Ruffino’s $10 Chianti

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Moleskin wine journalI admit it…even though I love technology and all the apps that make writing a wine blog and being active on social media so fun, there is nothing quite like writing my tasting notes in a journal. Every year, I get a new Moleskine, and at this point, I actually keep wine journal and beer journal. I just love grabbing that black book with its thick off-white pages and my glass full of liquid possibility and entering my zone for a few moments to really think about what I’m drinking. Then, I scribble down all my thoughts and impressions. At the end of the year, I love to look back on the memories on everything I drank.

Inside my 2016 wine journalI get it. It’s old-school.   It’s duplicative, especially since I usually post my thoughts on Vivino or UnTappd and Instagram soon after tasting. I can’t help it. I still love it.

My first wine of the year was the 2013 Ruffino Chianti (winery, snooth), which was made in the Chianti region of Italy with 70% Sangiovese grapes and 30% other undisclosed varieties. The wine was a clear medium ruby. On the nose, there was the classic cherries and violets. In the mouth, there were slightly sour cherries with hints of violets and herbs. The wine was light-to-medium bodied with low-to-medium tannins and high acidity.

2013 Ruffino Chianti - This $10 Italian red wine is nice on the wallet and begs to be paired with a pepperoni pizza. | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Ruffino Chianti

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass. At an SRP of $10, is inexpensive and ok with food. Hubby and I made our own little holiday dinner that first weekend in January, so I paired the wine with turkey and mashed potatoes. The pairing worked nicely, although the wine really was screaming “drink me with pepperoni pizza.” After dinner, I continued to enjoy the wine while knitting on the couch and watching trashy TV, which was a nice way to spend the evening even if the acidity in the wine was a bit much. All in all, this isn’t a wine I would search out, but at the same time, it’s also not a wine that I would avoid…especially if I had the right food.

Question of the Day: Do you keep some sort of written journal (either for food, wine, beer, or something else)?

Suggested Retail Price: $10
Received as a sample.
Overall: 3 Corks

Sunday Baking: Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies & K-9 Cruiser

Growing up, my family always celebrated the Jewish holidays as religious holidays. However, since my paternal grandfather was a non-practicing Catholic, we celebrated the Christian holidays, too. They were secular, family holidays with all of the festivities and decorations, but none of the religion. As a kid, it was the best of all worlds.

Hubby is not a religious person, although he enjoys celebrating the holidays in a secular way. So, it was easy for us to combine our traditions. Our first winter holiday season together, I introduced him to Chanukkah, but we also celebrated Christmas. Over the 12 years we’ve been together, our individual way of doing things has melded and morphed into our own traditions, although there is still plenty of food, drinking, presents, friends, and family.

This year, my Chanukkah present couldn’t have been any more perfect–Hubby gave me cookie press. Every time we were in a store with baking supplies, I mentioned wanting one, but it’s never what we were in the store to buy and it’s not the type of thing I ever “needed.” Once I had one, though, I had to test it right away…and getting one for Chanukkah meant I obviously needed to use it to make Christmas cookies. So, my last cookies of 2015 were Peppermint-Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies paired with Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale.

Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale

Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale

The Flying Dog K-9 Winter Ale (brewery) is an English Ale brewed in Frederick, Maryland.  The beer has a dark amber color with a foamy off-white head. On the nose, there were walnuts and figs mixed with a hint of cinnamon and something herbal. In the mouth, there was anise and nuts mixed with hints of pinecones and burnt sugar. The beer was medium body with good carbonation.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass. At $1.50 for the single bottle, the K-9 is worth grabbing, but not something to go out of the way to buy. It used to be a winter beer staple for me, but for some reason, this year, I’m just not feeling it. It’s not that the beer is bad, but it doesn’t stand out as anything special either.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Spritz CookiesThe cookies, on the other hand, were exactly what I was hoping for. Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to eat wheat flour at the moment, so I only sampled them, but everything about them tasted like Christmas. They had a nice peppermint flavor without it being overwhelming. The cream cheese gave the cookies a nice texture without them being greasy. And, using the cookie press was a ton of fun.  I’m already planning my next cookie press adventure for Valentine’s Day.

