Wine for Summer

Wine for Summer

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 – unless mentioned otherwise.

First off, my apologies for slacking off in the wine post department. I will do my best to keep up, as it’s a joy to do (well, someone has to drink the wine!). Today I’ve got a white wine and three reds. Some may seem to “big” for summer drinking, but I’m always up for a big red wine.

photo of a bottle of beringer wineBeringer Chenin Blanc America’s Favorite 2010 Alcohol 11.5% by volume; $6.99 at Vons.

On the Label: “Since 1976, Beringer has crafted award-winning wines in Napa Valley, and this Chenin Blanc is no exception. Crisp and refreshing, bursting with the aromas and flavors of fresh fruit, America’s favorite Chenin Blanc is well suited on its own or as the perfect complement to a meal. If you enjoy our Chenin Blanc, try our Moscato. Serve chilled.

Please visit us at .”

My take: Perfect for a hot summer night. Chilled, with ice, or with ice and soda water for a spritzer, it’s a lovely, lightly sweet, satisfying wine at a low alcohol content (so you can enjoy more of it).

My Rating:  ~ Very Drinkable ~ whether you put ice in it or not!

Cline Zinfandel California 2008  Alcohol 14% by Volume; $11.99 at Vons, on of Cline Zinfandel

On the Label: “Meticuous farming. Mature fruit. Handmade wines. Severe selection. Master blending. From repeated tasting of the fruit in the vineyard to seeing the grapes come through the hopper, we still do it the old-fashioned way.  We think it shows in the bottle, the only thing that matters. Abundant cherry and vanilla nuances fill the nose and follow through to mouth-filling dark berry fruit and spice. Supple tannins linger with a smooth finish. Try this wine with penne putanesca, grilled steak or chili con carne.”

My take: At the beginning, this bottle had a slightly raisiny taste. I’m not sure if, after four years in the bottle, it was past its prime already, or if it just hadn’t opened up yet. Sure enough, after half an hour had passed, the raisiny flavor had disappeared, leaving a lovely, deeply colored Zinfandel that had lots of fruit. It ended up being quite a tasty wine.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Not higher, because that raisiny taste took some time to wash away.

photo of bottle of Blackstone red blendBlackstone Winemaker’s Select Red Blend 2010 California Alcohol 13.5% by Volume. $8.99 at Vons.

On the Label: “Our Blackstone red wine is produced from vineyards located throughout California’s finest grape growing regions. After harvest, each vineyard lot is carefully developed to capture its distinctive flavors and aromatic qualities.

“Our wine is a blend of California’s best red wine varietals and emulates Blackstone’s style; smooth, flavorful and balanced. This wine is soft and silky with flavors of ripe plum, blackberry and dark chocolate with a long, lush finish.”

My Take: I enjoyed this wine. It wasn’t bombastic, as some red blends can get; it wasn’t sweet, either, another possibility with red blends. It was perfect with grilled pizza and a salad on a hot summer night. So far, all the Blackstone wines I’ve tasted have been right on the money.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Pascual Toso Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Barrancas Vineyards Mendoza, Argentina   14% Alcohol by Volume; $24.99 on Sale at Duke of Bourbon (local wine & liquor shop).

On the Label: “This wine is aged in small oak barrels at Barrancas Winery situated in Maipu, Province of Mendoza, one of the prime wine producing areas of Argentina. It has an unique cherry color mature fruits, black pepper, coffee and mint. Well integrated with vanilla wich (sic) comes from 12 months of oak ageing (sic) . A very well structured wine, with a nice body and a lengthy finish.”

My Take: I don’t remember why I bought this bottle of celebratory wine; but I was so glad I did. We had it with steaks and smashed potatoes and broccoli, and it really made a good meal fantastic. I did pour it off into a carafe, and let it air for about half an hour. The  wait was rewarding, as the wine was smooth, and rich, and complemented the steak beautifully.

Every now and then, you just need to celebrate. If you can find this wine under $30, you’re doing good!

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~

Do you have a wine you’d like me to try? Drop me a comment, and let’s discuss!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

What’s in a Recipe?

What’s in a Recipe?

Cooking. Recipes. I used to follow them  to the letter, until I had kids. Then shortcuts started happening, or I didn’t have the exact ingredients, or I just thought it might taste better if…

My husband is still a slave to the recipe, no matter what it may be. Which is better? Someone who follows a recipe down to the last quarter teaspoon of water in the pan, or someone who is creative as they cook?

It all boils down (pun intended) to the recipe itself. The trick is finding the right one – and I still go by instinct rather than solid knowledge when I look for a recipe.

For instance, about three months ago hubby decided he’d make a fish chowder. For some reason I wasn’t home that day, so he found a recipe online and made this chowder. When I got home the next evening, he stood at the stove, reheating his creation from the night before.

“Fix this,” he said to me, and thrust the spoon into my hand. “It was bland and boring last night. Please, make it taste better.”

I sipped. He was right, bland and boring. But once you’ve added the cream to the chowder, there’s not much more you can do to it. I tried; I added creamed corn and some thyme, and a little bit of sherry. That brought the chowder up to not-bland and not-boring, but certainly not the chowder he was trying to recreate (from a restaurant we’d eaten at in Monterey in early March).

Time rolled on, until this past weekend. Fish Chowder, says the husband. I agreed to make it if he bought the fish. And it was my turn to hit the internet for a recipe.



Photo from


Most of the flavor of a good seafood chowder comes before you add the fish and the cream. The recipe I ultimately found had all the ingredients it needed to be tasty – olive oil and butter, onions, dry white wine, potatoes, clam juice, Old Bay seasoning and thyme, for starters.

The New England Fish Chowder recipe that I found from Simply Recipes had everything I needed. The interesting thing about this recipe? If I wanted to omit the fish and add shrimp, clams, and crab, that too would taste amazing. Because most of the flavor is in the base of the chowder, not the fish itself. Two cups of clam juice was what it took to make this chowder lip-smackingly good.

The recipe itself calls for Pacific Cod, as its a sustainable fish here in the west. I used Tilapia because it’s cheap. I also, at the last minute, threw in a pound of cut-up raw shrimp just before the Tilapia was cooked – the shrimp cooked up in a minute or so and added nice color to the chowder (and as the shrimp was on special, $5 a pound, I didn’t totally blow the grocery budget).

Overall, it was a winner. We had the leftovers last night, and I didn’t have to do a thing to make it taste better! Oh, and we had a Chenin Blanc wine to go with it. Decent pairing, but I would have preferred an oaky Chardonnay.

Some people may think fish chowder is a funny recipe to make during the summer – but days can be foggy and cool here in June, and sometimes a hearty fish chowder can both warm you up and still make it feel like summer, with that taste of the sea.

What are some of your favorite summer dishes?

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Have you read DEMON SOUL yet? You can find it at Crescent Moon Press or Happy Reading!