Albamar – Albarino, 2015

  • Basic info: Albamar Rias Baixas, Albarino, Spain – 2015
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $19 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Pale yellow with good legs.
  • Smell: lime and honey
  • Taste: Crisp. tart lime. Very light
  • Conclusions: This was definitely a unique wine and I’ve never had anything like it. The lime taste was very different, but very good with a faro taco salad and yogurt lime dressing. I liked it, but wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
  • Other notes: Bob was fairly ambivalent about this wine, and I think I liked it more than he did. I’m use to lemon or grapefruit in wine, but not lime and at first the amount of  lime I tasted was a bit overwhelming. Definitely better fridge cold than wine fridge cold.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes (although the bottle was in Spanish, so maybe there was and I couldn’t read them) but from Chamber Street, “This is Albarino the way we love it: crisp, mineral, saline, with great texture and a long finish.”

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Can I help you?

Arthas is a good boy. He may not be consumed by wanting to make us happy, but he doesn’t want us unhappy and he does listen fairly well. He does pretty good on his walks too (which he is starting to ask for) so long as he doesn’t get rushed by another dog. I’ve gotten good at crossing the street and distracting him and he is actually easier to handle at this age than Jessie was when she got riled. Of course she wanted to go say hi and he wants to avoid saying hi, but you get the point.

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So it amused me today when we were out for our morning walk when I saw a dog coming up the sidewalk. We crossed to the median until they could go by since I like to avoid problems if possible. Arthas took a second tug to get him to cross but he did fine (this wasn’t our usual route so he is slow and not as confident as he is on our usual route – you know being mostly blind and all). As the lady with the dog went by she started yelling that I “would never have control” of Arthas with a harness and I should “never use a retractable leash.” I was a little irritated I told Arthas to sit, which he did, and just looked at the lady as she continued to berate me for my choice of dog walking kit. Her dog then started barking at Arthas, who growled in response but didn’t move and then it ran – and almost toppled the lady who continued to tell me that I didn’t have proper control of my dog. I just looked at Arthas, looked at her dog, looked at her and say, “I’ve got this” and went to the other side of the road. I was so proud of how well behaved Arthas was that I may have given him another cookie.

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Seriously, does he look like a problem dog?

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I think we got this.

Rasa Vineyards, Riesling – 2013

  • Basic info: Rasa Vineyards, “The Composer,” Riesling, Walla Walla Valley, Oregon, 2013
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $30 (from vineyard)
  • Look: Very pale yellow, some legs
  • Smell: honeysuckle, lemon, white peach
  • Taste: Smooth. Lemon and honey.
  • Conclusions: Fantastic. Good, clean, refreshing and just enough sweetness to cut the acid but not a sweet wine at all. Bob thought the amount of flavor and complexity from such a delicate wine was pretty amazing, and I have to agree.
  • Other notes: I’m suddenly very glad I started this little adventure because I may have avoided this wine just because I associate Riesling with sweet. This was not a sweet wine, but it had a nice touch of sweetness to offset the acidity. It was light, easy drinking and incredibly good. It is more than I generally spend on a white, but if I had an occasion where I needed a really good white, this would fit the bill.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from the winery, “Light straw in color, the wine offers superb aromatics of apple, pear, spice, petrol, and white flowers. The aromatic complexity follows through on the palate with notes of spice, mineral, wet stone, apple, pear, and lime. Nuances of mineral and petrol echo on the long, vibrant finish.” 12% alcohol by volume.

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BBQ seitan with beer battered onion fries

Every now and then when I want to try a crazy vegetarian experiment and I’m not sure how Bob will feel about it, I search for something to pair it with that I know he will love. He knows I do it, so I’m not in too much trouble when he reads this. Although in all honesty, he generally doesn’t mind my experiments, and he is always willing to keep an open mind – and give me an honest opinion.

I kind of wanted sloppy joes, but I had BBQ sauce in the fridge that I needed to use up because homemade BBQ sauce does not last forever. It lasts a darn long time, but not forever. I have also been looking for meat substitutes for a while and while quinoa and faro work great in a lot of instances, they aren’t always the right texture, or they don’t hold up to the sauce as well as I might like. Tofu is great, but in any crumbly texture recipe it doesn’t work as well and I don’t want something mushy. When I came across a recipe for sloppy joe seitan, I was all in, but then changed it to mock pulled pork (knowing full well it will taste NOTHING like pork). To pair, I decided to make beer battered onion fries and I have to admit, as good as the seitan was, the onion fries were the star of the show. I may have to make these on a fairly regular basis as they were such a hit.

The recipes here are really simple and putting it all together took no time at all. Ok, the fries did take a while since I fried them in a pan and had to do small batches, but otherwise, this was a great weeknight meal. I loved the flavor and texture and Bob actually said it was good – not pulled pork, but still really good.

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  • BBQ sauce:
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons adobe sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mild vinegar (apple, sherry, rice)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic minced or pureed

Mix all ingredients together. Use a food processor or blender if you are including a chipotle pepper in the sauce, otherwise just mixing well will work fine. Flavors blend overnight, so if you can make this ahead of time it is better. For vegans, delete the honey and add maple syrup or agave instead.

  • Beer Battered Onions
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • peanut oil for frying

Combine beer, flour and salt into a shallow pan. Batter should be think enough to coat the onions, but not so think that you can’t work with it. Think paste from kindergarten, maybe slightly thinner.

