Summer is Here (Hot Dog!) … Let the Cookouts Begin … Enjoy some Dogs with a Funky Australian Red … (It’s the Label!)

Pairing: Grilled Hot Dogs with Baked Beans and Cole Slaw Paired with 2018 19 Crimes: The Uprising Red Blend from Australia.

Food: Summer here in New Hampshire has officially begun. Well … OK … the unofficial start of summer… since astronomically speaking … the official start of summer, the Summer Solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere is not until Tuesday, June 21 at 5:14 am EDT. But, I digress. It’s getting warm out there and we try to do as much of our living outside, including, of course, cooking and eating … i.e., having a cookout.

In our family, our first cookout (usually on or near the Memorial Day weekend) is always … drumroll please … hot dogs!! Every person in the country has their own favorite way of cooking and eating them. For us purists, the dog is poked onto a carefully found and selected live green twig and cooked over an open fire. Once cooked to the right “doneness” (everyone has their own best degree of charred-ness), the dog is then placed into a New England style bun (please .. there is no other kind), lightly buttered and toasted. The dog is then judiciously coated with some favorite condiments, though some in the purist camp prefer them unadorned. Served with baked beans and coleslaw … perfection is achieved. Summer has officially arrived. Enjoy!

Wine: Let’s start with a very reasonable assumption … wine is a terrific accompaniment to hot dogs at a cookout. Now you might have thought about beer, but bear with me. “19 Crimes” is a brand of wine named for the behaviors that would get you transported from England to Australia when it was a penal colony. Hence the dark and scary label. Made of 86% Shiraz, 7% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet, it is bold enough to stand up to any charred dog and the side dishes as well.

Tasting Notes:  Color can be described as reddish purple (or the redder side of purple). This wine offers solid aromas of blackberry and black currant. The taste is BIG … like jam made from a combination of cooked black currant, black raspberry, blackberry, black cherries. One can also detect flavors of some fresh fruit … like strawberry. A pleasant light cedar background is also present. Soft tannins hold the fruit flavors together very well. And the finish lingers delightfully long. The spiciness of the hot dogs advances the the fruit flavors Cooking the hot dogs over an open fire adds yet another layer of perfection. Can’t you just taste it?

Other Wines That Pair Well with Hot Dogs: Beaujolais (France), Riesling (Germany), Zinfandel (Sonoma County), Pinot Noir (Oregon)

Other Food That Pairs Well with Red Blend: Meatloaf, Beef Stew, Roasted Pheasant, Rabbit

More About the Living Wine Labels: Living Wine Labels

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Tourtiere, a Quebecois Tradition … Served with a Red Blend from Washington State

Pairing: Tourtiere (French Canadian Meat Pie) Paired with a 2012 Pendulum Red Blend (from the Columbia Valley in Washington State)

Food: Tourtiere is a traditional French Canadian meat pie dating back centuries and originating in the province of Quebec, likely in the townships of eastern Quebec. Farmers typically slaughtered their animals in late Fall as cold weather began to set in. One of several ways to utilize the fresh meat was in the making of meat pies using the surplus of pork, beef and game. The pies were then frozen before being baked. It is traditional to serve Tourtiere during the Christmas season and at New Year’s. The Tourtiere are deemed best after being frozen for at least a few days, the wonderful flavors of the spices (cloves and cinnamon) used along with some herbs, savory and bay, are enhanced by what we call the “cold cure”.

Our ancient, thoroughly dog-eared, decoratively stained copy of Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times International Cookbook is the source of our recipe for Tourtiere. Ground pork mixed with the aforementioned herbs and spices, along with onion, garlic, and a crust made with lard creates a delicious and authentic meat pie that any Quebecois would be proud to serve.

Recipe at

Tourtiere Served with Carrots and Parsnips

Wine: “A kitchen-sink blend of varieties”, says Wine Enthusiast, describing the 2012 Pendulum Red Wine. The winery itself does tell us that their 2012 is made from mostly Merlot (44%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (26%). And the remaining 30% ? That seems to be a secret! It can be great fun trying to figure out the ‘mystery grapes” in a blend like this Pendulum. My wife and I were thinking that maybe Syrah is one of the component varieties. After all, it is a very successfully and widely grown grape in the Columbia Valley wine region of Washington. Or maybe something a little more exotic for the region … perhaps some Sangiovese or Barbera or Malbec was added to the mix. There are dozens of grape varieties grown in this region so Wine Enthusiast seems to be suggesting that likely a lot of different grape varieties go into this delicious blend.

