Strike It Rich with Dynamite Red

A dynamite wine for an explosively delicious Fourth 

Whiz! Bang! Boom! This Dynamite Red lives up to its name.

Whiz! Bang! Boom! This Dynamite Red lives up to its name.

Happy Independence Day, readers! It feels good to get my lazy self back on the blog — not that I haven’t been busy; I most definitely have been, what with wrangling my 9-month old monkey, taming the beasts Dishes and Laundry, and now starting a job hunt. I think I do better with writing when I have more on my plate, but not too much that it’s overwhelming. When there isn’t as much pressing business to do, it’s easier to just do other things instead. A habit I would love to ditch someday!

So, today is the one day of the entire season that epitomizes summer. Hopefully your day is full of warm sunshine, a pool/river/lake, ice cream, great fireworks, fun friends and family, delicious BBQ, and, to go with that BBQ… some red wine, perhaps? But it is summer, after all, and it’s nice to go with beverages that are lighter, sweeter, and even served chilled.

If that is at all up your alley, I’ve got the perfect wine for you! (And even if it’s not, you still need to try this wine).

Have any of you ever had wine from Arizona? I used to winter in Tucson the last couple years for management training for my old job. My husband would accompany me and while I was in class during the day he would drive around and explore. He found Silver Strike Winery in Tombstone, and picked up their Dynamite Red one year. The next year we bought some again, and now we miss it and are thinking we need to order some soon.

This wine is produced and bottled in Elgin, AZ. It’s a fairly sweet red, very tasty and refreshing, especially for Arizona heat or any summer clime. We found we liked drinking it slightly chilled. There is something really nice about finding a great, delicious, straightforward, easy-drinking red that practically anyone will enjoy. Trophies in your wine arsenal.

Another benefit to drinking this (or any) wine from Silver Strike Winery is the winemakers’ philosophy of minimal chemical tampering with the grapes, and using organic and biodynamic growing methods to coax out their best flavors… a practice I will always stand behind!

While I’m aware I’ve given you pretty short notice on securing this red, as today is the Fourth, you can always order through their website. We still have plenty of summer left, and the Internet is always open for business, so no excuses! I believe the cost was somewhere in the ballpark of $15-$30. Ask about some of their other wines, too, while you’re at it. (And let them know you heard about them on The Rambling Vine). They have another one called “Village of Elgin”, I believe, that I also really enjoyed.

Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful Fourth, and hope you strike it rich with some Dynamite Red this summer!

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Strange But True: Bacon Wine

Wine can be made from so many things. While grapes are the number one choice, and for good reason, that hasn’t stopped adventuresome spirits from using wild ingredients or attempting creative and strange flavor combinations over the centuries. But until now, no one has dared try what could be the next big thing, based on two current popular foodie faves… bacon and red wine. But someone has. And all I have to say is… wow.

I was lucky to meet the owners of Swine Cellars this past weekend, Wilbur and Petunia, whose production facility is located out in Woodinville Farm Country, which is right next to Woodinville Wine Country. They are so cheerful and rosy cheeked, squealing all the time, you know they are having a good time and enjoying their fair share of the product (although they do snort constantly when they laugh… which gets old). Anyway….

I got to sip on the unctuous concoction while interviewing them this past weekend. “So, how were you inspired to make bacon wine? And how exactly is it made?”

“Well, we thought one day, how can we offer a totally unique product in the world of wine?” said Wilbur. “Something revolutionary, daring, that no one else has done before? And then, it hit us… bacon wine! Bacon has skyrocketed to ultimate food status in the gastronomic universe, and we all know that this is the day and age of great wine, craft beer, and small batch spirits. We know bacon vodka has already been done, and to great acclaim, but we though, why not try bacon wine?”

“And so we did!” chimed in Petunia. “We found an exceptional Zinfandel grape that is grown by a small lot producer out in eastern Washington. We were looking for a dark rich smoky red wine with berry notes. It pairs perfectly with bacon flavors.”

