Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

My first trip to Napa Valley

June 21, 2010

Napa Valley is the place for wine.  If you’re a wino like me, you know what I’m talking about.  Just like skiers have the Swiss Alps, political junkies have Washington D.C., and geeks have Comic Con—we have Napa Valley.  I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Napa for the very first time on a recent family mini-vacation up to San Francisco.

On the recommendation of my wine instructor, I visited The Hess Collection Winery.  The winery was started by Donald Hess, a Swiss-born entrepreneur who came to the States looking for business opportunities.  During his stay he fell in love with Napa Valley and eventually started his own winery in 1989.

The building where the Estate lives today was originally built in 1903 as a winery.  When prohibition came about in the 1920s, the winery was overtaken by The Christian Brothers who were permitted to make sacramental wine.  Up to this day, Mr. Hess continues to rent the property from The Christian Brothers.

First thing’s first, we headed to the tasting room!

For ten dollars, I tried four wines.

I began with the 2007 Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvée, a delicious blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 4% Syrah, 4% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot.  This complex wine has aromas of black currant and plum.  Intense dark fruit flavors and medium plus tannins interact on the tongue to produce a strong finish.

Next I tried their 2007 Artezin Petite Sirah.  Not to be confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah is a varietal whose namesake came from early planters who mistook the variety for Syrah when it was first being introduced to Californian vineyards, but because it’s grapes are much smaller it was deemed “Petite Sirah”.  Black fruit character, high tannins and high acidity intertwine to create a highly drinkable wine.

Hess produces two characteristically different Chardonnays—think of it as French vs. Californian.  Their 2007 Su’Skol Vineyard Chardonnay is more reminiscent of a traditional, French-style Chardonnay because of it’s time spent in 30% new French oak barrels, adding flavors of toast and vanilla to the mix.  In stark contract, their 2007 Hess Collection Mount Veeder Chardonnay reflects a crisper, more fruit-forward style with flavors like nectarine and apricot—a trend that is becoming increasingly popular with Californian Chardonnays.

Surprisingly the Mount Veeder Chard was aged in four-to-five-year-old French oak, not stainless steel like one might assume.  Because the oak is older it only gives off neutral flavors, no oak.  I favored the Mount Veeder Chard, which is saying a lot for someone like me who is slightly obsessed with buttery and oaky French-style Chardonnays.  Wine Spectator gave it a 90 point rating out of 100, so you know it must be good!

The best part about The Hess Collection Winery is the winery itself.  Like something straight out of a fairy tale, the property is breathtakingly beautiful.  In the garden they have a lovely outdoor seating area reserved for food and wine tastings.  Luckily it was a slow day so we were able to secure a nice table beneath the trellis.

We ordered a sampling of three cheeses for $14.00 which came with Manchego cheese, blue cheese, and a triple-cream cheese made from organic cow’s milk.  On the side they included a bowl of candied walnuts and the best dried Michigan cherries you’ve ever tasted.

During our visit to the winery, we took advantage of the free tour where I learned a lot about the history of the winery and the owner, Donald Hess.  The tour also included a visit to the vineyards, where they harvest grapes for their Mount Veeder wines, and is followed by a short-film in the theater.  The film goes into depth about the land they harvest the grapes on and the specific opportunities and challenges they face with growing wine on mountain terrain.

The tour finally ended with a stop in their wine barrel room.  Here the wine ages for a chosen period of time in oak barrels, allowing it to develop new flavors and complexities.

If The Hess Collection Winery is any indication of what Napa Valley has to offer, then I’m ready to dive in feet first!  Even though I only had time to visit one winery, I definitely maximized my visit by taking advantage of the free tour, enjoying a wine tasting, and noshing on tasty cheeses.

If that isn’t the quintessential Napa experience, I don’t know what is.  What I am sure of, however, is that I want to return someday in the near future.  In the words of my Govenator, “I’ll be back.”

Cheers,

Jess

A Crash Course in Port Wine

May 22, 2010

Port wine is like the nectar of the gods.

With its full bodied mouth-feel and sweet, rich flavors, it is the perfect after-dinner drink.  I recently uncorked a bottle of Tawny Port from Orfila Winery in Escondido, California and was highly impressed with their take on this lovely dessert wine.

History:

Stories of Port wine go back as far as the late 16th century in the Duoro Valley of Portugal, where Port is still grown and produced today.  Port is named after the coastal city of “Porto” where the wine was originally exported.  Laws today protect the origin of this wine so that only the product from Portugal can be labeled as Port.  Wines that undergo the same process as Port wines are often be labeled “dessert wine” instead.

