Chameleon Semillon

This year’s post-Thanksgiving festivities involved leftover pumpkin pie and a father-son-grandpa-uncle pheasant hunt. Planned killing of (yummy) birds gives Black Friday a whole new meaning, huh? While I stalked one-day-only markdowns, my husband stalked brilliantly feathered birds. And tonight we reaped the rewards from his hunt. (I’m still trying to convince him we’ll reap the rewards of my hunt when my credit-card bill arrives. Wish me luck!)

He skinned the birds and stuffed them with green onion and oranges, rubbed them with “kick’n chicken” seasoning and wrapped them in bacon. He basted the pheasants throughout the hour-and-a-half cooking time with teriyaki sauce and garnished the finished product with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I decided to pair his wild game with a wild deal… 2011 Bungan Head Semillon-Chardonnay (Australia), $5.99 from Wine Insiders. Have you noticed a trend in this blog? More and more of my wines are coming from either WineInsiders.com or BarclaysWine.com, two discount wine websites that I discovered through Groupon. I’ve been having a lot of fun trying wines I don’t ordinarily see in my local grocery store. (and for unbelievable prices!)

I’m not very familiar with semillon wines, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bottle or how it would pair with the pheasant. The color coming out of the bottle was sunshine yellow, a clear yet deep shade of gold. I don’t know if this is due to the semillon or chardonnay, or perhaps the blend of both.

The aroma is almost like poached pears, lightly fruity with a wonderful hint of vanilla and nutmeg. Likewise, the flavor is not overly tart or citrusy, just a calm, mellow stone fruit toned with vanilla. It has a hint of earthy spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and perhaps cardamom.

This is definitely a white wine I could sip on with or without food, but tonight it’s all about the pheasant dinner! And this is where I have to mention the chameleon nature of this wine. It goes well with everything! The buttery French bread brought out hints of yeast and butter in the wine. The chipotle-ranch dressing on my salad brought out the spice notes. The seasoning on the bird and the tinge of bacon brought out the heavier, earthier flavors in the wine. And when dinner was over and I poured my second glass, it was still perfectly mellow and soft with just the slightest kick of lemon all on its own.

This is the white wine to pour for those who think they don’t like whites. It is so easygoing without being buttery, oaky or heavy. It’s good with a main dish and would be outstanding with a bowl of vanilla ice cream or chocolate-chip cookies. It would be good with a plate of fruit and crackers or a grilled fillet of fish (a mild white fish like mahi-mahi).

I will be adding Bungan Head Semillon-Chardonnay to my permanent wine rack to use when I just don’t quite know what else would be better.

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Cannery Row Chardonnay

Thanks to Groupon, I’ve been able to try some new wines much cheaper and more easily than browsing the wine aisle at the grocery store. As much as I love reading labels and looking at the selection on the shelves, shopping online is fitting my hectic schedule much better. My latest online find was through WineInsiders.com’s Groupon offer: $75 of wine for only $25. Yeah, baby!

I browsed the WineInsiders site and found several great deals, including tonight’s pick, Cannery Row 2007 Chardonnay.  It has a delightful aroma of buttery pear. It has a creamy mouthfeel with a clean finish. The pear is soft and smooth without a hint of syrupy sugar. This is truly the perfect chardonnay for me. I despise sweet, overly tart wines. While I have an affinity for heavy oak in my chardonnays, I’m discovering how tasty a buttery layer can be in the absense of oak.

This wine would pair really nicely with a fatty salmon steak or pasta and lemony alfredo sauce. I expected it to be more tart, so I made Betty Crocker’s spicy peanut chicken stir-fry, something I thought would pair well with a bright, lively white wine. I should have opened a sauvignon blanc to go with dinner, but I enjoyed the chardonnay despite the poor pairing.

While we’re on the subject of Cannery Row, I’m dying to check out the Wine Walk there. Has anyone done this? Monterey, on the coast of California south of San Francisco, is an adorable little town with tons to do (my last time there was for a family camping trip, but we spent plenty of time wandering the shops in downtown and digging for shells on the beach). But I didn’t know they have so much wine there! Add another line on my To-Do List!

Great finds on Barclay’s Wines

Several weeks ago I bought a Groupon for $75 of Barclay’s wine for only $25 (plus shipping). Barclay’s is a wine shop/club, best described on its website: “The internet and the information age have changed all of that in a very exciting way. It is now possible for the passionate winemaker to tell his story (that is actually the easy part) and get his wines to the enthusiastic consumer (which is still a difficult task) without the filter of an overbearing bureaucracy. Put simply, that is how we fit in. Not to make the wine or write the story but just to be the conduit that allows the winemaker and the consumer to meet.”

I quickly redeemed my Groupon and got to pick any wines I wanted from the Barclay’s stock that added up to $75. Since I’m all about the deals, I stuck with the $12 bottles and got a selection of six wines for only $25, plus about $8 shipping.

This is a good time to talk about customer service. I stupidly used my home address for shipping, not thinking about the fact I’d need to be home to sign for the delivery, but my 9-5, Monday-Friday, job kind of makes that an impossible task. Barclay’s failed to send me a shipping notice with tracking number, so I was surprised when FedEx attempted to delivery just a few days after I placed my order. I missed three attempted deliveries by FedEx, then left for a work trip and didn’t do anything about the delivery for an entire week. When I got home I e-mailed Barclay’s asking for a confirmation number and a way to track where the package was because I was sure I missed it. They didn’t return my e-mail until the next day, so in the meantime I got impatient and called.

The Barclay’s rep didn’t make me go through my well-practice speech on why the failed delivery was their fault (not mine, of course, for providing an address where no one would be). The rep quickly and nicely tracked the package, allowed me to change the delivery address and informed FedEx of the change. My package arrived the next day. That, my friends, is customer service!

Tonight I’m trying the Washington Hills 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (no longer listed on the website, but was available for $12.95). It’s from the Columbia Valley in Washington state, and those northwesterners know their wine! The wine is a dark cherry red, but not thick — swirling leaves no legs on the edge of the glass.

The aroma is a gentle blend of berry and cigar, so the subtle flavor of dark cherry, tobacco and coffee is no surprise. It has a great mouthfeel, just a touch of bright tingle without inducing a pucker.

I’m looking forward to trying my other Barclay’s finds. If they’re as good as tonight’s wine, I’ll be singing the praises of Groupon and Barclay’s from the rooftops.