Flag Waving Wines for Memorial Day

What are your Memorial Day plans? On this iconic American holiday, it looks like my family may be watching our town’s parade, taking the boat out for a spin around the lake, and firing up the grill. This year I have one job to do…choose the wine.  And that, of course, is the stress-free job I love!  Because our family and friends have such varied preferences, I always try to have plenty of wine to please everyone’s palate.

Our simple menu will consist traditional southern style deviled eggs, light cheeses and crackers, and fresh fruit for appetizers.  Mr. Grape Experiences plans to barbecue shish kebabs marinated with a lemon and honey vinaigrette then skewered with green peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  I’m thinking a fluffy rice pilaf and savory spinach salad may be perfect sides and an apple cobbler for dessert will be on hand.

And the wines for pairing?  I decided this year to choose those that are just as eclectic as the Americans who made this country great.  I think the following flag waving choices will please everyone.

Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes 2014 (sample) – From the Cafayate Valley of the Salta Region of Argentina, this 100% Torrontes is from old vineyards planted at 1600 meters where the cool climate helps produce lovely aromas and acidity.  Wafting from the glass were intense aromas of florals, stone fruits and oranges.  Delicious with a cheese course as well as spice rubbed meat, I loved the refreshing tastes of tropical fruit and apricots.  Food friendly acidity in this unoaked wine will be a crowd pleaser.  The price will be, too, at only $10.

Kaiken Torrontes
Esporao Defesa Rosé 2014 (sample) – Refreshing and bright, this rosé of Syrah and Aragonez (the Portuguese name for Tempranillo) is from Herdade do Esporao located close to the medieval town of Reguer dos de Monsaraz in Portugal’s Alentejo region.  From vines planted in granite/schist rock with clay and loam soil, the Defesa Rosé was dry, tart, and just what you can enjoy on Memorial Day…as well as any other day of the year! Shining pink in the glass, aromas of juicy red berries were intense.  I looked forward to each sip with its citrus, tangy grapefruit, mint, and a hint of lime tastes along with a lingering finish.  Serve this well priced wine chilled with appetizers, salad, or light dishes.  Cost is $14.99.

Esporao Defesa Rose 2014
Septima Malbec 2012 (sample) – Malbec is a wonderful pairing with any grilled beef dishes you’ll want to serve.  The Septima Malbec 2012 is from grapes sourced from  Argentina’s Agrelo region located 3223 meters above sea level and the Uco Valley where the soil is poor and stony.  As a result, the aromas and tastes reflect both regions.  On the nose I found sweet vanilla, dark plums, mocha, and wood.  Notes of more vanilla, jammy red berries, smoke, and oak were prevalent on the palate and the sweet tannins and bright acidity contributed to its food friendly profile.  Fire up the grill and pour yourself a glass of Septima Malbec 2012. Cost is $10.99.

Septima Malbec 2012
Cornerstone Cellars 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Black Label (sample) – If Cabernet Franc isn’t on your holiday radar, it should be.  It’s a fabulous pairing with barbecued lamb chops or other meat dishes you plan to share.  2012 was a stellar vintage for Napa Valley with its consistent warm, sunny days and cool nights and intense aromatics and flavors were just some of the characteristics.  Cornerstone’s 100% Cabernet Franc, sourced from three Napa Valley vineyards in different appellations in 2012, is a perfect example. Rich red fruit, sweet vanilla, and savory herbal notes were intense on the nose. I found bold, earthy flavors, satin smooth tannins balanced with bright acidity, and a brilliant seamless finish in this seductive wine.  You could hold this bottle for a few more years, but you won’t…!  Cost is $45.

Cornerstone Cellars 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Black Label

Have a wonderful Memorial Day and raise your glass to those fearless Americans who fought for our freedom.

Cheers! ~ Cindy

Memorial Day wines

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Under $20 Wines: Glenora Pinot Blanc 2013 and Alanera Rosso Veronese 2012

As I talk to friends both old and new, young and “mature”, they share the same plea: help us find affordable, delicious wine. These wine lovers are like you and me.  We love to sip and savor wine with good friends, while reading a book or cooking, when relaxing in a bubble bath, or chatting with neighbors across the fence.  We like to have a nice bottle of wine at the ready when friends drop by unexpectedly or when a lovely dinner is planned.  And we simply don’t want to spend a fortune on a bottle of wine (unless it’s “really good”!).  This week I’m suggesting a crisp Pinot Blanc from the Finger Lakes wine region in New York and a full bodied red blend from Veneto in Italy.  These under $20 wines are completely different and absolutely delicious.  Enjoy!

