Valentine Pairings

If you have a love affair with wine and chocolate, and let’s face it, who doesn’t? I have a line-up of of perfect pairings for you to explore with your Valentine.

I am partnering with one of my favorite chocolatiers, The Royal Chocolate, in Virginia Beach for a wicked sweet tasting experience tonight.  While, the general rule of thumb is to pair sweeter wines with desserts, I love to drink outside the box and experiment with different flavor profiles. Here’s my line-up of fun and delicious pairings so you can host a sweet pairing at your home.

2014 True Myth Chardonnay, Edna Valley, California
Vibrant aromas of pear, apple, pineapple & lemon curd are followed by sweet vanilla and hints of toasty oak. The palate is fruit forward with a creamy finish.

Pairings: Snowball Apple & White Chocolate Toffee Bar

2014 Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Aromas of white flowers, citrus & stone fruit dance in your glass. This off-dry wine boasts vibrant acidity, honey, peach, lemon & a hint of lingering spice on the palate.

Pairings: White Chocolate Blueberry Scone Bar & Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger

2013 Carol Shelton “Wild Thing” Zinfandel, Medocino County, California
Bursting with aromas of ripe red berries, Chambord, plum, sweet spice of clove & cinnamon and a touch of cracked pepper.

Pairings: Baconluxious Maple Bacon Bar & Dark Chocolate Rosemary Bar

2015 Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy
The ruby red beauty has a bouquet filled with red berries & soft rose petals while the palate provides a burst of intense ripe raspberry & a touch of baking spice.

Pairings: White Chocolate Oreo Cookie & Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

2013 Alvear Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles, Spain
Notes of orange marmalade, candied ginger, maple syrup, dulce de leche, honeysuckle and oolong tea lead to a long, lingering finish on your palate.

Pairings: Milk Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

All of the wines on my list, can be purchased by clicking on the banner above.  These sumptuous chocolates can be purchased at The Royal Chocolate. Don’t live in the area, no worries, they offer shipping!

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Chocolate & Wine Pairings

Pairing wine with chocolate sounds like a match made in heaven, but the wrong pairings can leave a bitter taste on your palate. However, the right coupling can create a euphoric experience for your taste buds!

A general rule of the thumb when it comes to wine and dessert pairings is to select a sweeter wine than the dessert. While this is a good start for creating exquisite wine and chocolate pairings, there is plenty of gray area and personal preference also comes into play.

One of the most important things to think about when pairing wine and chocolate has to do with tannins. Dark (bittersweet) chocolate  with a high cocoa content has more tannins than milk chocolate. Tannic chocolate and tannic wine compete for the same palate space leaving behind a somewhat chalky, unsavory taste on your mid-palate. If you love dark chocolate,  opt for a sweeter dessert wine like Sauternes or Banyuls. If you love a drier red wine, choose fruit infused dark chocolate and a fruit forward red wine with integrated tannins like a Zinfandel. The fruit filling will bring out the fruit notes in the wine.

Here are a few wine and chocolate pairing ideas that will please even the pickiest palates. For a fun get together, host a wine and chocolate night at your house with some of these classic pairings.

Champagne – For an ultimate pairing, think white chocolate covered strawberries, white chocolate caramel apples or white chocolate shortbread. The fresh baked brioche characteristics in the bubbly provide a perfect complement to the shortbread and the high acidity is the perfect counterpoint to the creamy white chocolate. Looking for a budget friendly sparkler, grab a Vouvray Demi-Sec or Prosecco.

Riesling – This is unexpected and delicious when pairing with dark chocolate covered ginger or a milk chocolate bar with stone fruit and nuts.

Zinfandel – A youthful fruit forward Zinfandel can provide an interesting pairing with fruit infused milk chocolate and milk chocolate covered bacon.

Sparkling Brachetto – A sweet Italian dessert wine with notes of sweet raspberry and rose petals is decadent with just about any chocolate. The Rosa Regale paired with chocolate covered strawberries, dark chocolate raspberry truffles or chocolate cupcakes is a match made in heaven!

Port – A ruby port paired with chocolate peanut butter cups will create a nostalgic experience. The combined flavor profile will be reminiscent of an adult PB&J. A tawny port with notes of caramel and fig paired with milk chocolate covered graham crackers will create a taste sensation similar to a Twix bar.



