Rare find! – Ancient Peaks Winery

Picture owning a large cattle ranch in central California…and one day some big wine conglomerate comes by and wants to buy patches of your land to grow grapes. Three years later, the grapes are finally ready to be turned into wine, but the conglomerate wants to leave – What luck! Buy the land back, and now you have perfectly managed wine fields that are yours for production. This is the lucky story of Ancient Peaks Winery at the Santa Margarita Ranch.

Don’t worry: they are still a cattle ranch too,but now produce a line up of over 8 different wines each growing in 5 different kinds of soils. Each bottle specifies which soil the grapes were grown in the back label. Did I mention that one of their soil types in an ancient sea bed? Picture massive fossilized oyster shells popping up among the grape vines!

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Why is this winery a rare find? The inside scoop is that only 6 different wine shops in the whole state of MA have been presented with the Ancient Peaks wines. We don’t have any information about other states, but so far the number of places to possibly purchase this wine is limited.

So stay on the lookout! If the search doesn’t prove fruitful, check out their online store to see if they ship to your state. Kristen was lucky enough to try their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Zinfandel.

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Cabernet Sauvignon  

It’s a rare day where I enjoy all of the wines that I try in one sitting. This cabernet was a perfect balance of everything we love about the grape. It wasn’t overly fruity or tart, it was smooth with softer tannins with medium body weight. Showing flavors of dark berries and even very subtle hints of cocoa on the mid palate. Perfect for dinner or just stand alone drinking.

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Merlot 

Now, Merlot I am very skeptical off because normally it is not my favorite grape. But this bottle was wonderfully produced.  It was velvety, rich, with black cherry and plummy notes and it included that signature mocha smell that you can expect from the grape. This bottle advertises that it was grown in the ancient sea bed, which might have something to do with its subdued quality. It’s a must for red meats or even game meats if you want to take the flavor up a notch.

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Zinfandel 

This has to be one of my favorite zinfandels yet. It was juicy, refreshing, quenching, and yet the fruit flavor was controlled in a way that made it enjoyable sip after sip. With bright berry notes in the front and a slight tart and pepper zing at the finish, this wine is a fun ride for your palate and I hope you get the chance to nab this bottle.

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Just in case giant sea shells wasn’t enough of a draw, the next time you are in CA I would recommend stopping by their site. Not only are there cows, a cafe, tasting room, and tours but they now host a 2.5 hour long zip line experience across their property!

Happy Wine Hunting!

Vineyard Header Photo from ancientpeaks.com

What Exactly is Honey Wine?

If I said mead, you probably say: what? Or immediately think of the Canterbury Tales. Either way, mead isn’t a common or familiar word in our day in age. But modern wine and beer experts are bringing it back because, at it’s core, mead is honey wine. 

Mead consists of three simple ingredients: yeast, honey, and water.

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If you think the concept of drinking boozy honey is weird, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that mead predates wine. And by a lot. Mead dates back as far as 20,000 years ago with ties to 7000 BC China.

Mead is so old, we don’t even know its origin story. Historians guess that it was accidentally concocted as a result of ancient honey-storing techniques. It’s theorized that honey was kept in pots with a layer of water on top to keep away lazy bees (why pollinate when the honey’s sitting right there in a bucket?) It’s likely that the water naturally attracted wild yeasts that then fermented the honey water. 

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Mead was the original wingman

The term”honeymoon” is actually derived from the tradition of providing newlyweds with enough mead to last an entire month or to the next full moon. Honey wine for a month = honeymoon.

The hope was that the bride and groom were more likely to produce offspring with the help of a mead-induced buzz. Not exactly romantic, but probably practical in the days of planned marriages, especially those specifically arranged to create heirs.

But let’s get back to the drink in hand

Mead is around 75% water and 25% honey. It’s fruity brother, Cyzer, swaps water for apple cider.

There are three common types of mead:

Hydromil = This mead is usually carbonated with 10-15% honey by volume (hbv), which ferments into 3-7% alcohol

Standard = This is usually a still mead with 15-20% hbv, which makes 7 – 14% abv.

