Friday, December 30, 2005

The Wrath of Grapes

Hangover Day is this weekend. I won't be one of those suffering from the wrath of the grape. I won't be suffering from the wrath of the potato or malt, barley and hops either. It doesn't mean that I won't be taking a nip of something. Maybe a martini out of a new potato vodka and I have a bottle of Malbec from Argentina that keeps calling my name. It's just that I have learned my lesson or so I think I have.

There are several preferred remedies for hangovers and there is even a new pill that will thwart off hangovers so there will be no need to nurse one. For remedies there is always aspirin, acetaminophen, Alka-Seltzer, "hair of the dog..."(Mmmm - Bloody Mary's extra spicy!), B-12, sports drinks (I swear by this one - high in electrolytes, will help replenish what the kidneys have excreted during drinking), exercise, black coffee and lots of water.

So now that you have the aching head under control, what about the empty stomach? I have a solution for you - something big and greasy that will stick to your ribs - - biscuits and country sausage gravy with a side of hashbrowns and more gravy. Then take a nap and follow the above preferred remedies - - repeat, lather and rinse - - wait it out and in a few days you will feel like new.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

~December Cooking With Washington Wines~

I am a bit late posting this recipe. Hey, the holidays and trying to manuever with a clipped wing has a way of slowing one down. This recipe is a family favorite and I can only take credit for part of it. That part being the addition of the Gewurztraminer sauce and the presentation of the pie. This yummy pear pie recipe comes from Davis Orchards located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon which is about 10 miles from the SE Washington state border.

Every fall and through the holidays this pie comes out of my oven a lot. It is a easy pie and a favorite of mine to serve for company. Use your favorite basic pie crust recipe (No graham cracker crust!) and if you want to make it less rustic looking and more "refined" use a tart pan instead. You can even make this pie into a crostada and use phyllo or puff pastry if you want. What is important is the filling.

Pear Custard Pie

Enough sliced pears to almost fill a 9" pie shell
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. mace (Very important! Do not skip this tasty part of this recipe. Worth the time to search it out at your favorite spice counter.)

Peel and slice pears; sprinke with lemon juice. Cream together butter & sugar. Beat in flour, eggs, vanilla & salt.Pour over pears. Sprinkle lightly with mace.Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) 45 minutes or until filling is set and lightly brown. Cool, top with whipped cream (optional).Best if served same day as baked.

If you decide that you need some extra decadence to add to this wonderful pastry, try a Gewurztraminer reduction sauce. Also a good way to use up some of those white off-dry wines

Start with a bottle Gewurztraminer or a Late Harvest Gewurz will work perfectly. About a cup of sugar (or less depending on wine and taste). Place the wine and sugar in a saucepan. Mix well and bring to a watchful boil. Reduce to about a large cup of sauce. Let cool and drizzle over pastry.

There are several excellent Gewurztraminers in the Walla Walla Valley. Forgeron Cellars, Canoe Ridge and Three Rivers to name a few.

Treat yourself and guests to this wonderful recipe. Make it a New Year's resolution.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Washington state adds another viticulture region.

The Wahluke Slope, a isolated tract of land in SE Washington, will soon be designated the state's eighth federally recognized wine grape growing region. The area borders the Columbia River and the Saddle Mountains. Also east of the Hanford reach National Monument. The award by the ATFB will be awarded January 6, 2006. The name, Wahluke or "Watering Place" was given by the Native Americans who settled in the area. The new appellation has a total of 81,000 acres and features more than 20 vineyards, one winery and two wine-production facilities. At this time it represents 20 percent of Washington's wine-grape acreage.

The grapes from Wahluke produce very tannic and intense wines.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Balboa Winery

We were at Beth and Shawn's (good friends and neighbors) having a wine tasting. Good wine and good food. Beth made wonderful (and very rich) stuffed mushrooms filled with a cream cheese mixture that had a tang of cayenne pepper. Also, on the bar was hummus, Italian dried salami, olives, baguettes, brie, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

Steve and I brought two bottles and Beth and Shawn presented two bottles from their wine collection and the tasting began. Beth pulled from their collection a bottle of wine with a screw top. The green avant-garde label was printed "Balboa Winery" Cabernet Sauvignon. Beth said she received it in a gift basket and thought it was unique looking and after much discussion of "where in the hell did that wine come from and who is Balboa? - - Rocky ? -- Vasco the Spanish conquistador?", we finally took a taste.

