Schramsberg and Salted Caramel Crispy Treats

Schramsberg Cremant

Schramsberg Cremant

One of our “Twisted” Wine Classes was Bubbly Wines and Southern Comfort Food.

We had  Champagne, Cava, and Sparkling wines along with 2 kinds of Mac & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Buffalo Wings, Cornbread, Tater Tots, Deviled Eggs and Salted Caramel Crispy Treats…I think there was more, but I can’t remember. Let’s just say, no one went home hungry or thirsty.

I think the most memorable pairing for me, was a 2008 Schramsberg Cremant Demi Sec with the Salted Caramel Treats.

For those who are not familiar with Schramsberg, it is one of the premier Sparkling (it is outside of the Champagne region in France, so “Sparkling” is the proper term) Houses in the U.S. It has been served at many White House functions and it is a historic landmark in Napa Valley.

The Cremant style is creamy and Demi Sec is semi sweet (off dry) add the bubbles and you have a beautiful dessert wine that is not overly sweet with tasting notes of butter creme, pineapple, mango and I even think a bit of french toast.

It would pair well with fruit, gingerbread, creme brûlée and of course Salted Caramel.

Here is the recipe for the treats:

Nonstick spray
6 cups crispy rice cereal (about half a 12-ounce box), such as Rice Crispies
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, plus more for sprinkling
One 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows
Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with nonstick spray.

Add the cereal to a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

Add the butter to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, stir in the brown sugar, heavy whipping cream and corn syrup. Cook until thick and syrupy while stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Stir in the salt. Turn off the heat and stir in the marshmallows. Keep stirring until the marshmallows are smooth and melted.

Quickly pour the caramel marshmallow sauce over the cereal and stir all together. Pour into the prepared pan and press down with a piece of parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt.

Cool completely, and then cut into squares.

Do yourself a favor and do this! Spend your money on this outstanding Sparkler ($38) and use the rest of your budget on an inexpensive yummy treat.

Cheers Y’all – Lori, Your Twisted Sommelier

*I would like to Thank “Twisted Peep” Tiffany for bringing this fun dessert! It really made my evening.

The Thanksgiving Throwdown

I get this question a lot: “What wine to serve for Thanksgiving?”

The Thanksgiving meal is full of tart, savory, sweet and meaty flavors. It is hard to figure out a wine with all of these flavor elements going on.

So I decided to round up some Twisted Peeps and see if we could answer this question….

Our meal was: Cranberry Pork Loin, Cornbread Dressing, Sweet Potatoes with Butter, Brown Sugar & Almonds. (I didn’t do turkey because everything makes turkey better).

The wines: Zardetto Prosecco, Umberto Cavicchioli & Figli “Robanera” Lambrusco, 2010 La Font du Vent Notre Passion Cotes Du Rhone Villages Signargues, 2010 Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast 35th Anniversary.

1st pairing: Prosecco – This is a lovely sparkling wine with tart apple, orange, apricot and a smooth clean finish.

Cornbread Dressing: The Prosecco brought out the sweetness of the corn and enhanced the savory flavors of the herbs. Very Good.

Cranberry Pork: The tartness of the dish was tempered by the Prosecco. The dish was still lively and the Prosecco cleansed the palate. Very Good.

Sweet Potatoes: The sweetness of the dish made the Prosecco “fruit cocktail” like. Not Good.

2nd pairing: Lambrusco – This particular sparkling wine is made with the Graparossa grape which is tannic and dark. This wine is aromatic with dark fruit. The taste is dark fruit and dark spices with a soft, dry finish.

Cornbread Dressing: The herbal elements in the dish enhanced the dryness of the Lambrusco and the wine enhanced the savory flavors of the dressing. Very Good.

Cranberry Pork: Nothing really changed at least for me. I thought both complimented each other. Everyone was surprised what a good pairing it was. Very Good.

Sweet Potatoes: The sweetness of the dish remained and the wine stayed fresh and lively. Very Good.

