Food + Wine

Fess Parker Wine Review for California Wine Club

Watch out people, I’m about to flex muscles I haven’t used in ages.  I haven’t been in the wine business since before I became a mom, and now I’m a double mom so…it’s been awhile!  But I have had so much fun on this new project and I’m excited to share it all with you.  I was contacted by Mom Spark Media to participate in their blog review campaign for California Wine Club. I’ve been asked to review several wines over the course of a few months and you all get to ride along with me!  Every shipment is different and I have no idea what I will be getting, which is so exciting.  And, always looking for a challenge, I’m determined to pair each surprise bottle with one of my recipes, or create a new one just for the occasion.  So, here we go!

First let me begin by saying that I love Pinot Noir.  My husband and I both do.  Our relationship was built on Pinot.  OK, that’s not true.  Technically it was built on Taco Bell, then later came Pinot Noir.  But as much as I really do love this wine, I don’t drink it.  Why?  Because you have to spend a pretty penny to drink a good Pinot Noir.  It’s a difficult grape to grow.  This is no thick-skinned Cabernet we’re talking about here, no the Pinot grape has a very thin skin and therefore is prone to fungus and rot, (mmm…fungus and rot…)  So it takes a lot of finesse to make a good Pinot Noir.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much.  Because it’s difficult and moody.  (Like me.)  But I digress… I don’t drink the wine anymore because our Pinot Noir fund is now being used for diapers and matchbox cars.  My husband and I have perfected the art of finding the best wine for around $10.  And they are never, ever a Pinot Noir.

So when I received my first shipment from California Wine Club, as part of their Premier Club membership, and saw what was inside I was both very excited and very nervous-  The 2010 Fess Parker Riesling and the 2010 Parker Station Pinot Noir.

(More on the Riesling in a bit…)  I decided to set the entire evening up for great success and hope for the best.  I made my Brown Butter French Onion Soup with Sage Toasts and Charred Asparagus.  But this time I decided to make my soup with vidalia onions, Marsala instead of my usual Brandy, and I used a combination of aged Gouda and Parrano cheeses instead of the Gryuere and Parm, which I thought would all pair beautifully with the wine…before I even tasted it.  (I was going on instinct here, people!!)  The asparagus part of the meal scared me a bit.  There’s this well known idea among the wine community that asparagus, along with artichokes, are very difficult to pair with wine, especially red.  They both contain certain compounds that can clash with wines and make them appear bitter and even metallic.  But I knew that if I placed the asparagus under the broiler, seasoned with only extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh black pepper and a bit of sugar, and allowed it to blacken, then that would help the wine find a home.  Pinot Noir is usually a good pairing with grilled meats because of that blackened char you get from cooking it that way, so I figured I was onto something.

As our meal finished cooking, we poured our first glass of the Pinot.  I just adore the lovely garnet color!

If you look closely through the glass you will see our asparagus art in the background.

At first sniff, the wine showed huge amounts of just-ripe cherries and cherry cola on the nose.

When I first took a sip, I was overwhelmed by the flavor of cherry cola and strawberries.  It was definitely red-fruit driven and very light and soft.  The more I swirled, the more depth I was able to notice.  There were many hints of allspice and clove on the nose as it breathed.  I also detected hints of wet wood, possibly cedar.  I was highly impressed with this wine, as I have rarely found a reasonably priced Pinot Noir*.  This was an easy drink, quite light in body, and my husband and I both highly enjoyed it. It was wonderful with our meal and continued to be a lovely drink as we winded down for the evening.

And as for the food, well…it was an amazing match!! (Patting one’s back and typing is quite difficult to do.) I highly recommend that you make this meal and drink this wine.  If you follow the few changes that I made to the dish for the sake of the wine, you will be pleasantly surprised, I guarantee it.

The next night I sipped it again with some Macaroni and Cheese that I made using whole wheat penne, a combination of Beemster, cheddar, monterey jack, and cream cheese.  I was sure to put a good amount of dijon and white wine in the bechamel and it was, again, a beautiful match.  For another possible good pairing, try my Pumpkin Mac n Cheese recipe.

(*The 2010 Fess Parker Pinot Noir retails at $26)

Now onto the Riesling…

I love a good Riesling.  A good Riesling.  Many times people hear the word, Riesling and they think of sugar water.  And a lot of times they’re right…when you have a cheap, American interpretation of this lovely German wine.  But Rieslings, by nature, are wonderfully aromatic wines that range from dry to ‘sweet’ and contain a great amount of minerality and acidity, not just ‘sweetness’ as you may think.  The obvious food pairing with a slightly sugary Riesling would be Thai or Indonesian cuisine.  The usual spice content of that type of food lends itself well to the flavor profile of a riesling.  But, you know me- I don’t like to be obvious.  So I got to thinking about the similarities between Thai/Indonesian food and some Latin American/Caribbean cuisine…limes, cilantro, tropical fruit, spice, etc.  So I decided to try to match this riesling, (that I had previously never tasted before, mind you) with a crab and mango ceviche. 

