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Throughout the season we'll be adding the dishes, pairings, and restaurants you see on the show. Be sure to check frequently for all the exciting additions!

Featured Red Wine


Barbera


2000 Garetto - Barbera D'Asti 'In Pectore'
Producer: Garetto Country: Italy Region: Piedmont
Major Grape: Barbera
Appellation: Barbera D'Asti
Trying to pair a wine with a dish with such a wide array of ingredients is a difficult task. Cured meats, fish, cheeses and vegetables and an amalgam of spices and herbs are covered with olive oil and vinegar dressing. We also have saltiness and some mild spicy heat to deal with. We could have taken the safe road and chosen a sparkling wine such as a lightly sweet Prosecco, but we chose to be bold and adventurous and chose a Barbera D'Asti from the Piedmont region made by Garetto.

Barbera delivers just what is needed, a richly fruited red with moderate tannin and high acidity. This will go well with some of the ingredients and not well with others. So why use a wine that may fail with some and succeed with others? This pairing is meant to be a learning lesson. The opportunity to pair a wine with so many different foods is hard to resist. Safe is good when you have company but you often learn more from your mistakes than your successes.

2002 Garetto - Barbera D'Asti
This is Aris' pairing for La Cava Pork Chop Alla Zingara (Gypsy Style) from La Cava Restaurant
Producer: Garetto Country: Italy Region: Piedmont
Major Grape: Barbera
Appellation: Barbara D'Asti
Barbera is the everyday table wine of the Piedmontese. A deliciously fruity and supple wine whose tasty ripeness, refreshing acidity and friendly character allow it to fit in nicely with many dishes and occasions. This is just the kind of wine you want with a pork dish like this. Pork pairs well with red wines that focus on natural fruitiness and do not have noticeable oak flavors. Pork is also rich enough to need the balancing effect of acidity and Barbera is happy to oblige.

Garetto is an exceptional producer of Barbera who manages to extract lots of flavor from his grapes without the wine ever seeming heavy.


Blend


2002 Austin Hope - Westside Red
This is Aris' pairing for Stuffed Tomato with Mediterranean Couscous and a Champagne-Tomato Butter Sauce from Four Square Restaurant
Producer: Austin Hope Country: USA State: CA Region: Paso Robles
Major Grape: Blend
Grape Blend: Mourvedre + Syrah + Grenache
Appellation: Paso Robles
Vineyard: Hope Family Vineyard
Austin Hope has worked wonders with Rhone Valley grapes. On the palate it is fleshy in texture and loaded with the taste of fully ripened grapes. The fruit, while redolent of dark berries, also exudes a spicy quality reminiscent of the grape's homeland. There is tannin for structure, but not at all astringent, thanks to the high limestone content of the vineyards. This dish just screamed out for just such a red wine as this. The lush fruit balanced the acidity of the tomato and lemon while the olives and peppers accentuated the wine's spice. A great combo! Oh, by the way, this wine is delectable on its own as well.

Click here to visit their website.

Red Sangria
This is Aris' pairing for Coriander-Crusted Lamb Chops with Chimichurri from Gervais and Vine
Producer: Gervias and Vine Country: USA State: SC Region:
Major Grape: Blend
To make the Rosé Sangria you will need:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 large lemon
1 large orange
1 pint Strawberries, sliced
1 pint Blueberries, rinsed
1 (750 ml.) bottle dry red wine (recommended: Tempranillo, but a good, full-bodied, fruity Cabernet or Merlot will also work nicely.)
1/2 cup Blackberry Brandy

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring until sugar dissolves-this is Simple Syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Thinly slice 1/2 of the lemon and 1/2 of the orange. Combine in large pitcher. Juice the other halves of the lemon and orange and add juice and rinds to the pitcher. Add the apple, wine, Grand Marnier and chilled syrup to the pitcher and stir until well mixed. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours, or allow it to macerate in the fridge over night. Then strain out the old fruit and dice up some new fruit to add to the glasses. Serve straight up or on the rocks.


Cabernet Sauvignon


2001 Estancia - Meritage
This is Aris' pairing for Portobello Formaggio with a Balsamic Reduction from Gianni & Gaitano’s
Producer: Estancia Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Grape Blend: 53% Merlot + 47% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Alexander Valley
Predicate: Meritage
The term 'Meritage' refers to a high quality wine made from a blend of the Bordeaux grapes. This 2001 Estansia is a little more than half Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon making up the rest and body. It has plenty of class. Generous varietal fruit delivers black currants, vanilla laced mocha, green olive notes and a hint of pepper spice.

The palate impression is lush, medium-full bodied and firmly knit with youthful tannins that remain hidden under the cloak of fruit. It had all the prerequisites necessary to handle the complexity of the portobellos, the richness of the cheese and the intensity of the balsamic.

Click here to visit their website.

