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October’s Wine Cocktail: Caramel Apple Sangria

First real weekend in October. Leaves are starting to turn colors. There’s a chill in the air. Perhaps a sweater or two being broken out. Got a long holiday weekend ahead of you? Canadian Thanksgiving? Columbus Day? Perhaps just looking forward to hanging with friends around the fire pit? Already looking forward to Halloween? Whatever your reason to celebrate, chances are you’re looking for a new “sip”. My suggestion? Caramel apple sangria!

Wine cocktails are still a big deal and this is one you can enjoy now through Halloween as a grown up treat…and even past it to provide a fun “adult dessert drink” to finish off your Thanksgiving feasts.

Grab yourself a bottle of your favorite white…something that has some fruit to it…not anything with a heavily oaky quality. You can use anything from an unoaked or LIGHTLY oaked Chardonnay (look for something that has an apple flavor component), to a Pinot Grigio…or go the sweeter route…Rieslings, Moscato d’Asti, Vidal Blanc…even apple wines themselves!

Okay, you’ve made your wine selection. Now grab yourself a pitcher and put together the following:

2-3 apples, cored and chopped- I don’t recommend anything terribly tart. Golden Delicious is a good choice here. Place on the bottom of your pitcher.

Coat with 1/4-1/2 cup of caramel syrup, depending on how sweet you like things.

Next, pour in your selected bottle of wine, 3- 4 cups of apple cider, 1 cup of vodka (regular, caramel…heck, get creative and go with glazed doughnut flavor if you want!), and add a couple of cinnamon sticks (if you like). Stir it up, chill for 30 minutes and VOILA! Your kids may not need to worry about you raiding their candy stash after all.

Enjoy the weekend! Let me know what you think, or if you have a variation.

Cheers!

~CC

 

Grape Discrimination: “I don’t like that type because…”

It happens without fail that, at least once a month, I run into it at a tasting event.  Heck, I’ve even done it myself in the past.  But in the past month alone (TWICE just yesterday), I̵…

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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Grape Discrimination: “I don’t like that type because…”

It happens without fail that, at least once a month, I run into it at a tasting event.  Heck, I’ve even done it myself in the past.  But in the past month alone (TWICE just yesterday), I’ve come across the “I don’t like (insert Cab Sauv, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc here) because it’s too (insert ONE descriptor here…”too fruity, too thin, too buttery”, etc).  And typically I just hide gritted teeth behind a thin smile and say, “Really?  How unfortunate.  Have you tried every single wine made with that same grape?”, knowing that the cynicism has just passed unnoticed by them, much like the complexity of the wine they were currently tasting has passed unnoticed by their tastebuds as they guzzle whatever free pour has been placed in front of them.  Sometimes, I get the “Yes I have tried them all” to which my eyes widen and jaw drops incredulously, given that there are THOUSANDS produced…just in that ONE varietal type alone…across the globe.  The standard answer I get is “No, but I know what I like and don’t like.”  Do you?  Do you really?

At that point, I typically smile a little wider…perhaps a little too condescendingly…but not from a snob perspective…more from an “oh child, I’ve been exACTly where you are right now…and I’m about to give you the same wake up call I received years ago”.  I then say, “here, try this”, not telling them what they are drinking.  Blind tasting is the great equalizer and the destroyer of preconceived notions.  The majority of the time, they will sip the unknown wine, sing its praises, only to be left stunned when I reveal that the wine they are currently professing their undying love for is the same varietal they were just moments earlier telling me how much they hated.

