I’m Dreaming Of A White… Russian?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The drink abides. 

White Russian

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

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

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

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La Dolce Vino: Valentine’s is for Lovers (Or Anyone, Really)

Valentine’s Day is most commonly attributed to romantic lovers, but really? What about all the other forms of love out there? Love of family, best friend, neighbor, children, pets, etc.

How sweet it is! Rosa Regale... your perfect Valentine's Day accompaniment.

How sweet it is! Rosa Regale… your perfect Valentine’s Day accompaniment.

Aren’t we just as entitled to celebrate these forms of love as highly as romantic love? If love is blind, then those responsible for commercializing this holiday need to start embracing a little more affirmative action in the love department. Love doesn’t fit under just one label!

Here is a wine that is not only bubbly, fruity, flirty and sexy enough to drink with your lover on Valentine’s Day; it’s perfect to enjoy with a friend or relative (though I would advise against a child or pet… don’t take me too literally, folks), even to bring to an Anti-Valentine’s Day party (aka getting wasted, binging on bonbons, and performing voodoo on stuffed teddy bears). Hey, equal opportunity!

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui is a sparkling dolce red wine that is usually under $20. As the Italians say, “Questo rocce!” This rocks! It’s like Martinelli’s for adults, but way better… molto meglio.

From the tasting notes:

“This rare Brachetto, a semi-dry, red sparkling wine cherished by the courts of Europe over two centuries ago, owes its reincarnation to Banfi. Rosa Regale is created in one of Italy’s smallest production zones, the Brachetto d’Acqui Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, commonly referred to as DOCG. It is crafted from 100% Brachetto grapes grown exclusively at the La Rosa Vineyard in the town of Acqui Terme located in the Piedmont region of Italy. The label features a single red rose, representing the wines origin from this single vineyard La Rosa estate.

Rosa Regale has a delicate bouquet of rose petals and offers sensuous flavors of fresh raspberries and strawberries. Its effervescence is softer than that of champagne, yet it yields a persistent and delicate pink froth. Its lively garnet color makes other sparklers pale in comparison. Served chilled and with a low alcohol content, it serves as the perfect partner throughout the entire meal, beginning as an elegant aperitif, moving to a savory appetizer and ending with a sweet dessert. No wine pairs better with chocolate than Rosa Regale. The bright fresh berry flavors complement the sweet velvet of the chocolate. Rosa Regale is a seductive red sparkler that turns any occasion into a celebration.

Legend also has it that both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony presented Cleopatra with several gourds of Brachetto. The empress then had her lovers drink the wine in order to unleash their passion.

Rosa Regale is produced using the Charmat process or Metodo Italiano (Italian Method). This method forces the second fermentation to happen in large stainless steel tanks prior to bottling, rather than in the bottle like the traditional mĂ©thod champenoise. This process is best used on sparkling wines that are meant to be enjoyed young and relatively fresh.”

I had this wine one February when I organized a Business After Hours event at two next door businesses: a flower shop and wine bar. We wandered happily back and forth between each adorable shop. Once I had a sip, I was smitten and could not stop drinking this. Oddly enough, the flower shop was pouring this, not the wine bar.

Since it’s a sweet wine, I think it’s plenty good on its own. Of course, pairing it with dark chocolate truffles or a lava cake would be a decadent Valentine’s Day gorge fest or an extra special treat on your anniversary or birthday. It also makes an elegant gift… perfect for a holiday like, oh, I dunno, let’s think here, maybe, Valentine’s Day?

However you choose to enjoy this sparkling wine, and however you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, do it wholeheartedly and with love!

How sweet it is! (It’s Valentine’s Week… we gotta start the cheez early).

© 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.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Indulge in a port that tastes exactly like concord grapes. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Tefft Cellars Concordia Port is a Portal to the Past

Peanut butter & jelly is one of those timeless flavor combos of childhood. We might get really sick of it after years of it in our school lunches every day, but after a while, we come back to it because it’s just so good! For some reason, we can’t escape its classic appeal.

Here is a nostalgic spin on pb & j for grownups that gives the ol’ smooshed sandwich from your crumpled brown bag a run for its money.

Instructions:
1) Buy some dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Trader Joe’s has some very tasty ones. Or if you’re fancy go to a chocolate shop like See’s Candies and just get a couple so they don’t linger in your home too long.

2) Buy a bottle of Tefft Cellars Concordia Port. Puget Sounders can make a drive out to Woodinville and buy some at Tefft Cellars. The nice thing about this winery is they are open daily from 11:00 am – 7:00 pm so you can have a productive trip.

From the tasting notes: “This fine wine is made from the Concord grape and was barrel aged for 10 months. The Concord grape adds a very fruity edge to this wine.”

3) Eat them together and be happy. You might not be 6 anymore, but you can feel that way when you taste these two lovelies together.

© 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.

Put the Wine in the Cho-Co-Late and Drink Them Both Up

A Fine Chocolate Wine For Your Consideration

Red wine and dark chocolate: clichĂ© Valentine’s Day trappings, or greatest palate-pleasing pairing in history? That is the question….

Enough pondering already. I don’t know about you, but most of my attempts to pair red wine with dark chocolate have not gone so well. They usually result in face scrunching and gagging. You have to consider the cacao and sugar percentages in your chocolate and how those will interplay with the grape type and sugar/alcohol content of the wine you select. With so many factors to consider, who has time to figure it all out?

Well, whoever thought of combining red wine and dark chocolate in the glass was a genius! And he who pulled it off successfully is my hero! You will be surprised how red wine and dark chocolate pair so seamlessly together in a dessert wine when you sip on Chocolate Shop, The Chocolate Lover’s Wine. You can find it for $9.99 at Cost Plus World Market, and for a similar price at Fred Meyer, Bartell Drug, and other stores.

What a find! Not sure whether I should be glad I found this or unhappy that I am now addicted to this, but I’m sure excited to tell you about it! This red wine behaves like any other red wine in the glass but with the added twist that it is a SWEET wine; in essence, it is a dessert wine, but without behaving like viscous, syrupy Dimetapp in the glass. Let’s call it a dessert wine for non-dessert wine drinkers.

The first sip is like a mouthful of cherry tootsie pop but better! Real dark chocolate flavoring is added to drinkable and balanced Walla Walla red wine. The fact that there is a good quality wine as the base helps, so the consistency won’t remind you of Aunt Jemima.

Here is what the label reads: “… a deep, ruby red wine blended with rich, velvety chocolate. Inviting aromas of black cherry and chocolate combine in the glass and continue on the palate surrounded by hints of cocoa powder. Nuances of sweet red wine lingers [sic] on the smooth finish. Chocolate Shop provides you with an indulgent wine experience like no other.”

Whether you’re a coldhearted cynic, a hopeless romantic, or just craving a sweet wine, this will win you over.

For further reading on pairing wine with chocolate: http://wine.about.com/od/winerecommendations/a/winechocolate.htm

(Sidenote: Use an expert to make your life easier. When you do want to have a wine & chocolate pairing party, ask your local wine merchant for a red that pairs well with chocolates. There is usually chocolate available for sale, and they are more than happy to give you a great recommendation.)

© 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.