What a week it was for wine. Exciting conference, you ask? No. Trip to wine country, you question? Also no. Tasting tour, you wonder? Again, no. My Winc (formerly Club W) box arrived and so it was a fun and exciting week of food and drink.*
This summer has been busy. Like insanely busy and, of course, we didn’t pace ourselves. So that meant we went to NYC two weekends in a row and then I turned around and went back for a night to pick up a friend who was coming into town. It’s half the price to fly from Detroit to LaGuardia as it is to Albany. It’s 1% of the hassle to drive to Albany which I will keep in mind the next time a friend is driving in. LaGuardia is a nightmare right now with the construction. From there it was a night on Long Island followed by a week of having a guest here in Bennington and then driving to Michigan for a quick visit to Ypsilanti followed by a glorious (GLORIOUS!) weekend on Lake Michigan with friends we haven’t seen in over a year. Well, except for Marcy. Whom we hadn’t seen since September… which was far too long for me.
Anyway… box arrived while we were away and we tore into it upon arriving home and, let me tell you, this one was a winner. First, I reordered a few things from a long, long time ago including the 2015 Chop Shop Cab Sauv. I believe they’ve switched up the recipe for this one and I’m PSYCHED for the new pairing: steak and eggs. We’re moving at the end of September but our new place is ready mid-September. Perfect brunch pairing, if you ask me. Will have to send out the invite for that soon! I also reordered this 2014 Alchymist Noir Red Blend. Partly because I liked it so much round one. Partly because the paired recipe is to die for. Raw vegan chocolate truffles. Sounds like something that would taste like cardboard, right? Um, no. We brought these to a dinner party and they disappeared instantly. Looking forward to making them again and impressing a few folks. As everyone knows: I cannot bake. I screw up slice and bake. But these truffles are so freaking easy and make me look like a tattooed Martha Stewart.
New to us this month were the other three bottles. I’ve gotten bold in my Club W selection process and rarely leave it to them anymore and instead select either grapes I don’t know or things that just sound awesome. This is because I took a huge risk one month and it paid off, introducing me to my absolute fav… a sparkling Chenin Blanc called “Oh, SNAP!” which is no longer available. I believe that this was the wine that brought on my spontaneous proposal to Club W. Club W said yes — it’s FaceBook Official bee tee dubs.
Monday: A Continuation of my Bootleg Wine Education
The first bottle we tried, on Monday, was the 2015 Brethren of the Road “Talk West” Valdiguié. I tried another Valdiguié recently and loved it. I’m fascinated with climate and wine, though, so once I try a grape I like to check it out from a variety of places. I liked the first one which was from Southern California (Paso Robles). Great strawberry notes and that leather taste I just love. The Brethren of the Road was definitely not my favorite — but that’s okay. As a lover of wine I’m trying to learn everything I can and this difference in the wines was a huge reminder that it’s not just climate that makes a difference.
I thought that with the Brethren of the Road grapes being from 324 miles north in Redwood Valley, CA, I would see a difference. A quick bit of research, though, showed me that despite their distance, average temps are nearly identical. And yet, the Brethren of the Road Valdiqué was totally different. This is, in part, due to the style in which the two are made. The Brethren of the Road is open-fermented and has no added yeast. It’s also aged in neutral oak. I have not learned enough about style yet but I can tell you that I often do like open top fermented beers UNLESS they have raspberry (some Saisons, lambics, etc). I wonder if that was part of my finding this wine so funky. The vines are also 15 years old, although grown from cuttings from 70 year old vines. I’m not sure if that makes a difference. The Valdiqué that I did like is more traditional from what I’ve read.
Despite finding it kind of funky and not in a good way, I loved the paired recipe and thought it was a phenomenal match. The recipe was one of those you make on the stovetop in your cast iron skillet (or your all metal skillet from Ikea if you are me… cast iron skillet is on the wishlist for this year) and then pop in the oven. It was a chicken thigh dish with a lemon and brown butter sauce. Very simple on the recipes but complex flavors brought about by some spice, balsamic, and rice vinegar. I kept it simple by serving it with rice pilaf.
