Strike It Rich with Dynamite Red

A dynamite wine for an explosively delicious Fourth 

Whiz! Bang! Boom! This Dynamite Red lives up to its name.

Whiz! Bang! Boom! This Dynamite Red lives up to its name.

Happy Independence Day, readers! It feels good to get my lazy self back on the blog — not that I haven’t been busy; I most definitely have been, what with wrangling my 9-month old monkey, taming the beasts Dishes and Laundry, and now starting a job hunt. I think I do better with writing when I have more on my plate, but not too much that it’s overwhelming. When there isn’t as much pressing business to do, it’s easier to just do other things instead. A habit I would love to ditch someday!

So, today is the one day of the entire season that epitomizes summer. Hopefully your day is full of warm sunshine, a pool/river/lake, ice cream, great fireworks, fun friends and family, delicious BBQ, and, to go with that BBQ… some red wine, perhaps? But it is summer, after all, and it’s nice to go with beverages that are lighter, sweeter, and even served chilled.

If that is at all up your alley, I’ve got the perfect wine for you! (And even if it’s not, you still need to try this wine).

Have any of you ever had wine from Arizona? I used to winter in Tucson the last couple years for management training for my old job. My husband would accompany me and while I was in class during the day he would drive around and explore. He found Silver Strike Winery in Tombstone, and picked up their Dynamite Red one year. The next year we bought some again, and now we miss it and are thinking we need to order some soon.

This wine is produced and bottled in Elgin, AZ. It’s a fairly sweet red, very tasty and refreshing, especially for Arizona heat or any summer clime. We found we liked drinking it slightly chilled. There is something really nice about finding a great, delicious, straightforward, easy-drinking red that practically anyone will enjoy. Trophies in your wine arsenal.

Another benefit to drinking this (or any) wine from Silver Strike Winery is the winemakers’ philosophy of minimal chemical tampering with the grapes, and using organic and biodynamic growing methods to coax out their best flavors… a practice I will always stand behind!

While I’m aware I’ve given you pretty short notice on securing this red, as today is the Fourth, you can always order through their website. We still have plenty of summer left, and the Internet is always open for business, so no excuses! I believe the cost was somewhere in the ballpark of $15-$30. Ask about some of their other wines, too, while you’re at it. (And let them know you heard about them on The Rambling Vine). They have another one called “Village of Elgin”, I believe, that I also really enjoyed.

Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful Fourth, and hope you strike it rich with some Dynamite Red this summer!

Strange But True: Bacon Wine

Wine can be made from so many things. While grapes are the number one choice, and for good reason, that hasn’t stopped adventuresome spirits from using wild ingredients or attempting creative and strange flavor combinations over the centuries. But until now, no one has dared try what could be the next big thing, based on two current popular foodie faves… bacon and red wine. But someone has. And all I have to say is… wow.

I was lucky to meet the owners of Swine Cellars this past weekend, Wilbur and Petunia, whose production facility is located out in Woodinville Farm Country, which is right next to Woodinville Wine Country. They are so cheerful and rosy cheeked, squealing all the time, you know they are having a good time and enjoying their fair share of the product (although they do snort constantly when they laugh… which gets old). Anyway….

I got to sip on the unctuous concoction while interviewing them this past weekend. “So, how were you inspired to make bacon wine? And how exactly is it made?”

“Well, we thought one day, how can we offer a totally unique product in the world of wine?” said Wilbur. “Something revolutionary, daring, that no one else has done before? And then, it hit us… bacon wine! Bacon has skyrocketed to ultimate food status in the gastronomic universe, and we all know that this is the day and age of great wine, craft beer, and small batch spirits. We know bacon vodka has already been done, and to great acclaim, but we though, why not try bacon wine?”

“And so we did!” chimed in Petunia. “We found an exceptional Zinfandel grape that is grown by a small lot producer out in eastern Washington. We were looking for a dark rich smoky red wine with berry notes. It pairs perfectly with bacon flavors.”

“Which brings us to how we incorporate the bacon flavor into the wine,” said Wilbur. “The secret’s out… we add bacon grease (and no, we won’t tell you the percentage) to the wine. It brings out the flavors of the wine unlike anything else on earth. Plus, the acidity of the wine naturally helps break down the fat of the bacon.”

