Article from Berks County Living Magazine. February 2012 edition
BY ROBYN L. JONES
I couldn’t have been happier to have gotten in to the latest Wine & Cupcake pairing tasting class at winedown café & wine bar in West Reading. The same class they offered in December sold out in 2 ½ days! After attending the class, I can totally understand why! In the class, we discussed and tasted some fantastic wines from around the world, paired with a fantastic cupcake created by John Zuwiala of Haute Chocolate Café & Joe’s Famous American Kitchen. The pairings were truly spectacular! Let’s just say John is a creative genius!
Ben Franco, owner of winedown, reviewed the 5 S’s of wine tasting to get us started. They included:
1. See your wine.
2. Swirl. (You should see Ben swirl a glass of wine – totally impressive!)
3. Sniff or smell. (Seriously, get your nose right in there.)
4. Sip. (and feel free to swirl again in your mouth)
5. Savor. (think about what you are experiencing… in my mind, the best part! )
Then the fun began! Here’s the rundown (or what you may have missed out on). Seriously, if they have another class like it, stop what you are doing and call to sign up – it is that good! Just reading the descriptions below is a delight. Just imagine how good it would be to actually taste these items! We tasted six delicious wines and six mouth-watering mini cupcakes. Ahh, memories!
1. Wine: VIURA, MARQUES DE CACERES, SATINELA ‘ 10 (Rioja, Spain)
Cupcake: FRESH CITRUS CUPCAKE WITH ORANGE FLOWER WATER BUTTERCREAM
The wine starting everything off was fun, fresh and fruity. Once paired with the delightful citrus cupcake served, it just got better as you sipped! I especially loved the cupcake’s icing, like “wish I could lick the bowl” love. If I was hosting a bridal or baby shower, this cupcake would be a must-have menu item to serve!
2. Wine: BRACHETTO, ALASIA ’09 (Piemonte Italy)
Cupcake: WILD STRAWBERRY TAHITIAN VANILLA CUPCAKE
The wine, a red sweet wine that reminded me of a rose, was very nice and pretty to look at (remember one of the S’s in wine tasting is ‘See’ the wine). This wine was a beauty with a bit of a perfumed bouquet. It is low in alcohol which is nice because it gives you an opportunity to enjoy it. We learned it would be great with turkey. You’ve heard of Christmas in July – I may need to plan a “Thanksgiving in February” dinner party just to serve this wine. The complementing strawberry cupcake screamed fresh, like “you forgot there is snow on the ground fresh.” The center of the cupcake was filled with fresh strawberries that were reduced with a wine and jam glaze. A crowd pleaser!
3. Wine: MERLOT, BOMMARITO, WHITEHALL LANE ’09 (Napa Valley, CA)
Cupcake: 60 % DARK CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE WITH MERLOT BLACKBERRIES & ORANGE
This ripe and rich merlot was 92% Merlot and 8% Syrah, oak-aged with flavors of spice, vanilla, caramel and ripe berries bursting from the glass . Paired nicely with the rich dark intense crunchy chewy cupcake served alongside it. The center of this beautiful looking cupcake included merlot in the ganache, like lava in the cupcake, topped with a wine soaked blackberry rolled in sugar. Note to self: try soaking fruit in wine!
4. Wine: SHIRAZ – VIOGNIER, DOM. TERLATO & CHAPOUTIER ’09 (Victoria, Australia)
Cupcake: ALMOND-SPICE CUPCAKE WITH SHIRAZ RASPBERRIES
This spicy Australian Shiraz is 95% shiraz and 5% viognier. The viognier, a white wine, is added to darken the color. Who knew? This wine is not oak-aged, but rather micro-oxygenated, which ages the wine at a slow rate that the wine maker can control. Can you tell I was paying attention? The wine had what we lovingly learned was a “barnyard funk” smell, but somehow we didn’t mind, especially when pairing it with the spice cupcake. This wine cake was made with an almond paste, including a raspberry layer topped with a glazed raspberry in wine.
5. Wine: PINOTAGE, KEN FORRESTER PETIT ’09 (Western Cape, South Africa)
Cupcake: CHIPOTLE & CHERRY GANACHE CUPCAKE
This classic Pinotage is made from a hybrid grape – Pinot Noir and Cinsaut create the Pinotage grape, which is the signature grape of South Africa. The wine smells like barbeque potato chips – REALLY! I am dying to try it with pizza, as barbeque chips are my chips of choice with pizza. I think I may end up loving this wine with pizza. I know I love this wine already with the cupcake served! It was by far the most moist chocolate cupcake I have ever had in my whole life. Made with rehydrated cherries with wine and chipotle and dusted with gold – this cupcake had serious bling! A definite favorite at the table and a favorite of John’s, the mastermind behind these delicacies.
6. Wine: PORT, SANDEMAN FOUNDERS RESERVE RUBY PORTO
Cupcake: Chocolate – HAZLENUT CRUNCH
This was a ruby port. Port is a fortified wine enhanced with a natural spirit to make it last a long, long time. Finer tawny ports can and are aged upward of 30 years. I must admit, I wouldn’t be able to wait that long! This ruby port had raisins and hazelnuts on the nose, which was an obvious complement to the chocolate-hazelnut crunch cupcake served. The hazelnut puree in the middle was like pure Nutella with a touch of sea salt just melting in your mouth.
Wow, just thinking about the experience makes me want to enjoy it all over again! Want to know when the next wine event is at winedown, then make sure you are on their email mailing list! Sign up at www.winedowncafe.net. You won’t be sorry!