Prickly Pear Margaritas for Cinco de Mayo (and Beyond)

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Cinco de Mayo is happening this Friday. Or, for those whom the actual holiday has no personal cultural relevance, Cinco de Drinko: a day for Americans to down Margaritas and Mexican food.

I hope you enjoyed my post on Mexican wine, but – de veras – this holiday demands a Margarita. Nothing short of a Margarita will suffice for today. And this Margarita recipe is sin igual in terms of show stopping good looks and jaw dropping flavors.

This recipe is courtesy of Keli Sim DeRitis – an artist, designer, passionate cook, teacher, and tour guide. Her business, Poggi Bonsi, offers all manner of gorgeous and delicious things, including cooking classes, European tours, and special import gifts and food items for your home kitchen.

My husband and I took a cooking class with her a couple years ago on Sicilian cooking and wines and it was fantastic and utterly delicious! You can buy her cookbook on Amazon (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying links), which includes several themed menus grouped by European travel destination. Check out her website for more information.

What makes this Margarita extra special is the Prickly Pear syrup. Prickly Pear is a flowering plant of the cactus family, and according to the Mayo Clinic is reputed to help treat diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and hangovers.

Laugh. Out. Loud. Combining this lovely plant with sugar and alcohol per-rob-ably won’t help with the above ailments, but, like the overweight American who orders the Diet Coke with the huge cheeseburger and extra large French fries, we optimistically and ignorantly think that one small “good” deed outweighs all the other poor dietary choices.

Gotta laugh at ourselves, right? 馃槈

This Magnificent Magenta Margarita is not only supremely photogenic, its refreshing and diverse flavors sweep over you and ferry you to Margarita bliss.

Give it a try, I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. 馃檪

Recipe notes: I doubled the recipe to make 2 drinks. Use only fresh-squeezed lime juice. For the sugar/salt/lime zest mix for the glass rim, massage the three ingredients together with your fingers to release those lovely lime essential oils.

*Prickly pear syrup can be purchased online. Look for Cheri’s Desert Harvest. The only ingredients are sugar, prickly pear cactus, lemon, and citrus pectin. And yes, that color is real! (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying links).

For an alcohol-free mocktail: throw some prickly pear syrup, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and club soda together. 隆Deliciosa!

PRICKLY PEAR MARGARITA

Prickly Pear MargaritasIngredients

  • 3 ounces tequila blanco (aka silver tequila or tequila plata)
  • 1/2-ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 1 1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 ounces prickly pear syrup*
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • Prickly pear or lime slice for garnish

Directions

  1. Pour the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and prickly pear syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously to incorporate. Alternately, you can blend the cocktail ingredients with ice in a blender.
  2. Combine the salt, sugar, and lime zest on a small plate. Run a slice of lime around the rim of a chilled glass and dip into the mixture and coat the edge.
  3. Fill the glass with ice and pour in the margarita. Garnish with a prickly pear slice (available at many Hispanic and Asian markets) or a slice of lime.
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Willows Lodge Secret Supper Series at Barking Frog with C么te Bonneville Wines

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Spoiled. Utterly spoiled to the hilt. That was my March 2023, and I am not complaining. I hit every single possible type of wine event last month – a wine festival, a tasting, a seminar, a wine club event, and an unforgettable, luxuriously indulgent multi-course wine and food pairing dinner, generously provided by my exceedingly gracious in-laws. That dinner was the Secret Supper Club at Barking Frog Restaurant, featuring C么te Bonneville wines.

About Barking Frog/Chef Dylan Herrick
Willows Lodge is a luxury hotel in the heart of Woodinville (WA) wine country (which boasts over 130 wineries!), and Barking Frog is its signature restaurant. Here is what makes Barking Frog special:

“Barking Frog is a culinary experience known for innovative seasonal menus, award-winning global wines and its signature ambiance. When you pair this with our exceptional service it is easy to see why it is one of the most widely desired restaurants on the eastside.

In collaboration with local farmers, food artisans and foragers, Executive Chef Dylan Herrick has built a talented culinary team that draws its mastery from modern and classic techniques, creating dishes that are inventive yet timeless.”

