Category Archives for "Food and Wine"

May 16

Creating a Wine Cellar Means Controlling Humidity

By Joan Lesko | Food and Wine

With spring upon us, moisture in your basement can be a huge issue. Especially if you’re planning to use it as a wine cellar or somewhere you want to dry meats. In either of these cases, or if you just have a general desire to keep your basement dryer, you’re going to want a good dehumidifier to dry out your basement.

Consider First

Before you run out and buy one of these magical machines, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration. First off, what’s the temperature of your basement? If it’s below 65 degrees, you’re likely to run into an icing issue, as dehumidifiers don’t work so well at those lower temperatures. Once the water in the air hits the coils, it can pretty quickly turn into ice in cooler environments. At those lower temperatures, you’re going to need a specific low-temperature humidifier.

What Capacity Do You Need?

Second is capacity. A good dehumidifier can be something of an investment. You’re going to want to make sure the machine you purchase is capable of handling the amount of moisture in the as compared to the size of the room. If a humidifier isn’t able to completely dry out the area, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to get one.

The Right Tools

You can answer these questions using a tool called a hygrometer, which measures the temperature and humidity of a room. Now, when it comes to, say, a wine cellar, you want it to be a bit humid. Somewhere between 50 and 70 percent relative humidity. If you’re lower than that, you can run the risk of having the corks in your wine dry out and break loose from the bottle. Because of this, consistency in humidity is vital, and a dehumidifier is going to help with that.

In the case of wine, whether it’s white or red wine, a dehumidifier is going to be more useful in making sure your basement maintains a good enough level of humidity so it doesn’t begin to develop mold or other negative elements which sometimes exist in overly wet areas. This time of year, when it starts warming up and rains become a bit more frequent, humidity can be a real issue. The last thing you want is too much of it creeping into your home and causing damage. Structural damage can be an issue, for sure, but if you’re trying to do anything else besides storing wine such as aging foods like meats, humidity can definitely go from being your friend to being your enemy.


A dehumidifier with the right sort of capacity and efficiency can help combat that additional water in the air, and some even come with a digital readout which will let you keep things exactly where you need them. Finding the sources of additional water entry into your home will also go a long way toward solving any issues you have with additional humidity. So be sure to do your research and find out exactly what you need before diving in.

Apr 07

Red Wine Pairing for a Better Dining Experience

By Joan Lesko | Food and Wine

If you do not know the first thing about pairing food with red wine, I am here to help you today. Whether you are preparing for a dinner party with friends or a romantic dinner with your partner, your meal can be greatly enhanced by choosing a wine that goes well with what is on your plate. In this article I will be discussing red wine pairing with a range of dinner options. Forget the worries of staining your teeth with red wine as you can always use teeth whitening strips to take care of that issue. Find some reviews here. Simply enjoy the pleasant dining experience of pairing red wines and the foods they dance with on your tongue.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, the name deriving from the French words for pine and black, is made from grapes that are very difficult to grow. It was born in the Burgundy region of France with flavors of ripe red berries, sweet black cherries, mushrooms and forest floor. Pinot Noir pairs well with a wide range of food from salmon to game birds to light meats, which makes it a versatile choice for dining.

I would recommend sautéed duck breasts with wild mushrooms served with spanish rice and grilled pepper salad. You can even pour some of the pinot into the pan as you’re cooking the breasts. Get the recipe for duck breasts with mushrooms here.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a personal favorite of mine for cooking with. It is one of the world’s most recognized red wine grape variety. The grape is easy to cultivate which is one reason for it’s popularity. It’s flavor profile is full-bodied with high tannins and acidity which gives it it’s ability to age well. When grown in cooler climates, the wine tends to have notes of black currant accompanied by green bell pepper, mint and cedar. As the wine ages, these flavors become more pronounced.  In moderate climates the black currant notes are accompanied by black cherry and black olive. In hotter climates the flavors are described as being over-ripe.

Cab Sauv goes well with lamb and beef dishes. I recommend this American roast beef dish served with braised red cabbage and mashed potato.


The Gamay grape is a purple-grape variety and is fermented in a closed container without oxygen. It produces wine that is light-bodied and fruity with floral notes of lilac and violets. Grown in the Beaujolais region, this grape will produce wines with a flavor profile of sour cherries, black pepper, and dried berry, as well as fresh-cut stone and chalk. It pairs well with light chicken dishes, pork sausages, cheese, charcuterie, etc.

