The Harvest Wedding!

My dear long-suffering husband, Sully, has said “we meet the nicest people through your wine interests”. I have to agree! I feel that if you are following your passion, the most amazing things will happen.

Our dear friends, Amy & Chris, decided to tie the knot on the vineyard that Times Ten Cellars (http://www.timestencellars.com/) owns in Alpine, TX.(Chris is the winemaker for Times Ten). However, we were informed that the grapes decided to have their brix level (Sugar Content) at the optimum level and needed to be picked. So we were in for a wedding & harvest event. When the grapes tell you they are ready, you obey! Aww the glamorous life of a winemaker….

While we were in Alpine, we had experienced intermittent rain (yes, RAIN!). That’s all anyone could talk about….Just to let y’all know, Alpine gets cool at night and the elevation is 4,480′ but rain is a bit scarce. But the skies at night are amazing where you can see ALL of the constellations and the Milkyway! It reminds me a bit of my growing up in the country outside of Abilene.

The day of the wedding was full of multi-tasking; picking grapes, hauling grapes, crushing grapes, picking flowers for the Brides bouquet, setting up chairs, tables, wine glasses, helping the band (The O’s, who are a kick ass twosome that you NEED to see http://www.facebook.com/wearetheos), stringing lights, decorating tables, drinking wine & beer, shooting guns, laughing and praying the rain does not come…

Everything was set. Bride & Groom left to get ready. The lights were twinkling, the tables were set, The O’s had their sound check and said the music was incredible as it traveled around the valley and the mountains. So off we went to put on our boots and get ready for a fantastic celebration!

As we drove back to the vineyard, we realized that a rain storm had blown through. We were greeted with soggy decorations, mud, broken wine glasses and no electricity. John and Taylor’s speakers that were on stands were blown over. Luckily they had a tarp over their equipment, but we didn’t know how much damage had been done and the wedding was supposed to start in about an hour and it was still spitting rain.

The caterer/manager Stephen Wood from the Saddle Club (http://saddleclubalpine.com/) said that we could move everything into town and we could use the Granada Theater (http://www.alpinegranada.com/). That was a fantastic plan, however cell phones don’t work out at the vineyard so there was no way we could get in contact with Chris & Amy to tell them that their wedding was being moved; besides they had their hearts set on a vineyard wedding and they worked so hard clearing the land and making sure everything looked perfect…plus Cathedral Mountain(elev.6800) would be the backdrop for all of the festivities. So a decision was made to have the ceremony in the barn and the reception in town.

A mad scramble commenced and decorations, candles, musical instruments, wine barrels, chairs, tables, and glasses were hauled down the hillside into the barn…in the rain…the barn never looked so good. I must say the most clever thing I saw was my F.G. Peeps (Fondue Gang, yeah that’s right, we be fer reals, yo) Audrey & Kristin, roll out white butcher paper to make an aisle and then threaten ANYONE who stepped on it…don’t be messing with F.G., we mean business!

Amy & Chris arrived and were told that there was a slight change in plans and both of them were so amazed at the work we had done and were grateful that everyone pitched in to help. So they gave the “ok” and Chris took his place in the barn and waited for Amy’s Father to escort her down the aisle. Everyone was packed into the barn grinning from ear to ear, candles flickered, The O’s played Harvest Moon and Amy and Chris said “I do”. We all raised our glasses and cheered.

We hurried to pack everything up and head into Alpine to the Granada Theater for the Party! Sully and I were the roadie/chauffeur for The O’s ( by the way, John & Taylor, thanks for giving me the opportunity check off a Bucket List wish by letting me to be able to officially say “I’m with the band”).

Everyone came pouring into the Granada and started putting up the decorations, opening wine bottles, lighting candles and taking their places at the tables. The caterer was set and The O’s started playing…the party had begun! Chris made a toast and thanked everyone for their hard work and then he said that he and Amy didn’t light a unity candle because they were doing the wine makers version of a unity candle and he took a bottle of Grenache and poured a little into a glass and Amy took a bottle of Viogner and poured it into the same glass and they drank from it and invited everyone to do the same.