Sack = This is a syrupy dessert mead with  50% hbv and 14% abv. Unfortunately, the extra alcohol also comes with additional tax, so sacks are a bit more rare at independent meaderies. 

Want mead? SAVE THE BEES!

Good meaderies respect the bees and use certified honey. This means only 15% of the total hive honey is extracted for commercial use. If more than 15% of the honey is extracted, it can cause hive collapse; this is when bees abandon their home. Overuse of honey  directly affects the survival of honeybees. 

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80% of honey in the US is produced in North and South Dakota. Bees are loaded with their hives into giant semi-trucks and brought around the country to pollinate crops. Not all honey is pure however, China and Thailand have been caught producing fake honey (made from high fructose corn syrup) in response to the bee and honey crisis, so mead-makers have to be careful  to avoid fake honey. 

What else do I need to know about mead?

Just like wine, mead can be mixed with other flavors to create unique tastes! Common flavors include apple, cinnamon, vanilla, and fruits (blueberry, raspberry, etc).

Stay tuned for an article on Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, NH, for an exclusive on local mead culture and flavors!

CC Attribution: “Honey Bee” by John (cygnus921 @flickr)

Wine for a Dime

Price of wine getting you down lately?

We know your wine hobby can be expensive and vineyard visits seem more like a dream than tangible reality. So we’ve gathered some wallet saving tips for your wine lifestyle.

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1) Groupon

Groupon is a great way to get tastings, bulk wine orders, wine gifts, and vineyard visits on the cheap! We personally have used this website to visit many local places for half the price. Use this for sangria at your local paint night, discounts on local event tickets, and even custom made wine bottles. Sign up now to get 20% your first groupon order.

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2) Localwineevents.com

This website specializes in wine education AND wine fun. Not only does it list events and festivals near you, but it lists wine getaways in places like Europe and California. Their newsletter lets you know ASAP about early bird ticket sales and fun wine facts/trivia. This is the same website that we used to discover Wine Riot Boston; you might remember our review from a previous post.

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3) Superstore Newsletters

This next tip may sound lame at first, but we swear your wallet will thank you later. Join the email list or mailing account of your local packies, wine superstores, and local small wine shops. The packies and superstores often have special sales or wholesale discounts, but the smaller shops tend to host cheap and intimate wine events where you may even get to meet a winemaker and get the inside scoop. This may flood your email a bit, so maybe make an easy gmail or yahoo account for all your wine info needs (or send them all to your Promotions folder).

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4) Join a Wine Club

Wine clubs are a great way to get different bottles each month without having to spend a lot of money. Some local shops may have their own clubs but many online vendors have bottles that get shipped directly to your house. Some of the cheaper online clubs include Tasting RoomWINC, Cellars Wine Club, and for more options/reviews check out this article from Urbantastebud. For local options, look to the newsletters from option #3 to see if any stores near you offer a monthly club. Local shops would take out your shipping costs completely so we recommend checking around first.

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5) Tasting Events

Nearly every liquor and wine shop has tasting events on the weekends so swing through quickly as you go about your day to see what they are pouring. 9 times out of 10 there’s a discount on the wines being served or even a case discount. This way you know you like the wine before you buy and you snagged a deal that day. Worse case scenario, you go home with a bottle of your favorite wine instead of what they offered you.

 

Feature Image Credit: Dave Dugdale

Superstore Image Credit: Hip2Save.com

Rosé All Day – Summer Rosé Reviews

Summer is finally here and that means it is the ever confusing, hit or miss season of pink wine aka rosé.

Don’t panic! We have a discovered a few general rules for rosé hunting and we have tried many different styles which we will review below to help you narrow down sea of pink bottles at the liquor store.

Rule #1: 

PINK WINE DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SWEET!!!!!

Rosé got a bad reputation from the California White Zinfandel craze that swept the nation in the US’s early wine making years. Most rosés actually aren’t sweet at all! This is why summer is so hard to work with; most wine store displays have the sugar-sweet rosés mixed in with the traditional dry style wines.

