That’s Amore: Good Things Come in Threes With Tre Amore

“When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine that’s amore” ~ Dean Martin

Spicy, Sexy, Sultry: Wow, All Three?

They say that bad things come in threes and that three is a crowd. But they also say that third time’s the charm. Regardless of your personal superstitions surrounding the number three, don’t let them get in the way of trying Chateau Faire Le Pont’s 2007 Tre Amore red blend, which consists of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Sangiovese, and 21% Merlot.

From the tasting notes: “Cabernet Sauvignon from Steve Elerding’s Desert Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills blended with Milbrandt Vineyard’s Sangiovese and Merlot from the Wahluke Slope. Marries intensity and elegance. Full-bodied, rich and layered. Delivering a combination of red and black fruit flavors, the blackberries, black currants, raspberries and chocolate covered cherries meld perfectly with the mocha hazelnut aromas and velvety tannins on the long, smooth finish.” $40 per bottle on the winery’s website.

(Ahem) Did you notice the names I underlined above? A little advice: those are all really good names to look for when you’re selecting a fine Washington wine, as they are all excellent vineyards and AVAs in Washington state (an AVA is an American Viticultural Area, or a designation regarding recognized winemaking regions of the United States).

Wahluke Slope is one of my favorite AVAs. We also vacation there each summer with our dear friends who love Budweiser, hate wine, but love soaking up the sun, and that’s all the grapes do there, too… soak up absurd amounts of sunshine until they are dark, juicy and sugary-plump on the vine like fat chocolate truffles. The reward is BOLD, rich, delicious wines.

When my husband and I tasted Tre Amore last summer in Wenatchee (the home of Chateau Faire Le Pont’s winery and tasting room), it blew our minds. Plain and simple. As if that weren’t enough, Tre Amore took home the gold at the Beverage Testing Institute for 2010. We have a winner, folks!

Make sure to drink it soon, or cellar it properly according to the winery’s instructions. Introduce this wine to a steak with sautéed Portobello mushrooms or some pasta with marinara sauce and fresh herbs. Does life get any better than fine meals like this?

I will have more reviews coming soon for other wines from Chateau Faire Le Pont. One of my personal favorite wineries! You truly can’t go wrong with anything there.

Now that’s amore!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.

Advertisements

A Tumult of Tannins: Darby Winery Harnesses Chaos in a Bottle

One of my least favorite womanly chores is untangling the jewelry in my jewelry box. It’s tedious, frustrating, and an inevitable reality. But hand me another female’s jewelry box, and I’m captivated. Digging through someone else’s jewelry box is like a grown-up treasure hunt: you carefully handle each piece, admiring it and imagining how you would wear it or repurpose it (or how much you could sell it for). It’s kind of like that when drinking Darby Winery’s 2008 Chaos Red Wine Blend from the Columbia Valley… you sip it, and try to sort out all the wonderful, mesmerizing flavors dancing around in your mouth.

I’m a little rusty, but I believe Chaos is somewhere in the $30-$40 range (don’t quote me) and you can purchase it at their Woodinville tasting room. Darby Winery in Woodinville is one I highly recommend. Darby has superbly crafted Washington red blends of which I am in awe, including one called Purple Haze (how awesome is that? It tastes awesome, too… to be reviewed later). Chaos’ Bordeaux-style lineup includes 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 17% Malbec. It is a clever, exquisite, intentional blend that delivers very well on the palate.

For some reason, I liked this wine better in the tasting room than when I opened it at home. Sometimes this happens, even when you take great pains to preserve a wine well and go through the trouble of decanting it. Decanting simply means pouring your bottle of wine into a glass or crystal decanter, and allowing oxygen to work its magic on the wine and expand and develop its flavors into a magnificent palate. You will taste a pronounced difference, especially with fine red wines.

Here is a quick, “CliffsNotes” primer on how you should store your wine, particularly a fine red such as Chaos (but don’t sue me if you buy an expensive bottle and it spoils… ask the winery how to store it properly and when to drink it):

1) Dark
2) Store bottle sideways
3) Cool temps, doesn’t rise above mid-sixties Fahrenheit
4) Dry, not too humid
5) No major fluctuations in the above listed

Serious wine collectors will opt for climate-controlled wine cellars to protect their investment. If you can get one, more power to you! But for everyday folks like you and me, for whom a $30-$40 bottle of wine is about as wild and crazy a splurge as we make these days, anywhere in your home that has these traits should suffice. Check out OUR makeshift wine cellar!

Arnesen Wine Cellars, Coat Closet, Washington. Various appellations.

Nevertheless, Darby’s Chaos is an exceptional and impressive wine that you red wine lovers will adore. It will earn a permanent spot in your wine cellar treasure chest.

*FYI, if you’re looking for a simple yet elegant way to store your wine, these wine cubes were designed by master designer Rich Jamieson of Jamieson Imports, Inc. He does custom furniture as well, so you can have a custom wine cellar made for you, as well as a fully custom furnished home!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.

How You Like Them Apples?