2001 Robert Mondavi - Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvingon
This is Aris' pairing for Seared Flank Steak with Orange Scented-Saffron Laced Couscous and Pineapple Salsa from George's on Tybee
Producer: Robert Mondavi Country: USA State: CA Region: Napa Valley
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Stags Leap
The Stags Leap AVA is one of the world's best appellations to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an elegant yet muscular wine whose symmetry and harmony bestow a sense of completeness. Its fragrant bouquet, redolent of cassis and violets framed by sweet vanillin oak perfume, literally jumps from the glass. Deep and opulent, it unfolds lavishly on the palate in bountiful layers of chocolaty rich, black currant fruit buttressed by cedary, toasty oak, hints of minerals and a solid core of tannins. Impeccably balanced, it provides current enjoyment and rewards for the patient. After pairing this meal everyone was all smiles.

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2002 Liberty School - Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Aris' pairing for Vanilla Beef Fajitas from Salsa Mexican Caribbean Restaurant
Producer: Liberty School Country: USA State: CA Region: Paso Robles
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Paso Robles
Beef with Cabernet is a no brainer, right? Well, sort of, but with all the spicy flavors going on in this dish we need to be a little careful. Cabernet Sauvignon takes on a unique personality with each distinctive climate it encounters. Paso Robles gets hot enough to fully ripen grapes, but the cool breezes from the Santa Lucia Mountains prevents overripeness and retains a refreshing acidity.

Liberty School Cabernet emphasizes the fruit-driven power necessary to handle the spices with its blast of blackberry and black currant fruit and a light vanilla spice of its own. The tannins are firm but not astringent and so the wine will not fight with the spicy heat but will balance it with its juicy, ripe fruit.

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2002 Wente - Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Aris' pairing for Vidalia Onions and Potato Cheddar Cheese Soup from Crescent Grille
Producer: Wente Country: United States State: CA Region: San Francisco Bay
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Livermore Valley
Wente was founded in 1883. Today, the fourth generation of the Wente family has carried on the tradition of quality wines with the distinctiveness of Livermore fruit. This Wente Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be an excellent match for this rich and flavorful soup, providing ripe plum and cherry fruit with notes of cedar and vanilla to match the richness of the cheese and sweetness of the onions.

The texture of the wine also matched the texture of the dish, plush yet solid. Background notes of toasty oak played off the smoky notes of the bacon.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Frei Brothers - Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Aris' pairing for Grilled Filet with Grilled Gorgonzola Polenta from La Cava Restaurant
Producer: Frei Brothers Country: USA State: CA Region: Northern Sonoma
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Alexander Valley
Predicate: Reserve
The Gallo Winery purchased the Frei estate in 1978, after buying their grapes since 1930. Sonoma Cabernets tend to be softer and less earthy than their Napa cousins but no less classy or complex. Partial use of whole berry fermentation yields a softer, less tannic texture. Although filet is a delicate flavored cut, the gorgonzola kicks it up a notch or two, requiring a richly textured wine as well as one with complimentary flavors. The fruit has a jammy richness with black currant flavors enhanced with toasty oak that is laced with vanilla spice. The lush texture hides the tannins well, giving the wine a sun-ripened sweetness that balances the saltiness of the cheese.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Mondavi - Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Aris' pairing for Angus Barn Shell Steak from Angus Barn Restaurant
Producer: Robert Mondavi Country: USA State: CA Region: Napa Valley
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Napa Valley
This dish just screamed for a classic Napa Cabernet so I gave in and supplied it with one that would do justice to the whole experience, a Robert Mondavi. This is their first line estate wine yet is has many of the qualities of Mondavi's more expensive selections. Layers of blackberry, cassis, mineral, violet and black licorice character are framed by solid, integrated tannins and toasty vanilla oak. These flavors matched well with the beef, mushrooms and green herbs and the wine had adequate depth to handle the feta cheese as well. Since many Napa Cabernets often show a green olive character, as did this one, the kalamata olives took well to the wine also.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Robert Mondavi - Cabernet Sauvignon 'Private Selection'
This is Aris' pairing for Mike Wallace’s Filet and Crab Napoleon from Red Rocks Café, Bar, and Bakery
Producer: Robert Mondavi Country: USA State: CA Region: Central Coast
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Central Coast
Predicate: Private Selection
Winemaking talent is more often expressed in the ability to make a good inexpensive wine than the ability to make a great expensive wine. Winemakers often say it is nature that makes great wines and their job is to be stewards, raising it up to its full potential. The Robert Mondavi winery has a proven ability to make those great expensive wines but with this wine they show that a fine, classically flavored Cabernet can be made with consistency at an easily affordable price for everyday enjoyment.

Ripe plums and blackberry flavors laced with vanilla spiced oak and finished with soft tannins make this an fine choice for this dish.

Click here to visit their website.

2004 Blackstone - Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Aris' pairing for Pecan-crusted Flat Iron Steak with Green Chilaquiles and Black Bean Coulis from The Prickly Pear
Producer: Blackstone Winery Country: USA State: CA Region: California
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Blackstone's motto, "the laid-back, fruit-forward wine", is especially important when dealing with Cabernet Sauvignon, which is often an astringent wine. While there are enough tannins for structure, the focus here is on the dark berry and plum fruit and toasty oak with hints of licorice. While the classic Cabernet flavors paired well with the steak, Mexican dishes often require wines with a rich but soft texture to balance their spice and heat and that's where this Blackstone shines. The fact that Blackstone is a super value makes the combo taste even better.