What a wedding…what a night…what a weekend! I am so proud to be associated with such caring, giving people….Yes, I have met some of the nicest people through wine, so guess I need to keep following my passion!

P.S. just a little “shout out” to the F.G. for an awesome job this weekend. If you want to see who the official FG members are go to:

https://loristwistedcork.wordpress.com/category/community-wine/page/7/. Honorary members now include Eric, The O’s – John Pedigo & Taylor Young.

Cheers Y’all & here are some photos from The Event:

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Girls’ Night with Chateau Montelena

Ever since my first visit to Chateau Montelena (www.montelena.com) in 2009, I have been hanging on to 2 bottles that I bought while doing their Library Wine Tasting. One was the 2004 Montelena Estate Zinfandel and the other was the 2005 Potter Valley Riesling. If you would like to read or (reread) about my experience of humiliation at “Chat. Mont.” and the fun and food poisoning of the whole Napa/San Francisco trip, go to: https://loristwistedcork.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/surviving-the-napa-vacation-part-one/ . There is also a part 2 if you want to read that: https://loristwistedcork.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/surviving-the-napa-vacation-part-2/

I decided that now was the time to open these lovely wines and watch the movie “Bottle Shock”. If you have not seen the movie, it is loosely based on the event in 1976 where California wines and French wines were compared in a blind tasting and the Californians took first place in both the red and white categories: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a huge boost to the American wine industry.

Since I think of wine, food, and movies as a communal thing, I really wanted to share this with someone who could appreciate all 3 and that is my cousin Catherine. Plus if I ask nicely…she might offer to cook! Catherine is a fantastic cook and I thought she should have been a chef or a food critic, but she is in the IT industry. In fact when I did a wine tasting at her house, I gave her the list of wines and she made all the food to pair with them and even made a spreadsheet as to what wine goes with what food! It was AWESOME!

Catherine takes me up on my offer of “wine & a movie” and she says she will cook! So I show up with actually 3 bottles of “Chat. Mont.”. The third bottle is 2007 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon that I saw at Whole Foods. It is hard to find Chateau Montelena in this area, so when I saw it, I grabbed it. Just as a side note…Stag’s Leap (www.stagsleap.com)is easier to get so that’s why I never bothered adding it to our “movie night” and we needed to keep the wine consumption down…at least that was the original motive ;-).

We immediately open the Zinfandel and let it “breathe” (remember Twisted Peeps, this is the Zinfandel grape in its unadulterated form…not white zinfandel…there is no such thing as a white zinfandel grape). Normally I can only handle Zinfandel in small doses because it is such a powerfully concentrated wine with flavors and smells of black fruit, smoke, vanilla and peppery hot tannins. But this was elegant with a lite pepper, vegetable, dark spices and fruits smell. The taste was black cherry, plum, cinnamon, cardamom with a zest of pepper but with a silky finish.

We loved it so much that we HAD to go ahead and open the Cabernet Sauvignon and do a comparison. If we were doing an “official tasting” we would have tried the Cab. first, then the Zin. but we are in Catherine’s Kitchen having fun..so what the Hell, let’s taste both wines!

The Cabernet had smells of black currant, minerals, strawberry, and plum. The taste was all kinds of black fruit, tobacco, and gravel with a little citrus acidity that came cleanly off the tongue. Catherine thought it more “French” in style because it didn’t just carpet your tongue in bold black fruit and make you think you have a swatch of velvet on your tongue that you can’t get off.

Now for dinner….we had a rib eye cut almost 2″ thick (bought from Whole Foods www.wholefoodsmarket.com – love their quality) and assorted little potatoes and asparagus roasted in the oven. Catherine grilled the steak with salt and pepper as the only seasoning but she did make a mushroom, butter, wine sauce too if we needed it…we really didn’t need it…the ribeye was outstanding. After the asparagus was done, she drizzled balsamic vinegar over it. The vinegar came from one of her trips to Italy and it was in a tiny bottle…I think it was kind of expensive…it sure was good!

