Cranberry Raspberry Chardonnay

I was extremely excited today to find frames for three incredible pieces of art that I got last summer at Bonnaroo. Framing these beautiful watercolor drawings and thinking back to all the incredible musicians and artisans I saw on The Farm put me in a very creative state of mind. I decided to get creative with my wine as well!

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I had a little Chardonnay left over from Oscars night so I decided to make an impromptu sangria. I went with one part wine and one part cranberry juice and then tossed in a few crushed raspberries. It’s delicious! The smoothness and depth of the Chardonnay are nicely complemented by the tartness of the cranberry juice. The raspberries contribute very little to the overall taste, but they taste great once they have soaked up the wine and juice and are a pretty garnish.

If there is one thing I wish I could impress upon people about wine, it is that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. There is definitely a lot to know and learn about wine, but there is also a lot to enjoy. Wine should be enjoyable. Experimenting with wine and mixing it with other things is not a crime, it’s fun! So loosen up and try new things. You might just create something you really like!

Champagne for the Oscars

The-Oscars-2014-logoThe Academy Awards is like a holiday to me. Every year my boyfriend and I prepare a huge spread of charcuterie, get some champagne and make our Oscar predictions. We make a friendly competition out of it and whoever guesses the most winners correctly is treated to a night at the movies by the loser.

Last night’s Oscars went above and beyond any that I have seen before. There were moving speeches for equality and incredible live performances. There was laughter and there were tears. It was a true embodiment of everything that the film industry has to offer.

352231_1280x720Neil Patrick Harris was a fantastic host. It is a wonder really that they ever let anyone else do the job. He was both cheeky and sincere and the way he giggles at his own jokes is incredibly endearing. His opening musical number was also the best Oscars introduction I have ever seen. The choreography and the incorporation of so many movies was incredible. His performance was spot on and the addition of Anna Kendrick and Jack Black topped it off magnificently. He proved that a good musical number can out do a half-assed comedy act any day.

I would also like it very much if he hosted my daily life.

Equality played a huge role at this year’s Academy Awards. Reese Witherspoon’s #askhermore initiative made a huge impact on the red carpet. I saw a lot more women being asked meaningful questions instead of just being quizzed on who they were wearing.

Patricia Arquette may never figure out what to do with her hair, but her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress518664790_c_570_411 was an incredible shout-out for equal right and equal pay for women. The outpouring of support shown by the entire audience, especially Meryl Streep and J.Lo, was passionate.

Common also gave a fantastic acceptance speech after he and John Legend gave an extremely powerful live performance of “Glory” from the movie “Selma” and won Best Original Song. His poetic call for equality brought the audience to their feet and tears to the eyes of many. Seeing the tears roll down Chris Pine’s eyes gave me chills.

There were a number of other stand-out acceptance speeches. JK Simmons encouraged us to all call our parents in his touching Best Supporting Actor speech. Paweł Pawlikowski owned the moment when he continued right through the play-off music when he received the award for Best Foreign Language Film for “Ida”. He wasn’t the only one to ignore his cue to leave. The winners of Best Live Action Short for “Phone Call” soldiered on through the outro music as well and nobody seemed in the least bit upset.

o-GRAHAM-MOORE-570The most moving speech of the night came from Graham Moore when he won Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Imitation Game”. He spoke to all the kids out there who, like him, feel weird and like they don’t belong, encouraging them to remain true to themselves and eventually they will find their place in the world.

The live performances of the evening were better than any I have ever seen before. Adam Levine was his normal, beautiful self and showcased his incredible falsetto when singing “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”. Rita Ora and Tim McGraw both surprised me with their soulful performances. “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie” brought a burst of fun to the evening performed by Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island and I thought the Lego Oscars were a great touch. Then John Legend and Common proved why “Glory” was the clear winner.

The most impressive performance by far was that of Lady Gaga, who honored Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music” with a lady-gaga-oscar-sound-of-musicbeautiful compilation. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea that Lady Gaga could actually sing. She looked gorgeous, she sounded gorgeous and she brought a style and a spirit to show tunes that could revolutionize the genre. She looked totally at ease, like she was finally doing what she was meant to do, and it was breathtaking.

The Oscars are always a graceful roller-coaster of emotions. Our hearts ached when Meryl Streep presented the actors and actresses the industry lost this year, including the beloved Robin Williams. We empathized with the pain of Alzheimer’s when eddie-redmayne-oscar2Julianne Moore gave her Best Actress speech for her performance in “Still Alice”. Eddie Redmayne warmed my heart with his humble but euphoric acceptance of the Best Actor award for his performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”.

