Tag Archives: Viognier

3 years, 10 pounds and about 400 bottles of wine later…

7 Jun

Set the countdown clock, chicos y chicas – Señorita Vino is nine weeks away from getting her MBA. You heard right – nine short weeks.

This historic milestone did not come without a steep price, most notably, 10 extra pounds (hey, there’s more of me to love!), countless nights of insomnia, new student loans to pay off, and neck and shoulder muscles so tense that my time in physical therapy may just result in my physical therapist finally getting that exotic sports car he’s dreamed about (you’re welcome, Dr. G.).

If any of you out there are crazy–uh, I mean, ambitious–enough to think about going to grad school while juggling work, spouse, kids, pets, friends and life in general, here are my top 5 tips for surviving graduate school (or any school, for that matter):

Rule number 1: Don’t quit your wine club membership. Wine got me through the darkest days and nights of my MBA program. I’ve been so maniacally busy over the past three years that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to a store to shop for wine. But those wine club shipments found their way to my doorstep without fail, and I’d get all warm and fuzzy knowing that my fridge and wine closet were well-stocked should things go south in school and life in general.

Rule number 2: When possible, choose wine as a research topic. I’m not joking. In the three years I’ve been in grad school, wine has been the topic of two statistics projects and one year-long global management research project. If you have to write a research paper, heck, why not write about something you love? Last summer, I traveled to Europe for an MBA class to study sustainability in the U.S. wine industry as compared to sustainable practices in the Austrian, Greek, Italian and Spanish wine industries.

Rule number 3: You’re going to piss off some of your friends (and your spouse or partner) because you’re always doing homework or in class or in the library working on a group project. And all of this while holding down a full-time job and dealing with all the other mierda life throws your way. Remember that the people who truly matter will still love you when you finally come up for air. ‘Nuff said.

Rule number 4: If you think you know exactly what you’re going to do once you get that MBA, be prepared to be wrong. So I had this plan to go work for some Big Huge Global Wine Company in communications and marketing once I graduated. Well, my career took a bit of a detour, in a wonderful way. Last month I was offered a position at…wait for it…A Big Huge Global Entertainment Company.  Yep, a funny thing happened on the way to working in the wine industry. The skills and concepts I learned in my MBA classes gave me insight on the strategy and vision of one of the companies for which I’ve been consulting. And I liked what I saw. And they liked what I brought to the table. So they offered me a chance to embark upon the career of a lifetime. And I said yes.

Rule number 5: Wine knowledge is a great ice-breaker in academic and business settings, so don’t be ashamed to express your appreciation for the fruit of the vine (just don’t get tanked). My love for wine inspired one of my professors to invite me to give a “Wine 101” presentation to my fellow MBA students before we all traveled to Europe last summer. And just last night, I had the chance to sit next to my soon-to-be-boss’s boss’s boss at a team dinner. Turns out he loves wine. So he asked me to choose a bottle for our end of the table (uh, no pressure at all).  I chose a lovely French Viognier, and over the course of the dinner, we all shared stories about how we came to love wine. The boss’s boss’s boss loved the Viognier so much, he snapped a picture of the label and stored it on a wine app. In that moment, all the stress, those three years of writing papers into the wee hours, the weekends I literally cried over regression analysis problems, moved into the realm of distant memories. I savored my last sip of peach-blossomy Viognier and bid them a fond farewell.

Meet me at the Cathedral of Wine

8 Jun

What happens when 50 winemakers, two food trucks and a well-stocked cheese table all meet in a cathedral on a Sunday afternoon? If you’re a glass-is-half-full type, it’s an edible religious experience. If you’re not, it’s the eighth deadly sin.

Last Sunday, Señorita Vino was craving some religion, which is how she ended up in a deconsecrated Catholic cathedral with a hundred other wine lovers at a Rhone Rangers wine tasting. For those of you who may be wondering, the Rhone Rangers is an association of about 200 winemakers who make wines in the U.S. using grapes that are traditionally grown in France’s Rhone Valley region.

About 50 wineries were represented at the June 3 tasting at Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. Most of the winemakers made the trek from Paso Robles, a California wine growing region known for its Zinfandels but very friendly to Rhone Valley grapes. Although the French government recognizes 22 official grapes in the Rhone Valley, the most common red Rhone varietals are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Next time you’re out wine tasting and you hear the term “GSM,” it’s wine-geek speak for the three most widely used red Rhone grapes. For white grapes, Roussane, Marsanne, and Viognier (see last week’s post) are the most popular.

Church of Vino: Wine lovers mill about in front of the former altar.

Because wine and food go together like religion and guilt, two trendy food trucks were conveniently parked in the cathedral courtyard, serving up chicken tacos or beef sliders. I chose the chicken tacos and doused the flames of the salsa with a lovely white blend from Vines on the Marycrest, a winery whose name could easily double as the local all-girls Catholic high school in a telenovela set in a wine growing town. But I digress…

Bottles of white and rosé wines perspired in ice buckets on long picnic tables in the courtyard while the winemakers themselves sat down to answer questions about their wines in a refreshingly informal setting. The scorching L.A. sun was anything but refreshing, so we finished eating and sought shade at one of several cocktail tables on the perimeter of the courtyard.

