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Each month at Zupan’s Markets, we feature 12 wines on special from a certain category, country or grape variety. For this month’s wine specials we are featuring approachable, affordable, mouthwatering French wines.  Each of our 12 selections, which could easily be found in bistros all over France, are wonderfully food friendly, represent their areas of origin, and are great values.

Steeped in tradition and romance, French wine can provide a profound wine experience.  It can also cause a befuddling shopping experience. Unlike New World wines, where grape variety is prominent,  the most important part of the French wine label is the appellation designation, indicating the wine’s quality level and where the grapes were grown. For example, in the U.S. we name a wine “Pinot Noir,” but in France the same wine would be named “Bourgogne” for the place where the Pinot Noir is grown.

This appellation distinction and regulation of wine making began in 1936 when the Appellations d’Origine Controllée (AOC) system was extended to wine making throughout the country. Translated, AOC means “controlled designation of origin” and was first started in the 15th century to regulate the making of Roquefort cheese. The French developed the AOC system to provide protection for specialized products only made in distinct regions, supporting the idea of “terroir” or that certain regions produce products with distinct and consistent character. This system allows for strict production regulations, including wine making techniques, authorized varieties and vine cultivation.

Over the years France’s wine classification system has been reformed and currently includes three categories. Listed from most basic to highest quality they are Vin de France, IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) & AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). This year even further changes are happening to replace AOC with AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), however the new distinction only means minor changes to terminology with no changes to the appellations themselves.

With all that said, what is most important to remember in the discovery of French wine, is that in each bottle is the delicious result of centuries of trial and error, passion and stewardship. It is with that knowledge that we invite you to take the plunge into the wonderful world of French wine.

Check out the full list of wines on special this month.

Cheers!

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Whether you are gathering with your special someone, a group of friends or simply treating yourself, we have five suggestions, to make your February 14th a beautifully delicious one.

Fresh-Flower Bouquet  There is something distinctly special about getting flowers delivered to you. Make a big splash with a dozen long stemmed roses or simply say “Im thinking of you” with a bouquet of tulips. Zupan’s wide variety of fresh flowers are available for in-store pickup or delivery.

Moonstruck Chocolate  A treat for your sweet or your sweet tooth? Choose from locally handcrafted truffles in a variety of flavors including Pink Champagne, Mayan and Italia Espresso. There are even truffles shaped as bears and hearts too!

Delmonico Steaks  They say the way to the heart is through the stomach. Impress your Valentine with a mouth-watering, home cooked meal featuring the Delmonico Rib Eye with Harris Ranch All-Natural Beef. Simply grill or broil with salt, pepper and garlic to bring out the phenomenal flavor. Pair al dente asparagus, green beans or roasted red potatoes for added pizzazz.

Ken Wright Cellars 2010 Nysa Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley  Awaken your palette with this lush and seductive pinot noir. With a nose of dark cherry, spice and sweet earth, this wine offers a perfect match to grilled meats.

JaCiva 7th Heaven Torte  Dessert? Yes, please. This decadent creation includes rich chocolate cake with fudge filling, white chocolate mousse with chocolate flakes, iced and topped with a white chocolate pouring ganache embellished with chocolate decorations and sprinkles. Need we say more.

Love your food. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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At  Zupan’s, we believe that great food and great wine go together.  The world of wine is vast and exciting, but some basic knowledge can help even the novice navigate the Zupan’s wine departments. 

First, a few words about the Zupan’s Wine Program.  Our fully-staffed wine departments show our commitment to offering our customers the best service & selection of wine in the city.  In addition to in-store tastings on Friday and Saturday afternoons, Zupan’s customers enjoy a 10% discount on purchases of 6 bottles or more, and even greater discounts on whole, unmixed cases.  Zupan’s offers thousands of choices of wine from around the globe.  Our selection runs from great value wines to some of the most highly sought-after wines in the world.  Our mission is to provide our customers with excellent wine choices for both daily enjoyment as well as special occasions. 

Zupan’s Wine Departments:

You can learn quite a bit from observing the layout of the Zupan’s wine departments.  A little bit of information will help this make sense.

In what we call the New World (areas with a relatively short history of wine production, including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina), wines are generally named after the grape.  So in our wine departments, you will see the following large categories of wines:
– Chardonnay
– Sauvignon Blanc
– Pinot Gris
– Blends (white wine)
– Cabernet Sauvignon
– Merlot
– Pinot Noir
– Syrah
– Zinfandel
– Blends (red wines)
Most wines in these areas are from New World producers.

In what we call the Old World (areas with a much longer tradition of wine production) wines are often named after the place where the wine is produced.  These wines are categorized by their country of origin. So you will see sections from:
– France
– Italy
– Spain
– Portugal
In these sections, you will notice names like Barolo, Chianti, Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, etc.  These are all the names of places. Further study will help you to learn what grapes are used to make the wines named for places.  In many instances, it’s the same grapes that the New World uses to name the wines.  

Next time you’re in our store, stop by the wine department and say hello.  Venture out of your comfort zone and try a new bottle of wine.  One of our wine stewards will help you pick the perfect bottle.  Cheers!

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This week we talked with Gina, our resident wine expert at our Burnside store.  She knows her wine and loves talking about it. 

Zupan’s:  Tell us about your experience in the wine industry and what makes you a wine expert.   

Gina:   I grew up in a military family that traveled the world.  I developed a passion for the wines and foods of the countries that I  lived and visited.   I’ve now worked in the wine business for 20 years in all facets including wholesale, distribution, retail, and even managing restaurants.  I just celebrated my one year anniversary working for Zupan’s and before that, worked as a Distributor Manager for the Moet Hennessy portfolio of wine and spirits.
 