How It’s Made:

Orfila Winery’s Tawny Port is extremely aromatic with unmistakable scents of raisin and spice taking center-stage while hints of caramel and orange linger on the palette as an after-thought.  A friend of mine referred to it as “raisin-flavored cough syrup,” which isn’t entirely off base!

Because Port is a fortified wine it’s extremely sweet and syrupy.  Fortified wines undergo a different process than most where grape-derived spirits like brandy are added to the partially-fermented grape juice to kill off the yeast and halt fermentation before all of the sugar converts to alcohol.  This creates a wine that is sugary and several times higher in alcohol content than most at 19.5-20% abv.

Unlike other single varietal wines, Port is made with a blend of different red and black grape varietals.  Not all Port is made alike, however—there are also dry and semi-dry versions, and occasionally you may run across a white Port.

Styles of Port:

Orfila's Tawny Port

Ruby Port—Named for its deep red color, Ruby Port is young, fruity and undergoes two to three years of aging before it’s bottled.

Reserve Ruby Port—This is a higher quality Port with more intense fruit flavors and a longer period of aging before bottling, generally five years.

Late Bottled Vintage Port—Similar to a Reserve Ruby Port, LBV Ports are made from grapes harvested in a single year and undergo four to six years of aging before bottling.  It’s best enjoyed while it’s young.

Traditional Style LBV—This traditional style is made much the same way as LBV, except that the wine is not filtered before bottling, leaving behind a deposit that requires decanting.

Vintage Port—Vintage Port is the crème de la crème when it comes to Port.  It uses grapes from the very best vineyards during years when harvest is exceptional.  With a short period in oak, this wine benefits from several years of bottle aging and requires decanting.

Tawny Port—An inexpensive Port made from a blend of light-colored ruby and white Port, it brings to mind flavors of toffee nut, caramel, and dried fruit.

Reserve Tawny Port—Light brown in color with flavors of nut, coffee, chocolate, and caramel, these wines require a minimum of seven years in oak.

Aged Tawny Port—A high quality blend of wines labeled with 10, 20, 30, or 40+ years of aging, Aged Tawny Port does not require decanting and is best enjoyed slightly chilled.

Food and Wine Pairings:

It’s important to consider what foods pair best with Port wine. You can drink Port solo, but it’s particularly refreshing when served alongside chocolate desserts, fresh fruits, puddings, and cheeses.

Stilton cheese is to Port wine what jelly is to peanut butter: a classic pairing that should not be missed out on.  Stilton cheese comes from the blue cheese family.   I decided to go with Trader Joe’s White Stilton With Apricots because I thought the sweetness of the fruit would pair nicely with the sweetness of wine, and I was right!

Brix Chocolate

I also used some Brix Chocolate, a special type of dark chocolate made especially for wine.  Both the cheese and the chocolate paired nicely with the Port and helped mellow out the tannins, making it more drinkable.  For only $18 Orfila’s Tawny Port is definitely worth every penny.

Armed with your newfound knowledge of Port wine, now you’re ready to impress friends and family at your next dinner party!  They may thank you for the wine 101 lesson, but more importantly you’ll enjoy wine’s ability to bring people together for an evening of fun and great conversation. And, on that note, I’ll leave you with the wise words of wine connoisseur Percy Croft, “Any time not spent drinking Port is a waste of time.”

Cheers,

Jess

A weekend gettaway at Hearst Castle Part II

May 14, 2010

Last weekend, I went with a couple girlfriends up to visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.  Even with the trip being so short, we managed to cram a lot into those 2 1/2 days which is why I’ve broken this trip into 3 different blog posts!  I like to give all the deets!

One of the things I didn’t realize until only a couple days before our trip was how close we were going to be to wine country!  Paso Robles, a huge wine hot spot in Central California, was only 45 mins – 1 hour from our motel!  They have somewhere around 180-odd wineries.

After touring Hearst Castle, I really really wanted to visit a winery but since most of them closed by 5pm, we decided just to go out to dinner.  We found a brochure at the motel and were sold on a little restaurant called Matthew’s that promised to deliver local wine, local ingredients, and “wine country cuisine”.

We started out with some local wine from Dancing Stallion.  We decided to try their 2006 Syrah which was absolutely amazing!  Very rich and full bodied with high tannins and a lush mouth-feel.  You could definitely smell the dark cherry and blackberry aromas!  Some of the best Syrah I have had to date.

