Smoking Loon Malbec 2013

I am madly attempting to catch up on my movie and TV watching because we are right in the midst of the awards season.  I’m using the SAG Awards nominations as my bucket list.  One of the shows I hadn’t watched on HBO until recently – despite having a subscription – was Westworld.

I saw the old movie with Yul Brynner on TV when I was a kid.  For some reason it just didn’t tickle my fancy.  I’m not saying it was a bad movie, it just wasn’t what interested me at the time.  Thus, I think that memory kept me from clicking over for HBO’s treatment.

Then one of my colleagues was singing it’s praises at work – the new series, I mean.  He just couldn’t say enough good things about it.  While he didn’t know it was a remake (He’d never even heard of the movie or of Yul Brynner.), he did recommend the series highly.  And then, of course, it made the SAG Awards nominations.

Good grief!  What had I been waiting for?  I am really quite impressed with the new series.  It is an entertaining show!  Be aware, though.  It’s definitely not for young viewers or those who shy away from shoot-em-ups on the screen.

And, yes, I decided to enjoy a glass or two of vino as I began my exploration of the new Westworld series.  I suppose I could have gone more Westworld and had a few shots of whiskey, but that wasn’t what I had handy.

oenophilogical_smokingloonmalbec2013Winemaker:  Smoking Loon
Varietal:  Malbec
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Valle Central, Chile
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  A very dark purple color, this loon exhibited lots of earth, menthol, pine and forest berries in it’s bouquet.  Medium-bodied with nice acidity, the tannins were what I’d call medium.  Flavors I detected included blackberry/mulberry, tobacco, some hints of spice and a touch of mint.

Christmas Day Dinner Surprise

Continuing our staycation holidays, we awoke on Xmas morning ready to continue our celebrations.  Normally we have oatmeal for breakfast – I mean almost every single morning.  But this time we splurged on a full “American” breakfast with bacon, eggs, whole wheat toast, OJ, and coffee.  Afterward, we went out for a nice long walk because our bodies just weren’t accustomed to all of that … goodness.  It was pleasant out – brisk but not cold – so we ended up making it an unanticipated four miler.  It wasn’t just the weather that kept us walking.  All the holiday lights and decorations were up and on while the streets and sidewalks were almost deserted.  Peaceful and cheerful is how I would describe the overall ambiance.

oenophilogical_xmas2016We had once again decided on an early dinner with the following as our menu.  Leafy green salad, cauliflower au gratin, cranberry sauce, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding.  The cranberry sauce and cauliflower had been made ahead (the day before).  Leafy green salad?  Just some chopping and dicing to be done.  The “new” dish for us – despite both of us having familial ties (however distant) to the British Isles – was the Yorkshire pudding.  We had a recipe but had never even tasted a Yorkshire pudding much less made one.  Those who have made this dish before will tell you that the key to the creation of the dish is the drippings from the roast beast.

Imagine my surprise when my sweetie unwrapped a beautiful, almost no-fat tenderloin of beef to put in the oven.  Tenderloin of beef is a beautiful cut of meat.  It was a very nice surprise on the one hand.  On the other hand, it’s lack of fat meant a lack of drippings.  No drippings, no Yorkshire pudding!  What to do, what to do, what to do?!

oenophilogical_yorkshirepuddingI told you in a prior post that we – especially me – are follow-the-recipe cooks.  But I didn’t want to just give up, so I hit the internet.  I read many articles and posts about Yorkshire pudding and substitutions.  I owe a debt of gratitude to fellow bloggers out there sharing their own experiences with Yorkshire pudding.  They gave me a solution.  Remember our big fatty American breakfast?  We had put the bacon fat into a container to be discarded, but it was still waiting in the fridge.  Hallelujah!

This time we got the meal on the table in a timely manner and enjoyed a Tempranillo from Spain with our Xmas dinner.  It was a very tasty meal, if I do say so myself.

Winemaker:  Manyana
Varietal:  Tempranillo
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Cariñena DO, Spain
Price:  $7.99

Notes:  Made by Bodegas San Valero, this was a dark burgundy-colored wine with a bouquet of berries, pine and a hint of mint.  I thought tannins were mild and body was medium.  Flavors I found included very ebullient berries (settling a bit with more oxidation), a touch of wood, some green herbal notes, and a nice finish that seemed to vacillate on my palate between ripe plum and prune.

Autoritas Pinot Noir 2015

This is another of the wines I grabbed to have on hand across the holiday season.  And by that I mean Thanksgiving through the New Year.  I picked this Pinot up at Whole Foods fully expecting that we’d bake a turkey at some point, and it’s conventional wisdom that Pinots go pretty well with a holiday bird.  Turns out, however, that we didn’t do a bird because a) we went visiting on Thanksgiving and b) we decided on something different for Xmas.  Even so, somehow we managed to pop the cork on this bottle and sample the goods.

oenophilogical_autoritaspinotnoir2015Winemaker:  Autoritas
Varietal:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Chile
Price:  $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  First thing you gotta know about this selection is — let it breathe.   I know this is a Pinot Noir, but I just about spat out my first sip right after uncorking.  With some time to oxidize, however, I found pleasant flavors of ripe strawberry, currant, pepper, a hint of coffee along with woody tannins in a light-bodied wine.  The color was a very pretty jewel-tone red, and I smelled tangy berries and a touch of cedar in the bouquet.  It was a little weak in the mid-palate but then packed a punch on the back end.

