Can She Pair a Pumpkin Pie?

Can she pair a pumpkin pieOne from the archives, but timed rather well…

After the Thanksgiving meal is served…and served, and served, and served…you swear you’ll never eat again.  But, after an hour or so of watching football, washing dishes, or snoozing on the couch, you’re ready for some pumpkin pie.

The typical accompaniment for T-day dessert in my experience has been the dregs of whatever wine was served with the meal.  Nothing wrong with that, but Thanksgiving is a special day, so why not offer up a specially chosen Pumpkin Pie Pairing to cap off the day?

If you’ve read The Bubbly Professor’s “Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing” you know that (imho) the most important factor in most food-and-wine meetups is to “pair to taste, not to flavor.”  This makes a pumpkin pie pairing really simple:  you need a sweet wine, lest the food dull out the wine.  Now, it doesn’t have to be uber-sweet, just a hint of sweetness will do, but this is also one of those pairings where super-sweet wine works. 

Here are a few of my favorites -  enjoy!

Sauternes:  Sauternes, with its luscious sweetness is a match made in heaven for pumpkin pie.  The wine is a good “big and rich meets big and rich and they live happily ever after” type of match in terms of texture, and the subtle dried apricot-vanilla-nutmeg-dried leaves kind of aromas and flavors of Sauternes make this a Fall Fest in a glass.  Sauternes can be expensive…my personal favorite, Chateau Guiraud, is a cool one hundred bucks, however, there are many inexpensive (around $20.00 a bottle) versions on the market these days, and they are worth a try as well.

Tawny Port: For years now, I’ve spent my Thanksgiving in the best possible way…surrounded by an awesome group of friends and family at the lovely home of (hi Janelle and Kyle!!) Janelle and Kyle. My contribution to the feast has often been a selection of dessert wines…with all of my suggestions listed here of course…and every year, the first bottle to be emptied is the Tawny Port.  So there.  First emptied = great match.  Not a scientific experiment, but a darn good one.  My go-to Tawny Port is Taylor-Fladgate 10-Year-Old Age Indicated Tawny Porto, which runs about $20.00 a bottle. 

Moscato d’Asti:  Moscato d’Asti, besides being just plain hands-down delicious, is a great match for pumpkin pie. It’s light, fizzy and sweet, but not too sweet, and with the pumpkin pie pairing, the wine will transform and taste just slightly off dry.  It’s a cool trick to play with people who claim to be too sophisticated for sweet wine.  Moscato’s popularity of late has spawned a host of cheap imitations, but you can’t go wrong with a true Italian; Saracco makes one of my favorites, and it’s a winner at around $14.00

Vin Santo:  Tuscany’s famous  “Wine of the Saints” is another great match for pumpkin pie.  The wine’s just-barely-there sweetness will allow it to pair with the pumpkin pie well; after a bite of pie, you won’t taste the wine’s sweet side anymore, but it will still taste rich, woodsy, spicy, and delightful.  If you try, if might even find a scent of pumpkin pie spice lingering in your glass.  Just about any Vin Santo will delight you, but my personal favorite is from Borgo Scopeto.

Brandy:  If you enjoy a long evening of conversation, Brandy is a great choice to serve with your pumpkin pie.  I personally don’t buy into the “spirits dull the palate” argument and think that Brandy with its warmth and calm makes a perfect pie pairing partner.  The anh (adorable new husband) and I fell in love with Torres Brandy on our honeymoon in Spain, but I am equally enamoured with Christian Brothers Brandy from the San Joaquin Valley in California.  The Christian Brothers Wineries and Distillery played an impressive role in the history of California Wine, as any visitor to Napa knows…perhaps that’s a story for a future blog post!

Coffee:  If you are in need of a wake-up (or sober-up) session before continuing on to the rest of your day, nothing beats a good cup of coffee with your pumpkin pie.  Coffee and pumpkin pie also makes a great day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast…just don’t tell  your fitness trainer.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Ground Control to Major Dram

Ardberg in Space!In what has just got to be a first for the spirits industry, several servings of Ardbeg Scotch has just returned from outer space.

To repeat: Scotch whisky in space.

