Data Science to Easily Pair Wine and Cheese? Yes!

How many times have you wondered which cheeses pair well with your favorite wines? Or perhaps you’ve debated which wines complement your favorite cheeses.

You might have conducted online searches or looked at books for advice. Ultimately you probably found the answers, but how long did it take?

Now, thanks to data science and a Canadian professor, you can find results in an instant.

University of Toronto professor Gary Bader specializes in biological network analysis; he and a team of computer scientists and molecular geneticists developed a free interactive website, Wine and Cheese Map, to suggest pairings for about 100 red and white wines, and about 270 cheeses.

“You just quickly look at a picture and see patterns that would be very difficult to find if you were looking through data spreadsheets one row at a time,” Bader told the BBC.

The website process is very simple. To find which wines pair best with your favorite cheese, just type the name of the cheese in the search box. In an instant, you will be shown red and white wines that pair well with it. Similar cheeses will also be identified.

For example, if you have some delicious Gorgonzola in your fridge, and wonder what wine to drink with it, simply type in “Gorgonzola.” You will discover that it goes very well with California Cabernet Sauvignon, as do three similar cheeses, Cashel Blue, Stilton and Fourme d’Ambert.

Or if you have a bottle of Shiraz ready to pour, and want to know what cheese to pair with it, simply type in “Shiraz” and you will see the answer (as shown in the map below): Gruyere, Winchester Aged Gouda and many other cheeses.

In addition, the map’s interactive features allow you to move between different wines and cheeses. For example, if you click on “Gruyere” in the above map about Shiraz, you will be shown a new map (below); and you will discover that Gruyere also goes well with California Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscan Sangiovese, Syrah and California Zinfandel. Again, other similar cheeses are also noted.

The map can be used for planning parties or even when you’re shopping. So next time you are visiting a cheese bar in your favorite grocery or specialty store, or choosing wine from your cellar to go with that special cheese in your fridge, open up Wine and Cheese Map on your mobile device to help make your selections.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Summer Sippers and BBQ Reds

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 12.37.47 PMSummer make us think of white wine on the deck or patio. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany tasty BBQs during the warm weather! Here are some good-value whites to sip with a summer salad or seafood such as prawns, scallops, sushi, crab or halibut, and some good-value reds for your BBQ. And there are also some bonus wines that are a bit pricier, and also work as a celebratory toast to Independence Day with friends.

 

Summer Sipper Whites

  • 2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($13): Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality.
  • Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2014 ($15): This is a Chardonnay that is clean rather than oaky, with apple and citrus aromas, mineral notes and fresh fruit on the palate.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Cipresseto Toscana ($14): If you like your rosé dry, try this one, with notes of jasmine and raspberry.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($12): Refreshing with aromas of tropical fruit and orange flowers, we will be sipping on this during lazy afternoons on the lake.
  • Drumheller Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($12): Smoky mineral notes on the palate make this a summer pleaser from a new label from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — “a more restrained, yet elegant version of Washington’s expressive fruit.”

 Bonus Whites: These whites are a slice of heaven on a warm evening by the lake, by the pool, on the deck or the patio.

Efeste 2014 Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($20): This beauty of a Sauv Blanc brought us back to drinking whites in 2009 after years of reds only. Feral, with native yeast fermentation, is a wild and lively wine with intense minerality and the perfect amount of citrus to keep us sipping on the deck until the sun goes down.

JM Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($25): We first tasted this amazing white wine in 2009, shortly after we tried Feral for the first time. JM’s Sauv Blanc was fermented in 100% stainless steel, features both tropical and citrusy flavors, and is a refreshing favorite every summer.

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($28): This Napa wine shows aromas of pear, lychee, citrus zest and almonds, with a full range of flavors. We particularly like the citrus zest, which sets this apart from many Chardonnays that we’ve tasted.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.45.41 PMBBQ Reds: 

  • Double Barrel Shiraz ($20):
    The rich Australian Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($12): A distinct Washington wine, we noted the delicate flavors and texture, with a silky finish.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Merlot ($12): Another distinct Drumheller red, this merlot has lively aromas of blueberry and spice, with hints of cocoa and a soft texture.

