Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Taste of Spring with John Eld

A Taste of Spring!

Wine tasting fundraiser with John Eld! Saturday,

May 4 at 7PM. Sponsored by the Friends of SNHL.

A Taste of Spring Wine Tasting With John Eld. Join us on Saturday, May 4 from 7:00-9:00 PM @ SNHL for a very special fundraiser with local wine connoisseur John Eld as he heralds in the spring! Small bites of various foods will be provided. John is former chairman of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Wine Society. Sponsored by the Friends of the Shaler North Hills Library. This event is for adults 21 and over. Seating is limited to 30 people. $30 each or $50 per couple/pair. Payment due upon registration.

Friday, April 26, 2019

"I Only Speak Wine Bottle French"

How would you like to have dinner in the South of France?  Perhaps in Languedoc-Roussillon?

We’d like that, too, but that ain’t gonna happen, so we’re offering the next best thing – a French dinner at our next tasting! Join us on WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2019 as we enjoy the wine and food from this region of France la belle.

A visit to Languedoc-Roussillon promises fine dining and traditional cuisine, with influences of Spanish flavors providing a unique dining experience. From fresh seafood brought in each morning from the Mediterranean to Catalan-style fare, there’s a meal for every palate in Languedoc-Roussillon. Our “chefs de cuisine” aren’t necessarily French, but they do a great job.

A meal in France wouldn’t be complete without wine! Our dinner will feature six wines from this AOC. Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the world’s most interesting wine making regions and its huge range of wines are widely acknowledged by critics and experts as worthy of attention, awards and accolades. Come and taste what our expert panel has selected!


WEDNESDAY, May 8, 2019
Evergreen Community Center

3430 Evergreen Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237



 The cost for members or guests


Please reply before Saturday, May 6, 2019 to:

Or you may reply to:

 412-979-6565 or 

Mail your check, payable to AWS to:

Robert Dering
38 Perry Lane
Pittsburgh PA  15229

Don’t forget to visit the website for directions, useful tips, and recipes.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Second Annual Hiland Church
Art Show & Sale/ Wine Tasting

April 26, 2019, from 6 - 9 pm

The Opening Event will include the wine tasting
with paired appetizers, cork pull raffle, and live music

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Nice way to spend a rainy Friday evening and benefit
The Hiland Childcare Center's fundraiser!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Le secret le mieux gardé de la France.

France’s Best Kept Secret
Our next tasting/dinner on May 8, 2019 will feature the wines of the Languedoc. If you've only just learned about this wine region, you're not alone. But, where do we start with an area this huge?  Production in Languedoc is almost three times what Bordeaux puts out, and more than the whole of Australia!
Languedoc. Pronounced "Lanhng-dawk," the name is easy once you know how to say it. The name of this southern French region literally means "speech" of the south French. Regardless of the language that you speak, there's one word that unites anyone who comes for a visit to this Pyrenees region, and that, mon cheri, is wine. ­
Influenced by everyone from the Greeks and their olive trees to the Spaniards and their Catalan, the Languedoc Roussillon region of Fran­ce is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a prominent trade route.
Known today for the castles of Carcassonne, the breathtaking vistas and agricultural scenes of France, the 700,000 acres of the Languedoc Roussillon region is one of the world's most productive and affordable wine regions.
Apart from the cuisine, architecture and culture native to Languedoc, this area is one of France's several appellations in which noble grapes are grown. With this recent official AOC appellation title, the region is looking to find a way into the minds and meals of consumers everywhere.  The Pittsburgh Chapter is doing its part! The variety of red and white (but mostly red) French wines typical of this southern region are potent, but very modestly priced, and we’re going to sample several of them.
Famous Wines of the Languedoc Roussillon
Grape development is generational, not only in the way that fine wines are passed down throu­gh families but also in the creation of a new grape, something that takes around 20 years for researchers to create and grow. We’ve learned in previous tastings about the influence that climate has on wine. The Languedoc Roussillon's Mediterranean heat makes a strong grape.


