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.

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Vega Montán Mencía 2013

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something new.  That ever happen to you?

The other night my sweetie and I stepped out for dinner at a new casual Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood.  It was called Lucky Pot.  Well … I don’t know about that!  Didn’t seem like our pots had much luck in them because we weren’t exactly impressed with our dishes.  We were even less impressed when the owner’s young daughter – who was sitting watching TV in the dining room – started trimming her nails at a table near us.  OK, so not all new things turn out to be good.  Ha!  But we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t given it a try.

Still in the “new” mindset after our dinner, we wandered up to the local Whole Foods to consider a carry-out dessert.  My sweetie got cookies.  I opted for something different – and new to me.  This Mencía caught my eye.

Winemaker: Vega Montán by Bodegas Adriá
Varietal: Mencía
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: Bierzo, Spain DO
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  A dark purple wine, this Mencía had earth, pine resin and dark fruit in the bouquet.  It was light-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and 13.5% alcohol.  This selection was more focused on non-fruit flavors which made it an interesting experience for me.  Especially since it was my first Mencía.  On the tongue I caught plenty of woody tannins, pine tar, hints of leather, baking spices as well as some cherry and cranberry.

Albero Spanish Rosé 2014

A few months ago I mentioned that I had tried a varietal wine made of 100% Bobal grapes.  I liked it, so my blog friend whirlaway let me know when they saw this Rosé made from Bobal mentioned in a Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.  Thank you, whirlaway, for giving me a heads up!  I definitely wanted to see what this one was like.

Winemaker:  Albero
Wine:  Spanish Rosé
Varietal:  Bobal
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Utiel-Requena DOP, Spain
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:   In the glass this wine was fairly dark for a rosé.  It was pink, yes, but a dark pink.  It was light-bodied, and acidity was OK.  On the palate this Albero seemed dryer than it’s 12.5% alcohol content would suggest.  Tannins were light with a late onset.  Flavors for me included tart cherry, spice notes and a bitter woody finish.  It was interesting to try a blush wine made from Bobal grapes.  I think, however, that I want to try some more Bobal red selections.  This Rosé was not my personal favorite.

Click on the picture to read the article online.

 

Montebuena Rioja Cuvee KPF 2012

What is a good way to celebrate good news at work?  When I say good news, I mean really good news.  Remember the trip to Montreal I mentioned?  Well, the participants rated the meetings and presenters (of which I was one).  I don’t know if it was that my attempt at dredging up college French was passable or what … but I got good “grades.”  And that makes me very happy.  So I decided to reward myself by tasting my first Rioja ever.  Yes, it’s true!  I know it might have been more fitting to have gone Canadian or French, but it was a serendipitous celebration.  I pulled from the bottles I had on hand, don’t you know!

Winemaker:  Montebuena (by Cosecheros de Labastida)
Wine:  Rioja Cuvee KPF
Varietal:  Tempranillo
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Rioja DOC, Spain
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Spanish red was more of an eggplant color with tons of bouquet redolent with barnyard, oak, earth, tangy dark berries and spice.  I really enjoyed the bouquet a lot.  Acidity was fairly high and tannins were also on the high side in this medium-bodied selection.  On the tongue, I thought this inexpensive Rioja was pretty yummy. I tasted rich dark fruit, tea leaf, tar, a hint of pepper, brambly tannins, as well as notes of baked rolls on he long finish.  In describing it, I wouldn’t call it chewy exactly but then I wouldn’t call it not chewy, either.  Is that confusing?  Well, try it and see what I mean.  I think it would be a nice accompaniment to a steak dinner, but there is plenty to enjoy by itself.

A Light White From Northwest Spain – Verdejo Rueda

Rueda is a wine region – Denominación de Origen (D.O.) – in the area known as Castile and Leon.  The Rueda D.O. is located northeast of the famous university city, Salamanca, and lies largely within the province of Valladolid.  It is, in fact, known for it’s production of wines from the Verdejo grape which (apparently originating in North Africa) began to be cultivated in Rueda around the 11th century.  I’d never had a Verdejo before, so I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.

Winemaker:   Marqués de Cáceres
Varietal:  Verdejo
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Rueda D.O., Spain
Price: $8.99 at Trader Joes

Notes:  The color of this Spanish white was extremely pale yellow.  It’s bouquet included scents of citrus, grass, and a hint of tart apple.  Acidity was good, and it was very light on the tongue.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Serving it chilled, I found the flavors very light as well with an overarching citrus and some grass.  As this Verdejo approached room temperature, however, it really opened up.  Flavors increased in intensity with a noteable core of citrus, some toasty warm spice notes, a bit of honey, and citrus peel on the finish.  Although I purchased my bottle at Trader Joe’s, this selection is available at a number of wine retailers in my area.