 Bonus Reds: These rich reds pair well with BBQ meat dishes, at a summer party or as a stand-alone wine by a beach bonfire.

Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard 2013 ($65) – From the  Yamhill-Carlton AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this lovely wine is a produced by winemaker Jacques Lardière, and is  Louis Jadot’s first project outside of France.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer (and also roast beef in the winter). This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

2012 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($65)
With such a beautiful nose, lovely aromas and concentrated fruit, this Reserve Cab is simply delicious.

Any of these wines would add to your July 4 celebrations too!

Of note, all of these wines except Efeste and JM Cellars were samples provided by the wineries. Thank you!

Cheers to the long lazy days of summer BBQ’s and sipping wine outside.
Margot and Dave

Wow! Wine in Whiskey Barrels from Jacob’s Creek

Jacob's-Creek-Double-Barrel-Shiraz-with-ShadowIf you’ve been looking for something different in your wine glass, look no further. Jacob’s Creek offers its Double Barrel line of wines that were matured in traditional toasted wine barrels and then finished in whiskey barrels for a unique mouthfeel. These Australian beauties have layers of complexity and integrated tannins, and they are smooth and smoky.

Wow. Aging wine in whiskey barrels? Brilliant!

How did we find them? We were fortunate to join a Jacob’s Creek tasting of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz — before and after they were finished in aged whiskey barrels.

The difference was amazing, dramatic and very positive — the “after” wines were rounder, smoother, richer and elegant. The wines did not taste like whiskey, but expressed the character and nuances of the whiskey barrel on the palate.

Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker Ben Bryant said: “Our vision for this project was to create something truly innovative and extraordinary. After much experimentation, we can confidently say that we have crafted something special and unique.”

We agree.

“We wanted the flavor of the wine to predominate, yet there had to be a noticeable impact from the use of the whisky barrels,” he said. “So we chose parcels of wine that were particularly ripe, from premium growing regions, and with such intense fruit flavor and big tannins that they would benefit from the second barrel treatment.”

Cabernet Sauvignon is king to our palates when it comes to Washington state and California wine. But in Australia, Shiraz wins every time.

Double Barrel Shiraz (Barossa, Australia) – $19.99
The rich Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics. Winemaker tasting notes:
Lifted licorice spice aroma with dark plum and toasty notes; on the palate, complex and smooth with layers of rich plum, fruitcake and dark chocolate notes.

Jacob's-Creek-Double-Barrel-Cabernet-Sauvignon-with-ShadowDouble Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra, Australia) – $19.99
Cabernet Sauvignon was finished in aged Irish whiskey barrels to smooth the flavor and add incredible richness through the full length of the palate. Winemaker tasting notes:
Cassis aromas with mint, dark olive and caramel notes; on the palate, rich flavor consisting of black fruit and herbal notes with soft tannins.

The double barrel wines were released in Australia late in 2014 and have been very popular in that country. Jacob’s Creek is now introducing them to U.S. markets.

Samples were provided by Jacob’s Creek and Pernod Ricard USA. But we’ll be buying some bottles and introducing them to our friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Australian & Californian Winemaking Merge into Two Lands

Two LandsEarlier this month, we were invited to a virtual tasting of a new wine brand, Two Lands by Jacob’s Creek – a winemaking collaboration between Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hickin and award-winning Napa winemaker Ehren Jordan.

The branding of this new line of wines, launched exclusively in the U.S., says it all: “Two Lands: California craftsmanship meets Australian character. Harnessing the power of collaboration to bring together the best of both worlds”

This new venture merges Australian and Californian winemaking into four satisfying bottles of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our favorites were the Pinot Grigio and the Shiraz, both sourced with South Australia fruit.