Rule #2

The lighter pink in color, the dryer the wine.

And that means what? If the rose looks barely pink at all and looks more like a tinted Instagram filter, then chances are the wine is made in a dry style. Dry means that nearly all of the sugar in the wine was converted to alcohol and it WILL NOT be sweet. However, there are always some rosés that break this rule, so pick wisely.

Rule #3 

France – the Rosé king of the liquor store- tends to make a lot of rosé, but just so you all know nearly all of them are made in the dry style.

We have tried a few that have hints of sweetness which we will list below but if you like that crisp dry rosé on a hot summers day then turn to France.

Wine Reviews:

Now we have been tasting many rosés this summer so far in order to give you a variety of rosés to choose from at the store. Here are a few winning rosés we found so far.

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Name: Globerati Rosé

Country: Italy

Vintage: 2015

Style: Dry style but hint of sweet

Tasting Notes: Berry blasts of flavor but had a light and smooth mouth-feel, aka ‘body.’

  

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Name: Logis de la Bouchardiere Chinon

Country: France

Vintage: 2015

Style: Dry

Tasting Notes: Refreshing and fruity, just slightly over what I would ‘light body’, slightly tannic.

 

Name: Cote des roses

Country: France

Vintage: 2015

Style: Dry style but hint of sweet

Tasting Notes: Obviously the cute bottle is for cliche pun lovers but the wine inside is actually pretty amazing. It’s the first Dry style rose we have ever loved enough to drink the whole bottle in one sitting. It was a mix of being strawberry fresh and almost grapefruit citrus. It’s a unique flavor that you have to try!

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Name: North by Northwest

Country: USA

Vintage: 2014

Style: Dry style but hint of sweet

Tasting Notes: Soft pops of watermelon and strawberry flavors with a refreshing acidity!

 

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Name: Lila Rosé

Country: France

Vintage: none listed

Style: Dry style

Tasting Notes: There are many ‘wine in a can’ producers out there now but we highly suggest you buy Lila over the others. Why? They have engineered their cans so that the wine is not exposed to metal which prevents that terrible metallic taste. The rosé inside is light and when cold from a cooler its the perfect secret beach drink that leaves after tastes of berries and watermelon but goes down like zesty water. Each can contains 8.4oz so that means the four pack is more than one bottle of 750ml wine!

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Name: Plum Island Rosé

Country: USA

Vintage: none listed

Style: Light Sweetness

Tasting Notes: This MA local Vineyard has mastered the rosé art. Their rosé is a new batch each year and a very limited production but WORTH the drive to vineyard to get it or if you are lucky you might be able to find it at Kappy’s. Its falls in the middle of sweet and dry styles and if full for strawberry and light cherry flavors with hints of watermelon and citrus. The wine will fill you up after a while but its so refreshing that you won’t care.

 

Name: Rosatello Sparkling Rosé

Country: Italy

Vintage: none listed

Style: Sweet!

Tasting Notes: The Italians come in first yet again with their sweet and refreshing spritzy wines. This wine is sweet but not sickeningly so. The flavors are bold ripe dark cherries, raspberries, and wild strawberries. The bubbles reminded us of raspberry gingerale and helped keep the wine crisp on the palate. It’s perfect for that summer bubbly by the water or paired with fresh fruits. Sweet wine lovers we have found the rosé for you!

 

Keep Hunting!

We will continue to post winning rosés on our facebook page throughout the summer so stay tuned for other winning bottles. Reach out to us via facebook or the comment area on the blog to update us on any rosés that you love!!

 

 

 

 

Know your Bubbly

Like bubbly wine? SO DO WE!

However, do you get to the liquor store and freak out because you are seeing words you don’t understand like ‘Cava’, ‘demi-sec’, and ‘Frizzante’?

Don’t freak out! That’s why you have us!

Here’s the Half Past Wine O’Clock Bubbly Wine Guide!

