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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Alexander & Fitch Merlot 2013

Here’s an interesting fact: according to Wikipedia -and who doesn’t rely on Wikipedia these days – Merlot is the third most-grown grape varietal globally.  Take that! Miles Raymond (from the movie Sideways).

Winemaker:  Alexander & Fitch
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Dark burgundy in the glass, this A&F Merlot exhibited earth, moss and berries in the bouquet.  Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it has what I would call “medium-ish” tannins.  Flavors I detected included earth, vanilla, balsamic vinegar (without the vinegar), cherries, and bitters.  Another solid performer from the inexpensive selections at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Merlot 2014

I picked this Merlot up on a very recent visit to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s.  Sometimes …

Other times “whatcha see” is an illusion, and what lies in store can be either a horrible shock or a pleasant surprise.  Personally, I like pleasant surprises, and this wine turned out to be one of those.

Winemaker:  Trader Joe’s
Wine:  Grower’s Reserve Merlot
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  California
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  A medium-bodied red with good acidity and medium-plus tannins, this inexpensive Merlot had a definite purplish hue which brought to mind big, juicy, ripe plums.  My eyes, however, deceived me.  What I found in the bouquet was a mix of cedar, earth and barnyard with sweet floral notes.  On the tongue it had an almost chalky texture with cola, blackberry, and tea leaf along with some sweet cherry that blossomed after oxidation.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a sweet wine: alcohol is at 13.2%.  Anyway, I liked it.  It’s cheap, and it’s competent – even interesting – as inexpensive wines go.  House red for me?  It’s a possibility.

Blood Red Wine

Oenophilogical_CuriousBeastsBloodRedWineWrapper2013As I said before, it’s never a bad idea to plan ahead for the holidays.  Many of us forget due to our excitement over the “majors”, though, that the spooky holiday comes first.  Let’s face it, I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I went to a party in costume. [OK, I won’t tell you.]  Why has it been so long?  No, it’s not because I’ve completely lost the fun in my life.  Mostly it’s due to a lack of advance prep work.

So, if you’re thinking of having a get-together (with or without costumes) on Halloween, I have another candidate for you to audition for the beverage table.  This one is also for a casual affair not for the wine aficionados.  And this wine, too, has a Halloween-appropriate label.  And name!   In fact, the wrapper that comes with each bottle is even more Halloweeny than the label.  If you serve it at Halloween, make sure your guests get to see and appreciate the wrapper art as well.

Oenophilogical_CuriousBeastsBloodRedWine2013Winemaker:  Curious Beasts (by Truett Hurst)
Wine:  Blood Red Wine
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  California
Price:  $13.00

Notes:  With a name like Blood Red Wine, this selection is appropriately dark ruby in the glass.  On the nose I caught scents of red berries, sous bois, and a hint of caramel.  At 14.7% alcohol, it had little to no tannins that I could detect.  Still, there was plenty of flavor in this light-bodied selection.  I tasted lots of cherry and blackberry with some raisin and caramel along with a touch of eucalyptus.  It was certainly pleasant enough to drink.  Since there’s not much in the way of structure, it is a drink now kind of wine.  I think it would be decent with a pasta dish or with Mexican cuisine.

Firefly Ridge Pinot Gris 2013

I love the idea of serendipity.  Merriam Webster defines serendipity as “luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.”  While I don’t believe I can live my life relying on it alone, I do try to keep my eyes peeled for it’s occurrence.  I think I may have discovered one.

After jotting down my tasting notes when experiencing a particular wine, I place them in a nifty little file at my desk.  Of course, other items come across my desk from time to time.  In this instance, I seem to have had a Reese’s peanut butter & chocolate type of moment.  You see, stuck to my notes for this selection was a post-it on which was written the titles of two popular Latin songs.  So this is a serendipitous wine & canciones moment.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Oenophilogical_FireflyRidgePinotGris2013Winemaker:  Firely Ridge
Varietal:  Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Central Coast, CA
Price:  $15.99

Notes:  The color of pale lemon, the wine echoed citrus in it’s bouquet.  At 13.5% alcohol, this Firefly Ridge selection was light-bodied with bright acidity.  Flavors ran along the tropical lines with a core of citrus throughout and notes of banana and mango.  Near the finish I caught some grass and white pepper as well.  Overall, not a bad Pinot Gris to sip while enjoying some fun music.  I think it might be over-priced at $15.99, so look for it on sale at your local Safeway.

Cline Zinfandel 2013

As you may have noted, I’ve been on a bit of a Zinfandel bender of late.  So without further ado ….

Winemaker:  Cline
Wine:  California Classics Lodi Zinfandel
Vintage: 2013
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Appellation: Lodi, CA
Price: $8.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes: A very dark red, this Cline Zin smelled of berries, moss and rubber.  It had good acidity, heft on the palate was on the light side of medium, and alcohol was at 14%.  Flavor-wise, I tasted blackberry, currant, oak, some eucalyptus and a touch of pepper.  Not bad at all!