Wednesday, March 4, 2015

5 Tips For Cooking with Wine

I’m sure you’ve heard the old line: “I love cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food.” And it's true! There are numerous dishes that are amazingly better with the addition of a bit of wine, beer or liqueur. Alcohol also makes a wonderful tenderizer and marinade. But just what percentage of alcohol remains in the food when you’re done?

Let's take a look at five tips for cooking with wine and how much of it remains in the final dish.

1) What wine to use? 
It's your choice. There are numerous cooking wines available, but you can also use what’s left from the bottle you opened last night, as long as it pairs well with the dish.

2) Wine is not a main flavor ingredient. 
Wine and other liqueurs are used as an ingredient to bring out the dish's flavor. And sometime, for the WOW factor of a visual presentation.

3) Wine is best cooked at a lower temperature.
Wine is usually added to a sauce then simmered slowly in order to concentrate those sublime flavors while it is also reducing the alcohol content.

4) Always simmer the wine first. 
Then if called for, you can add any cream, broths or stock to the recipe and not cover up the heightened flavors provided by the wine.

5) Pay attention to the time. 
Cook the wine on too high of heat for too long and the flavors can become acidic and burnt. Cooking with wine is more of a slow, simmering process.

The US Department of Agriculture has calculated the percentage of alcohol remaining in a dish based on the heat temperature used and the amount of time it took to cook the dish.

• Alcohol added to boiling liquid and removed from heat retains 85%
• Alcohol that is flamed (Flambé) retains 75%
• Alcohol added without heat and food is stored in overnight (marinade) retains 70%
• Alcohol that is stirred into a mixture and baked retains as follows:

Time in Hours               % of Alcohol Retained
15 minutes                            40%
30 minutes                            35%
1 hour                                   25%
1.5 hours                              20%
2 hours                                 10%
2.5 hours                              5%

Cooking with wine will add extra moisture to a dish and help reduce the need for oils and fats. Usually white wine goes best with more delicate dishes: fish and chicken with veggies, while red wines are hardier and can give highly seasoned meats and side dishes an interesting depth. Don’t be afraid to experiment – and enjoy the results.

~ Joy

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Celebrate National Mulled Wine Day

I’ll make this short and sweet. Tuesday, March 3rd is National Mulled Wine Day. Sipping a glass of mulled wine is the perfect way to bid winter a final farewell before spring rushes in with warmer temperatures and those wonderful crisp, white wines.

Mulled or warmed wines were first served in Rome during the 2nd century. As the Romans traveled the continent, they shared the mulled wine recipe with other communities including what is now England, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

Mulled wine goes by many names including glögg (Sweden), gløgg (Norwegian), gluhwein (German), vin chaud (French), and vin brulé (Italian). It is usually served during the holiday season as a festive drink at parties or around a bonfire.

Mulled wine recipes abound. Most call for using red wine, usually claret or port, and adding various mulling spices which can include ginger, cloves, cinnamon and anise. Fruit may also be added; the most popular being orange slices, raisins or cranberries. The drink is then served piping hot or warm.

Here is a standard crockpot recipe for mulled wine that will keep you warm all evening as you celebrate the end of winter and anticipate the coming spring.

Mulled Wine Recipe
1 bottle of red wine (your choice)
Up to ½ cup sugar (according to taste)
Slice of ginger root
6 cloves
½ teaspoon aniseed
½ teaspoon allspice
2 cinnamon sticks + one for each mug
1 orange (peeled and sliced)
½ cup raisins or cranberries
¼ to ½ cup brandy (optional)

Pour wine into crockpot, add sugar and stir in spices. Turn dial to medium and let wine begin to simmer (20 minutes). Turn down to low and add fruit to crockpot, along with brandy, if using.  Stir well. Wait 10 minutes, pour wine in mugs (leave spices in crockpot), and enjoy by a roaring fire.

~ Joy

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

5 Reasons For Celebrating National Drink Wine Day

Today is February 18 and that means it is National Drink Wine Day in the U.S. This annual celebration is a way to tout the health benefits of wine, pay tribute to the ways wine enhances food and lifestyle, and it's just a great reason to enjoy a glass.