Four Main Bubbles

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Cava
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Champange
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Prosecco (Image credit to Erlc L)
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Lambrusco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Words to Live by:

 

Sweetness Levels: (Least to greatest) 

Brut Nature – 1/8 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Extra Brut – 1/4 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Brut – 1/2 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Extra Dry – 3/4 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Dry – 1 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Demi-Sec – 2 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Doux – over 2 tsp of sugar per 5oz glass

Secco – Italian version of ‘Dry’

Semi-secco- Italian version of ‘off- dry’

Dolce/Amabile – Italian version of ‘Demi-sec’ and above

Frizzante – Italian word for ‘Bubbly’ and usually only has 1-2 atmospheres per bottle

*Fun Fact* The higher the atmospheres in the bottle, the smaller the bubbles!

Any other words on the bubbly bottles that you don’t understand? Let us know! We will do the research for you!

**** Information resources for this article are:

Winefolly.com – Liquid Caviar- Sparking Red Wine article, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine book, and Rachel Ray Magazine Jan/Feb 2016 edition pg 99.

Feature Image credit – Bubbly 1- to scyrene

Pair my wine! The Newbie’s Guide to Food Pairing

If we may quote the great Kevin Zraly here, “There’s only one rule when it comes to matching wine and food: the best wine to pair with your meal is whatever you like. No matter what!”

Wine has a couple functions when it comes to food pairings:

  1. To enhance the flavor of the food that you are eating
  2. To cleanse your palate in between bites or after a flavorful course
  3. To automatically increase your perceived “classiness” at the next dinner party you go to (don’t act like you don’t feel like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when you pick up that glass)

If you know what wine you like, then go for it! If you need a little help picking out a wine to go with a meal for other people (for whom you DON’T know their wine preferences), here are some basic pairing rules and guidelines.

Cut the Cream

Remember that acidic and crisp wines (usually white) like a German Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot gris (grigio), and some Gewurtztraminers can cut through heavy rich/fatty and creamy dishes. They help cleanse the palate from cheeses and heavy starch dishes. Grab that white wine that makes you pucker for that alfredo sauce pasta pairing! *p.s. bubbles are great palate cleansers too, try a bubbly!**

Don’t Bore Me

If you have a very flavorful meal like spicy Indian dishes, paella, Mediterranean lamb dishes, goulash, or even your Chipotle burrito make sure to pair it with an equally expressive wine. A simple, thin, and soft wine will come up flat compared to the meal. It will taste like watered down grape juice and bore your guests (plus you). Try to stick to full-bodied wines like Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Barolo. Get some spicy red Zinfandel to dance with your Mexican feast.

Red loves Red

The darker the meat, the darker the wine. Trying to pair your favorite Moscato with that juicy sirloin isn’t really going to work unless your palate is trained to taste Moscato no matter what you eat. However, as a general rule, lighter proteins like fish, chicken, beans, shellfish, and veal pair best with a range of white wines. Darker proteins like duck, steak, pork, lamb, and any game meats like venison and rabbit go with red wines.

Houston, we have a problem

Like most things in life, there is an exception to every rule. Some foods can successfully pair with White and Red at the same time. These crossover foods are duck, salmon, tuna, and roasted chicken. These foods pair well with “crossover wines.” These are wines with similar body that help white wine drinkers switch to red and vice versa.

Chardonnay = Pinot Noir

This is probably the most famous crossover pairing. If you like one then you are likely to enjoy the other (only after finding the right producer and vintage for you, of course).

Saucy is Bossy

Don’t fall for that menu trick where you see swordfish and you’re like “oh yay, so now I need a glass of white wine” then you read the fine print and the fish is blackened with jerk seasonings smothered in a Jamaican spice sauce. Think again my friends. Order a glass of light red wine instead. The sauces are the bosses! Forget the protein! If the seasonings are strong then so is the wine.

Opposites Attract

We’ve heard that sweet and spicy are a match made in heaven. Wanna try it out? Next time you are feeling spicy foods try pairing it with a sweet California rose, a sugary Moscato, or a White Zinfandel. Let us know what happens!