Click here to visit their website.

2004 Greg Norman - Cabernet Merlot
This is Aris' pairing for Chicken Milanese from Mia Famiglia
Producer: Greg Norman Country: Australia Region: Limestone Coast
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Grape Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon + Merlot
Greg Norman got the nickname "Great White Shark" during his career as a world class pro golfer because of his tenacious pursuit of perfection and winning. That same determination is now being applied to winemaking and the result is this excellent Cabernet/Merlot blend. Richly endowed with fruit flavors enhanced with a vanilla sweet oakiness and smooth lush finish, it works wonderfully with this dish. While chicken can often pair with red or white, the strong influences of the tomato, cheese and basil bring this into red wine country. The smooth tannins help prevent the wine from overwhelming the chicken or clashing with the acidity of the tomato.

Click here to visit their website.

2004 Swings & Roundabouts - Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Aris' pairing for Curries Noodles with Flank Steak from Jujube Restaurant-Asian Kitchen and Bar
Producer: Swings & Roundabouts Country: Australia Region: Margaret River
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Grape Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon + Merlot + Cabernet Franc + Malbec

Click here to visit their website.

2005 La Puerta Torrentes
This is Aris' pairing for Pea and Ricotta Ravioli with Romaine and Parmesan Cream from Frazier's Bistro
Producer: La Puerta Country: Argentina Region: Famatina Valley
Major Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon


Carignan


2003 Castelmaure - 'Clos des Vents' Corbieres
This is Aris' pairing for Pan Roasted Niman Ranch “Pork & Beans”, Homemade Chow Chow, & Mustard Green Salad from Mimosa Grill
Producer: Castelmaure Country: France Region: Languedoc
Major Grape: Carignan
Grape Blend: 40% Carignan + 40% Grenache + 20% Syrah
Appellation: Corbieres
Predicate: Clos des Vents
This is a hearty dish needing a wine of equal stature. The Languedoc region in France delivers some of the best values in robust red wines. This is a fat, ripe and juicy wine with the spicy, roasted quality to the fruit one finds in southern Rhone Valley wines. This is not unexpected, considering the hot climate of Corbiers and use of classic Rhone varietals blended with old vine Carignan grapes indiginous to the Languedoc.

The pork actually enhanced the flavors of the wine while the wine provided the firm, palate cleansing structure, to the benefit of both.


Grenache


2003 Lucky Country - GSM
This is Aris' pairing for Orange Roughy Filet Napoletana and Portabella Mushrooms from Villa Romana – Myrtle Beach
Producer: Two Hands 'Lucky Country' Country: Australia Region: South Australia
Major Grape: Grenache
Grape Blend: 85% Grenache + 10% Shiraz + 5% Mourvedre
Appellation: Barossa Valley
Predicate: GSM
Pairing fish with red wine is not always that tough, I'll usually grab a Pinot Noir or a Chianti, lighter styled reds with good acidity and moderate tannins. I wanted something a little richer here to deal with the tomatoes on the fish and on the spaghetti but I still wanted to avoid tannins. Well, I got what I wished for and in spades.

The Two Hands Winery makes some of my favorite Shiraz so I was confident I'd get a bold and exciting yet balanced wine. What a juice bomb of a wine this is. Ripe raspberries with a light anise and pepper spice. The texture is plush but not heavy and the finish long.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Perrin - Chateauneuf du Pape 'Les Sinards'
This is Aris' pairing for Seared Veal Cutlets with Pan Roasted Lobster with Potato Hash from The Speedway Club
Producer: Perrin Country: France Region: Rhone Valley
Major Grape: Grenache
Grape Blend: Grenache + Shiraz + Mourvedre
Appellation: Chateauneuf du Pape
Predicate: Les Sinards
The Perrins make one of France's best red wines, the Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf de Pape. Although lacking the depth of that wine, 'Les Sinards' shares that wine's wide ranging and complex flavors and has just the right depth and complexity for the dish without overwhelming it. The flavors are a unique array of black fruits, kirsch liquor and loam all spiced with thyme, rosemary and lavender. Richly textured with supple tannins and long finish. This is a very harmonious and complete wine with a natural, earthy taste that is very seductive.

Click here to visit their website.


Malbec


2005 La Puerta - Malbec
This is Aris' pairing for Underwood Pork Chop from Pewter Rose Bistro
Producer: La Puerta Country: Argentina Region: La Rioja
Major Grape: Malbec
Appellation: Famatina Valley
Malbec has become the signature red grape of Argentina. Although relegated to a minor blending grape in its Bordeaux homeland, it's star shines brightly in Argentina. La Puerta's is on the tamer side of the Malbec spectrum but retains plenty of power for this dish. It's similar to Cabernet Sauvignon in its concentrated flavors and chewy, tannic structure but the flavor profile is quite different. Ripe plum and black cherry fruit with hints of mint and pepper are a delight. There is a meaty texture to the wine that matches the marvelous texture of the pork chop to a tee.