1) Wine Is Popular
Archaeological sites that relate to wine date back more than 6,000 years. Today there are over 20-million acres dedicated to grapes across the globe. That’s literally thousands of wines being crafted around the world every day. Bliss!

2) Wine Provides Health Benefits
A glass of wine a day has been proven to increase heart health, help in weight reduction, boost immunity, lessen blood clots and reduce forgetfulness. Ideal!

3) You Already Have a Bottle
This is one holiday where you don’t have to buy anything, cause if you’re a true oenophile, you’ll already have some wine stashed away at home ready for celebrating with. Cheers!

4) Wine is a Social Event
Go out with friends to your favorite wine bar or restaurant and celebrate with a glass of red or white, sweet or dry. Maybe a trip to a local winery is in order or a visit to your favorite wine shop. Enjoy!
5) Stay In Touch Through Wine
Share the day with friends by sending a “Drink Wine Day” e-card. After all, if you didn't know about it, they might not either. Share!

 Several events are planned across the country, mainly in larger cities. Check out Local Wine Events to see what’s planned for today in your region. You can also keep up with events on the Drink Wine Day FaceBook site.

If, for some reason you can’t partake today, no worries. There are actually over a dozen holidays designated for "adult beverage drinks" including National Scotch Day on July 27, National Moscato Day on May 9, National Martini Day on June 19, and National Wine Day on May 25. (Yes, it is different from today’s celebration, which is National DRINK Wine Day ;)

So pour a glass (or two, it is a celebration) and ponder those esoteric thoughts that wine always brings about ...

Here’s to wine,
Our favorite drink!
A refreshing beverage
That helps you think.

The more you think,
The wittier you feel,
So I want wine at every meal!

(Obviously, I need a glass of wine, right now!)


~ Joy

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

7 Sexy Wines for Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day is this Saturday. It's a day when many people’s thoughts turn to love, romance and, well let’s face it – sex. And we all know that sex sells, even in the wine business. Especially in the wine business.

If you’re searching for a seductive name or label to get your message across this Valentine’s Day, here are 7 lavish wines with plenty of sex appeal.

1) Slow Dancer Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Crafted in Napa Valley, this Cabernet has a velvety texture with the arresting aromas of raspberries and caramel, and the sensuous flavors of berry, current and plum. Winner of a gold medal at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition, this Cab can put the moves on a steak dinner. Afterwards, pour another glass of Slow Dancer and cue up some Marvin Gaye; maybe Let’s Get It On while you step out on the floor for another slow dance … Average price $14 a bottle.

2) Foreplay Chardonnay 2013
Naked Winery is known for wines with naughty names but delightful taste. Foreplay is no different. This crisp Chardonnay has been lightly oaked to enhance the teasing flavors of green apples and ripe pears before delivering a luscious experience with a silky finish. Sells for around $20 a bottle. After Foreplay, you might also consider some other Naked Winery wines like Missionary, Smitten Kitten, Vixen or Penetration. Oh! Orgasmic wines are an option, too.

3) Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir 2012

From Central Coast California, this wine won a gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition last year. With the aroma of cloves and berries, this Pinot offers a tease of pomegranates with a kick of acidity. Although the Cycles Gladiator Winery and brand was sold off to another company last year, you may still be able to find this jewel on store shelves. It’s a tasty romp for an average price of $11 a bottle.

4) Luscious Lips Red Wine Blend 2012
Sweet and seductive, this red blend promises the depth of a kiss. Crafted by Falkner Winery in Temecula California, there is also a sweet White Luscious Lips version along with a mulled wine known as Hot Lips, and a Risqué Riesling that’s more in line with a semi-dry wine. Grab a glass and judge the pucker-factor for yourself. Sells for around $15 a bottle.

5) Quickie! Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Some Young Punks is crafting small estate vinos in Australia with some racy wine names: Naked on Roller Skates, Passion has Red Lips, Double Love Trouble, Lust Collides – you get the picture. In fact, the label is like something off the cover of a pulp fiction serial from the 1950’s. Quickie! is a spirited vino, aged in stainless steel for 6 months to provide that fresh yet flirty Sav Blanc flavor of minerality and citrus with a floral aroma. This one might leave you wanting more.

