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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12 e mezzo, Rosato del Salento, no vintage

  • Basic info: Varvaglione 12 e mezzo Rosato del Salento – Puglia, Italy, no vintage
  • Type: pink/rose
  • Price estimate:$13 (local wine store)
  • Look: Pale orange, almost apricot in color. very few legs.
  • Smell: Peach, apricot and white grape.
  • Taste: There is a bit of effervesce on the first taste, very light and clean. White peach and apricot flavors. Bob got a definite strawberry and some light minerality.
  • Conclusions: This is a great back porch wine. It is light, refreshing and a little different than some pink wines. It has just a little bit of bubbles, but it isn’t a sparkling wine. Perfect for summer.
  • Other notes: We tried this one at one of our local wine store’s Friday night wine tastings and both Bob and I thought it was great. It has a unique color and it drinks like a very light alcohol wine. We had  glass with dinner, then another glass on the back patio a few hours later. It was the perfect wine for sipping.
  • From the bottle: “Elegant, pleasant and slightly sparkling. On the nose fresh fruit meets harmoniously white flower scents while on the palate it shows up with liveliness. ” 12.5% alcohol by volume.

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Garon, Syrah – 2015

  • Basic info: Garon VDP Syrah, Rhone Valley France, 2015
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $23 (Chamber St. Wines)
  • Look: Dark red in color almost a garnet color. Light legs. Medium alcohol.
  • Smell: Petrol and mineral. (Bob got the mineral, and he agreed with the petrol, but he wasn’t sure about the nose until I said it.)
  • Taste: Relatively smooth, semi-dry with a little mineral taste. Some berry on the finish. Bob got slate and fermented black raspberry.)
  • Conclusions: This was drinkable. For a Syrah it wasn’t bad, but I don’t think this will change my mind about Syrah the way the Chien Blanc changed my mind about white wines in general. It was ok to drink with food, but it really needed the food. The second day it was better. Still not great, but better.
  • Other notes: I wasn’t thrilled with this wine, but I didn’t dislike it either. It was fine and that is better than most Syrahs as far as I’m concerned.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Chamber St. Wines, “This junior Cote-Rotie shows lovely aromas of ripe blackberry and cherry with roast meat and floral note, with cocoa and herbs. The palate has a nice earthy texture with ripe berry fruits, chocolate and mineral flavors.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.

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