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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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A U.S. Gold Medal Varietal: Zinfandel

With Olympic fever in full swing, I decided I should dedicate my reviews to medal winning countries. Until I can get my hands on a Chinese wine (and I do believe I have found my contact for that one!), I’m going to have to sort through the other medal winning countries and present you with their winning wines and varietals.

Today’s ‘presentation’ goes to the United States and what is considered to be the country’s truly “American” varietal (even though it looks like it has it’s roots in Croatia). Allow me to introduce you to the United States ‘gold standard’ varietal-Zinfandel.

Zinfandel wears more hats than any other grape I’ve come across. It’s many styles include zingy, ripe berry-fruit sensations in red; bold, tannic, spicy devils, vin nouveau (young, light bodied reds), and tart roses. I have seen soft, simple blushes (better known as ‘white’ zinfandel), Zins turned into sparkling wines, plus those that are turned into dessert and fortified wines (I have a bottle of Montefino Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port chilling as we speak~YUM!). No matter how picky the person may be, there’s sure to be a Zinfandel style to please.

Although they say ‘Cabernet is King’ in California, you could easily say that Zinfandel is the emperor, as there are nearly as many acres of Zinfandel planted as Cabernet Sauvignon. Or maybe it should get a Congeniality award, since it is as comfortable at a backyard bbq as it is in a fine dining establishment with a steak. This varietal loves everything!

Some of the most notable areas growing Zinfandel styles (besides just the basic California state appellation are Amador County, Paso Robles, Sonoma, Dry Creek Valley, and the Russian River Valley.

Which Zinfandel am I sipping on this evening? I pulled a DeLoach 2009 Heritage Reserve Zinfandel from California. It’s an easy sip…trust me! Very fruit forward with rich, ripe berries and cherries on the tongue, a touch of cola flavor, a hint of vanilla and spice, pretty garnet color in the glass. Total non-offender, this one! Good balance makes it perfect with food or just for sipping alone. I actually paired it up with my Baked Ziti since I didn’t want to decant an Italian Barolo…I wanted to eat, dammit! Cut through the cheese, italian sausage, and worked well with the marinara.

What makes this one even better is the price: right around $10. This is an awesome everyday wine that you can break out for company and know you’re going to get smiles from the crowd…call it the ‘Gabby Douglas’ of Zinfandel…an all-around winner!

Other favorite Zins of mine you might enjoy are Seghesio (a variety of choices from $20-45), 7 Deadly Zins ($17), Renwood Vineyards of the Sierra Foothills ($20-38), Rancho Zabaco of Sonoma ($13-23, OR you could get their ‘little brother’ Dancing Bull Zinfandel with a California designation for under $10), Cline ‘Ancient Vines’ ( $15, although you can find any of their Zins between $11 and $22), and Sledgehammer out of the North Coast of California ($15…see my YouTube review of the 2008 vintage at http://youtu.be/dX–C50QK2w…DON’T FORGET TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE PAGE SO YOU DON’T MISS ANY REVIEWS!…okay, shameless plug is now over).

Honestly, there are so many wonderful Zinfandel choices from so many areas of California, that you could spend every day of the Olympics sipping a new choice and you wouldn’t run out.

Pick up a bottle tonight and find out what makes this varietal such a winner…I know I’ll be doing more of the same.

Cheers!

~CC

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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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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A Wine With A Dual Personality (and lots of it!): 2009 Kris Pinot Noir

Another holiday season has come and gone. Time to put away the decorations, break all of the new resolutions I’ve made, and reflect on which traditions are outdated, and which are worth keeping. As I wearily walk down the lane of recent memories made, I laugh a bit at the dual personality I don during the holiday season: I’m happy, excited, and full of love and a giving spirit, all while I’m cussing, stressing, and absolutely HATING all of the work, rushing around, cleaning, cooking, and struggling to find the perfect gifts in an over-commercialized cacophony of forced generosity. I decide that perhaps it’s time to pick one personality and stick with it…until I remember the KRIS Pinot Noir I tried for the first time over Christmas.