There was plenty of humor to carry us through the evening as well. Neil Patrick Harris had a running joke about his predictions briefcase that he shared with Octavia Spencer. Surprisingly, some people felt as though he were being racist and rude by requesting her “help”, but I felt that it was all good spirited fun with no underlying jabs.

NPH appearing in nothing but his underwear with the accompaniment of Miles Teller on the drums provided another good laugh. I doubt anyone else could have pulled off that bit as well as Neil Patrick Harris did. Idina Menzel also got the last laugh with John Travolta when she welcomed him to the stage as Glom Gazingo.

I must admit that I geek out a little for all my favorite actors and actresses at the Oscars. Benedict Cumberbatch continued to impress me with his humility and good nature. Scarlett Johansson rocked an amazing haircut and a gorgeous emerald dress like an absolute boss. 87th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsI felt awful for poor Dakota Johnson when her mother admitted on the red carpet that she refuses to watch her daughter’s newest film, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, but I couldn’t help but laugh at their typical mother-daughter banter.

Emma stone was absolute perfectionEmma-Stone-Oscars-2015-Awards-Red-Carpet-Fashion-Elie-Saab-Couture-Toffany-Jewelry-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO-8 in a slitted gold dress. Keira Knightly and Marion Cotillard were adorable as always and Chloe Moretz made an impression in a full length ball gown with pockets. Anna Kendrick’s dress was also gorgeous. I loved the color and the way the bodice wrapped around the embellished neckline.

Overall, I can honestly say that I only had two complaints about this year’s Oscars celebration. First, I was disappointed that “Birdman” shut out so many other amazing movies and directors that I thought deserved to take home the statue. The second is that I am getting sick of seeing J.Lo’s boobs.

The Oscars are a very long celebration, especially if you are like me and insist on watching the red carpet introduction as well. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that we went through two bottles of Champagne and a half a bottle of white wine throughout the course of the evening.

246058We started of with a Prosecco by Villa Jolanda. It was a $10 bottle and it tasted fancy as hell. It had the perfect amount of carbonation and was a nice balance of sweet and buttery. When I say sweet, I don’t mean so sweet as to make you feel like you will have a killer hang-over tomorrow but rather sweet enough to keep you coming back for more. This bottle won the Oscar for Best Champagne in my opinion.

Bottle of champagne number two was the Ruffino Prosecco. It was honestly more bubble than taste, but it was stillRuffino_Prosecco very enjoyable. It was incredibly light and struck me as a perfect brunch champagne.

The last bottle, a Cupcake Chardonnay, is a wine I have reviewed before. It was essentially champagne without the bubbles, but just as delicious.

All and all, even though I lost the yearly predictions game for the second year in a row, I had an incredible Oscars evening and I look forward to enjoying more films from these incredible artists in the year to come.

*Seeing as I wasn’t invited to the Oscars and my camera stopped working, none of these photos are mine.

 

 

 

 

When life gives you lemons, add wine!

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This sage advice has been passed down from generation to generation, encouraging us to take the bad that life gives us and make it better.

But what happens when life give us bad wine?

Now when I say ‘bad wine’, I really just mean ‘a wine we don’t Bully Hill Grower's Whitelike’. There is a wine out there for everyone and to each their own. That said, when you run across a wine you dislike, it can be hard to stay open minded about it and not just call it ‘bad wine’.

This evening I tried a new wine, Bully Hill’s Growers White, and discovered that it is a ‘bad wine’ for me. It is a white table wine, which is usually not among my preferences, but I had heard good things about it so I gave it a try. Next time I will start with something smaller than a box because now I am stuck with a lot of wine that I really don’t like.

The Growers White is way too sweet for my liking. In my opinion, it tastes more like white grape juice than wine to me. I like all my wine dry and my white wines a little bitter. So I had an idea – add some fresh squeezed lemon juice!

I swear, this started out as a total joke. I figured I was most likely just going to pitch the glass I had poured anyway, so I had nothing to lose. I added 2 or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to my glass and took a sip, expecting to be equally (if not more) dissatisfied.

I was surprised to find that it was actually rather enjoyable. It was like a grown-up lemonade. It was Wine-ade! I imagine the taste is not much different than that of a wine cooler, but I’ve never had one of those so I can’t be sure. Either way, I found a way to turn ‘bad wine’ into something enjoyable!