A Homespun Home-fun Xmas Eve

My sweetheart and I celebrated the holidays quietly at home this year.  Thus, we decided to make it a full-fledged staycation featuring plenty of food and time together.

oenophilogical_xmaseve16Our Xmas Eve celebration, then, began around noon with preparations for an early homestyle dinner – 5:00 ish.   Our kitchen is very small: we are not. Since we were sharing the responsibility for dishes, we had to work out a kitchen schedule.  What a fun challenge for us and a test of our collaborative skills.  I’m happy to say we passed the test!

The dinner was a simple one consisting of crab cakes (from our local Whole Foods seafood section), pearl couscous with mixed bell peppers, and a cucumber/radish salad.  It doesn’t seem that difficult at first blush till you factor in the substitutions we had to make (because we really are follow-the-recipe cooks) plus our “make ahead” work on dishes for Xmas Day dinner.  After much excitement, we finally got the meal on the table around 6:00 … maybe 6:30.  I confess the delay was mostly my fault.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Vermentino from Trader Joe’s under the VINTJS  label.

After dinner, we finished watching the first season of “The Crown.”  This TV show is one of the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen.  If you like the genre, you should see it.  Sumptuous cinematography and solid performances across the board.

Then we put together a little snack tray of cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and nuts.  After all, we’d worked hard on the couch helping get Queen Elizabeth through the trials and tribulations of her early reign.  Next we turned out all the lights except the tree and sang our favorite Xmas carols.  And that was that!  Time to hit the hay and rest up for our Xmas Day festivities.

oenophilogical_vintjsvermintino2015Winemaker:  VINTJS
Varietal:  Vermentino
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  For me, this light white had a strong, zingy bouquet of citrus, peach and spice.  On the tongue I tasted orange, grass, and citrus zest.  It had a surprisingly long and pleasant finish as the orange lingered on the palate.  I liked this VINTJS Vermentino.  I was a little surprised that the piquancy of the bouquet didn’t translate fully to the tongue, but perhaps that’s just part of it’s character.


Barefoot Zinfandel

Among the selections I bought to have handy for holiday celebrations, I grabbed a bottle of this very inexpensive red.  It was on sale at my local grocery.  I’ve had a number of other selections by Barefoot cellars.  Originally started by two folks with no wine industry experience, this brand (now under the auspices of E&J Gallo) has reportedly become the largest wine brand in the world.

oenophilogical_barefootzinfandelWinemaker:  Barefoot
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $5.99

Notes:  It had a dark red color and scents of sous bois, berries and dirt.  Acidity was pretty good and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors I found in this medium-bodied Zin were blackberry, moss, blueberry, and a touch of pepper.  Tannins were very light.  Decent for the price.  Could have done with more structure, especially given the tease of a Lodi appellation.


New Year’s Eve Dinner Delight

This year my sweetie and I decided to stay home for the holiday season and make a few holiday memories of our own.  It isn’t that we don’t love to see family and friends, but there are times when one-on-one quality time is warranted.  Know what I mean?  After the 2016 we had, this was definitely our time for staycation holidays.

Although we did lots of staying in on Xmas Eve and Xmas Day, on New Year’s Eve we decided to let somebody else do the cooking.  Hoping for an “experience,” we headed to a tiny Filipino restaurant in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.  The restaurant, Bad Saint, was selected as the #2 best new restaurant in the USA in 2016 by Bon Appetit magazine.  That’s in the entire U.S. of A!


First, you should know they don’t take reservations.  And the restaurant only seats about 24 guests.  So that meant on a cold, blustery day, we had to stand in line to get a place at the table (or counter, etc.).  Guess what?  We had a blast!  Took metro to the neighborhood, then stood for 2.5 hours on the sidewalk outside.  We were NOT alone by any means.  Luckily we were among the first in line – 5th or 6th group, I believe.  So we’d definitely make the first seating. That accomplished, so to speak, we passed the time chatting with our fellow line standers and took turns going to a nearby coffee shop to grab coffee, snacks, and warmth for a few minutes.  By the time the doors opened, the line stretched to the end of the block.

Reviews aside, when the staff counted down – 1, 2, 3 – and then pulled up the shades on the windows, we knew this was going to be a fun evening.  The menu was brief but complete – something tasty for everybody.  We decided to share four dishes that were just amazing.  They included a rice salad, kale, cauliflower, and a beautifully prepared and presented whole bronzino.  They had one dessert which we were more than happy to enjoy – what I would describe as apple pie spring rolls with a caramel reduction.


I realize this post is an aberration for this blog, but our evening was not about the wine.  It was all about the food and the experience.  We did have a cocktail to start called a Chili Manilli.  It was spicy and savory, made with chili-infused tequila, campari, and some other ingredients I don’t remember.  With dessert we also had a rainwater Madeira.

We went for an experience, and we had a fantastic one!  The staff – to a person – was welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable, helpful.  Every morsel was incredibly tasty.  I honestly think we could have ordered anything on the menu and been very happy.  This outing will definitely be one of those memories we can talk about in years to come.  Remember New Year’s Eve at the Bad Saint?  Yes.  Yes, indeed!

Will we go back?  You bet!  For what it’s worth, I highly recommend the restaurant.  We’ve already had some friends get in on their own Bad Saint experience with the same positive impressions.