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5 Fancy Wine Pairings Lazy People Will Love

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Nothing goes better with wine than food. And vice versa! That’s the spirit of this weekend’s A Wine & Food Affair, an annual Northern Sonoma County festival featuring signature wine and recipe pairings from dozens of wineries and restaurants. But you don’t have to hit the road—or even leave the couch, really—to experiment with the ancient science of flavor pairing. We asked a few of our favorite California vintners to share their favorite no- or low-frills pairings anyone can do at home. All you need to begin is access to a decent wine store and an average bodega.

1. Cheetos with Red Wine

Portalupi Wine Co.'s Vaso di Marina is a super easy-drinking everyday red. It comes packaged in an adorable milk jug, an homage to the olden days on the Italian farm, when homemade wines were bottled up in recycled containers. And it pairs best with something equally classically delightful: the common Cheeto.

2. Grilled Cheese with Tomato with Cabernet Franc

A pure cabernet franc is lighter than a blended cabernet sauvignon, perfect for pairing with vegetarian dishes. Paul Matthew’s Vineyard's 2012 edition has low tannins and bright fruit that make it a nice match for anything tomato, which tends to be a tough pairing because of its acidity. Our favorite incarnation of a tomato is in a grilled cheese, but this would also be a good companion for chili, enchiladas, pizza, or bruschetta.

3. Frito Pie with Zinfandel

A classic California full-bodied red—Zinfandels are full of spice and can stand up to intense flavors. And when we think intense flavors, we think about Frito Pie. Wine Guerilla’s 2011 Sonoma County vintage has flavors of cranberry, plum, and cinnamon, and their DIY Frito Pie is about as easy as it gets.

Wine Guerilla’s Frito Pie
1 cup homemade chili or your favorite canned
Optional: ½ tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. chili powder
2 snack size packages of Fritos
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese or your choice of cheese

Slit packages of Fritos down the center leaving 1 inch closed on each end.  Heat chili and spoon half on top of each package Fritos. Top with cheese while still hot so cheese will melt. Eat right out of bag. Serves 2!

Chopped scallions, sour cream, guacamole, and sliced jalapenos are also good on top. You can also make this in a baking dish, starting with a layer of Fritos, then chili, cheese and whatever other toppings you want. Bake until hot. 

4. Spinach and Feta Crostini with Pinot Noir

The Russian River Valley’s coastal climate is renowned for producing velvety pinot noirs like this one, which has an earthy finish that pairs well with sheep cheese and mushrooms. If you’re ready to take your cooking up just one notch, the Santa Rosa wine bar Station 1870 shared this easy recipe. It makes enough to serve a group, and pairs perfectly with a 2010 Lost Canyon Morelli Lane Pinot Noir.

Station 1870’s Spinach and Feta Crostini with Marinated Crimini Mushrooms
1 head organic spinach
6 crimini mushrooms
1 loaf French bread
½ pound sheeps milk feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Puree up the spinach and feta in a food processor, but leave puree mix slightly chunky. Add garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Slice mushrooms in quarter inch strips and marinate in olive oil, salt, water and a splash of white wine. Spread spinach and feta puree over sliced French bread and place marinated mushroom on top. Bake in the oven on 425 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Makes 20-30 servings.

5. Vanilla Ice Cream with Sémillon

Time for dessert! The honey and pear notes in Longboard Vineyards’ 2010 Late Harvest Semillon blend perfectly with ice cream—so much so, in fact, that the truly lazy can pour the wine on the ice cream. (The slightly more ambitious can zest some ginger on top for an added kick.) Cheers!

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11 Common Misconceptions About Beer
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If beer only conjures up images of frat boys pounding cans of the cheap stuff or doughy sports fans reveling in the alcoholic refreshment before, during, and after a big game, think again. Beer has come a long way, baby, and many of the preconceived notions about the beverage are decidedly unfair, as evidenced by the following 11 fabrications.

1. BEER SHOULD BE SERVED ICE COLD.

All of those neon ice cold beer signs are actually bad news for beer drinkers. To properly enjoy their beer, it should be served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit (with a little leeway depending on the type of beer you’re drinking—a barrel-aged Stout, for example, should be served only lightly chilled). The reason is that taste buds become dead to the taste of the drink when it is served any colder, which means you’re not really tasting anything or getting the most enjoyment out of your beer.

2. FROSTED BEER MUGS KEEP IT CLASSY.

Piggybacking on the falsehood that beer should be guzzled cold, it also shouldn’t be served in a frosted beer mug. Would you serve wine in a frosted glass? No. An intensely cold beer mug will also numb your senses to the taste of the beer.

3. ALL DARK BEERS ARE HEAVY.

If you’ve been avoiding dark beers because you fear their intensity, you’ve been sorely misguided. “People naturally assume they are heavier,” says Hallie Beaune, a rep for Allagash Brewing Company and author of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. “I think it’s that connection to Guinness, which promotes itself as creamy and almost like a meal, that’s the feeling they give in their commercials. For a lot of people that’s the first dark beer they’ve had so they assume they’re all similar when, really, dark beers are just dark because of the roast level of the malt that’s used in the beer.”

