Thursday is a special occasion…isn’t it?

I am so relieved tonight…so relieved that I opened one of the special wines from the “Cab Closet.”  Of all the wines I stash away, Cabernets are by far the highest in number.  I always feel like I need a special occasion to open one of these babies.  Today is Thursday – that’s special, isn’t it?  Granted I am feeling relieved about not having to move (more on that in a minute) but truth be told, I decide this morning that I was going to open something from the Cab Closet.  Let me back up.  I came home to find a Notice of Default attached to the house I’m renting.  It said that the owner had not been paying the mortgage and that the foreclosure process was about to begin.  I freaked.  This isn’t my dream house and there are actually some things I look forward to leaving behind when I do move, but I was planning on staying another year before having to get my act together and pull together another move.  I also don’t want to move over 200 bottles of wine…again.  My dad I moved 2 car loads to California and then back a year ago and I can honestly say that it was a beast.  It was the toughest part of either inter-state move.  So when I thought I was going to have to move in 30-60 days, I decided to start drinking the Cabs.  Thankfully, the owner of the house and I talked today and I found out that he’s in the process of renegotiating his terms with a different lender and that the house is not headed for foreclosure.  When I got home, I saw the Cab that I’d set out earlier in the morning and figured, “What the hell?”  So I had a terrific bottle of 2003 DeLoach O.F.S. Cabernet!  There is a scene in “Sideways” where Miles talks to Maya about waiting for a special occasion to open a rare bottle of wine that he’s been holding.  Her response is along the lines of…opening the bottle IS the special occasion.  I’ll drink to that. 

 

DeLoach 03 Cabernet OFS – Russian River Valley

  • Wine Info:  98.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 1.5% Petite Verdot
  • Appearance:  Ruby red
  • Nose:  Blackberries and a hint of floral – can’t pin point what kind though03 DeLoach Cab
  • Taste:  Great fruit, cherries initially and then it almost tastes like the skin of a plum
  • Price Range:  $30 – $40
  • Finish:  Slight tannins but really a very mellow Cab with lingering cherries
  • Remarks:  This was a great Cab and it took me back to when I bought it.  Dad and I were together on our first Sonoma trip (right after he helped me move to California) when I bought this.  He knew and liked this winery, but I’d never heard of it.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that they had a lot of good wines.  I bought this Cab and  Pinot Noir.
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Woodinville Wine Day

I’m recovering from a wine soaked day in Woodinville yesterday.  We had 11 stops and it seems like one was better than the next.  Really, there are some fantastic wines in Woodinville.  I will be updating the ‘Woodinville Wineries’ tab on this page with a brief summary of each tasting room.  My hope is to get to all of them throughout the year and write about each one.  This is probably a good time to mention that I’m not in the business of writing bad reviews.  I honestly believe that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.  So if you’re looking for me to slam a tasting room, or a winery, you will be disappointed.  The nice thing is, I don’t have to try hard to find something nice to say about the wine scene in Woodinville.

So this is list of wineries from yesterday…Alexandria Nicolle, Baer, Patterson, Darby, Red Sky, Des Voigne, Chatter Creek, Covington Cellars, Ross Andrew, JM Cellars and Brian Carter.  Whew!  I’d love to say that I had a clear favorite, but there were too many good things to try.  I’ll try to list a favorite (or two) from each place:

  • Alexandria Nicole – Rock Star Red, 06 Cabernet
  • Baer – Ursa
  • Darby – Chaos, Purple Haze
  • Patterson – Recession Red, 06 Volterra (Super Tuscan)
  • Red Sky – Sunrise, Serendipity
  • Des Voigne – San Remo (Sangiovese)
  • Chatter Creek – Cab Franc
  • Covington Cellars – Tuscan Red, Cab Franc
  • Ross Andrew – 05 Cabernet
  • JM Cellars – Cuvee, Tre Fanciulli
  • Brian Carter – Tuttorosso

Overall, a very good day with great wines and great friends.  Can’t wait to do it all again…however, I need to stop buying!!  As mentioned previously, my goal is to drink my collection down to 100 bottles or less in the next year.  After what I’ve opened this month and then this latest trip to Woodinville, I am up 4 bottles.  I’m doing it wrong.

