Wednesday, May 9, 2012

10 Winemakers, 1 Camera, 1 Question

A gorgeous carafe of
Apaltagua's Grial Carmenère.
During last month's trip to Chile (as a guest of Wines of Chile), I couldn't help but notice the energy and excitement among the winemakers.  They all spoke of their love for the country and the promise of finally moving beyond the stereotype of only producing value wines.

All of the winemakers—to a person—were absolutely energized by the future of the Chilean wine industry and, most importantly, working diligently to produce world-class wines.  Some are closer than others, but all seem to be unified in this singular goal.

In an effort to seize the moment, I asked 10 winemakers to tell me why the country is such a special and exciting place to make wine.

The video below shows what they had to say...

Featured winemakers (in order of appearance):
1. Julio Bastías of Vina Matetic
2. Gonzalo Guzmán of Viña El Principal
3. Matías Rios of Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery
4. Andrea León of Lapostolle Wine 
5. Sebastian Labbe of Carmen Wines
6. Edgard Carter of Oveja Negra
7. Benjamin Mei of Apaltagua
8. Andrés Ilabaca of Santa Rita Wines
9. Marcelo Papa of Concha y Toro
10. Cristóbal Undurraga of Viña Koyle


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© Copyright 2009-2012   Jones Is Hungry LLC   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 30, 2012

Postcard from Chile: How a Winemaker Tastes Grapes

Viña Ventisquero
The last month has been a whirlwind of good fortune and amazing travel.  I spent a couple of weeks in Argentina and Chile with a group of wine professionals as a guest of Winebow.  Then, two weeks later, I headed back to Chile for a return visit as a guest of Wines of Chile.  Incredible opportunities, to be sure.

Looking back, I shot 5,000+ images and videos.  So much to share.

What's this mean in human terms?  I'll be (slowly but surely) posting videos and slide shows until I get it all out of my system.  Hang on tight.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Roasted Peach Salad

I've been working with the folks at the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association for the past couple of months developing recipes for their winter marketing campaign.

But, honestly, I was a big fan of Chilean fruit long before I ever began working with them.

Back in my Southern Living days (from 1999 to 2010), I recommended Chilean fresh peaches and nectarines every winter—the perfectly ripe fruit filled the gap for our favorite Southern summer fruits.

This easy, yet elegant, recipe is a riff on something you'll likely see on restaurant menus all over the South (in the summer)—but my version is simple enough to whip up for a quick weeknight supper.  I use a mix of peaches and nectarines, but all peaches or all nectarines will work just fine.  No worries.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

22 Great Wines for $12 or Less

The holidays call for flexible wines that can move and groove at the table, and ride the roller coaster of textures and flavors.

The market is loaded with terrific wines to fit any budget, yet I continue to be impressed with the quality and value of many wines that are 12 bucks or less.

Here are 22 of my favorites from 2011:

Lively & Fruity - Light with an extra dose of fruit and acidity
Joseph Drouhin, Beaujolais-Villages, France 2009 ($12)
Georges Duboeuf, Beaujolais-Villages, France 2009 ($10)

Smooth & Juicy - Mid-weight with soft tannins
Vientos del Sur, Malbec, Argentina 2010 ($11)
Trivento, “Reserve” Malbec, Argentina 2010 ($11)
Columbia Crest, Grand Estates Merlot, Washington 2007 ($12)
Snoqualmie, Merlot, Washington, 2007 ($11)
Cortijo, Tinto, Rioja, Spain 2009; ($10)
Torremoron, Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009; ($12)

Big & Juicy -  Hefty minus the tongue-lashing tannins
Cline, Zinfandel, California 2010 ($10)
Four Vines, Old Vine Cuvée Zinfandel, California ($10)

Crisp & Off-Dry - Mid-weight with a touch of sweetness
Charles Smith Wines, Kung Fu Girl, Riesling, Washington 2009 ($12)
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Washington 2009 ($10)
Pacific Rim, Riesling, Washington 2010 ($10)
Snoqualmie, Naked Riesling, Washington 2009 ($12)

Crisp & Fruity - Dry and mid-weight with rich fruit and plenty of acidity
King Estate, Acrobat Pinot Gris, Oregon 2010; ($12)
The Great Oregon Wine Company, “Rascal” Pinot Gris, Oregon 2010; ($11)
H & M Hofer, Grüner Veltliner, Austria 2010 ($13/1 Liter bottle)
Berger, Grüner Veltliner, Austria 2010 ($14/1 Liter bottle)
Alexander Valley Vineyards, Gewurz, California 2010 ($10)
P. J. Valckenberg, Gewürztraminer, Germany 2010 ($12)

Soft & Weighty - Hefty with ripe fruit and a touch of oak
Viña Cono Sur, Chardonnay, Chile 2008; ($11)
Veramonte, Reserva Chardonnay 2008; ($12)

Serving Temperature — What’s Best?
White wines should be served between 58˚ to 62˚.  There’s a tendency to serve whites ice-cold.  Avoid this mistake.  Too cold and the wine tastes flat and lifeless.  Champagne and sparkling wine, on the other hand, are the exception—they’re best served well-chilled at around 45˚.  In fact, one of the best ways to spot an under-chilled bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine is when the frothy mousse bubbles over when the cork is popped.  No bueno. 

