Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Interesting Finds at Lee's Discount Liquors, Las Vegas!

Halloween is party night!  Go with it!

     First of all, drink responsibly!  Do not drink and drive!  Hire a taxi!  Assign a designated driver!   

     One drink per hour is considered to b a reasonably responsible sober pace, according to some alcohol service guidelines.  Those who have a lower body weight may have to consume at an even slower pace.  Body weight is a blood alcohol content (BAC) factor.  Body fat is another factor.  Those who have a higher percentage of body fat, actually will show a higher blood alcohol content than a slender person.  
     Women will have a higher BAC after one drink than a man will.  Elderly people will have a higher BAC after one drink than a younger person, because they cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly.  Those who have diabetes or liver ailments, will have a higher BAC than those who have no ailments, when consuming alcoholic beverages.  
     An easy way to check the blood alcohol content is to use a BAC calculator.  If a person is too inebriated to type numbers into the BAC calculator, then the answer is easily at hand.  A BAC calculator should not be used to see how much alcohol one can withstand.  Alcohol is safe and somewhat healthy in small portions on occasion, but it is a deadly poison when extremely high amounts are consumed. 
     One drink per hour is a standard for professional alcohol service and the accumulated blood alcohol content over a period of time is another factor that alcoholic beverage servers must observe.  
     For example:  
     • A party of four 160 pound, 40 year old males, drink 4 bottles of wine in 3 hours.  They look sober, they act like they are sober and they talk like they are sober.  
     - Can alcoholic beverage service legally continue?  
     - Is their blood alcohol content within a range that is safe for driving a car?  
     - What is the prime responsibility of the house or server?
     • One serving of wine is 5 ounces and this equals one drink.
     • A bottle of wine is 750ml, which equals 25.36 ounces.  A bottle of wine contains about 5 1/3 servings.  The average alcohol content of wine is about 13.5%.  
     • Assuming the four guests drank equal amounts of wine, the consumption calculation is easy, because each guest drank one bottle of wine.  4 ÷ 4 = 1.
     • Each guest actually drank 25.36 ounces of wine in 3 hours.  Each guest consumed 5 1/3 servings of alcohol in 3 hours, which exceeds the 1 drink per hour safe serving rule.
     • A BAC calculator result is 0.076%.  The sobriety status is "Possibly Intoxicated/DO NOT DRIVE!"
     • Since the party shows no signs of inebriation, alcohol service can continue, but with caution. 
     • Each state sets their own Driving Under The Influence statutes.  Many states have a 0.08 BAC limit.  Each member of the party has a BAC of 0.076.  According to current Nevada law of 0.08 BAC, they are legally sober, but any amount of positive blood alcohol evidence is never a good thing in a court of law.  
     • According to alcohol service guidelines, the house must act responsibly.  Suggesting alternative transportation arrangements (taxi, limo or designated driver) is an act of responsibility.  The alternative transportation topic must be brought to the attention of the party, if they wish to order another bottle of wine, because the next bottle would send them over the legal BAC limit. 
     • Suggesting a period of time for regaining sobriety is another house responsibility.  Sobering time calculations can be very difficult to do.  There are sobriety time calculators on the internet.  It can take more than 12 hours for an inebriated person to sober up, if their BAC is 0.16.  It can also take the same amount of time for a person who has a BAC of 0.08 to sober up.  There are many variables in calculating sobering time.  
     Lots of coffee is what many people suggest for sobering up.  Lots of coffee just creates a wide awake drunken person!
     Alcohol accumulation in the blood stream is a factor when calculating alcohol metabolism (sobering time).  One drink will take far less sobering time than five drinks, even if the five drinks were consumed over the course of three hours.  One drink per hour, with a limit on total drinks consumed, is the ideal maximum alcoholic beverage service rate, if a person has any hope of achieving sobriety within a reasonable amount of time.  It is never good to assume that legal sobriety can be achieved in a short amount of time, even when having only one drink!     
     • Not every state sobriety testing policy can be trusted.  States like Florida do have a history of exaggerating BAC test results, in order achieve a higher conviction rate.  If a person is close to a legal BAC limit, they should wait for a prescribed period of time, so BAC falls to a lower level, or seek alternative transportation means.   