In addition, Barking Frog has received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for five consecutive years. No bad wine here!

The Secret Supper Series is an opportunity for Chef Dylan Herrick to be creative and come up with some fantastic dishes that he pairs with the equally fantastic wines of a featured winemaker; in this case, Cote B么nneville Winemaker Kerry Shiels. The collaboration between a chef and winemaker is akin to a dancer and a musician working together – two diverse but essential elements needed to create a masterpiece. The congruity of the food and wine was outstanding. Mind and taste buds blown.

About C么te Bonneville Wines/Winemaker Kerry Shiels
C么te Bonneville is an estate winery located on world-renowned DuBrul Vineyard in Sunnyside, WA, in the Yakima Valley AVA. In 1991, Hugh and Kathy Shiels (parents of current winemaker Kerry Shiels) purchased some land and tore out the existing apple orchard. In 1992 they planted DuBrul Vineyard. According to their website, DuBrul Vineyard is “consistently recognized as one of the top vineyards in Washington State…. DuBrul Vineyard designated wines, from C么te Bonneville and others, have consistently been well received by critics and sought after by consumers world wide.” Grapes grown here have unique flavors and structure that put them in the class of ultra-premium wines. C么te Bonneville Winery was founded in 2001 to “produce classically styled wines that best express our particular site.” Learn more about DuBrul Vineyard and C么te Bonneville.

Kerry was great to talk to and learn from. A former engineer turned winemaker, she received her master’s degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis. After gaining winemaking experience in California, Australia, and Argentina, she came home and got to work as head winemaker at C么te Bonneville in 2009. She brings exacting precision, immense knowledge, excellence, and the utmost care to her winemaking and her wines show it.

An interesting fact I learned about Kerry’s vineyard crew is that they are all women. This is unusual since over 75% of winery workers are male. She told me they tend to be “more nurturing and detail-oriented in the vineyard. They take great pride in helping grow some of the best grapes in the state!”

The Dinner
This was so much fun! There were only 9 of us guests total, 11 counting Kerry and Dylan. In my opinion, this is the perfect group size for an intimate evening, and being able to actually talk to each other and get to know each other proved very pleasant. It was also nice to be able to hear the discussions, and not be trying to shout above the din, like at a loud, crowded event. We were able to ask questions of Dylan and Kerry, and had great conversations. The service was impeccable so a big thank you to the team that served our group that evening.

Every wine I tried was pure loveliness and went beautifully with the food pairings. It was a flavor celebration from start to finish. I probably moaned, rolled my eyes, and made hand gestures a lot, but I can’t help it when I have amazing food and wine!

Here is the menu and my review of the meal. I am missing a description and photo for the starter, but it was super tasty. I did not photograph the wines, but I assure you I drank them (I think you can imagine what a glass of cab or chardonnay looks like)! 馃槈

Roes & Ros茅
Cured Salmon/Trout Roe/Citrus Panna Cotta/Local Honey Espuma
2022 C么te Bonneville Ros茅

Roes and Rose course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Roes and Rose course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

The Ros茅 is made from Cabernet Franc grapes that are grown specifically for becoming Ros茅 wine, not for making Cab Franc wine or to be blended with other red grapes. Deep, beautiful fruit aromas, medium body, bright acidity. An intriguing wine and perfect pairing with the salmon and trout roe. Welcome spring!

Five-Spice Sakura Pork
Indian Curry-Spiced Romesco/Pomegranate/Arugula/Pineapple Kombucha Caramel
2019 C么te Bonneville Chardonnay

Five-Spice Sakura Pork course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Five-Spice Sakura Pork course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Holy cow (or should I say, holy swine). This was my favorite food of the night. I am going to have to get creative and re-create this flavor palette at home sometime. Classy, rich pairing with the chardonnay. Hats off to Chef Dylan on this one!