What are some of your top favorite wines right now? 
Gina:  I LOVE Rosé!  And you will see several in our department throughout the year.  A sure sign that spring is around the corner is the new Domaine Serene Rosé.  The blend is exquisite (Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah) and the package is sexy!  Come check it out.  ($35)  

So next time you’re in our Burnside store, be sure to stop in and talk to Gina, then stop by our cheese department and ask one of our cheesemongers for a recommendation on the perfect pairing.  From the curious to the connoisseur, we’ve got something for everyone!

Another of my favorites right now is the Catherine Breton Vouvray La Dilettante.  I enjoy the minerality and the balance of this wine.   Chenin Blanc aromas of lime and quince are captivating, as is the perfect balance and freshness on the palate.   It’s alive and it’s remarkable.  I have dreams about this wine!  ($23)

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 Whether you’re hosting a casual get together or a formal New Year’s Eve dinner party, we’ve got something for everyone.   Thank you, Chris Denton, our ever knowledgeable Wine & Beer Steward at our Belmont store for these dazzling recommendations! Our top 3 holiday sparklers are as follows.  Happy New Year!

La Marco Prosecco ($15):  Prosecco is more popular than ever, and this one delivers white peach flavors and more character than most other offerings out there.

Roederer Estate Brut ($25):
From the makers of the famous Cristal comes this affordable facsimile of French champagne.   It offers lively bubbles and flavors of green apple and pear.

Clouet Rose ($48):
This is a real treat, a grower Champagne rose from the village of Bouzy.  It is a 100% Pinot Noir bubbly made from estate grown fruit rather than purchased from elsewhere.  Aromas of berries lift out of the glass followed by flavors of raspberries and strawberries, finishing with a hint of mineral.

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Menu—check. Guest list—check. All you have left to worry about is what noteworthy vintage to uncork at your feast. Pairing wines can seem like a daunting task, but with Zupan’s Sommelier, Amber Kinjerski, on hand, choosing the perfect bottle for your holiday fare is a piece of cake.

For Thanksgiving, with turkey as the main entrée, there a couple of routes you can take to achieve a great food and wine pairing. If you want to go the traditional route, serve a German Riesling. A 2000 Jos. Christoffel Jr., Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett is a fantastic choice for a Riesling that has some age on it. It’s a classic match that is sublime with turkey. The sweetness of a Riesling complements the sweetness in the meat and isn’t overbearing or heavy. Remember, turkey is poultry; lighter wines pair better with it. Plus, we generally eat enough heavy food on Thanksgiving—there’s no need to add heavy wine to the mix.

Alternately, for red wine lovers, you can serve a Pinot Noir with turkey as well. Pinot is neither heavy nor tannic, but has enough body to pair well with meats. For the locally inclined, Amber recommends an Oregon favorite: A 2008 Ken Wright Cellars, Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir. The 2008 vintage is shaping up to be a great one—generously fruity, supple and full bodied—that pairs extremely well with any dish featuring cranberries.

Getting further into the holiday party season, and a more diverse menu, Amber also pulled a few sure-fire winners from the Zupan’s Cellar to serve at your table or bring to a party.

For the carnivores, try a 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Le Vieux Donjon. The 2007 vintages from the Rhône are the best we’ve seen in the last 25-30 years, with fruit notes that are generous, dark and gripping. This wine will cut through the fat and gristle of any of the heavier meats (beef or lamb), and has enough body and texture to stand up to even the juiciest cuts!

For seafood lovers and vegetarian diners, a White Burgundy is an excellent choice. It goes with nearly everything. Like Chardonnay, White Burgundys are Blanc de Blancs wines (made with 100% Chardonnay grapes), but are an enchanting counterpart to traditional California Chardonnay. White Burgundys have less oak on them and more floral characteristics, making them a beautiful complement to white fish or salmon. Amber’s favorite is a 2006 “Les Bassets” Domaine Laurent Cognard, Montagny 1er Cru.

When it comes time for dessert, Amber is thrilled over the grower’s Champagnes she’s ordered for the 2009 party season. Grower’s Champagnes are small batch, artisan Champagnes sourced from their namesake region in France. The growers raise their own grapes, neither buying from nor selling to other growers. They personally attend to the entire wine making process themselves, which results in very unique and special wines. These Champagnes are all organic and often bio-dynamic.

Two of the best are the L. Aubry, Brut NV—offering a clean finish and high citrus fruit notes—and the Pierre Gimonnet, Cuis 1er Brut NV with hints of buttery brioche and an opulent, rich texture. Champagne is best with light, fruity desserts (torts, sorbets, etc.) rather than rich sweets such as cake or pumpkin pie (see below for Amber’s advice on picking a wine to pair with richer desserts).

Amber also has some excellent general tips for choosing which wines to serve at, or bring to, holiday meals:

  • Always consider the weight of the food compared to the weight of the wine. The lighter the fare, the lighter the wine—and vice versa. For instance, if Dungeness Crab Cakes are the entrée, avoid pouring a bold wine such as a Cabernet. It will overpower the dish—you want to strike a balance.
  • If you’re bringing wine to a party, don’t hesitate to ask your host/hostess what they are serving. This way you can be sure to choose a wine that will compliment the meal rather than distract from it.
  • If you use a good deal of herbs in your cooking, Rhône wines—especially from the 2007 vintage—are the way to go. They have an inherent herbaceousness that naturally creates a stellar pairing.
  • Port is fantastic for rich, holiday desserts. The darker flavor profiles (such as pumpkin, dark chocolate and spice) work well with Port’s caramel and molasses traits.
  • Feel free to ask for assistance from Zupan’s wine stewards. They look forward to helping you choose a fabulous wine for every occasion and budget.

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