Top 5 Wines to Pair with Salad

Salads can really pose a challenge when it comes to wine pairings. There are many components to consider when selecting the perfect wine for that bed of greens. For example, spicy greens like arugula and bitter greens like radicchio can create havoc with the flavor profile of a wine. A good rule of thumb is to stick with an unoaked, light to medium dry or off-dry white wine or rosé with vibrant acidity. This style will complement almost any salad. You want a wine with good acidity to mirror the acidity of the salad dressing. If you really enjoy an oaky Chardonnay, make sure to pair it with a neutral green like green leaf or romaine and top the salad with a dense, rich protein like lobster, crab cakes or roast chicken.

Here are my top 5 wines to pair with salad:

1. Sauvignon Blanc – This is a popular grape that grows well across the world.  The typical flavor profile of this varietal includes notes of bright citrus, tropical fruit, gooseberry, fresh cut grass and asparagus. If you are searching for a wine with more citrus aromas look to New Zealand. If you love a Sauvignon Blanc with stony minerality, reach for a Sancerre from the Loire Valley.  This is a great selection for salads topped with goat cheese or shellfish.

2. Riesling – An off-dry Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet. This works particularly well with a southwest salad, spicy thai salad, seaweed salad, crab salad and bitter greens. A touch of sweetness is a nice counterpoint to endive and radicchio.

3. Albarino – This is a refreshing alternative to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc that hails from Rias Biaxas, Spain.  Albarino is a soft, feminine wine that often exudes exotic floral notes of jasmine, bright citrus, tropical and stone fruits along with a touch of salinity that comes from the terroir along the Atlantic coast of Spain.

4. Rosé  –  A mineral driven dry rosé is the perfect partner with greens drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette and fresh berries. Many rosés boast juicy berry aromas and have vibrant acidity.

5. Pinot Grigio/Pinot Blanc – When in doubt, grab a glass of light, crisp and refreshing Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc. These wines tend to be simple and straightforward with notes of lemon and pear and refreshing acidity. Pair this with a greek salad with feta and lemon vinaigrette.

Michael Shaps Chardonnay

Our celebration of Virginia wine month continues with a classic varietal from Michael Shaps Wineworks. Michael Shaps has been making wine in Virginia for nearly 20 years.  He spent time working for two legendary vineyards (Jefferson Vineyards and King Family Vineyards) prior to opening his own operation in 2007.  Shaps has a love for old world wines and is using that passion to create fine wines in Virginia with an old-world flare, including a spectacular Chardonnay.

Tasting Notes:
The Russian River Valley collides with Mersault in the 2010 Wild Meadow Vineyard Chardonnay. This wine is everything a Chardonnay should be and more.  Aromas of sweet meyer lemon, baked apple, pear skin, hazelnut and kettle corn dance in your glass. The palate echoes the aromas and adds a touch of sweet spice and toffee. The wine has a creamy mouthfeel, refreshing acidity and a long lingering finish. (SRP: $26)

Perfect Pairings: 
I paired this with the Barefoot Contessa’s Engagement Roast Chicken, it was a match made in heaven.  It’s also perfect with lobster, crab cakes, swordfish with tropical salsa and nutty gruyere cheese.


Barboursville Sangiovese

Barboursville Vineyards has a long tradition of making exceptional wine in Virginia.  While they are best known for the bordeaux style blend “Octagon,” there are many other exciting wines in their portfolio.  I am a big fan of the Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve and the Vermentino Reserve. Tonight, I opted for a bottle of the 2013 Sangiovese Reserve to pair with a hearty plate of bolognese.

Sangiovese is a grape varietal indigenous to Tuscany, Italy. It’s responsible for producing world class wines including Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti & Vino Nobile.

Unlike many of its Italian counterparts, the 2013 Barboursville Sangiovese Reserve is very approachable in its youth.  The Sangiovese is blended with a couple of Bordelais varietals (80% Sangiovese. 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot).  The wine retails for $22.

Tasting Notes: Bright cherry, ripe red berries, plum, dusty earth and floral notes of violet give way to a hint of anise and spice. The palate is medium-bodied, balanced and structured with refreshing acidity and velvety tannins. Drink now or hold for up to 3 years.

Perfect Pairings: Food will bring out the best in this wine. Think about pairing with just about anything Italian! Sausage & mushroom pizza, bolognese, chicken marsala and hearty stews will all be a perfect match with this vino.




