5 American Red Wines for July 4

If you’re in the DC area, the cold, rainy weather probably has you in the mood for red wine, but otherwise, it’s sometimes hard to find a red wine that goes well with the warm summer weather. However, red wine is made for BBQ. Here are a few great red wine ideas that are under $25 and worth about opening today for your cookout. Happy Fourth of July!

One Hope Pinot Noir – At $19 a bottle, this red wine from California not only tastes great, but also helps fund rescue animal adoptions, as half the proceeds go to charity. The wine is juicy with a touch of sweetness and begs to be paired with grilled Portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, and girlfriends. Rating: 3.5 out of 5. | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 One Hope Pinot Noir

The 2013 One Hope Pinot Noir (website, amazon) is a California wine made by Rob Mondavi, Jr. and half the proceeds of the wine are donated to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help fund pet adoptions. This wine tastes of sweet, juicy strawberries and Bing cherries mixed with hints of cinnamon. It would be a great wine to pair with grilled stuffed Portobello mushrooms, especially if you’re stuffing them with goat cheese. I gave this wine 3.5 corks and purchased it for $19.

Mark West Black Pinot Noir – At $14, this surprisingly full-bodied red wine from California is not what a typical Pinot Noir. It’s a bit darker and more brooding, without being as in-your-face as a Cabernet. Definitely a wine to think about when looking for an in-between. Rating 3.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2014 Mark West Black Pinot Noir

The 2014 Mark West Black Pinot Noir (winery) is a red wine from California. It’s a surprisingly full-bodied Pinot, with black cherry, tobacco, and mocha characteristics. It’s a nice cookout option because it’s smooth and easy to drink while you’re standing around the grill, but it will also pair particularly well with pulled pork, grilled chops, or burgers. I gave this wine 3.5 corks and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $15.

Barefoot Merlot – At $8 a bottle, this red wine from California has a fantastic quality price ratio. If you are looking for a red wine and know you’ll be drinking more than one glass, this approachable red is a perfect everyday option. Rating: 3.5 out of 5. | AGlassAfterWork.com

Barefoot Merlot

The Barefoot Merlot (website) is a California red wine that is perfect for a party. While not very complicated, this Barefoot wine was surprisingly easy to drink and enjoyable. The wine is medium-bodied and has dark fruit flavors—black plums, blueberries, and blackberries—with just a hint of baking spice. I preferred the wine with just a touch of chill (not actually cold), which also makes it the perfect way to keep cooler while still drinking a red wine during the summer. I gave this wine 4 stars and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $8.

Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon – At $13 a bottle, this red wine from Lodi California is full-bodied with firm tannins and just plain beautiful. It’s a plush wine that is perfect to enjoy with BBQ ribs or on its own while sitting on the patio with friends. Rating: 4 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon (winery) is a red wine from Lodi, California. It’s a full bodied wine with firm tannins, and lots of black cherry and blackberry flavors that are mixed with hints of cedar and black pepper.  This plush red wine is perfect to enjoy with BBQ ribs or on its own while sitting on the patio with friends. I gave this wine 4 corks and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $13.

2013 Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon – At $24, this red wine from California lingers in the mouth and leaves you wanting more. It has nice fruit flavors mixed with some savory notes that are perfect for enjoying on its own or pairing with beef, lamb, or pasta. Cheers! Ratings 4.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Francis Ford Coppola Winery Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon

The Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon (winerysnooth) is from California and, as long as you give it a little time to breath before drinking it, the wine is fruity upfront, has some savory notes in the middle, and a finish that lingers, begging for another sip to follow. If you’re breaking out the smoker, this is a wine you should open with it. The full-to-medium body will be able to stand up to the flavor of the food, while also enhancing it. I gave this wine 4.5 corks and received it as a sample, but the suggested retail price is $25.

Question of the Day: At a BBQ or cookout, are you more likely to drink beer, wine, or liquor?


