Wine in Sacred Places

In Which I Discover Phenomenal Cabernet from Mosquito Fleet Winery

Do you have those sacred places on earth where you feel at home, or somehow closer to heaven because of the beauty of the place? Is it a beach, a mountain, a cute small town? Hood Canal, WA is one such place that holds a special spot in my heart. My great-grandparents built a cabin out on a piece of property right on the water, and it’s still standing and in the family! It has been a huge part of my life, from childhood through parenthood. It’s been a refuge, especially during the pandemic when we were isolating and being careful. A place to fully relax and be.

Hood Canal

My sacred place… Hood Canal

In recent years, every time my husband and I would drive out for some down time at the cabin, we would pass by a tasting room in Belfair with “Mosquito Fleet Winery” printed in elegant script across the building, tempting us with the prospect of delicious wine. A wine-tasting room to me is like an iPad to a kid – very very hard to resist! 🙂 Every time we passed it we said to ourselves, “We’ve got to stop in there sometime.” But with young children in tow, and often on a tight schedule, it just didn’t happen.

Mosquito Fleet Winery SignageWell, we finally DID stop in – last summer, I believe. Our kids were with us but they are older and better able to handle the occasional wine tasting with Mom and Dad every once in a while. It’s not like it takes all day to sip 5 or 6 wine pours… it’s good to learn some patience and that the day is not just about what they want to do. The people working at the tasting room were very kind and even gave the kids some popcorn and juice for a snack.

I should pause a second and give you a quick bit of history on the winery’s name. And I must say, it’s nice to have a Washington state winery pay tribute to local history rather than donning an awkward mock French name like Château Belfair or Domaine du Canal. 🙂 Also, while there are literal fleets of mosquitos at Hood Canal (I wish they didn’t love me quite so much – must be the wine in my bloodstream?), the name has no connection to that ecological fact. 😉

For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Mosquito Fleet refers to the fleet of various steamboats that transported people and cargo throughout the many waterways of Washington state, from the inlets of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, from the 1840s until about the 1950s. Mosquito Fleet Winery honors the spirit of bringing people together through their wines. I love it!

Anyway, hubby and I each did a tasting and enjoyed the wines presented. We wound up going home with a gorgeous bottle of Mosquito Fleet Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2019. To me, this was a standout wine – the kind of excellent Washington Cabernet Sauvignon you can pull out and enjoy with an equally excellent steak dinner, or simply to savor uninhibited. Perfect for Memorial Day BBQ fare, I may add.

Here are the details of this particular wine:

Mosquito Fleet Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Divine wine from Hood Canal: Mosquito Fleet Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

355 cases produced
13.8% ABV
95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc
From the winemaker: “A beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of blueberry, blackberry and anise. It has a beautifully full mouthfeel with nice, juicy acids and beautifully rounded out tannins that linger. It was aged predominantly in new French oak barrels which lend a nice aroma of oak and elegance.”
My impression: superb fruit, rich yet elegant, appealing texture, noteworthy balance – a wine of outstanding quality! ❤

Mosquito Fleet Winery prides itself on producing wines that are “hand-crafted with time-tested ‘Old World’ winemaking techniques of centuries past. This small lot, labor intensive approach helps produce memorable wines and memorable times for any occasion.”

As someone who just purchased a very disappointing bottle of cheap-sad-crap-red from the grocery store for our latest excursion to the Canal (I’ll blame the economy, whether I’m justified or not), I understand and appreciate the effort that goes into crafting fine Cabernet Sauvignon using the best fruit, the best winemaking techniques, and new French oak barrels. There is such a difference, and while I can’t afford to drink higher-priced wines every day (let’s be real, I don’t drink wine every day), if I want to experience real pleasure from a wine, I usually have to spend a bit more. But it’s well worth it. There truly is nothing like a truly fine wine. Truly. 🙂

Hood Canal is a beautiful place to relax and unwind, especially with a visit to Mosquito Fleet Winery thrown in. Go try it sometime. Maybe it will become one of your special places. ❤

Drinking wine at Hood Canal

Full disclosure: this was not Mosquito Fleet Cab, rather, ’twas a bland and mediocre substitute, but I was still determined to enjoy my time at the beach! 🙂

Let’s toast to those who made the greatest sacrifice on this Memorial Day 2023. ❤

American Flag and MoonSpecial thanks to Jacquie for your assistance in answering my questions!

Nat Geo Wines of the World


A French Connection for International Chardonnay Day

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Today is a double whammy: May 25th is International Chardonnay Day, as well as National Wine Day for the USA. I must be insane or a glutton for punishment for posting twice today, but oh well. You have your wine reading cut out for you for a while! 🙂

For National Wine Day, I am saving a little bit of time by utilizing an expert on Virginia wine, Matt Fitzsimmons. I took this as an excuse to learn about wine in a different part of my country. Matt has his own blog over at Wine Trails and Wanderlust, and he is graciously letting me reblog his post on Virginia wines for this holiday. His excellent post covers all you need to know and then some about Virginia wine (don’t worry, it’s not too long, I made it sound like it might be lengthy). Do check it out! You will learn a lot and get bit by the wine travel bug (I know I did!).