     Here is a link to a reliable BAC calculator:  

     There is plenty more alcohol service subject matter that servers must know.  I recently scored an A grade in the Wine & Beverage Management Class, an A Grade in Psychology, an A Grade in Dining Room Management, and an A grade in Responsible Alcoholic Beverage Service.  All of these classes thoroughly covered the alcoholic beverage topic from top to bottom.  These classes are part of the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Operations Associates Degree Program.  
     There are many good short duration alcoholic beverage service classes that are available.  Personally, I have a policy of only hiring servers and bartenders that have alcoholic beverage service certification.  The liable consequences of irresponsible alcoholic beverage service are devastating morally and financially.      

     Interesting Finds at Lee's Discount Liquors

     Okay!  Now that the alcohol consumption responsibility stuff is out of the way, lets get the party started and let the booze flow freely! 
     Lee's Discount Liquors has many locations in the Las Vegas Valley.  Some locations are specialized.  Some offer a vast wine cellar.  Some offer a large selection of high end liquors.  Some keep mountains of beer kegs in stock.  There are even Lee's locations that are liquidation centers.  Lee's Liquors always offer good pricing, good service and a good selection.  The owners of this liquor store chain have been recognized for their outstanding achievements and professionalism.  
     I personally am not a hard drinker of some kind and I rarely get tipsy.  Staying within a sober range in Las Vegas is important, because there is so many great things happening every minute of the day.  
     The collection of bottled alcoholic beverages in the pictures above were accumulated over a long period of time.  Many of the wines are being aged in a wine cabinet and some of the liquors that came in fancy bottles have not been opened, because they have collector value.  Therefore, there is no use in trying to describe the qualities, characteristics and flavor of each item in the pictures.
     Young Red Wine, Which Requires Minimal Aging:  
     French Beaujolais!  Two of the AOC Beaujolais are ready in 5 years or less.  The Moulin a Vent AOC is ready in 10 years or less.  All French AOC Beaujolais is made with Gamay Grapes which were brought to France during the age of the Roman Empire.  French AOC Beaujolais Villages is a nice gentle table wine that has a low tannin level.   

     The Original Margarita:
     The original margarita was made with Damiana Liquor, not curacao or triple sec.  Just look for the "Naked Plump Nativa Lady" bottle!  

     Man Candy:
     Maple Bacon Liquor certainly is man candy.  One simply cannot go wrong with a maple bacon flavored cocktail!

     Beer in all shapes sizes and colors are a matter of personal or seasonal preference.  "Sweeter" high gravity Beers, like Doppelbock, are nice when the weather turns chilly.

     Top shelf Azul is the best and it is a little bit out of my price range.  The best Azul Tequila is actually rated higher than many of the best Scotch and Cognac that the world has to offer.  
     Kah Tequila comes in a hand painted skull bottle and the bottles do have collector value.  Kah is a nice smooth tequila!
     Hijos De Villa Pistol Reposado Tequila definitely has collector value.  The pistol shaped bottles have been made for many years and occasionally a collector's market opens up.  This tequila is rated fairly high.  The pistol bottle certainly could be fun at a party and it is a nice gift!    

     White Wine:
     Argentinian Pannotia Torrontés is highly recommended for those who like subtly smooth fine chardonnay qualities, while also preferring sharper fruitier essences with crisp highlight notes.  Torrontés grapes are a unique varietal that is well acclimated to the terroir of Argentina.  Bravisimo!

     Full Bodied Rich Classic Red Wine:
     Puglia is a superb Italian wine region and this region posts top production numbers year after year.  Tormaresca Neprica Puglia wine is made with a blend of negroamaro, primitivo (the original zinfandel) and cabernet sauvignon.  This deep dark red wine has enough of a zinfandel accent to make it lively on the palate with a long smooth rich finish with a classic balance of tannins that Italian wine craftsmen are famous for.  Superb!

    Corn liquor is moonshine.  The Las Vegas Distillery makes one of the finest tasting corn liuors that there is.  The selection of organic corn is the reason this moonshine has a clean crisp finish.
    McCormick's Platte Valley Corn Whiskey is as old fashioned as it gets!  Everybody knows the "Little Brown Jug" song.  McCormick's Corn Whiskey is a true classic and the little brown jug does have collector value.

