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Category Archives: Summer Cheap Wine Tour

Great, easy wines to enjoy through the summer for under $20.

A ‘Riviera’ Vacation in Your Kitchen: 2010 Abadal Cabernet Franc/Tempranillo and Mediterranean Beef Stew

Hit with two winter storms, 3 feet of snow, children home from school due to ‘snow days’, and a cold wind whipping outside my window, my thoughts turned back to my trip last May to Madrid and the ‘French Riviera.’ Oh how I longed to be basking in the warmth, the beauty, and the rich, delicious flavors of the people, the wine, and the food. This winter has made me desire both comfort…and a vacation. Fortunately, I got a taste of both in my own kitchen.

Nothing says comfort like a hearty beef stew, and nothing warms you from head to toe like a glass of incredible red wine. I chose to combine the two, and add a touch of ‘vacation’ into the pot by making a Mediterranean Beef Stew and pairing it with a Spanish 2010 Abadal Cabernet Franc/Tempranillo blend from Pla de Bages. The combination delivered with earthy goodness and the rich flair of flavor that only the Mediterranean can deliver in both its food and its wine. Simple yet seductive. Like so many ‘winos’ and ‘foodies’, I snapped the photo and posted it to my Corked Cowgirl page on Facebook (see the post here: Mediterranean Beef Stew and 2010 Abadal Cabernet Franc/Tempranillo¬†).

Today I was asked to provide the recipe for the stew. Your request is my pleasure. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you. It’s mostly spices, and it’s super easy to make.

The recipe is as follows:

5 TBSP olive oil
2 1/2 lbs of stew meat cut into 1″ pieces
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Truffle salt. If you’re looking to try it, you can find it at William Sonoma, Dean and Deluca, or even on Amazon)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 package of mushrooms, sliced (I used organic baby portobello mushrooms)
2 zucchinis or yellow squash, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 2/3 cups dry red wine (I used the 2010 Abadal Cab Franc/Tempranillo…before sipping the rest!)
7/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
2 TBSP Bay Seasoning (you could throw in 3 Bay leaves as well, just don’t forget to take them out before you serve the stew!)
1 can Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
6 oz spinach (fresh or frozen)
3 1/3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)

Brown the meat in three tablespoons of the olive oil in a dutch oven or 4-quart stock pot. Once it browns, turn the heat to low. Make a paste with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt. Dump it on the meat and toss it around to distribute the spice paste evenly. Pour yourself a glass of wine and start sipping.

Add the chopped onion, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, and minced garlic to the meat. Pour the tomatoes, water, beef broth and (most importantly), the wine over the meat and vegetables. Stir it up and bring the stew to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for an hour or two, or until the meat and veggies are tender. By now you should be ready for another glass (or two) of wine.

While you’re waiting for it to cook, mash the garbanzo beans with a fork and begin your second glass of wine. When the stew is done (which could be whenever you run out of patience, or wine) stir in the mashed beans and spinach. Cover and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted(if it’s fresh) or warmed through (if it’s frozen). Sprinkle the vinegar (if you are using it) into the pot, stir up, and serve with brown rice if you want the extra carb rush. Salt and pepper to taste if necessary. You may also open another bottle of wine, if necessary.

If you decide to simply sip the wine for dinner and wish to forego the stew, you’ll find the 2010 Abadal Cabernet Franc/Tempranillo for between $15-20. It is an AMAZING wine with rich fruit flavors like blackberry and plum mixed with beautiful herbal notes and even a hint of toffee. Stock up on this one to drink throughout the rest of the winter!

Cheers!

~CC

 

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“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Global Zinfandel Day with 2009 OZV

Today is November 19th…unless it’s a birthday, an anniversary, or you’ve suddenly discovered you are the long lost love child of Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey and you’re inheriting EVERYTHING, you might not find the date terribly memorable nor exciting. For me, it was a day of typical gray hair causing activities focused around work, errands, pets, kids, and preparing for the entire family to convene on my household for the holiday. Stressful, exhausting…not normally a cause for celebration…

…until I realized it was Global Zinfandel Day.

YES! Zinfandel is perhaps my FAVORITE varietal of all time (shhh…don’t tell the other children…I hate to play favorites with the ‘kids’). I’m not talking about the pretty little pink version of WHITE Zinfandel (although if you like it, knock yourselves out…I’m not going to discriminate…after all, it’s still Zin), but I’m talking about the luscious, red, jammy, ‘lover in a glass’ Zinfandels.