Click here to visit their website.


Merlot


2001 Ferrari-Carano Merlot
This is Aris' pairing for Filet Mignon Egg Rolls from Plantation Room at the Celebration Hotel
Producer: Ferrari-Carano Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Merlot
Appellation: Sonoma
This is what Merlot ought to be, ripe, juicy and lush but not wimpy. There are tannins for structure but they are not at all astringent and are well veiled behind the fruit. Oak is sprinkled on the nose and palate in a nicely proportioned way that spices up the fruit.

The Merlot grapes from Ferrari-Carano's Alexander and Dry Creek Valley vineyards deliver classic dark berry flavors of cherry and currants that blend effortlessly with with the cheese while the oak plays off against the smoky taste in the sausage. The creaminess of the polenta matched the plush texture of the wine. I love it when a match comes together like this.

Click here to visit their website.

2002 Finca Sophenia 'Altosur' Merlot
This is Aris' pairing for Whole Wheat Linguini with Duck, Wild Mushrooms and Assiago from Mangia Mangia
Producer: Finca Sophenia Country: Argentina Region: Mendoza
Major Grape: Merlot
Appellation: Mendoza
Predicate: Altosur
At 4000 feet elevation on the well drained slopes of the Andes in the Mendoza region of Argentina are grown Merlot grapes that make a wine robust enough to satisfy the Gaucho spirit. This is not the soft,

easy drinking Merlot of California but the Merlot of a country that is number one in beef consumption. There is a rigid backbone of tannin that is fortunately hidden behind a shield of fruit that can easily slice through the fatty, protein rich Duck. The mushrooms and assiago add a complexity to the dish that is matched by the wine in its delivery of rich plum, cherry and blackcurrant fruit, a peppery and sweet vanilla spice and hints of violets.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Mondavi - Merlot
This is Aris' pairing for Filet au poivre from Angus Barn Restaurant
Producer: Robert Mondavi Country: USA State: CA Region: Napa Valley
Major Grape: Merlot
Appellation: Napa Valley
I chose Mondavi's Merlot for a number of reasons. I love the flavor combination of beef with the Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot). I chose Merlot because I felt I needed a wine with the least amount of astringent tannins so as to not clash with the strong black pepper influences. I chose Mondavi because I can always count on the winery to deliver the quintessential wine, true to its grape variety and the region it was grown. The wine is nicely layered with ripe black cherry and plum fruit with mocha and vanilla nuances. Fleshy and juicy and the palate with no rough edges. The finish is long and the match worked as I had hoped.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Robert Mondavi - Merlot 'Private Selection'
This is Aris' pairing for Elliot Sadler’s Sesame Tuna from Red Rocks Café, Bar, and Bakery
Producer: Robert Mondavi Country: United States State: CA Region: Central Coast
Major Grape: Merlot
Appellation: Central Coast
Predicate: Private Selection
How can you look at the picture of this dish and not think "red wine"? We don't need a big red here, rather something tamer and softer to support and highlight the rich and complex flavors of the top grade components of this superbly crafted dish.

Mondavi's Merlot has the consistency of style and quality with a firm grip on the soft texture and vibrant fruity nature of Merlot grape grown in the Central Coast vineyards. The fruit flavors are like ripe plums and cherries and carry nuances of oak for complexity.

Click here to visit their website.


Petite Sirah


2004 McManis - Petite Sirah
This is Aris' pairing for Chorizo and Fennel Empanadas from Chelsea's Wine Bar & Eatery
Producer: McManis Family Vineyards Country: USA State: CA Region: California
Major Grape: Petite Sirah
McManis is notable for producing wines for the value conscious consumer. This Petite Sirah is just what the doctor prescribed for this dish. A deep purple color is followed by juicy palate of ripe blackberry fruit with hints of clove and black pepper. Although rich and full bodied it has a smooth and rounded finish with very little astringency. The spicy chorizo sausage and licorice notes from the fennel marry well with the ripe berry and pepper spiced fruit, as do the cheese and red peppers.

Click here to visit their website.


Pinot Noir


2000 Koves-Newlan Pinot Noir
Producer: Koves-Newlan Country: Region:
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
The problem with pairing red wine with most fish is the metallic, tinny taste it leaves in the mouth. Although some fish, like salmon and sashimi grade tuna pair well with red wine, most other fish need help gaining compatibility. The goat cheese stuffing in this dish so changed the flavor profile of the fish that the red Pinot Noir from the Koves-Newlan was an unbeatable match. Ripe cherries, with notes leather and sweet vanilla, riding smoothly on a rich but firm palate of crisp acidity and mild tannins, married effortlessly with the succulent trout and creamy goat cheese. We didn't break the old 'red wine doesn't go with fish' rule, we demolished it.

Click here to visit their website.

