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 Grapefruit, Clementine, 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.

Pour Favor: Red Guitar Ignites Un Gran Pasion

!Vamanos! How about some soundtrack and visual scenery to set the mood….

You know the relief you get when you find your car keys after frantically upturning every part of your house? Or the sweet surprise when you find an unused iTunes gift card in a pile of old birthday cards? Such feelings are a close proximation to what I felt when I found my long lost love; this fantastic, affordable Spanish red that I thought had left me forever, short of a plane ticket to Espana. None other than Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha. Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you! I first bought this wine at my local grocery store, drank it, fell for it, went back for more, and they didn’t have it in stock. Mi corazon roto. I had almost given up until I was in the “Spain” section at Total Wine and found it there.

The wine is 52% Tempranillo, 48% Garnacha. The tempranillo and garnacha are like two flamenco dancers swirling sordidly on your palate. Fabulous, fruity, great taste and structure. At $10, the price is ridiculously awesome. This wine, to me, is the whole shebang, todo el asunto. It scores 10/10 on every account.

According to Red Guitar Wines:

“Centuries ago, the Spanish added a sixth string to a little recognized instrument of the time, bringing to life what we now know as the guitar. For countless generations since that day, music, food, and wine have been the fabric of the Spaniard’s joyful and vivacious existence. Put simply, la buena vida (the good life). Our prized old vines of Tempranillo and Garnacha dig deep into the gravel soils of Navarra to produce wines of incredible character and quality, year after year. Red Guitar; a rich and smooth celebration of the Spanish lifestyle.

“Garnacha is the most widely planted grape variety in the world and thrives in warm, dry regions. It produces wines of great concentration and flavor, with explosive raspberry fruit characters and soft tannins. Together, these varieties combine to produce a rich, smooth, and luscious wine full of ripe raspberry and blackberry flavors on a long, soft finish.”

With that, revel in your power and sass as you sip this intensely provocative wine! 🙂

© 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.

Radius Merlot Comes Full Circle

What does the label remind you of? Ring of fire? Lunar eclipse? It does have a kind of Twilight movie poster feel. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Happy Holiday Season, readers! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and ate to your heart’s content with loved ones and enjoyed some scorching political/religious debates or pee-your-pants humor. The holidays are the best. I’ll do my best to provide you with a few worthwhile wines to try this season, hopefully a little more regularly than the last couple months.

Embarrassingly, I wrote this a while ago and am just now posting (slapping myself on both wrists, bad blogger!), so I will keep it in the tense at the time I wrote it:

I just got back from a ridiculously awesome three-day weekend in Walla Walla, Washington, one of the West Coast’s pulsing wine capitols (along with the other W’s Woodinville and the Willamette Valley in Oregon). Me, my husband, and one of my best girl friends had a weekend filled with lovely, superb wines, tasty foods, and fall beauty coloring the quaint, historic downtown of Walla Walla and the immense surrounding countryside. We hit at least seven wineries (if I am counting correctly) so you can be sure I will blog about them later.

But in the mean time, it’s hard coming back to reality after an extended weekend. Back to a busy day of work, and then home to piles of laundry begging for attention and a fridge begging for groceries. I have a long week ahead of me, with a big event for work to prepare for and no end of things to do personally and around my house. Ah, real life. (Maybe someone could shave my legs for me while I blog?)

It’s nights like these where it’s best to take a deep breath, regroup, relax, and have a nice glass of wine to take the edge off of Monday, and to gently ease back into the routine. Things will get done when they get done, and you can only go as fast as you can, so why push yourself too much?

Sometimes all you want is a simple, uncomplicated, and good bottle of red to drink on its own.

Maybe you’re relatively new to wine? This one’s for you!

We opened up a bottle of Radius 2010 Washington State Merlot tonight. And, what do you know? It happens to be from Walla Walla! This wine is decidedly on the sweeter side; fruity, very light, smooth, and barely any noticeable acid or tannins to give it heft, so it’s a pleasant, easy-drinking wine.