Friends, as hard as this might be to swallow (pardon the pun), the majority of you are “wine bigots”.  You’ve been told that each varietal tastes a specific way.  You’ve been given one or two examples of that varietal that fit the profile, and you turned it into your doctrine.  The problem is, wine grapes are much like people.  Even identical twins aren’t exactly the same.  Neither are wine grapes.  A Chardonnay grown in Burgundy will NOT taste the same way as it does in Washington…or Oregon…or Australia.  Even within the same area, you’ll find big differences.  Let’s stick with Chardonnay for a moment:  A Napa Chard isn’t going to taste like a Chard from Santa Lucia Highlands in the Central Coast.  Even within Napa, an unoaked Chardonnay from Toad Hollow is going to be comPLETEly different from one of Rombauer’s oaked beauties.  Both Chardonnay…both with their own wonderful merits and loyal followers…both comPLETEly on the opposite side of the spectrum from one another!  See where I’m going here?

What makes wine such a magical thing is that,… depending on where it’s grown, the type of clone used, the climate, the particular weather conditions of that growing season, the ripeness when picked, the oak used (or not used), the aging regimen, whether certain processes like malolactic fermentation have occurred, the vision of the winemaker, etc, etc,…it can taste completely different.  Even if it is the same brand/producer, the taste can change from vintage to vintage!  That’s like walking into your closet and having one pair of shoes that matches EVERY SINGLE OUTFIT YOU HAVE AND EVER WILL PURCHASE!!!  Isn’t that fantastic???

My own experience came with Sauvignon Blanc (Wine industry people, don’t judge…don’t hate me..I already know…).  Try as I might, for years I could not stomach the grape…mostly because I was overloaded with those big grapefruity styles from New Zealand.  Although I can tell when it is varietally correct, when it has perfect typicity, the nose alone made me want to hurl, let alone the actual TASTE.  California Sauvignon Blancs weren’t much better for me with lemongrass and citrus assaulting me at every turn.  Still, I sojourned on, knowing that somewhere, from some producer, I would find one.  Because that’s the thing…there are a bazillion to choose from if you’re willing to keep an open mind.  Fortunately, I did.  Not only did I discover I liked the femininity and minerality of the Loire Valley’s Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, but just recently, I determined that I am IN LOVE with the Sauvignon Blanc Musque clone in…CALIFORNIA SAUV BLANCS (well some of them anyway)!  Success!!!  It is one of my favorites.  I would have TOTALLY missed out if I hadn’t kept an open mind and had not just kept trying different producers and areas.

Which brings me to my point.  Wine types are not like every McDonald’s mass-produced item.  They aren’t like those potato chips you might have in your hands RIGHT NOW.  They aren’t consistently the same regardless of which bottle you pick up.  Just like my next door neighbor and I aren’t the same.  Don’t make assumptions that all wines of the same type are going to be exactly the same based on your experience with ONE bottle.  Take a chance on that same grape once again. Strike up a conversation with a new bottle from a different area or producer. Get to know it before you proclaim what it is and isn’t based on a bias you have from some OTHER bottle/area/producer.  DON’T…I repeat…DON’T be a wine bigot…

 

 

 

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Making Your New Year’s Party ‘Pop’: Some Sparkling Wines To Celebrate

It’s almost New Year’s Eve…are you ready to celebrate? One of the things I’m told each year by people is that they either “don’t like champagne/sparkling wine” or they “don’t want to pay high prices for a bubbly toast.” Let me offer a couple of suggestions.

First, for those that want bubbles, but aren’t fans of the dry taste, why not try a ‘bubbly’ cocktail? A simple but INCREDIBLY delicious one requires filling a champagne flute 3/4 of the way full of your favorite champagne/sparkling wine/cava/prosecco and floating 1/2 to a full ounce of St. Germain liqueur on top. St. Germain is a French liqueur made from the Elder flower…neither too sweet or tart. For some reason when you mix it with bubbles, it turns into liquid ‘crack’ for both men and women. Add a slightly crushed blackberry in the bottom and it makes it even better. Do it with a sparkling rose and drink it all the way through Valentine’s Day.

You’re welcome, guys…I just gave you a romantic drink idea for your ‘sweetie.’