Roasted Wild Mushrooms
Currant/Chimacum Valley Chimatomme/Potato Glass/Toasted Rice Oil
2012 C么te Bonneville Cabernet Sauvignon

Roasted Wild Mushrooms course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Roasted Wild Mushrooms course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

My absolute favorite wine of the night had to be the Cabernet Sauvignon. There were zero faults with this wine: it was smooth, full, rich, pure, balanced, complex, elegant – basically every positive adjective you can throw at a fine wine. Because it’s an epic $200 bottle of wine, it probably won’t make my acquaintance again for a while. I didn’t know the price of the wine until I looked it up afterwards, but I could definitely tell I was drinking something extremely special in a whole other league of wine. Brava, Kerry!

Intermezzo (a palate refresher between bites)

Intermezzo, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Intermezzo, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

The Intermezzo was one of the more memorable things I’ve consumed in a long time. This is not a complete list, but it did include kiwi juice, pop rocks, basil seeds, foam, etc. It hit every last pleasant taste bud receptor on the tongue and every food texture sensation. Wow and yum! I can still taste it.

Whey-Braised Lamb Shoulder
Vanilla Scented Parsnip/Fennel Two Ways/Cocoa Nib Hummus/Yogurt Drizzle
2014 C么te Bonneville Syrah

Whey-Braised Lamb Shoulder course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Whey-Braised Lamb Shoulder course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Another delicious dish with delicious wine. The lamb, with the cocoa, vanilla, and yogurt flavors played very well with the Syrah.

Lemon Pound Cake
Chamomile Noodles/Citrus Salad/Mandarin Caramel/Lemon Curd
2009 C么te Bonneville Late Harvest Riesling

Lemon Pound Cake course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

Lemon Pound Cake course, Barking Frog Woodinville Secret Supper, March 2023

I am a chocolate lover so the dessert I could have easily passed on (and I’ll be honest, the look of the noodles was a bit off-putting), but the flavors did make for an excellent pairing with the Riesling. The Late Harvest Riesling reminded me of Tokaji (toe-kai), the famed Hungarian dessert wine. Just enchanting. 鉂

News/In Sum
If you love wine (check) and food (check) and pairing the two (check), Barking Frog will soon be rolling out some new food and wine pairing menus, presumably featuring slightly smaller food portions similar to this multi-course dinner format. The aim is to present foods that will complement featured wines and deepen their enjoyment through pairing. I would love to go back again, if not for a winemaker dinner, then at least to try these new pairing menus. Keep tabs on their happenings here.

If you’d like to know more about Barking Frog’s Secret Supper Club, you can request an invitation by emailing barkingfrogevents@willowslodge.com. These events are not published on their website so you will need to be on their email list. Expect to spend approximately $285/person plus tax and gratuity.

Check out C么te Bonneville’s current releases – they can be shipped around the country. Information on their tasting room hours can be found here. You can also purchase their Carriage House Red Blend through my affiliate link at wine.com.

A tasting out at C么te Bonneville is a must on my spring or summer to-do list!

Special thanks to Rich and Dustin for snapping pics while I lived in the moment. 馃檪

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023: A Review

On Friday, March 10th, I got up early and hit the road to make the journey down to McMinnville, Oregon, where the 30th Annual McMinnville Wine + Food Classic was taking place. I had not been since 2019, so the absence had definitely compounded my excitement.

This event goes for three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, and is a fundraiser for St. James School in McMinnville, OR. You can purchase tickets for as many days as you like. They even offer shuttle service from downtown McMinnville to the Museum.

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

There are tons of wineries, but also distilleries, cideries, meaderies, breweries (all the eez). There is obviously food, and a handful of artisans and crafters. You can peruse all of the 2023 participating vendors here.

I tried numerous pours of wine. I would have loved to have tried some other alcoholic products but stuck to my original plan (maybe next year).

Your ticket purchase includes two tasting tokens. At most places, one token is equal to one pour, but for certain specialty and library wines, two or even three tokens might be required. I wound up purchasing 15 additional tokens, and that was MORE than enough. Having an additional day or two to try more wines would be ideal but I could only attend one day.