Overedue Wine Reviews

 I’ve been without a home computer for a while but now that the new (grape colored) computer is here – it’s time to get my act together and get caught up on some reviews.  I’ve got a big wine day coming up tomorrow and if I don’t get these completed now, I don’t know when I ever will.

Let me start with a few bottles that I opened at D’s place a couple weeks ago.  (Thanks again for inviting me and the dogs over for wine and a movie!)  Incidentally, this was the dog’s first trip to D’s place.  They did better than expected but have a long way to go before I start bringing them all over with me.  I would eventually love to bring them to Woodinville, but we’ve got a long way to go before they’re winery ready.

Okay – on to the wine. 

 

Darby 06 Chaos – Columbia ValleyDarby - Chaos

  • Wine Info:  67% Cab; 18% Syrah; 10% Cab Franc; 5% Petite Verdot
  • Appearance:  Ruby red; slightly translucent around the edges when held up to the light
  • Nose:  Tight when first opened, but after decanting it opened up with cherries
  • Taste:  Light/bright fruit (we tasted cherries and plums) with a little spice (cloves?)on the finish, maybe from the Syrah
  • Finish:  Both fruit and spice lingers and continue to taste good; no tannins to compete with the other flavors
  • Price Range:  $20 – $30
  • Remarks:  Love this wine!  We had it with pizza but it’s great by itself as well.  Really unique flavor, due to the interesting and non-conventional blend.  Nice medium bodied wine.

 

 

Pomum 05 Syrah – Columbia Valley

  • Wine Info:  Syrah, dscf0138
  • Appearance:  Inky, dark eggplant purple, opaque
  • Nose:  Black and blue berries, got better and better the longer it was open
  • Taste:  Slight spice initially and then big, juicy fruit, a mouthful of wine
  • Finish:  Smooth, lingering, hits your tongue in all the right ways
  • Price Range: $30 – $35
  • Remarks:  Oh how I wish I had more of this!  Really fantastic Syrah.  Food was long gone when we opened this but I can see it going with a nice steak or a great leg of lamb.  This wine should cellar well for a while but it would be really hard not to drink it if I had more.

 

 

 Sparkman Cellars 05 Wilderness – Columbia Valley

  • Wine Info:  77% Cab, 12% Syrah, 8% Cab Franc, 3% Malbecdscf0120
  • Appearance:  Dark, intense red
  • Nose:  Cocoa, cherries, dark floral – maybe violets?
  • Taste:  Great fruit, black cherries, black berries
  • Finish:  Slight tannins on the finish
  • Price Range:  $25 – $30
  • Remarks:  I’ve liked this wine for a while; it’s a great blend and I haven’t found anything that it doesn’t go well with.  Price point is good too.  And if that isn’t enough for you to try it…a portion of the revenues from this wine are donated to the Wilderness Society.

The Death of my Dell

The bad news…my home computer (an 11 year old Dell desktop) is dying a slow death.  The good news…I have a spiffy little laptop on order and should be back in business in a few weeks.  Until then I will play with the dogs, cook, drink and take as many notes as possible.  I’ve even got a big wine day in Woodinville planned for the end of the month and will update with a report and as many pictures as I can take without becoming obnoxious. 

If you’ve been wanting to check out the wineries in South Seattle, Valentine’s Day is a great day to do it.  These wineries open once a month and are pretty easy to navigate between.  For more info, check out the South Seattle Artisan Wineries web site:  http://www.ssaw.info/Nov%2008%20ssaw%20web.htm

And if you’re looking for a great day to visit Woodinville…Saturday (2/21) is it!  Almost everyone is open that weekend, and this doesn’t happen all the time.  There are over 40 wineries in Woodinville so don’t plan on trying to hit them all in one day.  For more information about the wine scene in Woodinville, check out Woodinville Wine Country:  http://www.woodinvillewinecountry.com/

Cheers!