“Where do you source your bacon grease?” I ask, eating some complimentary oyster crackers, as I’m starting to feel the effects of the wine on an empty stomach.

They both blush. “Well, guess we can’t keep it a secret for very long,” said Petunia. “We actually get it from ourselves. We’ve shed a ton of weight during this project… even our kids have been willing to help out. We’ve never been this in shape our whole lives!”

“Wow, how resourceful and sustainable are you guys!” I exclaimed. “This could be the wave of the future, using what you have on hand to enhance already great wine!

“Exactly!” squealed Wilbur and Petunia. “Thank you so much for helping spread the word about our bacon wine. The marketing has been a challenge, so we need all the help and exposure we can get.”

“My pleasure,” I said, wiping my mouth with a napkin. “I’m always looking for innovative new wines to feature on my blog, and this is perfect.”

So, dear readers, if you’re looking for a unique flavor adventure, go visit Swine Cellars out in Woodinville. Make sure you tell them the Rambling Vine sent you.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Eat Your Sweetheart Out: Snickers Cheesecake

Eeeeeeeee! It’s the season of sugar! (You really can’t make weight loss resolutions until after Easter, seriously). Valentine’s Day is today, and I sure hope your pancreas is ready for what I’m about to dish up. :)

It started with the urge to make a decadent cheesecake for my mom’s birthday.

When I googled snickers cheesecake, I came up with results that showed cheesecakes with swamps of Snickers bar chunks on top. This seemed like a good idea (and it’s not bad, I’ve had it at the Cheesecake Factory before), but not quite what I was hoping for, as far as great flavor and texture are concerned. Instead, I decided to pay tribute to the spirit of a Snickers bar, with roasted, salted peanuts, hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream on top. I think I’ve created a winner! Snickers Cheesecake

If you’re looking to make dessert this Valentine’s Day (or any celebration, for that matter), you’ll appreciate this cheesecake recipe. It’s not too hard (considering) and it tastes way better than shoving mutilated candy bars in your cheesecake batter. :)

Ditch the box of chocolates, Forrest Gump… you and your Valentine will die and go to candy heaven with this recipe.

Ode to Snickers Cheesecake
(Heavily adapted from a recipe for Irish cream cheesecake from Favorite Old-Fashioned Desserts by Pat Dailey)
By Brenna Arnesen

CRUST
1 – 9 oz. box Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
4 T unsalted butter, melted

FILLING
1 c. plus 2 T granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 lbs. (4 – 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract

TOPPING
Hot fudge sauce
Caramel sauce (I used jarred for both, quick & easy)
Roasted salted peanuts, coarsely crushed
Whipped cream (from a can)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Crush the cookies into fine crumbs in a food processor or blender. Add the butter and mix well. Transfer crumbs to a 10-inch springform pan and press them into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crumbs are set, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, mix the sugar and eggs in a food processor or with an electric mixer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese in batches and mix until thoroughly smooth. Add the cornstarch and vanilla and mix well.

Pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the cake is just set in the center, about 35 – 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, but leave the oven on.

Take your crushed peanuts, approximately 1 – 1.5 cups worth, and sprinkle on top of cheesecake. Return cheesecake to oven and bake for 6 minutes or so, until peanuts set and get slightly toasted. Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with room temp hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce to your liking. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours before serving, and then serve with whipped cream.

And snicker at how easy this dessert was to make! :)

Have a sweet Valentine’s Day! What are you eating and drinking tonight?

Love,
The Rambling Vine

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Five Star Cellars Creates Five-Star Wine

Merlot has suffered a plunge in popularity over the last decade or so, though not for good reason. It’s been crowded out by favorite luminaries Washington Syrah, Oregon Pinot Noir, and California Cabernet Sauvignon (at times, perhaps justifiably so). But my heart aches for the underdog, especially when that underdog is just as bright as any other star in the firmament.

Image courtesy Five Star Cellars.

Image courtesy Five Star Cellars.

