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.

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.

Microwineries: Serving Up Macro Wines

A lovely Petit Verdot leaf.

A fabulous trend I’m a glutton for is the “micro” trend. Not microwaves, microfiber, microfiche, or Microsoft even, but microwineries… limited production facilities where the wine is high quality because it benefits from the extra love and attention of the winemaker, like an illustrious private school for grapes. Also, the grapes can be from prized, small lot vineyards. Microwineries (and breweries, for that matter) are concentrated havens of artisanal artistry and craftsmanship. Fortunately, micro is no trend du jour; it is a permanent fixture on our gourmet food and beverage landscape. Has the espresso-to-go trend died yet? Nope, and neither will this! We humans love our high-quality handcrafted beverages, and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get our hands on them.

As we get less and less handy in modern American society and purchase more of our needed items pre-made, do you think there is a correlation to our desire and propensity for all things “hand-crafted?” Discuss.

A particular wine from a particular microwinery I’m quite fond of and that I encourage you to try is the Andrew Rich Vintner 2008 Columbia Valley Petit Verdot Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. This treasure was found on one of our Willamette Valley wine trips.

First of all, who is this winemaker, Andrew Rich? From the winery website: “Named one of Wine & Spirits magazine’s top 100 wineries of 2009, Andrew Rich Wines has been crafting distinctive wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since 1995. Along with Pinot Noir, RhĂŽne Valley varietals from the Columbia Valley–including Syrah, Roussanne, Grenache, and MourvĂšdre–take pride of place, though the winery is equally well known for its seductive GewĂŒrztraminer dessert wine. Production averages 5,000 cases per year.” (www.andrewrichwines.com).

Andrew Rich crafts his premium wines in the state-of-the-art Carlton Winemakers Studio, the nation’s first “green” cooperative winemaking facility. An “environmentally friendly facility,” the Studio is home to several wineries that seek to produce wines of the highest caliber. My husband and I showed up there five minutes to close, but the gal in the tasting room was kind enough to let us do a quick tasting and we loved the Petit Verdot and wound up taking a bottle home.

On a side note, what should you call someone who works in a tasting room? Might I suggest something colorful, like Bar-ista, Grape Goddess, Sip-erintendent… stop me now!

What is Petit Verdot? Single varietal Petit Verdot wine is like black ink in a glass. Petit Verdot is typically used in small quantities in Bordeaux blends to lend tannic structures and flavors. Just remember, if red wine grapes are on a spectrum of darkness/thickness/intensity, petit verdot is as far away from the light as you can get… a dark, inky black wine with dynamic flavor and complexity. It is more successfully cultivated as a single varietal wine in the New World as opposed to the Old World (aka the cradles of civilization where wine was first made, e.g. France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, etc.). How did “A Whole New World” get stuck in my head? Great, moving on….

Now, about the Ciel du Cheval vineyard. Those of you possessed of Washington Wine Wherewithal know that the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard is equivalent to a Gucci or Prada handbag. It is one of the best vineyards in the USA, and arguably the world. According to Cole Danehower at Northwest-Wine.com, “Famed for the elegance and complexity of the wines it produces, Ciel du Cheval and its owner Jim Holmes have become near-legendary exemplars of what Washington wine is all about. The desirability of fruit from Ciel du Cheval can be seen in the names of the wineries that produce wine from the vineyard. Culling through a client list that includes 25 producers in Washington and Oregon reveals some of the Northwest’s most prestigious labels: Fidelitas, Mark Ryan, Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, McCrea Cellars, Cadence, Betz Family . . . among others.”

I will review some of these wines in later posts (hold your chevals!). 🙂

Andrew Rich’s tasting notes sum up this wine perfectly:

“Long-time club members know that I’m not able to get this fruit every year (there was an ’07; there’s none in ’09). This vintage continues the tradition of massive fruit, tannin, and acidity seamlessly sewn into a pitch-black cloak of mystery. What the heck does that mean? Taste and ye shall see.”

Perfect in time for Halloween: a dark, mysterious red wine! Hop on board the microwinery train with this Petit Verdot!

© 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.

Oregon Strikes Back with A Creme De La Creme of Pinot Noirs

The battle rages on! Who will win, they’re both so good? Photo courtesy of http://www.nwsportsbeat.com

Hello, friends! I’ve been vacationing, drinking wine, cooking delicious things, soaking up summer sun and neglecting the blog… you might call it conducting research. Summer is a grand season for recreating and relaxing, and my view is the more we can peel ourselves away from technology when it’s lovely out (smart phones included!) the better off we’ll be. But I can’t keep you all chomping at the bit, can I? The last wine I wrote about we were in the midst of a fierce interstate rivalry, so now let’s pick back up where we left off. Commence Part Deux of the Battle of Pinot Noirs: Oregon vs. Washington! Draw your wineglasses!

What is the point of living life without a few extravagant indulgences? A life of perfect discipline and piety might be beneficial, but is it natural to maintain or joyful to live out? If you sense the spirit moving, it’s time to take a road trip to the Willamette Valley and purchase a decadent wine. While you’re there, don’t miss De Ponte Cellars. It’s one of the better wineries I’ve tried so far.

De Ponte Cellars Estate 2008 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills shows Washington why Oregon dominates the realm of superb Pinot Noir. It’s on the spendier side, but once you taste it, you’ll understand why.

