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.

 

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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.

 

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!

Inexpensive Lodi Zin – Sphere 2012

As folks probably know, Lodi is known for it’s outstanding Zinfandel.  So when I ran across this Sphere selection at Trader Joe’s for under $6.00, I wanted to try it.  Seeing that I’d picked it up to read the label, a friendly staffer stopped to tell me he thought it was one of their best values for the money.  Well, then I simply HAD to try it.

Winemaker:  Sphere
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of this Lodi Zin was a medium garnet.  On the nose I caught whiffs of topsoil, blackberries and copious pecan shell (that’s what it smelled like to me).  Acidity was bright and active.  Both the body and the tannins were light on this Sphere selection, and alcohol was at 13%.  As far as flavors go, I thought it was an interesting glass of Zinfandel.  At first it was unexpectedly bitter but then settled after a very brief time to breathe.  Once settled, I caught flavors of blackberries, pepper, some darker prune notes and a touch of bitter wood.  Like I said, it was an interesting glass of Zin and would probably make a nice complement to a casual beef dish – pot roast or the like – but not for that thick, juicy steak.

Castle Rock Zinfandel 2011

A couple of months ago, I had lunch with some friends at a popular Chinese restaurant in town.  We hadn’t seen these friends in awhile because they’d recently had a baby and weren’t going out while the family all got acclimated to each other.  Since they had baby in tow, we decided to meet closer to their house.  The food was great, baby Vivienne was incredibly cute, and our visit was lots of fun.  It was lunch, so none of us chose to imbibe, but ….

On the way home, I noticed the sign for a store called World Market.  It was a Saturday, we didn’t have any pressing engagements, so we stopped in to have a look around.  Why not?  Lo and behold, this store not only carries a variety of products similar to what you might expect in a Pier 1, for instance, they also carry an assortment of wines.  Well now!  A new source of wine selections?  I’m game!

After perusing the bottles on hand (yes, I looked through the whole lot – lol), I grabbed up this Zinfandel to try.  After all, it’s from Lodi, California, the self-proclaimed “Zinfandel Capital of the World.”

Winemaker:  Castle Rock
Vintage: 2011
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price: $10.99 at World Market

Notes:  Color was a pretty, medium ruby.  The bouquet was a vibrant mix of black raspberry, earth and spice.  The body was fairly light, acidity was good, and tannins were medium.  Alcohol was 13.5%.  As for flavors, this Lodi Zin was quite woody with a fruit core of black raspberry, plenty of pepper, as well as touches of spearmint and tea leaf.  I thought it was quite enjoyable.  Although it may have been a tad on the light side, I wouldn’t turn down a glass.  Always with a mind toward a good value, I snagged this selection at World Market for $7.68 on sale.