Five Star Cellars, one of my absolute favorite wineries, uses only the top fruit from the top vineyards in Washington state, and their wine confirms this. I’ve been lucky enough to drink their acclaimed wines on numerous occasions now, and I have to say that if I were to ever join a wine club, Five Star Cellars would be one of them! Every bottle is exceptionally tasty and mind-blowing, so no regrets when it comes to regular purchases. While I enjoy all of their wines, my sweetheart wine is their Merlot. Oh yeah, Merlot! :)

This is one of the best Merlots I’ve ever had; perfect balance, perfect texture, lovely lovely bouquet and taste. I can’t say enough good things about it. Their 2009 blend is 92% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec. Fruit is all from the Walla Walla Valley; hailing from the stellar Seven Hills, Pepperbridge, and Blue Mountain vineyards.

According to the winemaker’s notes: “Fleshy fruits dominate the nose followed with hints of oak. Bright cherry notes combine with blackberry and currant flavors. Well integrated tannins with great acidity carry the long finish.”

See? I’ve made your Valentine wine selection a cinch! This wine is perfect on its own, accompanied by some nice olives, cheese, and crackers, or with a moderately rich beef or pasta dish.

When it comes to Merlot, don’t be too quick to judge. Let this wine change your mind and set the bar for enjoying all other Merlots. It does, after all, shine in a class of its own.

“Be mine!”
XOXO, Merlot

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Life Lessons From the Super Bowl

Photo courtesy thenewstribune.com

It’s February 3, 2014, and the Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl Champions! This was our year! What an amazing game to behold and cheer on. More importantly, it is my 7-year wedding anniversary, and I am thrilled to celebrate with my wonderful husband tonight with some fine steak and, of course, fine wine.

This post is more rambling than vine, but I wanted to share what football has taught me… and this is coming from a total non-jock who typically is only mildly interested in the Super Bowl every year. :)

No one player is greater than the rest of the team. The Seahawks are your case in point. All play unique roles and all are important. When you happen to find yourself in a position of superiority, glamour, or prestige, never look down on your other teammates. When you are in a position of inferiority, remember your value and importance in your role and don’t waste time and energy envying the other positions. Every job has its challenges. Be gracious to your teammates who are doing the best they can.

Be nimble, adaptable, and flexible, because things can all change at a moment’s notice.

Just because you carry “names” with you that the media throws at you (best quarterback, worst defense, etc.) does not mean those words define you. Only your performance defines you professionally. You can choose to allow those words to become your identity or leave them be.

Life’s highs and victories go so fast. Enjoy them. Let the Gatorade soak you to the bone.

When you lose, lose with dignity. It’s not necessarily a reflection on you and your worth as a person. After all, it’s just a game.

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect the same results. Be willing to take risks and try new things in order to score points.

Football is very hard on your body, and you only have so many years in the game. If you want to stay in it longer, take great care of yourself and improve the odds.

You cannot control what or who comes at you. But you can control how you respond and react.

And finally… beer goes better with football. :)

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I’m Dreaming Of A White… Russian?

Merry Christmas from The Rambling Vine! I have not forgotten you, my dear, thirsty readers! You could say I’ve had my hands full these past few months, working full-time while pregnant, then getting a case of bronchitis so bad my excessive coughing basically evicted my son three weeks before his due date (we thought we had all the time in the world to prepare… ha!). What a whirlwind! That being said, our son Blake Elliot was born October 4th and is the most perfect, sweetest little buddy baby I’ve ever known. Because he is so delightful and endearing I’m ready to have more, but I’d like to enjoy wine for a while longer after the 9-month hiatus. Priorities! :)

Last night, with it being Christmas Eve Eve, I decided to indulge my inner bartender and make us cocktails. I opted for White Russians since I happened to have half & half in the fridge and the right spirits in our lazy Susan liquor cabinet (I know, I know, gotta baby proof the 80 proof one day).

A White Russian is vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream (for a Black Russian, simply omit the cream). It’s a drink I first picked up on in my early 20′s when I started ordering cocktails and needed something tasty and easy to remember. White Russian stuck, maybe because I love the dance flick White Nights, maybe because I minored in Russian in college. It’s basically a spiked iced coffee… and you can never go wrong with a spiked iced coffee.