Glenora Pinot Blanc 2013 (sample) – Have you heard that the Finger Lakes region of New York is the “it” girl of wine regions these days? If you have already tasted their wines, you’ll understand why.  I’ve written an article already about the area and a few of their wines, but I’ll be writing more after I visit in August; the annual Wine Blogger’s Conference will be held there.  Glenora Wine Cellars was the first winery on Seneca Lake and a pioneer of the region.  It is also one of the few wineries in the Finger Lakes to produce Pinot Blanc. The 2013 vintage showed aromas of lemon, chalk, and a snappy tingle to the nose.  On the palate, I found notes of vanilla, pear, citrus, lime, and eye opening minerality.  The finish was full, lingering, and incredibly satisfying.  You may want to pair the Pinot Blanc 2013 with shellfish, pasta, appetizers, or salads. Cost is $15.

Glenora Pinot blanc 2013

Alanera Rosso Veronese IGT 2012 (sample) – If you love red blends then you’ll be thrilled to taste this medley of Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy’s region of Veneto.  The name “Alanera” means “black wing” of the raven, “corvino” in Italian, and is a bow to the region’s signature grape, corvina.  Throughout the area, the appassimento method of drying grapes is used; the concentrated juice from those grapes adds unique aromas and flavors.  50% of the grapes harvested to produce Alanera Rosso are partially dried for 45-60 days. Aromas of currants, vanilla, sweet spice, and dried cherries were intense and indicative of that traditional appassimento method.  On the palate, I found sensuous notes of raisins, dark berries, vanilla, and coffee along with well integrated tannins and lively acidity.  Balanced and bright, this wine with its $20 price tag could be mistaken for one that costs much more.

Alanera Rosso Veronese IGT 2012

Cheers! ~ Cindy




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An Evening of Pure Chablis at NoMi Kitchen

Pure ChablisWhen you are sipping a glass of fresh, mineral driven Chablis, you are appreciating the nuances of Chardonnay in its purest form.  It was my turn to do just that one evening a few weeks ago at the world renown restaurant, NoMi Kitchen in Chicago.   I was one of five food and wine writers invited to dine (in the actual kitchen, no less) with Chablis Ambassador and winery owner Louis Moreau, President of the BIVB Chablis Commission (Bourgogne Wine Board) and “Union des Grands Crus de Chablis” (UGCC).  With a degree in oenology-viticulture and work experience at various California wineries, the incredibly knowledgeable Moreau has been the head of Domaine Louis Moreau since 1994.  Currently, Moreau produces Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru and Chablis Grand Cru while consistently looking for the “best quality and fully respecting the environment.”

Old acquaintances were renewed and new friends were made in the NoMi Lounge while we chatted and learned about the wines of Chablis, often referred to as the “golden gate” to Burgundy and located in north central France on either side of the river Serein. Each of us swirled and sipped our glass of Petit Chablis La Perle 2012 Domaine Millet ($20), a lovely, easy drinking wine (meant to drink young) with gentle aromas of citrus, mouthwatering acidity and notes of lemon and hazelnuts.

Like an oasis amidst the industrial stainless steel in the kitchen at NoMi, our table was beautifully set and ready for the appreciative food and wine lovers to enjoy the experience. All  were mesmerized by the talent of Chef de Cuisine Paul Dobroski as we watched him prepare our four course dinner paired with a plethora of wines from Chablis chosen by Louis Moreau and the restaurant’s sommelier.

Pure Chablis at NoMi Kitchen
A bowl of lusciously tender and juicy Prince Edward Island mussels with ciabatta and eggplant panzanella, bell peppers, pine nuts, and garlic herb butter was our first course paired with Chablis Champs Royaux 2012 William Fevre ($14).  The Chablis, having unveiled its citrus and white fruit aromas, was a delicious complement to the seafood, vegetables, and sauce thanks to its mineral notes and a slight oaky finish.  From thirty five year old vines grown in chalky clay, marl, and marly limestone from the Kimmeridgian era, this Chablis was aged for eight to ten months in stainless steel vats.  10% of the harvest was matured in French oak barrels.