Overall, with the weather in DC being so warm over the holidays, I really was counting on the cookies and beer to put me in the holiday spirit, and they definitely did. They weren’t the best pairing, but individually they both were wintery and festive. And, the cookies will undoubtedly become a new addition to our holiday traditions.

Question of the Day:  When you buy beer, do you tend ever buy the single bottles so you can make your own six-pack or do you tend to buy all the same beer at a time?  

Peppermint Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies
Print Recipe
These cookies are a bit of a twist on traditional spritz cookies, as there is some cream cheese mixed in with the butter and there is peppermint extract instead of vanilla. Even though this recipe calls for a cookie press, if you wanted to make regular shaped cookies with the dough, they would still be a huge hit. You just might want to chill it a little before baking, which is not something you need to do with the cookie press.
Servings
8 dozen cookies
Servings
8 dozen cookies
Peppermint Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies
Print Recipe
These cookies are a bit of a twist on traditional spritz cookies, as there is some cream cheese mixed in with the butter and there is peppermint extract instead of vanilla. Even though this recipe calls for a cookie press, if you wanted to make regular shaped cookies with the dough, they would still be a huge hit. You just might want to chill it a little before baking, which is not something you need to do with the cookie press.
Servings
8 dozen cookies
Servings
8 dozen cookies
Ingredients
Servings: dozen cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350F
  2. In separate medium mixing bowl, combine flour and salt.
  3. In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together cubed butter and cream cheese.
  4. Add sugar and egg yolk. Beat until light and fluffy.
  5. Add peppermint. Beat until incorporated.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until incorporated
  7. Place dough in cookie press with desired disk. Press dough onto ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges.
  9. Let cool for several minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Price: $1.50 for a single bottle
Purchased at Harris Teeter
Overall: 3 Corks

Bartinney’s Cab is a Captivating Dark Angel

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Halfway through 2015, work changed our vacation policies, leaving me with vacation days left that I needed to use by the end of the year or I would lose them. But, with the fall being as busy as it was at work, I didn’t have time to take advantage of the vacation days. Instead, I waited until December. After the legislation I had been working on since 2007 was signed into law on December 10, I began closing things out for the year, and my last day of work in 2015 was December 17. Unfortunately, since Hubby has been at his job for less than 3 years, he still doesn’t have much vacation time. So, instead of escaping DC at the end of the month, I had a 16-day staycation. On December 30, towards the end of my staycation, I scheduled a spa day for myself. After a day of much needed pampering to close out the year, I came home to open up a big red wine with the idea of just sinking into it for the evening.

2011 Bartinney Cabernet Sauvignon

2011 Bartinney Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2011 Bartinney Cabernet Sauvignon (winery) is made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The vineyards are located on the slopes of the Helshoogte (“Hell’s Heights”) Pass, overlooking the Banghoek Valley. The wine was a deep purplish ruby color. On the nose, there were plums and blackberries mixed with a hint of tea leaves, mint, chocolate, and cedar. In the mouth, there were dark plums and blackberries with hints of spice, black tea, and cedar. The wine was full-bodied with strong tannins and medium acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At an SRP of $20, this wine delivers everything I look for in an everyday Cabernet…and I was surprised. While I love South African wines, I tend to gravitate towards the wines that are more unique to the country like Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, and this Cabernet is proof as to why I shouldn’t do that. It’s an affordable wine that was the perfect way of ending a day of spoiling myself, but without breaking the bank to do so.

Question of the Day: Do you drink wine from South Africa?  If so, are their certain types of South African wine that you gravitate towards?

Suggested Retail Price: $20
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

A Duke of Wines

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

After deciding that the 2013 Piedrasassi Syrah wasn’t for me, I went on the search for another wine to open on Christmas Eve.  Since I had been saving the Piedrasassi for the holiday, it threw me off a little to have to find something new that would be both special and  pair well with Hubby’s smothered applewood smoked cheddar burgers and roasted rosemary potatoes. In the end, I opted for a Ruffino Chianti.