How we did not know about this before, I’ll never know, but the story goes like this: In 2011, the Ardbeg Distillery sent several vials of Ardbeg Scotch new-make whisky, along with some wood shavings from American oak barrels, into space.

As part of an experimental partnership between Ardbeg and a US-based space research company called NanoRack, the whisky spent the last three years aboard the International Space Station. The whisky orbited the earth, circling the planet at 17,227 miles per hour, 15 times a day, for 1,045 days.

After the vials of whisky were returned to earth, they were revealed for the first time at a reception held on October 23, 2014 at The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum in New York City. The vials, which had been insured for $1 Million, were officially returned to Dr. Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation. Dr. Lumsdem, we presume, is planning on studying the effects of zero gravity on terpenes, aldephydes, and fatty acid esters; and hoping to discover what, if any, impact of gravity has on the maturation processes  of some of the compounds found in Scotch.

Ardberg scientistsArdbeg’s newest limited malt edition Scotch was released at the reception as well. Named to commemorate the return of the Ardbeg vials from space it is named – wait for it – Supernova 2014.

Established in 1815, Ardbeg is considered to be one of the “peatiest, smokiest, and most complex” of the Islay malts. Perhaps we can now add “most traveled” or “most out-of-this-world” to that list!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas   missjane@prodigy.net

 

Tree Fruit and Cognitive Bias

IdeaI received a question via email early  this morning, which led me to experience one of those “a-ha!” moments that are sometimes very dangerous in the early morning hours. (You know what I mean?  Can’t go back to sleep, don’t eat breakfast, skip the gym, phone calls go unanswered…all until you GET THIS DONE!)

The question, concerning the logical tasting rationale that is part of the CWE (Certified Wine Educator) exam,  was quite simple, and went something like this: “What do you mean by tree fruit? How does tree fruit differ from citrus fruit? Don’t most citrus fruits grow on trees?”

The question was really quite brilliant in its simplicity, and demonstrates to perfection the issue that educators know as “The Curse of Knowledge.” The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that causes well-informed parties to find it almost impossible to think about topics from the perspective of lesser-informed parties.

Teachers often suffer from the curse of knowledge when – #1 – they know things their students don’t know (which better be true) and #2 – they have forgotten what it is like not to have this knowledge. That’s where a quick understanding of how to lift the curse of knowledge comes in.

The first step in lifting the curse of knowledge is to realize that it does indeed exist. However, like a person who is drunk but doesn’t realize it, the curse, by definition, means we don’t realize we are affected by it.  Educators, assuming they know about idea professorthe curse of knowledge, should review their lecture notes and – even more importantly – written materials to ensure they aren’t confusing their students by their choice of words.

Another good idea is to “try out” your handouts, power points, or lecture on an unsuspecting victim (hopefully a significant other or best friend who is NOT an expert in what you are the maven of.) You can also prepare your materials, wait a few days, and review them yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read over my work and – assuming I can read my own handwriting – wondered to myself “what did I mean by that”???

Perhaps the best way to break the curse of knowledge is to encourage and pay attention to feedback – written, verbal, even non-verbal. That’s what happened to me in the wee hours of this morning – so be sure and listen to and respond to the feedback your audience gives you. It sure worked for me – tree fruit and all!

If you are a wine educator who has been using terms like “dry, sweet, body, terroir, complexity, mouth-feel, balance, mineral, earthy, and – PERFECT EXAMPLE ALERT – tree fruit,” it might be a good idea once in a while to go back and create some clear, meaningful, and simplified definitions for such terms – and remember to use them when teaching beginners!