     Lee's offers all of the standard favorite's at a nice price.  High end limited batch bourbon is also stocked.  Many whiskey folks prefer great bourbon over the finest scotch any day of the week.  
     Bulleit's Frontier Bourbon is an American classic.  Smooth and full of great bourbon characteristics. Bulleit's costs a few dollars more, but it is well worth the price.  The bottles do have collector value.
     The Las Vegas Distillery's Nevada Whiskey is praised by experienced taste testers as potentially being the greatest whiskey that has ever been produced.  These experts know how to recognize classic qualities in a green whiskey that has not been aged.  Green whiskey that is not matured does have a unique flavor of its own that mellows in 8 to 35 years.  Part of the aging process is done in oak barrels.  This whiskey is the finest immature green whiskey that I have ever tasted.  The distillery master is from Kentucky and he certainly knows his stuff.  This whiskey commands a high price now and it is a good investment for the future!  

     Vodka!  Stolichnaya was my favorite and always will be a favorite.  I prefer crisp clean traditional Russian wheat vodka.  With this in mind, the Las Vegas distillery modeled their own Nevada Vodka the same way.  Organic local grown wheat from Northern Nevada is what this vodka is made with.  The Nevada Vodka has classic russian vodka characteristics.  A slight hint of the fine wheat grain flavors are present.  Nevada Vodka is the perfect gourmet choice!
     Tours of the Nevada Distillery and Distilling classes are available.  Three copper tokens for unlimited tastings at the distillery are shown in the pictures above.  Sometime soon, I will devote an article to the Las Vegas Distillery tasting experience. 

     Since bar management is part of being a chef, I do occasionally post liquor, beer and wine articles.  Pairing beverages with food is part of hospitality.  The suggestions made in this article are honest and they are not tainted with bias.  These are products that I have purchased or tried that seem to be of high enough quality to easily recommend.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

The pictures above can be viewed in a full size slide show mode by clicking on any photo.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Côtelette de Porc Fumé aux oignon doux champignons à l'estragon beurre blanc, carotte pourpre, et meule de foin patate douce jaune

Smoked Pork Chop with Sweet Bermuda Onion and Mushrooms en Tarragon Beurre Blanc!  Served with Purple Carrot and Haystack Yellow Sweet Potato.

     This is a nice entree for the autumn season.  Pork is popular during the fall and winter season, especially in Eastern Europe, France, Germany, America and Russia.  Smoked pork loin chops are a classic choice for an entree when the weather becomes chilly.  There is something about smokey flavors that bring about thoughts of wood stoves in cabins, camp fires and warm embers glowing in a fireplace.  Warmth and comfort is the theme of today's recipe.  
     The classic French grill cuisson rules state that emulsion sauces should be served with char grilled food and the sauce should be under or around the grilled protein item.  Emulsion sauces are sauces that combine two items that do not naturally mix together, like oil and vinegar for vinaegrette.  Mayonnaise and hollandaise are emulsions.  A naturally occurring emulsion is butter.  Many chefs consider butter to be the perfect emulsion.  Beurre Blanc is an emulsion sauce made with white wine and butter.  Beurre Cognac, Beurre Rouge and and an endless list of liquefied butter emulsion sauces are used in French cooking and finishing sauces or garnishing sauces.  
     Butter emulsion sauces will break and separate if too much heat is applied.  The liquid used in a butter emulsion sauce has to be concentrated or reduced to a very thin syrup consistency.  A watery thin liquid in a butter emulsion sauce will produce a runny loose sauce that has no body. 
     Beurre Blanc can be made ahead of time and kept in a bain marie that is about 90º to 120º.  Since this temperature is below the Servsafe hot food holding temperature of 135º, the beurre blanc should be served within 45 minutes after it is made, in order to avoid pathogen contamination.  Once a beurre blanc reaches the limit of the safe serving time frame, it should be used as sauce finishing agent, a sauce modifier, a basting sauce or it should be heated and broken down for flavoring vegetables, seafood or poultry.  
     I first apprenticed with Italian chefs, before apprenticing with French chefs.  Cucina di Italia is different than French cuisine in one major respect.  Most Italian sauces are made to order (a la minute).  Italian chefs make butter emulsion sauces to order in the same saute pan that the entree is cooked.  Great care must be taken to saute the entree perfectly, so when the Italian butter emulsion sauce is made, it has the right color and consistency.  Two good examples of Italian saute entrees that require a butter emulsion sauce finish are Scampi a Veneto and Scallopini di Vitello Piccata.  
     Technique for a la minute butter emulsion sauce:
     Cooking a butter emulsion sauce that is made to order separately from the entree is relatively easy to do, but a cook must have a good sense of timing.  About 3 to 5 minutes before the featured protein item finishes cooking, a pan is heated and the accompanying butter emulsion sauce is made.  The butter emulsion sauce and protein item should finish cooking at the same time.  No time can be wasted plating the entree, so the butter emulsion sauce does not cool off.
     Because mushrooms taste better when sautéed, they are the start of today's beurre blanc recipe.  A minimal amount of butter should be used to saute the mushrooms.  The mushrooms should make the classic "squeaking noise" when sautéed.  After the mushrooms become tender, white wine, sweet bermuda onion, tarragon and seasoning is added.  The wine is rapidly reduced to a thin syrup consistency, then the pan is removed from the heat.  Pats of butter are quickly added a few at a time, while constantly moving the pan in a circular motion, while stirring with a whisk or saucing spoon.  The motion of the moving pan is really what causes the butter to emulsify with the wine reduction.  The sauce must be used immediately.  Reheating the sauce may cause it to break.  A seasoned veteran cook can repair a broken beurre blanc, but the cooking technique involved is better learned in person. 

