An Angel Flight from Montes Wines

Perhaps you have heard of Chile’s Montes Wines, a portfolio of wines garnering awards and accolades from around the world. Not only has Montes produced wines of premium quality (think Montes Alpha or Alpha M), they have set the standard for other Chilean producers with their Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carmenere, and more.  Their brands include Outer Limits with estates in Zapallar, Apalta, and Itata and Kaiken Premium Wines started in 2002 in Mendoza, Argentina.

Montes has now ventured into some of the best wine regions in California. Recently, I was sent samples of 2011 StarAngel Pinot Noir, 2008 StarAngel Red Wine, and Napa Angel Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 for tasting and review.  This flight of Angels was indeed enjoyable and after a several sips, quite inspirational.

Aurelio Montes, a reknown winemaker, world traveler, and “creator of superb Cabernet Sauvignon in all wine regions of Chile, Bordeaux, and Mendoza” brought his energy and passion to Napa Valley where, in 2006, he searched for the best grapes in three regions: Yountville, Coombsville, and Oak Knoll. The Napa Angel 2008 is Cabernet Sauvignon based.  Aromas of spice, red jammy fruit, blackberries, blueberries, and plums were thick and luscious. On the palate, chewy tannins, plenty of acidity, fresh fruit flavors, raspberries, leather, and toast contributed to a balanced and round mouthfeel with spice on the rich finish. Just be sure to decant for about an hour prior to tasting for optimal enjoyment.  Paired with roast chicken and ratatouille the Cabernet was just wonderful.  Cost is $56.

Equally attracted to the Paso Robles AVA where Rhone varietals shine, Montes brought his talents to the region with the StarAngel brand.  Its 2008 StarAngel Red Wine is a blend of 94% Syrah, 2% Grenache, and 2% Mourvedre. After decanting for up to an hour, I loved the intense red fruits, black cherries, exotic spice, and oak aromas. More dark, juicy fruits, cedar, spice, oak, and earth with integrated tannins were smooth and balanced in this dry Rhone blend.  The long finish was incredibly satisfying as was the price of $25.

The La Encantada and John Sebastiano vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills are the locations for grapes sourced for the StarAngel Pinot Noir 2011. Launched in April 2014, this Pinot Noir with cherries, raspberries, and subtle spice notes were bright and lively in the glass. Nicely woven tannins, mouthwatering acidity, spice, oak, and tastes of blueberries, plums, and pomegranates led to an elegant finish. I find Pinot Noirs one of the most food friendly varietals and this was another lovely example.  Cost is $35.


“Angels have always been our inspiration, hence the name. Angels have always guided us and, we are convinced, contribute to bring our wines to your table, for your enjoyment.” –  2008 StarAngel Red Wine (back label)

Cheers to this flight of Angels from Montes! ~ Cindy

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Chicago Gourmet 2014 – A Wine and Food Lover’s Destination

067Chicago may be known as the City of Big Shoulders but it has also become familiar to many for Chicago Gourmet, a celebration of fabulous food, wine, spirits, and beer which was held the weekend of September 26-28, its seventh year. Since 2013 I have been looking forward to another festivus of live cooking demonstrations, seminars, food and wine tastings, and more. This year’s Chicago Gourmet didn’t disappoint…stunningly gorgeous weather, world reknown chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers, and an array of outstanding libations were the ingredients for another successful event. Produced by the Illinois Restaurant Association and sponsored by Bon Appétit magazine, thousands of foodies and wine lovers from across the nation converged in beautiful Millennium Park.

Upon my arrival, I joined the opening ceremonies press conference on the Bon Appétit Main Stage and was poured a glass of perfectly chilled Veuve Cliquot. But of course! I savored the bubbles while listening to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Adam Rapoport, Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appétit, and others kick off the day and deciding which of the many cooking demonstrations, tasting pavilions, and wine samples to try. It became obvious that it would be impossible to see and taste everything that was offered, but I was willing take the challenge!

The first seminar of the day, The Mexican Takeover, was presented by celebrity chefs Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and XOCO and Carlos Gaytan of Mexique. Both were having such fun on stage sharing tips (Rick Bayless loves the Vitamix) and techniques (keep roasting those vegetables) while tackling the daunting job of creating beautiful food in under twenty minutes…the audience loved it and it was all I could do not to close my eyes and dream of Mexico while I was tantalized by the aromas wafting from the demonstration kitchen.