6) Zin-Phomaniac Zinfandel 2012
A Zinfandel crafted from old-vine Lodi Zinfandel grapes: perfect! This vino offers up the aromas of raspberry, cherry and spice before arousing the palate with lush fruit and sultry spice flavors. Zin-Phomanic has scored two silver medals, one at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition and the other at the 2014 Los Angeles International Wine Competition. Let this full-bodied vino awaken your obsession with Zin.

7) Pro•mis•Q•ous White Wine Blend
A casual white table wine that has a “wanton disregard for convention.” Crafted from an assortment of California grapes including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer, this crisp white blend has been aged in stainless steel to bring out the bright flavors of lush melon, pear and citrus. Serve with oysters or caviar for a romantic tete-a-tete, or enjoy with omelets the morning after … it’s a decent bang for your buck at $12 a bottle.

They say that wine is one of the best aphrodisiac drinks around, so consider this the perfect the time to do some hands-on research this weekend. Grab your sweetie and enjoy one of these decadent wines for Valentine’s. You never know what might develop …

~ Joy

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

5 Health Benefits of Drinking Red Wine

February is American Heart Month; the perfect time to remind you that, according to the American Heart Association Journal, a glass of red wine, once a day, has been found to be beneficial to your heart health.

The advantages of red wine have been known for a long time. The Copenhagen City Heart Study began in 1976 to study the benefits of wine, Harvard researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption was one of "eight proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease risk" in 1982, and The French Paradox, dealing with the benefits of resveratrol, was first discussed in the late 1980s.

Red wine is the favored type of vino since research has shown that resveratrol is a key ingredient found in red grape skins.

Four Ounces
While we’re told that moderate consumption of red wine offers several health benefits, we're also told to drink “in moderation.” So how much is considered to be “moderate consumption?”

According to the American Heart Association Journal (AHA), “This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.)”

So what are the health benefits of red wine and resveratrol? Here are just a few:

1) Red wine offers cardiovascular protection by reducing the accumulation of fatty plaques in the blood vessels, thereby helping to reduce cell death. The Mayo Clinic reported that antioxidants in wine might help prevent heart disease “by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good Cholesterol and protecting against artery damage.”

Harvard Graphic of Resveratrol
2) Resveratrol, found in red wine may be the key to preventing blood vessel damage and stopping blood clots from forming according to scientists at the University of Ulm in Germany. And that can prevent cardiovascular disease.

3) The University of Missouri School of Medicine said that resveratrol could also 
be useful in treating cancer. More studies are underway.

4) Researchers believe that resveratrol might also decrease obesity and be beneficial in treating Type 2 diabetes.

5) Resveratrol has also proven to be useful in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. 

Although studies have shown that any type of alcoholic beverage can be beneficial, it seems that red wine does offers additional advantages. Again, resveratrol is considered to be the magic component. But besides wine, resveratrol can also be found in dark chocolate, berries and peanuts. Or you can purchase resveratrol supplements and by-pass the wine and food altogether. Americans are currently spending over $30 million per year on these supplements to increase longevity.

Of course, there is always the other side; John Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers reported last year in JAMA Internal Medicine they’d found no evidence that certain foods or wine were better for you just because they contained resveratrol. However, the report did state any benefits of drinking wine, eating dark chocolate or berries, if they are there, must come from other shared ingredients.” They’re just not sure which ones.

While red wine and chocolate won’t save your life, separately or in combination, they can make your life more pleasurable, and that in turn helps reduce stress. The other benefits may be “the icing on the cake” and that seems like a Wine-Win to me!

~ Joy

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wine and Cheese - 10 Pairings To Please

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and many people are searching for the perfect wines to pair with chocolates. (If that’s you, check out my Chocolate and Wine post @

If you’re ready to think outside of the Valentine’s box, impress your sweetie by pairing wines and cheese - for an evening to please.

To start, decide how you want to pair the cheeses and wines. One way is to balance them with each other: a tangy Gouda goes with a tart, sparkling wine. Or contrast flavors by pairing a pungent Gorgonzola cheese with a rich, sweet Port. Don’t be afraid to experiment. But, when in doubt, pair a wine and a cheese from the same region for an amazing taste sensation.