Slice the onions as thin or thick as you want them. Coat the onions in the batter. You may need to work in batches depending on how large your pan is.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when a drop of batter can be dropped in a sizzles, add onions, but do not over crowd them. Cook for a few minutes until the bottoms like like they are browning, then flip and cook for a few more minutes. (I’m being vague because every batch I did had a different timing – anywhere from 2-6 minutes a side)

Remove onions from oil and allow to drain on a paper towel. If you want, salt them while hot more of a french fry/onion ring taste.

  • BBQ Seitan:
  • 1 package seitan
  • bbq sauce from above
  • onion fries from above
  • bun of your choice (I used onion bread buns)

Crumble seitan in a small bowl and spoon over 4 tablespoons bbq sauce. Mix well and allow to marinate for about 10 minutes. Heat pan and when hot, add seitan plus 1/4 cup more bbq sauce. Cook until heated through on medium heat, about 7 minutes.

Top seitan onto 1/2 bun and top with a few onion fries. Use more fries as a side.

 

Castello di Corbara, Orvieto – 2014

  • Basic info:Castello di Corbara, Oriveto Classico Superiore, Italy – 2014
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $14 (local wine store)
  • Look: Golden yellow in color with good legs.
  • Smell: Lemon, merengue
  • Taste: Clean, crisp with a little bit of red grapefruit. Some spice that I can’t identify. Bob got lots of citrus with a lot of tartness and some peach pit flavor.)
  • Conclusions: I liked this wine more than Bob did. He thought it was a bit too citrus tasting and a little too tart. I thought the crispness of the citrus worked for a summer sipping wine.
  • Other notes: This is definitely a summer wine and not one that I think I would want at other times of the year, and I’m not sure how often I would drink it since I’m not a huge grapefruit fan, but I did like this one.
  • From the bottle: “Straw yellow color, mature fruits of peach and apricot with a floral background and it’s well balanced acidity reflect the terroir of the Orvieto region.” 13% alcohol by volume.

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Monte Bernardi, Chianti – 2014

  • Basic info:Monte Bernardi Retromarcia Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – 2014
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $19 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Garnet, medium legs, slightly translucent
  • Smell: wine (seriously, I could not discern anything specific and neither could Bob)
  • Taste: Smooth, slightly thin, but well structured. Some hints of cherry initially with strawberry at the very back-end with a little bit of tartness.
  • Conclusions: I loved this wine! I like Chianti in general, but this was something pretty special. I was tempted to just keep drinking it, but I stopped at two glasses so I could savor it more the next day. This was such a good chianti that Bob liked it (Bob doesn’t like chianti and tends to cringe when I pick one up) and that is unusual.
  • Other notes: This is apparently an organic wine, which I don’t usually place a ton of emphasis on, but I really do wonder if the flavor of the grapes comes through more than it might in a traditionally farmed vineyard. I may have to find more of this one as it really hit all the right notes for me, and if Bob is willing to drink it (two days in a row as a matter of fact) than it might be worth a space or two in the wine fridge.
  • From the bottle: The bottle is in Italian, so I have to go with the notes Chamber Street sent with the wine. “A fantastic Sangiovese, aged for about two years in neutral barrels. Nice earth, subtle leathery tannin and a long mineral finish make this Chianti Classico a great paring with any fall or winter feast.” 13.5% alcohol by volume.

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Wine, but something a little different

I like to think that when I decide to learn about something, I go in all the way. Some may call this obsessive (ok, even people who love me call this obsessive) but it works for me. It is why I do well in school, and why I’m good at my job. But I knew wine had to be a little different. I’m not going for a sommelier certification and I need to be careful how much I drink so I could do a lot of research, be super organized, try a lot of different varieties, but the actual drinking had to stay to one or two glasses a day.

IMG_20170610_172749Thankfully I also have friends that like to drink wine and are game to try new things. The other night we had Kate and Leta over and we did a little exploring of French wines with the help of a site I found by a podcast I listen to (long story). Weekly Tasting (no, I’m not getting multiple bottles every week) offers different packs of wine each week. You get the wine (4 bottles), pairing suggestions (with recipes), wine notes and access to a tasting video. IMG_20170610_174653We thought it would be fun to see how our sense of taste and smell compared to what the professionals said, and we tried a few new wines along the way. We had a blast. The one white was a particular hit – a muscadet that was salty and had some great lemon-lime notes. We paired everything with cheese, cause, well, it was cheese box week, and we made it a little end of the school year celebration.

IMG_20170507_195955I’ve also gotten very organized in my wine storage. It takes a little upfront work whenever I get a new bottle, but it helps. Yes, it is a spreadsheet. A color coded spreadsheet so I know where I go the wine from, but there is no longer the mystery of what is in the wine fridge or where a particular bottle is. IMG_20170507_132540For the wine fridge in the kitchen, we went low tech but the miracle of the white board has made my wine life so much easier. It is kind of like my meal list – it takes the guess work out of what to have each night.

I’m still taking notes on each wine, and refining what I do and do not like in a glass of wine. I’ve found that I’m a little more adventurous with my wine than I was before, and that makes me happy. If I go to a restaurant and there is a wine varietal that I don’t know, I’m more likely to try it. I may ask a little bit about it – make sure it isn’t a super big earthy wine that I just won’t like at all – but I venture beyond pinot noir and zinfandel. I can add wine regions to my list of places I want to travel and go beyond cities with lots of deep history. (Not that I will ever stop traveling to old cities with deep history.) I am enjoying my little adventure and feel like I’m learning a little something along the way. Since that was the whole point of this experiment, I’m calling it a success. No need to order pizza. 🙂

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