Mussels at NoMi Kitchen
While we enjoyed our mussels, Louis Moreau explained that climat, a traditional Bourgogne word referring to “precisely delimited plots of land that enjoy specific geological and climactic conditions”, is of paramount importance to the region. The conditions as well as the talent of the winemaker result in a patchwork quilt of crus.  In Chablis, forty seven climat named vineyards appear on wine labels: forty for Chablis Premier Cru and seven for Chablis Grand Crus. Each climat has its own rich and unique characteristics depending on the soil and exposure; “landscape and hillscape are utilized to the maximum.”  The soil bed of clay, marl, and limestone from the Kimmeridgian era has a huge impact on the profile of the wines. With a cooler climate than the rest of Burgundy, wines of Chablis are, in general, more dry and fresh and exhibit a zesty minerality and mouthwatering acidity.

Our next course was paired with an elegant wine from Louis Moreau’s family estate, Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2012 Domaine Louis Moreau ($35).  Vines planted in 1945 in poor soil of clay and calcerous marls produced grapes with a high concentration of citrus aromas, exuberant minerality, and a richness that I thoroughly enjoyed with the pan seared Ora King Salmon, braised green peas “Francaise”, Nueske’s ham, orange carrot puree, and hazelnut oil.  Unoaked, the wine was aged in stainless steel on fine lees for at least six months then underwent fining, cold filtration, and bottling.  Moreau commented that the racy acidity in this Chablis pairs especially well with the fat content in this dish.

Salmon at NoMi Kitchen with Pure Chablis
Naturally raised slow cooked chicken breast and crispy thigh with mushroom wild rice and sauce blanc was our savory third course.  A delicious selection, Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey 2012 Domaine Laroche ($42), was partially oaked with lively notes of minerality (of course!), lemon, honey, beeswax, and touch of earth.  Oak is occasionally used in Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru to “give the wine more focus” according to Moreau and adds complexity and depth without overpowering the palate profile.

Chicken at NoMi Kitchen with Pure Chablis
Our group ended the evening’s experience with a lovely platter displaying a selection of cheeses including decadent triple crème brie and manchego, sweet fruit compote, and toast points.  Of course more wine was poured…Chablis Premier Cru Montee de Tonnerre 2012 Louis Michel & Fils ($40) and Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2011 Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils ($65), my favorite of the evening.

Cheese Course at NoMi Kitchen with Pure Chablis
Boasting ripe fruit and brilliant minerality, the Montee de Tonnerre 2012 was deliciously comforting with its generous amount of salinity and sweet spice on the finish. The 2011 from Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils consisted of grapes grown on the right bank of the Serein River where all other Grand Crus vines are located.  50% of the grapes were aged in stainless steel and 50% were aged in oak barrels for six to eight months.  Bold and rich with a depth that was mesmerizing, this wine was a brilliant choice.

There is no other wine growing region in France that has “pinned its faith more firmly on the facts of geology”.  The Kimmeridgian limestone laid down 150 million years ago gives the wines of Chablis their signature characteristic of minerality.

Kimmeridgien Soil - Pure Chablis

In essence, “Chablis is the most mineral pure expression of Chardonnay.”  Pure Chablis 

Cheers~ Cindy

NOTE: I absolutely loved sharing dinner, wines, and knowledge with Louis Moreau and our group at NoMi Kitchen. Yet, there is much more to learn about wines from this unique region in France.  I encourage you to follow the links offered in this post for more information.


Dinner at NoMi Kitchen and Pure Chablis

Posted in Regional Wines, Restaurants, Wine Connoisseurs, Wine Reviews, Wineries | Tagged 2 Comments


2 Responses to “An Evening of Pure Chablis at NoMi Kitchen”
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  1. I went to a Pure Chablis lunch tasting at Boulevard here in San Francisco last year (or was it the year before last). The tasting single-handedly changed my mind about Chardonnay. Great wine and they’re fantastic with food!

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Wine and Dine for #winePW: Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010 and Queso Fundido

Whether you hail from South of the Border or Seattle, Washington, what’s not to love about all things Mexican? And the food! Tacos, enchiladas, empanadas, tortilla soup, burritos, fresh seafood, and unique vegetables are just a few examples of Mexican fare beloved by so many. And let’s not forget tequila, mezcal, and wines that are being produced in the Baja. Ole!