I picked up this bottle for $10 or less at a local wine warehouse, Total Wine & More. It’s hard to go wrong with a wine like this, especially if you’re a newer wine drinker or are asked to bring a bottle of red to a party.

Here are the tasting notes: “Radius celebrates the wine making process which comes full circle every year from vine to bottle. This Merlot is grown in the famed wine country of Washington State with flavors and aromas of sweet cherries, plums and vanilla leading to a soft and silky finish. Enjoy with steak, meatloaf, grilled fish and cheddar cheese.”

So, when you begin to tire along the road of everyday life, or just need a little help easing back into it after a fabulous wine weekend (or what have you), Radius Merlot (check out their Cabernet Sauvignon, too!) comes full circle and is a sweet way to stay the course and go the distance.

© 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.

Decadent Toasts: Dessert for Breakfast

Goodbye boring breakfast toast, hello fancy indulgence! Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

And now, a movie scene, concerning the luxury of toast….

Kate: You know something? Nobody gives a rat’s ass that you have to push the toast down twice. You know why? Because everybody pushes their toast down twice!
Leopold: Not where I come from.
Kate: Oh, right. Where you come from, toast is the result of reflection and study!
Leopold: Ah yes, you mock me. But perhaps one day when you’ve awoken from a pleasant slumber to the scent of a warm brioche smothered in marmalade and fresh creamery butter, you’ll understand that life is not solely composed of tasks, but tastes.
Kate: [mesmerized] Say that again.
Kate and Leopold, Miramax Pictures, 2001.

Kate & Leopold may not have been my favorite Meg Ryan chick flick (trust me, it wasn’t!), but you do have to agree with Hugh Jackman’s sentiment here… that our lives should not be measured by how efficiently we completed tasks; rather, its quality and richness is derived from the slowing down and enjoyment of color, depth, texture, flavor. I like this thought, and this is why I purposely make cooking a hobby and priority in my life: it’s important. Until we slow down and show our food a little more reverance in its preparation and savoring, we will forsake our health, quality of life, and enjoyment of life.

It was this thought of warm, oozing, pleasurable toast that led me to trying a couple of fun different toast combinations. I actually don’t eat much sandwich bread anymore… when we buy bread we get the kind without preservatives, but since we can never finish a loaf that fast, it always starts spoiling and we can’t finish it. Probably best for a couple of daily desk-dwellers to not be so heavily reliant on bread, but we do have it a little bit. These toast recipes are for when you’ve got a fresh loaf on hand and want to enjoy some toast at breakfast or brunch. Could even work for an afternoon tea!

Whole Grain Toast with Strawberries and Nutella

9 grain and seed bread, toasted medium
Butter, or healthy spread
Nutella
Fresh, super ripe strawberries

The strawberries I used were so ripe they were heavily fragrant and practically jam. Decadent! Enjoy with a pot of French press coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Like eating a chocolate covered strawberry for breakfast!

Topping Option #2:

Whole Grain Toast with Blueberries and “Mascarlade”

9 grain and seed bread, toasted medium
Butter, or healthy spread
Mascarpone cheese
Orange Marmalade
Fresh Blueberries
Cinnamon

Marmalade is highly underrated. It is, however, very very sweet, and a little goes a long way, especially when you have sweeter blueberries, too. Mascarpone is a fancy Italian version of cream cheese.

A toast to noble, yummy toast, and it’s unlimited versatility! What are some other deliciously unusual ideas for toast?

© 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.

What to Drink When You’re “Hot to Trot”

Reader, meet the smoothest red wine you’ll ever drink! Photo courtesy 14 Hands Vineyards. http://www.14hands.com

In honor of everyone who is engaged to be married right now, especially my sister. Congratulations Jocelyn and Conor on your romantic Irish engagement!

Being newly engaged can be hazardous to your health… at least it was for me. When the love of my life popped the question and subsequently put a gorgeous carat on my finger, I was inordinately obsessed with MY sparkly object. I would roll my car window down every time I drove, rest my arm out the window and gaze all gooey-like at the diamond, the summation of my happiness. I can’t tell you how many auto accidents I narrowly avoided in those early weeks. I’m still obsessed with my rock, but eventually I mellowed.