3rd pairing: Cotes du Rhone – This wine is 50% Granache and 50% Syrah. It had an herbal spiciness to it with a little cherry, plum, and raspberry.

Cornbread Dressing: The wine made the herbal flavors a little bitter. Not Good.

Cranberry Pork: The wine made the dish tangy and enhanced the tartness of the cranberries. Not Good.

Sweet Potatoes: The sweetness of the dish worked well with the spicy, tartness of the wine. Good.

4th pairing: Pinot Noir – This Pinot is from one of my favorite producers. It is layered with truffles, red fruit, cedar, smoke and a light earthy, herbal, spicy finish.

I honestly can’t tell you about each dish with this wine because there were pauses of silence with the occasional “Yum”, “Oooh, I like this”, “This is one of the best”.

So overall, the group liked the Lambrusco and the Pinot Noir with all of the dishes. In fact we had Pecan and Pumpkin pies for dessert and the Lambrusco got finished off with those. Also the Lambrusco was the surprise in the bunch. Quite a few said they would serve it and said they loved how dry and bubbly it was.The price was around $16.

The Pinot Noir was around $30 and everyone one thought it was worth it. I would recommend decanting for an hour.

The Prosecco ($15) would be a good choice if you wanted a “start the party” wine. This particular Prosecco has become one of my new found faves.

As for the Cotes du Rhone ($12), I think if it was at least 80% Grenache it might have done better. I drank the wine later in the evening without food and it had been open for over an hour the tart spiciness smoothed out and its more earthy qualities came forward. I thought it was a nice drinking wine.

As a side note: I want to thank the whole Wine Team (Darrell, Chris & Vince) at Sigel’s (store #5) in Addison for putting up with me and getting the wine for this post. As well as Teri for hosting & cooking and Janalee for the pies.

I hope Everyone’s Thanksgiving is full of good food, wine and people!

Cheers Y’all!

Wine Tasting at CVS Pharmacy

Little Bottles of Wine with Little Bags of Chips

Little Bottles of Wine with Little Bags of Chips

I could not believe when I walked into my neighborhood CVS pharmacy and saw a barrel filled with airplane size bottles of Gallo wine right by the checkout. I was immediately drawn to the barrel and started digging through it like a kid searching for a special piece of candy in their Halloween bag.

I found a sample of all the varietals (5 to be exact) and I thought they were so cute (sad I know) that little bags of some of my favorite chips would be perfect to pair with the wine. So I got my 5 little bottles of wine and 5 little bags of assorted chips and headed home…I really did not do any drinking at CVS…

The list of wine: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pink Moscato, and Moscato.

Pinot Grigio: Smell: lemon, lime, green apple Taste: green apple, pear, citrus finish

Chardonnay: Smell: pear, vanilla. I doubt this wine saw the inside of a barrel, but maybe some wood chips were thrown in the tank. Taste: creamy vanilla, apple pie and bread.

Merlot: Smell: tobacco, liquid smoke, dirt Taste: dusty black cherries, cedar, tobacco.

Pink Moscato: Smell: strawberry, cherry, honeysuckle Taste: strawberry, cherry pie, lime daiquiri.

Moscato: Smell: honey, lime, roses, honeysuckle Taste: Key lime pie, honey, orange.

The list of chips: Lay’s Potato Chips, Fritos, Cheetos (crunchy), Funyuns, Cool Ranch Doritos. I won’t go into the flavors of each chip because I’m sure a lot of you have consumed a bag or two before.

Now for the pairings in order:

Lay’s with Pinot Grigio: chips became tangy, but the oil from the chips was cleansed by the wine. Not bad.

Chardonnay: the wine added a butter aspect to the chip and tempered the saltiness. Really good.

Merlot: the wine gave the chips and smoky flavor. Really good

Pink Moscato: the wine made the chips a little sweet but it wasn’t that bad.

Moscato: the wine made the chips sweeter than the Pink Moscato did. It was ok.