After tasting culinary creations from The Berghoff Restaurant, Mercadito, Piccolo Sogno, and mk The Restaurant, I stopped at the Bon Appétit Culinary Stage where I attended the Life After Top Chef: The Family Business. Beverly Kim of Parachute and Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery shared their stories and demonstrated signature dishes. Mendelsohn had just won the previous night’s Hamburger Hop, a battle among top chefs in a burger showdown, with his Obama Burger laden with Amish gorgonzola cheese, horseradish mayo, red onion marmalade…all sequestered on a brioche bun.  As he was making this winner once again, the intense aromas filling the air made all of the salivating onlookers want to rush to the grill and grab a bite.

Then there were the wines! At the numerous Great Lawn Tasting Tents I sampled newly released wine from Cline Family Cellars, Achaval Ferrer, Aveniu Brands, Faust Vineyard, Grgich Hills Estate, Groth Vineyards and Winery, Louis Latour, Oyster Bay, Patz & Hall, Trump Winery, and (trust me) many others. Sipping and chatting with friends on large banquettes placed on the lawn added to the carefree mood of the day.

What did I miss?  Lines were too long for the Napa Legends seminar featuring Larry Stone of Quintessa Vineyards and I was too busy tasting wine at the tents to attend the Great Wines of Tuscany seminar presented by Serafin Alvarado of Southern Wines and Spirits of Illinois.  Word in the park was that How to Host a Cocktail Party was incredible and the attendees received fabulous goodie bags…I’ll be attending that one next year!  Although not as much of a beer lover as a wine aficionado, I would have enjoyed Pairing Food with Beer presented by Amanda Downing of Rockit Bar and Grill and Daniel Joly of Stella Artois. For more details about the two day schedule, please check out the Chicago Gourmet site.

With my separate ticket, I was admitted into the Grand Cru Tasting on the rooftop of the Harris Theatre where James Beard recognized chefs offered delicious small bites paired with premium, elite wines. Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat and Little Goat served goat empanadas with heirloom tomato and Sepia’s Andrew Zimmerman offered a savory charred eggplant tortoloni with cashew, sesame, and curry leaf. I loved the roasted fig, Calabrian style ‘nduja with castelmagno and fennel created by Tony Manuano and Chris Marchino of one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Spiaggia.

Many wines at the Grand Cru Tasting were notable and I recommend that you look for these releases. Among those I enjoyed were the Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Overture by Opus One 2010, Patz & Hall “Hyde Vineyard” Chardonnay 2012, Marques de Riscal “Gran Reserva” Rioja 2005, Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Sanford “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2011, Quintessa 2011, and Charles Krug “Generations” 2011.  Honestly, it was impossible to taste all of the wines being poured although I gave it my best effort!

Where else could a wine and food lover have so much variety and quality in their glass and on their plate if not Chicago Gourmet? Not only does my sweet home Chicago boast an award winning international culinary scene but in 2015 it will host the James Beard Foundation Awards. That said, be sure to add Chicago Gourmet 2015 to your calendar and purchase your tickets early. Make this destination a priority.

Cheers ~ Cindy

 Note: A special thank you goes to Isabelli Media Relations for offering me a media pass to this extraordinary event.



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Chicago Neighborhood Gem: Unite Urban Grill

002There are many reasons why Chicago is a mecca for wine lovers and foodies. The now annual Chicago Gourmet celebration is high on my list as are unique wine bars, multicultural street festivals, eclectic wine shops, and upscale restaurants with award winning, internationally recognized chefs and sommeliers.  But let’s not forget neighborhood restaurant gems.  Recently, I discovered in the heart of West Town a hip restaurant, Unite Urban Grill, which oozes a neighborhood vibe in a contemporary setting and offers creative, delicious, comfort fare to fit everyone’s palate and purse.

Megan and Joe Krouse, owners of Unite Urban Grill , provide a casually elegant place for enjoying a memorable dining experience which includes one of the most diverse and tantalizing menu and wine lists I’ve seen in awhile from a small, boutique restaurant. Megan’s broad palate translates to the menu which includes a wide variety of seafood and healthy vegetarian sides and entrees while Joe, self described “grill master” ensures that their customers’ carnivore loving preferences are more than satisfied.