“Which brings us to how we incorporate the bacon flavor into the wine,” said Wilbur. “The secret’s out… we add bacon grease (and no, we won’t tell you the percentage) to the wine. It brings out the flavors of the wine unlike anything else on earth. Plus, the acidity of the wine naturally helps break down the fat of the bacon.”

“Where do you source your bacon grease?” I ask, eating some complimentary oyster crackers, as I’m starting to feel the effects of the wine on an empty stomach.

They both blush. “Well, guess we can’t keep it a secret for very long,” said Petunia. “We actually get it from ourselves. We’ve shed a ton of weight during this project… even our kids have been willing to help out. We’ve never been this in shape our whole lives!”

“Wow, how resourceful and sustainable are you guys!” I exclaimed. “This could be the wave of the future, using what you have on hand to enhance already great wine!

“Exactly!” squealed Wilbur and Petunia. “Thank you so much for helping spread the word about our bacon wine. The marketing has been a challenge, so we need all the help and exposure we can get.”

“My pleasure,” I said, wiping my mouth with a napkin. “I’m always looking for innovative new wines to feature on my blog, and this is perfect.”

So, dear readers, if you’re looking for a unique flavor adventure, go visit Swine Cellars out in Woodinville. Make sure you tell them the Rambling Vine sent you.

© 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.

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.

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.

What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s challenging being a pregnant wine-lover. While very light drinking – especially after the first trimester – is probably not going to harm the baby, science still cannot tell us how little alcohol it takes to cause damage, and that’s just not something I’m willing to risk. My guilt wouldn’t let me anyway: I sneak thimble-sized sips of wine or beer from my husband every now and then, and I still panic a tiny bit. It’s just not worth it to me, although once I’m in my 8th or 9th month I may be so uncomfortable I’ll be willing to risk a glass of wine once a month. 🙂

However, there’s still “in the mean time.” It’s now June, and I am in my 21st week, or about  month 5. Still 4 more months of good behavior in store.

More than enjoying a glass of wine on its own, I have missed wine the most when I’ve had a very rich meaty or cheesy dinner and I don’t have those precious few sips of wine to wash it down and ease the digestion of fat. It makes a huge difference now in my ability to digest and enjoy a meal. Certain dishes like rich, buttery, cheesy pastas or marbled cuts of beef with velvety sauces are unbearable now without a glass of wine!

One night not too long ago, I went out to eat with my girl friend and in the spirit of yea-I’m-celebrating-with-my-out-of-town-friend-I-should-live-it-up I ordered macaroni with three cheeses and kielbasa sausage (makes me sick just to read that now!). What the heck, I thought. I never order this sort of thing, it will be a treat. The dish came, and it was wonderful and addicting, but then I began to fear the power of all that oily cheese and butter and the havoc it would soon wreak on my GI tract. There is a reason I never order this sort of thing without wine! What have I done, I thought to myself with the same disgust and self-loathing of someone who’d just signed up to run a marathon through Death Valley on a July noon. We were about to go see a movie after dinner… would I miss most of it because my body insisted I stare at bathroom wall art work instead?

But then I remembered what I could do! Although I didn’t have a tasty glass of wine with which to complement my mac and cheese, I recalled hearing about Italians from Modena, the region famed for prized aged balsamic vinegars. I had bought a fine bottle for my dad as a birthday present, and remember reading the tag on the bottle that listed how the people of Modena enjoyed their vinegar: over strawberries, over parmesan cheese, or – gasp! – even by the spoonful after a meal. Huh, that’s nifty, and makes sense, I had thought to myself. Vinegar is highly acidic and breaks down fat molecules, thus helping you digest. Taking a spoonful of rich balsamic vinegar after a meal is like a tonic or digestive aid, more medicinal in purpose, but if you select a sweet, dessert-y balsamic, it’s more pleasant than a harsh, cheap, low quality vinegar. The Latin and Greek roots of the word balsamic even mean “balsam-like” or “restorative” or “curative.”