As for the food and wine pairing: the Cab. made the meat more earthy and complimented it perfectly. The Zin. made the meat zesty & peppery. With the veggies: the Cab. was nice but I think the balsamic vinegar kind if dulled the wine. The Zin. was outstanding with the veggies. The balsamic vinegar became more smokey and sweet.

Next up…watching the movie with grilled peaches and the Riesling. We opened the wine and you could smell honeysuckle, white flowers, and peaches. The color was a fantastic bright gold. The taste was peach & apricot cobbler, and honey with a long citrus finish so it didn’t come across as overly sweet. Catherine served the grilled peaches (which had a smokiness to them) with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, lemon gelato and coconut gelato.

The wine complimented the peaches perfectly. The cheese got some citrus zest but retained its earthyness. The gelato became total opposites with the wine. The lemon was delightfully smooth and the coconut had a bite and covered up the honey aspect of the wine. That really surprised us.

By this time, I was happily mellow and I think Catherine was grateful because I didn’t feel like shouting out “I’ve been there” or “you don’t wear your Daisy Dukes while working in a vineyard” or “Mike Grgich was the winemaker at the time”…you know, just being all around annoying…;-). Instead I was enjoying an absolutely fabulous evening with great food, wine and of course company….it dosen’t get any better than that, y’all!

P.S. While I was hanging out with my cousin, my long-suffering husband was at the Texas Motor Speedway for a charity event that he was in charge of for our Corvette Club. He prefers cars over wine…;-)

Wine & Music Feed My Soul

This post is sort of a “Part 2” of “No Wine, No Joy”.

I thought I would be on the road to recovery with my sinus issue; but that is not the case. I think sinus surgery is in my future….

However, as of right now, I am finished with my medicine and have just started to get back into the swing of drinking wine again! So until I can get my palate in working order.. I wanted to let you in on another passion of mine and one that has kept some joy in my life while I’ve been forced into “teetotalling”…and that is music.

I am really lucky that I live in Dallas because there are so many talented musicians here and I actually call some of them friends…at least a few have said that they would claim me as a friend and no restraining order has been issued, so I guess I’m not a stalker 😉

Here are the people that I see on a regular basis and whose music just really amazes me. Plus they are just damn nice guys! And as a “bonus” I’ll suggest a wine to go with their music. 😉

First is a band called The O’s. These 2 guys (Taylor Young & John Pedigo), play 7 instruments! If you see them live, your jaw will drop at how well they play so many instruments…they multi-task very well ;-). I love their Roots, Folk, Bluegrass sound and their lyrics are humorous and intelligent.

Here is the website: www.wearetheos.com Here is a link to some videos: http://www.wearetheos.com/The_Os_Official_Website/Videos.html

The wine to drink while listening to the The O’s: An iconic American Cabernet Sauvignon from Silver Oak ( www.silveroak.com ). Their wine is just as bold & brash as Taylor & John….so full of flavor that you keep coming back for more.

The Second band on the list is Jason Elmore and Hoodoo Witch. These boys play down and dirty Blues/Rock. I love their grit, soul and passion. Watch for them because these guys have staying power. Jason’s talent is not only his guitar work, but also his singing and songwriting abilities. He is the real deal.

Here is the website: http://www.reverbnation.com/jasonelmoreandhoodoowitch Here are Jason Elmore, Chris Waw, & Jon Zoog playing at a dive called The Goat (the quality not the best, but you get the idea):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV_qvmmCadM&feature=related

What wine with Hoodoo Witch? Try an Inwood Estates Tempranillo ( www.inwoodwines.com ). I have said many times that it is a Bar-B-Que in a glass. You just can’t resist that down & dirty smoky, earthy goodness with just the right amount of black cherry/plum to make it “sweet”.

Next up is one of the Masters of the slide guitar, Mr. Jim Suhler. He is so smooth but has mournful, powerful sound. He is unassuming but lets his guitar do the talking. He also is very generous to other musicians. He and Jason play together on occasion. Here is Jim’s & his band Monkey Beat website:

http://www.jimsuhler.com If his site is not up to date, please forgive him; he tours quite a bit with George Thorogood ( georgethorogood.com) 😉

Here is a cool video of Jim playing the slide guitar, very up close:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH5gTePzUxI&feature=related

Here is Jim with the percussionist, Jamal Mohamed (love him too):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU0DiFZObro

The wine pairing with Jim’s music is a Petite Syrah from Four Vines called Heretic ( www.fourvines.com ). It is full of bold fruit flavors and dark spices. It lingers on the palate just like velvet. It comes on strong but then mellows out. Outstanding!

