Raise a Glass to Grandma (and Gramps)!

Thanks to President Jimmy Carter, the first Sunday after Labor Day is dedicated to our parents’ parents – National Grandparents Day. The day was created by a West Virginia woman named Marian McQuade who, if you look up her photo online, bears an uncanny resemblance to Betty Crocker.

The poet Ogden Nash wrote, “When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window.” So how will you honor your elders tomorrow, September 11?

One website suggests visiting Grandma in a nursing home – pretty ageist, don’t you think? Most grandparents I know would rather spend the day hiking, or playing a game of softball with the grandkids. Mine weren’t quite that active by the time I came along, but I know they would have wanted the celebration to include alcohol.

chablis

Grandma Mihaly was a whiskey drinker – a shot with every meal. She had low blood sugar and said whiskey was better for her teeth than a candy bar. (Makes sense to me.)

My mom was a grandmother, too. For decades she drank “highballs,” usually Canadian Club and soda. But in the mid-1970s she and my dad visited Paris, their first trip across the pond, and Mom came home from that trip a wine drinker. From then on, she always asked for Chablis.

You don’t often hear people order “Chablis” in restaurants and clubs anymore. It’s more fashionable to ask for Chardonnay, which is the grape that makes Chablis.

It’s not as confusing as it sounds. Chablis is a small region in the northern part of Burgundy, France. If you live in Chablis and want to start a vineyard, the only grape you may grow is Chardonnay. (Yes, the French government tells vineyard owners which grapes  they’re allowed to grow, how many vines they may plant per acre, and a lot of other rules that winegrowers in the U.S. don’t have to follow.) Chablis produces some 32 million bottles a year, and you can expect all of it to be deliciously dry.

So, all “Chablis” from Burgundy is really Chardonnay. It tastes more crisp and light than the full-bodied, creamy Chardonnay from California, partly because the limestone soil in Chablis lends a steely minerality to the grapes. Not all wine labeled “Chablis” is produced in Burgundy, but it’s all Chardonnay, and almost all white wine from Burgundy is Chardonnay. (A small percentage of white from Burgundy is made with Aligoté, a less prominent grape variety.)

I guess that is slightly confusing. So let’s keep it simple: if you’re celebrating Grandparents Day, you might want to take the folks a nice bottle of Chardonnay – or Chablis, if they like their white wines a bit more racy. Pair it with goat cheese, maybe a wheel of goat cheese brie with apple wedges and almonds.

Wine Lingo of the Day:  Vitis vinifera = the grapes from which 99.9 percent of all wines in the world are made, according to The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. Vitis is the genus and vinifera is the species. Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and most other familiar grape varieties are vinifera; out of about 60 species of vitis, vinifera is the only one native to Europe.

Vino ‘View:  It was a warm evening this summer when I cracked a bottle of 2013 Broken Dreams  Chardonnay (13.5 percent alcohol, $18.99) from SLO Down Wines in Napa, so I was glad to discover it was a French-style Chard – meaning, it would have that lemony, mineral quality typical 

broken-dreams-chard-small

of French Chardonnays. It’s fruitier and lighter-bodied than most California Chards; aromas of banana and cantaloupe led the way to my tart, lemony first taste. After a few minutes the wine  mellowed to an orange zest taste with the slightest bread undertone, a pleasant surprise alongside the fruit I was tasting. Dinner with my wine was a salad – greens, chicken,  mandarin oranges and sliced almonds – a pairing that worked. Because of the weather, I was glad the wine didn’t have that thick, tongue-coating sensation, nor did it pretend to be a Sauvignon Blanc – but it is citrusy.

Cheers to you and your grandparents!

Mary

[Chablis photo: “Dauvissat” by D. Potera via Flickr; Broken Dreams photo provided by SLO Down Wines.]

Doughnuts and Wine – a Tasty Pairing!

You say doughnuts, I say donuts – especially today, because it’s National Doughnut Day.

We can feel good about indulging our collective sweet tooth, since it’s for a good cause and always has been: the holiday was created in 1938 by the Chicago branch of the Salvation Army to honor “Lassies” – women who distributed donuts to U.S. servicemen in World War I. The Salvation Army’s practical aim was to raise money to help needy families during the Great Depression.

But the day puts two decisions on the table: what kind of donut, and which wine to pair with it?

Krispy Kreme glazed donuts

The donut choice is a no-brainer. It must be glazed, from Krispy Kreme. No substitutes, please. Don’t show up at my door with bear claws, fritters, cronuts or other pretenders. I’m adding 400 calories to my day’s total – just enough, probably, to keep me from losing weight this week. So I need to be picky. I’m sure many of you will disagree with my choice (poor misguided souls) and you’re welcome to chew me out in the Comments section.

On the wine I’m willing to compromise. You’ll want to select a wine with at least a bit of sweetness (trust me on this; both the wine and the donut will taste like they were brought together by Divine Intervention). If you’re not accustomed to buying sweet wines, take the plunge and buy a quality bottle – a Vouvray, maybe, which will always have a bit of sweetness, or a floral, not-super-dry Rosé.

If you’re not in an experimental mood, reach for a Prosecco, Italy’s famous sparkling wine. Prosecco is made from a grape called Glera, which is a little sweeter than the grapes used in making Champagne. You can also buy Prosecco without bubbles, but it may not be easy to find.

My choice for this evening will be a glass of Sherry, often called “the whiskey of wines” for its bite and high alcohol content, which can reach 20 percent ABV or higher. I like the nutty, aromatic nature of Sherry. It’s not as thick in the mouth as Port, though I do enjoy a nice Port with dessert, too. Sherry styles could make another long blog post, but I probably will reach for a spicy Oloroso that I can sip like a fine Scotch.

However you accent your dessert tonight, go get a donut (or, if you prefer, a doughnut)! Krispy Kreme is giving away donuts today, no purchase required. Dunkin’ Donuts will give you a free donut if you purchase a drink, and if you buy half a dozen donuts at Giant Eagle, they’ll give you another half-dozen free of charge.

Wine Lingo of the Day: Spumante, Frizzante, Tranquillo = “Spumante” is Italian for “sparkling” and refers to bubbly wine, usually in discussions of Prosecco. “Frizzante” is semi-bubbly; you’ll see bubbles in the glass and feel them tingling on your tongue, but they don’t last. “Tranquillo” is still wine, with no bubbles at all.

Happy sipping and munching!

Mary

[Photo courtesy of Camknows via Flickr.com]