2014 Two Lands Pinot Grigio
This refreshing, crisp summer sipper makes us think of lazy days on the deck. With beautiful flavors of apple, peach and citrus, this wine is rich, smooth and very rounded; it would pair well with icy prawns or some good cheddar. Jacob’s Creek recommends it with seafood chowder.

2013 Two Lands Shiraz
We became super fans of Shiraz after wine tasting in Adelaide during our trip to Australia a year ago. Two Lands Shiraz is medium-bodied and flavorful, with big ripe fruit, a lovely mouthfeel and a long, dry finish. It’s still young, so be sure to decant it for a few hours. This is definitely a food wine – think of BBQ ribs or a savory stew.

Each bottle is priced at $13.99, a testament to the notion that wine does not have to be expensive to be good.

Many thanks to Jacob’s Creek for the samples and including us in this digital tasting.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Mollydooker Wines-Part 2

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.27.49 AMAs promised in our previous blog post, Mollydooker-Part 1, we want to share information about Sparky and Sarah Marquis’ unique “Marquis Fruit Weight™,” along with other stories we heard from Sparky’s dad, Leigh Gawith, who is also the vineyard manager.

Sparky and Leigh are both pictured on the right in a photo we took during our visit.

To refresh your memory, we spent a few hours at Mollydooker’s Cellar Door in McLaren Vale, Australia last month; we had so much fun and learned so much that we are writing a second blog post about our experience.

Mollydooker: Some of the Story
Sparky and Sarah began making wine in the 1990s. By 2006, after both challenges and successes, the brand Mollydooker was born. Mollydooker is an affectionate Australian slang word for left-hander, because both of them are left-handed.

Three months later, The Wine Advocate chose Mollydooker’s Shiraz, The Boxer, as the Best Value Red Wine in the World. The Two Left Feet (a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) was second, and the Maitre D’ Cab came in fourth. The Violinist (Verdelho) was chosen as the Best Value White Wine in the World. All these wines sold out in nineteen days.

In August, Mollydooker’s Carnival of Love was awarded 99 points from The Wine Advocate, while their Enchanted Path received 96 points. They both sold out in five days.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.25.40 AMFollowing these wonderful events, Sarah and Sparky bought 114 acres of vineyards, a winery and property with stunning views on Seaview Ridge in McLaren Vale, 45 minutes outside of Adelaide.

Their motto is: “We make wines that make people go WOW, through attention to detail and commitment to excellence!” And if you read Mollydooker-Part 1, you’ll know we said WOW a lot while tasting their wines.

Note: This is only part of the Mollydooker story. You can read the entire story on their fun website.

So what makes Mollydooker wines unique? Read on!

Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ and the Marquis Fruit Weight™ Programme
The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ is the result of an intensive collection of data and analysis, starting at bud burst in each vineyard and inspections twice weekly throughout the growing season. To produce the most intense fruit flavors, this program focuses on growing strong and healthy vines with a balanced canopy.

On our vineyard and winery tour last month, Leigh told us the programme is successful because they manipulate water levels to mimic the aging process. This means they can create balance in the vines during one year, instead of what usually takes ten. He pointed to neighbours’ surrounding vineyards to show us the difference in their appearance compared to Mollydooker’s because of this programme.

Leigh said the secret is allowing the soil to dry up, so the vines go into survival mode and put more flavour into the fruit. In turn, the amazing fruit flavour achieved in the vineyard is what creates the Marquis Fruit Weight™ in the wine.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.26.06 AM

Remember in Part 1, we talked about Mollydooker’s outstanding wine, Velvet Glove Shiraz? Well, Marquis Fruit Weight™ is the “velvet glove” sensation of fruit that sits on your tongue before the structure of the wine is exposed.

To get there, Leigh’s vineyard team measures the growth of the vines and reports on the fruit weight of the juice. The data is then fed into complex formulas, which results in precise watering recommendations for the next three days. And on it goes throughout the growing season.

Meanwhile, Sparky and Sarah taste and classify the grapes into fruit weights ranging from 65% to 95-100%. The higher the fruit weight, the more intense and rich are the flavors in the wine.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.26.24 AM These fruit weights determine the price of Mollydooker wines.