CARIGNAN is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the Languedoc Roussillon region. This wine is high in alcohol, deep colored, full bodied with lots of tannin. It needs time to develop. When blended it adds structure and body.

CINSAULT probably originated in France and many regions use Cinsault for fruit. It’s usually combined with Carignon and Grenache Noir.

GRENACHE NOIR probably originated in Spain and is usually combined with Cabernet and Cinsault. Grenache is often used in Languedoc Roussillon to produce strong wine with deep color and flavor. This wine is low in tannin making it an excellent wine to blend with the higher tannin varieties.

SYRAH has been cultivated in France since Roman times. It produces a wine with the intense smell of violets, spices, green pepper and tar. It resists oxidation and ages well but needs several years to develop.

MOURVEDRE has been planted in Languedoc Roussillon since at least the 16th century. It produces a spicy wine with a deep opaque color when young with plenty of tannin and full bodied. It needs time to develop and goes very well with Grenache.

CABERNET FRANC is sometimes called as a poor relation of Cabernet Sauvignon, but the wines are lighter and more delicate in style. Cabernet Franc is usually blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

MERLOT is grown in the cooler parts of the Languedoc and has become very popular. It gives a well colored wine of good quality and can be drunk young.


CHARDONNAY is one of the most famous wine varieties used to produce Champagne, Chablis and of course Limoux in the Languedoc. It produces a wine high in alcohol with a slight lemon flavor. More and more Chardonnay is vinified in Oak in this region.

GRENACHE BLANC is mainly grown in the southern part of the region. It produces wines lower in alcohol and with less flavor. It’s mainly used for Vin Doux Naturelle.

PICPOUL BLANC Is used in the production of Picpoul de Pinet which makes a dry, clean, slightly neutral wine.

MARSANNE came to the Languedoc from the Rhone valley and is generally blended to give body weight and aroma. It produces richly flavored, aromatic wines which age well.

ROUSSANNE also came from the Rhone valley and is a good wine for blending. It ripens late adding finesse and bouquet to a blend.

VIOGNIER has become increasingly popular in the Languedoc. It has a unique aroma and flavor and is usually sold without blending.

MAUZAC is the grape variety used exclusively for production of Blanquette de Limoux. These wines mature rapidly, have a fine bouquet with a slight apple flavor and a pleasant hint of bitterness and good acidity.

CHENIN BLANC came down from the Loire Valley and is useful in adding freshness and acidity to white wine blends. It can produce a crisp wine with good acidity and for this reason it is part of the blend in Blanquette de Limoux.

CLAIRETTE BLANCHE is probably the oldest white wine variety of the Languedoc. It’s used for the appellations Clairette du Languedoc and Clairette de Bellegarde and it is also used in Vin Doux Naturelle and Vermouth. This wine is high in alcohol and tends to oxidize quickly.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Qui coupe le fromage?

With thanks to my friend Jordo Schultz for reminding me about this. Your friends at the AWS Pittsburgh Chapter like to help you to feel comfortable in any eating or drinking situation.  Our next tasting will be based on French food and wine, so we thought that we would give you some advice an iconic French food – Cheese!
No meal is complete without a cheese course, but how to cut the cheese like the French is the question. So many rules!  Most of them make sense, though, since how you cut the cheese has to do with leaving a decent serving for the next person, and then leaving the cheese in the best shape to keep it.