If ever there was a dual personality wine, this is it. Even as I write, I’m still not exactly sure how to describe this wine, other than to say I am truly smitten.

When you think of Pinot Noir, you don’t think of Italy. You think of the big, bold Super Tuscans, or the brazen Sangioveses and Nebbiolos. You don’t think of subtleties or light fruits. You think of wines that will wrangle you into submission. Pinot Noirs are subtle and delicate and complicated and oh-so-very French. If not French, then they at least have the savvy and sophistication of Northern California, Washington, and Oregon…they just don’t have the boisterous Italian ‘personality.’

Apparently no one told KRIS wines that.

Ruby red in the glass, a little lighter than I’d have expected, and lovely Pinot aromas of black cherry, and something reminiscent of wet stone.

It’s the taste that’s got me wondering what wine I’m drinking.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s DIVINE, but it’s unlike any Pinot Noir I’ve ever had before. Tart cherries, cranberries, balanced tannins, and what I can only describe as ‘red dirt.’ I don’t know how to explain it. Rusty? Dusty? That doesn’t sound good, and yet, it IS. The only way to describe it is to say it tastes like ‘Italy.’ That certain characteristic flavor you find only in Italian wines…it’s in this one…but yet, it’s still got all of the characteristics of a delightful, light, Pinot Noir.

It’s got a dual personality…a double secret life, if you will.

And with that duality comes an incredible ability to pair it with darn near anything! I paired it with the Christmas spaghetti…ground beef and sausage, rich marinara sauce with mushrooms…and OH how it works with mushrooms. I could just as easily pair it with salmon, chicken, veal, steak, pork chops…well, you get the idea…and OH how it works with cheese…lots of glorious cheese.

To say this wine has versatility is an understatement. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE this wine???

Unlike the majority of Italian wines, or good Pinot Noirs for that matter, you won’t have to sell your first born child to enjoy this romantic taste of heaven. At right around $13 a bottle, heaven just became an affordable luxury.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Italian Wines, Pinot Noir, Red Wines

 

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Fight Italians with Cheap Italians: Licking my wounds with Banfi Centine 2008 Toscana

Alright, it’s true. I thought I was the SuperWoman of wine. I thought I could scoff at the Society of Wine Educators recommendation to study 6-12 months prior to taking my Certified Specialist of Wine exam and do it in 2 months.

I came close. Missed it by three miserable questions.

And who do I have to blame (because I couldn’t POSSIBLY have myself to blame, right?)…the Italians.

Yes, Italy got the best of me. I spent so much of my wino studying time wooing the French, playing with the Australians, being seduced by the Spanish and Argentinians, and of course, surfing California wines, that I paid little heed to the Italians.

Quite frankly, they confused the hell out of me with their Montelpulciano di Abruzzo’s, Vino Nobile di Montepulcianos, and Brunello di Montalcinos that I couldn’t see straight.

So, I figure the best way to regroup and go at it again, is to invade and conquer the Italian wines…in my glass. Tonight, I fight Tuscany with Banfi’s Centine 2008 Toscana.

I half expected to go into battle by pouring a blood-red wine into my glass, but it is a very lovely ruby-red. On the nose, it’s comforting…rich leather and cherries. I want to be angry, but it’s so hard when it smells this good…like a plush leather sofa, calling out to you to sit by the fire, grab some chocolate, and kick back while the wine ‘massages’ your senses.

Then the sip.

I can’t be angry with Italy when it tastes like this.

Cherries, leather, violets, and just a subtle hint of black olives. It’s smooth and supple. It doesn’t knock you over with it’s bold tannins. It doesn’t dry your mouth out. It doesn’t cause pucker overload with tart fruits. It simply woos you with the romance you would expect from Italy.

This lovely blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot is a perfect every day wine for pizzas, pastas, or simply for those days when you’re angry with the world and just need a hug.

Fall into this wine’s ‘arms’. At $12 a bottle, you could carry on a love affair for years to come.

Ah Italy…Now I know why I have been defeated by you…and I succumb willingly

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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