Pendulum Red Blend – 44% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest … who knows?!

Tasting Notes: A dark garnet red (very pretty in candlelight!). A delightful fragrance of cassis (black currant liquor) tickles the nose. Aromas of freshly tilled earth and black cherry are also present. On the palate one gets the taste of black currant and a pleasant mix of spices: nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon. A little hint of cedar and, maybe a tiny whiff of cigar smoke. Black currant persists on the long finish. The pairing of the wine with the tourtiere couldn’t be better. The spices in the tourtiere mirror nicely the taste of the spices in the wine.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Tourtiere (Pork Meat Pie): Gewürztraminer (Alsace), Zinfandel (California), Pinot Noir (Tasmania), Beaujolais (France)

Other Food That Pairs Well with a Merlot/ Cab Blend: Roast Lamb and Chicken, Cold Roast Beef Sandwich, Cheese (Brie, Camembert, Blue)

View the Columbia Valley Wine Region:  Columbia Valley

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Independence Day Cookout …Burgers, Dogs … and a Napa Red Blend

Pairing:  Buffalo Burgers, Hot Dogs, Potato Salad, Green Salad and Deviled Eggs Paired with a 2013 Bootleg Proprietary Red Blend from Napa

Food:  One of the great traditions we follow on the U.S. Independence Day celebration is the outdoor cookout. Buffalo burgers and hot dogs grilled over a wood charcoal fire, Mother’s wonderful potato salad, perfect deviled eggs, and a green salad with fresh lettuce and herbs right out of the garden. Yum!! Bring on the fireworks!!

Independence Day Cookout


Wine:  We find delight in sampling different red blends from different locales in California. The Bootleg winery is located in and sources its grapes from vineyards in the Napa Valley wine region. Their 2013 Proprietary Red is an inspired blend of 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petite Sirah, 21% Zinfandel, 12% Merlot, and the remaining 18% made up of Malbec and Petit Verdot. I repeat … a truly inspired creation from winemaker, Gabe Valenzuela. This is “out of the box” winemaking at its Californian best.

Bootleg Red Bllend

Tasting Notes:  A deep, deep garnet color … almost black (likely from the Malbec). On the nose, the smell of blackberry and black cherry fruit leather (or how we might imagine such a thing!) along with sage, cinnamon, and newly turned over earth. The palate … Big! Delicious! Big “hedgerow” flavors (blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, black currant) against a lovely background of soft tannins. Just a touch of sweetness. Coats your mouth with its luscious flavors. Perfectly balanced in every way. Makes every part of this wonderful cookout taste even better. Wow … a perfect pairing … an unforgettable wine!

Other Wines That Pair Well with Burgers and Dogs:  Zinfandel (California), Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile), Beaujolais (France), Shiraz (Australia)

Other Food That Pairs Well with a Napa Red Blend:  Grilled Sausages, Roast Beef, Rabbit (Spit Roasted wrapped in Bacon), Venison

Views of Beautiful California Vineyards:  California Vineyards

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A Classic Reborn … Mom’s Meat Loaf Refined with a Chilean Red Blend

Pairing: Meat Loaf, Mashed Potatoes and Peas … Paired with a 2013 Clos des Fous Cauquenina (Chilean Red Blend)  

Food:  Mom’s Meat Loaf was a frequent weekday meal in our household … plain, simple comfort food. And delicious. Made with ground beef, pork and veal (sometimes lamb), breadcrumbs, onion, an egg, some milk, and varying combinations of herbs and spices (whatever was handy). Here is Fanny Farmer’s basic recipe which can be modified a gazillion different ways. And we always served it with mashed potatoes, peas, and a rich brown gravy. Of course, the best part of this meal was the leftovers served the next day.  Somehow the meatloaf was even better cold, sliced on some sandwich bread, maybe with smear of ketchup or mustard. And with a big glass of milk. Today, we dress up this classic food with an exceptional red wine from Chile.

