Wines For A Girlfriends’ Getaway

As the saying goes, the one thing better than owning a yacht is having a friend who owns a yacht.

The same can be said for vacation homes.

And a friend’s vacation home is the perfect venue for a girlfriends’ getaway.

We arrived to see our chairs all set up by the pool. One for me, one for Belle, one for PJ and one for our hostess, Woody.

pool

We were reminded that the routine here is: pajamas to swim suit to pajamas.

It doesn’t get more relaxing than that!

And what is the perfect beverage for an afternoon by the pool?

How about a Rosé of Pinot Noir?

Cyprus Rose of Pinot Noir

Our hostess introduced us to the 2014 Cyprus Rosé of Pinot Noir. From the Anderson Valley in Sonoma County, this crisp and delicious Rosé was the perfect late summer afternoon treat.

We also opened a bottle of The Valley Project 2013 Viognier.

The Valley Project Viognier

Also known as AVA Santa Barbara, this winery is a “must visit” part of the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. AVA Santa Barbara explores the different wines coming from the many microclimates throughout Santa Barbara County.

Viognier is a great food wine and a great white wine alternative for those who eschew Chardonnay. It offers a great balance of full body and low acidity.

Perfect with a yummy cheese platter!

cheese platter

One night we were treated to beef and chicken kabobs on the grill.

The wine we chose to pair with dinner was the 2007 Darioush Merlot.

2007 Darioush Merlot

(I’m glad that I’m no longer in a fight with Darioush because we have lots of their wine in our cellar and I want to enjoy them without a side of bitterness.)

Expressing dark fruits and a bit of smokiness, this Merlot was perfect with our savory kabobs.

Each night we played board games, including my favorite game of all time, Personal Preference.

Personal Preference

This fabulous game from the 80s challenges players to guess their opponents preferences in the categories food & drink, people, activities and potpourri. It’s no longer in print, but you can still find Personal Preference on eBay or Amazon.

For those of you who haven’t read the funny story about me trying to buy this game back in the day, here goes.

I was introduced to Personal Preference on a visit to my pal, Catherine. As soon as I returned home I was on a mission to find a copy of the game for myself.

Remember, this was 1980-something – WAY before Amazon, in fact even before the internet.

I had to make calls (on a telephone attached to the kitchen wall if you can imagine!) to track down my prize.

My first call was to a local store called Kroch & Brentano’s.  I tried them first because they were sort of a niche bookstore that carried some fancy pants, non-mainstream games.  No Milton Bradley, no Parker Brothers, but games like Broderbund, etc.  Anyway, this is how my phone conversation with the nice clerk went:

Me: Hello, I am calling to see if you carry the board game, Personal Preference.

Clerk:  I’m not familiar with that game. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Me: It’s an adult specialty game.  (Yes, I actually said that.)

Clerk: (after a long and awkward silence) I’m sorry ma’am.  We don’t carry that type of game here.

CLICK.

Oh boy…

Sooooo, back to the wine.

Our hostess, Woody, loves Pinot Noir. Let me present the 2012 Penner-Ash Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir.

2012 Penner Ash Pinot Noir

This single vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon is very rich, fruity and spicy. Throw in a bit of chocolate and velvety floral notes and you have a definite winner.

There really is nothing like time spent with great girlfriends. Delicious food, great wine and the adult specialty game, Personal Preference, added to the success of our trip.

Indeed, if Clare, Zsa Zsa and Nora had been able to join us the visit would have been perfect!

wine glass half empty

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2011 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir

Mo Wine Please

I am terrible at meal planning. Usually I decide what I’m going to make for dinner each night based upon what I have a taste for and/or what I have in the refrigerator.

A perfect example: the other night I had a taste for Sloppy Joes. I had none of the fixings at home so I strolled over to the nearby grocery store to stock up.

Folks, don’t look for a Sloppy Joe recipe here. My version is a very imprecise, throw it all together combo of meat, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of sugar, and whatever spices I feel like adding at the moment. Nothing fancy but I like it.

The wine I chose to pair with our very un-fancy Sloppy Joe dinner was the 2011 Cargasacchi “Cargasacchi Vineyard” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

2011 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir

This great wine is grown in the Santa Rita Hills area of California’s Central Coast north of Santa Barbara. The distinct climate, meandering coastline and rolling hills of Santa Barbara wine country make for some really interesting micro-climates producing some really interesting wines.