The food was just as delicious!  I ordered the pumpkin ravioli.  I love anything with pumpkin.  Fall is my favorite season, so it shouldn’t be any surprise.

Pumpkin ravioli

I also split a salad with Julie.  I love fruit salads!  This one had pears and oranges and was topped with walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and a champagne and citrus vinaigrette.  It was très magnifique!

Fruit salad with Gorgonzola, walnuts, and champagne vingarette!

I love that the portions here were so small.  One, it makes you feel less guilty for indulging!  Two, the food is very rich and satisfying so you don’t need much.  Three, it leaves more room for DESSERT(s)!  We happened to order three.  What?!  There was three of us… 😉

Chocolate martini

Chocolate pave with pistachio

Apple caramel bread pudding

My favorite was the apple caramel bread pudding.  I’m not a huge chocolate fan—definitely not into the rich chocolates unless they are mixed with something a little more mellow to balance out the flavors.  For that reason, I didn’t love the chocolate pave which was pretty much like a supper rich, dense chocolate brownie with berries on top.   The chocolate martini on the other hand wasn’t bad with its layers of cream, ice cream, strawberries, and drizzle on top.

We each paid about $50 for the meal (ouch!) but it was totally worth it.  Sometimes you need to allow yourself to indulge in a wonderful meal that you know you can’t get anywhere else 🙂

I’m currently plotting my next adventure up to the Central Coast so I can finally visit their wineries!

Cheers,

Jess

Orfila Vineyards & Winery

April 24, 2010

I may not live in California’s “wine country,” but San Diego is definitely not lacking when it comes to wine.  Last week I visited Orfila Vineyards & Winery for the first time and was blown away by the magnificent views from the winery—it was like something straight out of a fairy tale.  Or maybe it was just a fairy tale to me because my dreams involve someday working for a winery ;).  Either way, it wasn’t hard to appreciate the beauty.  Orfila is located in Escondido, California on top of beautiful rolling hills with a lovely view of mountains in the background.

This has already gone on my list of “top picks” for places I would like to get married!  Orfila happens to do a lot of weddings right in front of their vineyard and they also have a huge outdoor tent for receptions.  Seriously, it’s the perfect spot for anyone who wants a romantic outdoor wine-themed wedding.

Apart from weddings, they have an amazing selection of wines.  While they happen to offer all your basic varietals, they specifically grow traditional Rhone varietals.  The reason for this is because the climate in Rhone is most similar to our own.  Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Viognier show their highest expression when grown in a maritime climate like the one offered in the San Pasqual Valley, just 15 miles from the coast.

I tried their Merlots and their Syrahs, (yes they have multiples of each), but what I was really blown away by was their white wines.  Now, I may have mentioned on here before that I started out as primarily a dry red wine drinker, but as I began taking wine classes my tastes evolved and I began to appreciate more white wines as a result. I have been especially obsessed with finding buttery Chardonnays that are maloactic fermented.

What exactly does this mean? Well, a lot of times the way a grape is grown will affect the taste of the wine, but there are also wine-making techniques that can enhance and add flavors to wine.  Maloactic fermentation involves stirring in the dead yeast cells leftover from fermentation, called lees, into the wine to add savory flavors of dairy, butter and cream.  These wines take on a whole different flavor profile and are much different than your oaky or fruit-forward Chardonnays.

Orfila’s 2007 Ambassador’s Reserve Chardonnay is the perfect example of what an ML Chard should taste like.  Additionally it is aged in French oak, giving it toasty and vanilla flavors.  I highly recommend it! 🙂

Orfila is also well known for their Estate Viognier.  Now, I have never been a huge fan of Viognier but I was definitely converted after trying theirs.  It’s amazing how you can try a varietal several times, but until you try a bottle where the winemaker truly captures the grape and balances the flavors just right, you may never know it’s potential.  With just the right balance of crispness and fruit, Orfila’s Estate Viognier is the perfect summer white—not too sweet, but not too dry.  Also aged in French oak barrels, it develops flavors of vanilla in addition to it’s cirtus and floral notes.

Last but not least, I really enjoyed Orfila’s California Tawny Port.  It is by far some of the best Port I have ever had.  With flavors of raisins, caramel, licorice and orange, it pairs perfectly with the dark chocolate they serve with it.  I liked it so much I had to buy a bottle which I am waiting to open for a future blog!  I bought some Stilton cheese the other day at Trader Joe’s that goes perfect with Port—I cannot WAIT to dig in!

