MWWC #33 Once Upon A Time

This month’s wine writing challenge (#33 if you’re keeping track or ignored the title of this post) is Once Upon A Time, which was selected by last month’s winner Wining with Mel.

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To most people, Once upon a time probably makes them think of a plethora of Grimm fairy tales or perhaps a certain tv show, but not me.  Once upon a time makes me think of college.  This is because at the time I was living with my BFF and whenever she couldn’t sleep, I would hear her yelling from down the hall: I can’t sleep, tell me a story.

All of my stories (at least that I can remember–it has been few years ago!)–started with: Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a beautiful princess named Christina.  If I were feeling loquacious, my stories would be rather long and involved, often based on my own travels.  If I didn’t, the story would be exceptionally short and sweet, like this*:

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a beautiful princess named Christina, who drank all the wine in her castle. Unfortunately, her sommelier could not get her more wine immediately, so she had him guillotined, and then cried herself to sleep.  The End.

*This story has been changed to fit the parameters of writing about wine.  It is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event (don’t panic people: no castle has been depleted of their wine stores nor any sommelier guillotined!).

Of course, because it is a wine writing challenge, I feel if I just left you with a horror story about a castle with no wine and a guillotined sommelier, I would be banned from further participation in future MWWCs.   Plus, I’m feeling a bit loquacious…so Sissy, this one is for you!

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a beautiful princess named Christina. Princess Christina lived in a big, beautiful castle overlooking a pool small and peaceful lake and sprawling lands.  One beautiful morning, Princess Christina went downstairs to find her cook distraught.  The wine cellar was empty!  The sommelier?  Gone!  Neither of these were through any fault of Princess Christina (despite a previously mentioned horror story).  However, Princess Christina decided that moving forward she would be personally checking all references on job applications.

But hiring a new sommelier was the least of her worries–SHE HAD AN EMPTY WINE CELLAR!  What is a princess to do? Not wanting to wait through the drudgery of finding another sommelier, Princess Christina did the only thing she could think of: she loaded up her carriage and set off immediately in search of great wine.

Her first stop was to find a buttery chardonnay, so she headed west to California.  While chardonnays today aren’t quite as buttery as in the days of yore, she knew she could still find something delicious at the La Crema Winery.

la cremaShe was definitely not disappointed. The 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, while not buttery per se (for definitions, click here!), is still very creamy and complex with oak and melon flavors.  It is hearty enough to pair with a meal, like Thanksgiving dinner, but is smooth enough to enjoy with a cheese course or simply paired with a good book while sitting by the pool small and peaceful lake.

As much as Princess Christina wanted to spend the day at La Crema, her empty cellar kept her on task.  With a few cases of this classic chardonnay loaded in her carriage, Princess Christina set off for Italy (she has a special flying carriage, don’t question–this is a fairy tale!).  Home of Italians, Chianti, Prosecco, Mount Vesuvius, and a delicious little thing called Montepulciano.

 

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The Tralcetto Montepulciano from Catina Zaccagnini is a great addition to the wine cellar as an Italian alternative to the traditional Chianti.  This Montepulciano is quite bold and fruity–although not as much as a zinfandel–but has a dry finish.  It is flavorful without being overbearing and because it is aged in steel then oak it is very balanced.  It drinks well with a wide variety of pastas (as any good Italian wine should!), especially venison ragù.  And in terms of pure novelty/coolness points, each bottle has a small twig of the vine tied around the neck of the bottle.

Princess Christina was very excited to add this to her carriage and as much as it pained her to leave, she still had to make at least one more stop before heading back to her castle.  There was some inner dialogue as to where her final stop would be, but she soon realized that there was only one real choice: Champagne.

IMG_2740Of course within Champagne, the possibilities were endless.  So–being ever the diplomat–Princess Christina decided to randomly pick and ended up at a quaint little house called Perrier-Jouët.  With a plethora of champagnes from which to choose, Princess Christina tried them all several times and perhaps she came home with at least a case of each.  It was hard not to do so, after all it is champagne and one can never have too much champagne on hand!  Like the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut.  It has floral and citrus notes with a nutty, crisp finish that makes it very easy to drink.

Laden down with a carriage full of wine, Princess Christina decided that she had a very good start to restocking her wine cellar and the best thing for her to do is go back home where she could sit by the pool small and peaceful lake with a glass of wine.  Her only worry now was which wine to drink first.  And as she sat and enjoyed her glass of wine and the tranquility of the pool small and peaceful lake, she reminisced on the fun of her wine buying trip .  While she still wanted to hire a new sommelier, perhaps she needn’t hire one just yet.

THE END.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have Wine? Will Travel!

This month’s wine writing challenge is TRAVEL, as selected by last month’s winner: the hilarious and enlightening Loie of Cheap Wine Curious.

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Of course, my first thought was to write about Napa, the first place I traveled for wine–but then I remembered I’ve already written about my trip and since I haven’t had the chance to go back, there’s nothing new to report.

