Strange But True: Bacon Wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Five Star Cellars Creates Five-Star Wine

Merlot has suffered a plunge in popularity over the last decade or so, though not for good reason. It’s been crowded out by favorite luminaries Washington Syrah, Oregon Pinot Noir, and California Cabernet Sauvignon (at times, perhaps justifiably so). But my heart aches for the underdog, especially when that underdog is just as bright as any other star in the firmament.

Image courtesy Five Star Cellars.

Image courtesy Five Star Cellars.

Five Star Cellars, one of my absolute favorite wineries, uses only the top fruit from the top vineyards in Washington state, and their wine confirms this. I’ve been lucky enough to drink their acclaimed wines on numerous occasions now, and I have to say that if I were to ever join a wine club, Five Star Cellars would be one of them! Every bottle is exceptionally tasty and mind-blowing, so no regrets when it comes to regular purchases. While I enjoy all of their wines, my sweetheart wine is their Merlot. Oh yeah, Merlot! 🙂

This is one of the best Merlots I’ve ever had; perfect balance, perfect texture, lovely lovely bouquet and taste. I can’t say enough good things about it. Their 2009 blend is 92% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec. Fruit is all from the Walla Walla Valley; hailing from the stellar Seven Hills, Pepperbridge, and Blue Mountain vineyards.

According to the winemaker’s notes: “Fleshy fruits dominate the nose followed with hints of oak. Bright cherry notes combine with blackberry and currant flavors. Well integrated tannins with great acidity carry the long finish.”

See? I’ve made your Valentine wine selection a cinch! This wine is perfect on its own, accompanied by some nice olives, cheese, and crackers, or with a moderately rich beef or pasta dish.

When it comes to Merlot, don’t be too quick to judge. Let this wine change your mind and set the bar for enjoying all other Merlots. It does, after all, shine in a class of its own.

“Be mine!”
XOXO, Merlot

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

What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye Bye Business: When Wine Shops Go By the Wayside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revelry Cab: The Perfect Choice for Your Holiday Revels

Revelry Vintners Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Walla Walla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These were my first impressions I jotted down:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

Cheers,
The Rambling Vine 🙂

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

Sniffin’ Gluh… Wine

Baroness Cellars Engelwein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Luck of the Draw: Ultra-Premium Red Wine

Quilceda Creek 2006 Columbia Valley Red Wine

It was one of those extremely lucky nights, the kind where you go home with a nearly $300

Put on your fancy pants when you imbibe this beauty!

bottle of ultra-premium wine… like that happens, ever. Well, it did! At a friend’s auction, I paid a few bucks for the opportunity to draw a paper bag off of a mystery bottle of wine and whaddya know, I pick the most expensive bottle of wine on the table! Our friends were next in line, and they drew the second most valuable bottle of the night, a magnum of wine (aka 1.5 liters of wine in one ginormous bottle).

On a side note, did you know that a double magnum is called a jeroboam? There are some pretty funky names for wine measurements.

Anyway, while wine tasting in Woodinville one day, I mentioned this to someone next to me who – whaddya know – happens to be the wine buyer for a major grocer in the area. He said that the wine I had on my hands could easily be cellared for 12-14 years.

So, yeah. We didn’t wait that long. We opened it on a Monday night when we had a friend over for dinner who’d had a particularly bad day. It tasted perfect!

Sometimes, when you have a super special bottle of wine, you risk building up too much hype around it and overvaluing it for yourself and perhaps never opening it, instead of opening it up and drinking it! I was reading the other day that 90-95% of wines made in this day and age are intended to be consumed within the year of purchase… did you realize this? Crazy! Only a very small percentage of wines are created with the need for prolonged aging in the bottle to develop the flavors, let the tannins soothe, etc. With that in mind, I feel less guilty for not having a fancy climate-controlled wine cellar.

The moral of the story is buy wine you like, and drink it soon. Share it with friends and family, ideally. Don’t worry so much about preserving it and never enjoying it. That’s what some single-malt Scotch collectors do and then they never actually enjoy this precious liquid they’ve been storing for decades. Don’t be that guy.

Now, turning our attention to this lovely wine. This blend consists of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.