The Logic Behind How the French Cut Cheese
There’s reason to the way French people cut their cheese. It’s to ensure a fair distribution between the rind and the dough. The taste is usually stronger next to the rind, and you also want to be polite and leave some dough for everybody. In many French cheeses, you don’t eat the rind. It’s not that it’s bad, but it might be very strong in taste, or too hard to bite into. Storage of the remaining cheese is also taken into consideration.
Individual Servings of French Cheese
Most French methods about cutting cheese show you how to cut the whole cheese (as for serving it in a buffet for example). In a restaurant, the waiter will usually cut the cheeses for you. But the difficult part is knowing how to help yourself to a single serving of cheese when you are presented with a whole selection, at a friend’s house for example.
In this case, you will just cut one cheese serving, for yourself, and that’s when, if you don’t know how to “couper le fromage”, you could make a big faux-pas, and ruin the plateau de fromages!
 Serving French Cheese
If you’re hosting, you should also present your “plateau de fromages” with several knives, so you don’t use the same knife to cut a mild cheese and a Roquefort. If there’s only one knife, you may use your piece of bread to wipe it clean before you cut another cheese.
Quality cheese is expensive in France. It should be offered only once (i.e. you don’t ask for seconds) and people should take only what they can eat. If you over indulge in “le plateau de fromages”, the hosts might be under the impression that they didn’t feed you enough during the meal. In other words, cheese is a delicacy, not a main course.
Storing French Cheese
To store the cheese, put the cheese back in its own wrapper (or box), or change wrapper, so the smell of a stronger cheese doesn’t affect a milder one.
Keep the cheeses in the bottom of the fridge, in the vegetable drawer, which is the coldest and most humid part of the fridge. Or better keep it in a cold cellar. A French cheese expert would say it’s “sacrilège” to put cheese in the fridge since it stops its maturation. But, if you don’t have a cold cellar handy, and don’t want your camembert running miles away, the fridge will have to do!
Soft rind cheeses (Camembert, Brie) and washed rind cheeses (Munster, Livarot) can be kept out of the fridge for 2 to 3 days if they are at their best, if they are left in their packaging and wrapped in a damp cloth. Take the cheeses out of the fridge at least one hour before serving and prepare your cheese platter in advance. A cheese which is too cold will lose a big part of its flavor.
Do you know why round French cheese (such as Camembert) come in a round wood box? It’s to store the open cheese (you may also put the box in the oven to serve a warm cheese – very practical :-)
If you still have a minimum of half a cheese left, then put it back in its wooden box and keep the box on its side, with the open part of the cheese up. It will prevent the cheese from running out of its rind. It will run a bit, but inside the rind, so when you serve it again, just cut the excess of rind and you’ll have a decent looking cheese.
To store and to serve cheese, “une cloche à fromage” is also useful: it will keep insects and odors away when serving on the table.
How to Cut Round French Cheese (Camembert, Coulommiers, Reblochon) And Heart Shaped Cheese (Neufchâtel)
You should cut these French cheeses like you would cut a round cake, into triangle shape portions.
How to Cut Large Size French Round Cheese (Brie)
They are presented whole or in portions (triangle). It’s rare that someone will serve a whole brie cheese (it’s big). But if they do, then cut it like you would a pie. You’ll have a long, thin piece. If it’s too much for one serving. you may cut it in two and leave the half for another guest. If you get a portion of the cheese – much more common, you should follow this technique:
  • Cut the “nose” off (but in an angle, never cut the nose off parallel to the rind of the cheese, this is a big “no-no” in cheese etiquette).
  • Then you cut another diagonal slice,
  • Then you cut perpendicular to the end rind, so each slice will have a bit of end rind on them.

 How to Cut Pyramid Shape French Cheese (Valençay) And Cylinders (Charolais)
Again, cut it like a cake, but this time all the way through the height of the cheese.
How to Cut Square French Cheese (Maroilles)
Cut it like a cake, starting with a diagonal cut, which gives two triangles, then cut each triangle in half and so on (it then leads to 4, 8 or 16 equal parts). If you are only helping yourself, you can do the math and start from the middle of the cheese and cut just a slice.
There is however another technique and its use has to do with storage.
  • Cut your square cheese in half.
  • Then, starting from the side without the rind (what before was the middle of your cheese) cut parallel slices moving towards the rind.
  • When you had enough, you can then push the two parts together and “close” your cheese: now you have a rectangular shape cheese.

