Tag: wine

May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

May The Fourth and Cinco de Mayo

When we got married on May 4th twenty years ago we had no idea that our anniversary date would be hijacked by Stars Wars, “May The Fourth Be With You”. Likewise, May 5th was just an ordinary day; not the Cinco de Mayo holiday that’s so popular today. As much as I love tequila and Mexican food, Cinco de Mayo will have to wait until after our two-day anniversary celebration.

A local steakhouse, Rails, serves uniquely delicious appetizers, premium steaks cooked to perfection, wonderful sides, and sinful desserts. Quality food, nice atmosphere, and professional service come with a fairly hefty price tag so we save our visits to Rails for special occasions like our anniversary. From my longtime practice in the art of the Boozy Lifestyle, I’ve become pretty familiar with retail wine pricing. This knowledge makes it difficult to order wine with a 400% markup so we put the wine list aside in favor of their creative craft cocktail list. The bourbon-based drinks we order are refreshingly full of fresh herbs and muddled fruits.

Here’s a sampling of Rails’ wine list. The Library Reserve Selections has some of the giants of Napa; Caymus, Silver Oak, and Far Niente. If you’re willing to spend big, the Nickel & Nickel Tench Vineyard is about the best deal on the wine list since it sells in local liquor stores for about $100.

Rails Wine List

With day one of our anniversary celebration complete, day two is set for uncorking Baldacci’s Four Sons Fraternity 2012 to pair with our steak doggy bags. Fraternity is a red blend from Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley, California. I couldn’t locate documentation of the varietals in the 2012 blend, but my guess is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.

I open the wine for an hour of decanting and notice that the freshly popped cork is full of sediment. We purchased this bottle about eight months ago and it has been stored on its side ever since. It’s a good idea to stand a bottle upright the day before opening it, and maybe I’ll remember next time. I pour the wine into the decanter through a small strainer to remove the remaining grit.

The nose is full of ripe cherry fruit, oak, and vanilla with floral and tobacco notes. The fruit is dominant but not overpowering. I don’t detect much in the way of earthy or vegetal aromas. Acidity and alcohol seem a little harsh on the back of the throat at first sip, but disappear over time. The palate is full of juicy plum, cherry, and blackberry. Dark chocolate and coffee flavors add a trace of bitterness, along with subtle notes of graphite that become more noticeable after swallowing.  The finish is long and leathery. Overall, Baldacci Fraternity offers a balanced structure from start to finish.

Mexican food and margaritas may just as easily be enjoyed on Seis and Siete de Mayo.

Premium Margarita

  • 1 oz. Don Julio Anejo
  • 1 oz. Patron Citronge
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice and simple syrup (half and half)

Shake over ice, strain into a margarita glass, and say Salud!

Panini Style Black Bean and Chicken Burrito

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • ¼ Teaspoon cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz. chicken breast (1 large or 2 small), cut into small cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • ½ cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • Pinch of pepper or crushed red pepper for more heat
  • 2 large flour tortillas

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and cook the garlic and cumin for 1 minute. Add the minced red pepper and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. (If I don’t have a red pepper, I use a small onion or a stalk of celery.) Add the rinsed black beans. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the chicken.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag. Add taco seasoning and pepper to the bag and shake until chicken is coated. Brown the chicken in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add ¼ cup of water and continue cooking until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  3. Pre-heat the Griddler (panini press) to Grill/Panini between High and Sear.
  4. Brush olive oil on the outside of the wraps. Flip them over and fill with cheese, chicken, and the bean mixture. Fold them up and cook in the Griddler for a few minutes until the outside shows some nice grill marks.

Top with sour cream, taco sauce, and cheese.

I’ve Been Summer-ized

I’ve Been Summer-ized

It’s not actually summer according to the calendar, but 80 degree weather, light past 7:30 p.m., and a Friday night to boot herald this evening as the official opening of the Boozy Lifestyle Summer Season 2017. We’ve used the barbecue several times already this year, but we’ve yet to sit outside for eating and drinking.  The deck is set up with our screened in gazebo, table and chairs, and television. Friday night is typically a non-cooking dinner but we’ll make an exception and fire up the barbecue for easy burgers. But first, cocktail hour. 

Cocktail hour begins Achaval Ferrer Malbec and a bit of cheese. Lori at Dracaena Wines (dracaenawines.com) brought this Malbec to my attention via her blog posts and #Winestudio on Twitter and, as a fan of Malbec, I had to try it. When we got home from the liquor store I happened to notice that I picked up the 2014 vintage instead of the 2015 that she had reviewed. I hope it lives up to expectations.