With this snap revelation from Bacchus the Italian wine god, I asked our server if he could bring me some balsamic vinegar. After his first failed attempt of bringing me malt vinegar (the kind Brits put on their fish & chips – not something to slurp on its own!), he did manage to find some better balsamic and brought it to the table (someone got an education in vinegar that night). My friend had an empty condiment cup from her nacho toppings, so we emptied it and I filled it like a shot glass and slammed that baby down without too much puckering.

Praise the Lord, I had no issues! That shot of vinegar did the trick in helping me digest some mighty rich food. I think it probably worked better than a glass of wine because of how much concentrated acidity is in balsamic vinegar as opposed to a single glass of wine. Who knew, huh?

The restaurant balsamic was OK, but definitely not the finer, aged, gourmet kind you can savor on its own, with its dark, rich, syrupy smooth sweetness. Sometimes those bottles will run you $30, $40, $50 even, depending on how long it has been aged, and also the name brand.

If you want a fabulous, authenic, aged balsamico from Modena, with great texture and smooth, complex aromatics, have I got a sweet little secret! It’s even less than $20. You must think I’m crazy, right? Ha, check this out….

The sweet little secret is Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Tsillan Cellars in Lake

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Chelan, WA. You know it must be good if we’ve downed most of the bottle, right? We bought this 8.45 oz. bottle for only $12 when we were wine tasting at Tsillan (pronounced Shuh-lan) Cellars last summer. This balsamic vinegar is from Modena, Italy and “is aged up to 18 years in wood casks. Its sweet yet subtle character makes it the most famous vinegar in the culinary world.”

Tsillan Cellars is a gorgeous Tuscan-style villa overlooking the lake. I could totally die happy there. I’ll definitely blog about some of their other wines down the road. For now, trust me when I say that they make fantastic wines and an astonishingly awesome balsamic. I don’t see this vinegar for sale on their website, so you may just have to plan a trip out to Lake Chelan soon for some wine tasting. Darn! 🙂

This vinegar is scrumptious on its own (I’ve enjoyed a couple spoonfuls since being preggo) or mixed with a fine olive oil to drizzle onto roasted veggies or in which to dip big hunks of rustic rosemary bread. For a special treat, drizzle over strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and mint with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Or, for an even more ridiculously special treat, stuff some medjool dates with bleu cheese, wrap with bacon, and roast in the oven until cooked through, dark and crispy, then drizzle balsamic over the top. Freaking. Unbelievable.

There’s something mysterious yet appealing about balsamic vinegar’s whole “sweet and sour” routine. It’s complex and satisfying, which is apparently something preggos crave a lot, like pickles and ice cream. Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, at least not eating them together. Balsamic vinegar is a whole new paradigm, like parenthood.

So, if you’re like me, an abstaining preggo who may get herself in trouble from time to time with rich dinners, make it your Mary Poppins mantra that “Just a spoonful of balsamic vinegar helps the indigestion subside… in the most delightful way!” 🙂

© 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.

Bye Bye Business: When Wine Shops Go By the Wayside

There is an adorable little wine shop I’ve enjoyed frequenting that is shuttering its doors after over a decade of successful operations and scores of happy, loyal customers. Don’t let the word ‘adorable’ fool you into thinking I mean quaint, or “nice try, considering.” Oh no. Their variety and selection is among the best you’ll find at any boutique wine shop. Wines are racked properly, lighting and humidity are just right, all wines are organized excellently, and there are just enough cute gifty items to make it unique without being too hokey. The owners really know their stuff and have a very impressive selection of both local and international wines.

I recently read that they were closing at the end of the month. The owners are retiring and closing their doors. My first thought was, How selfish. After building up a great little business that’s helped revive a retail district in a small city, they decide to put a cork in it (no pun intended whatsoever). 😉 No mentions of selling it to someone else. Just gone. Poof. All that work, investment, wine, sweat, and tears, down the drain. A crime, to say the least.