Meat Loaf w: Chilean Blend


Wine:  Clos des Fous is the brain child of four highly respected winemakers – Albert Cussan, Paco Leyton, Francois Massoc, and Pedro Parra. The grapes used for their Cauquenina blend are 36% Carignan, 18% Malbec, 15% Syrah, 15% Pais, 9% Cinsault, and 7% Carmenère sourced from small vineyard growers in the Caquenes commune in the Maule Valley region of central Chile. It is historically important that Pais is one of the grapes in this amazing blend. Pais, known as Mission grapes in North America, was first brought to the New World by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Planted initially in Mexico, it was later brought to Texas, New Mexico, and California where it proliferated in those regions for centuries. Although wines made from Pais/ Mission grapes have long been considered to be fairly ordinary, they are having a renaissance in central Chile where innovative winemakers are blending Pais with several other varieties to make some very special wines. This Clos des Fous is an exemplary result of this innovation.

Clos des Fous Chilean Redjpg


Tasting Notes: A dark (almost black) garnet color.  Spice and leather are the first aromas one can notice followed by some wild blueberry and a hint of cigar box (really!). The palate is amazingly complex with a delicate layer of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg surfacing among the tastes of hedgerow jam and leather. Soft tannins hold it all together and help the flavors linger long on the finish. After sipping the wine for a while, a lovely, gentle sweetness emerges. The pairing with the meat loaf couldn’t be better, but this very inexpensive wine would easily hold its own partnered with a sophisticated French Roast or a Grilled Ribeye.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Meat Loaf:  Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile), Dolcetto (Italy), Zinfandel (California), Rioja (Spain)

Other Food That Pairs Well with a Malbec Blend: Roasted Beef or Lamb, Pizza with Mushrooms and Sausage, Grilled Steak, Empanadas

View the Maule Valley Wine Region:  maule valley

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Popovers with Ham & Asparagus … Nicely Paired with a California Red

Pairing: Popovers Stuffed with Ham and Asparagus Paired with NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red

Food:  There is always a bit of ham and asparagus left from our special Easter dinner. But never any leftover popovers of which every crumb and morsel is gobbled up before anyone gets up from the table. Well … guess we’re going to have make some more … what a hardship! We like to make them jumbo-sized using a larger muffin tin to bake them in. Easy to make … thoroughly beat up 3 eggs and a cup of milk until light and frothy, add a cup of sifted flour and 1/2 tsp salt, then beat them some more (vigorously!). Then let stand on the counter for at least an hour. Generously butter each cup of the muffin tin you plan to use, putting water in any cups you plan not to put any batter in. Heat up the muffin tin in a 400F oven. Remove from the oven, pour the batter into the hot tin and bake at 400F for about 25 minutes until brown and puffed up. While the popovers are baking, mix up a béchamel sauce with some cheese and add some ham and asparagus pieces. Open up the popovers, ladle some of the mixture into the popovers and dig in. We served ours with potatoes dauphinoise. Good stuff!

Huge Popovers! Fresh Out of the Oven

Popovers with Ham & Asparagus Cream Sauce
Filled with Ham/Asparagus Cream Sauce

Wine:  One of our favorite wines to serve with ham is Zinfandel. The Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red is predominantly Zinfandel, but blended with Petite Sirah, Syrah, Barbera and Montepulciano (your classic “everything but the kitchen sink” blend). Marietta Cellars uses grapes harvested from vineyards scattered throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Multiple generations at Marietta Cellars have perfected the art of making great blended red wines. And at an amazing price … about $12.