Here is Jason with Jim:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axq681ResoA

Here is Jim, Jason & Jamal doing a Jimi Hendrix song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOVN-d7rOAw

Lastly is a musician who is not local (he should be) but is considered one of the best up and coming guitarist. He is Joe Bonamassa and he has played with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and B.B. King is one of his biggest supporters. Jim Suhler has also lent his support to Joe. He plays with such diversity that I never tire of his music. He started out with Classical, then moved on to Blues, Rock and he is still experimenting. He is amazing and humble.

His website: www.jbonamassa.com Here is Joe playing at the Royal Albert Hall:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3Z8zmyqb60

Pinot Noir comes to mind when I think of Joe’s music. This wine is so versatile and great with lots of different foods. When in doubt, order the Pinot Noir. I love the Pinots from Laetitia ( www.laetitiawine.com ). One in particular is their single vineyard Les Galets. Mineral, dark berry, cola with a velvet finish makes this a very intriguing wine.

Well I hope this was entertaining and I really hope you check out these musicians as well as the wines. Please support your local music/arts scene.

Here is a little gallery of photos of “The Boys”. Unfortunately, some of these are not the best quality but I sure had fun getting them!

No Wine No Joy

I have been sick with allergies and a sinus infection off and on for the past three weeks. I am on my 2nd round of antibiotics….my wine world has come to a halt.

I try to be very good and not have any wine (alcohol) while I’m on medication. I want the medicine to work at its optimum level and wine tends to make my stomach turn if I’m on antibiotics.

So in other words, I have not had any wine for about 2 weeks and I have been somewhat disheartened about this.

Now before anyone jumps to a conclusion of me being an alcoholic; I want to clarify that I do not crave wine and I don’t get angry or go into a depression if I can’t have any. Wine for me is very sensory but it is not an emotional “crutch”.

I have noticed that without wine, I eat faster. I don’t pause to make “mental notes” as to what flavors are happening and how the wine and food are interacting. Drinking water with my meal doesn’t make me “ooh & aww”. In fact, I’m almost bored with what I’m eating.

My cooking kind of goes by the wayside too. I like to have a glass of wine while I’m cooking because I will try the spices I’m using and compare it with the wine. Cooking while drinking water is a why bother. Water doesn’t change anything.

Without wine I don’t have a blog and I feel like my community has gotten smaller. I really enjoy making a discovery and sharing it. I get a kick out of hanging out with my wine peeps and talking about growing grapes and what’s happening at different wineries. I have met a lot of really cool people because of wine. And I sure wouldn’t be “Resident Sommelier” for Church in the Cliff! 😉

Honestly when I think of wine, I think of joy. I have had many hobbies but wine is the one “hobby” that has turned into a passion that I can pursue (at least part-time).

Thank Goodness my teetotalling days will be coming to an end soon. So I will be saying “Goodbye antibiotics” and “Hello Joy”!

Cheers Y’all!

Tom Jones + Church + Wine=Epiphany

Epiphany – A festival commemorating the Wise Men’s visit to Christ, celebrated on Jan. 6th. Another definition is a “sudden realization” or “eureka moment”.

I love my church peeps. (www.churchinthecliff.org) Because of their encouragement, I became a Sommelier.

So when Pastor Courtney asked if I would be willing to do a wine tasting with an “Epiphany” theme, I said “absolutely”!
Then my first “sudden realization” was…what have I agreed to??? Epiphany Theme? What does that mean? Do I go with one varietal that gets maligned? Say a Riesling that  is sweet (because most people think that is the only way they come) and serve one that is not sweet. Or perhaps pick one varietal that has been grown on several different regions of the world and talk about how climate and wine making style can influence the flavor profile of a wine.

