: I started drinking while cooking the fish and preparing the salsa. I loved it a lot. I think I tasted pineapple? Again, no strange rotten-fruit flavor.  It tasted “clean” to me.  I found it very refreshing. In fact, I found it so refreshing that I drank the entire bottle and then went drunk-swimming in the gulf.
 
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It was very windy.

 
The Recipe:
 
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I followed this exactly.

 
What a delicious supper. My first impulse with tacos is to drench them with some sort of melted cheese, but since Gail didn’t command it, I didn’t do it.
 
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I grilled you a delicous bass.

 
The fish (I used bass as NO ONE had halibut) was flavorful and flakey. The salsa was really fresh and delicious. I thought I didn’t like radishes but it turns out that I do. What a world. Radishes and tacos without cheese. Who knew?
 
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The hardest part of food writing is not eating until after the picture is taken.

 
The wine seemed to pair really well. Sometimes, when I’m drinking wine with food, I find myself taking sips of water in between the food and the wine, I don’t know why, it’s just something I do. I didn’t do that once! In fact, I didn't drink any water at all! Unrelated: I have a headache this morning.
 
Perfect For: When you want to have a taco night that isn’t take out or from a box. Also use to convince people that you have your life together, because nothing says “grown up” like tacos without cheese and well-paired wine.
 
Estancia 2012 Pinot Noir
 
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The only pic I took.

 
The Price: $11.99
 
The Suggestion: Pairing with Gail Simmons' Grilled Pork Chops with Peach & Sweet Onion Chutney
 
Okay, I didn’t do this. Here is what happened: I was making spaghetti and had browned the meat and carmelized the veggies and had nothing to deglaze the pan with. In a rebellious moment of “I didn’t sign a pork chop contract!” I grabbed the Estancia Pinot and opened it. I deglazed the pan and poured myself a glass and holy drinkability. This red went down a little too easy.  It was juicy but still kind of dry. I think I detected something like cinnamon but really who knows? All I know is that I loved it by itself and I loved it with the spaghetti. Would buy.
 
Perfect For: Spaghetti and drinking entire bottles of red wine in a sitting.
 
And there it is. Three wines that I would buy and drink again. My only regret is that I didn't drink more of the Woodbridge Pinot Grigio before blending into a Pinot-Grita, not that it was terrible or anything, I just enjoyed the wine better by itself.
 
How do you guys pair wine? Do you care? I know we have at least a couple sommelier readers. Where you at, soms? Give me some wine suggestions.
 
Tweet Claire suggested wines/pairings. She'll probably do whatever you say. @clairelizzie