Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Grilled Ham & Gouda Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and J Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (Plus Three More Comfort Food and Wine Pairings)

Our hearts go out to everyone still coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy this Halloween. (By the way, if you live in an unaffected area and haven't yet made a charitable donation to the Red Cross, we encourage you to do so.)

During trying times, the instinct to cook definitely kicks in, so here are some especially comforting dishes we've come across lately along with recipes J wine pairing suggestions for each.
  • Smoky Grilled Ham and Gouda Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and J Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. With bright cherry aromas and flavors of vanilla and nutmeg, our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir pairs beautifully with the salty smokiness of this grilled ham and Gouda sandwich with caramelized onions quite possibly the ultimate comfort sandwich from Bon Appétit. 

  • Achiote Chicken and Dumplings and Jewell Ranch Chardonnay. The divine interplay of dough and broth is maintained in this rendition of chicken and dumplings from the Food Network, but gets a subtle boost of spice from achiote and cilantro. We love this dish with a medium-body white like our 2010 Jewell Ranch Chardonnay; the fresh, vibrant pineapple and Meyer lemon characters provide perfect counterpoint to the rich dumplings. The Jewell Ranch also works well with a more traditional recipe like this one with leeks and tarragon.
  • Grilled Skirt Steak with Charred Pepper Sauce and J Freestone Hill Pinot Noir. Because of their sweet yet sharp flavor red peppers can be tricky for wine pairing but this inspired charred red pepper sauce from Smitten Kitchen prompted us to find the perfect pick. The clear winner was our Freestone Hill Pinot Noir with a complexity that nicely matched that of the sauce and stood up to the steak, too. The hearty yet elegant Freestone has aromas of cedar and blackberry jam that give way to vibrant cherry and exotic plum flavors with an earthy padding of mushroom and cocoa notes. This is a truly exceptional food-wine pairing for late fall and winter.

  • Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting and J Cuvée Brut. The crisp, clean bubbles and lively apricot characters of our Cuvée Brut are perfect for washing down Bon Appétit's chocolate brownie cupcakes, which for some will merely act as a delivery vehicle for the outrageousely creamy peanut butter frosting. If you'd prefer a varietal wine, try our J STRATA Chardonnay, which has a nice acidity to cut the richness of the peanut butter.
And since it's Halloween, you should check out one of our other recent food-wine pairing posts, "Salted Pumpkin Caramels and J Barrel 16 Pinot Noir," plus three other Halloween treats for foodies.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reaching Out in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Today at J Vineyards we're thinking of our many friends in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions as they cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, especially the millions of people who are without power.

If you live in an unaffected region of the United States, we encourage you to make a charitable donation to the American Red Cross for disaster relief today. You can donate online here and here are some other ways to contribute, including by phone and text. 

Red Cross is also urging immediate blood donations to support the needs of those affected by Hurricane Sandy and has a web page where you can book an appointment in your area

It's within your power to help people affected by this disaster, so please do your part today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Party Idea: Pumpkin Ice Bucket and J Cuvée Brut

People all over California are celebrating the San Francisco Giants World Series win today, but with the fall entertaining season fast approaching, there will be plenty of other reasons to celebrate in the upcoming weeks as well. 

One fun and incredibly easy way to brighten your serving table this season is a pumpkin ice bucket. We love the vibrant pop of color it brings to a holiday spread. (We also think the darkly elegant bottle of J Cuvée Brut looks great sitting in it.) 

To make a pumpkin ice bucket, choose a large, wide pumpkin and cut off the top third with a serrated knife or small saw. Scrape out the pulp and seeds, then line it with a glass or plastic bowl to prevent it from becoming water logged. If you need extra room in your "bucket," just shave the inside with a spoon. Finish by filling the bowl with ice and bottled drinks. 

Speaking of celebrations, have you heard about our Party In a Box? It's such an easy way to prepare for the holidays and not only features our popular J Cuvée sparkling wine (pictured above), but every other wine you could possibly need for the holidays, all for one low price of $250 (retail cost $372).
Right now there's a special $20 flat fee shipping offer on our Party in a Box, too! This shipping offer is good for anywhere in the continental U.S. Use coupon code 20SHIP at checkout. 

We're not sure how long this special shipping offer will last, so scoop it up now while you can!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Champagne Day!

