Travels to France’s Wine Country

I just returned back home after a week-long journey to France’s wine country. Part of my job as a working mom and wine shop owner is to travel to vineyards in the U.S. and abroad to visit with the great wine estates that I work with and represent at the shop. This trip was amazing– but ever so busy– visiting a different wine region and changing hotels each day. We visited in this order – Alsace, Champagne, Sancerre, Puligny Montrachet, Pouilly, Fuisse and the northern Rhone.  This trip was probably one of the best I have ever had.

Each day I spent time in the vineyards with the owners and winemakers studying the soil, in the winery understanding the  producing processes and of course finishing up with a tasting. The tasting often consists of sampling 10-15 different wines. Of course I am not drinking them. I swish and swirl in the mouth and then spit out. Not too lady like sounding but that is part of the job; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the job. I tasted Champagne and wine as far back as 1973 and 1976 respectively – wow, I was only 2 and 5 then.

At Olivier Leflaive with Patrick Leflaive & Winemaker Franck

I was the only person from RI (well except for my supplier) who was asked to go on the trip and was the only woman, which made it all the more interesting. This actually happens frequently since the wine industry is quite male dominated. However the industry has changed over the last 20 years with more women representing part of the pie or should I say wine.

My background hasn’t always been in wine. I worked in the public relations world for some time, before deciding to make a change and dive head first into a life centered around a passion – wine and food. I love the jump I made, my career and helping people find the best wines for them.  Not once have I ever looked back.

Despite that I love what I do and the great travel opportunities that accompany my career, I always struggle when I get on the plane and leave my 3-year old daughter. I worry that she is sad and feel that I have abandoned her. As a woman who considers herself intelligent, I know rationally this is not the case. I am certain that it’s harder on me than it is her, especially when I have planned her days full of activities so she won’t have as much down time to realize I am gone.  But no matter if it is the 3rd or 20th time that I have gone away, the departure is never easy.

Tell me your thoughts. Do you ever have these feelings when you leave your children whether for work or vacation?

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Fun, Creative Cocktails for Warmer Weather

Boy, has it been a long, cold winter here in New England. As the warmer weather slowly begins to approach, I get excited. Not only can my three-year old daughter finally go outside to ride her bike and play on the swings without being bundled up in 3 layers of clothing but it also means using the grill more often and eating on the back deck. Even with a slight chill in the air at night, we love using the grill and feeling fresh air as we eat dinner outside.

The warmer weather also means more gatherings of friends and family on the deck. We love entertaining, having people over and being creative with food and drinks.  So as we approach the warmer weather holidays of Easter, Passover, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, I thought it would be the perfect time to share yummy, eye-appealing cocktails. If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, I provide an alternative version too.

Peach SangriaPeach Sangria
Spring & Summer just wouldn’t be the same without Sangria, the fun, festive wine-based drink ever-present in the warm weather months. This is a different take on the recipe! 

  • 4 peaches
  • 2 tablespoons brown raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup peach brandy
  • 1 750 ml bottle of Prosecco (I prefer Ca’Furlan Prosecco), chilled
  • 1 cup peach nectar, chilled (preferably Goya)
  • Club soda, chilledCut peaches into wedges; put in the pitcher with sugar and brandy and let sit for at least an hour. Add Prosecco and peach nectar. Top with club soda just before serving. You can also add other fruit too. Serves 6.

Nonalcoholic version: If you prefer to still have a fun drink for a child’s birthday or brunch without the alcohol, then simply leave out the brandy ingredient and substitute the Prosecco with a nonalcoholic sparkling drink or water that’s peach flavored.

Mimosas
Mimosas are probably one of my favorite drinks – simply because I love bubbles (sparkling wine) and orange juice. Mimosas are classic and have been around forever. In addition to just sparkling wine and orange juice, I like to add in some orange liqueur. Mimosas are great anytime but also for brunch with quiche, souffle or toasted Italian bread with fresh orange marmalade.  

  • One (1) 750 ml bottle of very cold Sparkling wine (I like Grandial Brut because it’s dry yet inexpensive, $10.49)
  • 1 cup of cold orange juice (I prefer Simply Orange or freshly squeezed orange juice)
  • ½ cup of orange liqueur (Mathilde or Cointreau is preferable)

Mix all ingredients in a glass pitcher. Serve immediately into Champagne glasses! Serves 6.

Nonalcoholic version: Just combine a nonalcoholic sparkling wine and orange juice. Voila!

Blueberry Lemon Burst
 The flavors of blueberry and lemons together are like yin and yang. The sweetness of blueberries dovetails well with the tartness of the lemons. Enjoy this on a hot Spring day, whenever we get one!

In a pitcher, mix vodka and lemonade. Let chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Put 3-4 blueberries (or more depending on your taste) in the bottom of each glass. Then pour the drink over top of the blueberries. Make 3-4 servings. Serve in a Martini glass.

Nonalcoholic version: Mix 8 ounces of blueberry or blueberry/pomegranate juice with just a couple ounces of lemonade. Add fresh blueberries. Or for a different twist reverse the amounts of the blueberry juice and lemonade.

Let me know what you think! Share your comments!

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Food and Wine – What to Choose

As a mom, wife and entrepreneur, running around in a million different directions is normal. That’s why when it comes to deciding what wine to pair with my meal, I don’t have a lot of time to consider it. And I figured most other people don’t too.

So whether you’re always in a rush, like me, or simply need help determining what wine to pair with your meal, a few simple guidelines can help you make a deicion more quickly.  These are not rules, and I am a firm believer in drinking what you like, but it is true that certain flavors in wine and food pair better together than others. The idea of pairing wine and food is balance and for the two to complement each other.

Match Food Weight with Wine Weight
If you’re preparing, or buying from the market, a heavy dish (ie., lasagna) then you want to choose a wine of equal weight and body (ie. something heavier). You don’t want to select a wine that is light in body because it won’t stand up to the weight of the food. Remember, lighter foods with lighter bodied wines and heavier foods with more full bodied wines.

Consider Food Preparation and Flavor Profiles
Delicately prepared/flavored foods (ie., steamed, poached) pair best with more delicate wines. And the reverse holds true. Sauce and accompaniments are just as, or even more, important than the actual main component. The dominant flavor or sauce in the dish should match the wine. (For example, if you are having turkey with a dried cherry sauce, the sauce is more important to pair with the wine than the turkey itself.)

Match Sweetness
When pairing sweet dishes with wine, remember that the wine needs to be as sweet as or sweeter than the dish at hand.  If it isn’t, then the food can make the wine taste less fruity and astringent. So while you may love chocolate and Sauvignon Blanc, the two together do not mesh.

Balance Acidity
Foods or dishes that are high in acid (ie., tomato-based dishes) pair best with wines of equal acidity. Again, like sweetness above, the wine will taste bitter if the dish is more acidic than the wine.

Consider Flavor Opposites
If you have a spicy dish, often occurring in Asian or Indian cuisine, consider pairing it with a wine that is sweet. The sweetness of the wine will cool the spiciness of the dish. You can match a spicy dish with a spicy wine (ie., Syrah) but the spice in the wine will accentuate the spice in the dish. So if you like that combination then go for it.

As I always say, don’t fret over food and wine pairings. It should be fun. Good company is the most important, but understanding some of the guidelines of food and wine pairings can make a world of difference. Wine consumed by itself will taste completely different when paired with food.  So, have fun and experiment!

 What are some of your favorite pairings?  Do you have any questions about which foods and wines to put together?  I’d love your feedback!

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