Idea TreeWith that in mind, here’s a breakdown of fruit aroma and flavor terms, as they are often used to describe wines:

Fruit Descriptors – Mostly Used for White Wines: 

Tree Fruit: Apple, Green Apple, Green Pear, Yellow Pear, Asian Pear, Peach, Apricot, Nectarine, Green Plum

Citrus Fruit: Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tangerine, Grapefruit, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel

Tropical Fruit: Pineapple, Mango, Papaya, Banana, Passion Fruit

Refuse to be Classified: Melon, Lychee, White Grape, Gooseberry

Fruit Descriptors – Mostly Used for Red Wines: 

Black Fruit: Blackberry, Black Currant, Black Cherry, Blueberry, Black Plum, Prune, Fig, Raisin

Red Fruit: Strawberry, Red Cherry, Raspberry, Cranberry, Red Plum, Pomegranate, Red Current

Refuse to be Classified: Red grape, grape juice, Welch’s, grape jelly/grape jam

 

Note: The term “the curse of knowledge” is credited to Robin Hogarth, and the effect was first described in print by the economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Martin Weber in The Journal of Political Economy, 1989.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas – missjane@prodigy.net

 

Chile’s Southernmost – The Malleco Valley

Chile MallecoChile’s Malleco (pronounced mah-YAY-ko) Valley, located near the 38th parallel, is currently the southernmost “official” viticultural region of Chile. The terrain is rugged, and growing grapes here is challenging – but the area has potential, and since 1994, has been growing a small quantity of grapes that are made into crisp, refreshing wine.

This is an up-and-coming wine region if ever there was one: just shy of 30 acres in total are planted. It’s a bit out of the way – over 300 miles south of the Capital city of Santiago. The area’s main town, Traiguen, has less than 20,000 inhabitants. And, as if that weren’t enough, the climate is marginal, the rainfall is high, and the growing season is short.

The cool climate skirts the limits of what is suitable for viticulture, and defines the grape varieties to that can be cultivated here. The varieties currently under vine include Chardonnay (7 acres), Pinot Noir (10 acres), Sauvignon Blanc (7 acres) and Gewurztraminer (2 acres).

Being so far south, however, has its advantages, just as the northerly latitudes of Washington State and Germany work to their advantage. The southerly (remember, this is the southern hemisphere) locale means the vineyards enjoy more hours of daylight than those areas closer to the equator, and the nights cool down considerably, lending a good diurnal temperature fluctuation that slows down the ripening of the grapes.

The soil in the Malleco Valley is mainly volcanic in origin, and consists of red clay, sand, and alluvial matter. Such well-drained soils are essential in an area that sees so much rainfall, and as a result, the vines become somewhat stressed in the quest for water and nutrients, resulting in concentrated, flavorful grapes with great wine-making potential.

Las Raíces Tunnel - photo by Miguel Millan

Las Raíces Tunnel – photo by Miguel Millan

This is not, by any means, the semi-arid Maipo Valley, and the wines have a fresh, lively acidity to show for it. Most of the grapes grown in the Malleco Valley are currently owned by the Viña Aquitania Winery, which produces their Malleco Valley Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, under the brand name “Sol de Sol” at the winery in the Maipo Valley.

The area around the town of Traiguen is not without its charms, and a good deal of adventure-seeking travelers come to the area for hiking, skiing, and camping. One local attraction is the Las Raíces Tunnel (Túnel Las Raíces), the second longest tunnel in South America. At just shy of 3 miles long, the tunnel, built in 1939, was originally intended to be part of a highway linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, however, the rest of the highway was never finished. The tunnel does, however, link the Chilean city of Temuco with the Pino Hachado Pass, and the highway continues towards Argentina.

This tunnel allows only one-way traffic, and averages about 450 vehicles a day. Cyclists must take their chances at finding a kind-hearted truck driver to give them a lift through the tunnel.  Click here for a very cool youtube experience of riding through the tunnel!

The Malleco Viaduct (Viaducto del Malleco), another local landmark, is currently on the tentative list to be named as a Unesco World Heritage Site.   The viaduct was opened by President José Manuel Balmaceda on October 26, 1890. At that time, it was the highest railroad bridge in the world and is still considered one of the largest works of metal engineering in Chile. The bridge was built in France, in the workshops of Schneider et Cie. Interestingly, the workshop of Gustave Eiffel also submitted a bid, but was not selected to complete the project.

The Malleco Viaduct - photo by Marcelo Reston

The Malleco Viaduct – photo by Marcelo Reston

The finished sections of the bridge were transported first by ship and then by railroad and assembled on site.  The bridge is 1,200 feet long and 250 feet high – that’s about as high as a 20-story building – pretty impressive for 1890!