Rugelach and Yarden Merlot

Chocolate Rugelach

Chocolate Rugelach

Sunday, September 20th was a pretty normal Sunday in the A Glass After Work household. The morning was spent doing yard work, while the afternoon was spent doing other chores around the house, preparing for the week ahead, and baking cookies. The universe of who gets cookies these days has expanded– several dozen are for my coworkers, a dozen are for my brother and sister-in-law who are in the military, and a half dozen or so go to the guys in the UPS office who do a fantastic job helping me package and ship cookies across the country every week. As my baking has continued, I’ve started focusing on cookies that fit the season or test my creative baking skills. So, with Sunday being in the middle of the Jewish High Holidays and figuring most of my coworkers and the UPS guys had never had homemade rugelach before, I decided that the Jewish cookie would be the best option. Sure, they’re a bit of work, but I opened a bottle of Merlot, turned on the radio, and was ready to go!

2009 Yarden Merlot

2009 Yarden Merlot

The 2009 Yarden Merlot (winery, snooth) was a deep purple with hints of ruby. On the nose, there were blackberries and hints of black cherry, tobacco, and vanilla. In the mouth, there were blackberries mixed with vanilla and hints of tobacco. The wine had a medium body, medium acidity, and medium tannins.

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 $30 a bottle, I wanted more from this wine. There was nothing bad about it, but there was nothing memorable either. It was a little thin, the flavors fell flat in my mouth, and the finish was short. The wine opened up after breathing a little, but even with that, each sip just left me wanting something different.  Maybe I would have felt different if this wine was half the price, but $30 just seems like a lot of money for an average wine.

The cookies, though, were a huge success. My coworkers devoured them all before lunchtime, and my brother texted to tell me they were “awesome…honestly, some of the best [he’d] ever had.” I will definitely be making them again.

Overall, the pairing the Merlot with the rugelach actually helped the wine, and the cookies stood up to the stronger drink choice. If you’re a rugelach fan, I would definitely recommend making these and pairing them with some wine.

Question of the Day:  How much impact does price have on your wine selection?  What about on your enjoyment of that bottle?

Chocolate Rugelach
Print Recipe
A Jewish pastry-like cookie that can be filled with chocolate, a mixture of nuts and raisins, or jam.
32 rugelach
32 rugelach
Chocolate Rugelach
Print Recipe
A Jewish pastry-like cookie that can be filled with chocolate, a mixture of nuts and raisins, or jam.
32 rugelach
32 rugelach
Chocolate Filling
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup chocolate , finely chopped (I used mini chips, but if you use regular sized ones make sure you chop them!)
  • 3 Tbs butter , unsalted; melted and cooled
Servings: rugelach
Making the dough
  1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Place cubed, chilled cream cheese and butter in food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice to make sure everything is mixed.
  3. Add egg, vanilla, and sugar. Process until incorporated.
  4. Add flour mixture, and pulse until the dough starts to clump together. The dough will form large, curdlike clumps.
  5. Form dough into ball and divide in half. Chill dough for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Chocolate filling
  1. Melt butter and let it cool.
  2. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate.
  3. When butter is cooled, pour into cinnamon-sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.
Assembling rugelach
  1. brush the butter over the rolled out rugelach, sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture, then press the chocolate down evenly over the dough. Roll up and bake.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  3. Remove dough from refrigerator, and let it stand for 5 minutes or until it is malleable enough to roll.
  4. Flour work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10 to 12 inch circle and until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick. When you are finished rolling, use a pizza cutter to trim the edges of the dough to make an even circle. As you're rolling, be sure to rotate and reflour as necessary. If the dough becomes too sticky to work with, you can briefly place it back in the refrigerator until it is firm enough to roll.
  5. Mark the center of the dough with the tip of a knife. Cover the dough with the filling, making sure to spread evenly. Avoid putting the filling in the very center of the dough, as the filling will push towards the center when the triangles are rolled up.
  6. Use a pizza cutter to cut the circle into 12-to-16 equal-sized wedges.
  7. Starting with the outside of the circle, roll each triangle tightly and carefully to make the classic rugelach shape. Place the rugelach seam side down onto your parchment.
  8. Place each rugelach on the baking sheet. It's best to put them seam side down to help keep them closed, although I wasn't as careful about that as I should have been.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, and the rotate the baking sheet in the oven for even baking. After rotating, bake for another 5-10 minutes, for a total bake time of 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  10. Once the baking sheets are removed from the oven, let cookies set on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Recipe Notes