A White Russian may be an overlooked drink, but when you make it with my favorite  vodka, organic Peabody Jones Vodka by Woodinville Whiskey Company, and microbatch locally roasted Coffee Liqueur by New Deal Distillery, you’re on a whole other gourmondo foodie level of White Russian. These spirits are each amazing on their own, and I suggest sipping each one on its own just so you can appreciate their complex and delicious flavors. Peabody Jones Vodka and New Deal Coffee Liqueur hail from fabulous tasting rooms that are full of additional tantalizing options and are most definitely worth checking out. Trust me, you’ll be paying tribute to them for years to come after your first revelatory visit. You can even find both their products at Total Wine now!

Since the vodka and coffee liqueur are more complex than usual, you might think that combining them would result in gustatory excess. I am of the school of “more is more” in this instance. Mixing one outstanding spirit with another outstanding spirit is like pairing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; so much hotness can’t be a bad thing, unless you think they’re so hot it’s sickening, in which case you are probably a purist and don’t like mixed drinks anyway. Bah humbug!

So, here is a recipe for the best White Russian you will ever have. It is the Rolls-Royce of White Russians. Enjoy one this week as you watch The Big Lebowski with family or friends (if you don’t know what I’m talking about… do it anyway and find out).

The drink abides. 

White Russian

1.5 oz. (3 T) Peabody Jones Vodka
0.75 oz. (1 T) New Deal Distillery Coffee Liqueur
1 oz. (1 T) half & half

Pour vodka first, then coffee liqueur, then cream, into an old-fashioned glass with ice, and stir.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter: La Crema Chardonnay

Hey vino lovers! I hope I didn’t lose too many of you with my two-part pregnancy series, “What to Drink When You’re Expecting.” That’s my life write now so I like to go off on tangents every once and a while, but rest assured, we’re back to wine talk! I might not be able to drink right now, but there are MANY wines I have tried and that I’m ready to blog about and share with you! So, back to wine… what haven’t we done in a while? How about a chardonnay? Sure, let’s do it!

Most of us fall into either the red or the white camps. I would have to say I prefer reds over whites, but I know well enough not to refuse a really good white if it’s offered to me. There are some whites out there that are as rich, complex, flavorful and fascinating as any really good red.

Chardonnay is the heavyweight white, standing opposite equally hefty heavyweight Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnays are made from the Chardonnay grape (wouldn’t you feel dumb if you lost that one at trivia!) and range in style from crisp, clean, and minerally, to buttery, toasty, and tropical fruity. That last one makes it sound like a Trix cereal jingle, but trust me, I didn’t intend for it to be. :)

When sugary grapes ferment and are combined with yeast, you get wine. The fact that some of these grapes can produce a literally buttery flavor in the mouth is mind-boggling! I can’t believe it’s not butter! (said in Kim Cattrall’s sultry voice). And who doesn’t love butter? Especially wine that tastes like butter… still unconvinced? Read on!

La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is usually in the $20 range (depending on where you buy it) and is one of the better Chardonnays I’ve tried that is readily available and easy to locate. It’s dry, but it’s a perfect balance between buttery and acidic on the palate. This California Chardonnay is “beautifully aromatic, citrus-laced, and layered.”

According to the winemaker’s notes, “This vintage opens with bright aromas of Meyer lemon and yellow apple, punctuated by hints of butterscotch and subtle floral notes. The palate adds flavors of juicy yellow plum, lemon curd and vanilla custard. Rich tropical tones and a lingering spice add richness and texture to the long, fresh finish.”

Hello!

When I first had this wine, I enjoyed it purely on its own. However, if you’d like to try pairing it with some different foods, the La Crema website has some delicious sounding recipes to go with this tasty Chardonnay, including crab risotto with fine herbs and chicken curry and sultana raisin sandwich. Yes, you are more than welcome to make these for me. ;)

If you’d like to explore a richer, heftier white wine this summer, or else you’ve never tried Chardonnay and would like a good one to start off with as well as one to stick with, the La Crema Chardonnay is your best bet.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s challenging being a pregnant wine-lover. While very light drinking – especially after the first trimester – is probably not going to harm the baby, science still cannot tell us how little alcohol it takes to cause damage, and that’s just not something I’m willing to risk. My guilt wouldn’t let me anyway: I sneak thimble-sized sips of wine or beer from my husband every now and then, and I still panic a tiny bit. It’s just not worth it to me, although once I’m in my 8th or 9th month I may be so uncomfortable I’ll be willing to risk a glass of wine once a month. :)

However, there’s still “in the mean time.” It’s now June, and I am in my 21st week, or about  month 5. Still 4 more months of good behavior in store.