This wine is perfect if you plan on having  a summer BBQ. Grill up some veggies as a side to some spicy sausages. Try this grilled spicy sausage patty recipe.


Merlot is made from a dark blue grape variety and is one of the most popular red wine varietal in many markets. There tends to be 2 main styles of Merlot:

  • International style – harvested late to gain ripeness and produce a wine that is full-bodied with high alcohol and velvety tannins.
  • Bordeaux style – harvested earlier to maintain acidity and produce medium bodied wine with moderate alcohol levels.

It has characteristics of black cherry, raspberry, plum, graphite, tobacco, cedar, vanilla, clove and mocha. Merlot can be paired with light meats or lightly-spiced dark meats. Do not pair with fish or leafy-green vegetables. I recommend skillet rosemary chicken.


Shiraz is a red wine produced using dark-skinned grapes grown throughout the world. The flavor profile of shiraz tends to be medium-full bodied, with flavors of blackberry, mint, chocolate, espresso and black pepper. Shiraz is also versatile when it comes to pairing, going well with dark meats, roast duck, venison and spicy, peppery dishes. Try it with this chili recipe.

Most of these wines are versatile and will go well with many dishes but the dinner ideas suggested are a great place to start and are sure to please your guests’ palettes. Wine pairing is fun and enhances your dining experience, so try out these suggestions and see what you think.

Why not make it a wine tasting?



Nov 05

A Beginners Guide to Tasting Wine

By Joan Lesko | Food and Wine

As a mother of two school-aged children, I have just enough time to take mini-vacations now and then. Recently, I and some girlfriends had the luxury of a spa weekend that included an afternoon at a local winery where we learned some of the finer points of wine tasting.

wine-tasting-2The wine tasting took place in one of the bottle cellars, which was cool but brightly lit. The bottles for sampling were arranged on long, lawn-covered tables and every few feet was a silver spittoon.

The host started by telling us that most people don’t know how to appreciate wine. They can’t tell the difference between a $150 Grand Cru or that serviceable stuff one buys at the supermarket for $3.00. That’s because they emphasize the wrong sense to taste the wine.

wine-tastingThe main sense to use in wine-tasting is not the sense of taste, but the sense of smell in the upper part of the nasal cavity. This area doesn’t really respond to smells that come from the outside, but when you have a mouthful of wine it will dissolve the wine’s volatile gases and take them to the olfactory bulb in the brain. In professional wine tasters, who’ve drunk lots of wine, this stimulates the memories of wines they have sampled. The reason why the wine is spat out after the taster evaluates it is to keep the new wine from becoming overwhelming.

But since I and my girlfriends were novices, I can only guess the new wine would return all those memories of that good, cheap stuff we had at our dinner parties.

pouring-wineThen, the wine was poured for us. In our case, we were sampling reds. The thing about reds is that they’re served at room temperature, in large-bowled stem glasses that are filled only a third of the way. This allows you to swirl them safely and allows their volatile gases to collect.

You start by tilting the glass against the pale cellar wall and evaluating the color. A blackish, purplish wine means that the wine is young and will take a long time to mature. If it’s brick red, it’s mature. Brown wine, with the exception of sherry, is too old. My first glass was ruby colored. It was young, but good.

Then, you stick your nose into the glass, close your eyes and inhale deeply, as you would a bouquet of roses. The wine should not smell “funny,” musty or vinegary. The best wines have a complex bouquet that comes from the grape, the barrel and the bottle. Some experts can even identify what type of grape is in the wine. I wasn’t there yet! I would say that the smell of the first wine I had was “lively.” This means the fresh smell of a good, young wine. It also had a nice, grapey scent, which is also a good sign.

wine-tastingThen, I took a mouthful. Our host warned us to not sip but take a mouthful so the wine could reach every area of the mouth. I and my girlfriends looked like hamsters, but that was fine. Then, we had to pucker our lips and draw in air. This helps volatize the wine and help it rise into the nasal cavity. The words I thought of as the wine was in my mouth were “raspberries,” and “violets,” which are good appellations.

Then, while everybody spat their wine out, I swallowed mine. It was too good and too expensive to spit out! Plus, spitting it out was gross.

I’m not sure if this ruined my experience with the other wines, which I also swallowed, but one day, I hope to be experienced enough, or blasé enough, to use the spittoon. I will always remember the lessons I learned at the winery!