Pour Favor: Red Guitar Ignites Un Gran Pasion

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

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

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

According to Red Guitar Wines:

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

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

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

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

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Drinking Inside the Box: A Review of Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon

Black Box Wines elevate boxed wine to a level of luxury. Photo courtesy Black Box Wines, http://www.blackboxwines.com

The notion of drinking wine from a box, admittedly, causes many of us to flinch, shake our heads in pity, or shudder from horror. Images of Franzia Blush Zinfandel in my parents’ basement fridge come to mind, and leave me with conflicting feelings. I’m in the age range where I personally never drank boxed wine (just my parents), but the current stigma of drinking wine in a box puts one to shame for even thinking of trying it. It therefore seems an off-limits purchase reserved for dive bar establishments, desperate housewives and borderline alcoholics.

But why the prejudice? After all, you can’t judge a wine by its artsy label or sexy bottle shape, any more than you can judge a book by its cover. Wine is ultimately judged by its taste. One company took this challenge to task and flat out shattered the stereotype that all boxed wines are bad. In fact, there is one in particular that is very good. This boxed wine label has several key advantages: quantity, value, freshness and taste that last a long time, and sustainable packaging.

I ordered a glass of Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon while on vacation recently in Leavenworth. I was in a beer garden, feeling rather anti-beer, and this was the house wine, and I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a shot. I have to say, it wasn’t bad; in fact, it was quite tasty to drink! It’s an absolute bargain if you need a larger quantity of wine in a pinch for a party. Here is why you should try this wine, from the winery:

“What’s the most delicious way to enjoy acclaimed wines without a hefty price tag? Lose the bottle. In 2003, Black Box Wines redefined the category by becoming the first U.S. vintner to offer super-premium, appellation-specific, vintage-dated wines in a box. Since then our expanding repertoire has earned 28 gold medals in wine competitions nationwide, yet still costs 40% less than comparable* bottled wines.

“Our superb grapes are harvested from world-class appellations, including California’s storied wine country and the acclaimed vineyards of Argentina and New Zealand. Through a meticulous, traditional winemaking process, Black Box Wines are crafted to be food-friendly and fruit-forward—all without the expense and fuss of bottled wines. So whether you crave sumptuous reds or crisp whites, you’ll delight in the quality and value inside every box.

“The grapes that create our full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon are grown within reach of cooling Pacific Ocean breezes that extend the growing season. Offering a lush display of dark berries, our Cabernet Sauvignon’s smooth tannins create a soft, lingering finish. Spicy cinnamon and vibrant black currant aromas accompany warm notes of vanilla and toasty oak for an irresistible, approachable glass of wine.”

Their 2009 California Cabernet Sauvignon earned a Gold Medal at the 2011 Winemaker Challenge, and in 2012, Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded the 2010 vintage a “Best Buy.”

If that didn’t shake up your stubborn notions about boxed wine, perhaps trying a glass of the real thing will.

Here’s to thinking outside the box while drinking inside the box!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say Oui (Wee!) to Pinot Gris

Gorgeous Pinot Gris grapes. Photo by Andrew Fogg.

Chateau Faire Le Pont Milbrandt Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009

I should just come out and say it: Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio is perhaps my least favorite wine. It’s like a limp handshake; it’s perplexing and doesn’t really do anything for you. Boring, disappointing, and uninspiring are all words that come to mind when I think of pinot gris. Why, you ask? Well, we’re all entitled to our preferences, and while I’ve gone into tastings with an open mind I still
don’t quite get pinot gris. It’s so light you can sometimes barely taste the flavors, or else it tastes like grass clippings, and not the pleasant variety. This is why I would tend to opt for just about any other white.

First of all, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio… the only difference is in the name. Pinot Gris is the French term and Pinot Grigio the Italian. It is a white grape that is a mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape. Don’t worry, they are not trying to confuse you on purpose.

So, as a Pinot Gris agnostic, imagine my surprise when I try a Pinot Gris I actually like! Sacre bleu, such a thing really exists?

It does!

Chateau Faire Le Pont, one of my favorite Wenatchee wineries, makes a knockout Pinot Gris. It has a body and focus with depth and persuasion — more like a French kiss than a limp handshake! Oooh la la, now we’re talkin’!

From the tasting notes: “Floral with just a hint of sweetness, our 2009 Pinot Gris exhibits intense peach, melon, apple, honey and almond flavors that sail on and on throughout the long, lingering finish.” Doesn’t this just transport you to the French Riviera? Note the rich fruit flavors, hint of sweetness, and mouth feel; these qualities give the wine more depth, dimension, and deliciousness than a typical pinot gris. Pinot Gris’ ancestral turf is the Alsace region of France, where the grape has been cultivated to exhibit more fruity and floral flavors than the dryer, more minerally Italian Pinot Grigio grapes. No reminders of cow cud with this wine!