Tasting tokens for the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

Tasting tokens for the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

I obviously was not able to try every single wine and winery at the festival, but out of the ones I did, here are five wineries and their wines that stood out to me, and that you would not be remiss in checking out. Please note that at some of these vendors I only tried one pour, so this is based on the limited amount I tried that day. I also would have loved to have purchased more bottles but, alas, budgets. 馃檪

  1. Denison Cellars 2019 Bj枚rnson Vineyard Pinot Noir: This wine really captivated me. Their Pinot was elegant, complex, expressive, beautiful. I sure wish I could have tasted their full line-up but I was trying to spread my tasting tokens out to try more wineries. Time to plan a private tasting at their vineyard in Salem! From the tasting notes: “The resulting wine is deep ruby in color and displays aromas of black cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry. With hints of cola and all-spice, the ripe, velvety tannins provide structure for rich, mouth-filling volume. Flavors of dark red fruit persist into a lingering finish.” $48/bottle. *Of special note for Oregonians: FREE LOCAL DELIVERY for those in Yamhill County, Salem, and Portland with any 3+ bottle purchase. I cannot wait to return and taste more of their wines.
  2. Patton Valley Wines 2018 Lange Vineyard Pinot Noir: Patton Valley has been a brand for over 25 years, but at the moment they are a nomadic winery with no permanent tasting room. I think that’s cool because I’m sure it allows them to save a ton of money and put that towards great winemaking; plus it’s a chance to get creative and have some fun, different tasting options. This was a delicious Pinot Noir I decided to take home as well. $55/bottle. According to the tasting notes, it has a “lush red fruited nose” and a “broad and silky palate.” This is a winery whose offerings you must try if you’re into specific Pinot Noir clones from particular Willamette Valley area vineyards. Visit their website to order wines and to learn where they are pouring.
  3. Domaine de Broglie 2019 Clone 777 Pinot Noir: Established in 2019, Domaine de Broglie is a more recent newcomer to the Dundee Hills AVA. This estate is owned by Francis Ford Coppola and was previously Vista Hills Vineyard. At the 2023 McMinnville Wine Competition, this showstopper wine took home Best of Show, Best Red Wine, and Double Gold! Uh-huh. Here are the tasting notes, you’ll see why: “Aromas of mushrooms, cedar, and forest floor mingle with sweeter聽aromas of vanilla coffee. A savory, well rounded palate counterpointed with聽notes of strawberries, red fruit, and salted caramel. An outstanding wine,聽showcasing the range of expression found in Oregon Pinot Noir.” $62/bottle, 100% Pinot Noir. This wine is music in a glass! This is the indulgence bottle. I did take this beauty home. (I also recall a tried a very enchanting Chardonnay).
  4. Rue Cler 2019 Rocks Syrah: Oh, wow! This is one I will be buying in the future, so intriguing and delicious. $48/bottle, sourced from Noble Rock Vineyard in Milton-Freewater, OR. From the tasting notes: “Black fruit takes a backseat to savory meats, crushed violets and brine…. Huckleberries and wet stone give great acid that lingers on the finish…. Decant to discover layers of earth and umami in your glass.” If you like wines with savory flavors and plenty going on, you’ll love this! Side note: I did not try their Walla Walla Syrah, but one of my tasting companions did and she kept going back for more sips. 馃檪
  5. Siltstone 2021 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: What I especially enjoyed about Siltstone Wines was they make a very good, very drinkable Pinot Noir for $24/bottle. You’re greeted with aromas of cherry, red fruit, and vanilla spice on the nose, and flavors of cherry cola and plum on the palate. The wine is medium-bodied with balanced tannins and a soft smoky finish. As much as I love ultra-fine, premium Pinot Noirs, I just can’t afford them all the time, and I’ll bet you can’t, either. And while $24 for a bottle of wine is a lot for many people (especially right now), when you look at overall pricing for good quality Pinot Noir, you’ll see that it’s very difficult to find GOOD stuff like this in this price range. This is a bargain for lovely Pinot Noir. I also would love to try more of their wines someday.

This event is a great way to get acquainted with a variety of fantastic Willamette Valley wineries all under one roof, and a great excuse to do something fun with your friends.

