Five Star Cellars Creates Five-Star Wine

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

Image courtesy Five Star Cellars.

Image courtesy Five Star Cellars.

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

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

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

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

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

“Be mine!”
XOXO, Merlot

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

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Let’s Mull This Over…

Mulled Wine Is Divine at Christmas Time

With the Christmas season comes a slew of hot, sugary, comforting, yet semi-disgusting

This is the perfect port to use in mulled wine. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

beverages… peppermint mochas, hot buttered rums, caramel apple cider, espresso with egg nog and rum, salted caramel lattes with bourbon (OK, fine, you caught me on that last one). But really, it’s kind of gross when I drink something like that, and imagine the millions of calories entering my bloodstream that I really don’t need after all the chocolate or cookies or other crap I’ve been eating this time of year, and feel terrible afterwards. Something simpler is clearly in order!

Why do we feel the need to expand exponentially on the classics? Why can’t we celebrate the basics and indulge in simplicity? This is why I would like to propose a return to simpler times, to delicious, decadent-yet-not-overly-so, satisfying mulled wine. I’ll bet you’re surprised to learn it’s mulled wine, not MOLD wine.

Mulled wine is for winter what sangria is for summer. Except instead of Spain or South America we venture to the cold Northern European countries and pictures of children  building snowmen, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens come dancing into our heads, causing us to crave this soul-warming winter beverage. This is the drink of Christmas time: sweet, spicy, citrusy, woodsy, aromatic, and above all, hot! The perfect way to celebrate Joy to the World!

Look no further, this recipe for mulled wine is sheer perfection. Yes, it’s sweet, but at least you can say it’s real wine, sugar, fruits, and spices. Probably a little bit better than some of those other holly-jolly-nightmare beverage concoctions. Definitely share with friends!

Per my friend’s request, here is a mulled wine recipe (part one of two, actually). I got this recipe from the lovely folks at Tefft Cellars. My husband and I will be making this every year, for as long as we both shall live.

Recipe for Hot Mulled Wine (aka Tefft’s Winter Warmer)
3 c. Cab or Merlot
4 oz. Concordia Port
5 whole cloves
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 orange, peeled and chopped
3 cinnamon sticks

In a crock pot or dutch oven, begin warming wine, port, and water. Add orange and other ingredients. Adding sugar when wine is warm will help it dissolve more easily. Warm gently (avoid boiling) and enjoy!

© 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.

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.

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.

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.