I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter: La Crema Chardonnay

Hey vino lovers! I hope I didn’t lose too many of you with my two-part pregnancy series, “What to Drink When You’re Expecting.” That’s my life write now so I like to go off on tangents every once and a while, but rest assured, we’re back to wine talk! I might not be able to drink right now, but there are MANY wines I have tried and that I’m ready to blog about and share with you! So, back to wine… what haven’t we done in a while? How about a chardonnay? Sure, let’s do it!

Most of us fall into either the red or the white camps. I would have to say I prefer reds over whites, but I know well enough not to refuse a really good white if it’s offered to me. There are some whites out there that are as rich, complex, flavorful and fascinating as any really good red.

Chardonnay is the heavyweight white, standing opposite equally hefty heavyweight Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnays are made from the Chardonnay grape (wouldn’t you feel dumb if you lost that one at trivia!) and range in style from crisp, clean, and minerally, to buttery, toasty, and tropical fruity. That last one makes it sound like a Trix cereal jingle, but trust me, I didn’t intend for it to be. 🙂

When sugary grapes ferment and are combined with yeast, you get wine. The fact that some of these grapes can produce a literally buttery flavor in the mouth is mind-boggling! I can’t believe it’s not butter! (said in Kim Cattrall’s sultry voice). And who doesn’t love butter? Especially wine that tastes like butter… still unconvinced? Read on!

La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is usually in the $20 range (depending on where you buy it) and is one of the better Chardonnays I’ve tried that is readily available and easy to locate. It’s dry, but it’s a perfect balance between buttery and acidic on the palate. This California Chardonnay is “beautifully aromatic, citrus-laced, and layered.”

According to the winemaker’s notes, “This vintage opens with bright aromas of Meyer lemon and yellow apple, punctuated by hints of butterscotch and subtle floral notes. The palate adds flavors of juicy yellow plum, lemon curd and vanilla custard. Rich tropical tones and a lingering spice add richness and texture to the long, fresh finish.”

Hello!

When I first had this wine, I enjoyed it purely on its own. However, if you’d like to try pairing it with some different foods, the La Crema website has some delicious sounding recipes to go with this tasty Chardonnay, including crab risotto with fine herbs and chicken curry and sultana raisin sandwich. Yes, you are more than welcome to make these for me. 😉

If you’d like to explore a richer, heftier white wine this summer, or else you’ve never tried Chardonnay and would like a good one to start off with as well as one to stick with, the La Crema Chardonnay is your best bet.

© 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 glĂŒhwein, called Engelwein.

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

GlĂŒhwein 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.

Wine Tasting in a Secret Garden

The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection at Weyerhaeuser. Photo courtesy http://www.weyerhaeuser.com

In Which Two Tasty Woodinville Wines Are Sampled Amidst a Bonsai Collection

It’s September – scratch that – mere hours from October, and I need to play major catch up here, so consider this a two-for-one special! It’s a Rambling Vine Groupon! Read one wine review for free, read another in the same post, also for free. Er…. anyway.

Recently I had the privilege of pouring wine for Woodinville Wine Cellars at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser at the Weyerhauser Bonsai Gardens in Federal Way. A wonderful gal I know roped me in to volunteering for this event, and am I glad I did! I love chatting up people and gabbing about wine, so this was the perfect gig for me. It was a hot summer day, fantastic event, extremely worthy cause, and an ideal, relaxing setting in which to savor some wines. Everyone who tried the wines I poured liked them.

I have never seen bonsais like these in my life! Each tree has its own staging area, platform and backdrop. It’s just amazing. You could spend hours contemplating just one. I have lived in Western Washington my entire life and had never been to this beautiful, extravagant garden! Check this place out soon! And don’t just look at the photos, use your own eyes and go enjoy the garden yourself. Who knows how many more glorious warm days we have until darkness/cold/the evil dead of winter creeps up on us? (Me, biased? Nah.)

Here are the wines I got to pour and my takes on them. I haven’t yet been to Woodinville Wine Cellars, but after tasting these I think I would like to go out there sometime and try some of their other varieties! Have you tried any of their wines?

Woodinville Wine Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley

$18 or so. Delicious! A great Sauvignon Blanc, perfect for a hot summer day. Sophisticated and very drinkable. It has bright fruit flavors balanced out by a
clean mineral dimension that doesn’t make it too tart. This was perhaps the
most popular white wine that night (and there were two other wineries there).

From the tasting notes: “This wine jumps from the bottle in a sophisticated and complex style. The aromas are floral and mouth­watering, with hints of pineapple and citrus and some subtle mineral highlights. In the mouth it is rich and well balanced, showing a hint of grapefruit, citrus and tropical tastes on a long finish. A great  complement to seafood, chicken, or your favorite soft cheese.”

Woodinville Wine Cellars Little Bear Creek Columbia Valley Red Wine

Wine Spectator awarded Little Bear Creek 90 points (that’s high!). This Bordeaux-style blend is only $20. Not bad for the price. The tasting notes point out the “warm spices and rich black cherry scents in the glass” and “concentrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry and mocha complete the finish, lending balanced acidity with a zing!” LBC (I think Snoop Dogg even likes LBC 😉 ) consists of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec. I liked it for its warm fruitiness and spice notes.

While double-fisting it is not recommended here (start with the whites and move to the reds, generally speaking), these wines are perfect to toss together for a little impromptu wine party. And if the weather is still nice a bit longer, take it outdoors. Happy sipping!

© 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.

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.