More than enjoying a glass of wine on its own, I have missed wine the most when I’ve had a very rich meaty or cheesy dinner and I don’t have those precious few sips of wine to wash it down and ease the digestion of fat. It makes a huge difference now in my ability to digest and enjoy a meal. Certain dishes like rich, buttery, cheesy pastas or marbled cuts of beef with velvety sauces are unbearable now without a glass of wine!

One night not too long ago, I went out to eat with my girl friend and in the spirit of yea-I’m-celebrating-with-my-out-of-town-friend-I-should-live-it-up I ordered macaroni with three cheeses and kielbasa sausage (makes me sick just to read that now!). What the heck, I thought. I never order this sort of thing, it will be a treat. The dish came, and it was wonderful and addicting, but then I began to fear the power of all that oily cheese and butter and the havoc it would soon wreak on my GI tract. There is a reason I never order this sort of thing without wine! What have I done, I thought to myself with the same disgust and self-loathing of someone who’d just signed up to run a marathon through Death Valley on a July noon. We were about to go see a movie after dinner… would I miss most of it because my body insisted I stare at bathroom wall art work instead?

But then I remembered what I could do! Although I didn’t have a tasty glass of wine with which to complement my mac and cheese, I recalled hearing about Italians from Modena, the region famed for prized aged balsamic vinegars. I had bought a fine bottle for my dad as a birthday present, and remember reading the tag on the bottle that listed how the people of Modena enjoyed their vinegar: over strawberries, over parmesan cheese, or – gasp! – even by the spoonful after a meal. Huh, that’s nifty, and makes sense, I had thought to myself. Vinegar is highly acidic and breaks down fat molecules, thus helping you digest. Taking a spoonful of rich balsamic vinegar after a meal is like a tonic or digestive aid, more medicinal in purpose, but if you select a sweet, dessert-y balsamic, it’s more pleasant than a harsh, cheap, low quality vinegar. The Latin and Greek roots of the word balsamic even mean “balsam-like” or “restorative” or “curative.”

With this snap revelation from Bacchus the Italian wine god, I asked our server if he could bring me some balsamic vinegar. After his first failed attempt of bringing me malt vinegar (the kind Brits put on their fish & chips – not something to slurp on its own!), he did manage to find some better balsamic and brought it to the table (someone got an education in vinegar that night). My friend had an empty condiment cup from her nacho toppings, so we emptied it and I filled it like a shot glass and slammed that baby down without too much puckering.

Praise the Lord, I had no issues! That shot of vinegar did the trick in helping me digest some mighty rich food. I think it probably worked better than a glass of wine because of how much concentrated acidity is in balsamic vinegar as opposed to a single glass of wine. Who knew, huh?

The restaurant balsamic was OK, but definitely not the finer, aged, gourmet kind you can savor on its own, with its dark, rich, syrupy smooth sweetness. Sometimes those bottles will run you $30, $40, $50 even, depending on how long it has been aged, and also the name brand.

If you want a fabulous, authenic, aged balsamico from Modena, with great texture and smooth, complex aromatics, have I got a sweet little secret! It’s even less than $20. You must think I’m crazy, right? Ha, check this out….

The sweet little secret is Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Tsillan Cellars in Lake

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Chelan, WA. You know it must be good if we’ve downed most of the bottle, right? We bought this 8.45 oz. bottle for only $12 when we were wine tasting at Tsillan (pronounced Shuh-lan) Cellars last summer. This balsamic vinegar is from Modena, Italy and “is aged up to 18 years in wood casks. Its sweet yet subtle character makes it the most famous vinegar in the culinary world.”