Now if only I could drink this while actually lounging aboard a sailboat on the
Mediterranean, I think Pinot Gris could become my favorite wine ever! In the mean time, I can sip it on my deck in the sunshine, close my eyes, and drift away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Henry Van Dyke

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

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.

A Primer on Pinot Noir (And A Couple to Get You Going)

Ah, Pinot Noir! In the wine world, saying you’re a fan of Pinot Noir tends to signify you’ve made it to the wine big leagues. Pinot Noir is an enigma; classy, mysterious, shapeshifting. It has soared in popularity since the film Sideways came out, which in large part contributed to killing off Merlot production in California. (Just you wait, Merlot’s comeback is just around the corner… if shoulder pads can come back, certainly Merlot can – and to me, Merlot never went out of style in the first place).

At first, I didn’t understand the appeal of Pinot Noir. The first glass I intentionally ordered tasted like fruity water (it wasn’t a good wine – otherwise I would have liked it – and I think it had been open too long, too). But with so many friends claiming it as their favorite wine of all time, I knew I couldn’t throw in the towel just yet.

So, you’re asking, what is all the hype about Pinot Noir and WHO will explain it to me? First of all, a quick quasi-science lesson: Pinot Noir is the picky princess of the grape family, so she demands a very specific climate, weather, sun/rain mixture, careful, painstaking tending, and the list of demands goes on as long as J-Lo’s artist rider. But this lavish TLC pays off royally and can lead to some truly awesome, world-class wines. Once you taste a great Pinot Noir, you appreciate its refined qualities and everything it represents in terms of excellent winemaking craft. It also explains the sticker shock you might experience when surveying fine Pinots in your favorite wine shop.

Fear not! If you’re new to Pinot Noir, let me give you a couple of easy-going, easy-drinking Pinots that are at or under $10 a bottle. While they may not be superstar arena rock concert material, they are still the equivalent of a surprisingly good coffee shop open mic night.

Whole Foods Market has a section of very good affordable wines, and very knowledgeable wine stewards, so always chat them up for their best recommendations. Redtree Pinot Noir is from California and is around or under $10 a bottle. From the tastings notes: “Our 2010 Pinot Noir displays aromas of fresh fruits and strawberries, with a hint of oak in the background. This lighter-bodied wine provides cherry flavors on the palate and more red fruits, finishing with soft tannins.” Not bad, actually. Underwood Cellars Pinot Noir is from Oregon, $10 at Whole Foods Market, and is also quite tasty. From the tasting notes: “The Underwood Pinot Noir exhibits aromas [of] cranberries, red raspberries, with notes of smoke and spice. The palate is filled with sweet raspberry fruit intertwined with warm cinnamon tones. The wine’s bright acidity and fine tannins come together in a fruit laden finish.”

Even if you love red wine, you don’t always want a 10 on the Richter scale of a bold, dark, intense red wine. Be surprised by these light and delicious Pinot Noirs. Let me know how you liked them!

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

So Cheap It Feels Like Cheating

Pinot Grigio for when your wallet’s hurting (but your taste buds are hankering)

The other day my friend commented about a shopping experience at a certain grocery wholesaler: “The food was so cheap it felt like I was stealing!” She could not get over how low the prices were on everyday food items.

Don’t you love that feeling? The moment you are stunned by an item’s price and then ride the wave of compulsion to buy it because it’s so cheap you almost feel sorry for it. It deserves your dollars by sheer virtue of its ridiculously low price. Oh yes, the psychology of spending money, always a fascinating topic.

Ah, Venice! Maybe X marks the spot of an ancient rat-infested wine cellar?

Gaetano D’Aquino White Wine of Venezie is – gasp! – $4 a bottle at Trader Joe’s and very tasty. It may be cheap, but it doesn’t taste like it (I love that in a wine!). Spending less than $4 a bottle, though, means you’re either buying a large quantity of wine on sale or you’re buying bad wine. Nota bene: The Rambling Vine does not like two-buck Chuck. It’s a taste issue. But you make up your own mind, it’s a free country.

This wine is super light with citrus flavors, and has a slight tart, mineral finish. It’s perfect chilled, and an ideal wine to have on hand during the summer. Pleasant, agreeable, should pair with any number of things.

Be reassured… you’re not cheating. It may be cheap, but you’re not cheating on taste and quality. Ciao!

© 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.