Jason Lane, General Manager and Sommelier, has curated a wine and spirits list that offers everyone’s favorite classic cocktails along with domestic and international varieties of wines and beers. Forget your standby wines and select a glass or bottle from  Spain, the Dalmatian Coast, Provence, upstate New York, or Paso Robles.  Ditch the Coors and ask for a New Holland Stout or the Great Divide Rye Lager.  Craving a cocktail? Try the Logan Square with Clement Select Barrel Rhum, grapefruit, honey, lemon, and herbsaint or the El Chilcano, a blend of Campo de Encanto Pisco, ginger beer, and lime.  Of course if you need help deciding among the many selections, tap the expertise of Jason Lane who can guide you through the process.

My first wine of the evening was a Domained de Lavau, a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend from Gigondas, which was rich, well balanced, and complemented many of our small plates. One of my dining companions is a vegetarian so we started the evening with fresh Caprese Salad with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basil, aged balsamic and olive oil. We followed with Organic Salmon Crudo with lime, chilies, and cherry tomato and perfectly Grilled Scallops with brown butter, sorrel and red radish micro greens.


The foodie paradise continued with creamy Wild Mushrooms with shitake, oysters, clamshell, garlic and lemon and a colorful Crunch Salad with spring greens, granny smith apples, carrots, currants, and seeds with honey tahini.  But we weren’t finished…we savored the tastes of Roasted Broccoli with almonds, jalapeno, and olive oil, Spiced Baby Carrots with citrus, cumin and thyme then savory grilled Asparagus with aged balsamic, parmesan and cracked pepper.


Somewhere between the Wild Mushrooms and Spiced Baby Carrots, I enjoyed another glass of wine, the Brezza Langhe, a smooth, lively Nebbiolo from Barolo. Trust me, I was ever so satisfied!

Then there was the dessert menu. Although I didn’t partake, the others reveled in the subtle sweetness of the gluten free and decadent Peanut Butter Mousse Cake.


Small, storefront, locally owned eateries are everywhere in Chicago and I love finding a new spot for wining and dining. Like me, add Unite Urban Grill to your list of neighborhood gems.

Cheers! ~ Cindy

Unite Urban Grill (1450 West Chicago)  is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, please follow the link to their site or the restaurant’s Twitter feed and Facebook page.  You can always contact them at 312.455.8900.





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From the Finger Lakes AVA: Four Rieslings to Try

When the location of next year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference, the Finger Lakes AVA, was announced I was thrilled. This area south of Lake Ontario in central New York is home to 115 wineries with 9200 acres of grapes and produces Gewutztraminer, Pinot Gris, sparkling wine, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, Chardonnay and Ice wine along with its signature variety, Riesling. I’ve not yet traveled to the Finger Lakes and look forward to my summer 2015 visit to learn and taste wines that are receiving plenty of buzz.

The Finger Lakes were created hundreds of thousands of years ago by glacier formations. These deep fresh water lakes and soil deposits are “gifts to modern winemakers”. During the winter, air drains from the sloping vineyards to the lakes. The cool spring air surrounds the vines and delays the start of the growing season so that young shoots are not affected by late frosts. The warm lakes in the fall help prevent early frosts and extend the growing season. The Finger Lakes run north to south with vineyards on their eastern and western slopes. Because of the various elevations and distances from the water, unique sites and soils affect the range and complexity of the wines.

To help satisfy my craving for the onset of the trip, I was fortunate to be included in a recent Twitter chat highlighting many of the outstanding Rieslings of the area. Follow the link to the text of the online chat where other wine bloggers and I shared tweets about winemaking techniques, palate profiles of the wines, our total enjoyment of the Rieslings received as samples, and more. The four wines reviewed below were sent to me by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance whose mission is to “increase the visibility and reputation of the Finger Lakes AVA, its wines, and wineries”.  I’ll be taking an extra large bag with plenty of wine sleeves next summer so that I can take home bottles of these terrific wines!  And you can be sure that I’ll be writing about my experiences upon my return in mid August.

If you haven’t yet enjoyed Rieslings from the Finger Lakes consider purchasing a bottle at an incredibly reasonable price and begin your discovery of this cool climate region…one sip at a time.

**Chateau LaFayette Reneau Dry Riesling 2013 – Pale yellow, almost transparent, aromas of pear, apricot and salinity wafted from the glass. Dry with tastes of more pears, green apples, hint of grapefruit, and citrus were light and tart. There were intense tastes of green apple on the long finish. This elegant, balanced wine would be perfect with sushi or spicy Thai dishes. Cost is $13.

**Hosmer Dry Riesling 2013 – I loved the depth of the juicy citrus, tropical and stone fruit, pear, lemon, and lime aromas. Zesty flavors of citrus and Fuji apple, spice, and more lemon and lime were crisp and lasting on the finish. Mouthwatering with a bracing acidity, each sip provoked a “wow”! Cost is $15.

