Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.
Robert Mondavi

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Be sure to visit

Hey everyone. I hope that the sring has been treating you all quite well. I wanted to remind you that I am still writing! If you visit, Senel Wine, you can continue to read my original pieces, interviews, wine courses and continued coverage of the drama that is Bill Koch vs. Michael Broadbent/Christie's Auction House. Also, I am working on a column explaining a little bit more about the 2009 Bordeaux release that is upcoming and what to watch out for as a consumer.

I look forward to continuing to provide you with interesting content!

All the best,



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just a Reminder

A Wine Odyssey has moved to

Go there to read my latest column from the Nashua Telegraph !!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Attention: A Wine Odyssey is moving!!!

As of today, the websites for "A Wine Odyssey" and Senel Wine Consulting have merged! I hope that you chose to continue to follow my writing at I look forwar to seeing you there!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wine of the Week: Kris Pinot Grigio

Quite a few years back, I was exposed to a wine that changed my perception of Pinot Grigio by the most unlikely of sources, my mom. It was the night after one of my Aunt Vikki's Christmas parties that she called me with a good amount of excitement. It is not often that she can talk wine with me (she is not a big drinker), but she made two very solid recommendations based off of that night. The first was Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet and the second was Kris Pinot Grigio. I must admit, at the time I associated Pinot Grigio with Cavit, Bella Sera and Barefoot, but after Kris, I was awaken to what Pinot Grigio can be.

Kris is produced by Franz Haas winery in Alto Adige, Italy. This area is in the northern most part of Italy and borders both Switzerland and Austria. The owner and winemaker, Franz Haas, is part of a long line of winemakers that dates back to the 1880s. As his name suggests, Franz is of strong Germanic roots and brings a uniquely German way of making wine to Alto Adige.

Another very unique aspect to Kris' wines are the labels. They display the works of Riccardo Schweizer, a contemporary Italian artist with Germanic roots. Each one of the labels depicts the blending of art and science, the primary focus of Haas' wines. The prints used on Kris' three varietals were a gift to Franz Haas and help to complete a beautiful wine experience.

2008 Kris Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy - $11.99 (reg. $14.99)

The 2008 is a very pleasant and very food friendly wine that keeps up with Kris' reputation for producing very consistent wines. By appearance it has the normal young characteristics of Pinot Grigio, pale yellow with evident hints of green. The nose jumps out of green apple and citrus which is reflected on the palate along with a bit of nut towards the end. The main component of acidity is well integrated into the flavor profile which allows for this wine to pair well with most non-red meat foods.

Ever since my mom recommended this wine, I have not been let down. This is by no means a flashy, rock star of a wine, but rather a steady rock that you can rely upon to pair with a nice meal. Add to this the price of the wine and you have a true value on your hands. I hope you enjoy this wine as much as I have over the years.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

7 Reds & 7 Whites for the Holidays

This will be my last post until I return from Ohio following Thanksgiving (either 11/30 or 12/1). I hope you enjoy!

This past week I ran a column in the Nashua Telegraph (Thanksgiving recommendations from the experts) that paired terrific Thanksgiving inspired recipes with their perfect wine pairings. The contributions came from a panel of truly creative and talented chefs, restaurant owners, a sommelier and even a trailblazing winemaker.

The final installment of my Thanksgiving recommendations is straight forward. I wish to simply put forth a list of 7 red wines and 7 white wines that can't miss when paired with traditional Thanksgiving fare. The price range for these wines varies greatly, however, I have gone through great lengths to find values at every price level. The way I look at it, if you are having a special meal, offer special wines to accompany it!
As I mentioned in the article, there are a few simple rules to remember when pairing food and wine:

• Choose a wine you enjoy.
• It is generally safe to pair hearty dishes with hearty wines and conversely lighter dishes with lighter wines.
• Pay attention to the accompaniments of the dish. Some wines may go well with turkey and mashed potatoes, but not the brussels sprouts or horseradish being served with them.
• Don’t stress about it; wine is meant to elevate, not tear down. You are with loved ones who will likely appreciate your effort.