Tsillan Cellars is a gorgeous Tuscan-style villa overlooking the lake. I could totally die happy there. I’ll definitely blog about some of their other wines down the road. For now, trust me when I say that they make fantastic wines and an astonishingly awesome balsamic. I don’t see this vinegar for sale on their website, so you may just have to plan a trip out to Lake Chelan soon for some wine tasting. Darn! :)

This vinegar is scrumptious on its own (I’ve enjoyed a couple spoonfuls since being preggo) or mixed with a fine olive oil to drizzle onto roasted veggies or in which to dip big hunks of rustic rosemary bread. For a special treat, drizzle over strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and mint with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Or, for an even more ridiculously special treat, stuff some medjool dates with bleu cheese, wrap with bacon, and roast in the oven until cooked through, dark and crispy, then drizzle balsamic over the top. Freaking. Unbelievable.

There’s something mysterious yet appealing about balsamic vinegar’s whole “sweet and sour” routine. It’s complex and satisfying, which is apparently something preggos crave a lot, like pickles and ice cream. Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, at least not eating them together. Balsamic vinegar is a whole new paradigm, like parenthood.

So, if you’re like me, an abstaining preggo who may get herself in trouble from time to time with rich dinners, make it your Mary Poppins mantra that “Just a spoonful of balsamic vinegar helps the indigestion subside… in the most delightful way!” :)

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part I

Well, it’s official, I’m pregnant! My due date is October 22nd, I am 19 weeks along, and we just found out a couple day ago we’re having a boy. My husband and I are both super excited to start this new chapter of our lives (especially my husband, I kept him waiting long enough for kids!). :)

Just to have a little fun, I thought I would do a two-part series on “What to Drink When You’re Expecting” on The Rambling Vine. With all the fun options taken away during those nine months, what’s a woman going to drink that will be enjoyable and not a drag? Here are the results of my investigation.

In anticipation of possibly getting pregnant last fall and winter, I cut down on my caffeine and alcohol intake in order to accustom myself to the probability of going without for about 9 months. So by the time I found out I was indeed pregnant, it wasn’t too hard to abstain, since I’d been having maybe a quarter to half a single glass of wine, not finishing a beer, etc.

I have to admit I’ve had tiny sips of my husband’s beer on random occasions these last few months, hardly enough to harm a fly. Sneaking sips, though, only reminds me of what I’m missing, and that I had to find some satisfying alternatives.

So, I turned to the common non-alcoholic beverage alternatives, most of which involve way more sugar than I’m used to drinking (fruit juice, sodas, iced teas, etc.). Of course water with some fresh lemon is fantastic in copious quantities and should top the list of every pregnant woman, but everyone gets tired of water and needs other options for variety.

First off, because I want my research to benefit the rest of abstaining humanity, here are some of my favorite beverage finds that aren’t too sugary (not like a Pepsi, anyway) and give you some refreshing flavor:

Dry Soda (I especially like Rhubarb and Lavender… low calorie, not too sweet)
Izze Sparkling Juices (My favorites are GrapefruitClementine, and Green Apple, refreshing)
San Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (I like their flavor the best of the sparkling mineral waters… and believe me, I tried a lot in my first trimester)
The Republic of Tea Orange Ginger Mint Tea (helps aid digestion and calm your stomach)
Seattle’s Best Decaf Coffee (for a rich, smooth decaf that tastes like regular coffee)

I am grateful to each and every one of these aforementioned beverages for taking care of my tummy and nausea during the first trimester and satisfying my thirst. Your kindnesses will never be forgotten!

And just when you think, hey, sparkling water and tea ain’t so bad, I can do this, you wander into Total Wine & More with your husband, stroll down the aisles and salivate over the beautiful, exotic wines and tempting craft beers that beckon you from their shelf perches. I pouted as I realized I couldn’t buy wine for myself for a while longer yet, in large part because we already have plenty of wine that will need to be consumed after I give birth (and indeed it shall be heartily imbibed!).

As I wandered by the O’Douls in one of the beer aisles, I looked up and read the “Non-Alcoholic Beer” tag, and had a moment of truth… this was the one and only time I’d have to try non-alcoholic beer and wine, and see if the stuff was actually worth drinking. Does it actually hit the spot and make you feel like you’re not missing anything? So I grabbed the sales guy, asked him what he thought their best non-A beer and wine were, and purchased those immediately. Anything for the sake of research!

