Wine for Good: Johnson & Wales Epicurean Scholarship Society Dinner

Wine is meant to be with food - that’s the point of it.
— Julia Child

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There's nothing quite like a culinary experience that brings together the best in food and the best in wine. Because we recognize the importance of food as a part of the wine experience (and vice versa) and because we also recognize that the more people given access to and involved in the industry the greater chance for creativity, progress, and excellence, we helped sponsor an event at Johnson and Wales University in Providence Rhode Island. 

The Epicurian Scholarship Society at Johnson and Wales is a group of alumni who generously donate to a scholarship fund to help lower income students afford a degree in Culinary Arts. One source of this funding is a series of events featuring celebrity chef alumni who return to campus and work with students to prepare and serve outstanding meals. 

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Johnson and Wales graduate and Vineyard Brands sales rep Patrick Harney attended the April  17 dinner featuring Tom Condron, owner of The Liberty and Lumiere French Kitchen in Charlotte, NC. Thanks to Patrick's efforts and belief in the Epicurian Scholarship Society's mission (and thanks to aid from Vineyard Brands own Hubert Fabre, Olivier Lotterie,  and Paul Nerz) Vineyard Brands provided the wines for the evening.  

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Before the meal, Chef Condron and Patrick talked about each dish and the wine served. What makes Vineyard Brands' portfolio so ideal for events like this, and what makes the portfolio so distinct, is all of our wines ability to enhance and elevate the dishes without overwhelming. 

This trait was deeply appreciated among the diners, who were themselves very successful culinarians. 

At the risk of making your mouth water, we're sharing the menu and wine pairings from the evening with you. Perhaps you'll be inspired to recreate similar pairings. 

First Course: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | braised jowl, glazed onions, fresh egg, crispy sweetbreads, crème fraiche. 
Domaine Weinbach Pinot Blanc 2016

Second Course: Butter Poached Maine Lobster | Fresh Hearts of Palm, Haricots Verts, Trumpet Royale Mushroom, Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
Francois Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 2015

Third Course: Escalope of Black Sea Bass | Sautéed Smoked Bacon, Chicory, Celery Root, Potato Confit, Alsatian-Style Dressing
Tablas Creek Côte de Tablas Blanc 2015

Fourth Course: Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Loin | Smoked Aubergine, Sheep's Milk Yoghurt, Composition of Winter Onions, Lamb-Truffle Jus
Famille Perrin Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015

Fifth Course: French Garden | Artisan Cheese, Pickled Vegetables, Chocolate Edible Soil, Honeycomb
Miles Madeira 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira


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After the meal, Patrick stayed behind to conduct a tasting of each of the wines featured at the dinner with student servers and kitchen staff who helped prepare and serve the meal. There was such genuine interest in our wines from these young students. 

Head of Beverage Education at Johnson and Wales Ed Korry, former President of the SWE (Society of Wine Educators), was there for Patrick's tasting. 


Wine makes a symphony of a good meal.
— Fernande Garvin, ‘The Art of French Cooking’

We have a feeling these students will be creating beautiful music of their own soon.

You can read more about the dinner and kitchen lessons taught by Chef Condron from Johnson & Wales here. 

🎶 Hakuna Moscato 🎶

We might be biased, but wine holidays are our favorite days of the year. Today is Moscato Day (and everyone's hebdomadal favorite, Wine Wednesday)! 

When was the last time you had Moscato? Probably not recently enough. Some turn their nose up at the varietal saying it is too sweet. Some shy away, unsure of what to pair with the wine. Some are in a rut, always choosing the same wine no matter what. We're here to dissuade you of any misgivings you may have. 

 Getty Images

Getty Images

Moscato originated in Italy, in the famous Piedmont region, best known for Barolo. Unlike some of your other favorite wines, like Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Merlot, etc. Moscato is made from Muscat grapes (Moscato is the Italian word for Muscat), a grape that is eaten regularly and also used to make raisins. This helps explain why the wine it creates is so sweet and easy to drink.

 Massolino

Massolino

The most common flavors you'll fine in a glass of Moscato are Meyer lemon, Mandarin orange, pear, orange blossom, and honeysuckle.


Muscat grapes are grown all over the world. Like any other varietal, you'll find variations in style and flavor profile based on where the wine was produced. 