This month Twitter’s Wine Pairing group of foodies and wine lovers is celebrating the festive spirit of Mexico with regional food and wine pairings. We will be chatting live on Twitter on Saturday, May 9 at 11am Eastern and using the hashtag #winePW. I hope you find time to join us and explore the always delicious recipes and wine reviews we share (see below).

My contribution to Wine Pairing Weekend is one of my favorite dishes – Queso Fundido. When I moved to Chicago many years ago, I tasted this dish for the first time at a local Mexican restaurant. Paired with plenty of margaritas, cerveza fria, and good friends, I have many satisfying memories of this gooey, cheesy dish which can be scooped into soft tortillas then rolled or served with taco chips for dipping. The recipe I found includes mushrooms, garlic, and spinach but you can always add chorizo sausage for additional spiciness.

The trick was to find a wine that would complement, not mask, the savory flavors of the Queso Fundido.  I wanted a wine that could “hold its own” against the cheese and mushroom laden richness of the dish. Finally I decided upon a Tempranillo, Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010 sent to me as a sample…and it created the wow factor that I was looking for!

Tempranillo in the Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010  is from 80-90 year old vines located in the D.O. Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Aged for nineteen months in French oak barrels, aromas of cherries, vanilla, exotic spice, and hint of florals were lovely. On the palate, soft tannins and medium acidity were braided with notes of more vanilla and spice as well as cocoa and minerality. This elegant, smooth as satin Tempranillo was one of the best I’ve had in awhile. Cost is $60.

Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010

Queso Fundido


  • 1 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 cup spinach (chopped rough and packed tight)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter (for buttering the dish)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tortillas or chips to serve


Step 1
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2
Put cheeses in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Step 3
In a skillet over medium high heat, melt butter and sauté the mushrooms until cooked, 2-3 minutes.
Step 4
Add minced garlic and chopped spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Step 5
Season with salt and pepper.
Step 6
Remove from heat. Pour over cheese and toss to mix.
Step 7
Place cheese mixture into lightly buttered, oven safe baking dish, low bowl or casuela. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Step 8
Place in heated oven and bake until bubbling and lightly browned on top, 10-12 minutes.
Step 9

Quesdo Fundido

I poured the Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010 and served the Queso Fundido as an appetizer this past warm and breezy weekend on the porch with good friends and a healthy dose of laughter. With Tempranillo as a delightful wine pairing, the dish was just as flavorful and satisfying as it was so many years ago.

Ole! ~ Cindy

Join the fun on Saturday, May 9 at 11am Eastern on twitter using the hashtag #winePW. Share your own Mexican recipes and wine pairings or simply chat with the group!  Enjoy the food and wine pairings listed below!

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam has prepared “Dry-Rubbed Tri Tip Roast with Halter Ranch ‘s 2011 Cotes de Paso”

Cindy from Grape Experiences “Wine and Dine for #winePW: Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010 and Queso Fundido”

David from Cooking Chat is pairing “Spanish Wine for Pork Tacos”

Jennifer from Vino Travels mixes it up with “Mexican meets Italian: Fish Tacos with Stemmari Sparkling Grillo”

Lori from Dracaena Wines “Mexican Musings on #WinePW”

Martin from Enofylze Wine Blog “Chicken Pipian Verde, Mexican Quinoa and the Devil’s Collection White”

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog “Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with #WinePW”

Nancy from Pull That Cork “Spicy Chicken Salad with Guacamole and a South African Rose for #winePW”

Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere presents “Carnitas and the Basics of Mexican Food & Wine Pairing”

Wendy from A Day in the Life on a Farm is bring us Veggie Quesadillas with and old vine Nisia from Spain

Confessions of a Culinary Diva is pairing wines from Baja California

Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Wine Reviews | Tagged 10 Comments


10 Responses to “Wine and Dine for #winePW: Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010 and Queso Fundido”
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  1. Wow! I have to make this Queso Fundido and locate the wine – they sound like a divine pairing.

    Thanks so much for participating this month.

  2. What could be better than an ooey gooey cheese dip? A cheese dip paired with a wonderful wine. This wine is going on my to try list the next time I am splurging.