Superbowl Weekend

 Let me begin by stating that I am so thankful to have had a sunny Saturday!  Our weather has been brutal so far this winter but somehow that seems to fade in the memory banks when the sun is shining, especially on a weekend.  Granted, it was still cold, but I’ll take a sunny day however I can get it. 

As a result of said sunny day, I set off on two ambitious walks with my dogs.  This is probably a good time to mention that my dogs are in training right now.  I am trying to socialize them and have to walk them one at a time to have any sort of control when we encounter other dogs.  They weren’t always this bad but last summer they started killing things (2 rats, a rabbit and a bird) and ever since then, they have gotten aggressive around other dogs.  Keep in mind, they’ve each been to dog school and one (Vegas) has even been a fan of dog parks…in the past.  All of that went away when they went on their killing rampage.  Now they are the typical annoying mean little dogs that give little dogs a bad name.  I refuse to accept this so I’ve started walking them one at a time.  Cricket is making slow progress.  She is getting better around smaller dogs but still has a melt-down when she encounters a big dog.  Her reaction isn’t as crazed as Vegas’ reaction.  Right now Vegas hates all dogs, no matter the size, and tries to attack any that we see on our walks.  Even so, I hold out the most hope for him because he used to be the more dog-friendly of the two.  I think he just needs to somehow remember that other dogs are fun and not prey! My hope is that the one on one walks, and possibly enrolling in another dog class, will help.

After two wonderful walks with the dogs, it was time to start cooking.  I’d been craving Red Beans and Rice for a while and had also agreed to make Bacon Cream Cheese Jalapenos for the Superbowl party I was attending on Sunday.  I spent the rest of this glorious day stuck in my kitchen…and what a glorious mess I made!  At the end of this post I’ll share the recipes and a few pictures…of the food, not the messy kitchen.

Sunday was the Super Bowl and if you somehow managed to forget, all you had to do was turn on NBC at dawn to start watching the pregame coverage.  Seriously, it seemed like the whole days was dedicated to Super Bowl coverage.  I think they told us everything but what kind of toilet paper was used in the locker rooms!  (And for all I know, they could have covered that too.)  Don’t get me wrong, I like football and the Super Bowl; I just don’t like all the build up all day long.  Once it finally got underway, it was a great game.  The wrong team won, but it was a great game anyway.  It was also great to have a good friend with a gigantic HD Plasma TV!  There was a house full of people and not a bad seat to be had.  Even as we grazed around the food table in the dining room, it was easy to see the TV and nobody missed a thing…including the commercials.    As expected, a lot of them were clever and amusing – especially the Bud commercials with the Clydesdales.  Sadly, a lot were not clever or amusing…which I don’t understand.  These are the most expensive commercial spots on the planet – why are there any boring ones?  Oh well, at least we were all pleasantly surprised by the half time entertainment.  We all liked Bruce, but none of us were huge/rabid fans.  That being said, we sang along and had a great time watching him perform.  There was nothing cutting edge or controversial, but we agreed that this was one of the more enjoyable half time shows in recent history.  It’s also one of the few times I remember not changing the channel during half time.

Last thought…why not play the Super Bowl on Saturday?  Sure would make the day after a bit more tolerable…

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Food and Wine:

 Wine Review – Austin Robaire 2002 Cabernet – Columbia Valley

austin-02-cab-label1

  • Wine Info:  85% Cabernet 15% Malbec
  • Appearance: Nice dark garnet red
  • Nose: Raspberries, chocolate and a little pipe tobacco
  • Taste: Berries, cherries, licorice
  • Finish: Quite a bit of tannins on the finish
  • Price Range: See note below
  • Remarks:  Good young cab, strong tannins but also great fruit; some sediments

(Note: This winery is no longer in business.)

 

  Red Beans and Rice (8-10 servings – freezes well!)