Have you been to the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic? If so, what did you try and like there? Comment below!

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

Definitely the best dressed guest! Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

Ode to An Old Soul: Vintage Tastes in Vino

Chardonnay, a true golden oldie.

Virgin Chardonnay from Naked Winery: Because Winemakers Just Wanna Have Fun!

*Naked Winery is now known as Evoke Winery.

Just because something is old doesn鈥檛 necessarily make it a classic. Beringer White Zinfandel, one of the top-selling wines in the US, might be an old, familiar favorite, but in my personal opinion it鈥檚 not a classic, just a convenient go-to wine (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases). While some styles of wine might not be trendy at the moment, it doesn鈥檛 mean they鈥檙e not good. Here at The Rambling Vine, I want to celebrate the grand flavors that have saturated my palate and broadened my perspective on a particular varietal. I also like to pay tribute to wines that sealed the deal for friends and family members.

My husband鈥檚 absolute favorite Chardonnay happens to be made in a style that is currently not as popular as it might have been a couple decades ago: oaked. This is not surprising. He is an old soul, preferring classic rock bands like Jethro Tull, Rush, and Queen to more contemporary music (when we were dating, I had to educate him on the true bands of our youth, like Soundgarden, Weezer, Spice Girls, wait, nevermind). But he knows a good thing when he experiences it, and when he first sipped this wine, I could tell this was the best Chardonnay he鈥檇 ever had!

Today鈥檚 Chardonnay drinkers generally favor the kind that has fermented in stainless steel casks, which give the wine a completely different, lighter character (some of which are good). So if you鈥檙e on the other end of the spectrum and prefer buttery, rich, hefty white wines, you鈥檒l want to try this!

Naked Winery鈥檚 Library 2007 Virgin Chardonnay ($35 per bottle) is heavily oaked (it spends 17 months fermenting in new oak) and very tasty. The oak is rewarding to this wine. It is 鈥渁 velvety and youthful wine鈥 that possesses an 鈥渆xtremely tantalizing bouquet. Its soft tannins, creamy butterscotch and vanilla flavors will delight and excite you. It ends with a memorable sweetness. Enjoy strong flavors of pear, papaya and vanilla. Spicy Thai dishes will be just right with this wine.鈥 Smooth, rich, thick, complex; a standout wine, it is not to be missed.

Another reason we really like this wine is the winery: Naked Winery. If you鈥檙e out and about gallivanting through Oregon, stop by Hood River and linger in the Naked Winery tasting room. Try everything they offer! But be warned, we tried close to 12 different wines, so don鈥檛 overdo it; use that spit bucket so you don鈥檛 do anything you would be ashamed of. This place makes awesome wines and they have FUN while doing it. Who else would paraphrase Madonna on the back of their bottle? 鈥淓njoy this Virgin like it was the very first time.鈥 The only thing they take absolutely seriously is their winemaking craft. After they create a great product, they are excited to share it with you and answer all your questions. Each wine name and description oozes sexual innuendo (they even have Orgasmic! Wine 鈥 to be reviewed later). They have been criticized for this by some in certain snooty wine circles, who obviously don鈥檛 have a sense of humor. Pshaw, let鈥檚 just support them all the more! Down with wine snobbery and puffery!

They also vehemently support the use of wine to aid in la romanza.

When the mood strikes and all the stars align to enjoy a particularly special bottle of wine, indulge in this exquisite, classic Chardonnay! Our life is made up of a series of delicious moments, might as well have a rich one.

A Matter of Trust

Leo, master of the phrase “Do you trust me?” (I think Kate is relaxed only because she’s monkeyed聽 up… and Celine Dion is cooing romantically聽in the background.)

