Category Archives: unusual grape varieties

Toast to spring with “The Ring,” a bubbly with a love story

A bubbly with a love story......

A bubbly with a love story……

At a recent bridal event I was asked to find a South African bubbly to start the party. This bubbly called “The Ring” was a huge hit. Tasty, under $25 and a bubbly with a love story behind it makes it the perfect wine to serve at any bridal event, proposal or as a wedding toast! The first vintage was also the first wine made by vintner Philip Jonker, who fell in love as it aged for three years. It was first served at his wedding and christened “The Ring” to celebrate his marriage.

South African sparkling wines made in this traditional bottled fermented method are labelled as Method Cap Classique to comply with European Union regulations protecting the term “Champagne.” This 100% Chardonnay does not disappoint and at this price can be served to brighten any day! Its flavors of golden apple, a tinge of honey and melon make it the perfect wine to toast to warm sunny days ahead. Serve with creamy, bloomy rind cheeses for the perfect pairing.

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Filed under cheese pairings, Sparkling wine, Wine Education

Holiday wine and cheese events in NYC

cheese wreath

Holiday entertaining can be fun, but also stressful for a host/hostess that wants to create the perfect atmosphere for guests. Choosing wines that can not only please a number of people, don’t break the bank and are a complement to a range of flavors can be challenging. How much do you buy, are there certain regions, styles or grapes that are safe bets? Can you find delicious wines under $25 that will wow your guests? Is there a certain style of cheese that will go with not only the wines you serve but other courses or appetizers on the menu? Is there an easy way to arrange your cheeses that will be festive and impress your foodie friends? Why not join me aboard the motor yacht Manhattan for a fun and festive holiday wine and cheese event to learn the secrets behind perfect pairings?

The Manhattan will be decorated for the season, the beautiful glass enclosed salon is warm and cozy, and you can escape the holiday rush for a few hours as we cruise around Manhattan island sipping and sampling in style! Sassysipsnyc readers can save 10% by entering the code WINETEN online at


Saturday November 22nd & December 13th, 1:45-4:30  BUY TICKETS

Wine tasting in NYC

Wine tasting in NYC

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairing. Have you ever wondered what wines are the most food friendly? Are there crowd pleasers in the world of wine and cheese? How to I add interest, contrasting and complementary elements to my cheese board? Can I craft a stunning cheese display without spending hours in the kitchen? How do I store my cheeses and wines and what temp should they be served at? All these questions and more will be covered in this fun and interactive pairing! Recipes Included!

Saturday December 20th, 1:45-4:30 BUY TICKETS

New Years Eve 2014, Sparkling, Cheese, Chocolate also included, 5:30-7:30 BUY TICKETS

bubbles and silk!

bubbles and silk!

Sparkling Wines and Silky, Savory Cheese for a Decadent NYE Celebrations! Learn what makes sparkling wines so fabulous and food friendly. Bubbly from around the world will be poured and served with some of the worlds most luxurious cheeses! Learn what makes each pairing special and unique, and how to recreate your experience at home!

NYE tasting will also include several specialty chocolates!

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Filed under cheese pairings, Food and Wine Porn, NYC Wine Bars and Restaurants, Wine and Cheese Pairings, Wine Education

Île de la Beauté Rosé, Dom. Fazi, 2013; A refreshing Summer steal from Corsica

A Summer steal under $10

A Summer steal under $10

Admittedly I’ve tasted very little Corsican wine, but, by chance my favorite go to refresher of last summer and this season both hail from this island in the Mediterranean Sea, to the west of Italy and to the southeast of the French mainland. Corsica is known for its rugged, steep terrain, savage beauty, ancient winemaking history and an assortment of native grapes including Sciaccarellu, a thick-skinned gem used to make meaty, peppery, reds and an aromatic, herbal rose that pairs well with many summer starters.