Then I remembered my audience would be people who probably have never done a wine tasting and are very visually driven (we have a lot of creative people in our Church). So I thought of what would tie easily into Epiphany?….Labels! I would find Epiphany inspired labels, and that way, I could introduce several wines so the group can learn about basic flavor profiles of different grapes.

I knew my quest was going to take me all over town, so I decided to take some of the CD’s I got for Christmas along for the ride. I chose Tom Jones’ Praise & Blame. This is his latest gospel/rock influenced CD. Absolutely fabulous! His voice is so strong and clear.

I love Tom Jones and I’m proud to admit that I have thrown panties on the stage while he was singing. It was something I wanted to check off my “bucket list”.

As I’m listening to his songs about questioning faith, the struggle to be a good person and social justice; I’m struck with how totally and completely happy I am….I’m traveling from store to store taking photos of wine labels, listening to music that conveys how I feel and preparing for a wine tasting…I love my Sommelier job and I love the people who I’m doing this for.

So when I got home I immediately sent Pastor Courtney 29 labels to choose from. We got it down to 5:

Because I could not afford to buy all of the wine (the cost was $10-$15 a bottle) needed to do a tasting of this size (about 20 people), my Church Peeps signed up to bring a certain wine. It got pretty funny when emails & phone calls were flying saying “I can’t find Hope” “I need 2 more Miracles” “We got all of the Lucky Stars”.

All of the wine was procured and the tasting was set! The Epiphany festivities had begun. I knew it was going to be fun and challenging because I had never had any of the wines and I never know what kind of questions I’ll get.

The first wine was 2009 Hope Verdelho. The Verdelho is a Portuguese grape that smells fresh, fruity and honeysuckle. The taste is spicy citrus. It is a palate cleanser so it goes well with seafood. Epiphany Moment: The smell and taste are totally different and the sweet wine lovers were disappointed because they thought it would be a sweet wine. My Moment was that I always thought Verdelho was a Spanish grape.

Next was 2006 El Miracle Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc blend. The smell was light fruit of pear, apple, lemon. The taste was about the same. This was a very nice blend and very drinkable. I don’t like to use blends in tastings because it is hard for some people to pick out the different properties of each grape, there is too much happening in the mouth. Epiphany Moment: Lots of happy people trying to pick out the different flavors. My Moment: I under estimated this group.

2009 Lucky Star Pinot Noir was up next. The smell was black fruits and earthy, not very strong. The taste was a little rough. I wanted the earth/gravel flavor to be softer. Epiphany Moment: Color difference between Pinot Noir and Malbec. My Moment: You pay more than $10 for good Pinot.

Pastor Courtney chose this next wine because it reminded her of the Wise Men: Ensemble Red Blend (Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel). The smell was black fruits, vanilla, gravel. The taste was spicy cherry, plum, earth, raspberry. This was a favorite with the group. Epiphany Moment: Syrah & Shiraz are the same grape spelled differently and there is no such thing as white Zinfandel. My Moment: I really like this wine!

Last was 2008 Secreto de Viu Manent Malbec. The smell was berries, violets, chocolate. The taste was rich plum, earth, tobacco, with almost a velvet feel in the mouth with a little tannic quality. Epiphany Moment: Malbec will stain your teeth, the artwork on the label is cool, Malbec is a French grape. My Moment: Chile is making damn good Malbec.

The questions were amazing and the comments were wonderful to hear. I’m so glad that everyone had a great time. Nobody felt intimidated. We all laughed and learned. As my friend Teri said, ” It was Epiphantastic!”

My job as a Sommelier is to be a guide, not a judge….

What good am I?/If I’m like all the rest/If I just turn away/When I see how you’re dressed/If I shut myself off/So I can’t hear you cry/What good I’m I?

Written by Bob Dylan. Sung by Tom Jones

Blog Stress & Comfort Wine

I get asked all the time “what is your favorite wine”? And I really don’t have an answer, even though I lean toward Pinot Noir, but I never like to limit myself on a “favorite”.

However, I will tell you that 2 wines came to my rescue a few weeks ago while I was trying to finish my last post “Wine, Wigs, & Fondue”.