  3. Sounds delicious Cindy! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Your statement of the challenge being “finding a wine that will complement not mask the savory flavors” is absolutely true. It is a challenge, but it sounds like you mastered it well! I am not a mushroom fan, how do you think your recipe would be without them?

    • Cindy Rynning

      Lori, you may want to use chorizo sausage instead of the mushrooms for an added kick!!

  5. Love Ribera del Duero Tempranillo, and the pairing looks amazing. Must try!

  6. I must try your recipe sometime Cyndy. It looks great and a Rioja sounds perfect with it…

  7. This queso looks delicious! And the pairing sounds wonderful!

  8. That looks delicious. Calorie free right? ; )

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Five Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Your Wine Loving Mom

Mother’s Day is in a few days…but you knew that already, didn’t you? In the event that you are still wondering what to get your favorite wine-loving mom, I have five suggestions that will cause her to beam with delight.  Forget the tacky wine charms, DIY cork trivets, cocktail napkins with not-so-deep-thoughts, and “interesting” corkscrews.  These gifts, from a lovely Rosé to a wine game all adult family members can play, are as fun, classy, and unique as your mom.  Cheers to Mother’s Day!

Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2014 (sample):  There is not one female on the planet who doesn’t like a delicious Rosé.  Fresh and clean, this delicious Rosé of Syrah and Mourvedre is from the region of Provence.  Hilly vineyards of stone and limestone soil are located around the city of Salon de Provence above the bay of Marseille.  Aromas of roses, white pepper, and stone fruits were as fresh and clean as its tastes of tart cherries, raspberries, and herbs.  If you can’t send Mom to Paris, this may be the next best thing at a price you can afford: $12.

Jean Luc Colombo 2014 Cape Bleue Rose
Read Between the Wines: (sample) Put the children in bed and let the Mother’s Day revelry continue.  This incredibly fun game can be played with up to eight people regardless of their wine knowledge.  (That would be Uncle Larry…) The designated “wine waiter” opens a bottle of wine and pours each player a glass. Using the theme cards (examples include “describe what kind of crowd this wine would hang out with” and “describe the occasion this wine is best for”), participants write their descriptions on the tasting notes sheet and give it to the wine waiter who reads the comments.  Others must guess who wrote that (most likely humorous) note.  The object of the game is to earn “Perfect Pairing” points by correctly guessing who wrote what.  I invited neighbors to play this game and we had a fabulous time!   Cost is $34.99.

Read Between the Wines
Mayana Chocolates (sample):  Ahhh, chocolates!  When Mom opens this box of chocolates she will be amazed at the variety of flavors.   Sumatra Coffee and Corander Praline, Earl Grey Tea and Lemon, Mayan Spice, and Fleur de Sel Caramel are just a few examples of the rich, creamy and delicious choices.  My favorites include the Mint Dark Chocolate and Lime and Raspberry – wow!  Mom will love pairing these delectable treats with a classic Port, bold Cabernet Sauvignon, or some bubbly, but I have another idea…Syrah (see the next gift idea)!  Cost of a box begins at $22 for nine pieces.

mayana chocolate

Cornerstone Cellars 2012 Napa Valley Syrah, Black Label (sample):  Don’t forget to give Mom a bottle of this delicious Syrah with its touches of exotic spice, rich dark berries, and hints of lavender.  Oh so satisfying with the Mint Dark Chocolate and Cookies and Cream confections from Mayana Chocolates, she will be in heaven and you will be her favorite child. Wine and chocolate? This is a Mother-approved combination!  Cost is $40.

Cornerstone Cellars 2012 Napa Valley Syrah, Black Label
Vinomax Handheld Aerator (sample):  Nothing is worse than an over-aerated glass of wine – the palate profile of that expensive bottle will be affected and trust me, if Mama isn’t happy, no one will be.  Now, thanks to this newly patented handheld aerator from Vinomax, the air in the neck of the bottle and the air from within the aerator oxidize the wine.  Trust me, I tried it and it’s terrific.  Another plus?  The easy to use aerator is dishwasher safe! Only the best for your Mom, right?  Cost is $49.95

Vinomax Hand Held Triple Aerator

Have a beautiful Mother’s Day! ~ Cindy

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