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval celebrates the recent win with sparkling wine (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Hooray! Today is 3rd Annual Champagne Day and with the San Francisco Giants doing so well in the World Series so far, we're definitely feeling bubbly. Champagne Day means people around the world will today be sharing bubbly-related tasting notes, pictures, and videos with one another like one big effervescent international party. (To see the #ChampagneDay Twitter feed, click here now.)

This event is technically focused on wines from the Champagne region of France, but we think it's a great excuse to celebrate sparkling wine in general like our J Cuvée 20 or Late Disgorged J Vintage Brut.

If you've never participated in a real-time social media event before this is a great way to start. Just post any bubbly-related thought on any social media site and be sure to add the #ChampagneDay hashtag, so sparkling wine lovers from around the world can see it. (Note Twitter-style hashtags now work on Facebook, too.) 

To further inspire you, here are four recent blog posts on sparkling wine:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Of Bubbles and Butterfat: Four Sparkling Wines To Enjoy with California Cheeses

October is American Cheese Month and we've been celebrating rather, uh... thoroughly. The number of artisanal cheese producers in the United States is exploding these days and Californian cheesemakers in particular have really been breaking out lately often running neck-and-neck with Wisconsin producers at the American Cheese Society's annual competition.

To recognize their success, here are four perfect pairings of J sparkling wines and
California cheeses
  • Andante Nocture with J Vintage Brut. This delicious bloomy-rind cow's milk cheese from the renowned Andante Dairy in Petaluma is less than 3 weeks old when it comes to market. When it's young, it's buttery and spreadable with a subtle earthy character that develops into a rich mushroomy flavor as it ages. This cheese pairs beautifully with our Vintage Brut which has bright pear and citrus characters that play well against the Nocturne's earthy notes.

  • Marin French Gold and J Brut Rosé. A cheese as rich and creamy as Marin French Gold is absolute heaven when enjoyed with a crisp sparkling wine with fresh fruit characters. With its vibrant notes of red berry, blood orange, and lemon peel, our J Brut Rosé is the perfect foil for the decadent butterfat and mild sharpness of this brie-style cheese.

  • Point Reyes Toma and Late Disgorged Vintage Brut. Lucky for us that third generation dairy farmers the Giacomini family chose California to produce their Point Reyes Toma a unique semi-hard cow's milk cheese with distinct grassy notes and tang. This cheese pairs perfectly with our Late Disgorged Vintage Brut because the wine's toasted almond, caramel, and baked bread characters contrast nicely with the pungent qualities of the Toma. 

  • Bellwether Farms Crescenza and J Cuvée Brut. We first encountered the sweetish mild charms of Crescenza at Spoonbar here in Healdsburg, where the bright, vibrant acidity of our J Cuvée Brut played perfect counterpoint to its buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Bellwether Farms here in Sonoma County is now doing a lovely rendition of this Italian favorite and we highly recommend it. We also like Bellwether's mild, buttery Carmody with the J Cuvée Brut so much we put it on our cheese and charcuterie menu.
While we're on the subject of our cheese and charcuterie menu, we should mention it features two other great American cheeses in addition to the Carmody: a nutty goat's milk Cabecou from Laura Chenel and smoky Oregon Blue Vein from Rogue CreameryAnd have you heard about the condiments? Check 'em out here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Six Ways to Have Fun in Sonoma County This Weekend

Last week TripAdvisor named Sonoma County one of its top ten wine destinations, highlighting the incredible diversity of wine grape varietals grown here. (Did you know, by the way, that the Russian River Valley region of Sonoma has more soil variations than all of France?)

We couldn't agree more that Sonoma County is a highly worthwhile travel destination. Here are six ways to have fun here this weekend.
  • Howl at the Moon. The 12th Annual Howl-o-Ween Pet Parade in downtown Healdsburg  is a wonderful, hilarious event that happens every year in the square in Healdsburg. Vaguely beleaguered but totally adorable looking pets compete in a costume contest from noon until 1pm on Saturday, October 27th, with entry fees benefiting the Healdsburg Animal Shelter. Last year, the winner was a family of Weimaraners dressed up as 101 Dalmatians and led by a very convincing Cruella De Vil.

  • Say Cheese. October is American Cheese Month so it's a great time to check out the Healdsburg Cheese Shop for some artisan cheeses from Bay Area producers and beyond. Sample some buttery Black Eyed Susan or lovely orange Moonflower by Garden Variety Cheese Company in Royal Oaks, California. We also recommend the Barely Buzzed by the Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah an espresso and lavender hand-rubbed cow's milk cheese with notes of butterscotch and caramel.