Now to decide which of these ten cheese and wine pairings will “whey” in big with your Valentine ...

1) Brie
Brie is a soft cheese with a buttery taste and creamy texture. It originated in France and is made from cow’s milk. Versatile enough to serve with fruit, nuts, and crackers, it’s a very wine-friendly cheese that pairs well with most vinos including Chardonnay, Moscato, Champagne, Merlot, and Syrah.

2) Goat Cheese
Also known as chèvre, goat cheese is a soft cheese crafted from goat’s milk. The flavor is sharp and tangy with hints of herbs. Goat cheese can be packaged plain, rolled in peppercorns or covered with herbs. The herbaceous notes should point you to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris. If you’d prefer a red wine, try Merlot, Beaujolais or Cabernet Franc.

3) Havarti
This semi-soft Danish cheese is mild and creamy with a buttery, sweet flavor; aged Havarti may have a sharper flavor. Havarti also comes in a variety of flavors such as caraway, dill, horseradish, jalapeno, and chipotle. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc pair well, along with Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.

4) Swiss
Swiss cheese is a generic name for several similar varieties of cheese. With its firm texture and mild, sweet, nutty flavors, it is usually crafted with ‘eyes’, those holes that make Swiss cheese recognizable. Keep in mind, the larger the holes, the more flavorful the cheese. Swiss pairs with just about any wine including Riesling, Pinto Gris and Moscato. That said; don’t reach for a Syrah or Sherry, that’s just too much of a “good thing.”

5) Asiago
Made from cow’s milk, this Italian cheese can be crafted in different textures ranging from smooth for a fresh cheese, to crumbly for an aged cheese, but it is generally considered to be a hard cheese. The flavors are full and sharp with a pungent aroma. Red wines stand up well to Asiago and a glass of Beaujolais, Malbec, or Zinfandel is amazing. For a white wine, try Riesling or Pinot Gris to complement the cheese flavors.

6) Gouda
Gouda is actually pronounced “how-da” in the Netherlands where it originated. This semi-hard cheese is crafted from cow’s milk and is one of the most popular cheeses in the world. With a crumbly texture and sweet, nutty flavor, Gouda can be crafted in a variety of ways by including herbs, peppercorns or smoked flavors. Pour a glass of Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, or Riesling with this cheese, or save it for the last tasting and savor with a Sherry.

7) Fontina
This hard cheese was developed in the United States and crafted in the Swedish-style. Its creamy texture makes it easy to spread on crusty breads, while the mildly yeasty yet somewhat tart flavor makes it perfect for Italian cooking. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Beaujolais are great accompaniments.

8) Parmesan
In Italy, this famous cheese is known as Parmigiano-Reggiano and it's crafted from cow’s milk. A hard cheese that’s grainy and dense in texture, this is another of the more popular cheeses in the world. The sharp, nutty flavor pairs well with Chianti (Italian cheese + Italian wine), Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling or Champagne.

9) Cheddar
This is an English cheese made from cow’s milk. The flavors of the crumbly hard cheese become sharper and more distinct as it ages. Now, crafted all over the world, cheddar is sold as mild, sharp and extra sharp. A glass of Cabernet, Merlot or Malbec goes nicely with sharp Cheddar, while Chardonnay or Pinot Gris will work well with mild cheddar.

10) Gorgonzola/Bleu/Roquefort
These veined cheeses can be made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk or sheep’s milk. Their distinctive blue-green veining comes from inoculating the cheese with a Penicillium mold. The flavors of a bleu cheese are sharp, salty and tangy and are a pairing sensation with sweet wines that don’t overpower the pungent flavors. Port is an excellent choice, along with a fruity Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc. For a white wine, try a floral Riesling.

To make your tasting complete, stock up on a variety of crackers, crusty breads, fresh fruits like grapes, figs, apples and melons, plus an assortment of nuts and olives.  If you intend to make this a meal, add some slices of ham, turkey and pate.

And don’t be shy about asking your deli or cheese shop for cheese samples to taste. They may also have the perfect nibbles to nosh for your Valentine’s feast.

~ Joy