So for International Chardonnay Day, then, I thought I would turn to La Belle France, birthplace of the esteemed Chardonnay grape. For Americans who are not experts or at least moderately familiar with them, European wines can often be mysterious and perplexing. But with a few recommendations to point you in the right direction, you can be well on your way to enjoying some truly lovely wines from Europe. I love my local and American wines, but branching out to other continents is great fun. Don’t let it scare you, and don’t be a vino xenophobe! 🙂

The French region of Burgundy is world-renowned for its Pinot Noir red wine and Chardonnay white wine. This particular Chardonnay I selected is from the Chablis appellation in Burgundy.

Domaine Chenevieres Chablis

The perfect place to begin exploring fine French Chardonnay… Chablis

2019 Domaine Chenevieres Chablis

  • Appellation d’Origine Controlee
  • Currently $27/bottle at Total Wine
  • 12.5% ABV
  • Medium body
  • Elegant, crisp and refreshing, good minerality (this is not a rich, buttery, oaky California or Australia Chardonnay with tropical fruit flavors)
  • Delicate balanced fruit profile – pear, apple, mandarin, apricot, floral – if white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris make you pucker with their tart citrus flavors, you might be more receptive to gentler, rounder Chardonnay

Here’s how and where this wine was made:

“Domaine Chenevieres is located in ‘La Chapelle Vaupelteigne,’ a hamlet located in the northern side of the Chablis appellation in Burgundy. 100% Chardonnay vines grown on a plateau with kimmeridgian limestone soils. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in stainless-steel vats to preserve the minerality and purity of the fruit.”

According to Wine Enthusiast, limestone soils are naturally alkaline with high pH levels. Limestone is essentially calcified sediment from shells, coral, and other seabed debris. Because of this unique chemical composition, limestone soil is reputed to increase minerality and acidity in the grapes that grow in it, although many scientists claim the evidence is lacking. I say the proof is in the pudding, and if you try this Chardonnay you can’t miss the definite mineral character of the wine and the unique influence the soil sure seems to have on the grapes. Yet the debate rages on….

I really liked this Chardonnay, and would gladly buy it again, either when I’m in the mood for such a wine or looking for a really nice white wine to go with seafood. The price wasn’t so out of the park that you felt like you’d been socked in the gut. This is a great white wine to keep in your back pocket (so to speak) for bringing to dinner parties or any event where there will be white wine/Chardonnay drinkers.

Total Wine also sells several other Chablis from Domaine Chenevieres, from different vineyards and classifications. I believe the higher prices reflect higher quality or more prestigious vineyards. I was perfectly satisfied with the $27 introductory bottle, but you do you.

Salut to Chardonnay, and Vive La France! ❤

Happy International Chardonnay Day! Do you have a favorite? Comment below!

Nat Geo Wines of the World

An Introduction To Virginia Wine

OK, citizens… put your hand over your heart, and raise your wineglass with the other… it’s National Wine Day (cue America the Beautiful)! Time to pay tribute to our nation’s favorite grape juice (nope, sorry Welch’s) and celebrate one of our national treasures!

I love how vast and diverse the USA is, and how wine is being produced in so many more places than I realize. Wine culture is flourishing beyond the beloved West Coast.

For National Wine Day, I thought I would reach out to a fellow American wine blogger to learn about a foreign-to-me wine region: Virginia, which I know next to nothing about, except that I tried a Cabernet Franc from there once. Washington is amazing, but I spill the beans (or juice?) on WA wine a lot – it’s familiar territory.

So guess what I’m doing today? In true contemporary American fashion, I am outsourcing and bringing on a guest writer today for the first time ever to The Rambling Vine! 🙂

Allow me to introduce Matt Fitzsimmons, who blogs about his favorite grape juice at Matt, thanks for indulging me and for being so knowledgeable about Virginia wine. I learned a lot and am confident anyone who reads this post will, too.

Here’s a little bit about Matt and what got him into wine:

“As for myself, I’m a wine enthusiast who got into wine writing because I like talking about wine as much as I like drinking it. I got into Virginia wine because the industry lends itself to long-drives in the countryside, which is a pastime of mine. I’m doubly blessed since I’m a history buff and wine country is home to many Civil War battlefields, so I can indulge in both hobbies in the same day.”

I asked Matt if he could have any one bottle of wine in his cellar, what would it be, and he responded “… an RdV 2012 Lost Mountain, if only so I can compare it to older Bordeaux blends.”

