Our October interview takes this monthly Q&A series in a different direction than previous entries. While we’ve tended to focus on gourmands and professionals with a focus on food and cooking, the partnership between food and wine when it comes to planning great culinary experiences is undeniable. Every bit as undeniable, then, should be an interview that grant equal time to the love of wine, which is why this month, we talked to Cara and Li, two of the three creators of the Wining Hour Chat, a weekly Twitter chat devoted to exploring the nectar of the vine. Maggie, the third member of this collective of avid aficionados, was on travel at the time I approached the group for this interview, but Cara and Li kindly answered questions from me on wine-related matters including their respective approaches to meal-planning, unconventional pairings, and wine’s power to embody life experiences.
Flavorful World: Taking indigenous wine production into consideration, tell us what destination anywhere in the world (that you have never visited before) you would choose if offered the chance to spend a year learning to cook its native cuisine. Why did you choose that destination?
Cara: Hands down, I would love to visit Italy! I’m 100% Italian and my great grandparents on both sides of my family immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily and Naples. I’ve never visited Italy, and it would be the most amazing experience if I had an opportunity to live in Sicily for a year drinking wine and cooking Italian food!
Li: This is difficult, as I am always inclined to say Italia, but I travel there regularly. So…I suppose Israel would be my choice. It would be interesting to learn more about their indigenous grapes, such as marawi, jandali and many others. I love almost all Mediterranean spices and would enjoy learning to cook native Israeli dishes.
FW: What annual Fall food and/or wine events are the most popular in your area, and what is the most memorable experience you’ve ever had while attending one?
Cara: Unfortunately, I haven’t attended any of the Fall food or wine events in my area. Every Fall, there’s a festival called the Midtown Village Fall Festival in downtown Philadelphia, which is one of the most popular outdoor events. I haven’t made it to this festival yet, but it’s eight hours of food, drinks, and live entertainment! One of these years, I’ll make it there.
Li: I attend and sponsor several New York Wine Events in the Tri-State area. In fact, I will attend and sponsor one this weekend in NJ. I regularly attend the Fancy Food Show, NYC Food & Wine Festival, James Suckling’s Events and several other local events, including ones held in LI Wine Country, my backyard! Honestly, the most memorable is James Suckling’s Great Wines of Italy because I saw many friends from Italy at the event and I was, in fact, in wine heaven, as I love, love, love Italian wines.
FW: Name three wines that, for you, are each tied to a cherished memory of a person, place, or experience. What aspect(s) of each wine do you most associate with that experience?
Cara: (1) The first wine that comes to mind is Montes Purple Angel Carmenère. My husband, AJ, bought this bottle while he was working in Vancouver and we had been saving it for a special occasion. AJ’s grandparents live in South Carolina and every year we’ll take a couple of trips down to visit. Last year, we visited them for Thanksgiving and we brought this wine along. AJ’s grandma is a wine lover as well and every time we visit we enjoy bonding over good food and good wine. We saved this bottle for about 6 months with the intention of opening it to celebrate. When we popped the cork, we toasted to his grandma for winning her battle against breast cancer, and it was one of the best and most satisfying wines we had ever tasted. (2) The second wine is Vineyards Found Cabernet Sauvignon. AJ and I have been together for almost a decade, but we tied the knot in November of 2013. For our one year anniversary, we enjoyed the most amazing dinner at a quaint little BYOB restaurant in Chestnut Hill Philadelphia called Heirloom, which was known for their specialty dinners. We picked up a couple bottles of wine to pair with dinner and dessert. The Cabernet that I paired with my entrée, which was a perfectly cooked ribeye steak, was one of the tastiest meals I’ve had! Sadly, this restaurant closed last year, but it will always be a special place for us and a memorable meal. (3) The last wine is Orin Swift Machete – one of my favorite Orin Swift wines. This bottle was gifted to us by AJ’s grandmother during Christmas and when we returned from South Carolina we paired this wine with thick cut Delmonico steaks. A few months later we gifted Machete to my father, who is also a wine lover, for his birthday and we shared it over a celebratory birthday dinner with my family.
Li: 1. Prosecco DOCG-I love bubbly, and Italian bubbly always places me somewhere in Italy, sipping on an aperitivo, enjoying la dolce vita. I sip on prosecco, if not every day, every other day. The bubbles themselves make me feel like celebrating, whether I’m in Italy or crossing off something from my to-do list in NY. Prosecco DOCG from Valdobiaddene is a staple in my house.
2. Orin Swift’s Prisoner-This wine reminds me of all of the good times I’ve shared with friends. Every baby shower, bridal shower, superbowl party, girls night, get together, etc. always included The Prisoner. This wine is always a crowd pleaser and packs a punch.
3. Amarone -While I may have always enjoyed a good glass of Amarone, it took on new meaning when I shared not one, but two bottles of top shelf Amarone with Mr. Wining Hour. No one should drink two bottles of Amarone in one sitting! Long story short, Amarone is now a wine sipped on every Anniversary.
FW: You co-host the weekly #WiningHourChat on Twitter along with Maggie and Li. How did the three of you meet, and how was the weekly chat born?