Cool tunnels, towering bridges, beautiful country and (a little bit of) excellent wine – it sounds like the Malleco Valley is an interesting place!

Note: It was not easy finding information on the Malleco Valley – and, as such, I had to (gasp!) veer off the internet and go old-school and use books (remember those?) in addition to a few websites in order to find the information I wanted. As such, I’d like to acknowledge the following resources used to research this post:

The Bubbly Professor is…”Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas    missjane@prodigy.net

The Southern Alps, Mount Cook, and the Nor’westers

Mount Hood Hiking Path

Mount Hood Hiking Path

Students of New Zealand wine are familiar with the mountain range known as The Southern Alps. They can probably tell you that the mountain range extends along much of the length of New Zealand’s South Island, forming a rain shadow that keeps a good portion of the eastern side of the island warm and dry. For this reason, the wine regions of Marlborough, Canterbury, and Central Otago are able to grow some of the finest Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir in the world.

The Southern Alps run for about 275 miles, forming a natural dividing range along the entire length of the South Island. New Zealanders often refer to the range as the Main Divide, as it separates the more heavily populated eastern side of the island from the somewhat wilder west coast. A large portion of the mountain range, which includes glaciers, glacial valleys, and lakes, is inaccessible except to the heartiest of mountaineers, and enjoys the protection of the National Park Service.

The highest peak in New Zealand, Mount Cook (also known by the Maori name “Aoraki,” said to mean “Cloud-Piercer”) is part of the Southern Alps.  At 12,218 feet high, Mount Cook is a dangerous but popular challenge for mountain climbers.  Aoraki/Mount Cook consists of three summits – the Low Peak, the Middle Peak, and the High Peak – surrounded by the Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the west.  The settlement of Mount Cook Village is a tourist center and serves as a base camp for climbers. For the adventurous, the area offers a wealth of hiking and skiing as well as star-gazing at Mount John Observatory in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – the largest dark sky reserve area in the world.

Nor'west Arch over Canterbury Photo by Jman Matthews

Nor’west Arch over Canterbury Photo by Jman Matthews

The prevailing westerly winds known as the “roaring forties” push in from across the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea, bringing along with them a host of moist air, much of it aimed directly at the west coast of New Zealand. When the winds bump up against the mountains of the Southern Alps, they are forced upward, and this force cools the air, and condenses the moisture to rain. The cold air and precipitation are kept on the west side of the island, thus creating the warmer, drier conditions on the eastern side of the island where the majority of the population (and vineyards) live.

The prevailing west winds also create a weather pattern known as the nor’wester. As the ocean breezes rise up the west side of the mountains and drop their rain, the wind turns warm and dry as it descends down the eastern side of the mountains, similar to the Zonda often experienced in Mendoza. These warm, dry winds play a major role in the intermittent droughts experienced by Canterbury and other regions on New Zealand’s eastern coasts.

A more pleasant side effect of the nor’wester winds is a cloud formation unique to the South Island of New Zealand known as a “nor’west arch.” A nor’west arch appears in the sky as an arch of cloud in an otherwise blue sky, and is frequently visible in the summer across Canterbury and North Otago.

If you are interested in learning more about the unique terroir of New Zealand, join me for my SWEbinar on “Greywacke and Gravel “ on Saturday, October 11th at 10:00 am Central Time!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas

Context is Queen: I know this post seems a bit far-fetched for a wine post…but…I’ve found in teaching or studying a subject as complex as wine, it helps to know the context. While a wine student may memorize the fact that the Southern Alps form a rain shadow for parts of New Zealand, taken out of context, that bit of information will remain what students (not so kindly) call a “factoid” and others may call “trivia.” Such things are hard to remember, and even more difficult to understand. However, with a bit of context, especially at the human level (“what can you do there, do I want to go there, that looks cool/scary/weird…”) these facts become much easier to remember, use, and understand. So that’s what this post is all about – content is king, and context is queen!

 

Map Happy

PortugalAs part of my “day” job as the Director of Education for the Society of Wine Educators, I just finished (with a lot of help) a HUGE project revising, renewing, and updating all of SWE’s wine maps.