With that being said, here are the wines. They have been selected with equal parts quality and food-friendliness taken into account. Also, all of these wines are well stocked at the NH Liquor Store off Exit 6 behind the Nashua Mall, as well as many other locations.
The Whites (pictured above)

- 2008 Kris, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy - $11.99 (reg. $14.99)

- 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington - $16.99 (reg. $20.99)**

- 2007 Benton Lane, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $18.99

- 2008 Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand - $21.49**

- 2007 Joseph Drouhin, Chablis, Beaune, France - $21.99 (reg. $23.99)

- 2006 Mer Soleil, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California - $36.99

- NV Moët et Chandon Nectar Imperial, Champagne, Epernay, France - $38.99

The Reds (pictured above)

- 2007 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses, Rhone Blend, Cotes du Ventoux, France - $10.99 (reg. $12.99)

- 2008 Chalone, Pinot Noir, Monterey, California - $12.99 (reg. $15.99)

- 2005 Castano Solanera, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon, Yecla, Spain - $13.99

- 2004 Antinori Villa Toscana, Cabernet Blend, Tuscany, Italy - $21.99

- 2008 Seghesio, Zinfandel, Sonoma, California - $22.99**

- 2007 Benton Lane, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $25.99

- 2007 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon - $43.99**

I know that it is cliche to say "life is too short to drink bad wine", but it is true. There are a tremendous amount of wines out there that are crafted by winemakers whose sole intention is to share their artistry with you. The wines above are a good introduction to food-friendly wines that are crafted with love. This Thanksgiving I ask you to invite them into your homes to help enhance your memorable Thanksgiving dinners!

** indicates my top 2 picks per category

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Grandma's Cheesecake

Thanksgiving at my Granparents' house is always the meal of the year. Robert and Dolores peck both come from households that are deeply rooted in ethnic culinary traditions that have been passed down through the years. I think all of us grand kids have a certain affinity for Wiener schnitzel, spatzle, paprikash, nut horns and all the other Central and Eastern European delicacies that we have experienced through the years.

With this in mind, you would probably expect the dessert that I selected to feature to be a Bohemian or Bavarian specialty. Instead, I have selected the dessert that has been perfect for the entirety of my life and one that is quintessential Americana, Grandma's Cheesecake. There is nothing elaborate, no insane preparation, just some Philadelphia and a whole lot of love!

Grandma's Cheesecake

(Serves 8-12)

Ingredients for Crust:

1 sleeve/package Graham crackers (9 crackers)

1 stick of butter (1/4 lb.)

Ingredients for Cheesecake:

3 8 oz. pkgs Philadelphia Cream Cheese (Do not use fat free)

5 Eggs

1 cup Sugar

1 1/2 tbsp. Vanilla

Ingredients for Topping:

1 Pt. Sour Cream (Do not use fat free)

6 tbsp. Sugar

1 tbsp. Vanilla

Step 1

Use a 9 X 13" pan (glass or metal)

Finely crush 1 package of graham crackers. Melt 1/4 lb butter and mix together with the graham crackers, pressing it in the bottom of pan and set aside.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees

In a large mixing bowl add 3 room temperature pkgs. of cream cheese. Using a mixer at low speed, add one egg at a time until all 5 eggs are mixed with the cream cheese. Slowly, add 1 cup of sugar to the mixture. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. Vanilla. When mixture is complete, pour it into the pan with the graham cracker crust. Bake for 1 hour or until you can put a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean.