2008 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz

The Penfolds name is synonymous with winemaking in Australia. This year, Penfolds celebrates 170 years as a pioneer in the industry.  Penfolds wines run the spectrum from affordable every day wine all the way to the iconic Penfolds Grange. This wine exemplifies the true terroir of South Australia.  Grange generally retails for roughly $800 upon release and the value only goes up from there.

Another label in the “luxury” collection from Penfolds includes the St. Henri Shiraz also know as Penfolds “other” Shiraz.

I recently opened a bottle of the 2008 and was blown away by the complexity and true aging potential of this wine.  The St. Henri Shiraz retails for a fraction of the Grange at $99, but exemplifies all that is truly wonderful about Australian wine. While most Shiraz coming out of Australia tends to rely on new oak to develop tannins, structure and flavor, the St. Henri is aged in neutral oak vats.

The wine is beautiful deep ruby to purple in color. On the nose, aromas of sweet blueberry pie, baked plum and black cherry abound. There are also notes of dusty earth, leather, cedar chest, applewood smoked bacon, anise, mint, a  hint of black pepper, asian five spice and mocha.

The palate bursts with flavors of blueberry and plum followed by spice box and chocolate covered espresso beans. While this wine was decanted 2 hours before drinking, the tannins were still very chewy and rugged.  The finish was long and lingering. This is a truly complex wine that will only improve with long term cellaring. In fact, I would recommend holding this bottler for at least another 3 years before opening. If you are impatient, I would recommend decanting at least 6 hours before your meal and make sure to pair it with something fatty like a ribeye. Keep in mind, patience is often rewarded when it comes to wine.

This wine can age every bit as long as Grange.  According to Penfolds the peak dates are 2012-2038. A small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is added to improve structure. The breakdown for this vintage is is 91% Shiraz, 9% Cabernet.

The 2008 St. Henri was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator.

2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner

The 2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner from Alto Adige, Italy is this week’s feature wine.  Kerner is a an aromatic white grape that was created in 1929 by crossing two German grapes (Riesling and Trollinger).  Abbazia is one of the world’s oldest wineries dating back more than 800 years.  It was founded by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular in 1142 and has a steep tradition in making exceptional wines.

Seared scallops over a bed of bacon corn salad paired with Kerner


This wine is made from 100% Kerner grapes and is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio. It offers exotic aromas of white flower, juicy apple, ripe peach, lemon curd and a hint of tropical fruit. The palate bursts with ripe juicy fruit and offers refreshing acidity with a crisp finish. It simply reminds me of summer in a glass. Pair this with an array of seafood from sushi and seared scallops to crab cakes. I also really love this wine with baked lemon ricotta. The cheese makes the sweet lemon and tropical fruit burst on your palate. Consume within 1-2 years.

Check out my video review on the 2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner.

Getting to Know Your Palate

Getting to know your palate can be a big key to understanding your love of wine. Do you ever wonder why you select the same wine time and time again? Do you love sweet Moscato and can’t bear the thought of ingesting a heavy dry red or do you love a big bold Cabernet Sauvignon and simply refuse to sip on a Riesling?

There are many things that contribute to your personal palate preferences. Understanding a few things about your palate will make that next wine choice a little less daunting and it may even expand your love of wine.  With more than 5,000 varietals to explore, life’s too short to drink the same wine all the time.

Getting to Know Your Palate?

First of all, keep in mind there is no universal palate. The average person has 10,000 taste buds.  Our sense of taste is actually our weakest sense.  Much of the enjoyment we experience with a glass of wine is actually derived from our sense of smell. Researchers estimate that 80-85% of our sense of taste comes directly from our sense of smell.

This chart shows where our specific taste buds are located. We taste sweet with the tip of our tongue. Many people confuse sweet with fruity. Don’t be fooled. Think of a Chardonnay from Australia or Chile for example. You will most likely experience a lot of fruit like apples, lemon and pineapple, but this wine will have a dry finish.

To determine what style of wine you might like, think about your preference when it comes to tea and coffee. Do you drink oolong tea or espresso straight up? If so, you probably enjoy the tactical sensation of tannins that tend to be more pronounced in red wines.  Reach for a red like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo and Brunello.


If you like your tea or coffee with a little cream, you probably like your tannins more on the smoother side with a silkier feel, so reach for a Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Grenache.

If you reach for the sugar and cream, you just might like a Riesling, Moscato, Vouvray, Sauternes or Port.

So what are tannins?

Think triple”T”. Tannins, tongue & teeth.