     Purple Carrot Garnish:
     Before orange carrot hybrids were developed in Holland, almost all carrots were purple.  Some purple varieties have an interesting two tone orange and purple color. 
     Cut a peeled purple carrot lengthwise into 2 long thin slices that are about 6" to 8" in length.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1/3 cup of water.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Add the carrot strips.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the liquid, till most of the liquid evaporates.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the carrot slices warm on a stove top.  The carryover heat from the pan will finish cooking the carrots and they should still be almost al dente.  
     Haystack Yellow Sweet Potato:
     This recipe makes 1 or 2 portions, depending on the size of the yellow sweet potato.  Snacking on the extra haystack potato is a cook's reward!
     It is easy to cut long thin julienne sweet potato strips with a French mandolin, but this kitchen tool is very dangerous id all of the safety features are not in place.  Cutting long slices by hand, then stacking the slices and cutting them into long strips is the old fashioned way to make shoestring potatoes.
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Cut 1 peeled yellow sweet potato into long julienne strips that are the length of the potato.  (Standard julienne precision cut is 1/8"x1/8"x 3 1/2" to 4" in length.  For a haystack sweet potato, just cut the strips as long as possible.)
     Gradually add one handful of the yellow sweet potato strips (about the size of a cup) to the hot frying oil.  By slowly sprinkling the potato strips across the surface of the hot oil, foaming will be reduced.
     Use a fryer net to gently corral and gather the sweet potato strips as they fry.  The sweet potato strips will become very flexible and tender at first, so care must be taken not to damage the strips.
     Continue gathering the sweet potato strips together into a ball haystack shape in the hot oil with the the fryer net, till the strips become crisp and they are no longer flexible.  
     Use the fryer net to place the crispy haystack yellow sweet potato on a wire screen roasting rack on a pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Season with sea salt.  
     Keep the haystack warm on a stove top.   
     Grilled Smoked Pork Chop:
     Not all smoked pork chops are created equal.  Most smoked pork chops that are sold at grocery stores are flavored with artificial smoke and they are a second rate product.  Good butcher shops carry quality smoked meats.  Smoked pork chops are almost always cured before smoking.  Hickory/white oak smoked pork chops are best for this recipe.
     Lightly brush an 8 ounce smoked pork chop with melted unsalted butter.
     Heat a char grill or ribbed cast iron griddle to a medium/medium high temperature.  
     Grill the smoked pork chop on both sides, till it becomes hot.  Try to create crosscheck grill marks. 
     Keep the grilled smoked pork chop warm on a stove top.  The beurre blanc can be made while the pork chop cooks.