With that cut, the dough will be contained inside the rind, and won’t run.
How to Cut French Blue Cheese (Bleu D’Auvergne, Fourme D’Ambert)
The flavors are concentrated in the marbling. Blue cheese cut into slices (Roquefort) should be laid flat, and cut into parallel slices, starting on the core side. Then you can cut smaller portions in a diagonal kind of way.
It’s likely this cheese will not make neat servings and will crumble a bit. It’s an art form to be able to maneuver this cheese with your knife and bread. Do not touch any cheese with your fingers!
How to Cut French Log Cheese (Sainte-Maure De Touraine)
Simply cut your French log cheese in parallel slices, first removing the end part if need be (so you don’t get all the rind). In the case of Sainte-Maure de Touraine, you should first remove the straw to avoid breaking the slices!
How to Cut Slices of Wheels (Comté, Morbier)
The cheese should be considered two parts: the core (close to the center of the wheel) and the rind (the part farther from it).
You start on the core end, by cutting long slices parallel to the rind (so it’s mostly dough, with 2 small rind parts on each end). If the long slice is too big, you may cut it into 2. Then, at about mid-cheese, you change technique: you cut perpendicularly to the rind (so no-one is left at the end with only a piece of rind)
How to Cut Very Hard French Cheese (Extra Old Mimolette)
They can simply be broken or cut into shavings with a vegetable peeler.
How to Serve Yourself Runny French Cheese (Mont D’Or)
It can be served warm or cold. If it’s cold and not very ripe, you may be able to cut it like a pie with a knife. But if it’s warm or ripe (and then very runny inside) you should serve it with a spoon!! You may eat the rind or not, it’s up to you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

French Food That Isn’t

Tellement décevant! You grew up eating French toast, French fries and French dressing, then realized that you’ve been lied to your entire life! There are so many things we call French food that aren’t.

Your friends at the AWS Pittsburgh Chapter thought that we’d help by letting you know in advance of our next tasting of French food and wine what’s French and what’s just a figment of our imagination. Even the most fantastic myth gets a bit of inspiration from reality, like the Frenchman in his beret with the baguette under his arm, so, let’s explore where this all comes from. And since we’re all obsessed with food these days, we’ll begin there.

The French gave the world the hot air balloon, the sewing machine, and the bikini. They even gave the us The Statue of Liberty. However, one thing the French can’t claim is the French fry.

French Fries

Although Americans thought they were getting back at the French in 2003 by coining the term “Freedom fries”, these treats were actually invented in Belgium in the late 1600’s. And every honest Frenchman knows that. You will of course find frites at your typical fast food joints and on brasserie and bistro menus with steak, jambon or saucisse. But the most recent boom has been with hipster food trucks serving gourmet burgers and hand cut fries.

French toast

It’s not called toast français but pain perdu which literally means “lost bread”. Since the daily baguette is a staple in many French homes, there’s often a little that ends up going stale. Instead of throwing it out, you can save the “lost” bread by soaking it in egg and milk, frying it in butter and topping it with powdered sugar. It’s rare to find pain perdu on a restaurant menu, and it isn’t your typical family breakfast dish as much as a dessert. Before the French called it pain perdu, they called it pain à la Romaine (Roman bread)” as the original recipe actually dates to 4th century Rome. Who knew?!

So, if the French didn’t invent the modern French toast, who did? According to legend, it was an Albany, New York innkeeper named Joseph French. He created the dish in 1724 and advertised it as "French Toast" because he was grammatically inept and forgot the apostrophe.

French Dressing

This condiment is far from anything a native français would put on their crudités. In the 1950's, someone in the US thought it would be a good idea to invent a salad dressing made with ketchup and sugar and call it “French”. Our advice: it’s best to stick with your classic vinaigrette if you want authentic French taste. Olive oil, vinegar, salt, and maybe a dash of mustard is real French dressing.