Step 3

Remove from oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 pint of sour cream, 6 tbsp. of sugar and 1 tbsp. Vanilla. Spread this mixture over the cheesecake and return to oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool 1 hour. Cover with Saran Wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate. For best results, refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Perfect Pairing

2005 Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttanyos Red Label, Tokaji, Hungary - $37

This is a terrific pairing, because the cheesecake provides somewhat of a blank canvas to work with. The spice, apricot and honey in this wine will provide a wonderful compliment. You can also use other sweeter dessert wines (i.e. - Late Harvest Riesling, Muscatel or Vin Santo), but for my money, good Tokaji or Sauternes are the ultimate, and this is one of the best.

Thank you Grandma for sharing your wonderful recipe!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Chef Berkman's Applewood Bacon Braised Kale

Over the past few years, I have gotten to know Legal Sea Foods' Executive Chef Jason Berkman the person. He's a great friend now and shares an affinity for many of the same things that I enjoy, namely good food, cigars and most importantly, wine. However, it was during this past year that I was exposed to his culinary prowess.

Back in August, a group of us took part in a wine dinner in which I selected the wines and Berkie collaborated on the menu (with Chris Baker). It was something to see how the meals came together and the precision in which they were prepared. After an event like this, it is hard not to have even more respect for the talent that good chefs possess.

Like Merry Edwards and John Carnevale, I thought that Chef Berkman would bring a unique element to the Thanksgiving project that I was putting together. I asked him to pick one of his favorite sides to share with us. He picked a kale dish which delighted me, as it is a vegetable that is dramatically underused, but extremely delicious and packed with vitamins. Also, with the gnocchi, crab dip and eventually cheesecake, we finally have something healthy! He also stressed the importance of buying local produce if possible. It will not only ensure freshness and regional identity, but it also supports local farmers. This last point is something that Chef Berkman and Legal Sea Foods aims to do with their menu items whenever feasible.

Applewood Bacon Braised Kale

(Serves 4)

8 heads of kale
2 large onions (approx 1 1/2 lbs)
1/3 lb of applewood smoked bacon
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 cups of chicken stock
1 tspn. kosher salt

Step 1
Remove the ribs of the kale from the green leafy portion. Discard the ribs and cut the green leafy portion into 1 1/2" strips, lightly wash and then steam them for 5 minutes.

Step 2
Dice the bacon into 1" pieces and render it in a medium sized pot with salt on medium heat.

Step 3
Add garlic to the pot with bacon, when the garlic starts to show signs of toasting, add the onions and continue cooking until onions are translucent (caramelized).

Step 4
Add the steamed greens to the bacon mixture and mix well. Increase heat to high.

Step 5
Add 1 cup of stock to the mixture and continue stirring until stock begins to reduce (about 10 minutes). Add the remaining cup of stock to the mixture and continue stirring and cooking for another 10 minutes until the most of the stock has cooked down. Remove from heat and serve.

Perfect Pairing
2006 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon - $44

The 2006 Domaine Drouhin is one of Berkie (and my) favorite pinot noirs. The aroma is of beautiful rich cherry that is mirrored on the palate along with a hint of spice. The tannins are noticeable; however, they are well integrated and somewhat delicate. This is a very thoughtfully made, well-crafted wine that is confident in structure and complexity. It is very much a terrific Thanksgiving pinot noir.

When you think about versatile Thanksgiving wine pairings, pinot noir should almost always be one of your first thoughts. The berries, spice, herbs and vibrant acidity that are common characteristics of good pinot make it a tremendously food friendly wine.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Jon Carnevale's Game Hen

Along with Merry Edwards, Jon Carnevale brings a lot to the table as far as offering a unique look at pairing food and wine. As the general manager at Bedford Village Inn and only certified sommelier in New Hampshire, he has the palate, training and restaurant experience to know what goes well with most flavor profiles.

The recipe he decided to share with us today was a terrific recipe for an alternative to the typical Thanksgiving turkey. This is also a practical recipe designed to impress on any occasion.