A couple of suggestions to try for bubbles that are inexpensive would be anything from Treveri Cellars out of Washington State. AMAZING wines featuring everything from Extra Brut “Blanc de Blanc” to a Sparkling Gewurztraminer. My personal favorites are the “Blanc de Blanc” Brut made entirely of Chardonnay (lovely taste of apples and bread yeast in this one) as well as their Sparkling Rose made with Chardonnay and SYRAH (gives it a deeper ruby color and a richer flavor). You can find the line of sparkling wines retailing anywhere from $15-20.

Another fun option comes from Australia. Westend Estates offers their ‘Eternity’ Sparkling Cuvee made from the Semillon grape. Not your ordinary sparkler, this has flavors of toasty french bread, lemon custard, pineapple, and honey. So incredibly different and so delicious and refreshing. Be the talk of your party with this one. Prices range from about $13-17.

If you truly want Champagne (and for that, we’re talking about the sparkling wines coming from the region in France that is ALLOWED to call it Champagne), but you don’t want to have to mortgage your house to do it, I’d suggest selections from Jean Michel Grower Champagne. Located in the Moussy region of Champagne (only 4 km from the famed Epernay region), they share the same Kimmeridgian soil as Taittinger. What does that mean? It means you’re getting the same sought after Champagne that you would have to sell your firstborn to afford it at about half to a third of the price. 50 year old vines, mostly Organic, the rest using Sustained growing practices, of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Delicate mousse, delicious toast…it is the most elegant gal in the room. Look for it to retail between $50-60.

Celebrating in style doesn’t have to be stuffy nor expensive. So raise your glass to outstanding wines and an outstanding 2014!

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

~CC

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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2011 Hestia Chenin Blanc: It’s Not Your Grandmother’s White Wine

I remember growing up and having to endure family get-togethers: holidays, birthdays, town festivals, baptisms…you name it. At dinner, the wine would be broken out and poured, and the one thing I remember is my Grandma always asking for someone to ‘pour me another half glass of my Chenin Blanc.’ I remember sneaking a sip of her favorite libation…and making faces of horror. Maybe it was because it was some cheap bulk wine of the varietal. Maybe it was because it had been sitting for close to an hour, warming up while the room filled with Grandma’s ‘hot air’ as she told her stories. All I ever knew about Chenin Blanc is it was Grandma’s sour drink and I wanted no part of it.

Boy how times have changed!!! Chenin Blanc is definitely NOT your Grandma’s sour white wine!

Chenin Blanc is a BEAUTIFUL grape varietal that is one of the most versatile of all of the white wine grapes. It can be done bone dry or as the most delicious of sweet dessert wines. It can be made as a semi-dry still wine or as a lovely sparkling wine. It can be sipped as a delicate aperitif, enjoyed with foods of all sorts (in fact, I think this varietal makes some of the most food friendly wines ever), or savored as a tantalizing dessert all unto itself.

For those of you who have limited your white wine experience to over oaked Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, and Pinot Grigio, you might want to go a little retro and break into Chenin Blanc.

You’ll find some of the best Chenin Blanc in it’s native home: Loire Valley of France. Vouvray and Anjou make some of the most elegant wines that can be stored for several years. Then there are the South African Chenin Blancs, with more of the grape planted here than anywhere else in the world. These Chenin Blancs are a little more approachable earlier on.

California also grows Chenin Blanc, but the one I’m THOROUGHLY enjoying tonight is the 2011 Hestia Cellars Chenin Blanc.

 

Hestia Chenin Blanc

This lovely 100% Chenin Blanc comes out of Columbia Valley in Washington. It spent 5 months in stainless steel tanks, so you don’t get all of that crazy oakiness that you’d get in so many different Chardonnays…this is just crisp, acidic goodness! It smells like honeydew melon, peaches, with just a slight ‘mineral’ scent. On the tongue, it’s got a medium mouthfeel and has those wonderful flavors of honeydew melon mixed with lemon and grapefruit. It is crisp, dry, and refreshing. Pair it up with grilled veggies, seafood, or do what I did and serve it up with a chicken vegetable stew with buckwheat dumplings. It cuts right through and is so PERFECT! Seriously, this wine is MADE for food!!!