**adapted from The Crepes of Wrath and The Baking Bible

Price: $30
Purchased at Total Wine & More
Overall: 3 Corks

A White & A Red Passover Wine

2013 Flam Blanc and 2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot10 years ago, Hubby agreed to spend our third date at my Passover seder with 20 of my closest friends in DC, only two of whom he’d met a few weeks earlier.  Most of my friends weren’t Jewish, so I’d hoped that would help put him at ease, since he also isn’t Jewish.  Still, it was an intimidating scene for him to walk in on.  Those seders had been a long-standing tradition before we met, and continued even after we were together.  He always helped me host, even though it wasn’t a holiday that had religious meaning to him, because it served as a Spring Thanksgiving for my DC family and was important to me.  I would invite everyone over, regardless of religion.  We would read the Haggadah, eat my Passover food, and drink a lot more than the 4 glasses of wine called for in the Haggadah.

For a variety of reasons, Hubby and I haven’t done the big Passover meal for awhile, but we’ve continued to have wonderful Passovers.  This year, when we realized it was the first time in awhile that we didn’t have plans, he offered to make a special dinner so we could celebrate.  We bought a turkey breast, since he’s not a fan of brisket.  I made some knaidels (a modified version of what my Nana used to make), and Hubby made a “modern” potato kugel.  And, of course, ever seder has to have wine…and I happened to have both a bottle of white and a bottle of red.

2013 Flam Blanc

2013 Flam Blanc

The 2013 Flam Blanc (winery, snooth) is from the Judean Hills in Israel and is made from 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Chardonnay grapes.  The wine was a light lemon yellow with a few small bubbles lingering on the bottom of the glass.  On the nose, there were limes, pineapples, and Granny Smith apples.  In the mouth, there were limes and Granny Smith apples with hints of pineapple and wet stone.  The wine had a light body and high acidity.

Price: $28
Purchased at: Kosherwine.com
Overall: 4 Corks

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot

The 2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot (winery, snooth) is from the Judean Hills in Israel and had a deep ruby color.  On the nose, there were blackberries, cocoa dust, and instant espresso with hints of earth, cedar, and dark plums.  In the mouth, there were blackberries, cocoa dust, and dark plums with hints of cedar and nutmeg.  The wine had a medium-to-full body, medium-to-high acidity, and medium-to-full tannins.

Price: $35
Purchased at: Kosherwine.com
Overall: 4.5 Corks

Final Thoughts: The Flam Blanc was fantastic with the meal.  The high acidity cut right through the fat in the matzo balls and the heaviness of the kugel, as well as served as the perfect compliment to the turkey.  It kept my mouth refreshed, so that each bite after a sip emphasized the flavors of the food all over again.  If I didn’t know better, I would think this wine was made with a turkey dinner in mind (and yes, you should think about putting this on your Thanksgiving wine list).

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot corkThe Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot, on the other hand, was a brooding wine that also paired well with the turkey and potatoes.  Unlike the Flam, which kept the food tasting fresh, the Shiloh enhanced the spices of the meal, giving it a deeper flavor.  It made for slower eating and savoring.  This is a wine that that was gorgeous with dinner in 2014, but is also a wine that I would love to open again in 2018 or 2019.  It has characteristics that I think will age nicely, and at this price range, it wouldn’t cost too much extra to cellar a bottle or two.

That all said, the reality is both of these wines are out of the “everyday” price range for most of us, but the unfortunate reality is that kosher wines are often $10-$15 more expensive than their non-kosher equivalents.  If you keep kosher or are just willing to pay the a little more for a good wine, these are two wines that are worth it.  The Flam Blanc made for a better pairing with the meal, while the Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot was the slightly better all-around wine.  Overall, though, they were both fantastic.

Question of the Day: What did you open for your seder on the first night of Passover?

Chag Sameach (Happy Passover) to everyone celebrating!