How to describe Zinfandel? Hmmm…let’s compare varietals to a rock band. Cabernet Sauvignon is your big and bold lead singer. Merlot would be the sensual lead guitar player. Malbec would be the rock solid base player. Pinot Noir, the moody, sensitive keyboardist. And the drummer? The sexy, wild, showman that is personality plus, complicated in its rhythms, but able to hold everything together? THAT my friends is ZINFANDEL.

There are as many different styles of Zinfandel as there are drummers, but all have the wonderful red berry fruit that makes it perfect for barbecues during the summer, the perfect wine to sip by the fire pit in the fall, and a surprisingly good wine to serve with cranberries and smoked turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner.

The wine I’m drinking this evening is the perfect example of why you should celebrate Zinfandel. I’ve selected the 2009 OZV Zinfandel out of Lodi, California. Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in all of California, and this wine boasts fruit from 50-100 year vines, making the flavors that much more concentrated and intense. Raspberry, red licorice, and milk chocolate on the nose (yeah…it’s like rich candy heaven). Raspberry, blackberry, milk chocolate, and a slight hint of pepper on the finish as you sip…and sip…and sip. The tannins are light, the mouth feel doesn’t feel like a wool sweater on your tongue…it is VERY approachable. If you are looking for a red wine to help you make the transition from whites, this would be a perfect wine to try.

This wine would be excellent with smoked meats of all type, tomato based pastas (heck yeah, cousin LeAnn…this would work with your ‘Christmas Spaghetti’), even grilled tuna!

Zinfandel is the perfect choice for every occasion, and OZV from Oak Ridge Wineries is the perfect choice, especially when you can find it on average around $13.

So grab yourself a bottle…or a case…and celebrate November 19th like a rock star!

Cheers!

~CC

 

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The “Spanish’ Dark Knight Rises: 2010 Borsao Garnacha

Tonight on the opening night of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises”, I wish I had a dark superhero around to save me from the monotony and tedium of my normal life. As I sit here trying to make a Girl Scout ‘Sit-Upon’ for my youngest daughter’s Day Camp, I fantasize of a dark, brooding distraction. I grumble as I fight off a crazed cat who is tying herself up in the yarn of this evil project and imagine being swept off my feet by a character of great complexity. Fortunately, my ‘Knight’ has arrived. Let me introduce you to the 2010 Borsao Garnacha.

This lovely blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Tempranillo is one of the most welcome surprises I’ve encountered this summer. One wouldn’t think you could find such fine wine complexity in a screw cap wine…ESPECIALLY for under $10…but don’t be fooled by it’s outer appearance. It’s alter ego is something spectacular.

Big, bold, and inky black in the glass. An intoxicating nose of blackberry, pepper, and wet stone are followed up by blackberry, plum, slate, and pepper on the tongue. A medium to full-bodied mouthfeel and a wonderful balance make this the perfect ‘go-to’ red for steaks and grilled meats. It can dance as easily with a strip steak as it could with ribs, brisket, or burgers and brats. I can’t give this enough praise because a wine like this would normally cost 2-3x it’s cost. Under $10, you would be foolish not to stock up on this incredible value wine.

 

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This summer the fun begins with a six pack…of French Rose: 2010 Clos de La Briderie Touraine Mesland Vieilles Vignes Gris, Loire, France

Summer heat is upon us: grills are firing up, people are sporting flip flops and tan lines, and the weekend get togethers are in full swing. This past week I’ve had a good share of fun with friends and I even broke out my flip flop wine coasters to fit with the season. On more than one occasion, I was asked ‘when are you going to put the corkscrew away and finally have a kickback summer drink instead of that ‘snooty’ stuff?’ The more I heard the questioning and the term ‘snooty’ in reference to the wine, the more my feathers got ruffled. I even had to endure a song on the radio talking about some good old boy’s girlfriend being down to earth because she was drinking a beer rather than a ‘stuffy’ wine.

I don’t know how to break it to them, but this cowgirl isn’t stuffy, and the wine works darn near anywhere…ESPECIALLY at summertime, laid back events.