     Sweet Bermuda Onion and Mushrooms en Tarragon Beurre Blanc:
     Cut 2 1/4 ounces of unsalted butter or plugra butter into small butter pats.  Chill the butter pats in a refrigerator.  (To create a beurre blanc, cold butter must meet hot wine reduction!)
     Cut 2 medium size button cave mushrooms into medium thick slices.
     Heat a small saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Saute and sear the mushrooms, till they become tender and lightly browned.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of dry white wine.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced bermuda onion.
     Add 2 generous pinches of finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce, till most of the liquid evaporates and the wine looks like a very thin syrup.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the pan over a warm place on the stove top.  If the oven is on, then the stove top will be warm.
     Add 1 to 3 butter pats at a time, while constantly moving the pan in a circular motion.  Occasionally stir with a whisk or saucing spoon if necessary.
     As the first few butter pats melt and emulsify, add a few more.   Continue rapidly moving the pan in a circular motion.  
     Continue this process, till all of the butter is emulsified to create the beurre blanc. 
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top while the plate is set and try to use the sauce immediately. 

     Côtelette de Porc Fumé aux oignon doux champignons à l'estragon beurre blanc, carotte pourpre, et meule de foin patate douce jaune:
     Place the sweet potato haystack on the back quarter of a plate.
     Place the 2 long purple carrot triangles on the center of the plate, so the angle off and point toward the other back quarter of the plate.
     Place the grilled smoked pork chop over the wide ends of the carrot slices on the center of the plate, so it leans against the haystack.
     Spoon some of the Sweet Bermuda Onion and Mushrooms en Tarragon Beurre Blanc on the front half of the plate around the pork chop.  (I over sauced the plate in the photos, but a little extra beurre blanc is always nice.)
     No garnish is necessary!

     Just forget about the old worn out three color red, white and green plate presentation rule.  That rule is as outdated as brontosaurus steaks.  There are far more color combinations in the rainbow.  The colors of today's entree presentation clearly state that this is the autumn season!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sweet White Bordeaux Dessert Wine Bargains at Total Wine & More, Summerlin, Las Vegas!

     Sweet full bodied dessert wine by the glass as an aperitif is perfect for topping off an evening of fine dining in a restaurant or at home.  White dessert wines, like those from the Bordeaux region are nice with certain savory seafood and poultry entrees.  Sweet White Bordeaux is a classic choice of wine for accompanying a gourmet French cheese tasting platter.  
     Champagne by the glass is my personal choice for accompanying a rich cheese souffle, especially if the souffle is made with one of the many classic French bleu cheese varieties.  Some people prefer a dry acidic white wine, like chablis or chardonnay with a fine cheese souffle, because acidic wine thoroughly clears the tasting palate.  Dry champagne with its sparkling essence clears the cheese souffle tasting palate in an elegant way.  
     Sweet crisp fruity young White Bordeaux region wine is also a great pairing for a rich cheese souffle.  The acidity level is much lower in sweet White Bordeaux wine and the residual sugar acts as a liquefier which melds with rich cheese flavors.  Instead of effectively clearing the tasting palate, sweet White Bordeaux carries the rich flavors.  The fruity nature of the wine compliments and combines with rich cheese souffle flavors in a way that is so pleasant, that one wishes to allow the flavors to linger on the tasting palate, rather than to be cleared and refreshed.  
     Many people are intimidated by the interpretive language on French wine labels.  Every word on a French wine label is loaded with in depth meaning and clear specific definition.  A good way to learn about French, Italian, Spanish and other European wines is to attend a formal Wine & Beverage class or seminar.  I just completed a Wine & Beverage Management class in the Le Cordon Bleu Associates Degree Culinary Operations program.  I am not boasting, but of course, I scored another 4.0 A grade in this class.  As an experienced chef who has been in the hospitality business for a long time, anything less than an A grade would be unacceptable, especially when the topic is French wine.  
     Basically, the key words on a French wine label refer to:
     • The region of origin
     • The specific AOC area of the region
     • The estate that made the wine
     • The type of wine
     • Definitions of class, quality or variety  (Certified Bordeaux, Grande Crux, Beaujolais Villages are examples of indicators that provide information for quality, class and how long a wine can be aged.)
     • Words that define whether the wine is a specific blend of grapes grown on a single estate or several estates appear on certain labels.  Domaine is a word that means wine made only with grapes grown on the estate
     • Words that specify the exact area of the estate or regional zone that the grapes are grown  (For example:  A Domaine wine with a Vin de pays du Valle de Cesse designation can mean wine grapes grown on the estate along the border of the finest wine grape growing valley of the Languedoc region.)    
     • The intended usage for marketing purposes or rating of the wine  (For example:  Vin de Table is common everyday table wine.  Vin de Pays is country wine that is rated higher than table wine.
     There are many more words and phrases on French wine labels than the examples shown above.  French wine labeling is very specific.  After learning the language and definitions of French wine label words, a consumer can look at a label and know exactly what is in the bottle.  The consumer will know the wine's heritage, origin, quality, aging potential and the specific grapes that are used to make the wine.  French wine label information is superior to most California wine labeling.  California wine labeling tends to not be specific, but there are exceptions.  A few old California wineries that make traditional French wine do make use of the French wine labeling language.  
     The abbreviation AOC appears earlier in this article and it appears in nearly every French wine literary work.  AOC stands for appellation d'origine contrôlée which means "controlled designation of origin."  The AOC protects and preserves the originality and heritage of French wine, cheese, butter and many other agricultural products.  The AOC protects and specifies the exact geographical origin that certain wine grapes can be grown on, for producing specific wines.  The AOC defines which grape varieties can be grown and which grape varieties are part of French heritage.  The AOC officially determines whether a winery is worthy of producing wine that can be sold in France or whether the wine produced is not well defined and must be sold in bulk to a foreign country.  The AOC provides all official quality and origin information that is found on a wine label.  
     AOC regulations are based upon the concept of "Terroir."  Terroir is the concept of how the climate, geology and geography of a certain place can interact with a plant's genetical make up to achieve the the best expression of an original agricultural product, like wine, cheese or tomatoes.  Terroir defines the exact environment that specific grapes varieties are grown on to make specific original wines.  If a person values preserving quality, tradition, originality and authenticity, then the AOC and the concept of terroir should be given the highest respect.  