Even MIT wunderkinds endorse the virtues of spirited apple wine… in a bar in Boston, no less!

Finnriver’s Spirited Apple Wine Reveals the Magnificence of Washington Apples

We all need a change of scenery from time to time. Our palates need it, too. Man cannot live on wine alone, so when you’re tired of ink-stained teeth, saturated with sauvignon blanc and melancholy from merlot, consider this very appealing alternative for your liquor cabinet. (Yes, I will be writing about liquor periodically!)

Finnriver is one of my recent favorite discoveries. They are an organic farm located near Port Townsend, WA and they make first-rate hard ciders and liqueurs from farm-fresh fruit, using traditional artisan methods. (Brief, important tangent: try their dry-hopped pear cider for something truly refreshing and interesting!)

Their Spirited Apple Wine will shake up your taste buds. Even if you’ve tried other craft ciders and brandies, I don’t think you will have tried anything quite as deliciously different as this. Best of all, once you open it, since it’s a spirit it will keep for a long time in a cool, dark place. It’s great on its own or for mixing. Martinelli’s will soon be a bygone, a distant memory.

From the tasting notes: “The wholesome apple may surprise you with the sultry side revealed in this sumptuous spirited apple wine, handcrafted on our Olympic Peninsula family farm. After fermenting the fruit, we capture the tantalizing sweetness of the apples by fortifying with custom-distilled apple brandy. May this bottle of Finnriver Spirited Apple Wine bring you warmth and good cheer. Alcohol content 18.5%. Our Spirited Apple Wine won a Bronze Medal from the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.”

Another reason I really like Finnriver is their insistence on the inherent star quality of the apple. Currently in Washington (perhaps Oregon, too), dozens of acres of prime apple orchards are being decimated to make room for vineyards, due to the explosion of winemaking, to meet the demands of the wine craze. This is understandable, to an extent; agricultural landscapes change to accommodate consumer preferences (remember when Red Delicious was one of only three types of apples at the grocery store?) Yet it grieves me to hear this. As a native Washingtonian, I have a special place in my heart for our state’s prized fruit… as any Floridian would have for oranges. I’m also reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life at the moment, so I’m extra wary of drastic changes in farming and the vanishing varieties of produce on our planet. It amazes me we can let things go so easily sometimes.

Fortunately, the tides are turning just a wee bit, and others are recognizing the massive potential of cider as a great tasting alcoholic beverage. Finnriver is one of the best cheerleaders for Washington apples that I know of, and I’m proud to jump on their bandwagon. I think you will, too.

*Note from Finnriver: “One interesting note: the Spirited Apple Wine is not classified as a liquor but as a fortified wine, so it can be purchased and sold at wine shops in WA state. (Of course that is all changing now…)”

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.

How Far Would You Go For Your Favorite Glass of Wine?

Oh, the hoops we are willing to jump through for a great glass of wine! Thanks for the video, Grandma! 🙂

Happy Friday! Tonight or this weekend, treat yourself to one of the wines reviewed here on The Rambling Vine, and let me know what you enjoyed.

A Glass of Red

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.

Red Diamonds Are Everyone’s Best Friend

Just remember, Red Diamonds are a girl’s (and boy’s) best friend!

Lasso This Merlot: Red Diamond Wines Shine Brilliantly

Many of you feel dazed and confused when shopping for wine. Rows of seemingly identical bottles stretch along for miles, all sporting cryptic labels with meaningless verbiage. “What does this even mean?” you wonder as you scratch your head and do your best to translate with a limited vocabulary. It’s as though you’ve landed in a rural French village in 1862, equipped with only a week of high school French. You begin to perspire and panic like a straight man in the salon shoes section of Nordstrom. Is that $30 bottle worth the gamble? Maybe, maybe not.

It can be overwhelming, but it need not be intimidating any longer! Here is a wine you can zoom in on with laser wine vision, swoop in for the kill, and get out in time to finish the rest of your shopping. Whew!

This, my friends, is it. This is the quintessential red wine you will want to buy by the case, because it is incredible. Red Diamond Merlot from Washington is one of my personal all-time favorite wines. It happens to be one of the top ten Merlots in America. (PLEASE don’t go up in price, Red Diamond!). It is perfect on its own, but it is also wonderful in sangria, a Spanish punch made out of red wine. It’s dark and fruity, with perfect body and balance. Did I mention it’s less than $10?

From the tasting notes: “Our Washington Merlot opens with a beautifully knit blackberry, cherry, and spice scented nose with a toasty oak background. Sweet fruit on the palate is complemented by medium-bodied but firm tannins. Red Diamond celebrates the personality of Washington’s distinctive red wines. Layers of luscious flavors are revealed in each bottle, exuding style and confidence. Our Red Diamond Merlot is a shining example of Washington’s best varietal – a polished wine with softly spiced black cherry, berry and plum flavors.”

Don’t limit yourself to just the Merlot… they also make a Shiraz, Malbec, and Chardonnay! I can personally vouch for the Cab, it’s outstanding.