Most reds are best served between 62˚ to 65˚, so don’t be afraid to stick a bottle in the refrigerator for 20 or 30 minutes before opening, especially when serving medium-bodied reds, such as pinot noir and barbera.  Beaujolais, the smooth drinking, fruity holiday favorite from France, is actually made to be served slightly chilled at around 58˚.  Conversely, chilling full-bodied reds, such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah, or shiraz for more than 30 minutes plays up the tannins resulting in an unpleasant astringency.

What’s The Right Glass?
 A basic white wine glass has a tulip shape, while a glass for red wine has a larger balloon shape.  For the vast majority of wine drinkers, however, one thin, clear, all-purpose wine glass (whether tulip- or balloon-shaped) with a capacity of about 10 to 12 ounces will do.  The one exception is the Champagne flute.  The narrow shape concentrates the wine’s bubbles and bouquet, and helps it stay cold.  When serving wine, only fill the glass about half-way.  The remaining space allows for swirling and the development of the wine’s bouquet.

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© Copyright 2011 Jones Is Hungry LLC   All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Must-Have Sparklers for the Holidays

Every year folks ask for recommendations on great wines suitable for gift-giving or an extra-special occasion.  For me, few things are as elegant and celebratory as sparkling wine.

That said, it’s important to remember that all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.  

True Champagne blends three grapes: Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir (red), and Pinot Meunier (red), all from the Champagne region of northern France (about a 11/2-hour drive northeast of Paris).  

However, sparkling wine is made all over the world—from the United States to Italy to Spain (and practically everywhere in between).  As a general rule, Méthode Champenoise (“the Champagne method”) is the phrase you’re looking for on the sparkling wine’s label.  This tells you, among other things, the wine has undergone a second fermentation in the bottle, producing millions of tiny bubbles.

Spain’s easy drinking Cava (KAH-vuh) is made in the Champagne method and may just be one of the best values around—it can often be found for less than $12.  The most notable Italian sparkler, Prosecco (Pro-SECK-oh), is a fun-loving wine with loads of fruitiness, a touch of sweetness, and soft bubbles.

Pop The Top:
Sparkling wine should be well chilled—30 minutes in ice water or 3 hours in the refrigerator should do the trick—and served in slender, flute-shaped glasses.  

Before you can pour it, though, you have to get the bottle open.  Despite what you see in the movies, the proper way to open sparkling wine does not involve firing the cork across the room with a loud pop.  Rather, in a controlled fashion, let the pressure of the bottle gently release the cork with an ever-so-slight hiss. 

Here's how: 
1. Loosen, but don’t remove the cage, keeping your thumb over the top at all times.  This’ll help you grip the cork for more control.
2. Hold the bottle at a 45˚ angle.  With your thumb over the cork, slowly twist the bottle in one direction while holding the cork firmly.
3. Allow the pressure inside the bottle to gently push out the cork.

Jones Is Hungry Picks:
The market is loaded with terrific sparkling wines from all over the world—here are a few of my favorites:

Using the traditional Champagne method, but a blend of Spanish grapes, creates a rich, mid-weight wine with plenty of complexity.  Two years of bottle aging adds a layer of richness to this creamy sparkler without the added price at checkout.

Blanc de Noirs
Blanc de Noirs (“white from blacks”) is made from the clear juice of red grapes (typically all Pinot Noir). While there’s no pink tint to the wine, it’s fruitier and more full bodied than regular Brut.  Like the still wines under their Chateau label, Domaine Ste. Michelle knows how to deliver quality and value.

Moscato d'Asti
The traditional Christmas wine in the Piedmont region of Italy, Moscato d’Asti is more like a sparkler-lite (with less bubbles than it’s peppier cousin spumante). However, the fresh, fizzy (frizzante), lightly sweet qualities of this frothy, low-alcohol wine make it one of the most festive sippers around.

Made using the Charmat method where wine quickly undergoes a second fermentation in large tanks, rather than the slower, in-bottle Champagne method.  This speedy step creates a refreshing, easy-drinking sparkler that’s loaded with ripe fruit flavors. No brunch-time Bellini is complete without it.

Non-vintage (NV) Brut is by far the most popular, food-friendly style of sparkling wine. With ripe apple and citrus flavors, this California offshoot of French Champagne house Piper-Heidsieck has a touch of elegance usually reserved for pricier offerings.

When French sparkling wine is made outside of Champagne, it’s called Crémant.  But we’re talking the same classic production method, the same high quality grapes, and often at a fraction of the price.  This crisp, all-Chardonnay sparkler from Burgundy delivers real bang for the buck.