It’s kind of funny how Virginia is being hailed as the new frontier of American wine, yet Virginia is one of the oldest places in America to have cultivated wine. It’s a vinous renaissance of sorts happening on the Eastern Seaboard.

I hope you enjoy reading and learning about this fascinating wine region! I know it has definitely inspired some travel hopes for me. Thanks again, Matt!

Wine Trails and Wanderlust

Virginia has the distinction of being both one of America’s oldest wine regions and an emerging one. The first wines produced in the Thirteen Colonies were grown in the late 1750s at plantations near the Chesapeake Bay. Decades later, Thomas Jefferson established himself as America’s foremost oenophile due to his love of French wine and doomed attempts to grow vines at his estate in Monticello.

Today, Virginia has over 300 wine brands and almost 4,400 acres of vines. While 82% of these vines are vinifera (mostly Bordeaux red grapes and Chardonnay), Virginia wine is increasingly looking outside Bordeaux varieties to guide the state’s future.

Virginia is also punching above its weight in terms of quality. In 2022 Wine Enthusiast announced it was dropping emerging areas around the country. Virginia made the cut (along with California, Washington, Oregon and New York) despite making less than 0.3% of the nation’s wine…

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Celebrate Oregon Wine Month with Baco Noir Dessert Wine

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

How is this month slipping away from us SO quickly? And by the way, spring seemed like a flash in the pan this year, are we in spring or summer? My brain and body are having a hard time distinguishing what mode we are in. So before any more time sneaks away, it’s time to devote a post to good Oregonian juice in honor of Oregon Wine Month!

I ADORE Oregon wine, do you? Perhaps a large reason is that I have spent a lot of time down there exploring and trying lots of wines, so the gorgeous settings and scenery have helped seal my devotion. I would probably say similar things about other places if I visited them more often.

I love all varieties and styles of wine and Oregon has an incredible range to offer. There’s so much more than simply Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (although that’s one of my favorites) – I thought we’d journey farther south in the state and also venture into dessert wine territory, which we haven’t been to in a while. Baco Noir is a rare grape that here has been made into a dessert wine. Port fans, pay heed!

Melrose Vineyards is an estate winery located in Roseburg, Oregon. Roseburg is located in the southern part of the state, in the Umpqua Valley AVA. The climate is Mediterranean, with very warm and dry summers and cool and wet winters. Summer also has greater diurnal temperature variation than in winter.

So what is Baco Noir? According to Wikipedia, Baco Noir is “a hybrid red wine grape variety produced by Francois Baco from a cross of Vitis Vinifera var. Folle Blanche, a French wine grape, and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia indigenous to North America.” Baco Noir is cultivated throughout Oregon, including River’s Edge Winery in Elkton, whose Pinot Noir I introduced you to a while back.

We found this wine when we wandered into Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, OR last summer (try their Vampire Slayer Cheese Curds!). The Creamery is a mecca for gargantuan ice cream cones, especially in the warm summer months. Seeing we had kids in tow, the kind gal inside almost stopped us at the door and let us know that sadly they were out of ice cream that day. We told her that was OK; we were there for the cheese – and turns out the wine, too! Their retail store has a great selection of various Oregon wines and I couldn’t help picking up a couple unusual bottles while we were there, along with some cheeses. This was one of the bottles.

Solstice Solera VII Melrose Vineyards Baco Noir Dessert Wine Umpqua Valley

Solstice Solera VII Melrose Vineyards Baco Noir Dessert Wine Umpqua Valley

Solstice Solera VII Melrose Vineyards
Baco Noir Dessert Wine Umpqua Valley
Melrose Vineyards, Roseburg, OR
ABV 19.8%
“It has layers of woven complexity of currant, fig, praline caramel, with deep tones of dark chocolate. The age of this VII Solera became accentuated with the most recent vintage to keep the fruit in focus and amazing. The winemaker’s favorite longstanding wine.”

My husband adores this wine. I also loved it, and I wish I had taken more technical, detailed notes, but alas, that did not happen. I recall it being heavy but elegant, rich, warming, lovely sweetness, and alluringly complex. Like a Port in some ways but also something completely different. Basically… YUM!

I think this sumptuous dessert wine could be very congenial with pecan pie, marionberry cheesecake, or a brownie, or else some tasty cheeses and fresh fruit. I have not personally tried any of those pairings (I may be BSing right now?) 😉 but I have a hunch those would all work.

Cheers to Oregon, its wine, and the “lush-y” month of May! What delightful wines from Oregon have you found? Share!

Explore Wines from Across the Country.

Vindicated: Befriending Pinot Grigio

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Good morning! I’ll bet you weren’t aware today is National Pinot Grigio Day… yup. For a country that once outlawed booze, we sure have a lot of alcohol-centric holidays now. Making up for all those lost years, I suppose.

