Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Making Memories

One of the parts I love most about wine is how it turns any event into a memorable occasion.  Order pizza on a Sunday afternoon when too lazy to cook?  Uncork a bottle of Merlot, pour in Riedel stemware, and experience the perfect way to relax and wrap up the weekend!  When wine is added to a party or a holiday, the party, holiday, AND wine all become more special.  For Christmas this year, I decided it was time for a very special Christmas dinner for my girl friends, and of course, wine had to be an essential part of the important day for my most loved companions!

First, the ambiance must be set for a special meal.  I brought out my lovely amber cabbage rose Depression glass dishes; having more people than I did antique dishes, I mixed and matched with a friend’s pink and gold floral wedding china.  Gold was the theme, so the table was prepared with a linen table cloth and napkins, gold fabric place mats, beautiful china, gold-plated silverware, red and white Riedel wine glasses, and brass candlesticks.  Now that the table was beautiful, it was time to impress with the food!

The actual meal started with mimosas as a twist on the traditional aperitif.  Though mimosas are often a summer brunch drink, I added frozen cranberries and a splash of cranberry juice to each glass for a Christmas flare.  Keeping with the Christmas idea, I mulled some dry red wine with peaches, blackberries, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and simple syrup to serve with our cheese plate for the first course.  (For the dry red, I used an inexpensive Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet.)  The second course was a baked macaroni and cheese made with smoked Harvati cheese and topped with Panko bread crumbs before baking.  This paired well with a semi-dry Riesling; ours was from producer Joel Gott. The main course was Cornish game hen with prosciutto ham in a cream of mushroom sauce served with Hob Nob Pinot Noir.  The crowning glory of the meal was chocolate pot de crème served with a twenty-year aged Tawny port…oh so yummy! 

Though my friends and I get together often, the special food and wine made this meal, and this day, even better.  I’m quite sure that my friends highly enjoyed the dinner, both the food and wine.  More importantly, we truly enjoyed each other’s company.  It is true that wine can make even the simplest meal seem extraordinary.  Though I am not trying to brag, the food was good; however, it was made even better by serving it with wine.  Wine always adds a level of sophistication and happiness to a meal.  My point is, make wine a part of your holiday meals, with friends or family.  For adults, mull wine, make mimosas, pair wine with food, or use wine as dessert (maybe not all of these at once, but just one or two!).  For children, buy sparkling cider to toast with as bubbly, mull apple juice to serve before the meal, or pour water in a wine glass.  The holidays are about making memories, and wine—when consumed responsibly—makes every event memorable.  So cheers to your friends, family, and memories!  Merry Christmas and a happy winey New Year! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Even Closer to Home

When trying to talk about “local” wine experiences, I have traveled around my slightly larger than normal neighborhood of Wyoming and the Black Hills, which we know is not small.  However, I had a TRULY local wine experience recently when two friends and I had our own tasting of wines made by winemakers in my hometown.  Though these wines aren’t going to be making Wine Spectator’s top ten, home winemaking’s increased popularity just continues to show the overall regard for wine in general.  With this in mind, we lined up our bottles and glasses and started pouring. 

The first wine was called Verdant Winery’s Valiant Grape Wine from 2010.  This wine was very sweet, too sweet for my pallet, and the alcohol was a little too generous and hot for me as well.  Though this was my least favorite of the home brews, I did like what I could learn about this wine (and others) just from looking.  The cloudy, off-brown color clearly showed what filtering does for a wine.  Though this hazy tint affected the appearance, it didn’t affect the taste.  This wine looked worse (because of the lack of filtering) than it tasted.

Wine two was a non-vintage, blackberry wine without a producer’s name on the label.  The blueberry fruit was evident from the instant one looked at the bottle.  The color was a cloudy, gray-blue--again, evidence of no professional filtering.  This wine tasted less like wine and more like the grape Kool-Aid I used to make as a kid when there just wasn’t the full cup of sugar to sweeten the drink all the way. 

The next wine was a black currant and choke cherry blend, again, no vintage or winemaker on label, but the same wine maker also made a quality currant wine (the next on my tasting list).  This wine was beginning to look like wines we were used to with its clear color.  It was slightly sweet, but not overly so, with the taste of fresh watermelon. I am not sure what the winemaker did to get the beautiful, clear color, but obviously he had made some progress in his wine-making abilities.

The fourth wine was the Weston Country Fair Reserve Champion wine, a currant wine produced by a gentleman by the name of John Halloway (maker of the above black currant/chokecherry wine as well).  Once more, the clear color was beautiful and pink.  The smell was true to the currant berries from which the wine was made.  It was slightly sweet, but very well balanced, and the taste was also that of currant.  I understood why this wine was an award-winning, fruit wine.  Again, sweet wines are not my favorite, but this wine would have been worthy of pairing with strong cheeses before or after a meal. 

Our final local tasting for the evening was the Ten Year Red, a dry wine produced from an unknown varietal of grapes by a local named Jimmy Long.  This is the kind of wine I enjoy drinking, so I was hoping to be impressed.  Guess what?  I was!  My first sniff smelled of petrol, which can be good or bad.  Then I smelled leather and berries.  The wine itself tasted of tannin and strawberries, but was very smooth with a light finish.  We then decided to have it as our dessert when we paired it with dark chocolate and were once again pleasantly surprised. 

I will admit we started our local wine tasting adventure with some trepidation; however, all three of us agreed that these samples were not bad, not bad at all!  I believe there are a few local winemakers that have developed obvious knowledge of and talent in the wine making process.  I hope they continue their ventures into the world of wine.  I would definitely be in line to taste their future endeavors!