Warm Soup And A Red Wine Blend

Once a month I host a Girls’ Night In with my moms and tots group.

Please note that the youngest “tot” is in college and many of the “tots” have tots of their own.

This month’s get together fell on one of our cold January nights.

I know, cold temperatures in Chicago in January?!?! Shocking!


The deal for these monthly parties is that everyone brings an appetizer or a salad to share and I supply the wine and other beverages.

This month, though, seemed to call for some warm soup. So I enlisted my personal chef (aka my retired husband) to whip up a batch of his mom’s Sausage & Tortellini Soup.

Sausage and tortellini soup

You are going to want this recipe.

Sausage & Tortellini Soup

  • 1 Pound Italian sausage
  • 1 Large onion, chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove, pressed
  • 3 Cans of beef broth (14 1/2 ounces each)
  • 2 Cans of diced tomatoes, undrained (14 1/2 ounces each)
  • 1 Can of tomato sauce (8 ounces)
  • 1 Cup dry red wine
  • 2 Carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 Small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 Package refrigerated cheese filled tortellini (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese

Discard sausage casings. Cook sausage, onion and garlic in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Return mixture to pan. Stir in broth and next 6 ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes. Skim off fat. Stir in zucchini and tortellini; simmer 10 minutes.

Sprinkle each serving with cheese. Yield: 10 cups

Peter says it was easy to make. The ladies and I all said it was delicious!

Peter paired this soup with a red blend: 2007 Facets of Gemstone.

2007 Facets of Gemstone

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (48%) and Merlot (42%), rounded out with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

It features a lovely, full body and lots of juicy, dark berry fruit.

The Gemstone Vineyard has changed hands since this wine was produced. The new owners continue to produce a red blend like this in very small quantities.

But don’t be discouraged because you can’t find this particular wine to pair with a bowl of Sausage & Tortellini Soup. There are other red blends that will do just fine.

First let’s talk a bit about red blends. What are they? Why should we drink them?

Red blends have historically had the reputation for being the wine soup made up of all the grapes that a vineyard couldn’t figure out what else to do with.

Sometimes that is the case. But there are lots and lots of great red wine blends made with thought and intention by very skilled winemakers.

Red wine blends tend to be a bit less expensive than single varietal wines by the same producer. They also tend to be a bit easier to drink – blended for smoothness. In general, red blends are more approachable even for the rookie wine drinker.

Here are a couple more I like.

First of all, my “go-to” red blend, The Prisoner.

The Prisoner

The Prisoner is widely acknowledged as the wine that brought credibility to the concept of a red wine blend worth buying.

I find it to be a very reliable wine, well worth the $40ish price tag. It is smooth and flavorful but not overpowering or too spicy.

Check out my review of The Prisoner here.

Another red blend that I like is the Rancho Sisquoc Flood Family Vineyard Sisquoc River Red from Santa Barbara County. ($20 per bottle)

This blend is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah.

Pretty much you name it, it’s in there. OK, not really, but definitely a true blend of many different reds.

Rancho Sisquoc River Red

Interestingly enough, some wine makers do not disclose the blend of grapes that go into their wine. For some it is a proprietary secret, others are concerned about judgements being made about the wine without tasting.

For instance, a red blend containing even the mention of Zinfandel might be passed over by someone who doesn’t care for Zin. While the truth of the matter might be that the Zin is a tiny fraction of the blend, included for just a tiny bit of zest.

Just the other night we enjoyed a Sans Liege The Offering Red Blend. ($29 per bottle)

The Offering

This winemaker proudly displays the make up of the blend on the front label.

This lovely GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) from Santa Barbara County includes a splash of Viognier, a white wine often used to smooth out red blends.

Check out these blends and others at your local wine store.

And definitely try the soup!

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a red wine blend to recommend?

No one paid me to say this.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

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Wine For Your Weekend

Mo Wine Please

It seems like it has been forever since I published a post about wine.

Fear not! I have been diligently doing my research, I just haven’t shared my findings with you.

My bad. Really quite selfish of me, right?

Well, just in time for your weekend wine enjoyment, here are a few very affordable wines I’ve enjoyed recently.

2009 Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon

Maddalena is one of the labels under the umbrella of the San Antonio Winery. Named after the founders’ patron saint, Saint Anthony, and not after the city in Texas, San Antonio Winery was founded in Los Angeles in 1917.

The “History” tab on their website tells the story of a winery that weathered growing pains, Prohibition, World War II and the wine industry’s expansion. It’s a pretty amazing story and is worth your time to check out.

Now, back to the wine…

This Cabernet was a really delightful surprise. At $11-$15 per bottle, this wine tastes more expensive.

The Paso Robles AVA in San Luis Obispo County is second only to Napa as my very favorite place from which to buy Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2009 Maddalena has the quintessential Cabernet notes of raspberry, plum and black cherry with a surprisingly long finish for a wine at this price point.

If you are looking for a house wine Cabernet, you should check out Maddalena. I hope you like it as much as I did.

2012 Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Carnivor Cabernet

I get a little twitchy as I type this.

I don’t love the fact that these folks have left off the “e” in Carnivore. It feels like they are trying to be a little too cute. The label’s tagline, “man is a tool wielding animal”, doesn’t help.

Oh dear lord, their website makes me REALLY not want to like this wine but I can’t help myself.

This wine, retailing for plus or minus $10 per bottle, has many of the qualities I love in a Cabernet.  It has deep fruit notes, a hint of espresso and chocolate and a surprisingly long finish. It has just enough impact to please a true Cabernet lover like me but would probably also appeal to someone who protests to not like BIG red wines.

But seriously…the name, the label and the website??

It is like they are trying too hard.

Let the wine do the talking for you – it is pretty darn good.

2012 Rancho Sisquoc River Red

 2012 Rancho Sisquoc River Red

Rancho Sisquoc is a Santa Barbara winery that makes excellent use of the interesting micro-climates of the region.

This property has been in the Flood family since 1952 and they started producing wine in 1972.

Peter and I have a particular affinity to Rancho Sisquoc since Flood is the family name of our dear friend Ernie who was Peter’s roommate through all four years at Notre Dame. Ernie’s family has no relation to the winery’s Floods but still… we like the name!

Anyway, back to the wine.

This bottle retails for $20 but I found it at our local grocery store for $10.50 – a crazy good deal at that price!

Peter and I enjoyed it with a hearty dish of pasta with Vodka sauce and Italian sausage.

Here is what the winemaker says about their wine (from the winery’s website):

“This fabulous blend starts Burgundy and ends Bordeaux. It is a blend of everything red we produce. The nose is spicy with pepper, blackberry jam and sweet smoke. This is an easy going smooth wine with flavors of cherry pie, sweet tannin and black fruits. In the end this wine showcases our terroir as a unique family of grapes growing and blending together.”

I love red blends. Often they are the perfect choice when a full-on Cabernet or Zinfandel or Syrah is not quite right.

You might have detected from the wines I’ve mentioned that I have a preference for California reds. And you’d be right.

Next time I will throw a white wine into the mix but in the meantime, check out these wines and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend! Happy Halloween!

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