Fritos with Pinot Grigio: the Fritos at first were tangy and then turned funky and earthy. Not good.

Chardonnay: the Fritos were more oil flavored than butter.It was ok.

Merlot: the wine tempered the oil and salt in the Fritos and gave them a smokey flavor. Good.

Pink Moscato: interesting sweet/salty with the Fritos and the acidic strawberry bite from the wine, cleansed the palate.

Moscato: the wine sweetened the Fritos. It was weird..

Cheetos with the Pinot Grigio: the wine made the Cheetos tangy and tempered the cheesyness.

Chardonnay: nothing changed. It was a good pairing.

Merlot: smokey cheese! YUM!

Pink Moscato: wine was refreshing and the Cheetos were not as salty.

Moscato: the sweetness of the wine covered up the Cheetos. Not good.

Funyuns with Pinot Grigio: the wine made the Funyuns taste like hushpuppies and tarter sauce. I swear!

Chardonnay: the added more butter and salt flavors to the Funyuns. It was good.

Merlot: Smokey onion rings! Awesome!

Pink Moscato: the Funyuns sort of tasted like caramelized onions because of the slightly sweet wine.

Moscato: just sweet and onions. Weird.

Cool Ranch Doritos with Pinot Grigio: the wine enhanced the tangy herbal aspect of the chips. Good.

Chardonnay: the chips became butter and spice. Interesting.

Merlot: the chips made the wine become harsh and lose it’s smokey fruit flavors. Not good.

Pink Moscato: there was a little sweetness but then a celery flavor emerged after eating the chips. Strange.

Moscato: the sweetness of the wine covered up the spices in the chip and left a weird sweet corn flavor.

The best overall pairing with the wines was the Lay’s Potato Chips but the most interesting was the Funyuns.

So there you have it Twisted Peeps! Now I need to brush my teeth and drink a gallon of water because of all the sodium I have ingested. Or maybe I should go back to CVS and get some blood pressure medicine…..

Cheers Y’all!

Wallace, Kalyra, & Taco Bell

I know I’ve said this before…

I live in a state that has fantastic Mexican food, and yet Taco Bell keeps calling to me….it is a very powerful junk food call….

So this time I tried the new Doritos Supreme Taco and the Fresco Soft Taco with ground beef. I actually ordered the chicken fresco and my order got screwed up…oh well…

I paired the tacos with a 2009 Wallace by Ben Glaetzer from the Barossa Valley, Australia, which is a blend of Shiraz/Grenache

and a 2009 Kalyra white wine  that I got in California, which is a blend of Semillon/Verdelho

The Shiraz in the Wallace is Black cherry, plum and licorice, but it is balanced by the Grenache which gives an earthy finish to the wine.

The Semillon in the Kalyra wine is full of fig, honey, and toast but the Verdelho counters that with lemon, lime and a citrus acidity that makes a nice palate cleanser.

First up was the Doritos taco which was spicy, salty and a little cheesy.

The Wallace was a good pairing. The fruit in the wine balanced the saltiness and boosted the spicy aspect in the taco.

The Kalyra added a citrus and honey element to the taco. Not bad.

Next up was the Fresco Taco which was salty, herbal (cilantro), and earthy.

The Wallace kind of overpowered the taco but the herbal aspect remained.

The Kalyra was perfect. The taco remained herbal and fresh. The wine cleansed the palate of salt and was refreshing.

Just as a side tasting, I tried the wines with just the sauce packets. I did the Fire and the Verde.

The Fire made the Wallace taste like hot, spicy fruit. Not good. However, with the Kalyra, the sauce was tempered a little and had a citrus element.

The Verde sauce was covered up by the Wallace. Not good. But it was perfect with the Kalyra. It still retained it’s zesty citrus flavor.

So there you have it! And this will not be the last time I savor the junk food goodness of Taco Bell with good wine….because I have yet to try the Taco Salad…and you get to eat the bowl!