A rule of thumb: any wine you cook with must also taste good. It need not be expensive, but taste good it must! (Like Yoda I speak, expert therefore I be).

Here’s a recipe for Sangria I made recently for a Cinco de Mayo party (courtesy of Better Homes & Garden New Cookbook, 14th ed., with my comments). I recommend using Red Diamond Merlot, as it imparts a subtle cinnamon flavor to the sangria and blends well with the citrus juices.

1 cup orange juice (no pulp)
¼ cup lime juice
1 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine (Red Diamond Merlot)
¼ – 1/3 cup sugar
Ice cubes

In a 2-quart pitcher stir together orange and lime juices. Add wine and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved (I like the sugar from Trader Joe’s). Cover and chill for 3 to 24 hours. Serve over ice.

I garnished mine with orange and lime slices, frozen cranberries and Golden Delicious apple chunks. This sangria is fantastic; it’s like winter mulled wine, but for spring.

I hope Red Diamond becomes one of your favorite go-to wines!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.

A Primer on Pinot Noir (And A Couple to Get You Going)

Ah, Pinot Noir! In the wine world, saying you’re a fan of Pinot Noir tends to signify you’ve made it to the wine big leagues. Pinot Noir is an enigma; classy, mysterious, shapeshifting. It has soared in popularity since the film Sideways came out, which in large part contributed to killing off Merlot production in California. (Just you wait, Merlot’s comeback is just around the corner… if shoulder pads can come back, certainly Merlot can – and to me, Merlot never went out of style in the first place).

At first, I didn’t understand the appeal of Pinot Noir. The first glass I intentionally ordered tasted like fruity water (it wasn’t a good wine – otherwise I would have liked it – and I think it had been open too long, too). But with so many friends claiming it as their favorite wine of all time, I knew I couldn’t throw in the towel just yet.

So, you’re asking, what is all the hype about Pinot Noir and WHO will explain it to me? First of all, a quick quasi-science lesson: Pinot Noir is the picky princess of the grape family, so she demands a very specific climate, weather, sun/rain mixture, careful, painstaking tending, and the list of demands goes on as long as J-Lo’s artist rider. But this lavish TLC pays off royally and can lead to some truly awesome, world-class wines. Once you taste a great Pinot Noir, you appreciate its refined qualities and everything it represents in terms of excellent winemaking craft. It also explains the sticker shock you might experience when surveying fine Pinots in your favorite wine shop.

Fear not! If you’re new to Pinot Noir, let me give you a couple of easy-going, easy-drinking Pinots that are at or under $10 a bottle. While they may not be superstar arena rock concert material, they are still the equivalent of a surprisingly good coffee shop open mic night.

Whole Foods Market has a section of very good affordable wines, and very knowledgeable wine stewards, so always chat them up for their best recommendations. Redtree Pinot Noir is from California and is around or under $10 a bottle. From the tastings notes: “Our 2010 Pinot Noir displays aromas of fresh fruits and strawberries, with a hint of oak in the background. This lighter-bodied wine provides cherry flavors on the palate and more red fruits, finishing with soft tannins.” Not bad, actually. Underwood Cellars Pinot Noir is from Oregon, $10 at Whole Foods Market, and is also quite tasty. From the tasting notes: “The Underwood Pinot Noir exhibits aromas [of] cranberries, red raspberries, with notes of smoke and spice. The palate is filled with sweet raspberry fruit intertwined with warm cinnamon tones. The wine’s bright acidity and fine tannins come together in a fruit laden finish.”

Even if you love red wine, you don’t always want a 10 on the Richter scale of a bold, dark, intense red wine. Be surprised by these light and delicious Pinot Noirs. Let me know how you liked them!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.

So Cheap It Feels Like Cheating

Pinot Grigio for when your wallet’s hurting (but your taste buds are hankering)

The other day my friend commented about a shopping experience at a certain grocery wholesaler: “The food was so cheap it felt like I was stealing!” She could not get over how low the prices were on everyday food items.

Don’t you love that feeling? The moment you are stunned by an item’s price and then ride the wave of compulsion to buy it because it’s so cheap you almost feel sorry for it. It deserves your dollars by sheer virtue of its ridiculously low price. Oh yes, the psychology of spending money, always a fascinating topic.

Ah, Venice! Maybe X marks the spot of an ancient rat-infested wine cellar?

Gaetano D’Aquino White Wine of Venezie is – gasp! – $4 a bottle at Trader Joe’s and very tasty. It may be cheap, but it doesn’t taste like it (I love that in a wine!). Spending less than $4 a bottle, though, means you’re either buying a large quantity of wine on sale or you’re buying bad wine. Nota bene: The Rambling Vine does not like two-buck Chuck. It’s a taste issue. But you make up your own mind, it’s a free country.

This wine is super light with citrus flavors, and has a slight tart, mineral finish. It’s perfect chilled, and an ideal wine to have on hand during the summer. Pleasant, agreeable, should pair with any number of things.

Be reassured… you’re not cheating. It may be cheap, but you’re not cheating on taste and quality. Ciao!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. 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.