The Comfort Zone – Safe Picks

So what if you have absolutely no idea after all of these tips? RELAX Kevin Zraly has got you covered. This experienced wine expert has a list of safe picks that go well with “virtually any dish.”

  1. Rose wines
  2. White Zinfandel
  3. Sparkling wines/Champagne
  4. German Riesling
  5. Pinot Grigio
  6. Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc
  7. Chianti Classico
  8. Merlot
  9. Pinot Noir

I still need help! SOS!

Don’t worry! We have trusted references to share.

Pick up a copy of Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World complete wine coursebook. It will teach you everything you need to know about wine EVER.

Is that too intense? Try the amazingly user-friendly book – Wine Folly: the essential guide to wine OR use their website to search any information that you need fast. This is Kristen’s personal favorite wine blog out there!

Need a dummy’s guide to wine? That actually exists! 

Don’t worry we promise it’s easier than you think.

Cheers!

Stay tuned for a more posts about pairing wines with dessert and with specific cheeses!

Welcome to Autumn! Wine Cocktails edition

Happy Fall everyone!

In celebration of the changing leaves and not-so-slowly dropping temperatures, we would love to share some creative seasonal wine drinks that we have discovered on our way. With the help of our friends at Pinterest, we also have some recipe links!

Let’s start with the obvious flavor of the season – Apples 

After you have gone through your local apple orchards and chosen only the best little red, green, or yellow bundles of joy that you could get your hands on, you may realize that you have picked far too many apples to eat in one week. Never fear; apple wine drinks are here!

For bubble lovers:

For Sweet apple lovers:

Moving on to the flavor craze of the season – Pumpkin Spice 

We know the “Pumpkin Spice” craze can be a bit overwhelming and sometimes overly sweet or spicy. So cruise past those pumpkin coffee signs and go straight to the liquor store for these pumpkin drinks that are worth the craze.

Don’t forget the forgotten fall flavors- Pear and Pomegranate 

These fall fruits are also at their perfect harvest season but tend to be majorly overshadowed by the apple and pumpkin. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your forgotten fruits!

Or make your own!

Finally, we have desssert – Chocolate 

For those of you who remember our wine pairing post, chocolate (darker the better) pairs wonderfully with deep red wines. So warm yourselves up with these recipes!

Let us know which recipes you try and send us some pictures! We’d love to see what Fall combinations are making in to your glass!

Cheers!

Featured image credit

How to Run a Wine Tasting Party

There are plenty of reasons you may want to have a wine tasting party. Maybe you’re having a bunch of friends over, but don’t necessarily want to go out for the night. Or perhaps you need an excuse to have a wine shopping spree, and want to share your findings with your friends. Or, if you’re like us, you have an overflow of wine collecting in the basement that needs to be tasted stat!

Whatever the reason, it’s a fun, tasty way to spend an evening. Here are the steps to a perfect wine tasting, laid out by our wine expert, Kristen, and practiced by the whole Half Past Wine-O-Clock team!11943357_900467160041337_521691704_n

Start with the bubbles

Yes that’s right. If someone brought the champagne, Prosecco, the fritz, or the spritzy, the party should always start with that. Not just because it’s fun, but because the bubbles tend to make the wine lighter on the palate. We, however, did not have any bubbly at this party so we had to change our “Step One.”

Start with a traditional white wine

If you jump right in to the sweeter or heavier-bodies wines right off the bat, a white wine won’t stand a chance on your pallet! Always start off with a white wine to begin the party so you can fully appreciate the lighter tastes and aromas the wine offers.

If you have multiple white wines remember body and flavors!  Here’s the typical order to taste in with major white grapes:

  1. Riesling  2. Sauvignon Blanc   3. Chardonnay

    Have a white that isn’t listed? Drink the heaviest bodied wine last. Chardonnay is the heaviest white wine (that isn’t a dessert wine) so always drink those last anyways.

    Don’t know about the body of wine you bought? Check out the vintage year and alcohol percentage. Drink younger vintages FIRST and higher alcohol percentages LAST. Why? The older the wine the stronger flavor it develops and strong flavors will stick to your mouth even after moving on to a new wine. Secondly, high alcohol content can “burn” the palate too early so you wont taste weaker wines after.