I have spent a lot of time lately trying to make the lemons of my life into lemonade. I haven’t been very successful so far, but I will keep on trying. Unfortunately, improving your life requires a lot more than adding a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Perhaps if I just add a few more glasses of wine…

 

 

Baked Wine Glasses

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I’ve been battling some sort of bug this week, so I’ve had to set aside the wine for a little while. So instead of featuring a wine this week, because writing about it when I can’t drink it will just make me too sad, I decided to feature a wine DIY – Baked Sharpie Wine Glasses.

IMAG1165_1Actually, this is a project I started as a birthday present for my Mom over the summer. My mother and I are thick as thieves and we share a passion for wine, so personalized wine glasses seemed like the perfect gift!IMAG1166_1

But then I forgot about them… Oops!

I rediscovered them the other day and they seemed like the perfect project for my wine-less week! They are actually incredibly easy to make. All it takes is metallic Sharpies, clean wine glasses, a glass baking pan and an oven!

Directions:

  • Make sure the glasses are clean and dry when you start. You don’t want any dust, dirt or film.
  • Decorate them however you please with the Sharpies. (I realized after the fact that I maybe IMAG1167_1should have kept the design away from the rim, but I’m sure they are completely harmless once they are baked.)
  • When you are finished decorating, place the glasses on a glass baking sheet and put them in the oven on 300F for 30 minutes.
  • Once they are done, turn the oven off, open the door and let them cool completely inside the oven.
  • Fill them up and enjoy!

Supposedly these bad boys can be hand washed and the design won’t come off. I haven’t had them long enough to know if they will stand up to the test of time (or multiple washes) but so far so good!IMAG1168_1

Mixing it up – A New York Sour

As much as I love my wine,New York Sour sometimes I feel like drinking something else… so I mix my wine with other things!

I was only recently introduced to wine cocktails. For his birthday, I bought my boyfriend all the necessary supplies for a full bar – including a cocktail recipe book. Needless to say, this was a fairly selfish present as I have reaped the majority of the rewards. He plays bartender and I drink to my heart’s content. Best. Gift. Ever.

The other night I was sipping a glass of wine and he came over with one of his newest creations, a New York Sour. He had me try it, and then went to make himself a new one because I wouldn’t give it back.

Now I have had Sangria, both white and red. I have had mulled wine and mimosas. But I wouldn’t qualify any of those as “cocktails”. The mimosas maybe, but to me that’s just breakfast juice for grown-ups. This is something different entirely.

PJ with DrinkIt’s not like it’s rocket science or anything. If you’ve ever had a whiskey sour or an Amaretto Sour, you already have a good idea of the taste. Just float some red wine at the top and you have yourself an ice-cold glass of wine cocktail bliss.

We all like a little variation and we all like to try new things. It’s just nice to know that we can do so without forsaking our wine.

“What separates this drink from a regular sour is the addition of a red wine float, which transforms the unassuming sour into this Technicolor fog-lifter of a cocktail.” – The Essential Bar Book – An A-Z Guide to Spirits, Cocktails and Wine by Jennifer FiedlerThe Essential Bar Book

Serves 1

  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/4 ounce red wine

Glassware: Rocks

  1. Add whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled.
  2. Strain over ice into a rocks glass.
  3. Gently drizzle red wine over the back of a bar spoon to create a float atop the cocktail.

 

CK Mondavi – Chardonnay

“Our family winery, established in 1943, has been committed to creating fine wines for four generations. We harvest grapes at their peak of ripeness from prime California vineyards, creating wines with fully developed flavors. Our Chardonnay is medium-bodied with a hint of oak. Aromas of lemon and citrus combined with flavors of apple and pear lead to a delightfully crisp finish.”

CK Mondavi ChardonnayCK Mondavi’s Chardonnay is one of my go-to wines. It is friendly to both the palate and the wallet, making it a great any time wine. I usually buy one of the big bottles, stick it in the fridge and work my way through it as the week goes by. The remarkable thing is that I am usually very picky when it comes to Chardonnays.

I have a hard time finding a Chardonnay with the right amount of oak flavor. I like the oak taste, but only in moderation. I generally prefer my Chardonnays to be buttery and I have yet to find an un-oaked Chardonnay that I can drink. I had started turning towards the more expensive Chardonnays, assuming I would find the solution there. I was very pleased to discover that the answer actually cost less than $10 a bottle.

In my opinion the description CK Mondavi gives of their Chardonnay is spot on. I would definitely consider it medium-bodied – not as buttery as I prefer it, but not overpowering in any way. The amount of oak is perfect for me. It is more of a suggestion than a primary aspect of the flavor profile.