     Back to the topic of French Sweet White Bordeaux wine!  Bordeaux is a wine grape growing region in southwestern France.  The climate of this region is known for temperature and humidity conditions that allow noble rot (Botrytis cinerea) to grow.  Noble rot grows on clusters of maturing grapes close to the time of harvest.  The fungus softens the skin of the grapes and allows the grapes to quickly shrivel and dry like raisons.  Because the drying occurs quickly, while the grapes are on the vine, fruit flavors are well preserved and the sugar content is high.  Noble rot is what makes white wine in the Bordeaux region taste rich and sweet.  Noble rot does not occur every year.  During years when no noble rot occurs, the white grape varieties that are grown on  Bordeaux region estates are used to make classic dry white wines.
     Bordeaux is a region that contains several AOC's and most of them refer to classic red wines.  The AOC appellations for sweet wine in the Bordeaux region are:  Barsac, Bordeaux Haut Benauge, Bordeaux Supérieur, Cadillac, Cérons, Côtes de Bordeaux Saint Macaire, Graves Supérieures, Loupiac, Prémieres Côtes de Bordeaux, Sainte Croix du Mont, Sainte Foy Bordeaux and Sauternes.  By far, Sauternes is the most famous sweet white Bordeaux AOC appellation.  Sauternes wine is considered by many to be the highest quality definitive sweet white wine of the Bordeaux region.  
     Sauternes do command a higher price, because Sauternes wine is always fermented in oak barrels, then it is matured in more oak barrels.  Most Bordeaux AOC sweet white wine appellations do require oak barrels to be used for fermenting the wine, but not all of them do.   
     Because Sauternes are always in the spotlight and the prices tend to be higher, the sweet white wines AOC appellations in or near the Bordeaux region can be a real bargain.  Many of the lesser known sweet white Bordeaux wines are just as high in quality as Sauternes and during some years, a few lesser known vintages exceed the quality of sauternes.
     There are some Sauternes that are rated higher than others.  Classic sauternes are made with a high percentage of Sémillon grapes blended with smaller percentages of Sauvignon blanc grapes and Muscadelle grapes.  A sweet white Bordeaux that is made with only Sauvignon blanc grapes or only Sémillon grapes is subject to criticism for having a one dimensional character that strays from tradition, but the wine is still very good.  Not every sweet white Bordeaux is meant to be a Sauternes.  Not every Sauternes follows classic grape blending tradition.
     The 2010 Chateau de Grande Carretey Sauternes in the pictures above has the classic Sauternes characteristic dark golden color.  Some wine experts criticize the blend of grapes used to make this Sauternes, but that is a matter of personal opinion.  Because fine dessert wines tend to be expensive, they are offered in small 375 ml bottles as well as standard 750 ml bottles.  
     The 2010 Chateau de Grande Carretey Sauternes is one of the lowest price Sauternes, yet the quality rating is very high at 89 to 92 points out of 100.  This is a young Sauternes that is tasty now, but it is best if aged for at least four years.  Sauternes take on a well balanced creme flavor characteristic when aged for at least four years.  
     Sauternes are designed to be aged and many say that there is no limit for how long a Sauternes can be aged.  When aged, the price goes up.  A 375 ml bottle of  2010 Chateau de Grande Carretey Sauternes that sells for about $15 that ages for 25 years, may end up being worth more than $100.  Many $35 to $75 Sauternes in 750 ml bottles that age for more than 25 years have values of well over $1,000!  Sauternes can be a great investment in time.