**Glenora Dry Riesling 2013 – In the glass, this lovely medium dry Riesling was a pale lemon color with aromas of pear, apricot, stone fruit, lemon, and lime. Bright with lively acidity, the intense flavors of ripe white fruits were balanced and crisp…absolutely delicious. Cost is $15.

**Swedish Hill Riesling 2013 – One whiff of the peaches, grapefruit, and tropical fruits in the glass was all I needed to be enticed to take my first sip of this fresh and rich wine. On the palate, the fruit profile continued along with a subtle dash of minerality. Creamy and bold, this Riesling had more depth than I expected. Pair this Riesling with a fall meal or fresh fruit. Cost is $16.

 Cheers~ Cindy

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Wine with Dessert: Forgotten Fire Late Harvest Riesling and Warm Apple Crisp

Now that my favorite season, autumn, is in its crisp, colorful glory, I’m ready to light a fire, snuggle up in a blanket, and think about, among other things, which recipes will be perfect for cooler days.  One dish that I’ve made repeatedly in the fall is Warm Apple Crisp. I’ve been enjoying the tastes of tart, locally picked apples tempered with a sugary topping, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors for years. It is incredibly easy to make, always a crowd pleaser, and when topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert with just the right amount of sweetness will make even the most ardent summer lover crave autumn days.

When choosing a wine to pair with a sweet dessert you may want to consider a late harvest Riesling which is made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual resulting in a higher concentration of sugar.  Noble rot, a fungus, helps the water in the grape evaporate and the grape shrivels leading to a wine which is sweeter and more rich.  I chose a Late Harvest Riesling (UV) which I purchased recently from Forgotten Fire Winery in northern Wisconsin.  Forgotten Fire opened in 2011 and is named in honor of the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871.  The small winery is on land in the town of Peshtigo but has a Marinette address (just in case you’d like to visit which I did).

The Forgotten Fire Late Harvest Riesling (UV) produced from Michigan grapes exhibited fragrant aromas of honeysuckle and apples.  On the palate, this slightly sweet wine from start to finish was full of lovely apricot and more apple notes. Balanced with good acidity this was delicious with the apple crisp thanks to the sugar levels in both which complemented each other.  I can’t think of a better wine and dessert pairing to kick off fall!  Cost is $15.


Warm Apple Crisp


  • 4 Large apples (peeled and diced)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • nutmeg and cinnamon (to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 cup flour (sifted)


Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Step 2
Sprinkle apples with nutmeg, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Add water.
Step 3
Place in a 9 inch square baking dish.
Step 4
Cream margarine and remaining sugar.
Step 5
Add flour and mix well.
Step 6
Pat this mixture over apples and bake 30-45 minutes.
Step 7
Enjoy with a glass of your favorite late harvest Riesling!

 Enjoy the Warm Apple Crisp with the wine from Forgotten Fire or one of your favorite late harvest Rieslings to celebrate this wonderful time of the year. Cheers! ~ Cindy

Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Wine Reviews | Tagged 9 Comments


9 Responses to “Wine with Dessert: Forgotten Fire Late Harvest Riesling and Warm Apple Crisp”
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  1. Vee

    So glad you gave the recipe. I have made this many times and we never tire of it….especially with a bit of vanilla ice cream on top of the warm Crisp!
    Thank you for helping all of us revel in the joys of fall!

    • Cindy Rynning

      You can’t go wrong with a classic. Don’t forget to open a bottle of late harvest Riesling for a mouthwatering pairing!

  2. Well….. great minds! I did a very similar pairing.

    • Cindy Rynning

      So many variations on a fabulous dessert! I love your ingredients of maple syrup, brown sugar, oats, and pecans, too. I’ll have to try it!

  3. This looks delicous. Great pairing!

    • Cindy Rynning

      Thanks! And I’m looking forward to trying your recipe for pork chops with apple, fennel, and sage paired with the Solena 2011 Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir. Wow!

  4. Great pairing Cindy! I love an L.H. Riesling with desserts like apple, and pear crisps!

  5. I have never heard of a late harvest Riesling, but now I will be keeping my eye out for one!

  6. Catching up on reading the #winePW posts, and this is the 2nd apple crisp recipe I’ve seen…definitely a sign I need to make it soon! Nice touch with the riesling from your part of the country. Yum!

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