Take this wine for example, the 2010 Clos de La Briderie. I admit, the name might seem a little funny to us ‘country folk’, but I can assure you, this wonderful rose is perfect for kicking back.

I chose this little number for both the Tim McGraw/Kenny Chesney concert tailgating party and the day I headed out to the lake for a little ‘boat therapy.’ It paired up with the spicy brats we grilled up as well as those two ‘Brothers of the Sun’ and it held it’s own chilled properly in a cooler and being sipped out of a red solo cup while floating on an inter tube. This wine screams summertime.

Don’t let the pale pink color scare you…it’s not like your college kid white zinfandel or one of those ‘wine coolers’ we all have had not so fun experiences with. This is made with the Gamay grape of Beaujolais red fame. It has a perfume of red cherries and strawberries, like the fresh fruit from your grandma’s fruit salad at the family picnic. The flavor is intense: with what I would describe as the candied flavor of a strawberry Jolly Rancher candy and watermelon…you can’t GET more summertime than THAT! Although it has those candied flavor, don’t let it fool you into thinking it’s a sweet wine. This is a crisp, dry wine, with great acidity. Whether you’re doing burgers and brats, grilled chicken, ribs, or a pork tenderloin, this wine will go along with it…like your best friend on the way to the county fair.

No, there is nothing stuffy, nor pretentious with this ‘pretty in pink’ selection. In fact, dare I say that those with a beer bottle in their hand rather than a wine bottle are the ‘snooty’ ones. After all, compare the two bottles: One is for a single serving to sip on selfishly, and the other is big enough to share with friends and be neighborly. ūüėČ

It’s a great value too! I found mine for around $14. Can’t go wrong with a versatile French wine from the Loire Valley for under $20!

So this weekend when you’re kicking back and ready to ‘pop a top’, make it a cork, and make it the 2010 Clos de La Briderie Touraine Mesland…

…I’ll see you on the lake. Cheers! ~CC

 

Roses, The Perfect Summertime ‘Flower’: 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec

After a long, productive, and exciting week of wine education, I arrived home just in time for the weekend with so many thoughts and ideas pouring through my mind that I knew there was only one thing I could do…

…and that was to set it all aside and relax with a little BBQ.

I arrived at our friends’ home armed with a few bottles of 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose Malbec out of the Mendoza region of Argentina. As I opened the bottle and asked who would like a glass, I was met with resistance on all sides.

The men assured me they would never in a million years drink, let alone enjoy, a ‘pink chick drink.’ The women of the group objected with a resounding, ‘we don’t like those heavy, dry, red wines.’ I simply smiled, poured a mouthful into a glass for each of them and said, ‘You don’t like this type of wine? Prove it.’

Both men and women peered into their glasses, suspiciously eyeing the deep rose color/faded red color, and caught the scent of fresh strawberries and mild spice on the nose. Then came the moment of truth, the sip of strawberries and bright cherries mixing with that same subtle spice. Not too dry, not too sweet…balanced and refreshing. Not some thin, fruity little beverage. Not a heavyweight that bullies your tongue into submission. Just a perfectly wonderful companion in a glass.

The women smiled and said, ‘hey this is pretty good.’ The men, shocked, and trying to maintain their manly composure quietly commented that it wasn’t what they expected…while pouring more into their glasses.

Once I knew I had their interest, it was time to hook them.

I encouraged them to take a bite of the smoked brisket followed by a sip of the Rose. The men’s faces lit up with a smile; the women took a second helping. Then I encouraged them to take a sip along with a bite of the ham for a completely different experience. More smiles appeared, along with plates full of bbq and glasses being filled with the Crios.

By the end of the evening, three bottles had been emptied, all parties were asking for more and leaving the other bottles of wine untouched, and all wanted to know how difficult it would be to find it.

That’s what makes this wine even more special. The 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec is available pretty much everywhere, and you can find it between $10-13.

This is such a perfect number for the summer…it lends itself so well to summer fare of bbq, grilled chicken, salmon…as well as being an easy chilled sipper on the boat or on the back deck with friends.

With the hectic pace we find ourselves in so often, sometimes it’s good to literally ‘take time to smell the Roses.’ And in this particular case, to sip them often as well.

Cheers!

