• Food pairing

    Pairing California Wines + Italian Foods

    By now you should be fairly accustomed with the local food local wine pairing rule of thumb. While it’s true that local cuisine will work 99% of the time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best possible pairing available. In the case of Italian food, a much better idea is to pair it with Californian wine.

    I’ll talk about why pairing Italian food with Californian wine is better in a minute but first let’s look at the aforementioned rule. By no means am I saying that Italians don’t make great wine, Italians have had a host of winemaking geniuses such as Angelo Gaja.

    Italian Food & Californian Wine

    The region of Tuscany produces some of the best red wines in the world. Commonly nicknamed the super Tuscans, wines such as Sassicaia and Solaia, are made from a blend from the Sangiovese grape using a very special winemaking process that makes them what they are today.

    Italians also have other magnificent wines such as the Barolo and Barbaresco duo which everybody knows about. These wines can stand up to filet mignon or something like venison chop. And as for Italian whites Americans are very fond of Pinot Grigio. This is a refreshing and sharp white wine that goes best with appetizers.

    The simple reason is that California is producing the best wines they ever had. Their grape growing conditions have been perfect for years now and we can all remember the 1997 godly vintage. This is a special year for California as they finally succeeded in getting capital with what was called the “vintage of a century”.

    Of course the ideal weather in 1997 contributed a big part of the quality of those wines, but we can’t take away credit from the winemakers either. Winemaking is becoming more of a science and less of an art than you might think. Every experiment provides deeper understanding into how exactly everything works.

    The point is that whatever Italians can do right now Californians can do just as well and for a better cost: shipping takes less time and is less costly overall. They have translated Pinot Gris and Sangiovese incredibly well. In fact I haven’t found any bottle of said wines that I didn’t like as of yet.

    Pinot Gris is a light wine that is sharp but also full. It has sensibly less acidity and pairs well with roasted eggplant soup. Sangiovese is ripe and has mellow flavors but brighter than it’s Italian cousin. This wine pairs extremely well with a host of Italian dishes such as spicy Italian chilli, grilled eggplant Parmesan and summer Pasta Sauce.

    Pairing Italian food with Californian wine is new and different from anything Italian pairings had to offer. California is like the place of rediscovered wines. And they have not only taken on Italian wines, but also French wines. One example is Viognier, with its tropical bouquet and spicy, yet fruity finish it truly is a remarkable wine to try.

    If you’re past the standard food and wine pairings try some Italian-Californian duo. I almost forgot to mention a pairing for Viognier – try any rich pasta and I think you will be very much surprised to see how well they work together.

    Sure some of these recipes might not get the Rhonda Patrick stamp of approval, but they taste damn good!

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  • Wine regions

    California wine defines the “new world” style

    California wines have only recently came into the spotlight but are serious competition for the established worldwide wine makers. The famous Napa Valley is the birthplace of some of the finest quality wines in California.

    Today the world of wine revolves around two major types of producers. First you have the Old World which consists of France, Italy, Germany and the like. Then you have the New World with New Zealand, South Africa and California. All are among the best in the world.

    Incredible vistas await those who visit California’s wine country. Photo via Flickr.

    California is a state that has had a troubled past regarding red and white wine making. A series of vine diseases that seriously impaired any ability to produce wine. Coupled with a prohibition to create alcoholic beverages by way of law, you can understand California’s slump starting around the beginning of the 20th century.

    However today California is among the top 5 wine producers in the world. Both in terms of quality and quantity. For example Napa Valley has continuously made award-winning, jawdropping red wines that time and time again prove that France is not the sole contender to the number one status.

    Popular red wines in California

    Most of California’s red wine types consist of the following wine types. You will see many familiar faces with not too many new wine choices. This is because California is intent on producing what people are known to like rather than try something completely different. Here are the most common California red wine types:

    Sauvignon has been one of the top wine types for many years. For this reason it now has a huge reputation and wine lovers consistently choose this red wine as their companion. In California it is a pretty popular type yet a special mention is in order towards Napa Valley where Cabernet Sauvignon is the red king.

    Cabernet Sauvignon is a complicated red wine. It gets many different flavors such as green olives or black currant. It makes for fabulous wines both young and old. When drunk young the best matches are robust meaty dishes. The older Cabernets have much more power and can stand up to many cheeses.

    Pinot Noir is among the most annoying grapes you can come across. It is very hard to grow successfully but if you manage to do so you will get an excellent unadorned red wine. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon it is a tad bit lighter and has slightly less body.

    However it makes for an excellent pair when confronted with beef dishes as well as pasta and fish. Still Pinot Noir is drunk rather young but the best wines are the ones that can age around a decade. This only happens in the best vintage years.

    Zinfandel is pretty popular in California in it’s red variety. Most restaurants and wineries enlist this red wine as it is a staple in California. Zinfandel is very popular in California but you can find Californian Zinfandel in many other countries as well.

    This red wine type works very well with food. And anything between pizza and filet Mignon is a good pairing with this red wine. This is because the grape is very versatile and can adapt to many styles of food.

    Merlot is your standard in terms of wine tasting. It has a full body and a deep overtone of reddish flavor. It makes excellent pairings with red meat and pasta. This wine is the common choice of new wine lovers since it’s not exaggerating in any way.

    This is why it’s regarded as the standard red wine. When you want to drink Merlot consider pairing it with an Italian dish. Pick your favorite as it will contrast well with pretty much anything.

    California also produces a fair amount of Syrah wine. Syrah has a wild nature, but it’s similar to Pinot Noir albeit the stronger red tones. It is still a popular wine all over California.

    The stronger variety in this red wine comes from it’s tannins. So whenever you order a glass of Syrah you can still expect new flavors even if you’re a seasoned wine lover. Syrah pairs excellently with Mexican and Cuban dishes and spicy foods in general.

    As you can see California is home to many red wine types and it’s wine regions create smashing bottles that rank very high in world competitions. The familiar red wine types you can find in California make for a sure base in your repertoire whenever you are considering a food and wine pairing.

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