So, for $10 I was given 6 different tastes of wine and a souvenir wine glass, in addition to the $18 bottle of Port I brought home.  I give this place two thumbs up.  Get out there now—go drink vino!

Cheers,

Jess

Rhythm and Vine Music & Wine Festival

April 19, 2010

Music @ Rhythm & Vine

I went to last night’s Rhythm and Vine, a music and wine festival in Escondido, California that benefits the Girls and Boys Club.  Rhythm and Vine is put on by Fast Forward Events, the event company that I interned for last semester when I helped out with the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.  It’s such a small world!  Anyway, I was there last night helping out my mentor, Lindsay Pomeroy of Wine Smarties, who was brought on to host a segment for Taste of Wine TV.

We basically got to go around and handpick restaurants, wineries, breweries, and spirit purveyors we thought would have the most compelling stories and bring them back to our booth for Lindsay to interview on camera.  Among the various exhibitors, we spoke with Fallbrook Winery, Orfila Vineyards & Winery, Cupcake Love, St. Petersburg Russian Vodka, La Jolla Pub & Brew House, and PaQui Tequila.

It was interesting to be on the other side of the fence as an exhibitor.  I got to spread my wings a little and experience the event as an attendee would.  I had so much fun that I didn’t get any pictures despite bringing my camera :(… but I still have my memories!

This event was much smaller than the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, but I think as a spectator some people may prefer it if they are looking to avoid big crowds and long lines.  Despite the size, I feel like this event still had a lot to offer in terms of wine.  Many of the wineries participating at this event were also a part of the SDBWFF so in terms of quality, you were getting a lot of the same great wines but on a much smaller and local scale.

I was really impressed with Fallbrook Winery‘s 2007 33 Degree North BDX.  This is their first wine made entirely from grapes grown on their Estate.  67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet France and 100% delicious, it mimics the qualities of a red Bordeaux—smooth and enticing, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

Another favorite wine came from Ryan-Jake Cellars, a vineyard that grows and produces their wines up in Napa Valley.  I really enjoyed their 2007 3.SUM.  Strange name, but great taste!  Also a blend, this time of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Syrah and Zin.  They describe this wine as full-bodied and “packed with flavors of cherry, rhubarb, caramel and blackberry preserves, with undertones of cocoa and spice.”  Their 2007 Viogner was also quite delicious, but it was definitely not a match when compared to Orfila‘s Estate Viognier.

The emphasis at this event was definitely not on food.  SDBWFF is jam packed with amazing chefs from all over the San Diego fine dining restaurant scene, whereas the food at this event consisted of many more casual dining restaurants with a few big names like Harney Sushi and the Winesellar & Brasserie.  I enjoyed the lasagna of Lady Lasagna (San Diego), they had both a tomato and pesto lasagna that were delish.

Also the ladies of Hotcha Salsa (Carlsbad) were so cool—they gave me TWO free containers of salsa.  Their hot salsa is made with cucumbers, which I normally hate, but it was actually quite tasty.

Mmm... Hotcha!

And I can’t forget The Chocolate Traveler (Pasedena) for hooking me up with a free sample of their milk chocolate wedges… yum!

Milk chocolatey goodness!

In addition to wine, I got to try a variety of delicious beers.  Firestone Walker Brewing Company came down from Paso Robles to show off their beers which have won numerous accolades in world competitions.  I was blown away by their Double Barrel Ale, which is actually aged in oak barrels like a wine, leaving hints of vanilla and toasted oak on your palette.  I definitely recommend picking up a case of the DBA at your local Vons.  Another favorite came from North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg, CA).  With 9% ABV, their Old Rasputin Imperial Stout punches you in the face with flavors of espresso and chocolate.  It was quite possibly one of the BEST stouts I have ever tried.  I’m going to have to keep my eye out for that one and see if it’s offered locally!

All and all this was a great event that I’d highly recommend to anyone with the money to attend.  With tickets at $75 (advance) – $100 (at the door) it can be a little pricey, but if you have the funds it’s a wonderful way to spend an evening while giving back to the community.

Cheers,

Jess

Malbec. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out.

March 29, 2010

Last night I uncorked a Malbec Rosé from Argentina.  Half a year ago, if you asked me what Malbec was, I wouldn’t have had any clue what you were talking about!