Wild Rice & Chestnut Stuffed Game Hen

(Serves 4)


1 cup wild rice, rinsed

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup coarsely chopped chestnuts (either fresh or from jar or can), toasted

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 tspn. finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tspn. finely chopped fresh sage

3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

1 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry

2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Step 1
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine rice, 3 cups cold water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, 45 to 55 minutes.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in center of the oven. Transfer rice to a large bowl, along with chestnuts, onion, thyme, sage, parsley, and dill; stir to combine. Lightly season the cavity of each game hen with salt, and loosely fill with equal amounts of stuffing, leaving a little space in each for the rice to expand during roasting. Any remaining stuffing may be baked in a covered heatproof dish; set aside.

Step 3

Using kitchen twine, truss hens by tying the legs together tightly, looping each side of the string around a wing, and bringing the string all the way around the bird tightly to hold the legs together and the wings close to the body.

Step 4

Season hens with salt and pepper, and place breast side down on a rack set in a roasting pan. When 10 minutes remain, flip the hens over and continue roasting until the hens are dark golden brown and the juices run clear when pierced at the thigh. Total cooking time for hens will be 50 to 55 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, should register 175 degrees to 180 degrees.

Step 5

Remove hens and stuffing from the oven. Transfer hens to a platter. Cover with foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Place roasting pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the roasting pan. Add wine, if using. Sift flour into the roasting pan, and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 cups stock. Cook until mixture has thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. The consistency of the gravy may be adjusted with a teaspoon or two of stock or wine. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 6

Place a hen on each of 4 plates. Spoon gravy over hens.

Perfect Pairings:

Jon offers up two terrific wines to pair with the wonderful game hens. The first of which is the one he would select if this was pretty much his last meal ever. The second of which is a more practical pairing that can be found a little more regularly available.

1997 Domaine des Comtes Lafon "Clos de la Barre", Meursault, Burgundy, France

Based on tasting notes, I can see why Jon would select this wine. It is not only from a noteworthy Burgundian producer, but the palate of honey, lemon and herb would perfectly compliment the game hens.

2006 Lemelson "Thea's Selection" Pinot Noir, Willamatte Valley, Oregon - $36

This pinot has very nice acidity and pleasant notes of smoked blackberry. Since the game hen is a little gamier (pun intended) than turkey, the complex structure and smoky nature of the wine will compliment the dish well.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Merry Edwards' Crab Dip

After writing about the Merry Edwards 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, I was contacted by the winery and thanked for the kind words. When I originally came up with the idea for the Thanksgiving column for the Nashua Telegraph, I was hoping that Merry would contribute. She did not disappoint!

Merry Edwards, as a winery, is still very new to the game. They were incorporated in 1997 and started to produce wine in the early 2000s. Although new, do not let this fool you. In 1973, Merry Edwards became one of the first woman winemakers in California. Thus, she is certainly not inexperienced and brings a very unique approach to her wines. Many wineries are focused on the bottom line, while she states that their focus is on gentle, traditional, labor intensive winemaking practices. You can clearly experience this difference in their wines.

Connie’s Hot Crab Dip


8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces Dungeness crab meat (two medium sized crabs)
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons green onion, minced
1 tablespoon horseradish
dash Worcestershire
salt, pepper, and fresh dill to taste

Step 1

Combine cream cheese, crab meat, milk, onion, horseradish and Worcestershire in a mixing bowl and fold together. Once all of the ingredients are well incorporated, begin to add the salt, pepper and dill slowly, tasting along the way.

Step 2

Bake at 400 degrees in an ovenproof baking dish for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Step 3

Let sit for about 5-10 minutes and then serve with mild-flavored or water crackers and enjoy!

Perfect Pairing:

2007 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - $42

Merry decided on the 2007 RRV Pinot Noir and in my opinion you could easily use their wonderful Sauvignon Blancs as well (or you can do both!). She describes this wine as "echoing the mood of the wonderful 2007 harvest, the personality of this wine conveys a strikingly pure fruit character. The deep garnet color is a prelude to its ripe, dark fruity aroma. Nearly all the descriptors common to Pinots from our Valley come to mind – black cherry, cola, blueberry, black currant and raspberry are tinged with rich cocoa, chocolate and nutmeg. Each time you return to the glass, another intriguing layer reveals itself. The rich fruit carries forward into a boldly structured palate which is bright yet smooth with a seamless, luxurious finish."