2002 Byron Pinot Noir
Producer: Byron Country: United States State: CA Region: Santa Maria Valley
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Choosing a Byron for the match was easy, considering the well deserved reputation of Byron as a Pinot Noir specialist. The texture is plush and velvety and filled with succulent ripe fruit that's reminiscent of black cherries with hints of leather and earth. In both structure and flavor this was an excellent match.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Domaine Serene - Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Balsamic-braised Short Ribs with Pan Sauce over Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Solstice Kitchen and Wine Bar
Producer: Domaine Serene Country: USA State: OR Region: Willamette Valley
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Evenstad
Predicate: Reserve
If America had an appellation system similar to France then Domaine Serene would be classed a 'First Growth' and the Evenstad Vineyard would be a 'Grand Cru'. This Pinot Noir has the classic "steel fist in a velvet glove" impact on the palate. It's like a bowling ball, dense yet perfectly round and polished. And the flavors? Wow, just imagine cherries, blackberries, orange peel, pomegranate, rose petal, sassafras, leather, allspice and vanilla oak. It's hard to imagine a dish that would not be enhanced by this wine. In fact the wine is so rich, complex and complete it's almost a meal in itself. In case you haven't guessed, I'm really excited about this wine!

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Estancia - Pinnacles Ranches Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Tuna and Smoked Bacon Egg Roll with Soba Noodles and Red Curry Coconut Sauce from Divine Dining Group Restaurants: Bovine’s Wood Fired & Divine Fish House
Producer: Estancia Country: USA State: CA Region: Monterey
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Monterey
Vineyard: Pinnacles Ranches
Although I can think of a many white wines that would be marvelous with this tuna dish, I often enjoy challenging a red wine's versatility. After many such trials my all time champion for versatility is Pinot Noir, the red grape of Burgundy. This Estancia from the cool Monterey AVA illustrates why my first choice for Pinot Noir these days is not Burgundy but California. The black cherry fruit has a rich suppleness that is simply delectable and soooo easy to drink. The velvety texture veils a sturdy backbone that held its ground against the wide range of flavors and textures delivered by this dish.

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2003 Leaping Lizard - Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Black Angus Aged Beef Tenderloin with Crabmeat from The Inn at Brevard
Producer: Leaping Lizard Country: USA State: CA Region: Los Carneros
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Los Carneros
Dishes like this are not easy to match with wine. First you have to deal with finding a wine that will pair with both the beef and crab and then deal with the rich béarnaise sauce. Pinot Noir is my favorite solution to the 'red wine with fish' problem but I needed one with enough richness to handle the beef and sauce but without the tannins usually associated with robust reds.

My search led me to California and the Leaping Lizard winery whose Pinot Noir fit all the requirements. The name Leaping Lizard is not just some attention getting name but refers to the childhood memories of the owners whose father would read them Little Orphan Annie comics and laughingly yell "Leapin' Lizards!" They say you can still hear his echoes over the vineyards.

Click here to visit their website.

2003 Pedroncelli - F. Johnson Vineyard Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Foie Gras and Blueberry Stilton Spinach Salad from 45 South at the Pirate’s House
Producer: Pedroncelli Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Dry Creek + Russian River Valleys
Vineyard: F. Johnson
Under most circumstances I would have picked a more robust, tannic wine to cut through the richness of the foie gras and stilton cheese. This dish, however, uses the tartness of red fruits to help provide balance so a less tannic and more subtle wine is needed. The Pedroncelli family has been making wine since 1927. The fruit from this prime vineyard offers enough depth and richness to handle 12 months in oak, one third of which is new. Spiced bing cherries are the first impression but plum and tat cranberry emerge as the wine airs. Toasty oak with a light vanilla sweetness add complexity, as does notes of leather in the finish. Firmly structured but not tart or astringent.

Click here to visit their website.

2004 Esser - Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb from City Tavern Hearst Tower
Producer: Esser Country: United States State: CA Region: Monterey
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Monterey
Rack of lamb requires a wine of richness, complexity and finesse. You want the lamb and wine to be partners, acting together in harmony with one purpose in mind, your pleasure. Pinot Noir is just the grape for the task and Esser is just the winery to provide it. The winery says "this medium-bodied, aromatic Pinot Noir owes its broad strawberry and cherry fruit to its Monterey provenance, and its spicy, herbal high notes to its relatively small percentage of Central Coast fruit. The Napa lot was added to enhance the style and focus of the blend." There is just enough oak as a complexing spice and it is well integrated into the rich fruit extract.

Combining succulent richness with elegance that is supported by a firm structure is a magical combination that only the best wineries like Esser can craft.

Click here to visit their website.

2004 MacMurray Ranch - Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Pecan Encrusted Chicken from Cafe on the Square
Producer: MacMurray Ranch Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Home to actor Fred MacMurray for 50 years and owned by Gallo since 1996, MacMurray Ranch focuses on Pinot Noir as its only red, making an estate wine from Russian River fruit and this Sonoma Coast which adds some Carneros fruit as well and makes less of a dent in your wallet. This is a full throttle Pinot Noir fully capable of handling this dish with it's wide array of spices without overwhelming it like a Cabernet or Syrah probably would. Plush black cherry and plum fruit spiced with a touch of sage and vanilla ride on a supple palate that has a solid backbone but never feels sharp or astringent.

