Saturday, November 5, 2011

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.

Omar Khayyam summed it up.

My blog description says that finding the perfect red wine is an objective of mine but I've yet to mention it in any post thus far. Well that's not because I haven't been trying, to the contrary the past few months have been all about exploration.  And I've come across some nice ones.  My preference is red wines as the taste and feel are bolder - a description I hope applies to me as well.  My definition of sweet is just that - I'm not yet am not able to enjoy a wine with greater than 12.5% alcohol...and though I know it is frowned upon by wine critics and sommeliers, I like my red wine chilled.

I traveled to the Iberian peninsula (fancy talk for Portugal and Spain) in 2001 and though I was a bonafide non-drinker at the time, wine was served at every meal except breakfast.  I embraced the philosophy of "when in rome do as Romans do" when traveling so drink I did. (Yes I WILL be smoking some hash next time I go to Amasterdam I promise you.)  Anyway, I attended my first wine tasting at a vineyard in Porto, Portugal but in Spain I learned the virtues of Sangria - a blend of wine, brandy and fruit.  If you can make a great one, I'm putty in your hands. By the way, do I LOVE Portugal! I sure hope the EU can keep it together financially because I am so Europe-bound when my wunderkind goes off to college in 4 years. My interest in wines has intensified only in the last 5-6 years. Now when I say intensified, I might open a new bottle of wine once a month and if I happen to go out to dinner I'll likely have a glass then as well.

For the last 5 years I've made it a point of attending local wine festivals within the VA-MD-PA area. I've been absolutely amazed at the dedication and enthusiasm of the vintners. Some of the vineyards look like what I would expect to find (based on tv and movies) in California or the countries bordering the Mediterranean. A few years ago, I found a PA vintner, Heritage Wine Cellars based in Northeast, PA that makes an awesome Sangria. Since they are 3 hours away, I make sure to attend a summer wine fest where I can get my fix for the year - a whopping 4 bottles. Last summer, I attended a conference and as I was the only one in the group interested in a red wine, I ordered a dessert wine, Rosenblum's Gallagher Reserve Black Muscat.  I was instantly in love and searched all over the the Baltimore area trying to find it.  PA handles alcohol sales very differently from MD. I knew wine and beer are sold in separate stores, beer is only sold by the case (talk about encouraging drunkenness) while the Wine and Spirit stores are all state owned and operated. Then I learned that the big benefit of the system -  you can order just about anything from anywhere by having it shipped to your local Wine and Spirit shop for pickup. Since the Black Muscat is a dessert wine it comes in the smaller 375ml bottles. I ordered 10 bottles, giving several away as gifts. Just like the Reverse Wine Snob (a blog I read sometimes) I never spend more than $20 per bottle of wine lingering closer to the $12-$14 mark.

Some of my discoveries this summer have included South Africa's sweet Shiraz called Jam Jar which I took to a barbeque full of native Francophones and they loved it. Luscious, a semi sweet Cabernet Sauvignon is also nice. Sitting on my wine rack begging to be uncorked are an Italian called House Jam smooth red which will probably taste more like punch or a cooler with it's 7% alcohol and another sweet Shiraz called Sweet Ass which has 9% alcohol - another really sweet one. The summer's treasure both in name and taste is a Chilean Shiraz called none other than - Sweet Bitch. The name alone get's a giggle out of almost everyone. They also have another one called Royal Bitch as well that's I'll have to give a sip.

I guess I'm a Shiraz and Sangria girl at heart. Though red is my wine of choice, I also like to explore other wines. For me, wine tasting like life, is all about adventure. Md's own Basignani Winery makes a Riesling to die for that was impossibly hard to find the first half of this year. Va based Peaks of Otter winery makes Chilli Dawg, an apple wine spiked with 3% chili pepper. It's definitely a conversation piece, great for a casual dinner party tasting. For the truly daring they also make one called Kiss the Devil which uses 30 different kinds of peppers and is ridiculously hot. My lips still burned a half hour after tasting. I enjoy spice and heat in foods and snacks but that was bloody painful! Heritage also makes an interesting and tasty almond dessert wine, Almonderia. I'm all about supporting smaller, local commerce wherever possible so these last two recommendations are also Pa based operations. Shade Mountain makes Six Dwarves mint wine, an amusing concoction which is great for mojitos or a cooling summer tea cocktail. The 5 inches of snow we got last Saturday, signaled that it's time to stock up on a holiday favorite, Sandcastle Winery's Alpine Spice, a Chardonnay and Riesling blend wine that warmed tastes like the BEST mulled cider you've ever had though it contains no apples.  It's great with holiday dinners.

And there you have it, my first posting devoted to wine. I like to think I'm an oenophile in training.
Cheers!!

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