I’ll let the folks at Cargasacchi Vineyards tell you about it.

The Cargasacchi Vineyard is at the western end of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and exposed to severe maritime climate influence. The prevailing northwest onshore marine pattern sweeps inland off from the Pacific and across the broad Lompoc plain between the Santa Ynez Mountains and La Purisima range. The winds are channeled and accelerate through the narrow maritime throat of the Sta. Rita Hills. (from www.cargasacchi.com)

Can’t you just imagine those winds whipping off the Pacific, over the plains and through the valleys to provide just the perfect amount of cooling to the Santa Rita Hills region?

By the way, you might see the name “Cargasacchi Vineyard” on the label of some other Santa Barbara County wine producers. The Cargasacchi family sells a small amount of their fruit to wineries like Brewer & Clifton, Dragonette, Pali and others to make their own single-vineyard Pinot Noir using the grapes grown in the Cargasacchi vineyard. The same grapes in the hands of different winemakers can produce surprisingly different results!

The 2011 Cargasacchi “Cargasacchi Vineyard” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir (around $35 retail) was awarded 92 points by Robert Parker. It brings dark berry flavors and a hint of cherry balanced by some earthiness with a nice long finish. According to the winemakers, this wine can be held for another six or so years but I thought it was great right now.

It was so great that Peter and I were tempted to polish off the bottle with our Sloppy Joes. But we did not.

So the next night, with this wine steering my meal planning, I looked in my refrigerator and came up with the perfect dinner.

One night last week we had a fruit and cheese plate for dinner. Peter found a delicious cherry paste in the cheese section of our local Bristol Farms store. It was really yummy with the cheese and we had about a quarter cup leftover, sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to be used.

I had a little bit of a “Chopped” moment, challenging myself to make something delicious with chicken breasts and the leftover cherry paste. The results, if I do say so myself, were pretty awesome.

Again, no recipe but basically this is how the magic happened.

I pounded the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness, seasoned them with salt, a little pepper and a generous sprinkle of powdered sumac. (For those not familiar with powdered sumac, this Middle Eastern spice brings a tangy flavor of lemon and cranberry.)

While browning the chicken breasts in olive oil, I put the cherry paste into a small saucepan to melt. To the cherry paste I added some red wine.

My brilliant son-in-law, Jerry, taught me the great tip of keeping some single serve wine bottles on hand for those times when you need to cook with wine but don’t want to waste the good stuff.

single serve wine

I keep a 4-pack of red and a 4-pack of white in my pantry at all times.

Now, if I were making Chateaubriand for company I wouldn’t take this cheap short cut but for a Tuesday night dinner with my husband? Absolutely!

I let the cherry paste and wine mixture reduce down to thicken a bit, poured it over the chicken then put the chicken into the oven at 350° to finish cooking. The chicken was served with a side of rice pilaf and a mixed green salad topped with a little goat cheese and dried cherries.

The Cargasacchi paired beautifully with this dish as well, highlighting the great versatility of Pinot Noir.

Cheers!

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Thanksgiving Wine

By now you have likely finalized your Thanksgiving dinner menu and compiled your grocery list.

Have you given enough thought to the most important component of the meal? More crucial than the turkey or stuffing or cranberry sauce?

Have you given enough thought to the Thanksgiving wine?!

Sometimes this can be tricky. You will want to select wines that appeal to a wide variety of palates and that pairs well with the range of dishes on your Thanksgiving table.

Pinot Noir

My “go-to” red wine for this type of situation is Pinot Noir. Usually a crowd favorite as a flavorful but not too heavy red wine, this varietal is a real chameleon when it comes to pairing with food.

Pinot Noir goes with just about anything.

Here are a few of my favorites. These should be available at your local wine store. I’ve even found them at our grocery store.

2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir

This yummy wine is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from a number of different locations (including the Bien Nacido Vineyard) in Santa Barbara County. The winemakers kept each vineyard’s wine separate for 6 months to let each develop their individual flavors before blending them into this gem.