P.S. I would like to Thank my niece Courtney for introducing me to Kalyra wines. This winery is one of her favorites.

Man! Oh, Man! Roussanne!

This grape is not one of the more well-known or “popular” varietals in the average wine consumer world, but it makes for a good blending grape in the Rhone region in France. It adds body and acidity and is one of the grapes that is allowed in making white Chateauneuf du Pape…one of my favorite wines.

I first discovered it in California at Stolpman’s ( I loved the creamy texture and full body mouth feel it had. I was surprised that it was not a heavy fruit wine, but more herbal and floral.

Texas has also been planting this grape and I think doing a very fine job of making fantastic wines with it.

The two Texas wineries I have tried have been Calais ( & McPherson ( The grapes for both wineries were grown in the same area of the High Plains around Lubbock.

I thought it would be an interesting experiment to compare these 3 wines (1 Calif and 2 Texas) and then pair them with buttered popcorn (

The Stolpman Roussanne called L’Avion was done the “sur lie” method which means the juice from the grapes are left in contact with the dead yeast and grape particles for several months in the barrel. In this case 15 months. The end result will give the wine a creamy mouth feel. It also will extract some of the toast or vanilla characteristics from the barrel.

The smell of the Stolpman was vanilla creme, a little bit of banana, truffle oil, and olive.

The taste was honey, green tea, jasmine, vanilla creme with a little citrus bite. It had a round mouth feel and was very creamy but the citrus bite helped keep it from becoming cloy.

When paired with the buttered popcorn, it was really good. All that buttery goodness with a rich, creamy wine was a perfect choice…I mean who doesn’t like butter & creme?

My next choice was Calais Winery. It was also done sur lie, but the grapes came from the High Plains in Texas and the wine aged for 12 months.

The smell was honeysuckle, iris (a vanilla-citrus type of smell that is hard to describe), truffle oil.

The taste was honey, vanilla creme, and pear with a black tea finish. This wine was richer in honey flavor but it was not cloying because of the black tea bite. It was well-balanced.

This was another good choice with the buttered popcorn because of the honey aspect of the wine. It sweetened the popcorn…awesome!

The last wine was from McPherson, another Texas winery whose grapes are also from the High Plains. This wine was aged in stainless steel so the result was totally different.

The smell was grass, herbal tea, lemon.

The taste was light banana, lemon, grapefruit, cilantro. It was more light citrus all over the palate and did not linger very long. Very refreshing.

However, the buttered popcorn overpowered the wine.

I would say overall the Stolpman & Calais were more in keeping with what a Roussanne should be. The McPherson became forgettable after it warmed up.

The Calais Roussanne is the best I have ever had because it kept its honey and black tea flavors. The Stolpman started getting oily and forest floor.

Some bad news though with the Calais wine is that Benjamin only has about 3 cases left and we will have to wait several months for the next vintage to be ready…but it will be worth the wait, Twisted Peeps.

Sporkable Cabernet Sauvignon

You know the phrase “misery loves company”? Well, I think this post will reflect that because I subjected my Dear Cousin Catherine to 4 questionable Cabernet’s…I could not have stomached this alone…

Here is the usual line up:

Charles Shaw, 12.5% alc, grapes from Napa/Sonoma.

Smell: black cherry, licorice.

Taste: raspberry, gravel

Catherine’s assessment: light bodied, not awful or offensive….but then she sort of trailed off from there…I guess hoping to add something really positive but couldn’t.

Three Wishes, 12.5% alc, grapes from Ripon/Livermore.

Smell: light dirt, plum, raspberry

Taste: light cherry-vanilla, with a citrus bite on the end.

Catherine’s assessment: kind of forgettable…but that’s a good thing.

Winking Owl, 12.5% alc, grapes from Ripon/Livermore.

Smell: funky forest floor.

Taste: cherry vinegar with tannins

Catherine’s assessment: Smell: tomatillo enchiladas Taste: raspberry cough drops

Oak Leaf, 12.5% alc, grapes from Ripon/Livermore.