  • Redefine the Barn Dance. The Hopmonk Tavern is a great specimen of that rustic-yet-refined sensibility in which Sonoma specializes, making it an ideal place for a Halloween party. In its fifth year now, the Cirque du Sebastapol's Halloween Soirée at the Hopmonk features the best of all possible party worlds: a rustic, live music experience in the Barnyard and DJ-induced dance beats in the Abbey. This event almost always sells out, so pick up tickets now while they're still available! (Saturday, October 27th from 8pm until late.)

  • Win a Costume Contest. On Saturday, October 27th, enjoy all-night dancing to a great funk band at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa. This is one of Sonoma's more elegant Halloween events, so unearth that Nefertiti costume and maybe win one of the prizes.

  • Experience the Wicked West. Part light show, part interactive haunted house, and part historic lumber maze, the Wicked West Ghost Town of Jose Ramon Avenue (in Santa Rosa) is a Halloween experience with real Old West flair. Built out of 100-year-old redwood, the facade of the ghost town was designed to resemble buildings from the early days of Sonoma County and was voted one of the most "extreme yard haunts" in the country. A fantastically fun Halloween destination, especially for families. 

  • Enjoy Some Delicious Wine.  While you're in Sonoma County, but sure to visit J Vineyards & Winery just south of the charming town of Healdsburg to sample our award winning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines in the elegant setting of our tasting bar featuring original art by Gordon Heuether. If you enjoy seated tasting experiences, try our Legacy Tasting in one of our Legacy reserve rooms. The cost is $30 per person or $10 for Club J Signature members and the current tasting menu is here. Artisan cheese and charcuterie platters are available for an additional fee. There's also also our Bubble Room, a beautifully appointed full-service tasting salon. Reservations recommended for both the Legacy Tasting and Bubble Room. 
If you're staying in this weekend to watch the World Series, be sure to check out our recent wine pairing idea for homemade caramel corn. More World Series food and wine pairing ideas tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Salted Pumpkin Caramels and J Barrel 16 Pinot Noir (Plus, Three Other Halloween Treats for Foodies)

Have you noticed food and wine pairings are getting decidedly more playful these days? Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn recently weighed in on which varietal goes best with Goldfish crackers and The Huffington Post pontificated on which wine to drink with gas station cinnamon rolls.

We'll skip the gas station cinnamon rolls for now, but with Halloween just around the corner, a few playful food and wine pairings have occurred to us. After all, kids shouldn't have all the fun.

  • Salted Pumpkin Caramels and J Barrel 16 Pinot Noir. Salted caramel has been all the rage for awhile now, but when this recipe for salted pumpkin caramels surfaced on Food 52, it rekindled our interest anew. "Evokes the essence of fall," said one reviewer and we think these would be absolutely delicious with our Barrel 16 Pinot Noir, with its long, lingering finish of cinnamon, clove and anise. This recipe gets extra autumnal credit for its inclusion of toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds).

  • Grown-Up Peanut Butter Cups and J STRATA Chardonnay. Mmmmm. Peanut butter cups go smoky and carmelized in this fantastic recipe from Gilt Taste and we highly recommend them with our J STRATA Chardonnay, which has a nice acidity to wash down the peanut butter. The finished product actually looks just like the peanut butter cups you loved as a kid, but with carmelized honey, smoked sea salt, and "heaps of vanilla bean paste," they're ready for a distinctly more cosmopolitan set of trick-or-treaters.

  • Spice-Rolled Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles and J Freestone Hill Pinot Noir. Joan Coukos of Manhattan's Chocolat Moderne came up with this deliciously bold recipe for bittersweet chocolate truffles rolled in spices like chipotle, cardamom, and cinnamon. Moderne indeed and we think these truffles would be out of this world with our Freestone Hill Pinot Noir, with its aromas of cedar and blackberry jam and vibrant cherry and plum flavors.

  • Homemade Caramel Corn and J Cuvée Brut. Whichever team you're supporting, we love the idea of serving Kitchn's homemade caramel corn with our J Cuvée Brut at a World Series party. The crisp, clean flavors of the Brut make the perfect counterpoint to the salted peanuts and sweet caramel. This is a very festive party pairing, and the highly versatile Cuvée Brut will be just as at home with the cheese plate, too. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Localicious Cheese & Charcuterie Menu Featuring Friend in Cheeses Jams

October is American Cheese Month and we're here to tell you: cheeses never knew they had such a friend as the vibrant array of condiments we serve with our cheese and charcuterie menu, all from Friend in Cheeses Jam Co in Santa Cruz, California.