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Then I thought about allllllll the places in France and Italy I passed through many, many moons (aka decades) ago that I’d love to go back and visit now that I have a true appreciation for the beauty and intricacies of champagnes and burgundies and amarones (ohmy!)–but then I realized that this post may never end.

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So then I thought about all the amazing Texas Hill Country wineries around where I grew up, which seemed apropos since I’m traveling (see what I did there?) down there at the end of the week–but then I realized that I should wait and do a bit of exploring of all the new wineries that have popped up since the last time I visited.

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Then I thought about cleverly describing how going to the wine store is like traveling around the world–but about the same moment that idea popped into my head, so did another:

Hawaiian Mead.

I know, I know you’re probably thinking “no, no…go back to writing about the wine store/traveling the world idea!”  But nope!  Hang on to your hats, we’re traveling to Hawaii!

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If you know me in real life or follow me on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook (shameless plug!), you will know that last September I went to Hawaii with some amazing friends.  While on the stunningly picturesque island of Kauai, we stumbled across the Koloa Rum Company.  By stumble, I mean April quickly learned she was traveling with lushes people who enjoyed sampling local adult beverages and she was trying to keep us appeased.

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But of course, this writing challenge is about wine, not rum (although THAT would be awesome!).  Having had a great time at Koloa, we (aka April, who was quicker with her google-searching fingers since she was giving away her rum samples) looked for other local places that made adult beverages.

While on the Big Island we visited the Kona Brewing Company, and so despite having not seen a grape growing anywhere in Hawaii’s lush and volcanic landscape, we were hopeful that we could find a winery.

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Alas, no grape winery…but BINGO! we found Nani Moon Meadery!  Now I will confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of mead, however, when in Rome…

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Nani Moon is in the back of a shopping center in Kapa’a.  We pull up, walk in, and, well, started tasting!  It seemed pointless not to try the full line-up, so we did.

For those of you out there who are unaware, mead is wine (although it can also be beer) made from honey instead of grapes.  It’s been around since…forever (and I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate timeframe!).  Much more sustainable, when you’re smack dab in the middle of the Pacific ocean and you have access to local apiaries.

As Stephanie (the owner) took us through each wine, she paired it with an appropriate snack and talked about where she sourced the honey (they weren’t all the same!).  I think my favorite was the Laka’s Nectar, which was the driest and most crisp of the wines.  While a little too sweet for me, the Cacao Moon was a big hit–understandable, given its chocolate undertones and velvety chocolate finish.  Stephanie definitely got bonus points for her Deviant Beehavior, which packs a kick as it is not only made from honey, but also chili!

We finished the tasting with some of the local honeys that she used, which was great–not only because they were delicious, but because you could really taste how much the nuances in the honey affected the taste of the wine.

If you’re interested in learning more, visiting, or throwing caution to the wind and just buying a bottle, contact Stephanie and tell her what you like.  I’m quite confident she will find you something you’ll truly enjoy and give you suggestions on pairings to help you enjoy it more!  She even has a cocktail section that encourages you to “bee inspired and mix it up!”

It was a great way to spend a couple of hours–and I think that if you find yourself smack dab in the middle of the Pacific on a tiny island named Kauai, you should go visit Stephanie and try her meads.  I’m not going to say that meads are now my favorite type of wine, but I did walk away with a better appreciation for just how versatile a wine made from honey can be.  And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Aloha!

MWWC #17: Epiphany

This month’s wine writing challenge is Epiphany, as selected by last month’s winner John, The Wine Raconteur.  The first thing that came to mind was The Burgundy.  But I feel quite certain you are sick of hearing about it….so, I thought I’d be bold and try something else.

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The second best thing about working in a wine tasting room is proving people wrong helping people try new things they were sure they hated.

BTW, I’d like to insert that if you didn’t know the best thing about working in a wine tasting room is drinking wine, then get out of my life–I don’t need that kind of negativity.

But back to proving people wrong helping people try new things they were sure they hated.  It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing.  When it comes to wine, this is a rather fun challenge.  I don’t do it to be cantankerous. I do it to prove to everyone I meet that there is a whole big world of wine out there–why limit yourself to just pinot noir or white zin or only true French champagnes [please hear that with all the snobbery it was intended] or only reds or whites or sweet or dry?

We all have a preference but to me there was nothing more satisfying than seeing a look of epiphany on someone’s face who bravely let me lead them out of their comfort zone and realized that they liked it out there.

What led me on this path to wine-enlightenment was that I started working at a wine shop that only sold Texas wine–this was back in the early 90s when nobody was talking about Texas as a wine producer.  During my time there, I had many epiphanies there–but none more so than my first day.