This is easily the BEST Pinot I have had to date that hits all my requirements for a good Pinot; medium to full body for most expression, deep color in glass, aromas of fruit and smoke/ash (thanks to the volcanic Jory dust of the Dundee Hills AVA) and overall balance (everything works together in harmony in your mouth). Trust me, it is very well worth the price.

Pinot Noir is now my husband’s favorite wine. Pinot Noir is one of the more intriguing grapes out there; very finicky, mysterious, hard to control, but super expressive and
fascinating once you hit a good one that pleases your palate. As I’ve mentioned
before, this is also a factor in Pinot’s generally higher prices and tasting fees (or maybe Oregon is just resting on its laurels a little too much? Hmm, another thought for another day.).

And now, the tasting notes from the back of the bottle: “Nurtured by our rich Jory soil and our cool Oregon climate, our wines are handcrafted with uncompromising quality. Our goal is to produce memorable Old-World style Pinot Noir. It is our mission, our focus and our passion. This is a special limited bottling to showcase De Ponte’s unique terroir in the Dundee Hills. From some of our most prized blocks of the De Ponte Vineyard, this wine is a softer and more delicate expression of our traditional style. Floral with subtle aromas of raspberry, dark cherry and notes of vanilla. The ‘08 Estate has harmonious and silky texture while the tannins are soft and perfectly integrated giving this wine an elegant and graceful frame. The finish is long and fresh, full of red fruit and spices. Very approachable now though will develop much more complexity during bottle aging. It is the perfect example of the delicate nuances of the Dundee Hills.”

So, what is my conclusion, you ask? Which is better, Oregon or Washington Pinot Noir? Oregon’s climates tend to favor Pinot Noir, and thus they produce a lot of it and very well. Washington, while not sharing exactly the same climate as Oregon, may not be able to produce the same STYLES of Pinot Noir, but that doesn’t mean they don’t produce some very good ones that are distinct in their differences from their Oregonian counterparts. My conclusion is to treat each bottle of wine, be it from Washington or Oregon, with an open mind and an open mouth!

© 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.

Oregon, You’ve Been Upstaged!

Anything you can do I can do better… can Washington rival Oregon at making excellent Pinot Noir? Photo courtesy of http://www.nwsportsbeat.com.

Fact: Oregon’s Willamette Valley region is an ideal climate for growing world-class Pinot Noir: it is cool and at the same latitude as Burgundy, France, where Pinot Noir has been cultivated for ages. Fact: Washington’s AVAs (winegrowing regions) such as Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla, etc. tend to favor bold, earthy reds, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Different vines flourish in different climes, and this is the magic of biology and terroir! Like East Coast versus West Coast swing or rap, both are distinct art forms in their own right; both calculatingly sizing up their opponent, abiding side by side, careful not to step on each other’s toes or get cacked by a hater. No puns intended, of course.

So what happens when a Washington Pinot Noir sidles up to an Oregon Pinot Noir (gasp!)? When an ambitious “newbie” contender enters the competitive ring of primo Pinot Noir? Does it even stand a chance? Can the shepherd’s stone even graze, let alone slay, a giant?

Chateau Faire Le Pont Milbrandt Vineyards Pinot Noir (90% Pinot Noir, 10%
Syrah) is a Washington Pinot Noir that upsets the apple cart
 or the grape bin,
choose your fruit metaphor. We purchased this wine this past summer 2011 while visiting Leavenworth and then dilly-dallying into Wenatchee (a juicy wine destination you must visit!). Chateau Faire Le Pont is one of my favorite wineries because every wine you try is pure awesomeness brimming with wow factor. Though stepping onto long-hallowed “exclusive” Oregon turf, this winery proves it can pull off a remarkably delicious Pinot Noir made from Washington grapes that can compete with the best of them.

After having tasted a number of Oregon Pinots now, I have to admit I like this
Washingtonian better than many of its Oregonian counterparts, perhaps due to
the generous 10% Syrah that gives it a bit more tartness and dimension. See my previous post about AVAs for more deets on the Wahluke Slope and Milbrandt Vineyards, where these stellar grapes hail from.

This Pinot will not disappoint and will surprise many Oregon Pinot fans. It
could not have been pulled off without the talented winemakers of Chateau Faire
Le Pont. From the back label: “
 our 2007 Pinot Noir was created in a more
graceful, enjoyable medium-to-full-bodied style. Refreshing and extremely well
balanced, rose petal and violet aromas intertwine seamlessly with raspberries,
strawberries, chocolate covered cherries and delicate tannins throughout the
smooth, lingering finish.”

Take a sip, sit back and experience psychedelic visions of chocolate covered
fruits and flower petals swirling and waltzing around in your head! (Red wine
is so much safer than LSD).

Oregon, you’ve been upstaged!

To be continued….

© 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.

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!

Just because something is old doesn’t 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’s not a classic, just a convenient go-to wine. While some styles of wine might not be trendy at the moment, it doesn’t mean they’re 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’s 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’d ever had!

Today’s 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’re on the other end of the spectrum and prefer buttery, rich, hefty white wines, you’ll want to try this!

Naked Winery’s 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 “a velvety and youthful wine” that possesses an “extremely 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.” 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’re 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’t overdo it; use that spit bucket so you don’t 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? “Enjoy this Virgin like it was the very first time.” 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 – to be reviewed later). They have been criticized for this by some in certain snooty wine circles, who obviously don’t have a sense of humor. Pshaw, let’s 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.

© 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.