We’re using the decanter for this big boy. In the glass, the pour is sparkly pretty with purple edges. The nose takes a while to open up; but after a while, aromas of berries and oak appear. The flavor of anise is dominant on the palate, accompanied by intense, chewy tannins. Hints of prune, dark chocolate and coffee join the party. The sip ends in a solid, medium-length finish.

Achaval Ferrer Malbec is one of those wines that grows on you over time. By the second glass I begin to appreciate how well the nuance of licorice and sensation of chewiness complement each other. My drinking buddy, who had given up by the second glass said, “You shouldn’t have to work that hard.” Oh, how I toil for my art.

AchavalFerrer3

This Malbec paired well with our cheese plate, especially the Boursin with a slice of spicy pepperoni on it. Honestly, I haven’t encountered any pairing disasters when it comes to dry red wine and cheese.

Even inside the screens, it doesn’t take long for pesky little gnats to find the wine. Thank goodness for my trusty glass covers.

AchavalFerrer2

Cheers to getting summer-ized!

Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre 2015

Cline1

In the 1980s when Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay dominated the field of California wine, a rebel band of vintners formed an informal group to promote the use of grape varieties from the Rhône Valley, France, and dubbed themselves the Rhône Rangers. The fruits of their marketing labor have resulted in Syrah and other Rhône varietals becoming more prevalent in today’s California wine scene. Fred Cline, one of the original Rhône Rangers varietal insurgents, is the owner of Cline Family Cellars, located in Sonoma, California.

Cline, grandson of Valeriano Jacuzzi (the man whose name is synonymous with spa tubs), and his wife Nancy founded Cline Family Cellars in Oakley, California in 1982. They began their wine business by restoring 100-year-old vines of Rhône -style varietals. Mourvèdre and Carignane, along with Zinfandel, make up Cline’s Ancient Vines Series of varietal wines.

Today the winery is located at a 350-acre ranch in Carneros Valley in Sonoma County, and produces many different varietal wines and blends from vineyards owned by the Cline family throughout Sonoma County. The vineyards are sustainably farmed using the Green String farming method developed by Fred Cline and Bobby Cannard.

Oakley, where Cline’s Mourvèdre grapes are grown, is in the Contra Costa County appellation, 40 miles east of Sonoma County. It’s a sub-region of the very large Central Coast AVA which stretches from San Francisco in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. The area’s terroir provides favorable conditions for this grape variety that likes to have its face in hot sun and feet in cool water. Vines are planted in sandy soil along the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers where summer days are warm and sunny.

Cline2

The pour is inky purple with lots of leg action consistent with a high alcohol content of 15.5%. There’s not much fruitiness on the nose. Subtle aromas lean more towards hay, leather, and cedar. Over time, scents of grassy herbs are added to the bouquet. On the palate are flavors of ripe plum, tobacco and spicy black pepper with very bright acidity. A short clean finish closes with smooth tannins.

Cline Mourvèdre is reminiscent of visiting the horse stables; hay and saddles without the manure. The grape’s characteristic bright acidity that works to its advantage as a blending grape threw this single varietal a bit off balance. Overall, the wine was a nice change of pace from the typical fruit bomb and interesting enough to warrant a blog post. The Cline Ancient Vines Series varietals cost between $17 and $23 as per their website.

Welcome the Winery Ghost: Phantom 2013

Phantom-Bogle

At first glance at the Phantom label, it’s not obvious that this proprietary red blend is produced by Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, California. That information is hiding on a hard-to-see watermark on front label and more prominently shown on the back.

Our first encounter with the Phantom was about seven years ago when we owned a liquor store. One of our employees had “reserved” half of a case in the back office. We asked him why he did this but suddenly his English wasn’t so good. The lack of information gave us all the more reason to take a bottle for “homework” and find out firsthand what all the fuss was about. 

I can’t find any personal tasting notes from so long ago and I don’t remember if we liked it or not so Bogle Phantom 2013 provides an opportunity for a fresh start.

The Bogle label is so prolific that when I began researching it online, I thought I’d find it was owned by some conglomerate maker of mass produced wines. But in fact, Bogle Vineyards is a family-owned business that produces a selection of value brand wines, including popular varietals and two red blends.  The Bogle family farms 1600 acres in Clarksburg and the Lodi appellation, as well as sourcing grapes from various California growers.

We find the Bogle varietals and blends in most liquor stores selling in the range of $9 to $11 a bottle. Their reserve wines are offered on their website for about $24. As per some of the online reviewers, Phantom, priced anywhere from $16 to over $20, tends to sell out before the next year’s vintage arrives. And so the Winemaker’s Note, “Welcome the winery ghost into your home with the latest vintage…before it vanishes again” is fitting.  