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2004 Oyster Bay - Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Grilled Linguica with Four Cheese Polenta, Grilled Vegetables and Tomato Fondue from Plantation Room at the Celebration Hotel
Producer: Oyster Bay Country: New Zealand Region: Marlborough
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Marlborough
After mounting a successful challenge to the Loire Valley and Bordeaux with its Sauvignon Blancs, New Zealand now has its sights set on Burgundy for a Pinot Noir showdown. Ripe cherry and plum like fruit with notes of new leather blend effortlessly with with the cheese while lightly toasty oak, previously hidden behind the fruit, comes into action to play off against the smoky taste in the sausage. The creaminess of the polenta matched the plush texture of the wine while the wines underlying acidity firmed up the finish and tied the package together. I love it when a match comes together like this.

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2004 Witness Tree - Pinot Noir
This is Aris' pairing for Cedar-Planked Wild Salmon with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Goat Cheese Crumbles and Pinot Noir Reduction from Solstice Kitchen and Wine Bar
Producer: Witness Tree Country: USA State: OR Region: Willamette Valley
Major Grape: Pinot Noir
Oregon's Willamette Valley is considered by many to be America's Cote d'Or, producing Pinot Noir to Challenge Burgundy's best. Witness Tree's estate grown Pinot Noir has a classic bright garnet color with a nose full of black fruits, chocolate and a hint of spice. In the mouth, it is supple on entry, with just a hint of tannin. The fruit flavors are full of sun-sweetened ripeness and reminiscent of black raspberry with a dollop of vanilla. The wine has great structure and a very long finish. The wine and food created a lovely symphony. Pinots this rich are often too much for salmon but the cedar, mushrooms and wine reduction made the richness of the wine a necessity.

Click here to visit their website.


Sangiovese


2000 Ruffino - Chianti Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro
This is Aris' pairing for Pan-Seared Steaks with Roasted Garlic, Gorgonzola and Balsamic Butter from Mangia Mangia
Producer: Ruffino Country: Italy Region: Tuscany
Major Grape: Sangiovese
Appellation: Chianti Classico
Predicate: Riserva Ducale Oro
If you needed a Chianti to use as a benchmark, this is it. The nose is floral and fruity with an herbal spiced cherry and violate perfume that blends so amicably with mellow complexities reminiscent of cedar and tobacco. The rich Sangiovese fruit has exceptional depth and length with superbly balanced tannins and acidity taking a firm grip on the palate.

Although generously endowed there is no sense of heaviness, but rather it has an elegance, harmony and restrained power reminiscent of the finest Bordeaux. Then, just when you think it can't get better, along comes a dish like this and the gastronomic fireworks begin.

Click here to visit their website.

2001 Casabianca - Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva
This is Aris' pairing for Veal Saltimbocca alla Romana from Villa Romana – Myrtle Beach
Producer: Casabianca Country: Italy Region: Tuscany
Major Grape: Sangiovese
Appellation: Chianti Colli Senesi
Predicate: Riserva Poggio Cenni
Fully deserving of its 'Riserva' status in every way. Youthfully bright fruit aromas paired with notes of tobacco and earth are handsomely supported on the palate by spicy berry fruit that shows the same remarkable complexity as the nose for a wine so young. The structure is firm enough to handle most dishes, adding versatility to its charms.

This wine will stand tall on any table, and most certainly did here. Both the wine and dish were improved by the match. I just love the way the earthy/tobacco notes blend with the mushrooms and prosciutto to create new flavors while the bright fruit cleanses the palate.

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2002 Biltmore Estate - Sangiovese
This is Aris' pairing for Smoked Duck and Goat Cheese Pizzetta from The Dining Room at the Inn at Biltmore Estate
Producer: Biltmore Estate Winery Country: USA State: CA Region: California
Major Grape: Sangiovese
Appellation: California
Sangiovese is the major grape used in Chianti and is perfectly suited to this dish. The spiced cherry fruit had a nice sense of richness and molded itself to the wide range of flavors in the dish.

There was just enough tannin and acidity to cut through the fat of the duck and cheese while its oaky flavors complimented the smokiness in the duck.

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2004 Banfi - Centine
This is Aris' pairing for Risotto con Vedure (Vegetable Risotto) and Coffee Rubbed Pork Tenderloin from Hadco Facility
Producer: Banfi Country: Italy Region: Tuscany
Major Grape: Sangiovese
Grape Blend: Sangiovese + Cabernet Sauvignon + Merlot
Predicate: Centine
This American-owned estate has been declared "Italy s Best Wine Estate" eleven times since 1994 at VinItaly. Centine is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. The Sangiovese is Tuscany's pride and joy, providing a spiced cherry fruit with notes of tobacco and firm acidity. The Cabernet and Merlot add a layer of richness and depth along with dark berry flavors. The combination of grapes works well with this dish. There is enough weight and structure in the wine to handle the pork without overwhelming it. The spice and tobacco nuances of Sangiovese work well with most of the dish's components but the coffee required the extra richness of the Cabernet and Merlot.

