Tonight’s homework: Enjoy!

I’m stumped tonight. I opened a Beringer 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with every intention of reviewing it. But I just don’t have it in me. (Well, I suppose I can at least say that it has a slightly mocha flavor with soft tannins, a perfect match to my dessert of chocolate chips.)

Yes, you read that right. Chocolate chips for dessert. It’s the only chocolate I could find in the house, and I even raided my daughters’ nearly year-old Easter candy. I almost wish I were pregnant so I could send my husband to the store for ice cream and he’d have to say yes. But then I’d be pregnant, and craving chocolate ice cream, and not able to drink the open bottle of cab in front of me.

But I digress. I’ve spent quite a bit of time tasting and reviewing wines for this blog, which I love to do. But I haven’t spent much time writing about why I like tasting wine. I have great dreams of writing something truly significant about wine. Something that winemakers, tasters, writers and housewives will read and say, “Wow, that Beth chick just GETS it!” (you’re an eloquent bunch, aren’t you!)

But sometimes, the wine just needs to be about the experience, not the taste. Some wines pair perfectly with an aged steak, a seared tuna or a even a bowl of chocolate chips. And some wines pair perfectly with a lazy Saturday night. With settling into the couch, feet up and toes snuggly under a warm afghan. With turning on a classic Cary Grant flick, popping a bowl of popcorn and appreciating the sub-freezing weather outside because I’m warm and happy inside.

Yes, tonight’s Beringer is one of those wines. On another night I might comment on its peppery bouquet and smooth, coffee finish. I’d remark that it’s quite a steal, on sale this week for only $8.99 at Smith’s/Kroger. But not tonight. Tonight I am going to join my husband on the couch and see what’s on Netflix. I’m going to sip my wine and appreciate its tingly warmth and the slight grogginess it will bring as I near my bedtime.

Enjoying a Beringer 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, cozy in my homemade afghan.

So with that, I bid you goodnight. Turn off your computer, pour a glass of your favorite wine, and dig out that book you’ve been meaning to finish. Enjoy the purely hedonistic quality of the wine without nary a thought to bouquets, aromas or mouthfeels. For goddsake, don’t even think the words “fruit forward”! (If you want to decant before you pour, though, go ahead. That’s just good taste.) Cheers!

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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!

Lindemans on a late summer night

I could have sworn is was fall already, but the thermometer and calendar are not in agreement around here. Today was in the 90s and my much-anticipated smoky 7 Deadly Zins just didn’t sound good tonight. So I turned to a warm-weather standby red: pinot noir. I love pinots in the summertime because it’s usually thin, mildly tart and easily paired with summertime meals like fettuccini alfredo, barbecued pork chops or grilled brats.

I was delighted to find Lindemans 2009 Pinot Noir on sale at Smith’s (Kroger) for $8.99. It was a savings of several dollars, and I’ve never been let down by Lindemans. This pinot has a light black pepper aroma with a hint of cherry. he taste is cherry with a tart tannin mouthfeel. It’s light enough to refresh in heat of Indian Summer but isn’t watery or wimpy.

* Bonus points to Lindemans for having a great Twitter presence. I’d barely hit “send” on my tweet about tasting the wine and I got a reply. Love it!

La Ferme Julien… redeux

I recently trekked to the California coast to taste Santa Cruz wines during the quarterly Passport weekend (more about this adventure in a future post). I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t go home with a couple of bottles, so I found some value wines at Trader Joe’s before tasting so I’d feel less compelled to buy the expensive wines I was about to taste. (For the record, I fully believe in supporting local vintners and I try to buy what I like and make it worth their while to pour me a taste. But I really needed to stick to my budget this weekend, so I cheated with Trader Joe’s.)

My friend pointed out one of her favorites: La Ferme Julien Rouge 2009. At $4.99, I couldn’t resist!

It’s a Rhone Valley blend of 50 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah, and equal parts carignan and cinsault. My friend who recommended it swears by blends, which I think is a kind of vague and broad statement, but this wine exemplifies why she can say that with such confidence. The grape varieties meld well into a laid-back, drinkable Tuesday night wine.

The 2009 Rouge is a crisp, plummy red with just a hint of chocolate, clove and cigar. Not heavy on the spice and smoke, two components I usually like to wallop me over the head, but this wine presents them subtley in the aftertaste so it’s very drinkable for those who like an easier, lighter red.

Again, at $4.99, this is truly a find and will become a staple in my wine rack. And as it turns out, it’s a staple in my friend’s wine rack too. So much so, that when she offered to write about a great find for this very blog, she wrote about this wine! Great minds think alike, as they say. And it says something for the versatility of this wine that two of us with very different palates enjoyed it enough to write about it.

A sangria summer

Ahhhh, summer has finally arrived. The strawberries are beginning to ripen, the nights are warm, and my pasty-white legs are beginning to show signs of pigment. I love this time of year! However, summer also brings two obstacles to my complete happiness: a lawn that constantly needs to be mowed and red wine that just doesn’t taste that good when it’s hot outside.

Enter sangria.

In the past I’ve satisfied my summer wine craving with a homemade spritzer (red wine and dash of 7-Up over ice) or *shudder* Boones. But this summer I’ve rediscovered sangria. In my world, sangria is something old ladies served at bridal showers, but I daresay this tasty treat is making a comeback!

I have found some fascinating recipes online that I’m dying to try, but unless I’m entertaining a crowd, I’m just not gonna slice apples and mix a pitcher of a fancy drink. So I checked out my local grocery store (Smith’s/Kroger) and found a handful of bottled sangrias.

At $5.99, Madria Sangria made the cut, so I took it home and tossed it in the fridge. I’ve tried finding the home winery online, and think perhaps it’s a Gallo wine, which explains that this “tradicional” wine is made and bottled in Modesto, Calif. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since exploring wines, it’s that Gallo knows what it’s doing. California cab to Spanish sangria, Gallo can make just about anything.

Madria Sangria is a red wine with heavy citrus flavors and a smidge of spice. It’s delicious over ice, enjoyed on the patio with a barbecue dinner and the sun setting on the mountains. This summer is off to a tasty start!