The 2013 Phantom is a blend of 39% Zinfandel, 38% Petite Sirah, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose has equal amounts of ripe cherry fruit and briary, vegetal aromas. At the first sip, I realize that although we’ve decanted the bottle for about 15 minutes, it’s quite alcoholic and can use a little more time for the alcohol to blow off.

Coming back to it after another 15 minutes, flavors of currants and ripe berries combine with black pepper and spices on the palate. The flavor is balanced with oak in a medium to full-bodied mouth feel. A long finish has a trace amount of bitterness and slightly hard and chewy tannins. Maybe a little more aging in the bottle will mellow them out?

Overall, Bogle Phantom 2013 has a decent level of complexity for the price point and is one that I’d buy again (and hold for a while before drinking for a bit more aging in bottle). My impression of Bogle wines in general is that they offer consistent quality for the price and are easy to find even when traveling.

Here is an interesting interview with Bogle’s Director of Public Relations, Jodie Bogle: https://hucklegoose.com/journal/meet/meet-bogle-wines

Here are my notes on Bogle’s Essential Red: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-2f

 

 

 

 

Wine and Wings

bad-dream-af

The phone alarm chimes and I awake with memories of my most recent dream. Unlike my usual two a.m. nightmares that force me into consciousness sweaty and heart-pounding, this morning’s dream is a pleasant one featuring chicken wings. Have you ever dreamt about something and woken up with an acute craving for it?

Chicken wings may have been on my mind following a recent visit to the Buffalo Wild Wings franchise that opened near us in recent months. We reasoned that a restaurant with “wings” in the name ought to make great wings. In reality, this wasn’t the case. But while the wing meat was slightly disappointing, I have to give BWW credit for their selection of over 20 sauces. The Parmesan Garlic was particularly good!

With a Costco-sized bag of chicken tenders taking up space in our freezer, we’ll use them in place of wings and try out a copycat Parmesan Garlic sauce recipe to go with them. (We could have bought the sauce in a bottle but where’s the fun in that?)  There are two styles of recipes online; one involving melted butter and a second based in mayonnaise. We opt for the mayo-based sauce. Meanwhile, we open the wine.

petite-petit

A few months ago, Lori at Dracaena Wines wrote about Petite Petit from Michael David Winery in Lodi, California. I knew right away that this was one for us to try, given that we are fans of Petite Sirah, as well as other fruit-forward varietals from Lodi such as its Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. And who could resist the circus-themed labeling?

Sipping the first glass and gazing at the wine-drinking elephants on the label, it occurs to me that this wine with two “petites” in its name is anything but small. Like the elephants on the label, this wine has heft and weight. There are so many thoughtful details in this label that I wouldn’t lump it into the classification of gimmicky. Although you may need a magnifier to see it, I especially enjoyed the nod to Michael David’s popular Zinfandel, Seven Deadly Zins.

This 2014 Petite Petit is a blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot. In the glass, it’s an inky, teeth-staining purple. The nose is filled with aromatic, lush fruit. A full-bodied palate reveals plum and blackberry fruit, wood notes, smoky oak, anise, and tobacco. Flavors of prune and currant follow. A fairly long finish has nicely structured tannins.

Back to cooking, we prep the chicken tenderloins with a flour, egg, and breadcrumb/Panko coating and fry them in ¼ inch of vegetable oil until the outside is crispy-brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. With the sauce at about room temperature, we roll the hot chicken pieces in it to coat. While the franchise wing joints tend to skimp on the celery and carrots, we’ve loaded up on our veggies.

parmesangarlicsauce

Parmesan Garlic Sauce

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 5 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle of oregano, basil, thyme, and crushed red pepper

If one of the chicken tenders in my photo looks kind of green, don’t adjust your monitor. I experimented with a curry sauce that didn’t quite work with this meal. I ate it anyway, since no unspoiled food goes to waste around here. I’d like to elaborate on the food and wine pairing except that, as usual, almost all of the wine was gone by the time the chicken was done.

Apothic Wines Newest: Inferno 2014

apothic-inferno

The information on the label tells us that Apothic Inferno is a limited, small batch release red blend made from California-sourced grapes and aged for 60 days in whiskey barrels. The rest of the text, “A new blend emerges from the flames of a time-honored craft, creating a most unexpected and masterful encounter,” seems intentionally vague, sending me on a trip to the Apothic website for specifics.