Move on to a rosé

It can be tempting to start off with a rosé, since they are typically lighter and sometimes sweeter than a white. However, rosés offer the perfect transition between your white wine and the reds to come. There’s no better way to switch from white to red, and adding a rosé in between can smooth the transition! 
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Move on to reds, but order them correctly!

All reds are not made the same, as all wine lovers know. They aren’t all equal, either, so ordering them the wrong way can throw off a tasting. Start with any red varietals (single grapes), like we did, to transition from the lighter rosé into a heavier-bodied red that relies prominently on one grape instead of a flavorful mixture of many. This way, your pallet can easily transition from less complex, fruitier reds into the more heavily bodied reds.

The same rules apply here as with the whites. Heavier body wines go last and so do higher alc % and older vintages.

However, red wines can be harder to figure out. Here’s a list in order of body (drink first to last):

  1. Pinot Noir 2. Merlot 3. Zinfandel 4. Cabernet Sauvignon 4. Shiraz/Syrah

    Watch out! There are always exceptions with red wines. Check the label to see where the wine is produced. Warmer climate produce grapes with stronger and more pronounced flavors. Cooler climates are crisp wines. When in doubt do colder places first.

Always end with dessert wines

We ended with a sweet coconut wine from our favorite winery, but not before cleansing our pallets! It’s tough to find a placement for a sweeter wine, especially right after a fuller red. We recommend fully cleansing the pallet and perhaps waiting between the reds and sweeter wine.

Why can’t we start with a sweet wine, you ask? It’s just that after a dessert wine, the other wines will taste too harsh and heavy, so it’s easier to finish with them.

Let everyone take their favorites home

There’s no better way to end a party than by divvying up the wines based on who loved which one most! This way, everyone leaves with a small gift – the remainder of the bottle – and has a takeaway from the party. If everyone agrees on one favorite, finish it up before the night’s over – who says the party has to end with the tasting?

5 Wines Paired with 5 Comfort Foods

Some days are so rough, you need comfort food and a glass. But it isn’t always easy to pair your fave indulgences correctly. Here are a few of our favorite comfort foods matched with a wine that will only add to the comforting experience, brought to you by our wine expert Kristen!

1. Mac and Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc

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Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp tartness cuts well into the cheesy taste of this favorite comfort dish. Chardonnay could have been a good choice, but might be a bit too heavy to combine with the cheese sauce.

2. Pizza and red wines

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We think we can pair pizza with just about anything if we put our heart to it, but there are a few rules to go by. We recommend pairing a white wine with white pizza, and red wine with red sauce. Easy enough to remember, right? However, we’re not matching colors, but tastes; a white wine won’t stand a chance next to a red saucy pizza, so we need to pair it with a fuller bodied wine. For your average pizza, we recommend Pinot Noir, red Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

3. Fried Chicken and crisp wines

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Our wine expert Kristen has tried sangria with fried chicken because of its stronger mix of fruit juices to counter the greasy fried chicken. She also recommends Gewurztraminer-based wines, although they are difficult to find, its crisp flavor would cut the poultry taste well. We don’t recommend red wines for poultry, excepting a good duck!

4. Vanilla Ice cream and dessert wines: double the dessert!

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Sweet wines pair best with vanilla ice cream. We would even suggest pouring a thick dessert red wine over a vanilla ice cream, especially if the wine is cherry or blueberry flavored!  Examples of these wines are Jackson-Triggs Ice wine, Sweet Baby vineyard Blueberry table wine, and Apfel Eis apple icewine from Harvard Ma winery (Still River Winery).

5. Dark chocolate gooey brownies and dark reds

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Perhaps the greatest comfort food of all, we need a wine that can perfectly compliment a chocolaty brownie. In order to balance the deep sweetness of a brownie, we recommend dark reds like Shiraz, Merlot, or Temparnillo.

Did we miss any of your favorite comfort foods?

Image sources (CC Attribution):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5