The wine has notes of red berries and a hint of clove making it a great wine to go with both the tangy and sweet Thanksgiving dishes like cranberry sauce as well as the savory dishes like sweet potatoes and stuffing.

The 2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir retails for about $22 per bottle.

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

This is another great Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. At $19 per bottle, it brings lots of great cherry flavor that is balanced by some minerality. In my opinion, this yin and yang of sweet and savory notes, along with the medium body, explain why Pinot Noir goes so well with all kinds of food.

While the 2012 Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir won’t necessarily knock the socks off your family’s wine aficionado, it has a good, crowd pleasing flavor.

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Let’s say you got off easy this year and get to be a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving table. In addition to your assigned dish for the pot-luck dinner, perhaps you want to bring a special bottle of wine that you hope (fingers crossed!) the hosts will open on the spot and share with you and the other guests.

The 2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45 per bottle) would be a very good choice. You might remember that I told you about this wine as part of my Pinot-Palooza post.

Although climate challenges made 2011 a tough year for winemaking, Robert Parker of Wine Advocate awarded the Flowers Pinot Noir with a score of 91 points. This is what he had to say:

A model of total elegance and class, the 2011 Pinot Noir from Flowers is absolutely gorgeous. Savory herbs, crushed flowers, licorice, salt, orange peel, mint and plums are all woven together in the glass. Today, the 2011 is impeccably crafted and flat-out gorgeous. Although very much a medium-bodied wine, I would not at all be surprised to see the 2011 blossom with more time in bottle. This is an impressive effort. Unfortunately, the Sonoma Coast was the only 2011 Flowers Pinot I was able to taste, but based on this effort, 2011 is certainly shaping up well here. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

Think about it. Savory herbs, orange peel, plum. Wouldn’t these complement Thanksgiving dinner’s variety of flavors very well?

Just be sure you are first in line to grab a bit of this wine before the bottle is empty!

White Wines

I’m not much of a fan of Chardonnay so I’m going to lead you in a different direction for the white wine to go with your white (and dark) meat turkey dinner.

Perhaps a little non-traditional, I think that these wines will bring an element of lightness and brightness to offset the inevitable turkey coma that we all feel at the end of our feast.

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

This is another wine I have mentioned in an earlier post.

I just love this wine. It is not too pricey ($20 per bottle) but brings a lot of flavor and body.

Some people have a bias against Riesling because they expect it to be sweet. This dry Riesling would change their mind.

It would be interesting to serve this wine to some of your white wine loving guests without telling them which varietal you were pouring. I’m guessing you would have some Riesling converts.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Another great Santa Barbara wine, the 2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Dry Riesling ($23 per bottle) is the wine that opened my eyes to the fabulousness of a dry Riesling.

Steven Tanzer of International Wine Cellar awarded this wine 91 points; Robert Parker gave it 89 points. Both mention the nice, medium body and great finish. Hints of honey and Meyer lemon would match well with a dish of candied yams or glazed carrots.

Yum!

2013 Hendry Albariño

If you really want to go non-traditional, how about going with an Albariño (pronounced Alba-reen-yo)?

Similar to a Viognier, this wine (with roots in Spain) is an excellent food wine. Albariño has great body and high acidity which means it can stand up to hearty foods in a way that many white wines can not.

I’ve told you about our visit to Hendry Vineyards. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Hendry wines because our experience tasting with George Hendry was so memorable.

The 2013 Hendry Albariño ($20 per bottle) brings floral notes and a hint of Meyer lemon with plenty of body and finish. It is bright without being wimpy.

No one wants wimpy wine.

This Albariño would be a great first-course wine but I’d also love it with a savory starch dish like potatoes or stuffing.

 ≈

With the wide range of flavors and textures in your meal, there is no single right answer to the Thanksgiving wine pairing question. Why not try something new this Thanksgiving?  Oh, and be sure to let me know what you choose!

In case you missed it, here is my Thanksgiving wine post from last year which includes some tips on choosing and serving the wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Random Things In The World Of Wine

Mocadeaux wine news

I am always keeping my eyes open for wine related news and tips to share with you. And I love when friends send me links to interesting bits I may have missed.

It’s a team effort, folks.

You had me at Pinot Noir marshmallows.