The lemon and citrus are far more prominent, especially in the aftertaste. The apple and pear I can taste at the onset, but they disappear as the wine goes down. I also find that it leaves a hint of spice on the back of the palate.

As for the bouquet, it is extremely mild – a very slight floral scent if you really stick your nose in it and give it a good whiff.

So far I have only tried one other CK Mondavi wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and I was not impressed. But there are few brands where I enjoy both the reds and the whites, so I wasn’t surprised. I keep meaning to try more of the whites, but I’ve had a hard time straying from the Chardonnay!

Rating: 2/4 Glasses

14 Hands Vineyard – Merlot

“Celebrating the spirit of the wild horses that once roamed the Columbian River Basin. These horses, measuring a mere 14 hands tall, were renowned for their strength, endurance and tenacity.

This round, structured Merlot is packed with the rich flavors and aromas of blackberry, plum, cherry and mocha. A balanced style that is soft, approachable and food friendly.”

I, like any good consumer, 14 Hands 1am a sucker for a good marketing pitch. As someone who has only a novice knowledge of wine, I tend to select new things based on the name, bottle and price tag. 14 Hands Merlot won in all three of those categories right off the bat. Once I tried the wine, it had won a loyal drinker as well.

One of the most interesting things to me about this wine is how versatile it is. Last night I paired it with a spaghetti bolognaise and tasted almost exclusively the fruits – mainly the blackberry and the cherry. Tonight I enjoyed it just by itself and it is almost like drinking red wine and coffee at the same time.

I know that degree of versatility can be a turn off for people who like a more reliable flavor to their wine, but I found it to be a major benefit. Here is a wine that I can use for anything! Want to drink wine with dinner? Bingo. Want a nice dessert wine to enjoy with a chocolatey treat? 14 Hands Merlot has you covered again. It is a one stop shop red wine that is so much more than a table wine.

It also has a very creamy texture to it (I imagine that’s what they mean by “soft”) balanced by a pleasant dryness. It’s not so dry that you feel the need to drink a glass of water as well to rehydrate the Sahara in your mouth, but it does leave you with a pleasant pucker.

As for the aroma? Put it in a bottle and let me smell it all day. Really, they should start making red wine and coffee scented perfume. It would be flying off the shelves.

The only drawback I have found is that it seemed almost sour for the label_stackfleeting moment as I swallowed. Not a game changer for me, but it could be for a lot of people. For that reason, I would give it a try yourself before you bring it to your mother in law’s house.

I tried to find a picture of a 14 Hand horse to compare this wine to, but I was unable (maybe a more horse-savvy person than myself would have more luck!). If the stories of the horses are true though, this wine does a good job of matching their “strength, endurance and tenacity.” It makes a strong impression with bold flavors, lingers long after the last swallow and I had a strong grip on my glass!

Rating: 3/4 Glasses

Wine Jam Cookies

Wine Glass and Wine CookieThis may just be the best thing that ever happened to a cookie.

I was flipping through a cookbook earlier tonight, pondering what I wanted to bake (more like seeing what I had all the ingredients for) and I happened across Thumbprint Cookies. These, if you don’t know, are a sort of sugar cookie with an indent in the middle that you put jam in. I had enough ingredients to pull them off with only a couple of minor substitutions, so I headed to the kitchen.

Then I had an epiphany. In the fridge, I had wine jam.

This past fall I went to a huge outdoor craft fair and one of the Wine Jamvendors was selling wine jam.  I, of course, was instantly sold and came away with “Mom’s North Country Wine Jelly”, a red wine jelly that is both sweet and full-bodied. The stuff is incredible, and I have been using it in rather interesting ways – a grilled brie and wine jam sandwich, for instance – but this seemed like the best way to use the last of it.

Wine CookiesThe recipe is actually incredibly easy and making them took less than an hour from the time I started to the time the kitchen was cleaned up afterwards. I can get very impatient when baking or cooking, so this was perfect for me.

The result was amazing! The cookies are soft and buttery with a crisp pecan crust and then the wine jam brings it all together into one big ball of bliss. These cookies are undeniable proof that wine makes everything better.