~CC

 

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Sometimes You’ll find Treasure in Your Own Backyard: Amigoni Urban Winery, Somerset Ridge Winery, and Stone Pillar Winery

One of the hardest things to overcome in dealing with wine is the tendency to think good wine can only come from certain areas and certain types of grapes. ¬†Take wine in the United States for instance. ¬†What do you think about when you think of U.S. wine? ¬†California, right? ¬†Maybe Washington, Oregon, or New York if you’re ‘enlightened.’ ¬†And which grapes do you think of? ¬†If I were a betting woman, I’d say Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

But there’s actually grapes being grown and wine produced in all 50 states…good wines. ¬†I happen to live in Missouri, which was actually the nation’s first ‘Wine Country’ and had the first designated wine AVA…and I had no idea that was the case until just recently. ¬†Nor did I have a clue how good the wines coming out of Missouri and Kansas truly were. ¬†I had never heard of a Seyval Blanc, never tried a Vignoles, and couldn’t imagine I would like a Concord…

….boy was I in for a wonderful surprise.

I have only begun to tour the wineries right here in the Kansas City area, and what I found was wonderful. ¬†I had the good fortune of visiting Amigoni Urban, Somerset Ridge, and Stone Pillar Wineries. ¬†Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to visit Holy-Field or Jowler or any of the other wineries around the area, but make no mistake about it, I’m definitely going. ¬†If what I found in the three I visited is any indication, I’m in for one fantastic tasting time as I check out the rest in the VERY near future.

The first winery on my day trip was Amigoni Urban Winery, located right in the middle of Kansas City in the West Bottoms area. ¬†They are currently in the historic Livestock Exchange Building, but are putting the finishing touches on what is going to be an architecturally beautiful tasting room right across the street. ¬†Winemaker Michael Amigoni is on the cutting edge of winemaking and is the only winemaker I know of in the area that grows and focuses on ONLY Vitis Vinifera grapes, no French-American Hybrids. ¬†Amigoni focuses mainly on the Bordeaux and Rhone varietals of France. ¬†Two of my personal favorites in their collection are Urban Cepages, a wine made of 100% Carignan, which paired particularly well with a pulled pork dinner I made. ¬†Pretty cranberry and cherry notes on the nose, with a soft, silky feel in the mouth. ¬†The Estate Cabernet Franc is one I would put up against any other from Washington, Bordeaux, Loire Valley…anywhere. ¬†It is really that good! ¬†The plummy, raspberry, dark cherry aromas carry on into the taste. ¬†This is a medium bodied wine that I’m pretty sure would have paired well with the venison steaks I was going to make. ¬†Problem is, I drank it all before I got around to cooking. ¬†Again, let me repeat myself, it really is THAT GOOD!

The next visit was to Somerset Ridge near Paola, Kansas. ¬†Nestled amongst quiet farms and a stone’s throw from the Louisburg Cider Mill, the vineyard is a picture of serene beauty and relaxation. ¬†The cabinesque tasting room is filled not only with their wonderful wines, but a whole host of fun, wine related items to take home with you. ¬†The tastings at the vineyard are always free, and you’ll find an assortment of entertainment including gardening classes and an “Art in the Vineyard” event showing off the talents of local artists amongst the vines themselves. ¬†Somerset Ridge grows a mix of the premium wine grapes from Vitis Vinifera, as well as hybrids that mix the winemaking qualities of the European vines with the heartiness of the American grape species. ¬†They also grow one all-American grape, Cynthiana, better known to wine drinkers as Norton. ¬†They use sustainable farming methods, with no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. ¬†My two particular favorites were their Chardonel: a light, fragrant white hybrid mix of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc that I refer to as “Chardonnay’s little sister.” ¬†I also am a fan of their Traminette: a hybrid of the Gew√ľrztraminer grape. ¬†This one can go either dry or sweet. I prefer the drier, spicier, ‘zinger’ white, myself.

Finally, I made my way to Stone Pillar Winery. ¬†Just past the hustle and bustle of Olathe’s Great Mall of the Great Plains shopping area, and the chaos of I-35, you will find the vineyard smack dab in the middle of a residential housing area. ¬†The second you step on to the property, you immediately forget about the traffic nightmare you were in a few miles and a few minutes earlier. ¬†The dog and cat might greet you at the door of the tasting room, but it’s the turkey you’re going to HAVE to see. ¬†Yes, I said turkey. ¬†Jake is the prized pet both on display at the winery, and prominently displayed on the labels of their ‘Redneck Rose’, one of my favorites from the winery, a light, sweeter red wine that pairs up nicely with bbq and spicy foods. ¬†The other wine I particularly enjoyed was their Concord. ¬†Typically, Concord grapes are thought of as a regular table grape, but they also make a wonderfully sweet, fruity, red wine. ¬†Serve this one chilled for a refreshing sipper all summer long! ¬†The winery also is host to a summer concert series and several food and wine pairings throughout the year.

