Red Wines and Seafood? Yes!

Seafood and Red Wine

Some of us are red wine people, and face a dilemma when dining on fish or other sea creatures: traditional seafood menu pairings always involve white wines. An interesting article by “Unashamedly Creative” suggests some unexpected pairings with traditional reds:

Merlot for Tuna, Marlin

Merlot is our first fishy friend and works incredibly well with tuna and marlin. Whether it is steaks on the barbecue after a deep sea fishing expedition, or working with Mediterranean style vegetables and salads alongside marlin or tuna based dishes, a bottle of red wine such as merlot is just the ticket.

I like that pairing and have actually used it. Merlots tend to be on the lighter side, and tuna is hardly a delicate fish.

Pinot Noir with Salmon, Lobster

Pinot Noir is another tuna lover who extends its range to lobster and salmon of all kinds, especially natural, baked or grilled. Beyond the standard pinot noir and salmon nibbles, the lovely light nature of Tasmanian Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir coupled with its unique smooth cherry tang makes for an awesome combination for several different varieties of salmon or if tuna steak is your treat, you cannot go past the Yarra Valley favourite of Blue Diamond Label Pinot Noir.

The author goes on to suggest matching Shiraz to smoked salmon, and Rosé for just about any kind of seafood. These suggestions are a bit more tenuous, in my opinion. Shiraz wines can be quite bold, but so, I suppose, can smoked salmon. And I’m not a big Rosé fan, though I can see why the author would suggest it goes well with many kinds of seafood.

And for the most delicate seafood, I’d still recommend the traditional white wine pairings. A fine filet of sole, for example, would get blown out by just about any red; stick with a Sauvingon Blanc or perhaps a Pinot Grigio.

Twitter Wine?

Has Twitter jumped the shark before it has earned a penny of revenue? It seems the social network has diversified into the wine biz, albeit for charitable purposes. The new venture, Fledgling Wine, is chronicled by Maya Baratz, SFoodie blogger, in Twitter is Launching Its Own ‘Fledgling’ Wine Label.

Dogpatch-based Crushpad — a place that allows amateur vinophiles to make and sell their own wine, brand and label included — has more than a little in common with Silicon Valley. The business philosophy behind both calls for investing in the product and customer experience, with revenue naturally following.

The new venture is introducing a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. They are also doing some crowdsourcing:

Not only can you buy the wine, you can pitch in a string of related events, ranging from what Dorrance said will be Crushpad’s biggest “virtual” barrel tasting to a possible label design contest.

Odd, but interesting. And, it’s all for a good cause. Buy some here.

Rosemount Estate Pinot Noir 2005

Rosemount Estate Pinot NoirPrice: $8
Maker: Rosemount Estate, Denman, New South Wales, Australia
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Rosemount Estate Pinot Noir 2005 has a nice spicy blackberry nose, and plenty of cherry and red berry flavor. The finish was fairly long, with the cherry notes continuing and with a bit of tannin bite. This isn’t at all a wimpy Pinot Noir – it’s fruity and pleasant, and with just enough complexity to keep it from being boring.

Normally I wouldn’t pair a Pinot Noir with spicy bacon pizza, but this fruit forward red stood its ground with no problem.

This wine hasn’t received much attention on the Web. Virginie liked the 2003 vintage, proclaiming it an “elegant pinot noir with a lengthy, savoury finish.” The winery’s own website has an interesting feature – a “vintage matrix” where you can pick a year and a region and read about the details of the weather and grape harvest for that year. Unfortunately, the data seems to be a year or two out of date.

Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2005

Smoking Loon Pinot NoirPrice: $7
Maker: Don Sebastiani & Sons, Napa County, California
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2005 is the second installment in this brand that we’ve sampled. We liked Smoking Loon Merlot 2004 reasonably well. The Pinot Noir seemed slightly lacking in character. The nose was mild and mostly cherries. The wine was smooth on the palate, but even for a Pinot Noir (which I often consider too light) this one was a bit bland. Cherry and strawberry notes dominate the mild fruitiness, and there’s just a hint of spice. Overall, this wine doesn’t offend in the least – it’s quite drinkable. It won’t be on our shopping list, though.

Opinions among wine bloggers varied on this Pinot Noir. In Vino Veritas thought, “The initial taste wasn’t bad, however. But that’s as good as the wine got,” and scored it a mere 5 out of 10. The Wine Cask Blog called it “nice” and “simple”, and a good buy on a “basic Pinot Noir.” WineWaves found it to be a “lightweight Pinot Noir” but a good value for $8.50. With this diversity of opinion, if you are a Pinot Noir fan, you might want to snag a bottle and try it for yourself.

MariAna Pinot Noir 2004

Price: $8
Maker: MariAna – NOSIO, Mezzocorona, Italy
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

MariAna Pinot Noir 2004 is from Venice, and I have to say that it’s better than any wine I actually had while visiting Venice last fall. The nose is quite mild with cherry and spice notes. The flavor is fruit forward but nicely balanced, with cherry, blueberry, and chocolate matched with a slightly peppery and acidic finish. As one might expect, as a Pinot Noir it’s a bit lighter than other reds, but there’s still plenty of flavor.

MariAna seems to be a brand of Prestige Wine Imports, though it’s not listed on their site. In fact, we found the Web just about completely devoid of information on this wine. That’s too bad, because MariAna Pinot Noir 2004 is a very pleasant wine, and, for my taste (which leans toward fruity but complex reds), is an excellent value.