Trust Cabernet Sauvignon

Trust me: one of those phrases that is easy to聽ask of another yet difficult to do when you yourself are asked. Trust is a word that carries with it a lot of weighted implications鈥 who or what you put your trust in reveals who or what you deem worthy of trust. Trusting too easily can signify a naivete or intentionally turning a blind eye to foibles, while failing to trust reputable, good, honorable people and things will mean you鈥檒l go through life without taking risks and developing little faith. Without getting into further philosophical babbling, let me be bold enough to ask you to trust me (no, no teetering on ship balconies involved, you can relax) on this wine recommendation: this wine is dynamite. It is pure, delicious indulgence, and people will grow to trust your wine recommendations when you tell them about Trust Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is a wine that begs to be decanted. Only when you let it breathe will you be completely overwhelmed by its sheer power and finesse. The first time I tried it my in-laws were gracious enough to bring some over to our house for dinner, and it instantly became one of my new favorite wines. Then, when my dear friend bought me a decanter, we had a bottle that we poured in, let it decant a couple hours, and wow! This wine unfolded like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Let it stretch its gorgeous, stunning wings. It has all the right stuff of a top-notch Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfection!

As the tasting notes gush, 鈥淲e are greeted here with a nose full of cherry cordials: high-cacao chocolate, Kirsch, and a pie cherry in the middle. The fruit here (cassis, plum, and black cherry) has purity and focus, and it is framed by fresh notes of eucalyptus and green tea. This is balanced, elegant, food-friendly Cabernet: moderate in body, acid, tannin, and alcohol.鈥澛燭he 2007 blend is聽currently sold out, according to the website. Seattle Magazine has voted Trust Cellars 鈥淏est Washington Wine鈥 for 2011.

Wine can bring us together around its delicious self, and, perhaps in a very small way, help us to understand each other better and work on our trust. I鈥檓 not advocating for drunken debauchery, of course, but strangers or friends enjoying a glass of fine wine together is a deliberate act of peacekeeping. Wine can鈥檛 save us from ourselves or save the world, but it can at least help smooth the way.

Puget Sounders, make it a point to visit their Woodinville, WA tasting room. When I went there I experienced fantastic wines, friendly service, and excellent education on their wines. Their Riesling is also lovely, pick that up, too!

May聽we all embrace the gift of trust.

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鈥檚 the charm. Regardless of your personal superstitions surrounding the number three, don鈥檛 let them get in the way of trying Chateau Faire Le Pont鈥檚 2007 Tre Amore red blend, which consists of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Sangiovese, and 21% Merlot. This is Washington wine done in the style of a Super Tuscan blend (Sangiovese blended with Bordeaux grapes like Cab and Merlot).

From the tasting notes: 鈥淐abernet Sauvignon from Steve Elerding鈥檚 Desert Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills blended with Milbrandt Vineyard鈥檚 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.鈥 $40 per bottle on the winery鈥檚 website. (Price and grape blend percentages subject to change over time).

(Ahem) Did you notice the names I underlined above? A little advice: those are all really good names to look for when you鈥檙e selecting a fine Washington wine, as they are all excellent vineyards and AVAsin Washington state聽(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鈥檚 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聽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鈥檛 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鈥檚 instructions. Introduce this wine to a steak with saut茅ed 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鈥檛 go wrong with anything there.

Now that’s amore!

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

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

Darby Winery has superbly crafted Washington red blends of which I am in awe, including one called Purple Haze (how awesome is that? It tastes awesome, too鈥 to be reviewed later). Chaos鈥 2008 Bordeaux-style lineup included 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 17% Malbec. It is a clever, exquisite, intentional blend that delivers very well on the palate. Chaos is $38/bottle and you can purchase it through the website or at either of their tasting rooms in Woodinville or West Seattle.

For some reason, I liked this wine better in the tasting room than when I opened it at home (this remark of mine is from 2010 or so). Sometimes this happens, even when you take great pains to preserve a wine well and go through the trouble of decanting it. Decanting simply means pouring your bottle of wine into a glass or crystal decanter, and allowing oxygen to work its magic on the wine and expand and develop its flavors into a magnificent palate. You will taste a pronounced difference, especially with fine red wines.

Here is a quick, “CliffsNotes” primer on how you should store your wine, particularly a fine red such as Chaos (but don鈥檛 sue me if you buy an expensive bottle and it spoils鈥 ask the winery how to store it properly and when to drink it):

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

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

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

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

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