The Recipe (Adapted from the Gluten-Free Bible*)

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (or regular All Purpose Flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup wine jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and line two cookie sheets with parchment/wax paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the egg yolks and the vanilla and beat until the mixture is creamy. Add the salt and the flour in increments, beating as you go along until the mixture is completely combined.
  3. Put the egg whites in one shallow dish and the finely chopped pecans in another. Roll heaped tablespoons into balls, dip them in the egg whites and then roll them in the pecans until lightly covered. Place about an inch apart on the cookie sheets.
  4. Using your thumb or a teaspoon, create an indent in the center of each cookies. Fill this indent with wine jam.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes (or until golden brown) on the center rack of the oven, rotating the cooking sheet half way through the baking time. Let the cookies cool on the sheets and then transfer to a plate (or directly into your mouth).Wine Cookie Recipe

*The cookies do not need to be made gluten-free. They can be made and baked the exact same way just by substituting gluten-free flour for regular flour.

Cupcake Vineyards – Barossa Shiraz

image_13_1“Barossa, located in Southern Australia, is known for its rich and spicy Shiraz wines. Our Cupcake Barossa Shiraz has a dark and inky garnet color with a nose of ripe plums and blackberry jam. It follows with a full palate of creamy fruit, mocha and just a touch of black pepper that lingers. It’s reminiscent of a chocolate mocha and blackberry cupcake. Enjoy with spicy short ribs, Cajun catfish, or steak au poivre.”

I must admit, when my boyfriend told me he had brought home wine named after a cupcake, I was not very optimistic. I don’t like many sweet wines and a wine named after a dessert sounded like a sugar overload to me. I was proven entirely wrong though, as this wine is actually both pleasantly dry and surprisingly robust.

As for the “dark and inky garnet color”, they were spot on. This wine is entirely opaque and looks almost black save for a slight hint of red around the brim. I can see (or rather smell) where they get the plum from, but I don’t so much smell the blackberry jam myself.

The palate is definitely full of fruit, and is a pleasant mix of both creamy and tart. The “touch of black pepper that lingers” is perhaps my favorite part of this wine. A lot of “pepper” wines take the spice a little too far for my taste, but Cupcake takes their pepper just far enough to be spicy while also leaving the wine versatile.

I have no idea what they are talking about when they say it is reminiscent of a chocolate mocha and blackberry cupcake. First of all, that cupcake sounds amazing and I want one. Now. That said, this wine would definitely pair well with a mocha chocolate and has an aftertaste of freshly picked blackberries ( the kind right off the vine in your backyard that are sweet but still a little sour). Does it remind me of this magical cupcake? Not at all.

I paired it with steak seasoned with garlic salt and pepper (does that make it “au poivre“?) and some pesto pasta. I would normally pair pesto with a white wine, but this actually worked quite nicely. Then I continued to drink it for the rest of the night.

Overall, I was very pleased with the Cupcake Shiraz and I would definitely get it again, recommend it to a friend or give it as a gift.

Rating: 3/4 Glasses

Exploring Happiness… And Wine

Just Let Me WineIf you asked me when I was in Kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said an artist. Then for almost every subsequent year after that you would have gotten a different answer. And even though I did grow up and went to college and got a degree and a job, I still can’t tell you exactly what I want to be because the truth of the matter is – I want to be everything.

When New Year’s rolled around this year I began to think, like we all do, about the resolutions I wanted to make. The list was long: cook more, read better books, work out every day, learn how to fix things by myself, actually use my degree, go to bed and wake up earlier, save more money, pay off my student loans ahead of schedule, etc. It was daunting.

I realized that my list focused on the things I thought I had to do to be an adult and be “accomplished”. Unfortunately, that left me little time to do the things I wanted to do – the things that make me happy. So I decided to adjust my priorities.

I started to create a list of all the things I wanted to do this year. That list consisted of things like learning to crochet, draw and paint, cooking more but also baking more, reading more of whatever I want, practicing yoga every day, writing to make me happy, being healthier and enjoying my youth.

I also want to drink more wine. I’m not talking about becoming a wine connoisseur (that sounds way too expensive), I just mean I want to explore wine more. And since wine makes everything easier for me, I hope it will help propel me through all my new explorations.

I guess that’s what this is all about in the end – exploring. I want to discover. I want to discover what makes me happy. I have rushed through my life in a lot of ways, finishing school early and starting a career immediately. I feel like I’ve never taken the time to slow down and decide what I want to do, what will make me feel accomplished.

So I invite you to join me as I explore – as I explore wine, yoga, baking, cooking, reading, and much more. It will be a year for many new things, many successes and surely a few failures. Maybe I’ll discover what I want to be along the way. Maybe not. Either way, I’ll discover more of the everything that I want to be. I’ll discover happiness. And I’ll drink a lot of great wine.