After taking several sips, the four of us kept passing the bottle to look at the label. Huh? This is a Cabernet Sauvignon? It was pleasant enough. Not funky, but a mouthful of cherry juice and little to zero tannins. It was difficult to believe that this was a Cabernet. Not tannic, little body, and fruit forward. A nice wine for the beginner, a spaghetti Wednesday dinner or paired with burgers.

We continued our search on who was the brave person (winery) in the Walla Walla Valley to put out a screw top and such a light wine. This Cabernet was not your typical Walla Walla big tannic monster. After a little searching, we found out that Balboa is coming from Beresan Winery. How did we conclude? They share the same address.

If Balboa Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $8-10 or even less, it would be a good wine to have around the house for the every day sipping and I would buy it. If it sells for more than $10, then it deserves to be beheaded for treason, just like it's predecessor - Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
Cheers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Vicodin and Wine

Last year in December comedian George Carlin entered re-hab for Vicodin and wine. I am here to say I won't be entering re-hab.

A few days ago I took a tumble. A tumble down a few stairs. First I knocked the wind out of my body and as I caught my breath I discovered I bruised my chin, bruised and scraped my shins and most of all, my vanity hit me two different ways. One being my poor right hand was positioned (thank goodness my boobs cushioned the hand or else it might have been broke) and twisted in front of my face to protect the face and the teeth, and my arm all twisted and out of alignment. The second way vanity set in was all I could think about was thank goodness I was not wearing a skirt or it might now be over my head. What a lovely sight- - not.

To make a long story short, x-ray, drugs, PT, arm splint and kindness is the remedy to being back to my old self. When I filled the prescription for Vicodin I had to ask if mixing wine would be a problem. I was invited to a wine tasting at some friends and my sweetums and I were so looking forward to it. The pharm said no. No, that it wouldn't kill me, but it might make me extra sleepy. It didn't. Just helped rid of the pain. Three days later I am off the Vicodin. Makes my skin itchy and my stomach nauseous. It did the same thing to me two years ago after major surgery. Itchy skin, sick stomach and the inner me screaming to rid of this body. So I will suffer through the pain and just drink wine.

In the mean time, I do not see a re-hab center in my future (aint we the last to know?) and my blog writing may be limited. Can only type half-assed for so long until I get tired. But I do have some Walla Walla Valley wines to discuss that we tasted the other night - - Pepperbridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Forgeron Zinfandel, and a Balboa.

Balboa? Where did that wine with a screw cap come from? Huh?

More about Balboa later, but nothing more about Vicodin.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Secret Santa Knows If I Have Been Naughty Or Nice!

At our law office (my real job) the support staff decided to do Secret Santas. This means that you draw names and the chosen name gets little gifts for a couple of weeks. There is no doubt that my Secret Santa has been watching me. I thought this was such a cute idea and wanted to share it.

In a gift bag was a split of Merlot and several little wrapped boxes full of goodies. In each little gift box was a happy hour goody - a bag of chocolate cashews, a package of Havarti Dill cheese, a bunch of grapes (this made me laugh to see a bunch of grapes in a gift box) and a bag of crackers.

I am ready to party at my desk! Do you think anybody will notice the Merlot in my coffee cup?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another Holiday Barrel Tasting

I honestly cannot remember how many of these events I have behind me, not counting the Spring Release weekend. Maybe six? Usually I do not look forward to them - meaning long hours on my feet, getting five minutes to shove a meal into my pie hole while standing, and often it is more than the two days. A couple nights before there are various parties for owners, employees and special customers - all of these key people are needed to keep your winery open and alive.

Once I get caught up in the crowds I forget about my tired feet and cannot remember why I don't enjoy them. I look forward to my favorite customers and friends dropping by. With pride I show them around and have them sample our "harvest." To keep me entertained, I store conversations and small events in the back of my memory banks. The conversations or one liners from some of the not so favorite type of customer which rarely change from year to year.

Me saying to customer: "Gosh, as much as we would like to accomodate you we don't stack discounts. Our computer doesn't recognize them."