“Grower Champagne”
This is the hot, new category in the world of Champagne, epitomizing the notion of keeping it local.  Often referred to as “farmer fizz” by those in the know, these top-notch wines are handcrafted by small, family-owned wineries—and Aubry is one of the best.  You pay a few bucks more, but the craftsmanship is unmistakable.

Blanc de Blancs
Blanc de Blancs (“white from whites”) is 100% Chardonnay and the lightest style made in the classic Champagne method.  With green apple and melon flavors, Schramsberg is a few bucks more than non-vintage Brut (which blends in Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), but it’s a well-crafted wine and solid value if you’re looking for something a bit more refined.

Don’t confuse this rich, full-bodied sparkler with a sweet blush wine, because they’re light years apart. With regal Moët & Chandon parentage (of Dom Perignon fame), étoile uses a small amount of Pinot Noir for its rosy hue.  You pay for the limited production and extra bottle aging (in this case, five years). But it’s worth the splurge.

True vintage Champagne is rare, which is always reflected in the price, but it doesn’t always translate to superior quality over its non-vintage brethren. Gaston-Chiquet is a tasty exception delivering both a delicious wine and a great value.


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© Copyright 2011 Jones Is Hungry LLC   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Cookie for Chocolate Lovers!

It's definitely cookie time in the Jones house.  Between neighborhood Christmas parties and teacher/bus driver/piano instructor/tennis coach/mail woman/orthodontist gifts (and I'm sure I missed a few), it seems like our oven is on the entire month of December.

But that's cool with me.

Who doesn't like a constant stream of fresh-baked cookies.  The house smells like one of those fancy retail stores during the holidays (think Pottery Barn Kids or Williams-Sonoma)—it's amazing.  Of course, I have to sample a cookie or two from each batch (I tell the kids that, as a chef, I need to ensure quality control). They respond with eye rolls, head shakes, and deep sighs.  And by the way, don't even THINK about bringing up the dangers of eating raw cookie dough—the girls may just throw themselves to the ground in exasperation.

Down to the nitty-gritty.  I'm a sugar cookie man myself.  And I'm especially fond of raspberry jam-filled linzer cookies.  Now, at the risk of sounding un-American, I am not a fan of chocolate cookies.  Not sure why.  Just not my style.

So when the Food Network decided to get the food community together to celebrate a Virtual Cookie Swap, I immediately knew what my recipe would be: Triple Chocolate Cookies.

I know, I know. I just said I'm not a fan of chocolate cookies.  Kooky cookie talk, right?  Maybe, but I LOVE these cookies...with their crackly-tops and sorta meringue-like texture.  They're out of this world.

And here's the best part: when I'm in a total Christmas shame spiral, I take two cookies, slather Nutella on the bottom side of one, then place the bottom side of other cookie against it to make this uh-mazing QUADRUPLE CHOCOLATE COOKIE SANDWICH!

Better still, this is the PERFECT cookie for hosting a your very own Cookies For Kids' Cancer bake sale—a wonderful way to spread a little holiday cheer with your kids, help raise money for a terrfic organization, and join the mission to find a cure for pediatric cancer.

Here's the recipe

Triple Chocolate Cookies (Printer Friendly Version)

Kitchen Tip: Allow the cookies to COMPLETELY cool on baking sheet before removing.  The cookies are very soft and pliable right out of the oven, and they'll break if you remove them too early.

Prep: 25 min.
Cook: 15 min. per batch
Yield: 24 cookies

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.

In a bowl over just simmering water, melt chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. Stir in melted chocolate. Fold in dry ingredients and white chocolate chips.

Using a small ice cream scoop or 2 spoons, portion dough by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, until tops are cracked, switching baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheets on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

Check out these delish recipes from the other folks in the Cookie Exchange: 

What's Gaby Cooking: Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies
CIA Dropout: Walnut Wimpy Balls
And Love It Too: Snowball Cookies (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Vegan)
Taste With The Eyes: Olive Oil Oatmeal Cookies
From My Corner of Saratoga: Gooey Butter Cookies
The Sensitive Epicure: Speculaas Dutch Windmill Cookies
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salted Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Fudge
Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Mint Snowballs
Sweet Life Bake: Polvorones de Chocolate
Daily*Dishin: Cherry Topped Cream-Drop Cookies
FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies
Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies
Dishin and Dishes: Pecan Sandie Thumbprints With Cherry Frosting
Mooshu Jenne: Biscotti
Cooking With Elise: Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies


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© Copyright 2011 Jones Is Hungry LLC   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roasted Goodness: An Easy (and Healthy) Thanksgiving Side

During my 11 Thanksgiving seasons at Southern Living, few things perplexed readers more than what to serve alongside their big holiday bird.  They were cool with the turkey (unless, of course, it was still frozen solid and guests were just around the corner).  And I reckon they had dessert down too.

But the subject of side dishes was an altogether different matter.