Barefoot Bubbly, just because

Tonight I knew I wanted to preview a sparkling wine for Valentine’s Day. V-Day is one of a handful of holidays that practically demand a sparkling wine. And today is my husband’s birthday, so that was an even better reason to chill a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly. Image

But then as I plodded around the kitchen in my slippers, yoga pants gathering flour dust, I wasn’t so sure I could really pull of a sparkling wine tonight. Sparklers go with special occasions, and fun… and most decidedly NOT dusty yoga pants.

Contrary to my nature, I threw caution to the wind and popped open the bottle anyway. And I’m so glad I did! 

The first sip of icy cold, fizzy wine was exactly what I needed while I waited for artichokes to cook, among other mundane dinner tasks. Oh yes, screw convention, some sparkling wines are appropriate for ANY night, not just a special occasion! 

It’s no wonder that Barefoot Bubbly’s Brut Cuvee Champagne won a gold medal in the 2012 Winemaker’s Challenge International Wine Competition. It is dry, refreshing, soft, and tasty. Grapefruit, apple, and pear play so well together to keep the taste light and clean without giving way to a sour bite.

As I poured my, ahem, second glass, I leaned against the sink – full of dirty dishes! – and enjoyed the fact that I was indulging in a delicious sparkling wine that would play as perfectly on a holiday as it did tonight: A lazy Sunday night. In my yoga pants, slippers, and pigtails.

You can easily find this wine at most grocery stores for around $10. Barefoot is always a safe bet in value wine, and its bubbly versions are no exception. It’s a solid bet for a weeknight, Valentine’s Day, hubby’s birthday, or just because you deserve it, dammit! 

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Three party-friendly wines for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is around the corner (two days, to be exact), and I’m feverishly trying to figure out which wines I want to take to my in-laws for the big dinner. I’m a red drinker, but not everyone likes red, and all the experts say you’re supposed to drink white with poultry. To make everyone happy, I’m taking one of each. dreaming tree

The red choice was easy. I love Crush, a red blend by Dreaming Tree Wines. This is Dave Matthews’ vin-venture with veteran winemaker Steve Reeder, and they knock it out of the park. (is there anything that man can’t do?) I love Reeder’s philosophy: “I make wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put into their cellar.” Crush is so drinkable, I know that anyone in my eclectic group coming together this Thanksgiving will enjoy it. I won’t have to worry that it’s too tannic, or too sweet, or too… red. It’s the perfect easy-drinking red.a bottle of each. (for my first review of Crush, read here)

The white choice was a little harder, mostly because I don’t drink much white wine. I’m pretty picky with my whites, but I guess that means that if I bring a white wine that I like, there’s a good chance that everyone will like it. I’m pretty hard to please. Image

I recently sampled a rose’ by Sequin Wines and have a bottle of the winery’s pinot grigio at the ready. I opened it tonight and think it will make an excellent choice for Thanksgiving dinner. Sequin wines are “delicately bubbled” and have just a touch of fizz on the pour. The carbonation is so light, it’s just a breath of fizz on the tongue. Don’t worry, you won’t be taking up valuable real estate in your belly before the turkey arrives. Sequin pinot grigio is sweet, but not syrupy or heavy. It would balance nicely with a roasted turkey and green bean casserole (can you tell which dishes are my favorite?).

Party bonus: The Sequin website has some great recipes to turn their wine into festive party drinks. (hello, “Sequini”!)

Because Sequin isn’t readily available in every region, I’m suggesting an alternative for your white wine: 14 Hands Chardonnay.

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I know that some chardonnays can be heavy and oaky, and that is NOT what you want for this National Day of Eating. But 14 Hands is wonderfully versatile – a balanced blend of floral and fruity. It has touches of apple and pear with a hint of green grass and fresh flowers. 14 Hands can be found in most grocery stores with a decent wine aisle, and is priced around $15. (I reviewed it here.)

Whatever your plans are this Thanksgiving, may your day be filled with gratitude… and a healthy pour of great wine!

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon

We just celebrated Father’s Day in true American fashion: a reprieve from IPW13Iphone 210yard work and honey-do’s, and a big barbecue dinner. A hearty tri-tip on the barbecue called for a bold red in my glass, so I tried the Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon I found at Trader Joe’s for $7.99.

Dark Horse hails from California and “challenges the belief that premium-tasting wines must be premium priced.” You’ll find a slough of great reviews of this wine online, and consider this one more glowing review. This is a hearty cab that could easily land on the top shelf of any wine shop, but you’ll actually find it lower on the bargain shelves.

The wine is thick, the color of muddled bing cherries. The aroma is earthy with notes of vanilla spice. The flavor, however, is the most wonderfully rich mix of blackberries, vanilla, chocolate and espresso. The thick tannins give it structure without the pucker factor.

If you want to serve a solidly impressive cabernet without breaking the bank, this is a steal at $7.99.

 

Easter wine tasting

One of my favorite Placer County wineries, Vina Castellano, hosted a kids’ Easter egg hunt and lunch and wine tasting for adults on Easter weekend. We rounded up some friends and family and made a day of it. This winery holds lots of events throughout the spring and summer months, including movie nights – and the winery is dog- and kid-friendly!