I’m met with more mystery when I find myself in the shadowy Apothic Cellar where I can have my palm read or add a picture to the Dark Portrait gallery. In the Crush Music room, you can create a song dedication read by a voice eerily similar to the late Casey Kasem.  The Alchemist isn’t ready for visitors yet so don’t forget to sign the Guest Book on the way out so you’ll be notified when he’s open for business.

We discovered Apothic Red and White in 2010 when we owned a wine and liquor store. Despite being mass-produced, they consistently delivered bold fruit flavors with a smooth finish and were a good wine recommendation for buyers on budget.  According to the company’s literature, the name Apothic was inspired by Apotheca, a mysterious place where vintners of the Middle Ages blended and stored their most coveted concoctions. Beguiling hype aside, apotheca is the Latin root apothecary, referring to a person or place where herbs, spices, and wine were sold.

Apothic Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Syrah, and the White is comprised of Chardonnay, Reisling, and Pinot Grigio. I noticed that as new labels were added, the website became less forthcoming with the varietal information. As per other sources, the inky, dense Apothic Dark is blended with Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Teroldego, and the lighter-bodied Apothic Crush is a blend of Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir.

Apothic’s newest offering, Inferno, upends cask aging by using barrels previously used for whiskey. Isn’t it usually the other way around? Cask-finishing spirits in wine barrels is a technique that’s been used since the 19th century. The essence of the wine that remains in the wood adds subtle flavors and colors to the spirit. Will the process work in reverse, where nuances from a whiskey barrel will enhance a wine?

The Apothic Inferno pour is medium-bodied, lighter than Apothic Red or Dark, yet fuller than Crush. Along with sweet dark berries on the nose is a hint of maple candy. Currants on the palate are spicy with some high alcohol heat. The sweetness of blackberry fruit ends in a dry finish, medium in length, and with a reminder of whiskey’s essence at the very last.

Apothic has hit the mark in terms of creating a wine that’s unique, even if the experiment may be perceived as change for change’s sake. If you like some of Apothic’s other wines, this one is certainly worth a try for about $12.

That’s A Nice Pair

The nice pair that I’m referring to is my shrimp with baby bok choy over rice and Sauvignon Blanc. But more on the pairing in a minute.

If you’re one of my regular readers, by now you’ve noticed that my wine repertoire is dry red heavy. A chilled white is nice for a change of pace, but overall my preference is usually red. And as much as I try, I can’t interest my husband in sharing a bottle of white which means I’m drinking it all by myself. The plus side of drinking white wine alone is more for me!

While my drinking buddy is having a cocktail, I’ve decided to try my Coppola Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc 2015. How did a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc end up in my wine stash, you ask? In addition to general curiosity, Sauvignon Blanc is frequently suggested to pair with foods we eat often such as shellfish and fresh salads. I’ve been ordering it by the glass occasionally, but my initial forays into the world of Sauvignon Blanc have not been very agreeable. Before giving up on it altogether, I’ll do some reading to understand what it is I don’t like about it.

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is grown in many different countries and wine regions. In fact, it’s the most widely planted wine grape in the world. The wide variation in terroir as well as the wine-making style creates a lot of diversity in the final product. I may have stumbled onto the reason why my first half dozen tries give me the impression that no two Sauvignon Blancs taste alike!

Cool climate vineyards tend to produce Sauvignon Blancs with higher acidity, and citrus, grassy, and mineral flavors. In general, these characteristics aren’t my go-to flavors when it comes to wine. Reading through various tasting notes, I notice that Coppola is described as tropical fruit flavors which sound more to my liking. Also boosting my confidence that I’ll take a liking to the Coppola Sauvignon Blanc is that we enjoy several of their red wines such as Cinema and Claret.

The label’s description of tropical fruit is true to form in the delicate nose. On the palate are pineapple and ripe cantaloupe.  Citrus flavors lean towards tangerine and red grapefruit rather than lemon or lime. The fruit flavors are ripe and sweet as opposed to tart. The second day brings out more floral notes on the nose and palate. The overall impression is light and refreshing with a quick finish.

If the Sauvignon Blanc you prefer has bright acidity, lemony tartness, grassiness , or a mineral quality, this is probably not the one for you. If ripe tropical fruits are more to your taste, then give it a try. I’ll be buying another bottle soon!

Part two of my enjoyment of this wine is how well it paired with our dinner. The shrimp with baby bok choy is prepared simply in chicken stock and sesame oil with a bit of garlic and served over rice. The delicate flavor of the shellfish is complimented by the easy nimbleness of the wine. Bok choy brings its own subtle textures to the dish, combining wilted leafy tops with crunchy ends. For the full shrimp with baby bok choy recipe, visit this page: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-7L

PairingShrimp-SB

Any suggestions of other Sauvignon Blancs I should try?