The genius idea of Friend in Cheeses is to make locally sourced jams especially to eat with cheese such as their delicious Chow Chow  a mix of nuts and berries in a honey base with a bit of bourbon thrown in for good measure. (It's basically everything that tastes good with cheese.) Yum

Then there's Friend in Cheeses' Rosie's Hip Jelly, a sublime mix of Santa Cruz rose hips and lemongrass with orange peel, ginger root, and a hint of cinnamon. We also serve their FIC's carrot Marmalade  a delectable mix of earthy, tart, and sweet flavors. These are all simply fabulous with cheese. You really must experience it. 

Since it's American Cheese Month, we should also mention our cheese and charcuterie menu features three great American cheeses: buttery cow's milk Carmody from California's Bellwether Farms, nutty goat's milk Cabecou from the renowned Laura Chenel, and smoky Oregon Blue Vein from Rogue Creamery. (The menu also features Idiazabel from Spain and silky Robiola Rocchetta from Italy.) 

Our artisanal cheese and charcuterie menu is available as an add-on to our Legacy Tasting — a seated tasting experience you'll enjoy in one of our Legacy reserve rooms.  The Legacy Tasting is $30 per person per flight or $10 for Club J members at the Signature level (complimentary for Experience, Elegance, and Luxe levels.) See the current tasting menu or make a reservation here

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 26th is International Champagne Day!

Ok, this is our kind of holiday.  This Friday, October 26th is the 3rd Annual Champagne Day, and while the event is technically focused on wines from the Champagne region of France, we think it's a great excuse to celebrate bubbly in general. 

Basically, on Friday, October 26th, people from around the world will be sharing their bubbly photos, videos, and tasting notes with one another like one big international party. 

If you've never participated in a real-time social media event before, this is a perfect opportunity to start. Just post your bubbly-related thoughts on any social media site and be sure to add the #ChampagneDay hashtag, so sparkling wine lovers from around the world can share in your fun! (Note Twitter-style hashtags now work on Facebook, too.)

The timing of Champagne Day is perfect because the winter holidays are just around the corner
a great time to think about which sparkling wines you'd like to have on hand for dinner parties, family gatherings, and midnight toasts.

Might we suggest J Cuvée 20 Brut as a great place to start? This lively sparkling wine has flavors of lemon zest, Fuji apples, and Bartlett pears and at $28 a bottle, it's a great value. 

The exceptional 2003 Late Disgorged J Vintage Brut is another delicious choice and proof that patience has its rewards. This sparkling wine has warm aromas of toasted almond, caramel, and baked bread, followed by a sophisticated sequence of pear, citrus, and delicate cinnamon flavors. 

Check out our other sparkling wines and mark your calendars for some bubbly fun!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Three Fun Things to Do in Sonoma County This Weekend

Sonoma County is uncorking some big fun this weekend and the forecast calls for some gorgeous early fall weather, so come and enjoy some of what this magical place has to offer. Here are our three picks for ways to have fun in Sonoma County this weekend.
  1. Enjoy Some Pinot on the River. The incredibly fun Pinot on the River Festival is being held on Sunday, October 21st in charming downtown Healdsburg, where over 100 top West Coast producers including J Vineyards, of course will be pouring special, limited production Pinots. (Here's exactly what we'll be pouring, by the way.) It's a fantastic day of casual tasting with lots of artisan food vendors participating, too. The $75 ticket covers everything and can be purchased online.

  2. Go on an Art Ramble. Sonoma County is buzzing with how cool the ARTrails event has been this year, and there's still one more weekend to experience it. ARTrails is a unique chance to visit the studios of over 150 Sonoma County artists on a free, self-guided tour. Grab an ARTrails catalog from the Santa Rosa Visitors Bureau or any of the art studios themselves, then spend a day or two checking out some of the best art in Sonoma County. The remaining dates for ARTrails are Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st from 10am to 5pm. More info here.

  3. Lounge on a Sun-Warmed Patio. The J Terrace experience is only available for a precious few remaining weeks in 2012, so we recommend experiencing it now, while you can! You and a friend sit under a white canvas umbrella on our warm, creek-side patio while sharing a platter of peak season foods (current menu is here) accompanied by J wines. Cost is $40 per couple ($35 for Club J members). The Terrace experience is available through October and reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome, too. Call us at 707.431.5430 to make a reservation or request a reservation online