But isn’t it wonderful when you’re wallowing in the throes of “just engaged” bliss? When you’re “hot to trot” with the one you love, you’re caught up in a love whirlwind that thrusts you toward the altar with smoldering passion and whiffs of eternal commitment. It’s a red torrent of unflinching romance! With your eye on the prize, nothing can stop you. “Going to the Chapel” is on constant loop in your subconscience. Yes, you fit all the criteria; you’re hot to trot! Here is a celebratory red blend wine that epitomizes the recently engaged state.

I insist you try 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend. For around $10, it will shock you. Everyone to whom I have introduced this wine has raved about it! The 14 Hands label, like Red Diamond, has quickly become a hot Washington wine buy, and for good reason. Smooth, fruity, yet poised and so drinkable. From the tasting notes: “This approachable and easy drinking red wine offers generous aromas of berries, cherries and currants. A plush framework of soft tannins supports the red and dark fruit flavors that leisurely give way to subtle notes of baking spice and mocha on the finish.” It’s a blend predominantly of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, with hints of Mourvedre and other select red varieties.

This wine goes down your gullet very easily… yeah, just be careful and don’t overdo it! Perfect to share with friends, and toast the future happiness of loved ones!

© 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.

Chai This Out: Oatmeal Cookie Makeover

Give humdrum oatmeal cookies a hint of the exotic with pure milk chocolate and chai spices.

Give Your Oatmeal Cookies a Theo Chocolate Makeover

OK, yes, this blog is primarily about wine, but I am one who hates to be defined or labeled, so from time to time I might branch out (I am the rambling vine, after all) and go down a different path for fun. Gourmet cookie mavens, lean in, I’ve invented a diabolically delicious cookie!

While some may consider it a cardinal sin to corrupt as perfect a classic as the oatmeal raisin cookie, I appreciate a good, creative “remix”: it pays homage to the original in a way that enhances it, not completely changes it.

If you love Quaker oatmeal raisin cookies as much as I do, but prefer chocolate to raisins, and enjoy high quality fair trade organic chocolate and piquant spices, this cookie has your name written all over it. 🙂

Here is Quaker Oats’ immortal “Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie” recipe, but with my substitution. Leave out the raisins and instead include small pieces of a broken up Chai Tea Milk Chocolate Bar.

In order to make this recipe, you must secure four Theo Chocolate Chai Tea bars (be sure to get at least one to eat straight).

The Rambling Vine’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chai Tea Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (preferably the gourmet kind from Mexico)
1.5 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
3 c. Quaker oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 c. Theo Chocolate Chai Tea bars, cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and chocolate; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. My cookies are usually larger than a literal tablespoonful, so 12-15 minutes might be more accurate.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered. Yields 4 dozen cookies.

How’d you like 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.

When Time Isn’t On Your Side: What to Drink

“Ti-i-i-ime, is on my side, yes it is!” It is when you enjoy Rosemount Estates Shiraz.

All too familiar scenario: you drag through the door on a Friday night after a long week of work and while you would love to immediately start indulging in a glass of wine, you have a moderately nice bottle that requires a couple hours worth of aerating/decanting (for optimal taste, you’re a wine connoisseur, after all) and you absolutely cannot wait. Seriously, who has time for nonsense like that at times like these? It’s time to start winding down from your long week and focus on relaxing. A glass of wine is a lovely addition to this process and you need unfettered access ASAP.

This past week was brutal. I was unusually overwhelmed by things that needed to get done, and wasn’t easy on myself about them. Rest assured, my week ended joyfully, but during much of it I was super pressed for time, cramming umpteen tasks that I needed to get done into every minute of the day. This is only natural on weeks where there is more to do than usual. I don’t mind being busy, but I need space and time to relax and recharge. I do better that way. But I also don’t want to miss out on fun activities or neglect the things I really do need to get done (you know, like showering).