Tannins come from the grape’s skin, seeds and stems and can also come from oak aging. You feel tannins on your tongue and teeth. It can sometimes feels like sandpaper or it can have more of a silky texture. In the wine world, you will hear everything from chewy tannins, grippy tannins, rugged tannins to smooth tannins.

Think about a cup of tea. If you leave a tea bag in too long, you wind up with bitter tannins. The only way to counteract that sensation is to add milk or cream.  Lemon will only make it the tea seem more bitter and sugar will leave you with a bitter sweet taste in your mouth.  This is why you often see cheese paired with tannic wines. It cuts down on the rugged texture and smooths out the tannins.  You can try this exercise at home. Purchase a youthful Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 or 2011 in the $15-$20 range and drink a sip and let it linger on your palate. Think about how that sensation feels. Then take a piece of cheese (aged cheddar, gouda or blue cheese) and try the wine again. You will notice a big difference on your tongue.

Check out Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan’s The One Minute Wine Master, for a fun read to learn more about your palate preferences in 60 seconds or less.

Understanding why we taste what we taste is a great way start to appreciating different types of wines. Always let your palate be your guide, but don’t be afraid to drink “outside the box”!




Sparkling & Rosés for Mother’s Day

Still searching for a great gift for Mom? Why not a beautiful bottle of bubbly for Mother’s Day brunch?  Or how about a sparkling rosé instead of that same bouquet of roses year after year!

After all flowers die, but sharing a great bottle with mom is an experience you’ll both remember. Here’s my top 5 sparkling wine suggestions for Mother’s Day. Another tip, buy a metallic sharpie and sign the bottle to create a keepsake for your mom to treasure.

Premium ($50-$75) 

Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial

Veuve Cliquot Rosé

Something Special ($30-$50) 

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut

2010 Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé

2010 Schramsberg Brut Rosé

2011 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon

Looking for a top tier Napa Cabernet without the hefty price tag? Try reaching for a second label of one of the most esteemed Napa Valley producers.

Faust is the second label of the sought after Quintessa.  Over the years, many winemakers have realized that there is a big market for the juice that simply falls short of their highly esteemed premier label.

While this wine tends to be outstanding in its own right, it just misses the mark to be worthy of the top label.  This is actually great news for you and me! We get a lot of the beautiful nuances and sought after Napa fruit of the premiere label at a much lower price point. While the Quintessa Cabernet tends to fetch roughly $150 per bottle, you can get your hands on the Faust for about a third of the price.  Many wine makers have established second labels that are attracting their own cult calling. Opus One is just another example. They recently launched a second label called Overture.

I have had many vintages of the Faust and have always been pleased. I was anxious to try the 2011 vintage because it was an exceptionally challenging year in Napa.  In fact, it was the most challenging season in decades with spring frosts and plentiful rainfull throughout spring & summer. The vintage was essentially saved by a warm September and a long Indian Summer. While many critics have completely written off the juice of this season, there are others that are intrigued by the elegant balance many of these wines have been able to accomplish despite a miserable lashing from Mother Nature.

I fall into the latter category. I tend to like my wine a little more restrained with more balance and layers upon layers of subtle nuances. I love Old World wines and coming from that frame of reference, this wine did not disappoint. This is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% each of Malbex and Cabernet Franc. The wine is vibrant ruby red in color with aromas of dark cherry, cassis, spice box, anise, dark chocolate and the lingering notes of that earthy Rutherford dust with silky smooth tannins on the palate. This wine is more reminiscent of a Left Bank Bordeaux. There was a hint of green bell pepper indicating a touch of underripeness, but overall this is an excellent wine considering all of the obstacles of the season. The wine improved throughout the evening. Decant for atleast 30 minutes before drinking.


Sweet Potato Soup & Cabernet Franc

The sweet potato soup garnished with bacon and sage paired with the 2011 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve from Orange County, Virginia is a delightful pairing. I really love the way the rich berry notes and caramelized fig flavors in the wine bring out the sweetness in the potato. The slight herbaceous notes in the wine bring the sage to life. The bacon add just a touch of texture and richness to the dish!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup 


4 large sweet potatoes (peeled & cut into equal size large dice)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chicken stock (add more if you like your soup a little thinner)
1/4 cup chopped sage (garnish)
crumbled bacon or pancetta (garnish)


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Put sweet potatoes on sheet tray and toss with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes to an hour until fork tender.
Remove from oven and transfer to food processor. Add chicken stock and pulse until well combined. Transfer sweet potatoes to medium saucepan and add nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.  Warm through and serve. Add sage and bacon for garnish. Serves 4. Enjoy!