Anyway, just to be clear: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape. Pinot Grigio is the Italian name and Pinot Gris the French name. American-made wines tend to be labeled Pinot Gris. I may use them interchangeably in this post, but I mean the same thing.

As you may remember from days of yore, I’ve whined about how Pinot Grigio is probably my least favorite wine grape: for one, it’s white (sorry white wines, you’re just a different category altogether) and two, the acidity is usually quite high for my taste, the flavors simple, and the overall effect un-astounding and mildly unpleasant. I’ll drink it with seafood if it’s the only thing lying around, especially to cut a rich dish, but it’s with great reluctance.

Pinot Gris

“Pinot Gris, why is it so hard to love you?”
Photo by Andrew Fogg.

But it’s such a popular wine, and I love wine (even ones that aren’t my all-time favorites), so why haven’t I been able to come to terms with it? It’s like the TV show, Friends… it’s just not funny to me (Coupling, though, is a different story).

Today I’m taking this holiday as an opportunity to learn and grow (#selfimprovementgoals) in my appreciation AND my enjoyment of Pinot Gris – they can’t all be that bad. Perhaps you’re in the same boat of blasé indifference to Pinot Gris: if so, there is hope! Let me throw you a lifeline to not just mediocre, but exceptional Pinot Gris!

Here are two Pinot Gris I love and ❤ heartily ❤ recommend; one from Washington, the other from Oregon. Both are shining stars in their own right, and have awards to prove it.

The first is an estate-bottled Pinot Gris from Washington state, from one of my favorite wineries ever, Skagit Crest Vineyard & Winery. See my other reviews of their Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc — and now I’m completing the Pinot trilogy, ha! 🙂

Skagit Crest’s Pinot Gris is electrifying in its overall effect. If you’re a Pinot Gris doubter/hater/meh-er, you’ll be shocked at what Pinot Gris can be and do with this wine. I sampled it a few months ago at the La Conner tasting room and WOW! It has fantastic, luscious flavors and strikes that perfect balance of body/acid/alcohol/tannin/sweetness that Skagit Crest is famous for.

Here are the details of this wine:                              Skagit Crest Vineyard & Winery Pinot Gris Puget Sound

  • $17/bottle (where to purchase)
  • 12.5% ABV/light-medium body
  • Pale straw color
  • From the tasting notes: “Grassy herbal aromas with flavors of melons, peaches and apricots and hints of citrus fruit. Mellow lasting honeydew finish.”
  • Trophy case: Double Gold Medal – 2022 Platinum Judging
    Gold Medal – 2022 Bellingham Wine Competition

(*Note to self: Buy some more Skagit Crest Pinot Gris next time in La Conner!)

To represent the great wine-producing state of Oregon, I selected the Portlandia Pinot Gris, and not just because I’m a sucker for the TV show, Portlandia. Portlandia Vintners was founded in 2008 to create delicious Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (and now some others including Cabernet Sauvignon) at prices that don’t make you weep with agony (here, here!). It’s been a while, but I have also had the Portlandia Pinot Noir and it was very good wine at a very good price. I’ll blog about it some other time.

I tried the Portlandia Pinot Gris at a party to take a break from red and was gobsmacked at the deliciousness of this wine. In fact, I kept going back for repeated small pours to be sure this wine was as good as it came across, since I just couldn’t believe it (and sho’nuff, ’twas).

Word to the wise: if you love Oregon Pinot Noir, give Oregon Pinot Gris a shot, you will be very pleasantly surprised.

Portlandia Pinot Gris

Drink this Pinot Gris, but don’t drive a penny-farthing at the same time, or you will be tipsy

Here are the details:

  • $17/bottle through
  • 13.5% ABV, light-medium body
  • Pale straw color
  • 96% Pinot Gris with a touch of Riesling (3%) and a smidge of Viognier (1%) – perhaps to enhance body, texture, or aromatics?
  • Grapes are from the Columbia and Willamette Valley AVAs
  • After a long cool fermentation, wine rested on its lees in 100% stainless steel
  • From the winemaker: “A dry, crisp Pinot Gris. Bright aromas of Meyer lemon and pear are followed by mouthwatering flavors of apricot and nectarine. Smooth and refreshing, the zippy acidity and rich minerality carry through to a lively, lingering finish.”
  • From Tasting Panel: “Alluring scents of honeysuckle and candied pineapple. The well-balanced profile is focused, fruity, and floral. Nectarine and lemon blossom hit their mark with fine acidity and a lean undertone of salinity.”
  • Trophy case: 92 points (Tasting Panel), 91 points (Wine Enthusiast)

Celebrate National Pinot Grigio Day today with a glass of one of these lovely wines! They are especially breezy, pleasant, and uplifting right now in the spring, and make great companions with seafood dishes and cheese boards. I think I can safely say I’m friends with Pinot Gris now (#personalgrowth). 🙂

Are there any shining examples of Pinot Gris you love? Please let me know below, I’d love to add more options to my PG repertoire!