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red

Tasting Notes:  A beautiful shade of garnet. A nose of rich earth and black currant. A wonderful complex palate with layers of black and red raspberries, black currant, leather, black pepper and other spices. With each sip, a new flavor moves to the front. But the myriad of tastes does not overwhelm the food. The wine makes an excellent companion.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Popovers and Ham/ Asparagus Cream Sauce:  Pinot Noir (Oregon), Chardonnay (California), Syrah (Washington), White Burgundy (France)

Other Food That Pairs Well with Zinfandel-based Blends:  Grilled Chicken or Pork, Baked Ham, Hamburgers or Hot Dogs Cooked Over an Open Fire

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Tourtiere paired with a Rhone-style South African Red Blend

Pairing:  Pork Tourtière paired with 2011 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Red Blend

Food:  Tourtière is a pork pie traditionally eaten in French Canada in winter, often on Christmas  Eve. It’s origins can be traced back to 14th Century France. Our recipe is from Craig Claiborne’s 1971 classic New York Times International Cookbook. A wonderful explanation of the dish can be found here. It calls for ground pork, pork or chicken stock, onion, garlic, cloves, cinnamon. savory, and a bay leaf. All wrapped up in a flakey, savory pastry. We’ve served it here with roasted vegetables (carrots, parsnips, and squash), pickled beets, and assorted relishes (maritime chow and mustard pickle). Hint: Make the Tourtière ahead of time, freeze it for a few days or weeks, then thaw it and bake it. It’s even better that way!


Wine: This Rhône-styled red blend is from the Boekenhoutskloof Winery located in the stunningly beautiful Franschhoek Valley near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. For those readers unfamiliar with South African vineyards, there is some fabulous wine coming from there … most notably Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, and several excellent red blends. The Wolftrap is a blend of Syrah (65%), Mourvedre (32%) and Viognier (3%). Viognier is actually a white wine. The folks at this winery are borrowing a technique from the northern Rhône in France where vintners there  combine a little dollop of Viognier with their Syrah to make their world-renowned Hermitage and Côte Rôtie wines. And the addition of the Mourvedre creates a dynamite blend.


Tasting:  The strong presence of Mourvedre in this wine brings out a real earthiness that complements very well the spices in the Tourtière. On the nose, one gets leather and blackberry, along with a plethora of earth smells. The tastes of forest floor, earth and tobacco vie with the flavors of blackberry, allspice, and cinnamon. What a great tasting wine … and less than $15.

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food: Beaujolais, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Tempranillo

Other Foods That Pair with This Wine:  Sausage, Grilled Meats, Venison, Mushrooms

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Buffalo Burgers and Mystery Wine

Food and Wine Pairing:  Buffalo Burgers and 2012 Juxtapoz North Coast Red Blend

Food:  Who doesn’t like hamburgers as part of a Fourth of July picnic? But have you tried burgers made from buffalo meat? A real treat. The burgers are leaner than most hamburgers which are typically made from ground chuck. Although some hamburger eaters use ground beef from leaner cuts of meat, buffalo meat is always deliciously lean. And, buffalo meat is becoming more and more available as more and more farmers are raising bison in lieu of cattle. The Healthy Buffalo is a great source for buffalo and meat from many other farm-raised game animals. All of which are much lower in fat and calories. We served classic potato salad and cole slaw with the burgers on the Fourth.

July 4 Buffalo Burgers

Wine: 2012 Juxtapoz North Coast Red Blend is a great example of the growing list of innovative wine making in California. For this wine, the winemaker has blended different grape varieties from different areas of the North Coast wine region. This appellation  encompasses all the vineyards north of San Francisco Bay and include Napa, Sonoma, Mendicino, and Lake Counties. The grapes used in this blend are:

Syrah (55%), Zinfandel (23%), Petite Syrah (9%), Malbec (6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (4%), and 3% Other (?). Everything but the kitchen sink! Only in California would you see such a creative blend like this one!

Juxtapoz North Coast Blend

Tasting: After one sip … “What a fabulous wine!” … “What the heck is it?” That’s the beauty of a well-crafted blend. It leaves you with great flavors, but musing as to what it is. Aromas of plum and blueberry waft up from the glass. On the palate, a medley of black fruits (current, blueberry, black cherry, and lingonberry) prevail with a backdrop of soft tannins. The finish provides a delightful conclusion with subtle hints of chocolate.

Other Food Pairings for this Wine: Meatloaf, Grilled Sausage, Lamb, Game, Mexican Food

Other Wine Pairings for these Burgers: Beaujolais, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel

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