What else makes this wine to die for? The price: you can get it for around $16. It’s your new favorite dance partner for food…all under $20.

Chill it up, drink it up, and toast your Grandma for having the good sense to know an awesome grape…even when she didn’t know how awesome it truly was and is. Here’s to you, Gram…and here’s to the 2011 Hestia Cellars Chenin Blanc. Get some in your glass tonight.

Cheers!

~CC

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Mother’s Day or ‘Mommy Needs Her Sippie Cup’ Pt. 1: Apothic Limited Release Rose

Oh darlings…Mommy so needs a glass of wine.

Wine bottles are glass, right? Okay, so these are all taken from various memes floating around today, but they seem to be particularly applicable. Between birthdays a week apart, graduation preparation for the teenage daughter who knows everything but does little, tantrums from the 10 year old, and various other family members and acquaintances who have driven me bonkers over the past month or so, it’s time to pull the cork, stick my crazy straw into the opening, and find a little sip of happiness to make my troubles go away…or at least seem lessened.

Today we start with what is being touted as ‘Summer’s Best Friend’…our friend, Rose.

Rose…pink and floral like the garden you picture in those landscaping magazines, which, inevitably, if you’re a normal parent (Dads you’re included in this too), will have a beautiful bloom amongst the crab grass and dandelions when all is said and done. But it’s that one gorgeous bloom that makes it worthwhile. THAT my friends, is what a good Rose wine is…that one little beauty that makes it all worthwhile.

Roses pair well with almost any type of food…chicken, pork, fish, summer greens and pasta salads. If it fits in at a family picnic or bbq, it works with a Rose. The problem is finding one that is more like that precious bloom rather than that stupid dandelion. There are a lot of ‘stinkers’ around…syrupy, sickeningly sweet…or sour…or just awful. Then there are some AMAZING roses…but the price tag is EQUALLY stunning. If you have kids, chances are your money is invested in their college fund rather than your wine stock. So the challenge is to find a great, everyday value wine…good flavor; good savings. And that brings us to Apothic’s Limited Release Rose.

Apothic is a value wine you can usually find in any grocery or liquor store for around $10-15. I’ll be honest…I’m not a fan of their white blend (just not my style), but I was incredibly impressed with their red blend (http://youtu.be/CSeNoVLmGpU) which presented itself with a lot of complexity for a $10 bottle of wine. I figure I was batting .500 with their selection, so the Rose was worth a shot.

Their rose blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel grapes, so the color is a little more of a darker pink than what I expected to see. Very pretty in the glass. Not much on the nose: smelled like light strawberries and roses…but not a very heavy perfume. Personally, I’m more interested in the taste right now. So let’s get to the sipping, shall we?

At first, I wasn’t certain I really cared for this wine, but with each sip, it’s growing on me more and more. It’s full blown strawberries and watermelon…almost Jolly Rancher Watermelon candy flavor on the finish…but not overly sweet. It’s like fruit and candy, but not with that horrible sugar bomb “decay your teeth” taste. This is actually refreshing. It really WOULD be perfect with pulled pork or grilled chicken. Or, it’d just be perfect to chill several bottles and sip it on the back deck all night long.

It’s a little pricier than the white or red blend, as this one runs right around $15, but it’s definitely what I would consider an everyday keeper. No, it’s not a wine that’s going to make you gush with wild wine reviews and ratings like a Rose from Provence (Southeastern France- known for it’s Rose wine…just trust me on this one), but that’s not what it’s meant to do. Apothic Rose is meant to just be opened up and sipped for any occasion…even if it’s just as a ‘time out’ from your kids.

Put it on the ‘picnic’ list and enjoy it while it lasts…it’s only around for a limited time…kind of like your kids. Appreciate it while you can.

Apothic 2012 Rose (2)

Cheers!

~CC

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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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