Take, for example, the Massolino Moscato d'Asti and the Bulletin Place Moscato:

  • Massolino's Moscato d'Asti hails from the original home of the wine, the Piedmont region of Italy. Bulletin Place Moscato comes from down under, South Eastern Australia. 
  • Both have a light bubble, but the Moscato d'Asti is a bright straw yellow and the Bulletin Place Moscato is a light yellow with a green hue. 
  • There are over 200 (yes, 200) types of Muscat grapes. The Moscato d'Asti is made with Moscato Bianco, while the Bulletin Place is made with Muscato Gordo. 
  • While Moscato wines tend to have a lower alcohol percentage, it does still very. You can find the Massolino Moscato hovering around 5 to 5.5% while the Bulletin Place is slightly higher at 9%. Both are far below the average 13%. 

 


 Calabria Family Selections

Calabria Family Selections


Moscato is much more versatile than you might think. Some ideas for you:

  • Spicy Thai or Indian dishes: the sweetness of the wine balances the heat of the food
  • Cured meats, like prosciutto: the salty meat counters the sweet wine
  • Sweet breakfasts: champagne isn't the only breakfast wine, moscato works well with breakfasts like pancakes or waffles that have an extra sweet touch like fruit or whipped cream.
  • Fruit desserts, like cobbler or tarts: the fruit in the dessert brings out the fruit forward flavor profile of the wine.

Don't just take our word for it, Drake agrees, “It’s a celebration — clap clap bravo. Lobster and shrimp and a glass of moscato.”

Happy Moscato Day!

Happy Malbec World Day!

Although its origins are rooted in the Sud-Ouest (South West) wine growing region of France, Malbec now is best known as an Argentinian varietal. Argentina has around 75% of all acres of Malbec, but the grape grows in 7 countries around the world.

We asked three of our Malbec producers- two in Argentina (MAAL Wines and TintoNegro) and one in Cahors (Triguedina)- what makes Malbec such a special varietal. 

From its versatility with food, depth and range of flavor, and rich beautiful color, it's no wonder Malbec is one of the most popular red wines. Pick up a bottle and see for yourself why Malbec is special. 

Hoppy Easter! Eggcelent Candy + Wine Pairings

Although we all grow older and don't necessarily get Easter baskets or hunt for eggs, one of the cherished traditions of the Easter holiday is the candy.  We've paired seven quintessential Easter candies with seven wines to sweeten your holiday weekend.

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The sweetness of the bubbly champagne stands up to the sweet marshmallow treats. We love Champagne Delamotte Brut. Easter is a celebration, after all, so you can never go wrong with champagne. 

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What is more Easter than a chocolate bunny? And what is more of a dessert wine than port? Try a dark chocolate bunny with Warre's Otima 10-year-old Tawny Port

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Keep this pairing in mind year round, after all, a Reese's Peanut Butter Egg is just a regular Reese's Cup in festive form. Try it with a Cabernet Sauvignon like Boekenhoutskloof. Robust, the savory notes of the Cabernet Sauvignon pick up the salty notes of the peanut butter quite well.

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This sweet treat might be the quintessential Easter candy. From the shape to the tradition, when you see one of these eggs you know Easter is here. Uber sweet, Cadbury Creme Eggs pair well with a Gradis'ciutta Chardonnay. The oaky-ness of the wine compliments the creaminess of the egg filling. 

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A part from the fact we just really love sparkling wines, turns out they pair well with a variety of savory and sweet treats. A sparkling wine like Alma Negra Nature Brut doesn't compete with the sweet and tart flavors of the candy. 

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Jellybeans are tricky to pair wine with, with so many different flavors in just one handful. So lean into the sweetness and choose and equally sweet Moscato. We love an easy drinking Moscato like Bulletin Place.

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Similar to sparkling wines, when in doubt, choose Rosé. The slightly sweet but acidic Miraval goes hand-in-hand with the crunch of the malted milk and sweetness of the chocolate. 

Mull (Wine) It Over

While the majority of the US is enjoying an early Spring with all of us practically running to the nearest al fresco dining area with our new 2017 vintages of Rosé, it is still *technically* winter for a little over two weeks. 

And since it is still winter, National Mulled Wine Day is Saturday! 

Thanks to author Charles Dickens, who referenced mulled wine in his novel "A Christmas Carol," mulled wine is most closely associated with the Christmas holiday. We challenge you to challenge that perception and drink mulled wine more often. 

We think there's only one requirement. Cold (or even just cool) temperatures. 