French Onion Dip

Stemming from the popular misconception that the French eat onions with every meal, it seems this is another transatlantic invention that combines America’s love for snacks and traditional French onion soup flavors. The original French onion dip was a recipe developed to sell Lipton's Onion Soup Mix, during a fad for marketing convenience products in the 1950's. Lipton called their recipe "California", the west coast being almost as exotic as France in the 1950's. Their product is just "Onion Soup Mix". Knorr calls their product "French Onion Soup Mix", and that's the name that seems to have stuck, giving the impression that this is a food with a history of elegance, as opposed to an invention of marketers.

French Vanilla

The French don’t claim that vanilla comes from France but rather from Bourbon, which is the region where it’s produced, the Indian ocean islands of Reunion (French department formerly called Bourbon Island), Madagascar and Comoros. However, “French Vanilla” flavor or scent does originate from the French recipe for custard. Today, when we refer to French vanilla, it’s when the vanilla flavor is caramelized, and slightly floral. French Vanilla Custard Body Lotion just doesn’t sound right, so they dropped the custard part.

French Cruller

It seems that Dunkin’ Donuts may have gotten their European geography wrong. According, crullers were “originally a Dutch creation. Sources disagree about the French cruller’s evolution, but it’s clear that the modern interpretation is based upon French choux pastry.” In any case, you won’t find a “French Cruller” anywhere in France. The closest thing that you’ll see are churros, which are the Spanish version that are fried in oil then served with either powdered sugar, or in France – Nutella. France is the largest consumer on the planet of this Italian spread!

On that note, grab some French roast coffee and some French bread before you have your French toast with French vanilla topping and your baked French eggs. Hopefully your French maid will be by soon to clean your French windows and iron your French curtains.

Bon appétit

Thursday, April 11, 2019

“Wow!  That’s good!  I’ve never tasted that kind of wine!”

That was the comment heard most often last evening at our tasting of unusual grape varietals – “The Grape Unknown.”

Joe and Ruth Barsotti presented six wines (listed below) and each one was a winner!  If you’re the sort of person that says, “I only drink California Cabernet”, then, this tasting was not for you.  But, we’re AWS members, and we’re always on the lookout for new (and delicious) wines to taste and pair.  It was a fantastic tasting, and we had some great food to pair with the wines.

Except for the Glen Manor Petit Manseng, all the wines are available through Barsotti Wines (  Contact them for details.  They’re always happy to help.

The Wines 
  1. Cantina Bolzano Pinot Bianco 2018 
  2. Tokaj Hetszolo Dry Furmint 2016 
  3. Glen Manor Vineyards Petit Manseng 2016     
  4. Duxoup Gamay Noir Nancy’s Vineyard 2016 
  5. Villa Brunesca Raboso Piave  2015 
  6. Caprasia Bobal 2015

The Food 

Cheeses (all from Penn Mac):
  1.      Truffle Tremor
  2.      Goat Gorgonzola served with honey drizzle
  3.      Zamorano

Roast beef roll-ups with red grapes

Crushed White Bean Bruschetta with White Truffle Oil

Wasabi peas

Marcona almonds


Join us next month for our French themed dinner tasting!

Thursday, April 4, 2019


Join us as we “strike a blow” for the underappreciated members of Vitis Vinifera!  With the help of Joe and Ruth Barsotti of Barsotti Wines, we will be presenting six unusual (and delicious) grape varieties so that we can expand our palates.

“Curse the Zinfandels!” Take the leap into . . .

“The Grape Unknown!”
WEDNESDAY, 10, 2019
Evergreen Community Center

3430 Evergreen Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237



 The cost for members or guests


Please reply before April 6, 2019 to:

Or you may reply to:

 412-979-6565 or 

Mail your check, payable to AWS to:

Robert Dering
38 Perry Lane
Pittsburgh PA  15229

Don’t forget to visit the website for directions, useful tips, and recipes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


The Winners of the Pittsburgh Wine Experience International Wine Label Design Contest 2019

Bronze Award
Kevin and Robert Dering
Caves de Dering

Silver Award
Amy Sidwell  and Murray Gervais
Findley Martin

Gold Award
Kim Zacherl
Olive Grove Cellars