Jellybean Red Blend 2011

Just one look at the packaging of this wine and you’d think you were getting a full-on dessert wine.  After all, jellybeans are basically sugar, food coloring and flavoring.  Add to the Jellybean name the candy stripes at the top of the bottle, and there’s no doubt it’s a dessert wine!  But wait . . .  the wine is called Berry Smooth.  So, does that mean it tastes like a fruit smoothie?  Only one way to find out.  Twist off that cap and pour!!

Winemaker:  Jellybean Wines
Wine:  Berry Smooth Red Wine Blend
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Catalunya DDO, Spain
Price:  $14.99

Notes:  The color of this Spanish blend made with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes was a very pretty dark red.  On the nose I smelled musty dark berries and eucalyptus.  Acidity was good, and the weight on the tongue was medium with a decided silkiness to it.  Tannins were faint but present.  On the palate I tasted sweet blueberry and boysenberry, a touch of pepper and pomegranate on the very quick finish.  Alcohol was at 12.5% which, along with the lack of tannic acid, probably accounts for the omnipresent sweetness.  If you like your wines on the fruity and sweet side, this could be a good, easy-drinking choice for you.  In addition, it might also do fine with a spicy meal – Thai barbecue, for instance.  And while it isn’t a dessert wine, per se, I suppose you could serve it with a dessert like a deep dark chocolate peppermint cake or a wild berry bread pudding.  I’m just sayin’.  Anyway, in my opinion, the flavor profile is a little on the simple side for a retail price of $14.99.  Happily, I grabbed it on sale for $8.40 which also seems to be closer to the average price I saw online.

Tarima Organic Monastrell 2011

Another wine post about Devotion?  But of course!  We are all answering the call set out by our fellow wine blogger SAHMmelier for the monthly wine writing challenge (MWWC).  She won the gold medal last time with her entry for the Mystery-themed challenge, so now she has the honor of choosing this month’s theme!  You can read all the posts – and those from previous challenges – over at the MWWC blog by clicking on the awesome wine stain logo.  So what is my take on Devotion?

Well, first let me say that I have been well reminded what devotion means and what it can do as I watch the Olympic athletes compete.  In sport after sport, the backstory pieces about the competitor’s lives are constant reminders and shining examples of devotion.  Take, for example, the Russian pairs figure skater Maxim Trankov.  In order to train, he left his family home at 15 and had to sleep in the basement of an ice skating rink among a bunch of soldiers who were billeted there.  In addition, he received one (evidently only one) free meal a day there.  For three years!  Mr. Trankov is now the proud owner (with his partner Tatiana Volosozhar) of an Olympic gold medal.  But he is not the only athlete with this kind of story.  I’m sure we would hear many similar and perhaps even more compelling stories from other athletes competing – most of whom will not end up with a ribbon around their neck.

As I’ve been watching these Winter Games from my comfy couch, I’ve been devoting myself to a little wine exploration.  One of my recent 2014 Winter Olympics wines was the Tarima Organic Monastrell 2011 which has it’s own story of devotion to tell.  Or perhaps, more precisely, it’s label is devoted to a particular message.  Take a quick look at the picture of the bottle  Did you notice?  This wine was made with certified organic grapes.  In case you missed it on the front, it is repeated on the back label — FIVE times.  I kid you not!  In their defense, Bodegas Volver does produce a Tarima Monastrell that isn’t made with organic grapes.

Winemaker:  Tarima by Bodegas Volver
Wine:  Tarima Made With Organic Grapes
Varietal: Monastrell
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Alicante DO, Spain
Price:  $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Spanish Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) was a deep dark garnet color.  The bouquet held musty earth, dark red fruit, wet leather and mothball scents.  Body on this selection was fairly light with a softly plush mouthfeel.  Tannins were moderately grippy and lingering.  Acidity was good and alcohol was at 14.5%.  On the palate I tasted violets, dark plum, and black olive with a finish of bitter wood.  And that despite the fact that it was evidently fermented in stainless steel.

Now that I’ve finished getting this post up, I’ll get back to watching athletes devoted to their sports and (at an acceptable hour) my own wine exploration.  I suppose if I were more devoted —  to either/both — I could have typed this up while sitting on the couch in front of the TV and sipping wine.  Sigh!

Addendum:  As I tasted this bottle, I wondered about the possibility of cork taint.  The bouquet was fairly unusual, to be sure.  So I decided to look around and see what others have said about this selection.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find much on this vintage of the organic Monastrell besides at the Bodegas Volver web page.  The flavor profile I tasted is certainly on the darker side than what is described by the winery.  Of course, I often don’t agree with precisely what a winery says about it’s own wines.  That being said, they do mention “toasty barrel power” which agrees with my bitter wood even though they use only stainless steel.  So …  If anyone else has tasted this wine and can share their own thoughts, I’d be very interested to read your comments.