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Shiraz


2004 Euroa Creeks Shiraz
This is Aris' pairing for Asian Tapas - Dumplings from Jujube Restaurant-Asian Kitchen and Bar
Producer: Euroa Creek Country: Australia Region: Central Victoria
Major Grape: Shiraz
Vineyard: Vine Street

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2005 La Puerta - Shiraz
This is Aris' pairing for North Carolina Farmhouse Salad from Pewter Rose Bistro
Producer: La Puerta Country: Argentina Region: La Rioja
Major Grape: Shiraz
Appellation: Famatina Valley
I must admit to a preference for red wines with a ripe, jammy fruitiness as a match for pork. Having the goat cheese, bell peppers, tart apples and spices are added incentive to provide balance with a ripe and juicy red. La Puerta's Shiraz fits the bill perfectly, providing loads of spiced cherry fruit and a structure that is firmly tannic but not astringent. There is no obvious oak influencing the flavors that are focused sharply on the bright fruit.

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Syrah


2002 Ravenswood - 'Icon' Syrah
This is Aris' pairing for Veal Rib Chop au Poivre from Vinnie's Steakhouse & Tavern
Producer: Ravenswood Country: United States State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Syrah
Grape Blend: 88% Syrah + 6% Mourvedre, 6% Grenache
Appellation: Sonoma
Predicate: Icon
Let's see what we've got here. A rich, succulent chunk of meat, an opulent and mouth-coating creamy sauce and spicy peppercorns. What wine can we pair with this dish? How about a chunky, meaty, opulent, creamy textured wine with a peppery spiciness. As you might have guessed, I've got just such a wine. It comes from my favorite "no wimpy wines" winery, Ravenswood, and they call this big black beauty "Icon". What flavors can you expect? Try an amalgam of black fruits with notes of smoke and leather. Enough talk, lets eat and drink!

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2003 Fusee - Syrah
This is Aris' pairing for Buttermilk Fried Duckling Breast over Corn Fritters, Siberian Kale and Cherry Gastrique from Motor Supply Company Bistro
Producer: Don Sebastiani & Sons Country: USA State: CA Region: California
Major Grape: Syrah
Grape Blend: Syrah + Merlot
Appellation: Lodi + Monterey + Paso Robles
Duck responds beautifully to pairing with red wine. A tannic red is usually called upon to counteract the fat in the duck. In this dish the bing cherry gastrique provides balance for the duck's fat and brings the cherries to the forefront as another flavor to be contended with. The wine I was looking for now would be rich in red fruit flavors but with soft tannins. This Fusee Syrah fit the bill. The nose is packed with fresh blackberries spiked with vanilla. The refreshing cherry and cranberry flavors are framed with cocoa and sweet oak nuances. The finish is creamy rich with lingering fruit.

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2004 Smoking Loon - Syrah
This is Aris' pairing for Cajun Fried Eggplant with Seafood Medley from Cafe on the Square
Producer: Don Sebastiani & Sons Country: USA State: CA Region: California
Major Grape: Syrah
Smoking Loon Syrah has an inky purple color. The nose reveals scents of wild strawberry, mocha, and caramel with touches of sage and rosemary. The flavors burst through with intense blueberry and strawberry jam notes wrapped around rich French oak and finishing with touches of milk chocolate, sweetened cranberries, and savory herbs. The finish is juicy and fleshy. Pairing a red with this dish was a stretch but I felt the eggplant, sausage, peppers and mushrooms would dominate over the fish and call for a red wine.

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Viura


2005 Marqués de Cáceres - Rioja Blanco
This is Aris' pairing for Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass over Asparagus Crab Salad and a Tangerine Soy Wasabi Sauce from Christopher's New Global Cuisine
Producer: Marqués de Cáceres Country: Spain Region: Rioja
Major Grape: Viura
Appellation: Rioja
The name Rioja usually brings visions of the world famous reds made in this traditional region. Overlooked are the lovely, versatile and affordable whites made from Spain's indigenous Viura grape. Marqués de Cáceres is a modern winery in the technological sense but a traditional winery when it comes to its wines. A delicate nose of pears, apples and white flowers is followed on the palate with mineral notes and a refreshing lemony acidity. The elegance and finesse of the wine matches the same qualities of the dish.

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Zinfandel


2001 Ravenswood - Amador 'Old Vine' Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Bruchetta Three Ways: Tomato, Shrimp & Escarole, Wild Mushroom & Prosciutto from San Francisco Oven
Producer: Ravenswood Country: United States State: CA Region: Amador
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Appellation: Amador
Predicate: Old Vine
Ravenswood's web site says it all; "The oldest Zinfandel vines in the world are located in the California Gold Rush country - the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento. Situated high above the San Joaquin Valley fog line, these grapes get a full dose of sun but are also blessed by evening downdrafts from the snowcapped mountains. Thus, the fruit gets good and ripe while maintaining unexpected acidity. Grown in decomposed granite soil rich in iron and cinnabar, Amador Zinfandel is incontestably unique, marked by a trademark cocoa-cherry quality with chewy tannins and aromatic spices. It's the most distinctive Zinfandel grown in California." The complex flavors and firm acidity gave this wine the flexibility to handle these bruchettas, although the match with the shrimp was the least successful.

