Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Was in a New Zealand state of mind recently when I ran across this selection at a local store.  You see, I write some songs from time to time.  Nothing you’ll hear on the top 40 stations any time soon.  I call them my little ditties. LOL  Even so, I have recorded some of them.

Last month I was doing a yearly overview of published playlists and found that one of my songs had been getting spins fairly frequently on a radio station in New Zealand all year (2015).  Surprised and elated, that put me in the mood to celebrate.  So what better way than with a nice Kiwi wine!Oenophilogical_CliffordBaySauvignonBlanc2014

Winemaker:   Clifford Bay
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Marlborough, New Zealand
Price: 12.99

Notes:  Another pungent New Zealand SB, the Clifford Bay smelled pretty much like a big glass of ripe pink grapefruit juice.  Pale yellow in color with a distinct greenish tinge, it was light-bodied with brisk acidity.  Alcohol was at 13%.  What did it taste like?  To me it tasted like the bouquet suggested it would.  Is this a Sauvignon Blanc to serve with Sunday brunch?  Perhaps so!  Or lounging somewhere under a hot tropical sun?  If you find yourself in that situation … Yes!  I found it a straight-forward and enjoyably refreshing glass of wine.


When Wine Just Won’t Do

Question: What can be used as a substitute for wine in cooking recipes?

Although I am a tried and true lover of wines, some of my good friends are not.  In fact, some are complete tea-totalers – no alcohol of any kind passes their lips.  I can appreciate that choice as long as they can appreciate mine to imbibe responsibly.  And they do.

This year several of us decided to go in together on an Xmas Eve dinner.  You know, divvy up the dishes and gather together to enjoy a holiday repast.  I won (some might say lost) the coin toss for main dish.  In addition I agreed to make a couple of sides.  After some discussion back and forth among our crew, my contributions turned into a rib roast, braised cabbage and pan roasted shallots.  I had never made any of those before, and I’m not really much of a cook.  Thus, I hit the cooking sites online and found recipes for my dishes that looked like they would be very tasty.  Only problem was that the cabbage recipe called for beer and the gravy for the rib roast called for red wine.

OK, I knew they make those non-alcoholic beers or malt beverages.  So I bought a six-pack of O’Doul’s.  One problem solved!  Now I needed to tackle replacing wine in the gravy ingredients.  And that gave me serious cause for concern till I consulted the internet once again.  As I browsed sites opining on the subject of replacing wine in recipes, I noticed that many sites suggested using juices – grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice (for white wine).  While the sweetness of a juice might not be right for all recipes, I didn’t think it would harm the gravy.  Seeing that folks seemed to have varying opinions on what to use, I decided to go with a juice that would add flavors I enjoy finding in a wine.  Thus, I ended up with cranberry/cherry juice as my substitute for the red wine.

Using the juice definitely changed the prep time.  Given that the wine has alcohol which evaporates fairly quickly, it took my gravy quite a bit longer (about 30 minutes instead of 10) to cook down into an appropriate consistency.  Once it did, though, it was a perfectly good gravy.  In fact, everyone liked the gravy, and my tea-totaling friends in particular couldn’t stop praising it – how flavorful it was and how well it complemented the rib roast.  I know I was pleasantly surprised with the results!  But of course I simply smiled, thanked them, and took another sip from my glass of Petite Sirah.  And so, regarding the question that began this post….

My Answer:  It depends a great deal on what you’re making – everything from vinegar to juice and more


A New Experience on New Year’s Eve

Over the past decade my sweetie and I have created our own New Year’s tradition.  It developed first as a result of necessity, but it has become something we look forward to with excitement at the close/start of every year.

Our anniversary happens to land very near the end of December.  Several years ago work kept us both so busy and our schedules so crazy that the only evening we had to celebrate the anniversary was New Year’s Eve.  Not only that, but I actually had to work later that evening.  Yes, I had to work on New Year’s Eve, and I’m not in the restaurant business.  Go figure.  Anyway, we got a reservation for an early New Year’s seating at a restaurant neither one of us had been to before.  What we found was that the mood was extremely festive (decorations up, staff ready for a full night and lots of business), but we weren’t battling hordes of people and struggling to carry on a conversation over the din of a huge crowd.  We had a blast, and that was it.  We repeated it and repeated it ….  A new tradition was born!!

Now each year we find a new restaurant – one neither of us has been to – for New Year’s Eve.  We book an early seating, and we experience food and wine, etc. that we’ve never had.  It’s “something new” for New Year’s and an enjoyable commemoration of yet another year together.

This year we decided to go to Chima located in Tysons Corner.  Neither of us had been to a Brazilian Steakhouse before, so we were keen on seeing what was in store.  It was amazing!  A little pricey, to be sure, but it was a real experience.  You pay a set fee which includes an all-you-can eat salad bar as well as all-you-can eat meats which are brought to your table by the ubiquitous staff.  They give you a little circular “feed me/don’t feed me” card to tell the folks if you’re interested in meat at a given time.  And they do come zipping right over when they see you want meat.  They also did a nice job of finding out what we were most interested in having more of as the evening progressed.  We rolled out of there sated beyond belief.

Extras outside of the main dinner fee include any drinks beyond tap water as well as dessert.  They had a nifty electronic pad as their menu and plenty of wines on it to choose from.  I thought about ordering a bottle, but I wanted to try more than one selection on their list.  So I ordered my vino by the glass.

Alta Vista Malbec , Mendoza, Argentina, was a surprisingly fruity selection.  In accompaniment with the meat, it was a fairly well-behaved, glass of wine – nice with the pork and chicken but perhaps a little shy on structure when up against some of the red meats.

True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California was a big, bold mouthful of currant and cherry flavor with medium tannins. I found it a nice match for my dinner.  Yes, I think I ate more red meat that night than I did during all the rest of 2015.  Ha!

We had a great time at Chima.  The food was excellent, the staff were friendly, efficient, and helpful.  What’s not to like?

Happy New Year! 2016

Here we are at the beginning of yet another year.  I’m elated to have made it through, and I’m excited about opportunities that may lie just around the corner.

Here’s wishing everyone a fabulous 2016 with much success, happiness and wonderful wine enjoyment.