  • 1 lb of kidney beans – soaked
  • 1 lb smoked sausage (nothing specific – use your favorite)
  • 15 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 2 medium onions – chopped
  • 2 green peppers – chopped
  • 5 stalks of celery – chopped
  • 1 lb smocked ham hocks
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste (Cajun seasoning works well here too)
  • 1 Tbs butter or vegetable oil to render the sausage
  • 2-4 cups of water
  • Rice

soak them overnight

 

The most important thing…soak the beans overnight.  (Be sure to cover them in plenty of water as they will soak up more than you think.)  Soaking them overnight softens them up and helps them to break down in the liquid, making the whole thing thicker.

Cut up the sausage and add that to the butter/oil in the bottom of a large pot.  Render the sausage and chop onions, peppers, celery.  Mince the garlic.  Add it all to the sausage.  Cook 15 minutes or so until veggies have softened.

Drain the beans in a colander, rinse once or twice and add to the pot.  Add the bay leaves and smoked ham hocks at this time too.  Then pour in enough water to cover it all by about an inch…you may need to add more as it cooks.  Add Cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and/or Cajun seasoning.  Flavors will concentrate as it cooks.

Bring it to a boil then turn it down to simmer for 1-2 hours.  Check it every 30 minutes or so to make sure the water is still covering the beans.  Do not let the beans burn – it will wreck the whole thing.  Some people leave the ham hocks alone and then throw them out at the end; but I take them out after about an hour, let them cool and then cut off whatever meat I can and toss that back into the pot.  Taste and adjust as needed while cooking. 

 simmering

 When it seems “close” then it’s time to make the rice.  There are a lot of different ideas about what kind of rice to use.  I wish I could tell more of a difference, but they all work and taste just fine to me.  Make whatever rice you normally would – it will be fine.  Plan on about 1/2 cup to a cup per person or per serving. 

  

Bacon Cream Cheese Jalapenos (makes 50)

  • 25 fresh jalapenos (whole)
  • 4 packages of cream cheese
  • 3-4 packages of thick cut bacon – you will need 25-30 slices, cut in half
  • 100 toothpicks
  • rubber gloves
  • 2 broiler pans

Prep time: approx 2 hours; Cook time: approx 2-3 hours

Put on the rubber gloves before cleaning the peppers.  Trust me, your hands will be on fire for several hours after cleaning these if you don’t wear gloves.  To prepare the peppers, cut off the stem and then cut them length wise.  Clean out all the seeds and most of the membranes inside of the pepper.  I stand over the sink with running water and scrape out the insides with a small spoon.  Open a window or turn on a fan if you are sensitive to hot peppers; the smell can get kind of intense.  (Notes: The more of the internal membrane that you leave in the pepper, the hotter the finished product will be.  You can take off the gloves after cleaning the peppers.)

If peppers are wet, dry them on a paper towel or wipe them off before stuffing them.  To fill them, take a spoon full of cream cheese (or just use your hands like I do!) and fill the pepper to the top.  Don’t overfill it or mound the cream cheese on top of it; that will just get messy later.  Once the pepper is full of cream cheese, take 1/2 a strip of bacon and wrap it around the pepper.  Secure with 2 toothpicks.  Note:  These can be made up to this point the day before and kept in the fridge.  I usually do that because the prep time is so long.

 2009_020100111

Preheat oven to 250.  Lightly spray a broiler pans with non-stick cooking spray.  (If you’re bringing these to a party, line the pan with lots of heavy duty foil for super quick clean up!)  Line up the peppers. 

2009_02010017

Put the peppers in for one hour and then check them.  They should still look pretty raw; it’s now time to turn up the heat to 300.  I start checking them every 30 minutes or so after this.  Be sure to allow at least 2 hours for cooking.  The goal is to  cook them slowly because it cooks out most of the heat from the peppers and just leaves a nice mellow pepper taste.  If you’re in a hurry, you can turn them up to 350 at this point…just check them more often so that the bacon doesn’t burn.  They’re done when the bacon looks cooked.  Not very scientific, I know.  But ovens vary and so do peppers; bigger ones take longer to cook.