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Sparkling Rosé Cake with Candied Roses for Mother’s Day

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. 

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and here in the Puget Sound area of Washington we are looking at forecasted highs close to 90 degrees! I’m perspiring just thinking about it. This is no time for dry reds that are going to overheat Mom (although, of course, it’s your mom, get the lady what she wants). Time to present her with a chilled, refreshing, bubbly beverage, of the pink variety since this is a female holiday, after all – sparkling rosé! Treat Mom like the queen she is with All Queens Rosé Brut. Bonus points if you get her outside, have her put her feet up somewhere comfortable, and bring her a glass of this chilled wine. What an amazing child she raised! 😉

Here are the details of this scintillating wine. As you can see, the name and label make it very giftable and cute.

All Queen Brut Rose

The Ultimate Mother’s Day Beverage

All Queens Rosé Brut California

  • $15/bottle at Total Wine
  • Sparkling Wine from Lodi, California
  • Lovely light/medium salmon pink color
  • Brut (dry – no sweetness or residual sugar)
  • Light body, 11.5% ABV
  • High acidity
  • Aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, peach, tangerine

This wine is befitting a lavish Mother’s Day brunch. Try it with Eggs Benedict and a whole host of other delicious foods. It’s very difficult to screw up pairing this wine with other foods – in fact, sparkling wines are extremely versatile (kinda like moms) and go better with more foods than practically any other wine style out there (say, wha?).

If you really want to go over the top, and win the Child of the Millenium award, whip up this pretty in pink cake using 1 cup of your sparkling rosé. It’s picture perfect for Mother’s Day or any springtime/feminine occasion, such as Easter or a bridal shower. This cake is moist, fluffy, very tasty, and baking it will make your house smell like a French pâtisserie (ooh la la).

I think edible candied flower petals make anything look utterly posh, so don’t be shy and use the recommended candied rose petals on top; they are delicious and will wow Mom. I have also used candied violet petals on a lemon cake, yum! (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)

To all the mothers out there, a very Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for mothering well. Take a moment to have your cake and drink it, too. You deserve it. ❤

Sparkling Rose Cake with Candied Rose Petals

“Eat Me!”

Sparkling Rosé Cake with Candied Rose Petals
Adapted from a recipe by Kevin Lee Jacobs |

Chef’s Notes
1) If you don’t have the large capacity Bundt pan as I did not, pour into a regular Bundt pan about 3/4 way full, then use the rest of the batter for cupcakes or a smaller cake pan.
2) Since my Bundt cake fell apart upon turning out from the pan (alas, it happens), I took pictures of the cupcakes that I made from the same batter.
3) We don’t use artificial food coloring so the natural food coloring I used to make the cake batter pink is extremely light.


  • A large-capacity Bundt pan (10 1/2 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), generously sprayed with cooking spray (I use sunflower oil)


The dry ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt

The wet ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract (I did not find this in my local grocery stores, easiest to buy from Amazon) (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)
  • 1 cup All Queens Brut Rosé at room temp (or other pink Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine)
  • Optional: pink or red food coloring

The glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Candied Rose Petals (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)


  • Center the oven rack; preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy — about 5 minutes. At medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, and the vanilla and strawberry extracts.
  • At low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the sparkling wine, beginning and ending with the flour. At medium high speed, quickly beat in the (optional) food coloring.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter up against the sides, and away from the center (this encourages a level surface during baking). Bake until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean — about 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and the vanilla extract. Add more water as needed to achieve a thick but pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze generously over the cake.
  • Before glaze sets, adorn cake with candied rose petals.
Sparkling Rose Cakes with Candied Rose Petals

The trick is not to eat them before Mom has a crack at them.

Time to stock up for warm weather wine drinking!
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Table for 12: Dishing Up Cooking and Community

¡Ay, caramba! We’ve had a whirlwind tour of Mexico this past week, haven’t we? Maybe you’ve whipped up a Prickly Pear Margarita or considered trying some Mexican wine. Well, this week I’m wrapping it up with one last post focused on one of the world’s greatest cuisines: Mexican food.

The simple things are often the best things, and to me Mexican food is perennially popular because the ingredients are specific to Mexican land and culture but they are simple, wholesome, and flavorful, which gives the cuisine broad appeal.

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you may have seen some photos I shared a while ago about a certain cooking class. That was in April, and so today here is the post I promised. Enjoy! (Hint, hint, this event makes a great Mother’s Day present for those shopping for the occasion.) 😉

Table for 12 Edmonds

Table for 12
Edmonds, Washington

My mom treated me and my husband to a night out in Edmonds at Table for 12, a recently-opened studio kitchen in which to take group cooking classes and also the home of food production company, 12 Tomatoes. Check out their drool-worthy videos on their YouTube channel! I’m fixing on making something from them soon.

