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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the tasting notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Let’s Mull This Over…

Mulled Wine Is Divine at Christmas Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

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

Tefft Cellars Concordia Port is a Portal to the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People’s Choice Award: Cellarmaster’s Riesling Takes the Cake

C’mon, admit it, you love you some N’ Sync, don’t ya?

The other day I was listening to some bubblegum pop music on the radio. It’s upbeat, catchy music that makes me move, smile, sing along, and look insane while driving. It may be sappy, but it sure makes me happy! Nothing overly analytical about it, it is what it is: straight forward goodness that does its job well with a predictable song structure in two and a half minutes. I can’t listen to it all day, but it definitely has a special place in my audio library. (And heaven knows I would never burn as many calories on the elliptical without it).

The same thing applies to certain wines. Every wine lover can fondly recollect wines that grabbed their attention and subsequently went down in history as all-time favorites. These are the wines you rave about to your friends, and they like them so much they immediately tell their friends, and so on and so forth. I can’t count how many times I have recommended this wine to both friends and strangers who were looking for something great yet affordable to drink.

Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling Columbia Valley is that wine. Sweet, not dry, with fruit and honey notes. Perfect for when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is the ideal wine to introduce to someone who perhaps has never tried wine before or who prefers sweet wines. It’s even fun to spring on a wine connoisseur and have them try pairing it with the recommended “strong cheeses, desserts, or extremely spicy foods.” And it’s well under $10 at most Washington grocery stores.

According to their website, “Columbia Winery is Washington’s first premium winery, producing distinctive Washington wines from European vinifera grapes since 1962.” They introduced “new varietals to the state, such as Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Gris.” As you can see, they have been making wine in Washington for a long time and really know their stuff.

Just what makes this Riesling so exceptional? From the tasting notes: “Floral aroma with hints of peach, quince, lime and clove delight the nose. Rich and full-flavored fruit on the palate is balanced by refreshing, crisp acidity. Sweet wine. A beautifully balanced wine that has classic floral, Riesling aromas…. These grapes are selected for this wine because of their higher acidity. This excellent acidity emphasizes the apricot, peachy flavors and creates a good match for strong cheeses, desserts or extremely spicy foods. This wine has a long finish.”

Some seasoned oenophiles may lose their preference for Riesling as their palates develop. They might shrug their shoulders, quickly write one off as just another sweet Riesling, and channel surf in search of something more complex and compelling. Again, I don’t expect you to agree with me on every wine; taste for yourself and be your own judge. But I think even the most opinionated will fall for this sweet, delicious Riesling. It is a special bundle of great taste, affordability, and “shareability.” Even if we hate to admit it, the reason we like things like Riesling and pop music is because deep down, they hit the spot.

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

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

A Fine Chocolate Wine For Your Consideration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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