My current favorite summer sipper,  Domaine Fazi, IGP Ile de la Beute (translation, Island of Beauty!) Corsican Rose is made from a combination of Sciaccarellu – 35%; Merlot – 30%; Grenache – 25%, and  Cinsault -10%, all vinified separately using cold liquid stabilization and cool fermentation to preserve the unique flavors and aromas of the grapes. A truly magical mix of fruit that creates a simply delicious wine for under $10! With just a whisper of herbal spice, ripe berries and a long, balanced finish this relatively low alcohol (11.5%) wine is one to have on hand all season. This wine is just GOOD! Try it with everything from tapas to simple grilled dishes or with my tasty turkey burger below. I suggest ordering a case as at this price its sure to go fast. Available at Astor Wines, $9.96


Mediterranean Turkey Burger

The best turkey burger you'll ever eat!

The best turkey burger you’ll ever eat!

Makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground Turkey

1/4 cup finely chopped Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup chopped red pepper

2 med shallot finely chopped

1 teaspoon course grind pepper

1 teaspoon sumac spice,

1 teaspoon lemon zest

For garnish- 1 cup sautéed spinach, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper

1 cup Mt. Vikos Feta cheese, crumbled and drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sriracha sauce to tast

e Lightly mix all spices and chopped veggies into ground turkey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Form into burgers and cook on lightly oiled preheated grill, about 5 minutes for first side, flip and top with feta, cook additional 5 minutes. Do not push down on patty while cooking as you want a juicy burger! Place on warm toasted roll with sautéed spinach, Sriracha sauce and tomato. Pour some rose and enjoy!

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Strange fruit; Narince, an indigenous Turkish delight


I’ve written about Vinkara Winery in the past, they happen to be my favorite producer of Turkish wines available in the US. Distribution is growing on the East coast as Fine Terroir Selections LLC, based in Ct. has taken on a number of Vinkara’s best wines. While I’ve always been a fan of Vinkara’s Kalecik Karasi (a juicy red full of sour cherry, red currant and stoney minerality), their Narince was something I’d never tried.

Narince (pronounced Nah-rin-djeh) means “delicately” in Turkish. Grown mainly in the Anatolia region with most plantings in Tokat and along Yeşilırmak (river), Narince’s large, plump, oval grapes produce highly aromatic wines, full of lush scents of apricot, orange and fruit blossom.  The best examples are capable of aging due to its high acidity and balance that can be achieved in stellar vintages.

ImageWhile both Narince’s from Vinkara are delicious wines filled with flavors of ripe fresh apricot, white peach and orange blossom I prefer the 2012 for its fresh, clean finish. Fans of Chardonnay will love the 2011 Narince Reserve,which has a fuller, heavier mouth feel with a touch of spicy flavor, due to a 14 month stint in oak followed by further aging in bottle. To pair I suggest Turkish dolmas, a dish made from the prized leaves of Narince, rolled and stuffed with a mixture of rice, flavored with olive oil, lemon and spices.

Check out Vinkara on Facebook for news and availability in US

Stuffed Dolmas

Stuffed Dolmas

Dolma recipe

Serves 8 people.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. pine nuts

1 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves

2 tbsp. fresh chopped dill weed
1 tbsp. ground sumac
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 8-oz jar grape leaves
Garnish- Chopped preserved lemons, crumbled feta if desired

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions & garlic. Sweat the onions & garlic until tender, then add the mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add the rice, stock and enough hot water to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the rice is half-cooked, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without ripping them. Drain the liquid and rinse the leaves in warm water and set in a colander to drain. Trim off any stems.

When the rice is ready, stir in all the other ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool enough so that it can be handled with bare hands. Take one grape leaf and place it smooth side down, vein sides up. Place about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on how big the leaf is) of rice mix at the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides and then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Place a steaming rack in a large pot and arrange the dolmas on the steamer. It is OK to stack them. Place enough water at the bottom of the pot to almost reach the bottom layer of dolmas. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is totally cooked.

Remove and place on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped preserved lemon and feta.




Filed under Travel, unusual grape varieties, wine and food culture, Wine Education, Wine Pairing Recipes

Versatile, Food Friendly, Alsatian Pinot Blanc with 3 Cheese, Spinach Crespette

alsace treatsThe region of Alsace is filled with delicious wine, food and flavor unlike any other in France. Located in Eastern France along the Rhine bordering Germany and Switzerland its wine and food are a unique blend of different cultures and history. Town squares are full of people eating Quiche, piles of Choucroute garnie (smoked pork steeped in kraut), Flamm’kueche  (flatbread baked with onion, lardons)  and local superbly foul Munster cheese.