Sounds delicious!

Merry Edwards’ wines are available by order only (thanks for nothing NH Liquor Commission!). You can order her wonderful wines through the Merry Edwards Website, trust me they are worth every penny!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Chef Brianas' Gnocchi

Chef Constantine Brianas, a native of Nashua, has become one of the more acclaimed chefs of the area. He joined co-owners Stephen and Karen Williams a couple years back to create Unums. Since then, the restaurant has become a beacon of fine food and wine that challenges and trumps the best that southern New Hampshire has to offer.

Brianas’ innovated dishes and rotating menu offer a wonderful alternative to some of the more traditional fair in the area. One of the things that Unums does so well is their gnocchi and Chef Brianas was kind enough to share one of his seasonal recipes with us! It may look complex, but in all honesty if you follow the instructions it is very doable.

Gnocchi with Colossal Shrimp in Simple Pumpkin Sauce with Toasted Ginger

(4 servings)

Ingredients for Gnocchi:

1/2 cup whole milk Ricotta

1/3 cup Romano cheese (grated)

1 tsp lemon juice

3 eggs

Salt & Pepper to taste

Flour to consistency (approx 1-2 cups)

Ingredients for Toasted Ginger:

1 tree of ginger

Olive oil to coat

Dusting of ginger powder

Dusting of garlic powder

Zest of 1 orange

1 sprig of tarragon or sage

Ingredients for Shrimp:

12 large shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup vegetable stock

2 tbsp. of maple syrup

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Step 1 – Gnocchi

Blend eggs together and then add Ricotta and whip together until a creamy consistency. Then add lemon juice, Romano and salt & pepper (to taste) and then whip until it returns to creamy consistency. Add the flour slowly until the mixture begins to fall of the edges of your mixing bowl. Continue to slowly add flour at this point until the stickiness turns to a pizza dough consistency.

Step 2 – Gnocchi

Gnocchi mixture should be rolled into logs that are ½ inch in diameter and then cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Step 3 – Toasted Ginger

Preheat oven to 450. Peel ginger, exposing all of the raw flesh and then cut into pieces so that you can mince it. In an ovenproof pan, add the olive oil and then after a few moments (allowing it to get hot), add the ginger and lightly dust the ginger and garlic powders and then toast until golden brown. Add the orange zest and sage or tarragon (julienned). Put into the oven for 7 minutes.

Step 4 – Shrimp and Simple Pumpkin Sauce

Sauté shrimp in a skillet until flesh turns pinkish and then add the ginger mixture from the oven and continue to sauté until golden brown and the shrimp have curled. Add the vegetable stock and heavy cream and then reduce by 1/2 until a lightly thickened consistency occurs (if it seems to be too thick, add a little more vegetable stock).

Step 5 – Gnocchi

Boil a pot of water and add a slight pinch of salt. Add the gnocchi and watch it sink to the bottom. Once the gnocchi floats to the top, strain it in a colander.

Step 6 – Finalizing the dish

Add the pumpkin puree and maple syrup to the mixture that has been sautéing and lightly incorporate. Then add the gnocchi, lightly stir for a couple moments and then serve!

Perfect Pairing

2007, Truchard, Chardonnay, Carneros, California - $29

While sitting with Chef, he recommended using a crisp white wine with this dish. Either a Sauvignon Blanc, Un-Oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay or Riesling would work quite well. He recommended the 2007 Truchard for this dish as it is one of the wines on Unums wine list. It is light yet complex blend of nectarine and pear with lively acidity and long finish that will cut through the creaminess of this dish.