Saturday, February 22, 2014

National Cherry Month

February is National Cherry Month. Cherries tend to have a very short growing season and are ready to be picked in the summer months. These sweet fruits are grown throughout the world. Some of the best cherry orchards are located in the United States.
Fun facts about cherries:
-There are about 7,000 cherries on a cherry tree.
-The amount of cherries on one tree can make about 30 cherry pies.
-In order for cherries to grow, cherry blossoms need bees to pollinate them.
-Of all the countries, Turkey produces the most cherries in the world and the United States comes in second.
Where to visit a cherry orchard:
  • Door County, Wisconsin
Each year Door County produces the most cherries throughout Wisconsin. There are over 50 orchards in the area. Not only is Door Country known for its cherries, but for its wineries and farm fresh markets as well. It’s a great place for travelers to visit because the locals are very friendly and the destination is absolutely gorgeous.
  • San Joaquin County
There are approximately 40,000 acres of cherry trees throughout California. San Joaquin County grows about 62% of all the cherries in the state of California. In addition to cherry picking, visitors can take part in the numerous cultural experiences in one of the 7 cities that call San Joaquin home. The Haggin Museum or The San Joaquin County Historical Museum are great places for travelers to visit. For the kids there’s the Pixie Woods Amusement Park which is located in Stockton.
  • Washington D.C.
There are numerous cherry trees located in Washington D.C. Cherries are so popular in this area in fact they even have a yearly celebration called The National Cherry Blossom Festival. This festival commemorates the blooming of the cherry trees. It is held from March 20 to April 14 this year. There are many places where visitors can pick cherries themselves in the suburbs of Washington D.C.
Since cherries aren’t ready to be harvested until at least June, you still have plenty of time to plan a trip to an orchard. Until then, why don’t you make a cherry pie to share with your family and celebrate National Cherry Month?

Here’s an easy recipe:

-         2 ready-made pie crusts
-         2 teaspoons of sugar
-         2 cans of cherry pie filling
-         1 tablespoon of water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom of a pie pan and place one of the pie crusts in it. Gently push the pie crust against the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour in the cans of cherry pie filling. Place the other pie crust on top of the filling. Squeeze the edges of the pie crust against the top edge of the pan.  Brush the top pie crust with one tablespoon of water. Sprinkle the sugar over top of the pie crust. Cut two slit in the top of the pie. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. You will know the pie is done when a little bit of pie filling bubbles out of the top. Remove the pie and let it sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Wine Regions of France

Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Loire Valley and Rhone are the most popular wine regions in France. Each of these regions is known for specific wines. Because of their commitment to quality, each region continues to produce vast amounts of wine every year.

Bordeaux: There are over 10,000 wine growers in Bordeaux. It is estimated that of all the wine produced in Bordeaux that 85% of it is red. This red wine comes from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. There are two sub regions in this area that produce the most red wine. They are referred to as “Right Bank” and “Left Bank”. Wine produced from grapes in the Right Bank is considered most suited for those that are just beginning the art of drinking Bordeaux. This is because the flavor is more fruity initially which makes it easier for new wine drinks to consume. The wine from the Left Bank requires years of maturity for its flavors to fully develop. The region of Bordeaux is also known for a white wine called Sauternes. It has a sweet flavor and is best paired with desserts. A bottle of Bordeaux wine can range from a mere $6 to over $1,000.

Burgundy: The region of Burgundy is best known for both its white and red wines. It is over 100 miles long and is located on the east side of France. Vineyards were started in this region around the 2nd century. The grapes grown in Burgundy are the Gamay, which is used to make Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, which is used to make red wine, and Chardonnay, which is used to make white wine. Red burgundy wines tend to be expensive. White burgundy has a sweet, peachy flavor and pairs well with most forms of seafood. Beaujolais is a very affordable red wine and has a fruity flavor. At $8 to $20 a bottle, you simply can’t go wrong.

Alsace: This region, unlike the other regions in France, uses the grape variety to name its wines rather than the region’s name. It is located on the eastern border of France and is the 5th smallest region in France. Don’t let the size of this region fool you though, there are over 37,800 acres of vineyards in this area, making them a very large wine producer in France. White wines are the main type of wine that is produced here. Pinot Blanc and Riesling are a few of the most popular wines from this region. The most reasonably priced wine is the Pinot Blanc. It tastes fruity with a hint of apples and some bottles cost under $25.

Loire Valley: Loire Valley is located on the northwest side of France. It is known for its production of white wines. Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre, Muscadet and Vouray are the most popular wines that come out of this region. It is the second largest producer of sparkling wine in France. Winemaking dates back in this area to the 1st century. Due to Loire Valley’s cooler climate, these wines have a lighter style. They tend to have a fresh, crispness. Wines from Loire Valley are usually reasonably priced. Bottles of Muscadet can be found for under $15.

Rhone: The region of Rhone is located in southeastern France. Its growing conditions allow for the production of some of the best inexpensive wines in all of France. This region is known for its red wines. There are at least 103 cooperatives and 1,837 private wineries in Rhone. Northern Rhone tends to be colder than southern Rhone. Because of this the variety of grapes and different styles of wine will vary slightly across the area. Some of the most popular red wines in this region are the Cote Rotie and the Hermitage. They both have a slight raspberry taste and are best paired with red meat. It’s not uncommon to find a bottle of either wine for under $50.

The variety of wines from each region allow for the vineyards to excel. Due to the quality of these wines, France remains the top wine producer in the entire world. To learn more about wines and wine making, consider taking a tour of one of these well known wine regions in France the next time that you visit this beautiful country.

Many escorted France vacations include visit to the wine regions.  Another wonderful way to travel is on a France river cruise. Many cruises offer special wine tours and tastings included in the price.