You see, when I first moved to California, I was very eager to get out and meet people with similar interests.  I immediately joined a women’s wine group and we met one night at the Wine Cabana, a wine bar in San Diego’s Old Town.  One of the girls recommended trying the Malbec, which I had never even heard of at the time.  I tried it for the first time and fell in love!  I began primarily as a red wine drinker and love dry, tannic red wines like a Shiraz or Norton.  Malbec is both dry and tannic, so it definitely fit the bill.

Argentina is where this varietal has gained it’s fame, but it is a little-known fact that Malbec is originally from France and was brought over to Argentina in 1868.  In France, Malbec is primarily known for being one of six grapes blended together to create red Bordeaux wines, whereas in Argentina the grape takes center-stage as a stand-alone varietal.

A purple grape variety, it’s black fruit character translates into jammy flavors such as blackberry and plum, with a hint of spice on the finish.  Malbec is full-bodied with either medium or high tannins.  The different climates in each region account for the differences in taste and wine-making techniques.  For instance, the Malbec of France is a high tannic wine, whereas an Argentinean Malbec is softer with less tannins and is more suitable for aging in oak barrels.

Because of it’s tannins, Malbec and red meat centered dishes make wonderful companions!  It also pairs well with spicy ethnic foods such as Mexican, Cajun, Indian, or Italian.  I paired mine with spaghetti and meat sauce.  See?  Food and wine pairing is easy, and you don’t even have to make anything fancy!

The interesting thing about this particular bottle of Malbec was that it was a Malbec Rosé.  So for those who enjoy a sweeter, more fruit forward wine such as a White Zinfindel or any kind of blush wine, you definitely would enjoy the Malbec Rosé.

Next time you’re in the market for a bottle wine, why not pick up a bottle of Argentinean Malbec?  Your taste buds will thank you.

Bottle Stats:

  • Company: Melipal
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Varietal: Malbec Rosé
  • Region: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Price: $10.99 at BevMo!

Cheers,

Jess

Strange Food & Wine Pairings

March 22, 2010

Today I was making myself a quickie lunch of tomato and rice soup.  As I was eating my soup with crackers, I realized something was missing.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on craving until suddenly I thought—peanut butter sandwich!  I remember one evening back in Bloomington when I went over to a friend’s house for a chili supper and they were serving peanut butter sandwiches on the side.  My family didn’t grow up eating chili this way, so the pairing struck me as odd.  Peanut butter and chili?!?  But I gave it a try and you know what?  It was GOOD! 🙂

My experimentation with tomato soup and a peanut butter sandwich made me start to think about wine and what kind of wine would go best with a peanut butter sandwich.  Food and wine pairings are similar because opposite taste sensations can make the best pairings!  Take salty and sweet for instance.  A classic food and wine pairing would be brie and Champagne (salty + sweet).

But what about even stranger food combos?

In a recent article in Imbibe magazine, “Pair & Share: From takeout to home-cooked, how to choose wines for the way you really eat,” they explore fun and interesting food and wine combinations.

  • Chips and salsa with an off-dry German Riesling.
  • Sparkling wine with French fries.
  • Fried chicken and Sauternes.
  • Burgers and a Spanish Tempranillo.
  • Pizza and a Chianti classico.

And the perfect match for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  Well, I had to do my research to come up with the answer, but one sommelier suggests an Argentine Torrontes.  A dry, spicy white wine, Torrontes has the perfect amount of acidity to wash down the peanut butter.  Or try pairing sweet with sweet by choosing a white wine like Riesling or Chenin Blanc.

The best way to find a perfect pairing is to play around with flavors until you find something you like, however there are a few rules of thumb to follow when doing food and wine pairings:

  • Match the weight/richness of the food and the body of the wine. Ex) Red meats with full-bodied, tannic red wines and white meat or fish with white wines or light-bodied, delicate reds.
  • Match the flavor intensity of the food and wine. Delicate wines and powerfully flavored foods don’t pair well together.
  • Match acidic foods with high-acid wines. Ex) Italian food and Italian wines go together well because both are dominated by acidic flavors—think tomatoes, olive oil, lemons and vinegar.
  • Match sweet foods with sweet wines. Late-harvest wines and Muscat-based wines are called dessert wines for a reason!
  • Avoid combining oily or salty foods with high-tannin red wines. Salty foods are best when enhanced with a touch of sweetness.  Ex) Prosciutto and figs, Fino Sherry and salted nuts, etc.

Now it’s your turn to experiment and discover your perfect food and wine pairing!

Cheers,

Jess

Wine Bars, Wineries, and Wine-ventions!