On Day #1, I was told that being able to speak about the wines we offered and make recommendations was the most important part of my job, so my first task was to taste every single bottle on the bar that we had available for sampling. Whaaaaat??  There are 1, 2, 3…33 of them!  Since that moment in time, I have found this to be THE BEST advice I’ve ever gotten in the world of wine (and it easily applies to most things in life):  don’t judge, just try everything.

I’m not going to lie, I was not excited about trying the whites and rosés–I was a red wine drinker.  And by red wine, I mean cabernet sauvignon and tempernillo.  But I hated, hated, hated white and rosés–because my initial introduction to these wines were uber-sweet (of the added sugar variety) or mass produced (aka tasteless) pinot grigio or (shudder) white zinfandel or over-oaked California chardonnay .

Before you hit comment to defend your beloved [insert wine I just insulted here], KEEP READING!

Over the course of several days, I tried every single bottle that was available for sampling.  And I’m not going to lie, I did not like 50% of it, but I did find some unexpected hidden gems, such as dry riesling, gewürztraminer, viognier, and French colombard.  Suddenly my wine palate opened considerably!  With these varietals and styles, I found fruity, but not sweet, flavorful white wines.  Then I discovered dry rosés and French oak and realized that oak could lend itself to creaminess–not just tasting like I was chewing on a bark.  So I revisited my arch-white wine nemesis: chardonnay.  This time, I started with the French stuff, which had more fruit and just enough oak to get me used to the flavor.  Eventually, I even found (gasp!) a few California chardonnays that I like.  Of course, my hate also spilled over (pun intended!) into some of the red wines as well (**cough**merlot, pinot noir**cough**), but I now always try them because I have found some of each that I adore (think Russian River Valley and, hahaha, surely you had to know I was going to find a way to mention The Burgundy).

So it was in this spirit, that I would try to help customers who came into the wine shop with their broad-stroke declarations, like “I don’t drink Texas wine.”  Of course not, because until two seconds ago you weren’t even aware that Texas wine existed….so you tell me what you like to drink and then hold on to your glass because I’m about to show you what’s been missing in your life!

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Cheers, ya’ll!

Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I feel like I should offer you a bit of history before the tequila starts flowing.  I mean, if you’re going to be celebrating, at least know what happened.

[side note: yes, I know that I’m interrupting a birthday trip but needs must, as I would feel neglectful if I didn’t mention it.  Okay, okay and I found a hilarious shirt I wanted to share with you (two actually–the other I posted on ShezzaSpeak).]

Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day (that’s September 16th).  May 5th aka Cinco de Mayo aka El Día de la Batalla de Puebla was an important victory by the Mexicans against French troops, who outnumbered the Mexicans 2:1.  It is said to be the start of the Mexican resistance to French rule in Mexico.

There’s more stuff, but I know that at this point, you’re trying to decide if you want to start with cerveza, progress to margaritas and end with tequila or just start with the inevitable?

History lesson over: go drink some tequila!

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Salud!

The Mother Sauces

No, these aren’t your mother’s sauces–these are THE Mother Sauces.  I mean, your mother may in fact make them, but maybe not.  Anyway lately they’ve been everywhere in my life.  Except in my kitchen–ain’t nobody got time for that!

For those of you who don’t study French cuisine, they are the five sauces upon which all other sauces are made.

  • Béchamel
  • Velouté
  • Espagnole
  • Sauce Tomat
  • Hollandaise

And if you want a bit of THE Mother Sauces trivia, Hollandaise wasn’t added to THE Mother Sauce line-up until the turn of the 20th century.

So why am I bringing up THE Mother Sauces? They’ve just been on my brain a lot lately.  Mainly because of April, who is in culinary school and recently learned how to make and spice up THE Mother Sauces (although she says that the Sauce Tomat is so flavorful, you can just eat it as is), so I’ve been drooling with every descriptive email that she’s sent.

And then last week, I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey.  Have you seen it?  If so, you know why I’m mentioning it in a post about THE Mother Sauces.  If not, then add it to your Netflix queue.

Anyway, I finally gave in and made some béchamel sauce last night….with a twist.  That twist would be cilantro.  And parmesan, although I think that parm is probably a frequent additive to béchamel–so we’ll just stick with the cilantro twist (April and Becca, stop making those nasty faces: cilantro is delicious!!).

First, start with a simple béchamel sauce.  I like to use Giada’s because it’s uber-easy!

Cilantro-Parmesan Béchamel

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup  flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, warm
  • ½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1 pinch fresh ground white pepper (to taste)–honestly, I usually just use black pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg, freshly grated (to taste)

In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. Do not allow the bechamel sauce to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch each of white pepper and nutmeg. Season the sauce with more salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Okay, that’s Giada’s part.  Then to that I add 1 cup of Parmesan and ½ cup of finely chopped cilantro–okay, I use more like a cup of cilantro–but it’s your béchamel, use however much you want.  Same goes for the parmesan.  Stir until cheese is melted and cilantro is thoroughly mixed in.  Add to your favorite pasta and make your taste buds happy, happy, happy!

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