The theme of our class was Street Taco Table. All of us rallied around the table and every person had a hand in creating this gigantic, awesome feast. The vibe is relaxed and all about being together and having fun while cooking, not trying to be Master Chefs. And whaddya know, we also learned some better cooking techniques too while having fun. 🙂

We each had several things to do throughout the night: I chopped veggies for salsa, shredded lettuce, made vinaigrette, and tossed salad, among other things. I also got to fry tortilla strips for the salad, which was good practice for me to deep fry without fear (I avoid deep frying in my home kitchen). My husband also chopped produce, roasted veggies for salsa, and helped make tortillas.

Chef Dom did a great job explaining our tasks and delegating just the right amount of work to each person. It’s great to have access to a professional chef for 3 hours to ask any and all your nagging cooking questions! I should also mention they pay the highest attention to hygiene and safety for all their events at Table for 12, and that all levels of cooking experience (or lack thereof!) are welcome.

I’ve been to a number of cooking classes and demonstrations over the years… ones where you are required to stand and cook most of the time, others where you are seated and watching a chef create magic. This event struck a happy balance between watching and learning from the chef-expert and getting to practice cooking skills (i.e. chopping, sautéing, etc.) – just the right amount of activity at each end of the spectrum. One cooking class I took in the past had me standing and hustling most of the night, with little to no chance to sit down. It was interesting and fun but tiring. This was definitely not tiring, with plenty of time to cook, seated or standing, and plenty of time to sit down and sip our wine or beer (or muy deliciosa agua fresca). 🙂

The event ran from 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Because you don’t eat the dinner until 9:30 pm or later that night, I recommend adjusting your eating schedule the day of your event and either have a late big lunch in the afternoon or normal lunch and then a light snack or meal to tide you over until later. We did have chips and salsa to nosh on, but the point is to be cooking, not sitting and dining.

All classes are limited to 12 people, and since there were about 4 no shows, we had a slightly smaller group. Group size is a very important factor for an event: just the right amount to get to know folks, but also not so few that all the work falls on a couple people. Can I also say how thankful I am to be back in person, out and about doing things with other humans after COVID? It’s so great. ❤

Street Taco Table, Table for 12 Edmonds

Street Taco Table
Table for 12
Edmonds, Washington

Here is the menu. Everything was fresh, colorful, flavorful, and delicious. It proved to us how relatively easy it is to prepare Mexican food at home that tastes WAY BETTER. We are not shy about making our own tortillas now. We got to take home printed copies of the recipes and we also got to take home leftover food. We gave it to my mom and she verified it was excellent. 🙂

Street Taco Table Menu

  • Crunchy Green Taco Salad 
    This is what salad is all about: rainbow colors, flavors, and textures. I could eat this salad every day. Sorry I don’t have a better picture of the salad; above it’s buried under other food.
  • Dry-Rubbed Carne Asada with Fresh Flour Tortillas and Salsa Roja
    Carne Asada was terrific. The salsa was fantastic. The freshly made tortillas beat anything I’ve bought at the store. Going to be making these at home.
  • Spanish Rice and Brothy Beans
    This was not your average rice n’ beans snooze fest from your average Mexican restaurant. Hearty and with amped up flavor. ❤
  • Mango Tres Leches with Fresh Mango and Salted Whipped Cream
    Even though I was getting quite stuffed after the main meal, I still saved a little room for dessert, and am I glad I did! This dessert was amazing not just for taste, but it was light and refreshing after a hefty meal – how many cake recipes do you know of that can achieve that after dinner?
Mango Tres Leches Cake, Table for 12 Edmonds

Mango Tres Leches Cake
Table for 12
Edmonds, Washington

While this was not a wine event per se, our tickets included two beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) for the evening. We also had the option of purchasing additional beverages or bottles à la carte. I had a glass of both their featured white and red wines, which came from the excellent wine shop next door, Arista Wine Cellars (they are listed on my Places to Taste page). The white was the 2021 Domaine De L’arfentiere, Macon Uchizy Chardonnay Burgundy France and the red was the 2020 Mark Ryan Lu & Oly Red Blend Columbia Valley Washington. Both super delicious wines I enjoyed that each went very well with our Mexican cuisine.

Want to know something super cool? You can even take FREE CLASSES from Chef Dom online. He offers a wide variety of topics and recipes. Great option especially if you are out of town. Here is a class happening this Wednesday: Southern Comfort.

Personally, while I’m thankful for technology, nothing beats the in-person experience, so please take a look at their current classes, gather some friends (or go solo and make friends!) and go to a live class. Prices as of May 2023 are $99/person before tax and tip.

¡Salud! 🙂

Muchas gracias a mi madre por una noche sabrosa y divertida.