March 5, 2010

The other day I had an interview for an internship with a well-known wine bar in San Diego.  It turns out they have never actually had an intern, but they’ve been swamped lately and need somebody to step in and handle some of the catering duties such as renting out the back room for private parties and dealing with the overwhelming volume of emails that come their way about private event bookings.

I was so nervous during the interview that when I left, my entire body was literally aching!  I was that tense!  I am crossing my fingers that they give me the green light, because this job could lead to my ultimate goal of becoming an Event Planner for a Winery and Wine Tasting Room Manager!

After my interview I decided to meet up with my friend and fellow blogger of Eat Move Write, Ms. Jasmine herself.  Ok, she’s technically a Mrs. but Mrs. Jasmine just didn’t sound right!

I just recently moved to a cute little suburb east of San Diego called La Mesa.  It happens to be where I work and also where my friend lives, which is super exciting to me!  Even more exciting is the discovery I made last week when my dad was visiting.  After dinner, I happened to notice a brand spankin’ new tasting room in downtown La Mesa.  So of course I had to drag my friend along to check it out with me even though she doesn’t drink wine.

I had mistakenly thought this was a winery from Temecula that happened to open a tasting room down South.  In fact, San Pasqual Winery is a local winery that grows its grapes in Pacific Beach and is owned by a couple that lives in La Mesa.  They just opened their doors for business in late December of last year.

Wine Tasting at San Pasquel Winery

Wine Tasting at San Pasqual

The very nice gentleman behind the counter let me try their PB Passionfruit Wine made from locally grown passionfruit.  It was very light and fruity, but not super sugary or sweet.  He also let me try a batch of their Ranchero Cabernet Sauvignon/Nebbiolo Blend that had just finished being pressed and was getting ready to go into oak barrels.  This wine generally undergoes a year to year and a half aging process, so this was literally like tasting grapes right off the vine!  The wine had a very sour and bitter taste—clearly not ready for drinking!  But it was so fun and interesting to be able to taste a wine before it’s been aged… which reinforces to me just how important the aging process is to certain wine varietals.

For $8.50, you get 6 tastes of wine, $5 off your purchase of a bottle of wine, and you get to keep the wine tasting glass!  What a deal.  I will definitely be back to San Pasqual for a proper wine tasting!

Also, while you are there ask Darrell to show you his invention.  The Wine Bearer is an inflatable container used to protect your wine while traveling.  My mom and I definitely could have used that on our road trip.  Then again, I’m not complaining that she had to leave the wine in San Diego with me ;).

I’m going to leave you with a barrage of more random pictures from our day!

Cheers,

Jess

Dinner Party on a Budget

February 28, 2010

We all know how expensive going out can be.  The cost of dinner, a movie ticket, plus candy and a drink if you choose to visit the concession stand can put you well over $30.  And don’t even get me started on how much it costs to get appetizers and drinks at your favorite wine bar!  So why not opt for an evening in instead?  That’s exactly what I did this past Friday night!

Putting together a small dinner party not only puts money back in your pocket, but it’s also FUN and EASY—my two favorite words :).  Pick a theme and start planning from there.  Ours happened to be men bashing—I mean celebrating being single—and wine!  Ask everyone to bring a side dish that goes along with the overall theme and, in our case, a bottle of wine—and wallah, you’re set for an evening of fun for half the price you would normally pay to go out!

Our spread included:

Wine, of course!  Other booze was there to visit but didn’t come out to play.  Apparently wine likes to party exclusively.

A delicious spread of cheese and crackers, veggies and hummus, chips and spinach dip, kabobs, and dessert!

Check out the amazing strawberry pie my friend Christina made!  Plus her kabobs were ah-may-zing!

I brought a bottle of Red Rover 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, a Californian red that was given to me as a gift.  I had never tried this wine before last night, but at $7.99 a bottle (yes, I did my research!), it wasn’t half bad.

Cab is a dry red wine known for it’s high tannin levels and bell pepper aroma.  This Cab was said to have aromas of cherries, berries, and cassis.  Cassis is a French term used to describe the black currant flavor that appears in wine.  Because of the high tannins that appear in Cabs, they are best paired with meat, strong cheeses and dark chocolate.  I picked up some Gouda from the grocery store which was absolutely fantastic when paired with the Cab.  You could also choose an aged cheddar, provolone, or Le Moulis.

If you want to splurge and plan an entire dinner around Cab, try this:

  • Filet mignon
  • Garlic herb mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus
  • Dark chocolate torte for dessert

Now you’ve got all the tools you need to plan your next dinner party!

Cheers,

Jess