Cara: I connected with Li (@TheWiningHour) and Maggie (@winegal57) through Twitter sometime during the spring or summer of last year. We would tweet about wine and share what we were drinking with each other, then chat about it. We chatted so often about wine that Li approached us with an idea for a weekly Twitter chat. Li wanted to promote her business, The Wining Hour, and also thought it would be really fun if the three of us hosted it together. We wanted to keep it light and fun, and host an easy-going chat where anyone would feel comfortable participating regardless of their level of wine knowledge. We have a loyal group of people who participate in our chat every week, and we are always welcoming new wine lovers. We are so appreciative of everyone’s support and look forward to spending Tuesday nights together. We are actually celebrating our #WiningHourChat one year anniversary in November! Stay tuned because we have an awesome November lineup =)
Li: I wanted to do a wine chat or wine conversation group for some time, but was a little apprehensive. I met Cara and Maggie online (Twitter) over a year ago, and realized that we were already engaging in regular conversations about wine. I’m not sure how we initially connected, but I suppose it was wine-wine does that! We began sharing what we were drinking and having regular conversations about wine. I asked them if they would be interested in doing a weekly wine chat with me and they were amenable. We had a few conference calls, brainstormed some ideas and viola, #WiningHourChat was born!
We had a target audience from the beginning and knew how we wanted to share our information. We have lots of fun each week along with many regulars, as well as new members. In fact, November marks our anniversary! I am happy to have met Cara and Maggie, as we look forward to bigger and better things for #wininghourchat.
FW: Tell us your most recent experience with a food and wine pairing that conventional wine wisdom would dictate shouldn’t have worked, but ended up tasting really nice together.
Cara: Over the summer, AJ and I attended a wine tasting with Doug (@UncorkedRemarks) at Penns Woods Winery (@pennswoodswine) in Chadds Ford, PA. The wine tasting theme was Wine and Local Gourmet Beef Jerky Pairings. It’s certainly not your typical wine pairing and when I told others about the tasting they looked perplexed, but seriously – don’t knock it until you try it! I’m a big fan of beef jerky, so this tasting was right up my alley. Penns Woods Winery teamed up with Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel and featured five creative jerkies with their signature wines. One pairing included Penns Woods Winery’s Bancroft Chambourcin 2012 with Righteous Felon’s Baby Blues Sweet Kick BBQ jerky. Needless to say, that was one of the most interesting and flavorful wine tastings I’ve attended, and they did a fantastic job!
Li: I enjoy eat fish and seafood, most of which goes with white wines, according to conventional wisdom. I am aware that seafood with a red sauce can be paired with a red wine. Well, this one time, at Band Camp…just kidding! This one time, I made a sesame encrusted Tuna steak and paired it with a delicious Pinot Noir. It was delicious. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out, but it did so beautifully (perhaps because a Tuna steak is a meatier fish). I will do it again!
FW: Wine Enthusiast Magazine once famously claimed that orange wines “will never be mainstream”, which earlier this year, Bloomberg declared that “Orange wine has finally arrived.” Give us your thoughts on the appeal (or lack thereof) of orange (a.k.a. “contact” or “skin-fermented”) wines.
Li: In my opinion, Orange wines remain an acquired taste. With the ideal food and wine pairing, at best they will ‘work’ (for me), yet, I don’t think I will ever go out and buy orange wines just because I enjoy them. I will drink it based on recommendation or because it’s made from a trusted winemaker. Basically, I will likely just stick to the another skin-fermented wine, Rosé. Nevertheless, here’s more on my thoughts about orange wines.
FW: If called upon to plan a menu around a wine of your own design, tell us what grape(s) and style you would choose? What would you name your wine?, and what would be the signature dish you served it with?
Cara: I enjoy bold, full-bodied red wines. Among my favorite varietals are Malbec and Carmenère wines. I would blend those two together and call it Santa Teresa after my grandmother, and I would serve it with my homemade chicken cacciatore.
Li: My wine would be a blend of 80% Primitivo and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. My signature wine, would be called Allora*, and would be served with my signature shrimp, eggplant and tomato in a Fra’ Diavolo sauce.
*If you ask an Italian what Allora means, you’ll get several different answers. It means all of them!
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
Cara: I’m a meat lover; steak and antipasto are a staple in my house and most of the meals I prepare are meat-centric. If I could name my memoir about my culinary exploits, I think I would name it “Carnivore!”
Li: My memoir will be entitled, “Libations with Li…and more”
FW: When you aren’t cooking/eating delicious things, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
Cara: When I’m not cooking or tasting delicious wine, I enjoy being active. I do kickboxing with a martial arts studio and hit the gym as often as I can during the week, so that keeps me busy. I also enjoy crafting. Being a wine lover, you tend to collect a lot of wine corks and bottles, which you can easily turn into beautiful decorations. Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve made quite a few DIY wine related gifts for my family and friends!
Li: Traveling…and sipping and eating delicious things! I also spend my time managing The Wining Hour boutique marketing all things wine and doing wine tastings. http://www.thewininghour.com I am rather addicted to travel and always jet set. Additionally, traveling is very therapeutic. I also enjoy reading a good book and writing short stories. I do so whenever I get the chance. Writing is my greatest outlet.
Note to readers: You can catch more of these ladies’ sage wine wisdom by checking out the Wining HourChat online and following their wining adventures on Twitter. Just look for the hashtag #WiningHourChat and you’ll be well on your way to a better, more stylish and knowledgeable fashion of drinking, eating, and traveling.
This article first appeared on FlavorfulWorld.com.
[Top image: thewininghour.blogspot.com]