4. GUINNESS IS INHERENTLY FROTHY.

Sure, Guinness is served all creamy and delicious-looking, but Beaune explains it has less to do with the beer itself and everything to do with the tap most stouts use, which has more nitrogen than the standard tap (generally a mix of nitrogen and CO2). To deliver all that frothiness, a stout faucet, which has a long, narrow spout, is used.

5. DRINKING BEER FROM THE BOTTLE IS THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY IT.

Sure, a bottle may look more refined than a can, but it’s still not the appropriate vessel. “Drinking beer from the bottle is another no-no, mostly because what you taste comes from your olfactory senses from your nose, so if you take a sip of something from that kind of bottle your nose isn’t participating at all,” says Beaune. “It’s too small for you to get a whiff of the beer. Just like if you were drinking red wine out of a wine bottle, you wouldn’t really be able to evaluate that wine.”

6. YOU CAN STORE BEER ANYWHERE.

Think again! All beer should be stored in a refrigerator. It responds best to cold, dark storage.

7. "SKUNKY" IS JUST A CUTE WORD FOR BEER GONE BAD.

There is actually a reason why seemingly rancid beer is termed "skunky." “Light can hurt beer—they call it lightstruck,” says Beaune. “The light interacts with the hops in beer (the four ingredients in beer are malt, water, hops and yeast), and it can actually have this chemical reaction that creates a smell that’s the same as a skunk gives off, which is why you hear about skunky beer.”

8. ALL BEER BOTTLES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

Darker bottles are important. Clear or green bottles may be pretty, but they’re not doing much to protect your beer from light. Dark beer bottles work best to help retain its intended flavor.

9. CANNED BEER MEANS CHEAP BEER.

Cans are actually a great way to protect beer, but in the old days they would often give the beverage an aluminum taste. “Most of the cans the craft breweries are using nowadays have a water-based liner so the beer isn’t actually touching the aluminum,” says Beaune. “It can be really good for beer. Cans heat up and cool down very quickly, too, so you obviously want to keep them cold.”

10. BEER IS MUCH SIMPLER THAN WINE.

You’ve got your four ingredients—malt, yeast, water and hops—what could be more basic than that? Manipulating those ingredients in various ways will give you different varieties, but breweries are doing some really cool stuff by adding flavors you’d never dream would work so well in beer. “A lot of the flavor in beer comes from the malt or the hops or yeast, but then there’s all of this freedom in beer,” says Beaune. “We did a beer at Allagash called Farm to Face, which is a pretty tart and sour beer. We added fresh peaches to it from a local farm. You can’t do that with wine—you can’t add peaches. People add everything you can imagine to beer like pineapple, coconut, every fruit—there are no rules. That’s one of the fun things about beer, it’s a lot like cooking, you can add rosemary, you can add whatever you want. Everybody experiments. It keeps the beer world really interesting.”

11. BEER WILL GIVE YOU A BEER BELLY, BUT COCKTAILS WON'T.

Sure, anything in excess will contribute to weight gain, but beer is hardly the most calorie-laden drink you’ll find in a bar. Much of the flack beer gets (i.e. the “beer belly”) goes back to the fallacy that beer is particularly heavy. “Most glasses of wine are pretty high in alcohol and a lot of cocktails are way higher in calories,” says Beaune. “If you drink a margarita that’s one of the highest calorie things you can drink.”

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Spain's Famous Blue Wine Is Coming to America
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Gïk

Last year, a Spanish startup caused a stir when it introduced its electric-blue wine to markets in Europe. Now, after receiving preorders for more than 30,000 bottles from American customers, the eye-catching beverage is finally ready to make its way to the U.S., Eater reports.

The bright blue drink, dubbed Gïk, is the creation of six young entrepreneurs with no previous experience in the winemaking industry. They collaborated with University of the Basque Country and the food research department of the Basque Government to make the product.

Gïk is made from a blend of red and white grapes with a non-calorie sweetener added in. Though the color resembles something you'd find in the cleaning supplies aisle, the ingredients that create the effect are all natural. A pigment found in grape skin and indigo from the Isatis tinctoria plant (commonly known as woad) are responsible for the wine's alarming hue.

The shade—which according to co-founder Aritz López represents "movement, innovation, fluidity, change, and infinity"—is intended to appeal to Millennial buyers. With an alcohol content percentage of 11.5, Gïk is comparable to a white zinfandel or prosecco, and a pack of three bottles retails for $48.

The Basque region of Spain is traditionally known for its sparkling, acidic wine, but Gïk was designed to stand out from the current options. In 2016, López told Eater that his team felt the Spanish wine scene was "missing a little revolution," so they set out to create something innovative. But it turned out to be a little too innovative for the company's own good: According to Spanish law, only red or white wine can be sold in local markets, and Gïk was fined €3000 (about $3600) for violating the rule. Following the controversy, they were forced to drop the "wine" label and start branding the concoction as "99% wine and 1% grape must."

Standards are less strict in the U.S., and when bottles reach markets stateside they will be flying under the wine banner once again. Gïk will make its U.S. debut in stores in Miami, Boston, and Texas before hopefully expanding to retailers in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Washington, California, and Nevada. And while they may have the blue wine market cornered, there's at least one blue-hued beer brand out there Gïk will be competing with.

[h/t Eater]

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