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2002 Ravenswood - Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Veal Chop from 45 South at the Pirate’s House
Producer: Ravenswood Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Grape Blend: Zinfandel + Carignane + Alicante Bouschet + Petite Sirah
Appellation: Russian River
Vineyard: Belloni Vineyard
A big chunk of veal, marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and smothered in herbs just screams for Zinfandel. So, where do you go when you need a Zin, well, to the Zin masters of course, Ravenswood. Their mantra is 'no wimpy wines' and boy do they deliver on that. The Belloni vineyard's low-yielding 90 year old vines in the cool Russian River appellation enjoy a hang time long enough to fully develop the succulent richness and intriguing spices needed to marry with this dish. Boysenberry, blueberry, allspice, and vanilla flavors are a delight and the wine shows amazing finesse in spite of its formidable proportions. A match made in heaven but to be enjoyed in the here and now.

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2002 Ravenswood - Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Beef Tenderloin Carpetbagger with Fried Oysters, Sweet Soy, and Chili Oil from Divine Dining Group Restaurants: Bovine’s Wood Fired & Divine Fish House
Producer: Ravenswood Country: United States State: CA Region: Napa Valley
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Appellation: St. Helena
Vineyard: Dickerson
This bold and complex dish really needed a powerful wine for the marriage to work, and who do I turn to when power is the name of the game, Ravenswood of course, where "no wimpy wines" is the motto. With wines like this Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel, power combines with complexity and balance to give a complete package. The fruit shows the exceptional ripeness that makes the wine seem sweet until the tannins and acidity come into play for balance.

When the succulent flavors, redolent of raspberry jam, cedar, mint and eucalyptus, met the food there was a fireworks display of new and exciting flavors created that exemplified the term 'synergy'. What a treat!

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2003 Chase - Centennial Harvest Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Meatloaf Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Tomato & Bacon from Fenwick's On Providence
Producer: S.E. Chase Family Cellars Country: USA State: CA Region: Napa Valley
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Vineyard: Hayne
Predicate: Centennial Harvest
The Chase family planted this vineyard in 1903 on well drained gravely slopes in the Napa Valley. The complexity, concentration and depth of this wine can rarely be achieved without such low yielding, ancient vines. The exuberant fruitiness billows out of the glass and consumes the palate with a multi-dimensional array of flavors reminiscent of blueberries, raspberries and mocha spiced with cinnamon, vanilla and cedar. This is Zinfandel at its best. We needed a really rich wine to tackle the blue cheese and bacon stuffing and we sure found it.

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2004 Dashe - Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Creole Barbecued Shrimp Appetizer from Fenwick's On Providence
Producer: Dashe Cellars Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
With Michael Dashe's experience with great wineries like Ridge and Anne Dashe's wine education at the University of Bordeaux, is it any wonder they craft such rich and exquisite wines of vineyard inspired individuality? Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels are amongst California's finest and this Dashe is a great ambassador for the region and the grape. The jammy fruit has great depth and a succulent juiciness redolent of ripe raspberries and is only mildly tannic. All these elements are kept in restraint and balance by great acidity. I rarely pair reds with shellfish but felt that the Creole spices would be absorbed by the ripe fruit to create a new sauce for the shrimp. It worked as well as any red could but I think I'll return to a German Riesling the next time.

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2004 Mia's Playground - Old Vine Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Molten Chocolate Cake from Motor Supply Company Bistro
Producer: Don Sebastiani & Sons Country: USA State: CA Region: Sonoma
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Grape Blend: Zinfandel + Merlot
Appellation: Russian River
Predicate: Old Vine
Dark purple in color, this old-vine Zinfandel has a nose layered with jammy fruit, white pepper, licorice and vanilla. Rich and supple on the palate, this wine has characteristics of black raspberry jam, bittersweet cocoa, black olive, and finishes with more white pepper and tobacco. Old Vine Zin is one of the few table wines that can do dual service with dessert. The super-ripe, jammy fruit combine with soft tannins and high alcohol to give the wine a sense of sweetness and port-like richness that goes quite well with chocolate.

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2004 Sobon - Old Vine Zinfandel
This is Aris' pairing for Pizza Del Salumiere from Salty Caper
Producer: Sobon Estate Country: USA State: CA Region: Amador
Major Grape: Zinfandel
Predicate: Old Vine
After founding Shenandoah Vineyards in 1977, where they made wonderful Zinfandels, Shirley and Leon Sobon bought the historic D'Agostini Winery as a 30th anniversary present. The low yielding, organically grown, ancient Zinfandel vines planted in the unique Amador microclimate yield a marvelous fruit bomb Zin. I love pairing Zinfandel with Italian food because many of the best Zinfandel vineyards in Sonoma and Amador were planted by Italian immigrants who recognized the similarity to their southern Italian wines. Current DNA evidence now proves that Zinfandel is cousin to the Primitivo grape of southern Italy.

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