From the winemaker’s notes: “The Quilceda Creek 2006 Red Wine Columbia Valley is a blend of declassified lots which reflect the richness and complexity of the vintage. This is one of our favorite Red Wine offerings to date. This medium bodied wine displays black cherry fruit, cedar, spice, vanilla and minerals. Approachable now, this blend will be best enjoyed over the next 15 years.”

And critical acclaim from the Wine Advocate, which gave this wine 92 points: “Dark ruby-colored, it displays a bouquet of cigar box, pencil lead, violets, black currant, and a hint of licorice. Medium to full-bodied, intensely fruited, and with enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years, this lengthy effort will drink well from 2011 to 2018.”

This wine is so so unbelievably smooth, it takes smooth to a whole other
level. The alcohol, sugars, tannins, are all in perfect harmony. Because it was so jarringly smooth and different, I missed the backbone, the bite, from a wine that has more tannins or acid. Other than that very minor complaint, it was truly excellent wine. Try to have some at least once in your life.

Disclaimer: OK, I exaggerated… I honestly was under the impression this wine cost way more than it did… it is sold out but retails at $65, not $300. Sigh. The $300 one is the Cabernet Sauvignon, not the Red Blend, which I got. Anyway, I kept the price at $300 for dramatic effect, and since I was under the impression that was what it cost anyway. It’s still an amazing 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.

Radius Merlot Comes Full Circle

What does the label remind you of? Ring of fire? Lunar eclipse? It does have a kind of Twilight movie poster feel. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Happy Holiday Season, readers! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and ate to your heart’s content with loved ones and enjoyed some scorching political/religious debates or pee-your-pants humor. The holidays are the best. I’ll do my best to provide you with a few worthwhile wines to try this season, hopefully a little more regularly than the last couple months.

Embarrassingly, I wrote this a while ago and am just now posting (slapping myself on both wrists, bad blogger!), so I will keep it in the tense at the time I wrote it:

I just got back from a ridiculously awesome three-day weekend in Walla Walla, Washington, one of the West Coast’s pulsing wine capitols (along with the other W’s Woodinville and the Willamette Valley in Oregon). Me, my husband, and one of my best girl friends had a weekend filled with lovely, superb wines, tasty foods, and fall beauty coloring the quaint, historic downtown of Walla Walla and the immense surrounding countryside. We hit at least seven wineries (if I am counting correctly) so you can be sure I will blog about them later.

But in the mean time, it’s hard coming back to reality after an extended weekend. Back to a busy day of work, and then home to piles of laundry begging for attention and a fridge begging for groceries. I have a long week ahead of me, with a big event for work to prepare for and no end of things to do personally and around my house. Ah, real life. (Maybe someone could shave my legs for me while I blog?)

It’s nights like these where it’s best to take a deep breath, regroup, relax, and have a nice glass of wine to take the edge off of Monday, and to gently ease back into the routine. Things will get done when they get done, and you can only go as fast as you can, so why push yourself too much?

Sometimes all you want is a simple, uncomplicated, and good bottle of red to drink on its own.

Maybe you’re relatively new to wine? This one’s for you!

We opened up a bottle of Radius 2010 Washington State Merlot tonight. And, what do you know? It happens to be from Walla Walla! This wine is decidedly on the sweeter side; fruity, very light, smooth, and barely any noticeable acid or tannins to give it heft, so it’s a pleasant, easy-drinking wine.

I picked up this bottle for $10 or less at a local wine warehouse, Total Wine & More. It’s hard to go wrong with a wine like this, especially if you’re a newer wine drinker or are asked to bring a bottle of red to a party.

Here are the tasting notes: “Radius celebrates the wine making process which comes full circle every year from vine to bottle. This Merlot is grown in the famed wine country of Washington State with flavors and aromas of sweet cherries, plums and vanilla leading to a soft and silky finish. Enjoy with steak, meatloaf, grilled fish and cheddar cheese.”

So, when you begin to tire along the road of everyday life, or just need a little help easing back into it after a fabulous wine weekend (or what have you), Radius Merlot (check out their Cabernet Sauvignon, too!) comes full circle and is a sweet way to stay the course and go the distance.

© 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.