For example, their $25 wines (Boxer Shiraz) land at 65%-75% fruit weight; the $49 Blue Eyed Boy is 75% to 85%; the Carnival of Love costs $75 and is 85% to 95% fruit weight, and the $185 Velvet Glove is 95% – 100% fruit weight.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to meet Sarah when we were at Mollydooker’s Cellar Door. But we’ve seen interviews where she stated that she uses only two words to describe wine, so nobody has to remember all the flavour characters: – Yum or Yuck.

We are unanimous in our opinion: Mollydooker wines are most definitely YUM.

Cheers!

Mollydooker Wines-Part 1

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.31.02 AMOur visit to Mollydooker‘s Cellar Door highlighted our travels to McLaren Vale last month. A “cellar door” in Australia is the equivalent of a “tasting room” in the U.S. and Canada.

In just a couple of hours, we tasted some absolutely amazing wines; learned the Mollydooker story; were educated on the Marquis Fruit Weight™; heard amusing tales from Sparky Marquis and his dad, Leigh Gawith, who is also the vineyard manager; talked social media and cookie butter with Jen, Mollydooker’s Facebook and Twitter guru; chatted with Fran, our tour host; had a delicious meal of fresh garden produce; and searched for Bill, the resident Koala bear.

We never did see Bill, who hides high up in the trees surrounding the beautiful estate vineyards and only shows his adorable fuzzy face when he is in the mood and not sleeping.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.27.26 AMThe light lunch was delicious — garden-fresh produce, the best sourdough bread ever, slices of turkey, different cheeses, almonds, honey and other pairing delights.

But not surprisingly, the wines took center stage. Or should we say centre stage?

We were very fortunate to taste several wines, all Shiraz, that most definitely had that WOW factor.

We’re not alone in that belief. Mollydooker’s Velvet Glove was awarded 99 points, the Carnival of Love has twice been in the Wine Spectator’s Top Ten Wines in the World, the Blue Eyed Boy is featured in the Qantas President’s Lounge and the demand for The Boxer is massive.

We first tasted both the Carnival of Love and the Velvet Glove at the 2010 Wine Blogger Conference in Walla Walla. We were with a large group trying pours of numerous wines from various regions of the world, and our table was unanimous in declaring both of these rich, robust reds as the best of the day.

Four years later, we still feel the same way. But somehow, they taste even better in Australia!

Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy

Simply lovely. We brought a bottle of this Shiraz back to our hotel, where we savored every sip while enjoying the view from our balcony. The name Blue Eyed Boy is perfect, because of the blueberry flavors that explode in your mouth the minute you take a sip. (The winemaker says it reminds him of taking a bite from a blueberry muffin.) This is a rich, powerful wine with a silky texture and a very long finish.

Mollydooker Carnival of Love

Love is exactly what we feel about this wine. Full-bodied, complex, intense and elegant, Carnival of Love shares the same silkiness as other Mollydooker wines. And yes, we took some back to Seattle.

Mollydooker Velvet Glove

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.28.45 AMThis beauty is exemplified first by the black velvet label, and then by the velvety smooth taste on the palate. WOW doesn’t even seem adequate for one of our favorite wines in the world. Inky in color, complex, beautifully balanced, rich and luxurious, Velvet Glove has black fruit flavors layered with chocolate, mocha and spice. It’s impossible to just drink one glass.

Marquis Fruit Weight™

Owners Sparky and Sarah Marquis guarantee the quality of their wine by rating it on their unique Marquis Fruit Weight™, which is “the measure of how far back on your tongue the velvety sensation of fruit goes, before the prickly sensation of tannin is exposed.”

More details about fruit weight and the Mollydooker story will be highlighted in our next blog post, Mollydooker Wines-Part 2. We hope you come back to read more about our adventures at Mollydooker’s Cellar Door in McLaren Vale, Australia.

Cheers!