If you're having trouble channeling the desire to drink a delicious, warm, spiced beverage, then channel the cold currently felt by some of our favorite producers, including 

(Left to Right) Marqués de Cáceres in Rioja, Spain | Miraval in Provence, France |Umani Ronchi in Marche & Abruzzo, Italy | Gradis'ciutta in Collio, Italy. 


Mulled wine's history goes back much further than Victoria England and Charles Dickens. 

The spiced libation has been the beverage of choice during the winter months for thousands (yes, that's right, thousands) of years. 

If "cold weather" isn't reason enough for you , and you need a few more reasons (although we aren't quite sure why you would) to drink mulled wine, we've combed through the pages of history to find a few more for you. 

Waste Not, Want Not
The Ancient Greeks drank mulled wine to prevent waste. If part of harvest didn't quite make it in the vats, if there was extra left from a dinner party, the Greeks added spices to the leftover wine, heated it, and voila- the ancient version of lemons to lemonade. 

Health & Wellness
Health was at the forefront of many minds during the Middle Ages. How could it not be with terrifying ailments and diseases (remember learning about the Black Death in history classes?) seemingly around every corner? The spices added to wine were believed to have health benefits. While we won't vouch for that idea, we will say that we do vouch for the psychological benefits of having a warm drink on a cold day. 

Christmas Every Day
Did you know tastebuds only provide about 20% of our "flavor experience"? The other 80% comes from smell. Smell is a pretty powerful sense (to say the least). Smell is also able to bypass the thalamus in the brain and connect directly to the limbic regions, the emotional parts, of the brain (learn more in this article). So think about the different spices used in mulled wine...cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves...and what holiday do you think of? Christmas. Christmas is one of the happiest times of the year, time spent with friends and family, excitement and anticipation. Drink mulled wine and you can feel like Christmas any day of the year. 


If we've managed to convince you that mulled wine is in fact the perfect beverage for you to enjoy this weekend, head over to this post where we've compiled some of our favorite mulled wine recipes using wines from the Vineyard Brands portfolio.

Cheers!

 Photo: Esquire

Photo: Esquire

Open that Bottle!

Open That Bottle Night is February 24th! 

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While maybe not as well-known of a holiday as "National Margarita Day" (which was also this week, February 22. If you didn't celebrate, belated celebrations are always acceptable!), Open That Bottle Night will soon become one of your favorite nights of the year. 

Dorothy J. Gaiter, author of The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010  created  the annual "Open That Bottle Night" celebration of wine and friendship. 

In her words, "John and I invented Open That Bottle Night to provide an impetus for people to enjoy a wine they had been keeping for a special occasion that never arrived. Weddings, births, anniversaries, all manner of special milestones had come but those corks remained intact. We knew this happened because readers told us about bottles like that and we have many ourselves.
While we urge people to open them as often as possible, and we try to do that because no one is promised tomorrow, there are still some bottles that we just haven’t brought ourselves to open. Some are rather young, but special to us, still. The point is to open these gems with someone you care about and celebrate the memories that are in that bottle. Make them the occasion. Recognizing that sometimes it takes a village to do something difficult, we set a date, the last Saturday in February, for this global celebration of friendship, love and wine. This year, it’s Feb. 24th.

The hard part is choosing the wine. If it’s old and may have sediment, you’ll want to stand it up a couple days before Saturday the 24th so the sediment will settle in the bottom of the bottle. Have a back-up wine handy in case your first choice is irretrievably bad (and even then, don’t rush to throw it out. You’d be surprised how some old wines can pull themselves together by the next day).

It's not all about old and collectables. Some people use OTBN as a reason to finally buy a wine they’ve been curious about for some time.

Talk about the wine, why it’s special to you, and savor a little of it without food. Give it a minute alone, give it its due. And last, enjoy the wine for what it is, not what it might someday be or might once have been."


If you're either looking to buy a special bottle to celebrate or wondering which bottle from you existing collection you should open, we have some suggestions. 

Celebrations large and small (and really, why not just celebrate existence?) deserve champagne, and the 1997 Champagne Salon is really starting to drink at its peak.  


You can't go wrong with a Burgundy. The 2006 vintage of red Burgundy is drinking really nicely and 2013 vintage for white Burgundy will surprise you with their finesse.

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Much like Burgundy, Barolo has a reputation for excellence. The 2004 Barolos are beginning to open up very nicely. 


With spring around the corner, it's time to open and drink 2016 rosés. They are better young (I'm sure many of us would say the same of ourselves!) and the 2017s are starting to hit the shores.