So here is the non-A beer I bought:
Paulaner Thomas Brau Non-Alcoholic Brew from Munich, Germany

Thomas Brau Non Alcoholic Beer

Thomas Brau Non Alcoholic Beer

“Brewed in strict accordance with the German Beer Purity Law, Thomas Brau delivers German brewing heritage in a non-alcoholic beverage alternative. Enjoy Thomas Brau during business lunches, anytime where true beer taste is desired!” Yes, business lunches, just what I needed this for! :)
This isn’t terrible, it’s a lighter beer but the flavor is OK, especially if you don’t remind yourself it’s non-A. There is less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. I wouldn’t turn one down if offered one of these at a BBQ, but for sipping on its own, meh. On the whole, not bad.

And here is the non-A wine:
St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon

I have to say I liked the beer much better compared to this swill.

Here are my tasting notes on this “beverage”: on the nose, mildewed gym socks overshadowed by aged cardboard, on the palate, stewed dirt with hair spray, and on the finish, garden compost mingled gently with bleach and tobacco. And I’m being serious!

If this is the best non-A wine they have to offer, then leave it, it’s horrible. I have nothing good to say about this. Even my husband tried it and found it abysmal.

Well, that saved you some money, right? :)

In conclusion, if you are REALLY missing wine, and you REALLY want, in my opinion, the closest thing to it? Stick with grape juice, specifically, R.W. Knudsen Family Organic Concord Grape Juice. It has no sugar added, is super thick, dark, viscous, and very close to a heavy red in its body and appearance. It’s very rich without being too sweet. Trying pouring a little over ice, it comes as close to hitting the wine spot as you can get. I’m calling it “preggo punch.”

Have any of you found really good non-alcoholic beverages that got you through your pregnancy? What were they? Also, stay tuned for part two of this series! :)

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Viva Rioja!

A Reserve Tempranillo to Accompany Your Memorial Day BBQ

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Hard to believe it’s already that time of year, isn’t it? It’s only Sunday as I write this, but celebrations are in full swing in my hood. The sliding door to our deck is open and our neighborhood is awash with the beautiful, tempting aromas of smoke and hot, seasoned, dripping meat. It’s enough to make even the staunchest vegan renounce their (silly) ways once and for all. This holiday truly marks the beginning of summer and the launch of regular grilling season. It’s been a LONG winter so I am more than ready!

Tonight for dinner we enjoyed grilled hot dogs, BBQ kettle chips, and a tomato/avocado salad I threw together. It was simple and hit the spot perfectly. My husband is now smoking some beef ribs rubbed down with Cajun’s Choice Blackened Seasoning
over hickory wood chips. Heaven!

A Memorial Day weekend BBQ calls for nothing less than an outstanding red wine to go with your outstanding grilled meats. But with so many great choices for pairing grilled foods with wines, where do you even start? Since I’ve been rather enamored as of late with Spanish reds (see my last post), the choice was easy: Marques De Caceres Rioja Reserva 2005.

This Spanish red is made from Tempranillo grapes and scored an impressive 91 points from Wine Spectator. While the bottle makes it look like the wine itself is called Rioja, Rioja simply refers to the region of Spain where the wine is from, not the grapes themselves (kind of like Bordeaux in France).

This elegant, sophisticated red has great structure, appropriate tannins, great nose, and deep, rich flavor on the palate. It was something I picked up for fun one day at Wine World in Seattle. I can’t say I had any BBQ with it when I first tried it, but I can’t deny I didn’t fantasize about all the juicy, succulent BBQ meat dishes it could pair with.

From the tasting notes: “Attractive, vivid ruby red color. Intense, fragrant bouquet with a depth of blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and vanilla. Deliciously full and complex in the mouth with silky smooth tannins. This reserva highlights the character of a unique vintage that is rich and structured, whilst combining the elegance of a splendid wine that promises to develop superbly over the next few years. Uncork one hour before serving at 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit, with hearty dishes, roasts and grilled meats.”

(If you’re opting for chicken, fish, or pork for your Memorial Day weekend BBQ, Whole Foods Market’s blog has some great tips on pairing grilled foods with various wines.)

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.