Now, catch me under slightly different circumstances, I would totally love to plunk down an offer to buy it and rescue it. I’d be like a wine warrior princess kneeling with a sword lifted overheard and a “Teach me everything you know, masters!” look about me. Your business is too important to too many people and the community to see it vanish after all your hard work.

Unfortunately, and this may be what they ran into, who’s willing to put money into a retail business right now, even a successful one? If my work in the business community has taught me anything, it’s that retail stores are dying out right now, no thanks to things like Amazon, etc. It’s just a new reality that is forcing businesses to be more competitive and creative with how they sell their goods and services (however, restaurants are still opening, especially in areas zoned for restaurants and where other established restaurants have laid the foundation for a thriving restaurant district. Wine bars should be no exception).

However, if my work in the local business community has taught me anything, it’s also that there are more great resources out there to make business ownership possible than the average person is aware of. There are loans, grants, free advisors, business brokers, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. The resources are just sitting there, waiting to be used. And at this time right now, with small business creating a large percentage of jobs in America, we NEED for budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of these dynamite resources.

I don’t know. Perhaps the owners did explore these options. Maybe they are just so tired and ready to retire they said heck with it, and are just looking to liquidate and sell the space. Who knows.

Perhaps they don’t like the thought of selling their baby to another set of parents. It is theirs, after all; giving up your child must be hard to fathom. But wouldn’t you rather see your baby in the arms of safe, good, loving new parents? Even if they will raise it differently and it will turn out differently in part due to their nurture? Why would you let that stop you from fulfilling your legacy?

But I felt better when I read a letter to the editor on a blog. Someone wrote an urgent and frantic message, casting the net out into the community to see if anyone else wanted to go in with him on forming an LLC and saving this wine store. Thank you! I thought as I read to myself. I’m not the only one who is shocked to see this business go by the wayside. There is a critical mass out there who care dearly for this wine shop. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Under different circumstances, I would have loved to have bought this wine shop and started a chapter of my life having a successful wine business that means something to the community (especially when all the groundwork has been laid for you, what a break!). But I’m on a track right now I’m not ready to veer off of just yet. Does that mean I’m not entrepreneurial enough, not enough of a risk-taker? Maybe. You have to recognize and seize the opportunities when they come your way. Can’t overanalyze it too much. 

But it’s super disappointing to see a great creation vanish without a trace, simply because the owners are retiring. It’s a sin, really. I don’t know what to do about it, since it wasn’t a case of good-business-owners-who-did-great-and-tried-but-got-swallowed-live-by-recession-or-big-box-retailer-next-door. Because they still remained competitive… maybe not the lowest prices, but unparalleled selection, free tastings every Friday and Saturday, and the attention and familiarity that kept people coming back.

Not that it was the perfect business. I remember well a day where I went in, and, feeling like spending some money on nice wine, went in, moseyed around, and bought three lovely or curious bottles of wine for $60. A free tasting was happening next door, so I wandered over there with my brown bag of wine, sidled up to the bar and indicated I would like to do a tasting.

“We’re doing a fundraiser tasting today, so we’re asking for donations  today to raise money for blah blah blah,” one of the owners said. “Oh, that’s great,” I said. “But I haven’t got any cash on me.” I don’t remember his response very well after that, but he wasn’t about to pour me a tasting since I clearly wasn’t able to donate (in spite of spending a good chunk of change that day in his business!). A nice lady at the bar said, “Go ahead and serve her, I put in a $20, don’t you think that will cover a couple free tastings?” So I got my tasting, but don’t remember enjoying it very much, no thanks to Mr. Ebenezer Grumpypants. That one sour customer service incident definitely flavored the rest of my experience there. Some people just don’t get it. Customer service truly is everything.

With every business that closes, another one is getting ready to open up just on the next block. Fingers crossed that now we’ll get something even better than this great little place.

Here’s to a great example made, and to a new wine business legacy! May they do what you did best, wine shop!

