Tag Archive for food and wine

Review: 2009 Sebastiani Zinfandel

Remember how I cracked the code behind old vine zinfandel and zinfandel? Well, since then I haven’t had much of America’s sweetheart wine and since it’s one of my favorite varietals, I had to break the dry streak.

I brought over a bottle of the 2009 Sebastiani Zinfandel to a friend’s house earlier this week and it didn’t disappoint. There’s a lightness to the juice, but a strong peppery flavor anchors down the wine and gives it a lingering aftertaste. It’s another easy-drinker that won’t knock your socks off, but you’ll have a good time drinking it up and smelling the dark cherry aroma. At least I did.


If you are a faithful reader of wineforthewin.com and you’re thinking, “Hey, Haven’t I seen that wine label to the right of the Zin before?” You’re right. You have.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Sebastiani
  • Type: Zinfandel
  • Origin: Sonoma County
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: $17.99 (I got a second one for 5 cents at the BevMo 5 cent wine sale)
  • Alcohol content: Unknown (I brought this to a party and forgot to look at the label for the Alcohol content. mea culpa!)
  • When to drink: With a hunk of meat, preferably steak, preferably tri-tip and preferably grilled.


Thanksgiving Wine

When Wine Library, a discount wine retailer, asked its followers on Twitter which wines they were picking up for Thanksgiving, it got me thinking: which wines should I pick up for Thanksgiving?

One follower said she was eyeing a 2012 Pascal Pibaleau Rouge L’heritage D’aziaum. When I read that I had to shake my head and refocus my eyes a bit because of the long string of words, so I’ll be patient as you re-read it.

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And, we’re back.

So what’s the deal with the Pascal Pibaleau Rouge L’heritage D’aziaum? It’s a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Sounds yummy.

According to Wine Library, it is:

“With lots of bright red fruit, hints of earthiness, and a nice amount of acidity, the Pibaleau L’Heritage D’Aziaum is a versatile food wine, that will pair with chicken, pork, vegetable, and fish dishes.”


Malbec, in general, can draw in pepper, licorice, coffee and black fruit flavors, while Cabernet France, can exude plum, blackberry or vegetable-like aromas, depending on ripeness.

At $16.98, it’s a stretch, but not a budget-buster.

Another tweep said she was grabbing Brunello di Montalcino. That wine is made from Sangiovese grapes that are grown in Montalcino, a hilltop town in Italy.  According to wine-searcher.com, the $19 wine is “known for its brilliant garnet hue and its bouquet of berries with underlying vanilla and spice. A hint of earthiness brings balance to the finest examples.”

With these suggestions in mind, I’m still thinking about going another direction: Beaujolais. Beaujolais wines can be easy-drinking, fruity and graciously play a supporting role without stealing the spotlight from the star of Thanksgiving: the turkey.

I’d recommend Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages. It’s a good value (last time I bought it, it was $10, but wine-searcher has it ranging from $10-$14). It’s light, fruity (think raspberry and plum) and I think it’ll please guests varying tastes.


Here are some more Thanksgiving wine suggestions from the all-knowing internet:

What are your Thanksgiving wine suggestions?

Recipe: Steak wine marinade

I was running home late after a busy day at work and had planned to throw together a steak marinade recipe using the leftover Barbera d’Asti I reviewed earlier this month, but my boyfriend beat me to it.

In fact, he’s the one who first introduced me to using wine as a marinade for steak, a hand-me-down trick from his mom. We’ve used different kinds of wines since for varying recipes. The time prior to this, I believe I mixed some Torrontes, olive oil and zahatar I bought at Spice Station, a perfect little spice shop in my neighborhood. We’ve also tried Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec and other reds and have largely had successful outcomes.

We typically let the steak soak and then grill to medium-rear, but this time around the steak was coated in a spice rub, heated in a frying pan and then braised in the leftover Barbera.

Here are the steaks cooking in the wine:


And the finished product (swoon):



The recipe is a variation on this one from allrecipes.com and includes:

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine


Rub the spice mixture and two tablespoons of olive oil into the steaks–we used tri-tip, but the recipe calls for flatiron–and then add the remaining oil to the frying pan. Sear both sides of the steak for two to three minutes, making sure the inside is still rear. Remove steaks with tongs and add the wine to the pan, scraping up the goodies that have burned to the bottom. Replace the steaks in the mixture and cook on low for about five minutes. Check steaks with a thermometer to get your desired level of tenderness.

The steaks were delicious, spicy and juicy.

We enjoyed them with a nice Potuguese red blend I bought at a wine store in Berkeley when I visited a friend. I plan to review it soon, promise! Check out my Facebook page for a sneak peak of my thoughts.

To read my blog post about the Barbera d’Asti, click here. 


How do you know when it’s time to crush?

So I’ve seen grapes on the vine, I’ve seen the barrels in the cellar, I’ve seen the bottles on the rack, but there are still many parts of the winemaking process I haven’t seen, such as a winemaker testing the grapes to see if they’re ready.

Blogger Jameson Fink talked to Ross Andrew Mickel, winemaker at Ross Andrew Winery, to get the skinny on how one chooses when to pick grapes. Mickel told him that it’s about knowing the grapes, spending time with them, and tasting them. Mickel taste tests the grapes using a ziploc bag, scissors and a glass to extract juice, which he then smells and tastes. If it has a green banana smell, it’s a no-no.

“I definitely don’t want to make a wine that smells like a green banana skin,” Mickel told the blogger.


Most winemakers tend to sample the grapes for several weeks before harvest time, which in California wine country usually runs from August to October. According to chanticleerwine.com, winemakers look out for soft berries, red fruit flavors (unripe grapes can taste like bell peppers) and brown seeds.

So how soon before I can get those grapes crushed, bottled and flowing into my glass? Whites tend to finish first and reds can take longer, sometimes more than a year, according to Food Republic, which recommends a Beaujolais Nouveau for the impatient drinkers. That wine is ready six to eight weeks after the harvest.