A tempting treat from the Land Down Under that’s under $10 a bottle, 2010 Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Shiraz is a wine that drinks BEAUTIFULLY without needing decanting. You can drink it the second you pop the cork. I poured some in our decanter but it made scant difference. Voila instant gratification, pour away!

From the tasting notes: “A full bodied, juicy sweet palate with cherry, chocolate and plum flavours with a smooth finish.” I find it smooth and easily drinkable, but it possesses enough flavor complexity to pair very well with red wine foods, particularly a rich beef stew or pasta, or even Afghan cuisine (yes, I’ve had this wine with Afghan cuisine at a local restaurant, and it’s awesome). On its own, it’s mellow and yummy.

For those of you who pride yourselves on time-saving tricks and tactics, put this red wine at the top of your list for “time-saving” wines. Now go have a glass and relax!

Time is
Too slow for those who wait
Too swift for those who fear
Too long for those who grieve
Too short for those who rejoice
But for those who love
Time is eternity.

~ Henry Van Dyke

© 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.

Cooking with White Wine Debunked: The Whys and the Wherefores

Don’t be puzzled any more! The Rambling Vine solves your cooking with wine conundrums.

When flipping through cookbooks, scouring Pinterest, or browsing cooking blogs as you plan out meals, how many of you deliberately avoid recipes that involve wine, simply because you have no idea what type or brand to buy? Don’t be ashamed, it’s not like this is something we are taught growing up or even attributable to natural intuition. I learned how to cook through instruction and practice (heck, I’m still learning, and I love it), and the same goes with learning which wines work well to cook with. Except I am going to cut out some of the trial & error for you by giving you a solid recommendation! You no longer have to be intimidated by cooking with white wine (I’ll touch on red soon)… aren’t you excited? Keep reading….

Cardinal rule of cooking: the wine you cook with should be something you would want to drink. Do not cut corners by buying icky, cheap, vinegar-like wines… they will only ruin your dish. And also, I forbid you, NEVER buy the bottled cooking wines in the condiments section of the supermarket. Just don’t. Trust me, they’re abysmal. It would be better to just omit the wine entirely if you’re going to go that route. But you’re not, because you are a culinary god/goddess who wants to be an expert on cooking with wine! Read on!

When cooking with white wines, you’ll typically want to select dry whites, such as chardonnay, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. When you add white wine to a savory dish, the alcohol will cook off and the remaining flavors will complement and enhance your dish, imparting dimensions of rich taste that you wouldn’t get by leaving it out. The enzymes and other compounds in the alcohol are playing a role on the chemical level, too, breaking down the food as it is heated, but since I never had to take chemistry in high school (I opted for college-level anatomy & physiology instead, overachiever that I was), this is not my area of expertise. Since what you’re really after most of the time is just good flavor and the right acidic content, this wine has all the flavor you need at a price you’re willing to pay.

Columbia Crest Two Vines Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to bottle when I need a good, reliable dry white for cooking and accompanying the subsequent meal. Priced oh so reasonably at less than $10 a bottle, it’s the equivalent of keeping a good soy sauce or other quality condiment in your pantry. The flavors are good, but not so overpowering that they throw the balance off of your dish.

From the tasting notes: “This fresh, lively Sauvignon Blanc opens with aromas of lemon zest, honeydew melon, dried herbs and a hint of freshly cut grass which are typical notes of the variety. Juicy flavors of melon, gooseberry and kiwi end with a lengthy, bright citrus-like finish.” Now, doesn’t this sound like something you could sip on with dinner, or sample while you’re cooking?

I prefer cooking with Sauvignon Blancs or Pinot Grigios as opposed to Chardonnays, because with Chardonnays there are the more pronounced issues of “oak” (Chardonnay is fermented in steel or oak, and this will greatly affect the taste of the wine) and that can interfere with your recipe. You’ll have hardly any losses across the board with Sauvignon Blanc – chicken, fish, etc. all stand up well with this wine.