Gala Rouge Pinot Noir 2004

Gala Rouge Pinot NoirPrice: $8
Maker: Bon Vivant Vineyards, France
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Gala Rouge Pinot Noir 2004 is packaged attractively with a vintage art poster label, and modestly refers to itself as “vin extraordinaire.” Its nose is quite interesting, delivering licorice and black pepper. On the palate, it’s relatively well structured – it’s not too fruity, with light cherry and plum notes mixing with oak and slightly sharp tannins. Overall, there’s quite a bit of flavor in this Pinot Noir.

Gala Rouge Pinot Noir is a product of Brown Forman Beverages, better known for their flagship product, Jack Daniels Whiskey. I’d never associated the company with wines before, but checking their website disclosed that Brown Forman is also responsible for quite a number of wine labels, including Fetzer and Bolla among others.

Georges Duboeuf Pinot Noir 2005

Price: $7
Maker: George Duboeuf
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

It’s been only a few months since we tasted Georges Duboeuf Shiraz 2003 and Georges Duboeuf Merlot 2003, but it’s apparent a lot has changed with Georges Duboeuf Pinot Noir 2005. The bottle is now an explosion of color, as the glass vessel features a floral plastic overlay that completely encases it. The cork is now artificial, and, interestingly enough, is not only labeled with the name of the maker but the varietal as well. Beyond the packaging, it’s not a bad wine. The nose is rather earthy. On the palate, this Pinot Noir is well balanced, with cherry and raspberry notes leading into a spicy finish. The tannins were a bit prominent, but after a bit of breathing things smoothed out a bit.

It’s interesting to see this French label forsake its traditional rectangular label for an almost pop art bottle. That approach is bound to alter its shelf appeal, and position it a an alternative to the dozens or hundreds of bland bottles in the typical shop. We’d like to see a wine in the bottle that was as original as the label.

Wine Tasting Evening

Just had a chance to taste some interesting wines at a local tasting, and I thought I’d share some fragmentary notes:

Kunde Sauvignon Blanc 2005. Melon and peach notes, slightly acidic finish.
Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2005. Not your usual Chardonnay. Strong vanilla flavors, with a moderately astringent finish. Definitely not an over-oaked chard.
Bridlewood Viognier 2005. Another quite different selection. Tropical notes, not too dry, and clean on the palate.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 (Sonoma Coast). I found this to be an unusually pleasant Pinot Noir – it offered big, bold plum, berry, and cherry notes, and a smooth finish. I tend to complain that some Pinot Noirs are a bit thin (or subtle, if you prefer), but this one is neither thin nor subtle. Recommended.
Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot 2002. Strong berry nose with some woody/leather notes, big rounded flavor featuring a great balance of blackberry and cherry, oak, and spice leading into a long finish. This was a big, well balanced Merlot, and my favorite of the evening.
Bridlewood Syrah 2004 (Central Coast). A nice, well-balanced Syrah with blackberry, oak, and black pepper flavors.
Frei Brothers Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with this rich cab. Lots of dark berry and oak complexity, with a long finish. Highly drinkable.

The big winner for me was the Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot; I liked the Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon and the MacMurray Ranch Merlot quite a bit, too. This was quite an unusual tasting – I liked all of the wines, and every red (including Red Rock Merlot, not described above) were wines that I’d buy.

Pinossimo Pinot Noir 2005

Pinossimo Pinot NoirPrice: $7
Maker: Bouchard Ainé & Fils, France
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Bouchard Ainé & Fils Pinossimo Pinot Noir 2005 grew in stature after some heavy breathing on its part. My initial impression was that it was very thin, even for a Pinot Noir. Eventually, the nose developed some nice raspberry and spice notes, and the flavor, although still on the light side, became more intense and rounded. We found cherry and oak with soft tannins in the finish. Our tastes run to bigger reds from bolder varietals, but for well under $10 Pinossimo Pinot Noir is worth considering by those who enjoy a lighter red.

We found this bargain in Sam’s Club for six bucks or so. Despite that prosaic retail location, Bouchard Ainé & Fils is a winery with a history dating back to 1750. They don’t seem to make a big point of this particular wine, which is no great surprise, perhaps, considering the superior vintages in their lineup.

Free Range Pinot Noir 2005

FreeRange Pinot NoirPrice: $29
Maker: JuiceBox Wine Company, Manchester, MA
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Free Range Pinot Noir 2005 is the second boxed wine from Free Range Wines that we’ve sampled. The nose is subtle, with spice and berry notes. As one might expect from a Pinot Noir, the flavors are subtle, too, with cherry, oak, and a hint of licorice. The flavor is one that builds into the lengthy finish.

Free Range Pinot Noir comes from Limoux, France. Like FreeRange Merlot and the brand’s other wine boxes, this varietal is packaged in a colorful, attractively designed rectangular box. No fancy octagons or other odd shapes – just a space-efficient container that seems like it couldn’t possibly hold four full bottles of wine (it does!).

Overall, we think Free Range Pinot Noir is the kind of wine box to share with a friend who thinks any wine that doesn’t come in a glass bottle sealed with a cork is bound to be plonk – it might make them a believer in box wines. We know it was a favorite in our party wine bar!