Smell: wet dog, mud

Taste: red wine vinegar

Catherine’s assessment: Holy Crap! what is that? Is it time to take out the trash?

As the wines started to sit for a while, we noticed that they started changing.

The Charles Shaw was actually kind of pleasant, but we don’t know if that’s because the others were so bad.

Three Wishes started getting a little more dark fruit and rounding out the mouth a little better.

Oak Leaf was getting more metallic and Winking Owl was becoming more candied fruit.

Overall, we thought Charles Shaw was more tolerable and Catherine said, “even though these may be cheap wines, I would decant them”.

In reality, the tasting was a lot of fun. We laughed a lot and ended the evening with a wonderful half bottle of 2004 Stonefly Cabernet Sauvignon I will have to say at first I smelled something funky in it but as the wine opened up, I could finally get what a Cabernet should be: black cherry, anise, cigar box, and mushroom….no vineger!

And for those who are feeling sorry for my Dear Cousin Catherine being subjected to such “interesting” wines…don’t! She is the one who helped me with the Chateau Montelena tasting. Here is the link:

Between the two of us, we have done the “Good the Bad & the Ugly”.

Cheers, Y’all!

4 Sporkable Chardonnays & 1 Pinot Grigio

4 Really Cheap Chardonnays

Hey Twisted Peeps!

I survived another round of really cheap wine and this time it wasn’t so bad….it wasn’t great either, but at least I didn’t feel the need to brush my teeth afterwards.

I had some help from a Chardonnay Pal and we agreed on all counts.

So here are the results:

Oak Leaf, 12.5% alc, grapes from Ripon/Livermore.

Smell: apple, light honeysuckle

Taste: pear, ripe apple, honey with a little acidic bite

Charles Shaw, 12.5% alc, grapes from Napa/Sonoma.

Smell: petrol, apple, violets

Taste: vanilla, light butter, apple with a bright acidic bite

Three Wishes, 12.5% alc, grapes from Ripon/Livermore.

Smell: apple, white flowers

Taste: vanilla, pear, apple with a bright acidic bite

Winking Owl, 13% alc, grapes from Ripon/Livermore.

Smell: petrol, dirt with a little citrus

Taste: Granny Smith apple, bitter spice of clove/cinnamon and pith of orange/lemon

The Oak Leaf was softer on the palate than the other 3 and more refreshing but it was kind of forgettable.

Charles Shaw & Three Wishes became similar as the wines warmed up. The Three Wishes was a bit lighter in taste than the Charles Shaw. The overall flavors became vanilla and citrus. My Chardonnay Pal said she really had a hard time telling the difference between the two.

The Winking Owl was just tart and bitter.

After getting through the wines, my tongue felt cloying and I had an after taste of tart citrus flavors.

As an added “bonus” wine, I was asked to try Oak Leaf Pinot Grigio.

A friend of mine texted me and said, “I see you having been drinking cheap wine and I have a bottle of Wal-Mart Pinot Grigio”. I love it when friends want to “help” me 😉

Here is my opinion of the Wal-Mart Oak Leaf Pinot Grigio (12.5% alc, grapes from Napa).

Smell: lemon, gravel, pineapple

Taste: pineapple, lemon, parsley, mineral

At first I really didn’t think it was too bad but as I tasted more of it as it warmed up, I began to get a sweet-tart “lock-jaw” sensation. I don’t drink much Pinot Grigio because this is usually what happens to me. So I had a friend who drinks a lot of this varietal try it.

Her first reaction to smelling it was “sharp” and her description of the taste was “furniture polish” and she asked if it could remove paint because it felt like it removed a layer of her tongue.

I really do want to Thank my friends who shared and guided me through the 2nd part of this 3 part post because I was dreading it. I definitely “get by with a little help from my friends”.

So cheap Cabernet Sauvignon…here I come!