Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou - the redux

That's how Omar Khayyam summed it up.  My version would be a wedge of cheese, jug of wine, a couple of glasses and a really interesting drinking companion.

I'm cheating a bit today in that this is mostly a re-post from about this time last year with just a few changes.  You probably missed it because you were not yet a fan. Well lucky you that I'm so thoughtful, right?My recently posted bucket list contains a line item "find the perfect red wine" and I mean it. I like wine - very much so I'd like to find one (or three) I can enjoy weekly.  With the holiday season breathing heavily down our backs, here are some suggestions for your holiday cheer. 

Not only am I unabashedly inclined toward red wines which taste and feel bolder - a description I hope applies to me as well. I also prefer them sweet. My definition of sweet is just that - I'm not yet able to truly enjoy a wine with greater than 12.5% alcohol but I am trying.  And while many a whine snob aka sommelier will tell you to never, ever chill red wine,  I say screw them and their stuffy rules. Wine like eggs, toast and steak should be enjoyed according to the consumers preference. VBG is putting it on record - I like my wines cold, don't even consider offering me a glass of wine that isn't.

I traveled to the Iberian peninsula (fancy talk for Portugal and Spain) in 2001 and though I was a bonafide "dry" soul at the time, wine was served at every meal except breakfast.  I do my level best to adhere to  the philosophy of "when in Rome do as Romans do" when traveling so drink I did. Anyway, I attended my first wine tasting at a vineyard in Porto, Portugal but in Spain I learned the virtues of Sangria - a luscious blend of red wine, brandy and fruit.  If you can make a great one, I'm putty in your hands. ( As a side note, 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 2.5 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, rarely two 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 my attendance to local wine festivals within the VA-MD-PA area requisite. 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 6 bottles. South Africa's sweet Shiraz Jam Jar as well as the a Chilean Shiraz called none other thanSweet Bitch, are my frequent "go to" wines for when I don't want to think about my choice.

A couple of summers ago, 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.

To my core 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 is like life, all about adventure. MD's own Basignani Winery makes a Riesling to die for.  And yes of course, it is white - pretty much the only white I ever recommend to anyone.  Yeah, it's that good. A trek to Basignani this Spring yielded an unexpected surprise, their own recipe for subtle Sangria using their Marisa wine.  And for the truly adventurous epicure, 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. Just before Halloween, I stumbled upon Broomstick Brew and though it can be served warm, it's even good cold.
That brisk chill in the air and the olfatory tingle of wood cinders reminds me 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- perfect beverage to finish a perfect meal.

By the way, did you know that a red wine and a white wine can be made from the same grape? Since the inside of a grape is always transparent, maintaining the skins during processing/fermentation voila you have a lovely red!

I'm a woman on a mission, I'd like to think I'm an oenophile in training. Cheers!!

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