Here’s a copy of a super-pretty one as a sample, and you can have access to a complete set of 43 different maps – both jpegs and pdf – over at the “map page” on SWE’s website.

Enjoy your studies!

 

The Majestic Cascades

Map of the Cascade range by Shannon, via Wikimedia Commons.

Map of the Cascade range by Shannon, via Wikimedia Commons.

CSW Students might know a bit about the Cascade Mountain Range. They know that the majority of Washington State’s vineyards are planted to the east of, and in the rain shadow of, the Cascades.

They also know that one of the main differences between the geography of Washington State’s wine industry and Oregon’s wine industry is that in contrast, the majority of Oregon’s vineyards are located to the west of the Cascades, sheltered from the effects of the Pacific Ocean by the much tamer mountains of the 200 mile-long Oregon Coast Range.  And they have probably heard of the Columbia Gorge, as it’s a tiny AVA that straddles the Oregon and Washington State lines.

And that’s a pretty good start, but there is so much more to know…

The Cascade Range is impressive, stretching for over 800 miles from Mount Lytton in British Columbia, through Cascades National Park in Washington State, past Mount Hood in Oregon, and ending just south of Mount Lassen in Northern California’s Shasta County. The highest peak in the Cascades is Washington State’s Mount Rainier, which rises to 14,411 feet above sea level and dominates the surroundings for miles around. Mount Saint Helens, whose 1980 eruption transformed a mountain with a 9,677 foot tall summit into an 8,365 foot high mountain with a 1 mile-wide horseshoe-shaped crater, is also part of the Cascade Range.

The range, particularly in the area north of Mount Rainier, is extremely rugged. Many of the smaller mountains in this area are steep and glaciated, looming over the low valleys below. The topography settles down a bit as the range winds southward, but even its southernmost peak, Mount Lassen, rises 5,229 feet above its surroundings to an elevation of 10,457 feet above sea level.

Mount Saint Helens, post her 1980 eruption

Mount Saint Helens, post her 1980 eruption

Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its westerly winds, the Cascades form a rain shadow for much of the inland Pacific Northwest. The areas to the west of the mountains are known for rainy conditions, and as the elevation climbs, for year-round snow and ice. The western slopes of the Northern Cascades can have annual snow accumulations of up to 500 inches, and with accumulation of over 1,000 inches in exceptional years.

In comparison, on the arid plateau located to the east of the mountains, annual rainfall averages 9 inches. This area, now known as the Columbia River Plateau, was formed over 16 million years ago as the lava flows from Cascade volcanoes coalesced, and covers a 200,000 square mile region in eastern Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Idaho. As all good wine students know, this is the area where almost all of Washington State’s commercial vineyards are planted.

The Columbia Gorge, located where the Columbia River forms the border between Oregon and Washington State, is the only major break in the American section of the Cascade Mountains. The Gorge was formed over the millennia as the Columbia River eroded its way through the burgeoning mountains on its way to the Pacific off of the Columbia Plateau. Lewis and Clark, in 1805, were able to reach the Pacific through the impressive Cascades via the Columbia Gorge, which for many years was considered the only practical passage through the surrounding mountains.

Vineyards in the Columbia River Gorge

Vineyards in the Columbia River Gorge

In Canada, the country’s second largest wine region, The Okanagan, is also located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. The region, which stretches for 100 miles north of the US border with Washington State, shares many of the same geographical/geological features that define viticulture in Washington State, such as a continental climate (somewhat moderated by Lake Okanagan), long daylight hours in the growing season (due to the northerly latitudes), an average of 9 inches of rain per year (requiring irrigation), and the risk of frost damage to the vines over the cold winters.

Other people may note that the majestic Cascades are known for ski resorts, hydro-electric power, strong westward rivers, Douglas Fir trees, important water reserves, Klamath Falls, alpine elk, glaciers, grizzly bears, blueberries, and some of the few remaining wild wolf packs in North America… but for some of us, it’s all about the wine!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas: missjane@prodigy.net

This post was inspired by week ten of my Online CSW Prep Class! 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,731 other followers