Butternut Squash Soup & Torrontes

Butternut squash soup with toasted sage and crabmeat is a classic fall dish. When it comes to wine for this hearty, decadent and creamy soup, I  typically reach for a nice Chardonnay aged in french oak to accentuate the baking spices in the dish, but I always like to mix things up a little with a great little sipper from South America.  Torrontes is Argentina’s signature white grape. It’s an aromatic varietal boasting beautiful floral notes of jasmine and roses,  stone fruit aromas, vibrant citrus along with a hint of honey, white pepper and sometimes herbs.

Depending on the producer, this wine can be a bit reminiscent of a Viognier or Gewurtztraminer.  The wine is light to medium-bodied with vibrant acidity similar to a Sauvignon Blanc that make it a great match with this soup. The acidity leaves your palate feeling refreshed in between bites and the brininess in the crab meat makes the wine’s fruit flavors come to life. You can serve this as a traditional soup or you can use it for an intriguing appetizer for guests as I have illustrated with this image. And of course, if you’re feeling a bit more traditional, you can grab your favorite bottle of Chardonnay for this dish.

Recommended Producers

Susana Balbo “Crios” Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina (SRP: $12) 
Kaiken Torrontes, Salta, Argentina(SRP: $14)

Recipe: Butternut Squash w/Toasted Sage & Crabmeat 


1/4 cup olive oil
2 butternut squash
2 apples (Gala or MacIntosh)
1 onion
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. clove
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tsp. white pepper
8 oz crabmeat
10 sage leaves (julienned)


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut ends off squash and slice down the middle. Drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper and place upside down in large roasting pan. Pierce some holes in skin. Peel apples and slice in 4, add to the pan, peel and cut onions in quarters and add to pan. Add one cup of chicken stock to the pan and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Let cool slightly and scoop squash out of the skins and place in food processor along with onion and apple. Pulse ingredients for about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup chicken stock and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a medium-large saucepan. Add coconut milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg & clove and heat over low heat until warmed through.

In a small saute pan, add 2 tbsp. olive oil, sage & crabmeat and cook for about 2-3 minutes over low-medium heat until crab is warm.

Spoon soup into a bowl and top with crab & sage mixture. Add diced apples for garnish and texture.  Serves 4.








Paleo Pairing: Vino Nobile & Swordfish

When it comes to food, there’s nothing better than a hearty Italian meal shared with family & friends. I have such a passion for Italian cooking and believe it or not there’s so much more than bread and cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore cheese, but we all know it’s not Paleo friendly. So tonight I am making a dish you would typically find in northern Italy. A flavorful roasted swordfish with eggplant, capers and tomatoes paired with an awesome Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Most people tend to reach for a white wine with swordfish, but keep in mind it depends on the type of fish and the sauce also plays a huge role in determining the right wine pairing. Swordfish is a rich, meaty fish and can definitely stand up to a red wine.  For this dish, I mirrored the acidity of the sauce with my wine selection.  The eggplant, tomatoes and rosemary are a great flavor profile to pair with the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. If you were doing a lemon sauce, I would stick with a dry white wine like a Pinot Bianco or Falanghina.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from Tuscany and is one of three Sangiovese DOCG zones in the region.  Vino Nobile is  made from the Sangiovese Prugnolo grape whereas Brunello di Montalcino is made from Sangiovese Grosso and Chianti is made from the Sangiovese Piccolo grape.  They are all different mutations of Sangiovese. Vino Nobile is also the smallest zone. This area produces exceptional wines that are typically medium-bodied with vibrant red fruit of raspberry and cherry, hints of anise and tea, velvety tannins and vibrant acidity.  If you love Brunello, but don’t love the price tag, grab a bottle of this.

For tonight’s meal, I opened up a 2009 Corte alla Flora. I picked this up at Sirena’s in Norfolk for under $30. They offer 40% off the menu price for to-go wines. They have an awesome selection of Italian wines.


4 swordfish steaks
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. pepper
1 red onion (medium dice)
1 eggplant (medium dice)
1-28oz can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry red wine (Vino Nobile, Pinot, Chianti, Barbera)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine onions and eggplant and place on a sheet tray with 2 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper and roast for 45 minutes. Set aside.