One of my very favorite food blogs is the widely acclaimed, My Name is Yeh.

Written by the brilliant and talented Molly Yeh, this site features a variety of great recipes, gorgeous pictures and fun stories about her life on a farm in North Dakota.

I’ve known Molly since she was a baby and have loved following her story from Chicago to Julliard to the farm.

As soon as I read Molly’s recent post, Pinot Noir Marshmallows + A Bonfire, I knew I had to pass it along…and make some Pinot Noir marshmallows.

My only problem: I just might devour all of the marshmallows before I have time to start a bonfire for s’mores.

I can live with that. 

Drinking Red Wine In Lieu of Exercise

My friend Leslie Anne, author of the blog Fairhope Supply Co., sent me this article about a recent SCIENTIFIC study which found that drinking a glass of red wine gives the same physical benefit as an hour of exercise.

There’s something about resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, that fools your body into thinking you have worked out. And if you both work out AND drink red wine, the resveratrol acts like a power booster giving you extra exercise credit.

Now I just have to figure out a way to get credit for steps on my FitBit for each glass of red wine I drink.

Truthfully, that is the only way I will ever be in the lead on my FitBit Friends Scoreboard.

From The LA Times: Pet Peeves About Restaurant Wine Service

It’s one thing if I’m ordering wine at Applebee’s, but if a restaurant prides itself even a little bit on their wine selection they should take care to make the buying, serving and drinking experience a good one.

Three of my personal pet peeves made the list:

  1. Red wine served too warm – Sure, red wine should be brought up to temperature a bit more than white wine but when I receive a glass of Cabernet that’s warm it tells me that the wine is being stored in a warm corner of the kitchen rather than carefully preserved in a wine cellar. Not cool – pun intended.
  2. Oooops, we no longer have that wine on hand and haven’t bothered to take it off our wine menu. – It’s disappointing when you take time to select a wine only to have to choose another one (and another one, and another one) because the restaurant hasn’t updated their list. I know, first world problem.
  3. No vintage listed – Vintage does matter. In fact I’m working on a brilliant and informative post on that matter in consultation with my personal wine expert and husband, Peter.

What is your restaurant wine service pet peeve?

And finally, Dumb or Dumb Like a Fox?

Thanks to my pal, Catherine, for bringing this craziness to my attention.

The story goes like this:

A group of 10 is having dinner at Bobby Flay’s Steak restaurant in Atlantic City. The host of the dinner asks another guy in the party to choose a wine. The guy asks the waitress for a recommendation. The waitress directs him to a bottle of the 2011 Screaming Eagle. The guy says he forgot his reading glasses at home so asks the waitress, “How much?’

“Thirty seven fifty.”, is her reply.

The wine is ordered and enjoyed, every one is happy until the bill arrives and the guy and the host of the group discover that the bottle of wine is $3,750 and not $37.50 as they thought. The diners throw a fit and after some “he said, she said” the restaurant agrees to reduce the price to $2,200.

Here are my questions:

First of all, when was the last time you saw a bottle on a wine list priced with dollars and cents? Not even at Applebee’s.

Even if the guy was, as he professed, not much of a wine drinker, I can’t believe that any one would walk into a fancy-pants steak restaurant and think they would get a bottle of wine for $37.50.

And why on earth would you order just one bottle of wine for a party of 10 people?!?!

Screaming Eagle

via Screaming Eagle website

A word about the 2011 Screaming Eagle: this wine is very, very, very, almost impossibly difficult to buy. The wine is sold only to the very select few on their allocation list. Only a handful of restaurants have it on their lists.

So that brings me to this:

Did the waitress try to pull a fast one? Was she hoping to boost her tip by making the total restaurant bill much, much higher?

Did the guy REALLY not know that the bottle of 2011 Screaming Eagle cost more than $40?

Or, was it a pre-meditated plan hatched by the dining group to seize an opportunity to taste this cult wine at a reduced price by feigning that they had been duped?

We will probably never know but you can bet your bippy that restaurants all over the country will post this story as a cautionary tale for their waitstaff.

And I’m definitely Team Waitress on this one.

That’s all for now.

Now I’m heading off to have a glass of red wine exercise.

Because the scientists said I should.

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