     The 2009 Chateau Belingard Monbazillac in the pictures above is a prime example of a sweet white wine that is produced in an AOC of the village of Monbazillac that is located near Bergerac, France just outside of the Bordeaux region.  This high quality wine is made exactly like a classic Sauternes and it is one of the highest respected sweet white wines in France.  Because this wine is not made in Sauternes, it does not command a high Sauternes price.  The price of 375 ml bottle of 2009 Chateau de Monbazillac is a good bargain at about $12 per bottle.  This wine is usually rated as being 83 to 89 on a scale of 100 and this rating is way above average.  Just like fine Sauternes, this wine increases in value when aged and the flavor takes on a creme characteristic.  

     The 2011 Cheval Quancard Premières Côtes de Bordeaux is a nice example of a standard Semillon and Chenin Blanc grape blend that produces a sweet white Bordeaux flavor that tastes very nice when the wine is young.  This dessert wine has a lighter body than many of the other sweet wines of the Bordeaux region.  Every wine critic describes this sweet wine as having interesting complex fruit and candied fruit flavors with a long finish.  I agree with this description.  I opened the 2011 Cheval Quancard Premières Côtes de Bordeaux with friends who happen to be wine snobs from Europe and they were truly impressed by this wine.  The 2011 Cheval Quancard Premières Côtes de Bordeaux rates a solid 85 points out of 100 and that is impressively high, especially when considering the price.  A 750 ml bottle of 2011 Cheval Quancard Premières Côtes de Bordeaux sells for about $11 and this wine is the best bargain of the bunch, especially if a palatable young dessert wine is desired.

     Lillet Blanc is a classic sweet white Bordeaux aperitif wine that is in the tonic wine category.  Lillet is available as a blanc or rouge wine and both are made with Bordeaux region grape blends.  Lillet  Blanc is made with a classic Sauterne grape blend that includes 15% macerated liqueurs of sweet Spanish and Moroccan orange peels combined with bitter bigarade green orange peel from Haiti.  A small percentage of Peruvian cinchona bark liqueur (quinine) is added the create the bitter tonic flavor.  Lillet was very popular during the roaring 1920's.  Lillet Blanc is a nice sweet aperitif wine that has complex tonic flavor accents.  Lillet is also one of the ingredients in a Vesper Martini, which James Bond made famous.
      Many French chefs that I have worked with used Lillet Blanc for making sweet dessert sauces, pastries and sweet souffles.  Lillet Blanc can be used to saturate japonaise for complex tortes and gateaus.  Japonaise is a rich hazel nut meringue that is piped as a thin layer for a cake and baked till it becomes crisp.  An example of how japonaise is used can be seen in my Chocolate Butter Cake article. 

     All of these sweet Bordeaux wines are available at the Total Wine & More store.  Total Wine ¶ More is located at 730 South Rampart near Charleston in Summerlin, Las Vegas.  Total Wine & More is a very impressive large wine store that offers a great selection of fine wines from around the globe.  There are thousands of fine wines in this store and more than half of the wine is French.  There are many sweet white Bordeaux wines in stock and the finest Sauternes are offered at current market value.  Total Wine also does business on the internet and this is good for those who have no access to a store that stocks fine French wine.  Here is the link to the Total Wine & More Site:  Total Wine & More     

     For snuggling under a blanket near a fireplace on a chilly evening, sweet dessert wines from Bordeaux add to the romance.  For late night after hours conversations at pubs and restaurants, sweet dessert wines are nice.  As an aperitif or a dessert accompaniment, sweet white Bordeaux is a classic choice.  Yum!  ...  Shawna