State of the Union with Le Sage

State of the Union and a Michel Schlumberger MerlotI’ve written before about the State of the Union address being a big event in DC.  When I worked on Capitol Hill, I either watched the speech at a bar with other staffers or I watched from home while emailing coworkers.  We always had copies of the speech several hours beforehand, so responses were prepared before leaving work.  Watching the speech was really about the event itself…and I’ve always loved it, regardless of who is President.

This year was the second year watching the speech from “off the Hill,” and it’s a very different experience.  Most of my coworkers don’t watch and feel it’s anticlimactic.  The fact that we all had the text beforehand meant the little bit of chatter about the speech happened before we left work, and that was the end of their interest.  So, I came home, opened a bottle of wine, and grabbed my iPad so I could email friends who were still on the Hill and read all the Twitter commentary.  Just because my coworkers are jaded about the event, didn’t mean I was going to lose my enthusiasm for it.

2007 Michel-Schlumberger "Le Sage" Merlo

2007 Michel-Schlumberger “Le Sage” Merlot

The 2007 Michel-Schlumberger “Le Sage” Merlot (winery) is from Dry Creek Valley, California.  The wine was a dark ruby with a brownish tint.  On the nose, there was leather and earth with hints of dark berries and dried roses.  In the mouth, thee were blackberries and pomegranates with hints of smoked meat, dust, and dried roses. The wine had a medium-to-full body and medium-to-high tannins and acidity.

Michel Schlumberger Le Sage Merlot corkIs 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 of wine.  At $28, this wine was delicious when I drank it about a year and a half ago and well-worth the splurge in cost.  Now, though, I think the 2007 vintage is a little passed its prime.  That’s not a comment on the quality of the wine, but rather on my miscalculation of when to drink it.  That said, it’s held up nicely—having more savory aging characteristics and a nice, long finish.    It just seems to have lost a little of the something special that I enjoyed the first time I tasted it.

Question of the Day: Have you ever held onto a wine that you were “saving” only to realize when you opened it that you waited too long?


Price: $28
Purchased at Michel-Schlumberger Winery
Overall: 3 Corks

My Flirtation with Le Flirt

In the last couple of months, Hubby and I have switched up our weekend errands to try and make sure we accomplish all of the grocery shopping, laundry, and other not-so-fun things on Saturday while leaving Sundays to really relax.  For some reason, this Sunday didn’t work out the way it was supposed to.  We woke up late, which I can only blame of two weeks of staying up way past my bedtime to watch the Olympics.  Then, instead of heading out right away get in our respective runs, we both futz around a bit, so that by the time we both were finished, home, showered, and ready to do our last bit of errands, it was already mid-afternoon.

We gave the rest of the day a good effort, though, heading out despite the bout of laziness we were both battling, and I even bailed on my monthly knitting group because Hubby and I were making progress.  By the time we walked in the door at 5:30, our errands were complete, and we were hungry and exhausted.  Hubby put a honey-rubbed black forest ham in the oven and started working on a new experiment—pesto mashed potatoes.  I, on the other hand, opened a bottle of wine.

2011 Michel Schlumberger 'Le Flirt'

2011 Michel Schlumberger ‘Le Flirt’

The 2011 Michel-Schlumberger ‘Le Flirt’ (winery) is from the Dry Creek Valley, California and is made from Merlot grapes.  The wine had a vibrant, medium salmon color.  On the nose, there were ripe wild strawberries and limes with hints of cherries and rose petals.  In the mouth, there were very ripe strawberries mixed with limeade.  The wine had a light body and bright 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 $15, this wine is a fabulous summer wine, and honestly, is something I would even consider opening for Easter dinner.  It paired beautifully with Hubby’s baked ham and pesto mashed potatoes, and continued to be enjoyable through my Sunday evening of blogging, sock knitting, 2012 London Olympics closing ceremonies viewing, and True Blood watching.

All that said, I think this is a wine that is best purchased on the sale rack.  The winery’s website says it generally sells for $20, and that’s a little more than I would pay for this.  At $15, though, it was fun, flirty, and fabulous for a casual Sunday evening.

Question of the Day: Do you generally split your errands up throughout the weekend or is there one day that’s busier than the other?

Price: $15
Purchased at Lot18
Overall: 4 Corks