Some of y’all may know that I use a MAC to do this “blog” and I was trying to be really creative in trying to place the photos. WordPress is not easy to use when it comes to photo placement. Whenever I import a photo, it automatically creates a “gallery” and places ALL of the photos as a group. I thought I had gotten around the system and could break them out of the “gallery jail”. It took me a long time trying to place those damn things and I thought it looked terrific! Unfortunately my PC readers couldn’t see all of them.

The next day, I decided to start over and place the photos in the restricted “gallery design” and maybe I could do 2 galleries! Well this was not simple either. It tried to go to the help page and found out I was going to have to type in “codes”. I didn’t have clue what they were talking about or where to put the codes if I found them!

I kept messing with it and calling my dear neighbor and friend, Joanna who has both MAC & PC, to take a look each time I tried to fix the damn photos. Her answer was always the same, “I see it on my MAC but not my PC and I liked how it looked before you messed with it!” Do you know how disheartening that gets being told that, over and over, on a Sunday afternoon when I would rather be chill’n on the couch watching football?

So I decided to try and repost the original but I wanted to compare what I had done with another version. So I clicked on the “Compare” button and all of a sudden the page went black and “someone” was typing a note to me telling me something about “it will destruct” and “follow the white rabbit, go back Lori”… WHAT?!?? the gerbils in my brain kicked into hyper drive and I went into a panic! Did I just get a virus? Because I sure as Hell did not listen to any Jefferson Airplane or “drop acid” before writing this!

So I decided to write to one of the “Happiness Engineers” (I’m not kidding you) at WordPress to tell them about my ordeal. While waiting for a response, I called Joanna. Her solution was to drink wine. God love her! That is exactly what I did.

I opened a 2006 Calais Winery La Cuvee Du Commerce (a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend) www.calaiswinery.com. The smell; earth, dark fruit, clove. The taste; earth, black cherry, smoke but not heavy on the tongue.

The other wine: a 2008 Fess Parker Viognier, Santa Barbara County, www.fessparker.com. The smell: peach, ripe melon, butter. The taste: honeysuckle, citrus, mineral. It is a full-bodied wine so it “carpets” the tongue.

Since I was having a bad day, I needed my Mother’s cooking! So I paired the wines with one of my Mom’s “comfort” dishes that I have modified. I combined my Mom’s “Curry Chicken” with Paula Dean’s “Chicken Divan”. Both dishes are full of cream, spice, and cheesy goodness. I think the only heathy items are the chicken and the broccoli.

The wine from Calais brought out an earthy quality to the dish. I think it enhanced the meat flavor of the chicken and the earthy flavor of the broccoli. The earthy, smoky flavor of the wine smooth out the tangy richness of the dish. I was glad this wine was not big and bold. It complimented the dish perfectly.

The Fess Parker wine made the dish sharper and tangier. It brought out the lemon, curry, and mayonnaise ingredients. Because of the citrus and mineral flavors of the wine, it cut through the richness of the cheeses and creamed soup ingredients. It was a good pairing but sometimes a little too lemony.

So, after I calmed down and finally got a response from one of the “Happiness Engineers”; I found out that the “virus” I thought I got was actually an “Easter Egg”. They actually congratulated me for finding it….I wanted to say “congrats for scaring the Hell out of me and get your Happy A@% over here and help me!” They told me how to deal with the “gallery” issue, but for right now I don’t have the energy….maybe I’ll spin some vinyl and listen to Grace Slick sing about White Rabbits and drink wine…

Paula Deen’s Chicken Divan: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/chicken-divan-recipe/index.html

Lora Lee’s Curry Chicken: 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 1 cup mayo, juice of one lemon, tbsp. curry, Mix this together. In a casserole dish, layer cooked diced chicken(about 8 breasts) then 2 bags worth of cut up broccoli (but cook & drain the broccoli before adding to the dish). Pour the sauce over chicken & broccoli. Then top with a lot of cheddar cheese and crushed croutons. Bake @ 350 til bubbly.

The boring gallery of photos:

Wine,Wigs & Fondue

It started out as a simple invitation to dinner….