A seven-taste flight in the stone-cave tasting room is $5, waived if you buy a bottle of wine. Tacos were $1 each and the tastiest sangria I’ve had in a long time was $4/glass. The Easter egg hunt and a day of fun for the kids was free.

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Zonin Prosecco, fresh take on sparkling wine

I had the best intentions of tasting and recommending Zonin Prosecco for Christmas dinner,  Imagebut here it is mid-January and I have yet to post my thoughts on this most fantastic bubbly. Really, my words will be brief. It’s such a simply perfect sparkling wine that my advice is just to go buy a bottle and enjoy it. Now!

Ok, I suppose I should give you a little more than that. I enjoyed the prosecco with roast turkey, cornbread stuffing and salad on Christmas Eve. And I enjoyed it with the s’mores I had for dessert. I would have enjoyed it again on Christmas Day, but it was gone. You see, this wine goes with simply everything. It is so light and easy to drink that you can pair it with anything – or nothing – and it will shine.

Prosecco is generally dry, and Zonin’s creation certainly is dry, but what sets it apart is that it’s not tart in its lack of sugar. It’s remarkably refreshing and smooth, the perfect presentation of fruit with a nutty note. The bubbles are so delicate, they froth rather than fizz. That’s one of my favorite traits of a good sparkling wine – a buttery froth rather than an explosion of carbonation.

Zonin is Italy’s largest privately held winery, and they have been perfecting the region’s varietals since 1821. This prosecco is a new addition to their lineup of wines, and it’s a wise addition. They manage to present a fresh take on an old wine. It’s the kind of bubbly you can feel proud to serve on a special occasion or just to dress up a weeknight dinner.

The next holiday coming up is Valentine’s Day, and this would be an excellent choice to impress your loved one. It’s an out-of-the-box choice, not your standard Champagne, and not one of the hundreds (thousands?) of California sparkling wines. It’s an Italian classic tastefully rejuvenated by the Zonin family.

There I go, getting wordy when I said I wouldn’t. So go buy it. Now.

* Note: This wine was provided to me by the winery. 

Thanksgiving

The turkey and blueberry cobbler, ready to go. Everything else is still in the oven.

My quasi-sustainable Thanksgiving was more quasi than sustainable, but a fun attempt at buying local and/or organic. The veggies were all organic, and the turkey all-natural, hormone-free. The pumpkin pie was made from homegrown pumpkin (from my grandparents’ garden), and the blueberry cobbler was made from blueberries we picked at a family farm in Oregon and then froze.

Several family members asked what “quasi-sustainable” means, and I have to admit, I use the term “sustainable” very loosely. Actually, I use it pretty inaccurately, but it sums up an overall attempt at being sustainable. For me, that attempt is basically to buy local when possible, buy organic when possible, and use our own garden goods when possible. For Thanksgiving, I was thrilled to use herbs from my own garden and to easily find organic produce at a minimal increase in cost.

I’m not a health freak or crunchy organic goddess. I just like to balance convenience and health. I try to use whole wheat flour and pasta when it’s a comparable price to white versions. I try to support local farmers by buying produce at farmers’ markets. But I also have to keep my budget and time in mind. So it’s a balancing act, as most mom-duties are. I’ll tell all about the wine in the next post. Stay tuned…

Almost-organic Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I’m staying home and cooking dinner just for my husband and kids. No relatives, no friends… more leftovers!

I’m trying to keep it organic and/or local, but bearing in mind that I have limited time and limited budget. As much as I would have loved to sign up for a fresh, free-range turkey from the local co-op, a $50 bird just isn’t in my financial forecast.

Raley’s has natural, fresh, no-additives turkeys for $.89/pound, so I picked a 14-pounder for under $15. Tomorrow I will go to the co-op to stock up on all the veggies and other ingredients for the rest of the meal: potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, onions, celery, eggs, butter and bread, as well as dry and canned goods.

As much as I love the idea of being totally organic, free-range, sustainable, etc., it’s not realistic for a busy working mom on a budget in a small town, or not for this busy, working mom at least. But I think everyone can do their part, so this Thanksgiving meal is my way of doing my part.

Oh, and the wine! I’ll be pouring Clif 2009 The Climber Red and The Climber Sauvignon Blanc. Clif has earned my respect for doing its part too. Producing entirely organic wines isn’t realistic for the family-run winery yet, but the farm (they raise chickens, olives, fruits and veggies too!) became CCOF certifed organic in 2009. The grapes are sourced locally and from sustainable vineyards — 30 percent of the grapes are from CCOF certified farms — and the farm and winery have a carbon-offset program to put their money where their mouth is. They don’t just admire organic and sustainable farming, but they actively strive to achieve it.

It’s appropriate, then, for me to pour Clif wines as part of my semi-organic/sustainable dinner. I know my efforts are meager, but it’s a manageable start for me. And we all have to start somewhere.

(I’ve tasted and reviewed the Clif 2008 Climber White in March and the Climber Red in April. I already know I like the wine, I can’t wait to try the 2009!)