Just for fun, here is a recipe you can try that calls for a dry white wine such as this (shucks, whaddya know?). This is modified slightly from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats, one of my favorite cookbooks that I used to teach myself “finer” cooking beyond basic things like spaghetti and scrambled eggs. Bon Appetit! 🙂

Sweet Sea Scallops in a Caper-Raisin Sauce
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley (I use dried, it’s easier, though fresh will taste way better)
3 T capers, drained
3/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. golden raisins
16 sea scallops, drained and trimmed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T unsalted butter

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the shallots, cook for a minute or two, season with salt and pepper, then combine with the parsley and capers. Add the wine and golden raisins. Simmer until wine is reduced and the mixture is at the consistency of a thick, chunky sauce. Transfer the sauce to a bowl, reserve.

Wipe out the pan and return to the heat, raising to high. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, add a little olive oil to your skillet, add the scallops and sear them for two minutes on each side. Once cooked through, lower the heat a bit and add back the sauce to the pan, along with the lemon juice. Cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the scallops from the pan and arrange on a serving platter. Remove the pan from the stove, add the 2 T butter and melt it in the pan with the sauce, and then pour over the scallops.

Serve with crusty bread, a green salad, and a glass of Columbia Crest Two Vines Sauvignon Blanc!

© 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.

The People’s Choice Award: Cellarmaster’s Riesling Takes the Cake

C’mon, admit it, you love you some N’ Sync, don’t ya?

The other day I was listening to some bubblegum pop music on the radio. It’s upbeat, catchy music that makes me move, smile, sing along, and look insane while driving. It may be sappy, but it sure makes me happy! Nothing overly analytical about it, it is what it is: straight forward goodness that does its job well with a predictable song structure in two and a half minutes. I can’t listen to it all day, but it definitely has a special place in my audio library. (And heaven knows I would never burn as many calories on the elliptical without it).

The same thing applies to certain wines. Every wine lover can fondly recollect wines that grabbed their attention and subsequently went down in history as all-time favorites. These are the wines you rave about to your friends, and they like them so much they immediately tell their friends, and so on and so forth. I can’t count how many times I have recommended this wine to both friends and strangers who were looking for something great yet affordable to drink.

Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling Columbia Valley is that wine. Sweet, not dry, with fruit and honey notes. Perfect for when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is the ideal wine to introduce to someone who perhaps has never tried wine before or who prefers sweet wines. It’s even fun to spring on a wine connoisseur and have them try pairing it with the recommended “strong cheeses, desserts, or extremely spicy foods.” And it’s well under $10 at most Washington grocery stores.

According to their website, “Columbia Winery is Washington’s first premium winery, producing distinctive Washington wines from European vinifera grapes since 1962.” They introduced “new varietals to the state, such as Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Gris.” As you can see, they have been making wine in Washington for a long time and really know their stuff.

Just what makes this Riesling so exceptional? From the tasting notes: “Floral aroma with hints of peach, quince, lime and clove delight the nose. Rich and full-flavored fruit on the palate is balanced by refreshing, crisp acidity. Sweet wine. A beautifully balanced wine that has classic floral, Riesling aromas…. These grapes are selected for this wine because of their higher acidity. This excellent acidity emphasizes the apricot, peachy flavors and creates a good match for strong cheeses, desserts or extremely spicy foods. This wine has a long finish.”

Some seasoned oenophiles may lose their preference for Riesling as their palates develop. They might shrug their shoulders, quickly write one off as just another sweet Riesling, and channel surf in search of something more complex and compelling. Again, I don’t expect you to agree with me on every wine; taste for yourself and be your own judge. But I think even the most opinionated will fall for this sweet, delicious Riesling. It is a special bundle of great taste, affordability, and “shareability.” Even if we hate to admit it, the reason we like things like Riesling and pop music is because deep down, they hit the spot.

© 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)
ÂĽ cup lime juice
1 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine (Red Diamond Merlot)
ÂĽ – 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.