Say “Kia Ora” for International Sauvignon Blanc Day

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I trust you’re all set up now with your Mexican vino and Prickly Pear Margaritas for today. 🙂 But did you know that today is also International Sauvignon Blanc Day? Goodness gracious me, so it is. Better slap a blog post together! 😉

It’s been a while since I’ve chatted with you about Sauvignon Blanc, hasn’t it? I’m surveying my long list of wines to share, and this is one that MUST be shared. Absolutely MUST! In case you didn’t read that clearly, MUST. SHARE.

This is for all my friends and readers who belong to the white wine cult branch of Sauvignon Blanc. 😉 I’m probably more in the red wine cult branch of Cab/Pinot/Merlot type thing, but Sauvignon Blanc is a solid choice for utter white wine devotion.

For starters, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the noble grape varieties (it can be grown in a wide range of places and always exhibits specific characteristics, no matter where and how it is grown), traditionally hailing from France. It is planted all around the world, and excels mightily in New Zealand, especially in the prime region of Marlborough. Wines are typically light bodied, with high acid and moderate alcohol.

This Sauvignon Blanc serves as a great introduction to New Zealand Sauv Blanc as a genre (like California Cab or Argentine Malbec, places famous for excelling at certain varieties) and also stands squarely on its own as an outstanding wine. The reason I haven’t tried a lot of other NZ Sauvignon Blancs is because this one is so incredible and irresistible I keep returning to it. Why bother with anything else?

Here are the deets on this beguiling wine, the Kia Ora Signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc:

  • $17/bottle at
  • 13% ABV, light body, crisp and refreshing
  • FLAVOR EXPLOSIONS (caps intended!) of passionfruit, kiwi berry, lime, grapefruit and herbs
  • Mouthwatering acidity
  • “Reflects the ultimate New Zealand flavor profile”

I tasted this wine at Total Wine one time and I commented to the gentleman pouring that I’d had it before and loved it. He said his wife loves it so much they buy it by the case. I believe it!

Fun fact: my grandmother lived in New Zealand for part of her childhood on a sheep ranch. She always wanted to go back to visit, but never got the chance. I figure this is one small way I can honor her memory of this beautiful, vibrant land. That and watch Lord of the Rings whilst quaffing this Sauv Blanc (hey, there’s a Friday night idea).

According to Wikipedia, kia ora is a Māori greeting which means “have life” or “be healthy”, wishing the essence of life upon someone. So, kia ora, readers! 🙂

Happy International Sauvignon Blanc Day! Any favorite Sauvignon Blancs you would like to share? Comment below!

Prickly Pear Margaritas for Cinco de Mayo (and Beyond)

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Cinco de Mayo is happening this Friday. Or, for those whom the actual holiday has no personal cultural relevance, Cinco de Drinko: a day for Americans to down Margaritas and Mexican food.

I hope you enjoyed my post on Mexican wine, but – de veras – this holiday demands a Margarita. Nothing short of a Margarita will suffice for today. And this Margarita recipe is sin igual in terms of show stopping good looks and jaw dropping flavors.

This recipe is courtesy of Keli Sim DeRitis – an artist, designer, passionate cook, teacher, and tour guide. Her business, Poggi Bonsi, offers all manner of gorgeous and delicious things, including cooking classes, European tours, and special import gifts and food items for your home kitchen.

My husband and I took a cooking class with her a couple years ago on Sicilian cooking and wines and it was fantastic and utterly delicious! You can buy her cookbook on Amazon (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying links), which includes several themed menus grouped by European travel destination. Check out her website for more information.

What makes this Margarita extra special is the Prickly Pear syrup. Prickly Pear is a flowering plant of the cactus family, and according to the Mayo Clinic is reputed to help treat diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and hangovers.

Laugh. Out. Loud. Combining this lovely plant with sugar and alcohol per-rob-ably won’t help with the above ailments, but, like the overweight American who orders the Diet Coke with the huge cheeseburger and extra large French fries, we optimistically and ignorantly think that one small “good” deed outweighs all the other poor dietary choices.

Gotta laugh at ourselves, right? 😉

This Magnificent Magenta Margarita is not only supremely photogenic, its refreshing and diverse flavors sweep over you and ferry you to Margarita bliss.

Give it a try, I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. 🙂

Recipe notes: I doubled the recipe to make 2 drinks. Use only fresh-squeezed lime juice. For the sugar/salt/lime zest mix for the glass rim, massage the three ingredients together with your fingers to release those lovely lime essential oils.

*Prickly pear syrup can be purchased online. Look for Cheri’s Desert Harvest. The only ingredients are sugar, prickly pear cactus, lemon, and citrus pectin. And yes, that color is real! (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying links).

For an alcohol-free mocktail: throw some prickly pear syrup, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and club soda together. ¡Deliciosa!


