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.

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.

Let’s Mull This Over…

Mulled Wine Is Divine at Christmas Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

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

Tefft Cellars Concordia Port is a Portal to the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A Matter of Trust

Leo, master of the phrase “Do you trust me?” (I think Kate is relaxed only because she’s monkeyed  up… and Celine Dion is cooing romantically in the background.)

Trust Cabernet Sauvignon

Trust me: one of those phrases that is easy to ask of another yet difficult to do when you yourself are asked. Trust is a word that carries with it a lot of weighted implications… who or what you put your trust in reveals who or what you deem worthy of trust. Trusting too easily can signify a naivete or intentionally turning a blind eye to foibles, while failing to trust reputable, good, honorable people and things will mean you’ll go through life without taking risks and developing little faith. Without getting into further philosophical babbling, let me be bold enough to ask you to trust me (no, no teetering on ship balconies involved, you can relax) on this wine recommendation: this wine is dynamite. It is pure, delicious indulgence, and people will grow to trust your wine recommendations when you tell them about Trust Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is a wine that begs to be decanted. Only when you let it breathe will you be completely overwhelmed by its sheer power and finesse. The first time I tried it my in-laws were gracious enough to bring some over to our house for dinner, and it instantly became one of my new favorite wines. Then, when my dear friend bought me a decanter, we had a bottle that we poured in, let it decant a couple hours, and wow! This wine unfolded like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Let it stretch its gorgeous, stunning wings. It has all the right stuff of a top-notch Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfection!

As the tasting notes gush, “We are greeted here with a nose full of cherry cordials: high-cacao chocolate, Kirsch, and a pie cherry in the middle. The fruit here (cassis, plum, and black cherry) has purity and focus, and it is framed by fresh notes of eucalyptus and green tea. This is balanced, elegant, food-friendly Cabernet: moderate in body, acid, tannin, and alcohol.” The 2007 blend is currently sold out, according to the website. Seattle Magazine has voted Trust Cellars “Best Washington Wine” for 2011.

Wine can bring us together around its delicious self, and, perhaps in a very small way, help us to understand each other better and work on our trust. I’m not advocating for drunken debauchery, of course, but strangers or friends enjoying a glass of fine wine together is a deliberate act of peacekeeping. Wine can’t save us from ourselves or save the world, but it can at least help smooth the way.

Puget Sounders, make it a point to visit their Woodinville, WA tasting room. When I went there I experienced fantastic wines, friendly service, and excellent education on their wines. Their Riesling is also lovely, pick that up, too!

May we all embrace the gift of trust.

© 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.

A Tumult of Tannins: Darby Winery Harnesses Chaos in a Bottle

One of my least favorite womanly chores is untangling the jewelry in my jewelry box. It’s tedious, frustrating, and an inevitable reality. But hand me another female’s jewelry box, and I’m captivated. Digging through someone else’s jewelry box is like a grown-up treasure hunt: you carefully handle each piece, admiring it and imagining how you would wear it or repurpose it (or how much you could sell it for). It’s kind of like that when drinking Darby Winery’s 2008 Chaos Red Wine Blend from the Columbia Valley… you sip it, and try to sort out all the wonderful, mesmerizing flavors dancing around in your mouth.

I’m a little rusty, but I believe Chaos is somewhere in the $30-$40 range (don’t quote me) and you can purchase it at their Woodinville tasting room. Darby Winery in Woodinville is one I highly recommend. Darby has superbly crafted Washington red blends of which I am in awe, including one called Purple Haze (how awesome is that? It tastes awesome, too… to be reviewed later). Chaos’ Bordeaux-style lineup includes 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 17% Malbec. It is a clever, exquisite, intentional blend that delivers very well on the palate.

For some reason, I liked this wine better in the tasting room than when I opened it at home. Sometimes this happens, even when you take great pains to preserve a wine well and go through the trouble of decanting it. Decanting simply means pouring your bottle of wine into a glass or crystal decanter, and allowing oxygen to work its magic on the wine and expand and develop its flavors into a magnificent palate. You will taste a pronounced difference, especially with fine red wines.

Here is a quick, “CliffsNotes” primer on how you should store your wine, particularly a fine red such as Chaos (but don’t sue me if you buy an expensive bottle and it spoils… ask the winery how to store it properly and when to drink it):

1) Dark
2) Store bottle sideways
3) Cool temps, doesn’t rise above mid-sixties Fahrenheit
4) Dry, not too humid
5) No major fluctuations in the above listed

Serious wine collectors will opt for climate-controlled wine cellars to protect their investment. If you can get one, more power to you! But for everyday folks like you and me, for whom a $30-$40 bottle of wine is about as wild and crazy a splurge as we make these days, anywhere in your home that has these traits should suffice. Check out OUR makeshift wine cellar!

Arnesen Wine Cellars, Coat Closet, Washington. Various appellations.

Nevertheless, Darby’s Chaos is an exceptional and impressive wine that you red wine lovers will adore. It will earn a permanent spot in your wine cellar treasure chest.

*FYI, if you’re looking for a simple yet elegant way to store your wine, these wine cubes were designed by master designer Rich Jamieson of Jamieson Imports, Inc. He does custom furniture as well, so you can have a custom wine cellar made for you, as well as a fully custom furnished home!

© 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.