Once veggies are roasted, heat olive oil in ovenproof dutch oven or large skillet over low-medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add  wine and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and break up with fork. Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, roasted veggies, rosemary sprigs & capers.  Stir until well combined.

Pat dry swordfish with paper towels. Season with salt & pepper. Arrange swordfish steaks on top of tomato mixture and bake for 12 minutes until cooked through.  Toss in parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4.



Five-Spice Chicken Soup & Riesling

Asian five-spice is a staple in my pantry, it adds so much flavor to so many dishes. This five-star soup recipe takes chicken soup to a whole new dimension.  The great thing about this soup is that you can pretty much add as many veggies as you like. I like my soup with an extra kick, so I added some jalapeno in addition to the five-spice which is typically a blend of (star anise, cloves, cinnamon, sichuan pepper & fennel).

I am opting for an off-dry Riesling to accentuate the five-spice powder in the soup.  Remember,  you want to pay attention to the spices and sauces when pairing wines.  I really like the way a Riesling cools the palate with a touch of residual sweetness and also  makes the flavors pop with its vibrant acidity. The best Rieslings in the world come from Germany, particularly from the regions of Mosel and Rheingau. The steep slate slopes add a minerality that can’t be found anywhere else. Riesling is also known for its piercing acidity that make it an incredible partner with an array of dishes.

For an affordable weeknight pairing under $15, here are a few recommended producers that are widely available for purchase.

Recommended Producers 

High-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12)
Dr. Loosen”Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $13)
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (SRP: $14)

Recipe: Five-Spice Chicken Soup


2 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil
1 leek (thinly sliced)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 jalapeño (seeded)
2 tbsp. five-spice (if you like a milder version, only add 1 tbsp and omit the jalapeno)
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 head bok choy (chopped)
1 red pepper (julienned)
1 cup broccoli (chopped)
1 zucchini (sliced)
2 cups shredded chicken
32 oz homemade chicken stock or organic
1 cup coconut milk
scallions (optional for garnish)


In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and add leeks. Let cook for about 5-7 minutes until translucent, add garlic and jalapeno and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add 5 spice, salt & pepper and stir with veggies to release the oils in the spice. Add the rest of the veggies, chicken stock & coconut milk and let cook for about 30 minutes until all flavors are well combined. Add additional stock or water if needed to make sure veggies are covered. Add 2 cups of cooked shredded chicken and warm through. Serve immediately. Add chopped scallions for garnish.

When I don’t have time to make a roast chicken, I usually poach alot of chicken on Sundays and shred it while it’s warm. This way I have plenty of chicken on hand to add to weeknight recipes.  To poach chicken, take a large stock pot and add enough water or chicken stock to cover chicken breasts.  Add 1 tbsp. peppercorns, 1 tbsp. sea salt, 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp. garlic powder and 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning to flavor the chicken.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat right away to low and cook another 15-20  minutes. Drain and let cool. Shred or slice chicken.

5 Spice Stir Fry & Evolution

I was inspired once again by my spice cabinet tonight.  I reached for my 5 spice (star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel, sichuan pepper), chicken and a bunch of veggies and whipped up a great stir fry and paired it with Evolution.

Evolution is a blend of 9 grapes (Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, Gewurtzraminer, Muller-Thurgau, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner & Chardonnay).  Evolution by Sokol Blosser features aromas of lemon curd, tropical fruit and nectarine.  The wine has a beautiful crisp finish with vibrant fruit. It makes for a phenomenal pairing with stir-fry, sushi and Thai food.  It’s  also a great picnic wine or summer sipper. I picked this up at Whole Foods for under $15.

Recipe: 5 Spice Stir Fry


4 6-oz chicken breasts (thinly sliced)
1 tbsp. olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tbsp. 5 spice powder
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. fresh minced garlic
2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 leek (thinly sliced)
1 red bell pepper (julienned)
2 cups broccoli
1 head baby bok choy (chopped)


Thinly slice chicken breasts, put in plastic bag or bowl and toss with sesame oil, 5 spice powder and sea salt.  Let marinate for about 30 minutes.

In a wok or large saute pan, heat olive or grapeseed oil over medium-high heat.  Sear chicken in batches. About 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low and add leeks, garlic and ginger. Saute for about 1 minute to release aromatics. Add pepper, broccoli,  bok choy & chicken stock.. Let cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add chicken back in until heated through. Serves 4-6.