14 Hands and a Standing Ovation

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Oops, I may have poured a little too much. Don’t judge. It’s a good wine and I knew I’d finish it, so I was just a little generous on the pour. No one’s looking. I can do that from time to time.

I first tried 14 Hands wines at the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Ore., and remembered wishing I had more time to really investigate it. I made a mental note to come back to it while I moved on to the myriad other wines being poured that day.

As it turns out, this Washington State wine is readily available at grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest (sigh… what I wouldn’t give for a Fred Meyer near me!) and is now readily available in my home state of Nevada too. I brought a pinot noir home with me and picked up a chardonnay once I got home.

The 2010 Chardonnay is tonight’s pick, pairing perfectly with my husband’s barbecued chicken and fresh spinach salad with a berry vinaigrette.

The aroma is slightly grassy and apple-y, but with a fantastic floral note. The bouquet is not deceiving – the first sip on the tongue echoes the nose, bringing forward fresh apple, pear and spring flowers.

The feel is soft and supple, perhaps a bit sweet with the floral tones. But it’s not heavy in its sweetness, like a crisp apple lined with veins of natural sugar – both sweet and fresh and perfect in balance. This light mix of floral sweetness and fruit tartness produces a chardonnay safe to serve with just about any meal.

I love the idea of “patio wines” – those wines you can sip all afternoon on the patio while the sun warms your face and the cold wine cools your head. This is one of those wines, and that’s a good thing in my book. It’s something I’d be proud to serve to guests, but would be happier keeping to myself and sipping on a hot summer day.

The winery’s name, by the way, is an ode to the wild horses that used to roam freely over Washington’s Columbia River valley. Horses were measured by hands – 14 hands were the height of these particular mustangs, and the image they evoke of freedom and spirit is reflected in the winery’s approach to winemaking.

To this Nevadan who loves to see our wild horses trotting through the sagebrush, the winery couldn’t have chosen a more perfect moniker. My two hands applaud 14 Hands, and then they pour another glass.

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Colores del Sol Malbec

Tonight’s drink of choice is a malbec – Colores del Sol 2010 Malbec, to be specific. It hails from Mendoza, Argentina, home to many a good malbec, so I knew it would be a steal at $9.99 (on sale).

The deep, thick maroon color struck me as appropriate for a wine called Colores del Sol (colors of the sun). A good swirl in the glass will release the scents of pepper, beans and soil.

Dinner was a hodge-podge recipe I often turn to on a busy night: kielbasa, potato, green pepper, tomato and onion mixed with a sauce of butter, onion-soup mix and brown sugar. Grill for about 25 minutes in a foil packet and serve. Delish!

And what a treat paired with the malbec! The kielbasa brought out the green-pepper and spice notes in the wine. Conversely, the green pepper in the dish brought out an earthy tone with a hint of string bean. The potato did nothing for the wine, but hey, it’s part of dish so take your sips after bites of sausage or veggie.

My mom recently visited from Oregon, bringing with her a coveted gift of marionberry chocolate (Michele’s Chocolate Truffles). That become our dessert tonight, and it surprisingly focused the flavors in the wine into a tart, tongue-tingling sip. I don’t recommend making a meal of this blend of chocolate and tart malbec, but it is interestingly cleansing, leaving nearly no trace on the palate. Quite a contrast to the hearty, earthy yet  fresh flavor when paired with sausage!

The Colores del Sol Malbec ordinarily breaks my $10 rule, but it’s one I would consider amending my rules for, and it’s definitely a good deal at $9.99! It will be added to my rack!

Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc

On this hot summer night, I needed a cool, refreshing white wine. So I reached for the white that turned me onto whites: Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc. I first tried this at a steakhouse at Lake Tahoe (the owners of Ferrari-Carano also own a couple of Reno-area casino-resorts) and loved it. Then again, I loved all of the three or four wines I tried that night! So when I saw it on sale at our local liquor bonanza, Ben’s Liquor, for only $9.99, I had to try it again.

Thank goodness I can still count on my judgment even after a couple of glasses of wine, because this wine was just as good as I remembered!

The Fume Blance is bubbly on the pour with a refreshing fizz on the tongue. It has a palate-cleansing freshness and a heat-quashing bite. It’s 100 percent sauvignon blanc, a varietal I’m not especially fond of. But don’t write this off as a simple fruity white wine. The undertones of honey and moss bring the melon and grapefruit back to ground level and make it a wine that you can drink all night long — a pre-dinner drink or a fish-dish complement.

Speaking of dishes, I rather inexpertly decided to drink this with ratatouille pot pie. I didn’t even begin to think about a proper pairing, I just knew what was on the menu for dinner and what I wanted to drink. But ya know what? It worked! I’ve made this dish before and paired it with a delicious tempranillo. Yes, a red. And tonight I paired it with a white. And they were both delicious. The ratatouille is basically an Italian-influenced veggie stirfry, so I figured that the veggies would go well with this slightly earthy yet brisk white. And it did.

Both the pot pie and the wine are my answer to a busy work night that is screaming for a taste of sophistication. I needed something on my plate and in my glass that made me feel like I’m consuming something of substance. Here’s to the best $10 you’ll spend on wine this week!

The case of the missing New World

Tonight I made grilled chicken breasts stuffed with roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese with sides of rice and corn on the cob. My selection of white wines is pretty limited right now, so I grabbed a New World 2010 Chardonnay (South Africa) and tossed it in the freezer to chill while the chicken grilled.

When I opened the bottle, I detected a bit of apple scent. At first sip, the chardonnay is bright with a melon twist.  The flavor is tart but the mouthfeel is creamy. Quite tasty!

This is a very sippable wine on its own, but it really hits the spot with the grilled chicken. I don’t know if it was the char from the barbecue, or the roasted red peppers, but something in the dish blended perfectly with the chardonnay and made both more enjoyable.

I can’t find any information online about New World. I ordered it through Barclay’s Wine for about $10 I think, and the only information on the bottle is that it’s imported by Barclay’s. This doesn’t tell me much.  I couldn’t even tell you for sure where you can buy it because it’s no longer on the Barclay’s website. This does not bode well for my readers or the value of this post. But hey, I’m drinking tasty wine, so there! (That was uncalled for, I suppose. Sorry, readers.)