It was here that I had the pleasure of meeting representatives from ANCO Fine Cheese, a company that exports cheeses from Europe to stores and restaurants in L.A. and beyond. Now, if there’s anything that motivates me more than a good glass of wine, it’s the promise of a cheese table the size of a school bus. Okay, maybe not that grande, but you get the idea.

Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.

If you want to talk about a moral dilemma, mine was how to reconcile the desire to indulge in Death by Cheese with the virtues of fitting into my jeans. Chicas y chicos, the cheese won.

Confessions of a vino lover.

Luckily for me, I spied two empty confessionals just waddling distance from the cheese table. But I got a little sidetracked by the 2008 “Lodestone” red from Hearthstone Vineyard and Winery. This was a blend of 50 percent Syrah with Grenache and Mourvedre. Wonderful black cherry aromas with a touch of pepper and anise. Just the thing to take your mind off atonement.

And while we’re on the topic of atonement (or in this case, lack thereof), the nuns at my all-girls Catholic high school reminded us daily where bad girls would end up. But I will submit that well-intentioned girls (and boys) with a weakness for cheese and vino gather at the Cathedral of Wine.

Viognier: A wine that loves ethnic cuisine

1 Jun

So this Peruvian chica orders an Indian curry dish with a bottle of French wine.

It could happen. And if you live in Casa de Señorita Vino, it happened Wednesday night. Only I didn’t order the dish; I  had to cook it myself. And the dish was made with quinoa, that Peruvian super-grain. I added some stir-fried wild Argentinean red shrimp et voila, global cuisine in the comfort of my own cocina.

Lemon curry quinoa with Argentinean red shrimp. And it only took 15 minutes to prepare, thankyouverymuch!

But now comes the million-peso question: Which wine goes with this multi-ethnic mash-up? Before I answer, and at the risk of offending a few wine snobs (although they wouldn’t be reading this blog anyway), it’s all about you, chicas y chicos, and what titillates your tiny tastebuds. There are no concrete laws when it comes to wine and food pairings, only suggestions.

So here’s what I had with my Wednesday evening global fusion dish: Viognier. This is a refreshing white wine made from the Viognier grape, which originates in….France! However, I had a California Viognier, which took nothing away from my at-home International Dining Extravaganza.

Cambria Wines’ Viognier is made from grapes grown in the Santa Maria Valley. And no, it’s not your eyes, it’s the photo. Sorry kids, Señorita Vino was in a hurry when she snapped these.

The beauty of Viognier is its versatility. Here’s a simple explanation of why Viognier is a good match for this dish:

1. Viognier has a smooth texture (it’s not high in acidity) with ripe fruit aromas. It’s the fruitiness of the wine that makes the subtle sweetness of the shrimp (or any shellfish) stand out.

2. The wine is full-bodied, meaning it has a high alcohol content. So a strong spice like curry won’t overpower the wine. In other words, there’s a balance. El Cautionary Suggestion: Because the wine is high in alcohol, you may not want to pair it with a pepper-hot curry or any dish that is spicy-hot, unless you like your dinner with a five-alarm-fire chaser.

3. Remember that wine ‘tasting’ is more about wine ‘smelling.’ We don’t really ‘taste’ the spicy, fruity or floral notes in a wine. It’s our olfactory system (la nariz!)that picks them up. Having said that, a food spice can make the spicy notes in a wine stand out. Curry’s natural aromas enhance the hints of spice in Viognier.

Late-harvest Viognier is sweet. Viognier is not.

You may not find Viognier at your neighborhood grocery store, so look for it at a wine shop. There’s a big difference between Viognier and late-harvest Viognier. Viognier is a dry wine, meaning it does not taste sweet. Late-harvest Viognier is considered a dessert wine and is honey-sweet. How to tell the difference when you’re buying wine? The late-harvest Viognier (and most dessert wines) will be in a smaller, skinny bottle, while the Viognier will be in a standard 750 ml wine bottle. Stay tuned for a future post on dessert wines.

In the meantime, careful readers may have noticed that it took me only 15 minutes to prepare my multicultural din-din. How is this possible, you ask? Easy. I cheated. Your reward for reading this far is the key to my weeknight culinary prowess: Just-add-water meals.

In this case, I used Roland Lemon Curry Quinoa (El Full Disclosure: Roland provided a free sample. Muchas gracias, Roland!).

Argentinean red shrimp not-on-the-barbie.

While the quinoa was cooking, I tossed some Argentinean red shrimp in a pan for a couple of minutes and added them to the finished product.

Here’s where I get to offer you yet another bit of cautionary advice. Argentinean red shrimp look pink when they’re raw, which means you need to cook them. Señor Jim, if you’ve read this far, your reward is that neither of us died when I served them raw in the spaghetti last week. Sorry about that.

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