© 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.

Oh! Baby: A Sexy Valentine Vino

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovely readers! Today, it’s all about pretty flowers, teddy bears, cute cards, candy hearts, and sticky sugar-coated sentimentality all around. La la la!

But it’s also a day (and night) for naughty lingerie, sensuous chocolates, alluring red roses, and one of the greatest aphrodisiacs of all, red wine! (Sorry, white wine, you’re far too tame for a night like tonight).

Oh! Orgasmic Barbera is exotic and erotic, and just what the Love Doctor ordered.

Oh! my, what a big red you are. Photo courtesy Naked Winery.

Oh! my, what a big red you are. Photo courtesy Naked Winery.

This is a deep, dark, hefty, serious, muscular wine you pull out Valentine’s night to drink alongside a perfectly seasoned and cooked steak. It might not all get consumed in one sitting, if you know what I mean (wink wink).

This is another wine my husband and I tried in Hood River, OR at Naked Winery. It’s a pricey bottle, but it’s worth it. See my other post on Virgin Chardonnay for one of their whites. Sorry, the wine is only figuratively orgasmic.

The folks at Naked Winery have fun. “This dry Italian wine greets you with aromas of toasted brown sugar and finishes dry with hints of cherry sweet tarts. Aged for 15 months in new American Oak barrels, this wine will lie down for you and wait until you are ready to uncork its full potential. Aromatic mixed berry fruit with underlying toast and roasted fennel on the nose.”

This wine also exhibits “full ripeness, concentrated flavors and balance.”

It’s a strong wine that’s remarkably tart and sour, so if you like a wine with that flavor profile this is definitely for you. Because it’s still quite tart while drinking, it’s one that will benefit from a few more years of cellaring (the 2010 can be aged now through 2019).

Still, it’s a sumptuous red wine that is up to the task of making your Valentine’s Day most memorable and fun.

How about you? Are you enjoying a nice wine tonight?

© 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.

Revelry Cab: The Perfect Choice for Your Holiday Revels

Revelry Vintners Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Walla Walla

Happy, merry, gay, gleeful, blissful, carefree, joie de vie, ah, words

This wine is "revelicious!" Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

This wine is “revelicious!” Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

that should be apropos adjectives of all holidays. I hope that between December 1st and January 1st, your days are filled with festivities, loved ones, good food, and great wine!

Here is one word you might want to add to your favorite word (and wine) stock pile: Revelry.

Revelry Vintners makes terrific wine. When my husband and friend and I were in Walla Walla this fall, this was one of the wineries we stumbled into that we hadn’t researched and reviewed ahead of time. More often than not, when I venture into a tasting room I haven’t heard of before, if it’s recommended by another tasting room, it’s generally outstanding. I fell in love with a couple of their reds and especially their Riesling, which I plan to review later.

For now, I’m sticking with their grand master red, their 2009 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is a perfect description of Revelry’s style, from the winery (I couldn’t have said it better myself): “Revelry Vintners offers award winning, premium wines with incredible complexity and depth of character. With a tradition of excellence deeply rooted in respect for the dynamic viticulture movement of Washington State, Revelry’s innovative craftsmen embrace a bold, visionary approach to winemaking.”

These were my first impressions I jotted down:

“YES PLEASE! Good structure, a cab with backbone, but still great fruit and a fine overall mouthfeel. Highly recommend, wish I had bought two bottles. 85% Cab, 15% Merlot.”

For those of you who, like me, enjoy a bit more detailed description to enhance the tasting experience, here is an excellent review by Rand Sealey (Review of Washington Wine, August 2012) taken from the winery’s website:

“Combined with 15% Merlot, this is an impressive rendition of Red Mountain Cabernet. Deep ruby colored, it emits seductive aromas of blackberry, huckleberry, cassis, crushed roses, mulberry, sandalwood, cigar box and smoldering incense. The dark fruit flavors are thick and true to variety, underlain with dark chocolate, black licorice, Sumatra roast and Red Mountain scorched earth and minerals. The saturation continues on the back with sensations of macerated berries, kirsch liqueur, and touches of graphite, toasted nuts and toffee, followed by a judiciously (60% new French) oaked moderate tannin finish. Fruit and terroir driven, this is approachable now, but age-worthy for 2-5 years.”