White wines shine here. It’s known for its lean, sleek Riesling, rich style of Pinot Gris and spicy Gewürztraminer. Another winner in white are the Pinot Blanc wines of the region. The Pinot Blanc wines of Alsace can be some of the best choices for a number of food pairings. It must be noted that producers in this region often blend Pinot Blanc with Auxerrois as Auxerrois offers less acidity, a richer texture and a slightly spicier note than Pinot Blanc, many in Alsace believe the two varieties mix well together. Therefore, a wine labeled as Pinot Blanc can be either 100% Pinot Blanc, or a blend of the two varieties. Wines that are made entirely from  Auxerrois are labeled accordingly.

Ancient cellars in Strasbourg hospital

Ancient cellars in Strasbourg

The best examples are medium bodied with a long fresh finish. Fruit forward yet dry, slightly floral yet not overly perfumed with aromas of blossom, peach and pear drop. The versatility of this wine marries well with not only egg, cream based or cheese dishes, it also can be served with many vegetables and green salads. Many are also a steal when it comes to quality for price. I recently tasted a few favorites to select  a pairing for crespettes in béchamel, stuffed with 3 cheeses and spinach. The three below were my choices for a simple yet elegant meal made from homemade crespettes, a bit of a cross between crepes and pasta, served in a silky cream. Pick up one of these finds and try my recipe for a special night of food and wine heaven.

20130622_144447Pinot Blanc, Louis Sipp ,2012– The name says it all, this wine is worthy of sip after sip full of fresh white blossom, minerality and ripe tree fruit. A steal at under $15.

Lucien Albrecht Reserve Pinot Blanc 2012– For under $12 this is ridiculously good. Ripe fruit with a weightyzind h p texture. Juicy peach, pear, a touch of spice and a crisp lingering finish.

Zind Humbrecht Pinot Blanc 2011- I’ve honestly never had a wine from this domaine that I didn’t like. Zippy ginger, smoke, lush fruit and a plush texture. This is anything but neutral. Delicious for around $20.

Louis Sipp Pinot Blanc with Spinach Crespette

Louis Sipp Pinot Blanc with Spinach Crespette

3 Cheese and spinach crespette with bechamel sauce

Recipe and ingredients


16 oz. fresh ricotta, you can sub part skim if you cannot find fresh

2 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella,( 1 cup for filling, 1 cup set aside for topping)

1/2 cup shredded parmesan Reggiano

1 cup finely chopped spinach, sautéed in 1 tsp. butter, cooled and drained of any liquid

1 large egg

pinch of sea salt, white pepper

Cook spinach and set aside to cool. In large bowl mix all other ingredients. Add spinach and blend. Cover and refrigerate, may be made a day ahead.

For crespettes:

3 Large eggs, room temperature

1.5 cup whole milk, room temperature

3 tablespoons Melted Butter
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon sea salt

pinch white pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

crepeWhisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper till well blended, add melted butter and whisk again till well incorporated. Put flour in large bowl and slowly add egg mixture blending with whisk or stick blender with smooth. Stir in parsley, cover and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Pre heat large fry pan over medium heat (greased lightly with olive oil), add a small ladle full of batter and work pan around to spread batter into circle. Cook till set and flip carefully to cook top side. Do not over cook, just a very light golden brown is fine. Separate with foil or wax paper as you work. Makes 12 medium-sized crespettes.

Ingredient for béchamel sauce

6 tablespoons butter, 3.5 tablespoons flour, 2 cups milk

directions for my  favorite bechamel  recipe.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Assemble and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour- In large roasting pan ladel enought bechamel to cover bottom. Fill crespettes with spinach/cheese mixture as shown above and roll into tight tubes. Arrange tubes lengthwise and cover with more sauce, making sure to get sauce  in between each tube. Top with reserved mozzarella, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15-20 minutes till just slightly browned. Serve with additional sauce and extra cheese if desired.

*Note, I also added blanched asparagus in between crespettes but this is not necessary.

Enjoy! Cheers!

out of the oven

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Filed under Food and Wine Porn, Travel, unusual grape varieties, wine and food culture, Wine Pairing Recipes