Prickly Pear MargaritasIngredients

  • 3 ounces tequila blanco (aka silver tequila or tequila plata)
  • 1/2-ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 1 1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 ounces prickly pear syrup*
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • Prickly pear or lime slice for garnish


  1. Pour the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and prickly pear syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously to incorporate. Alternately, you can blend the cocktail ingredients with ice in a blender.
  2. Combine the salt, sugar, and lime zest on a small plate. Run a slice of lime around the rim of a chilled glass and dip into the mixture and coat the edge.
  3. Fill the glass with ice and pour in the margarita. Garnish with a prickly pear slice (available at many Hispanic and Asian markets) or a slice of lime.

Mexico: Land of Cerveza, Tequila, and… Vino?

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

In which I try a red and a white wine from Mexico….

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and our cherished Mexican restaurants are about to get CA-ROWDED. (A little trick of mine – eat at an Irish pub on Cinco de Mayo and eat at a Mexican restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day). After all, for most Americans, it’s about the spirit of the celebration, not the actual date, right? 😉 Yep, hasn’t failed me yet.

After fantasizing over chips n’ guac for a moment, I stopped to ask myself if I had ever had any MEXICAN WINE before. No, I don’t believe I have, I concluded. So self and I went to and searched for Mexican wine, and then ordered some.

Pack your bags and grab your sunglasses and sandals, we’re heading south of the border for a quick tour! This is for those of us who prefer wine over cocktails, and are curious enough to try a different Mexican beverage. It’s not Cinco de Mayo without Margaritas, claro que sí, but just for fun, since this is a blog dedicated to having fun exploring wine, let’s try some Mexican vino together.

(To whet your appetite, I do have a delectable Margarita recipe coming your way later this week. Watch for it, it’s a beauty!)

Wine #1: L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc 2021
L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc

  • $11/bottle at
  • 12% ABV
  • Estate bottled/Valle de Guadalupe/Baja California, México
  • Pale yellow with greenish hues
  • Light body, oily texture
  • Strong, refreshing acidity
  • The nose is lovely and highly aromatic. Aromas and flavors include: honeysuckle, peach, yellow apple, pear, honey, banana, melon

Something I did not know about Chenin Blanc is that it maintains a strong level of acidity, even under warm growing conditions. Normally grapes grown in warm climates develop higher levels of sugars than acids.

This would be stellar with fish tacos or pollo a la crema. I tried it with jalapeño-pickled green beans, brie cheese, and whole grain crackers to cure late-night grumbling stomach woes. Great flavors and pairing!

I was surprised by this little Chenin Blanc – it was very nice!

Wine #2: L.A. Cetto Zinfandel 2020
L.A. Cetto Zinfandel

  • $11/bottle at
  • 13% ABV
  • Estate bottled/Valle de Guadalupe/Baja California, México
  • Medium ruby with magenta tint
  • Light body, medium acidity, dry
  • Tannins are soft, gentle, in the background
  • Moderate finish
  • The nose is really lovely. Initial aromas: peach pie, cinnamon, juicy fresh strawberry, red cherry, watermelon, rhubarb, lemon blossom, pepper, clay. After several days of being open, it showed strong hibiscus, cranberry, and cherry.

My guess before I even tried this was that it would be highly similar to a California red – full body, higher alcohol, lower acid, off dry/residual sugar, and moderate tannins.

Here is what I discovered: this Mexican Zinfandel was absolutely nothing like any other Zinfandel I’ve ever had before. Not even Italian Primitivo, which is genetically similar to Zinfandel.

This was quite different from the dark, inky Zinfandels I’m accustomed to; it lacks the complexity, full body, and moderate tannins. I don’t know if that is an issue with the grapes or the winemaking. Truth be told, even though Zinfandel grapes produce dark, rich wines, their skins are actually rather thin, which should translate to lighter bodied, less tannic wines.

This wine was interesting in that it was so unusual from what I’ve typically experienced in Zinfandel. It does develop more complexity after a few more days of being open, and good on it, it is quite long-lasting without suffering the ill effects of extended bottle opening.

Treat this Zinfandel like a light, juicy, fresh red, and it will make you happy. This Zinfandel could be muy complementario with chile verde. I haven’t tried it, but if you do, let me know if it worked. 🙂

In conclusion, I personally preferred the Chenin Blanc overall, but I would recommend trying both (at only $11/bottle, they are each an easy way to explore Mexican vino). The Zinfandel was fine; it was just unusual for Zinfandel and that was why I had a hard time comparing it. But if you can treat it with an open mind, especially if you’re not a huge California Zinfandel fan, you might actually enjoy this wine. L.A. Cetto also makes a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon. also offers another label from Mexico that is spendier and from a different region, which I have not tried.

Have you ever had Mexican wine? Comment below!

Nat Geo Wines of the World