2011 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico - A $25 Chianti that is a little pricey, but a food-wine that is worth every penny. | AGlassAfterWork.com

2011 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico

The 2011 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico (winery, snooth) is made in Tuscany, Italy with 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The wine was a dark ruby color with a clear, watery rim. On the nose, there were cherries, plums, and violets mixed with hints of tobacco, leather, white pepper, and cedar. In the mouth, there were cherries, white pepper, leather, and cedar mixed with hints of tobacco and violets. The wine has a medium body, medium-to-firm tannins, and high acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At an SRP of $25, this wine is a little on the pricey side for an everyday chianti, but it is worth every penny. It is the type of wine that you just want to sink into and savor.

Because of the high acidity, for me, this is definitely a food wine, and it went amazingly well with Hubby’s burgers. The depth of flavor and creaminess of the melted applewood smoked cheddar brought out the cedary notes of the wine, while the fattiness of the cheese and the burger never became too much because of the acidity in the wine. What was particularly fun, though, was that when I paired the wine with the rosemary potatoes, the violets and white pepper became even more noticeable. This wine ended up being perfect for our Christmas Eve dinner.

According to the Ruffino website, the Riserva Ducale is named after the Duke of Aosta. Aosta is in the Italian Alps, and the Duke supposedly traveled over the treacherous mountains to taste the Ruffino wines he had heard about. The Duke loved the wines so much that, in 1890, he named Ruffino as the official wine supplier to the Italian royal family. And, with a wine that tasted like the Riserva Ducale, I’m certainly not surprised.

Question of the Day: I know it’s a couple of weeks ago already, but if you were celebrating Christmas, what did you drink during the holiday?

Suggested Retail Price: $25
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4.5 Corks

A Syrah for Olive Lovers

Happy New Year! I’m clearly a bit behind in blogging, and while I’ve decided to mostly start fresh in 2016 because I know I’ll never truly catch up, there are a couple wines and beers I don’t want to miss sharing with you, so please excuse my hanging onto the holidays for a little longer.

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah corkOn Christmas Eve, Hubby and I ended up staying home. The long story made very short is I’ve had some health issues (I will be fine!), so the doctor has put me on a very strict, short-term diet. Thankful, I’m still allowed one glass of wine or beer a day. However, because of these restrictions, we thought it was better to stay in and cook rather than risk my getting sick from eating something accidentally that is on the “avoid” list. With the weather being an unusual 70-degrees in DC, Hubby decided to grill burgers–so he modified his special recipe for me, bought our favorite soft applewood smoked cheddar, and roasted rosemary potatoes while I opened up a bottle of wine I’d been eager to try.

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah

2013 Piedrasassi Syrah

The 2013 Piedrasassi Syrah (winery) is from Central Coast, California. The wine had a deep inky purple color. On the nose, there were blackberries mixed with earth and hints of black pepper, cinnamon, and leather. In the mouth, there was olive tapenade mixed with blackberries, leather, and hints of cinnamon and black pepper. The wine had a full body, medium tannins, and medium acid.

Is this worth a glass after work? At $35, it is a bit pricey for an everyday wine, but you should definitely open a bottle if you’re a fan of olive tapenade. I, unfortunately, am not. This was one of those rare times where I recognized the great quality of the wine, but I just couldn’t drink it. I dislike olives, in general, and while I occasionally will eat olive tapenade, I do it very sparingly. This wine was all about the olives, which was too much for me.

So, recognizing that this wine wasn’t my style, I still think it was worth searching out. It’s small production, with only 480 cases available, and it offers something very different that makes it worth the price point…if olives are your thing. It’s the type of wine that would be great on a cold night in front of a crackling fire or with a cheese and Charcuterie board and good conversation.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had a wine that you recognize was good quality, but just really disliked it yourself? Did you end up drinking it anyway or did you dump it out? Have you tired any of the Piedrassassi wines?

Price: $35
Purchased at DCanter: A Wine Boutique
Overall: 4 Corks