My husband & I love to fondue but we don’t do it very often because some people just don’t enjoy cooking their own food & get impatient when they have to wait to get food on the plate. But we look at it as a group effort to sort of “help feed your neighbor”, and you nibble, drink & talk while the food is cooking.

I have this fantastic fondue cookbook that belonged to my Mom and it dates back to the 1970’s with great photos where everything is avocado green, harvest gold and rust. It has captions that say ” Br-r-r-r, it’s cold outside, so bring on the fondue and start swapping skiing tales”. My favorite caption; “with these recipes, you’ll become an effervescent fondue hostess”.

We decided to invite some of our grape picking/wine drinking friends over and they all thought it sounded like fun and it should have a 70’s theme to it. Well, Sully & I didn’t have anything 70’s, so we went “tropical”. We were tickled when everyone showed up in an article of clothing from the 70’s or a ski sweater.

We started off with Vermont cheese, crackers, melon and prosciutto, and a spicy cheese, artichoke, tomato dip called “The Bomb”. The wines: a 2008 Laetitia Estate Dry White Riesling, Arroyo Grande Valley (13.7% alc) and 2009 Sherwood House Chardonnay, North Fork of Long Island (13.0% alc). We even had beer; Fireman’s 4, Rahr, and Shiner.

Then it was time to fire up the fondue pots, one for shrimp, one for beef. The dipping sauces were blue cheese, horseradish, curry, and herb butter. The wines; 2002 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (13.6% alc), 2007 Fess Parker Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Vineyard (14.8% alc), 2008 Stolpman Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley (15.6%). I know what some of you are thinking…Shrimp with red wine? I always say “pay attention to the sauces/gravy” that determines the wine. Also, the alcohol level of the wine is important, (the higher the level the bigger/bolder the wine).

Here is an example: The Corison is a somewhat low level at (13.6%), even though it is a Cabernet Sauvignon (a bold red grape). It paired well with the shrimp & beef in the curry & butter sauces, but the horseradish & blue cheese might have been a little too rich. That’s where the other 2 wines came in. Both were high alcohol level wines (14.8% & 15.6%) and did well with the rich sauces, even though one of the wines was a Pinot Noir and is considered one of the lightest of the red grapes for making wine.

Along with the fondue, we had a wonderful arugula, roasted beets, goat cheese salad. The flavors were spicy, tangy, smokey and creamy cheese. All three wines paired well with it.

Another experiment was with wine glasses; do they really make a difference? The answer is “yes”. We poured the Pinot into a type of glass that I use for wine tastings and also into a Riedel glass that is specifically for Pinot Noir…WOW! We all agreed the Riedel let you experience all of the bouquet and flavors the wine was capable of. The Riedel glasses really intensified the wine tasting experience.

Dessert was Gingerbread Cake with a Warm Lemon Sauce & a Benjamin Calais’ 2007 Madera Red Dessert Wine. This was a beautiful pairing because this “port style” wine is nutty, with carmel and dark spices…not full of prune flavors like some.

As you can probably tell from the photos, it was not all serious wine analysis. It was so fun to see the dining table cluttered with dishes, wine bottles, glasses and food. Laughter was the main ingredient…there is something about putting on a wig that makes people want to pose and take goofy photos…we were no exception. After all, serious wine geeks gotta have fun too!

I would like to thank;

Audrey for “The Bomb” & wearing that absolutely fabulous green & white jacket.

Kristin & Jon for the dessert, the ski sweaters, and posing so well with their wine glasses.

Amy & Chris (aka Dwayne & Melinda) for the salad and doing the 70’s with style and authenticity (Sully & I had flashbacks because of y’all).

My long-suffering Hubby, Sully, for putting up with all of this madness and sporting a very festive shirt!

Credits…

Laetitia (www.laetitiawine.com)      Fess Parker (www.fessparker.com)      Stolpman (www.stolpmanvineyards.com)

Sherwood House (www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com)      Corison (www.corison.com)      Calais Winery (www.calaiswinery.com)

Fireman’s 4 Beer (www.realalebrewing.com)      Rahr Brewery (www.rahrbrewing.com)      Shiner (www.shiner.com)