Me thinking: "Oh forget about all of those discounts. Why don't we just give you a key to the winery so you can help yourself to as much free wine anytime you want? Can I come over and clean your toilet, too? Really. I don't mind."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "No problem. It's easy to see how we get mixed up."

Me thinking: "Ahem - and earlier you were telling somebody on the phone that the manager was your best friend so you could get a special deal and now you don't remember what your best friend looks like. Do I look like a 5'9" tall redhead, you poser?"

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to new hot shot industry person who brings his friends in to dazzle them with his self importance: "Really, that is amazing! I did not know that Washington state sells more white wines than red wines."

Me thinking: " You effing idiot. I know about you and I also know that you finally got your first job when you were 36 years old because your folks called in some favors. Tell your brilliant wine data to the wine association. Do your friends know that your self named title of "Distributor" really means that you are the delivery person?"

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer who claims the Cabernet Sauvignon is bad because of the sediment (tartaric crystals): "Your friend is right. This doesn't mean that the wine is bad. If anything, this is a good sign. It shows that the wine has been treated with a gentle touch and not been overly fined and filtered. In Europe these crystals are accepted and appreciated as a sign that the wine is a natural one and you will be rewarded with all of the complexities that the wine diamonds indicate.

Me thinking: "Shut up you little freak. Listen to your friend. He obviously knows wine more than you do, you little whiney-pee-pants. Now lower your #%&%# voice."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "Gosh, I am really sorry. We are not equipped to give out rainchecks for sold out vintages."

Me thinking: " What do you think vintage means and where do you propose we get these 2002 grapes at? Now mark an "L" on your forehead and get out of here."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "Wow. Good question. I am not sure when we'll produce a sweet white Zinfandel with a screw top that sells for $6.99."

Me thinking: "When hell freezes over."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "Thanks for coming in. It was good seeing you and please come back."

Me thinking: "It's about time you asshole. It's now 6:15 pm. I thought you would never leave. We close at 5:00 pm and you show up at 5:20 pm, beg to come in for one minute, you ate the last of the food and drank more than your share of free wine, and you didn't buy a damn thing. What do you think we are - your own personal happy hour?"

But I don't say that. I just smile and chalk it up to another year. I can hardly wait for next year because I wouldn't miss this event for the world!
Cheers!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Holiday Barrel Tasting Is Here!

The 10th Annual Walla Walla Valley Barrel Tasting is here! Some festivities will start tonight. Various wineries will have parties and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance will be hosting a opening night winemaker reception at Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College Campus.

Each winery seems to participate in their own special way offering a variety of different features including food, music, art, wine dinners, and more which adds to this festive time of the year. Macy's will have their annual Christmas Parade of Lights on Saturday evening.

Not sure what the weather is going to bring us, but last night we had snow in the valley. The passes through Snoqualmie may be slow moving. In spite of the weather, those who venture out will have a great time.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jelly Belly Wine

The secret is out why Ronald Regan kept a cannister of Jelly Belly jelly beans on his presidential desk. He was creating wine flavors from jelly beans since he couldn't drink on the job and had to say "No" to drugs. Hey, I'm kidding. Or am I?

I wish I could take the credit for this discovery from WineX Magazine. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! If you want a taste of the grape at work without having alcohol on your breath, here is the perfect solution. Check out the Jelly Bean Wine Bar for some tasty "wine" recipes. Here are a few of my own creations:

Imagine this - - it's 3:30 pm, you're still at the office, but want to start happy hour early. You're thinking about how soothing a hearty Merlot from Washington state would be. Combine the following Jelly Belly flavors (Note that the same recipe can be used for French Merlots):

Cherry + Plum + BlackBerry + Dr. Pepper + Licorice + Bertie Botts Dirt + 1/2 Buttered Toast

If you only know about over-oaked, over manipulated Merlots from California and haven't a clue about full bodied Washington Merlots and the rich soil the grapes are grown in, then you will like this recipe:

French Vanilla + Chocolate Pudding + Cherry + Plum + Raspberry + Strawberry + Dr. Pepper + two - Buttered Toast. Wait - make that three Buttered Toast and wash it down with a glass of water.

Enjoy!