I know this long list of flavors might seem overwhelming and verbose, but really, it’s a spring board for YOU the consumer to appreciate the many nuances and subtleties of this spectacular wine. Some flavors you will pick up on, some you won’t, and that’s OK. It’s meant to give you an idea of what to look for. Kind of like a ballet barre; it gives you the support you need to execute your own personal assessment of the wine once you’re dancing center stage by yourself.

When reading a wine review or tasting notes, keep in mind the writer is following the sequence of how we experience wine in stages; it’s a description of how it’s hitting you. First, when you inhale, then when you sip, where in your mouth it hits and what flavors/textures/characteristics you will notice first, second, third, fourth, and then the finish. It’s almost like a 30 second musical composition, or a poem.

Because of the price, this wine is best suited for special occasions.

As it is Christmas Eve, I urge you to take note of this wine and perhaps use some of your soon-to-be spending money on this special wine. Then revel in what a great selection you made as you enjoy it with friends!

Merry Christmas!

Cheers,
The Rambling Vine 🙂

© 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.

Sniffin’ Gluh… Wine

Baroness Cellars Engelwein

I don’t know about you, but she looks like she could be called, Helga, the Germanic Goddess of Gluhwein. Here is the lovely Helga, offering the wine to the gods, or maybe she’s just trying to keep some for herself. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

What I am about to say may sound like heresy or treason, but fear not, bear with me, here. There is a white wine, known to man, that may be served HOT. Yes, hot! Not chilled, not room temperature, but hot enough to warrant your favorite mug. Did you ever think the two stars of “white wine” and “hot beverage” could align so perfectly for you? Well, they have now! Read on for an unusual hot mulled wine beverage using white wine that’s sure to be enticing!

In the charming Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Baroness Cellars is a charming little tasting room in an antique shop. There are at least three wine tasting “rooms” in this large antique store, and this was one my husband and I both really enjoyed when we were there during the summer.

What attracted us to Baroness Cellars and what sealed the deal into making us customers, not just tasters, were the not-as-common/off-the-beaten-path styles of wines they served (they do a delicious and interesting unfiltered Grenache… more on that later, I’ll get sidetracked) and this intriguing glühwein, called Engelwein.

According to the winery, “Engelwein is a white glühwein served in the winter months along the Alsace region and Northern Germany. It is a Riesling with white cranberries and spiced with ginger.”

Glühwein is roughly translated from German to English as “glow-wine.” This name draws from the image of the glowing hot coals once used for mulling. Today the preparation is much easier, albeit less dramatic and romantic; but light some candles and you’re shooting for that medieval German feel.

Here is how to enjoy your bottle of Engelwein during the winter months:
1) Play some good German polka music in the background, or just yodel. You must be in a Bavarian frame of mind (recommended but not required)!
2) Pour into saucepan on stove top and heat to a low simmer on medium high heat.
3) Ladle wine into coffee or tea cups (not plastic) and garnish with cranberries, fresh ginger, or a cinnamon stick (knowing me, I’d use all three).
4) I love how the winery puts it: “Then, enjoy the nectar of heaven. Prost!”

Now, just to play devil’s advocate and analyze all possible situations, let’s say you don’t do hot beverages during December… it’s an ugly Christmas sweater party in your friend’s 600 sq. foot apartment, and that glass of Merlot and crowded room is causing you to heat up and glow like a Maraschino cherry, so what to do? Try it iced! Who knew this delectable wine could be so versatile? Chill the wine, pour it into a pitcher or cocktail shaker, throw in some strawberries and muddle it over crushed ice. Voila, instant refreshment! What a friendly wine!

© 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.

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.