While I HIGHLY recommend visiting the wineries if you’re in the area, I guess the real point I’m trying to make is that wine drinking is an adventure, and good wines can be found nearly everywhere, INCLUDING right in your back yard. ¬†Don’t limit yourself. ¬†Check out your local wineries, uncork a varietal you’ve never tried, maybe never even HEARD of before. ¬†It would be a shame to miss out on what could possibly be your new favorite if you don’t bother to look right under your nose.

Cheers!

~CC

 

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The California “Love Child” of Bordeaux and Piedmont: 2007 Valeriano from Jacuzzi Winery

Ever have one of those days that was so dreadful even Murphy’s Law wouldn’t get near it? ¬†Where you had the Midas Touch, except things didn’t turn to gold, it turned to…well, you get the idea.

Today was one of those amazing days. ¬†I’m not sure which stung more: the arm covered in blisters from stinging nettle, or the 8 year old explaining that I look like one of the Angry Birds when I’m scolding her.

I know I’m probably showing my age here (for you young little darlings, you’ll have to Google this), but today has been a day where, if I had Calgon, I would throw the whole damn box into the tub and scream at it to not only take me away, but to make it one way, and lose the passport afterward.

Sadly…I have no Calgon.

But I do have something better.

I have France and Italy uncorked. ¬†I have California Dreamin’ in my hands…

…I have the 2007 Valeriano from Jacuzzi Vineyards in my glass.

I’ll admit it, I had no idea what this wine was about. ¬†I’ll even confess, I had not heard of this winery before (I live with an 8 year old that shames me, cut me some slack). ¬†But with the stress and humiliation I have endured the past few days, those two magical words caught my eye: Valeriano and Jacuzzi.

I figured Valeriano should maybe be the Italian name for Valerian, an herbal relaxant, and we all know what a Jacuzzi is. ¬†I know, it’s not terribly intellectual, but in my overworked mind, it equaled a stress-free nirvana in a bottle. ¬†I took the bait.

It turns out that Valeriano is the first name of Valeriano Jacuzzi, the man responsible for the much coveted Jacuzzi tub. ¬†He and his family also grew wine, and did it well…Valeriano is the Grandfather of Fred Cline of the highly regarded Cline Cellars. ¬†They actually run Jacuzzi Winery in the Carneros area of Sonoma and make this red beauty. ¬†All in all, with all of this new found information, I figure things were looking good where this wine was concerned.

‘Valeriano’ takes the best of Bordeaux by using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot grapes, then adds that renowned California ‘creativity’ by blending it with the Italian grape Barbera. ¬†The ‘love child’ produced is truly spectacular!

In the glass, deep ruby with a mix of dark cherry, blackberry, basil, cocoa, and what I refer to as ‘dusty soil’ (which I find pretty typical of Italian wines) on the nose.

The taste is enough to make me do a little happy dance. ¬†Blackberry pie and cherry fruits mix with mocha, spice, and even a little black olive on the finish. ¬†I know, it’s not something you’d whip together in the kitchen, but trust me, IT WORKS! ¬†It has enough tannin to give die-hard red fans something to hang on to, but they are smooth and soft on the tongue to appease those that like a lighter red. ¬†Just a great mouth feel…and a great taste…on a great deal of a wine.

Now when I say great deal, it is not one of my ‘Around the Wine World for Under $20′ finds. ¬†This one you’ll find around $35-40, so it’s not what I would call an everyday wine. ¬†But given the great expense of California Cabernets, Bordeaux, and the finer wines of Piedmont, this is a steal! ¬†You don’t find a wine of this quality at a bargain like this every day.

Pair it up with Italian (that’s a no-brainer), a big ol’ steak, brisket (BBQ season is upon us), pulled pork, venison, and, if you’re a heathen like me, the biggest bacon and blue cheese burger you can wrap your hands around.

Cheers!

~CC

 

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