We poured ourselves a glass of the 2010 Fess Parker Riesling, noticing the light, straw color in the glass.  We swirled and swirled, and then sniffed.  It smelled of spices and spicy fruits, ginger, tropical fruits… lychee and mango.  Lovely.  Then we took a sip.  Mmmm…apricots and wet stones.  It was simply wonderful.  This wine has a nice acidity and minerality, with an abundance of fruit.  The sugar content was perfect, just enough to make you go back for another sip, and another sip, and another sip.

Then we took a bite of the ceviche, the tart and slightly spicy ceviche, followed by another sip of the wine.  Sheer perfection!  The ceviche brought out even more fruit in the wine, and it did what every great food and wine pairing is meant to do- leave you wanting another bite of the food and another sip of the wine.  (Man, it feels good to be right again!)

See ceviche recipe at the bottom of the post

We took the rest of our glass outside on the patio, to the bright 5 o’clock sun and it became the perfect sipping wine on a hot afternoon. 

The next night I paired the wine with yet another appetizer.  This time I went Asian…well, as Asian as this Southern, white girl can go.  I made my Baked Sesame Spring Rolls and added some hot sauce and leftover pulled pork from my Pickin’ Pork on a previous night. I thought the fat from the pork would help with the pairing.  I served two dipping sauces along the side – one sweet chili sauce and one spicy mustard.

Recipes for the sauces at the bottom of the post

The verdict?  Awesomeness again.  The Spring Rolls, in both the sauces, brought out the minerality of the wine and it was just wonderful.  That’s what I love about wine.  It can change depending on so many things- the food you’re eating, the weather you’re having, the people who surround you.  Wine is something that can be altered dramatically when just the simplest things are changed around it.

I loved this wine so much, and am so excited to have found a reasonably
priced, beautifully made California riesling*.   This
is a wine I will definitely be buying again for a special occasion, as I
think it would go beautifully with so many different foods this Spring
and Summer.  Come to think of it, (ahem…) both of these wines, the 2010 Parker Station Pinot Noir,
and the 2010 Fess Parker Riesling would make excellent wines to either
give as a gift or serve with any of these recipes for Mother’s Day.  I’m just sayin’. 

(*The 2010 Fess Parker Riesling retails at $17)

*Easy Crab and Mango ‘Ceviche’
In a mixing bowl place the following-
-8 ounces crab (Lump or claw meat is preferred.  It’s difficult to find raw crab meat, so that’s why the word, ceviche is in quotations, as you aren’t ‘cooking’ your seafood in the acid from the citrus.  This isn’t traditional, I know, but it’s easy and very tasty.)
-1 mango, flesh diced (I used a smaller, ‘champagne mango’)
-1 large, hass avocado, flesh diced
-a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
-the zest of 1 lime
the juice of 2-3 limes, depending on their juice content
-good splash of OJ, either bottled or fresh, whatever you have

-healthy pinch of kosher salt
-pinch of cayenne pepper (if you have a fresh chili, that would work as well)
Toss everything to combine, being sure everything is coated in the citrus juice.  If it looks too dry, add either some more lime or orange juice, depending on whether it needs the sweetness of the orange or the tartness of the lime.
Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before serving with salted tortilla or pita chips.

*Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
 -1/2 cup rice vinegar
-1/2 cup + 2 TB sugar
-1/4 cup water
-3 TB fish sauce
-2 TB sherry 
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 – 1 TB crushed red pepper flakes
-1+1/2 TB cornstarch dissolved in 3-4 TB cold water
Bring all the ingredients except the cornstarch slurry to a boil in a small saucepan. 
Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce reduces by half.
Stir in your slurry and allow the sauce to bubble again to allow it to thicken.
Taste to check your seasoning.  Add more sweet, salt, tang or spice to your liking if need be.

*Spicy Mustard Dipping Sauce
Mix equal parts dry mustard powder and water until you get your desired amount.

(Please, I encourage you all to check out The California Wine Club’s website, or follow @cawineclub @boringwineguy on Twitter, or like The California Wine Club and Boring Wine Guy on Facebook.  And as a reader of my blog, they are generous enough to offer new club members or gift givers 4 bottles for the price of 2 when you sign up. There is no obligation to continue after the first month.  Just use the code:  everyday12 at checkout to receive your special deal.)

(This review was made possible by Mom Spark Media.  Thoughts are completely my own.)

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  • Reply SavoringTime in the Kitchen May 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    What an exciting project! I've only tried one Fess Parker wine – a chardonnay and it was wonderful.

    The spring rolls and dipping sauce sound delicious!

  • Reply Everyday Champagne May 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks! I had maybe only tried one before too…the Parker Station Syrah, I believe. It was so long ago that I don't remember much about it. But this is, for sure, a very exciting project!

  • Reply Gail May 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Fabulous reviews, Abbey! I find choosing drinkable Rieslings very difficult, so I'm delighted to know that Fess Parker (Davey Crockett to someone of my generation!)makes a good one.

  • Reply Abbey May 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Ah yes, Davey Crockett! The reference is not lost on me, Gail!
    And I'd love to hear what you thought of the wine if you ever get around to trying it. Thanks for reading!

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