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Wine Tutorial

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From a wonderful visit to Arrington Vineyards in TN last summer. 

Have you ever had a recipe that you were excited to prepare, but wished you had known how to select a really nice bottle of wine to go with it?

I used to feel that way quite often, when I was looking for wine to go with a nice meal. I’ve spent a fair amount of time educating myself about great food, but not so much time on what makes a great wine.

A few years ago, while picking out wine for our Christmas dinner, my husband ran into a friend and fellow musician who was working part time at the wine store where we buy wine. After listening to our menu, our friend Denny chose a wine that was perfect for the meal we served, and I never forgot that this guy’s taste in wine was excellent. He turned us on to wines that we would never have known to try.
We ran into Denny this year at a Christmas party, and I told him how much I appreciated his taste in wine, and his recommendations, and somehow, over the course of running into him a few more times, he OFFERED to share what he knew with my readers.

My dear readers, I feel like we have hit the proverbial jackpot! I feel this way because Denny is willing to share what he knows with YOU, too! I told him that a lot of people come here for the recipes, because they trust that the recipes that I share  will be really excellent recipes. And so now, how great is it that if you come here to find a great recipe, you may also be able to find really excellent suggestions for great wines to go with those meals?

Today, I’m excited to announce the very first post of a brand new series of posts on finding a great wine for your lovely, special meal.

If you learn something helpful, or if, in general, you enjoy what you read here, be sure and leave him a nice comment, won’t you? Or share it on Facebook?

I asked Denny if he would tell you a little about himself, but I’ll just tell you that he is a world class musician, and a really nice guy. So…without further ado: Here’s Denny!

Let’s start with a little background on me. My name is Denny Jiosa. I have been a professional musician for many years. I have 7 CDs released, 4 Grammy nominations, and numerous awards. The long and short of it, I love music. I love creativity. And, I love wine! If you would like more info on me, please visit my website!
Awesome picture, yes? Taken by Adrianna Jiosa.

So, let’s talk wine. I believe there are three rules to live by when it comes to vino:
1. Learning about and tasting wines should be FUN!
2. Great wine does not have to break the bank! 
3. No “wine snobbery ” allowed here, please! 
Wine selection is vast (5000 grapes) and there are many great varietals, (and some not so great…)!  They range from affordable, mid-priced, to expensive. I think the most important rule about wine is to drink what you like…in other words, someone may recommend a Cabernet Sauvignon with your meal but if you don’t care for a dry full bodied red and you have a favorite Zinfandel, then drink the Zin. You may feel like you should like a $100 bottle but you truly enjoyed the $20 bottle more…drink the $20 one! Your palette will thank you!
In this series, I would like to offer you a choice of 3 wines in each post to complement Susan’s recipes. One $15 (and under) , one in the $20 range, and one that is in the “special occasion” category ($50 and above)!
Let’s talk about Susan’s “Expensive Steak house” recipe for starters. If you’re a carnivore like I am, you will love this recipe. One recommended rule of thumb is red meat, red wine,white meat,white wine. There are a few exceptions to this that we will cover at a later date. With this recipe, we definitely want a full bodied plump red to keep up with the the hefty flavor of steak. There are many wines that would work with this including a California Cabernet Sauvignon, a French Bordeaux, an Italian Brunello, or an Australian Shiraz! 
In the $15 and under range, let’s start with the Château Tanunda Grand Barossa Shiraz. This wine was ranked #33 in Wine Spectators Top 100 wines for 2011! It is composed of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. Loaded with dark fruit (Blackberry) and blackcurrant with notes of dark coffee! A bit of vanilla and cedar appear on the long finish that lingers after each delightful swallow. I must confess, Shiraz is one of my favorite grapes and this wine will not disappoint. Big, fat, jammy mouthful of flavors. 
Susan in the Boonies and the Big Bison personally have actually tried, and highly recommend this Shiraz. Affordable, lovely wine.
** Side note, be sure and serve all these wines in a big glass to get the most out of the fantastic aromas coming from the nose. The glass DOES make a difference in the performance of the wine. More on that later!
My second choice, the wine in the $20.00 range, is a Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($24). Full bodied and smooth as silk. Soft on the palate with plum and blueberry flavors as well as vanilla and toasty oak. This is due to 18 months of oak barrel aging! This wine is fruit forward but I would not necessarily call it “jammy”…. just delicious! It is a great choice for a winter wine and steak dinner!
Choice number three, for the special occasion, is a spectacular California Cabernet from Vineyard 7 & 8 in St. Helena, CA. Vineyard 7 & 8 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) was rated 94 points by Robert Parker, who is the leading U.S. wine tasting critic. This is the kind of wine you can drink now or cellar it for 25 years and it will be fabulous either way! With blueberry, floral notes, licorice, and a hint of earthiness, this wine is incredibly concentrated and structured yet smooth and silky on the palette. Minerality is present due to the rich volcanic terroir of the area. The finish is long and lingering. With 18 months aging in French oak , the toasted vanilla overtones are pleasantly present and balanced! This is the “special occasion” wine I mentioned. A real treat!
If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]
If you found this post informative, consider sharing it on Facebook. There’s a button you can click at the end of this post. Also,  feel free to leave questions here at this blog for Denny, and I (Susan in the Boonies) will be sure to jump up and down to make sure that Denny catches wind of them.  Your question  might be a question that lots of other readers of mine would enjoy having answered.