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.

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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.

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, Rhône Valley varietals from the Columbia Valley–including Syrah, Roussanne, Grenache, and Mourvèdre–take pride of place, though the winery is equally well known for its seductive Gewürztraminer 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orzo-Mint Salad with Prosciutto, Figs, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

Fig: the name doesn’t quite befit this beautiful fruit, does it? Use black California Mission figs in a refreshing summer salad. ©iStockphoto.com/Ivan Mateev

Figs! When fig season is upon us, I freak out and buy as many as possible (short of troubling my digestive system), because we don’t really know how long it will last and how long they will be in the store (kind of like life, so seize the day and enjoy!).

Figs are so good for you! Did you know that figs are a great source of fiber and are highly alkaline? Alkaline means they reduce the acidity in your body, making it a hostile environment for cancer.

Here are some fun fig facts, for my fellow figophiles.

This pasta salad is yummy-licious! A friend of mine told me she made an orzo pasta with pecans, figs and mint a few years ago. I loved her idea but I upped the ante by rounding it out with some ham and cheese.

This pasta would be great with a white wine, maybe a Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, or Pinot Grigio. See? There’s my wine reference!

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market are the grocery stores I know of that carry the fresh California Black Mission figs regularly.

In fact, during the summer, you should be able to buy this meal completely at Trader Joe’s.

You will need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used lavender)
Salt and pepper
One 16 oz. package Orzo pasta (a full package is a lot, use half if you like)
One box fresh black California Mission figs, sliced into bite sizes (dry is not acceptable)
One package prosciutto, chopped (optional)
One 5 oz. log goat cheese, crumbled
One package unsalted dry roasted pecan pieces
Fresh mint leaves (to taste)

Prepare the orzo according to package instructions. Drain, run some cold water over the pasta to cool it off. Once the pot is cooled off, put the cooled pasta back in the pot and drizzle and toss with oil & vinegar. Add the figs, goat cheese, pecans, prosciutto (if any) and mint leaves. Mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

If orzo pasta ain’t yo thang, substitute with cooked rice, couscous, or quinoa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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