Wednesday: Pasta and Italian Wine Despite The Ridiculous Late Summer Vermont Heatwave
On Wednesday we tried the 2015 Copycat Barbera. Barbera is an Italian grape traditionally aged over oak which softens the fruit a bit. This Copycat version is stainless steel aged which keeps the fruit pure. I’m learning more and more that I prefer stainless, especially in whites. Much of it has to do with whether or not I’m drinking or pairing. I love a wine that is paired well even if it is totally outside of my usual preference. But when I’m just having a glass I like a warm climate red.
I believe this was my first Barbera. And I LOVED it. This furthers my belief that I’m more of a warm climate wine kinda girl. For those not familiar with the basics of climate and its effect on wine, wines that are grown in a warm climate deepen in flavor and have a more ripe fruit flavor and lower acidity than their cool climate counterparts (think of the cold weather coming in and stopping the development, just like putting something in the fridge to keep it fresher longer). Cool climate wines have more tart fruit flavors and higher acidity. I don’t like sweet wines, as a rule, but I do love riper fruit in my wine.
The recipe that came with this will be in the rotation until I can no longer cook. Wow. Kris and I were both floored. It took a bit of timing and confidence to pull off (I like to drink when I cook but couldn’t pull it off this time) but man did it come together. Roasted cauliflower, italian sausage, onion, breadcrumbs. A little pasta water and a short pasta (I used small shells because that’s what I found at my horrible local grocery store) and bam — a delicious pasta dish that sounded weird when you broke down the recipe but was amazing. And the wine. THE WINE! We will be reordering.
Friday: Let’s Sparkle
Back in February 2015 I tried my first sparkling red at Coach Insignia. A colleague had tried it and was raving. I’d never had a sparkling red. I love red. I love bubbles. Why the hell not? I hated it. Like seriously could not handle it. I can’t remember now what it was that I didn’t like but I remember that I didn’t like it. Not one bit.
Add to this experience that I absolutely detest Lambrusco (I’m sorry, Banfi friends!). Maybe it’s because I don’t like frizzante. Maybe it’s because I don’t like sweet reds. I don’t know.
Needless to say, I was more than a tad nervous when I kept feeling drawn to Club W’s offering of a sparkling red. But I’m a sucker for a pretty bottle. And I would love to find a sparkling red (and, God the COLOR on this one is just superb) that I liked. After all, I started my journey in wine saying, “I only like Sterling Cabernet.” Really, Nancy?
I ordered the bottle of sparkling Dolcetto and gave myself license to dump it if I hated it. Usually I try to drink the whole bottle (with Kris). The recipe it came with was a charcuterie plate (yum!) but we go out for dinner on Friday nights. Our new fav place is called Marigold and in North B. They are BYO so we can get dinner AND leftovers for both of us for about $20. We looked at the charcuterie suggestions and decided to order a pizza that aligned. Popped the cork (have I mentioned that I can pop a sparkling bottle open like a true professional?) and were immediately floored. EVERYTHING THEY SAID WAS TRUE. The description said…
- dry (yay! I like dry sparkling wines)
- forced carbonated (double yay! not frizzante)
- wicked cool (hey, we’re in Vermont and we say wicked cool all the time)
- tannins (I LOVE the astringency of tannins)
- depth (I LOVE depth)
Let’s just say that I have already ordered 3 bottles for my September box.
No filter on that puppy. And while you can’t really tell, let me tell you: this wine has got LEGS.
If you’re a Club W member, I can’t recommend these wines enough. Yes, even the Valdiqué — pair it with the recipe and watch how quickly the flavors change and match perfectly. If you’re NOT a Club W member hit me up in the comments or on Twitter — I’d love to give you one of my codes for a free box. You’ll get three bottles and just pay shipping!
*Who am I kidding? Every week is an exciting week of food and drink when you live with me. It just happens that the weeks when the box arrives is even better.