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 -  This $25 Italian wine is a little pricey, but it's worth every penny.  This is a red  wine you'll just want to sink into and savor, particularly if you have a smokey cheeseburger or a juicy steak to go with it.  Ratings = 4.5 out of 5 | 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

The Force is Strong with Skywalker’s Sommità

2012 Skywalker Vineyards Sommità – This $42 bottle of red wine from California is a great special occasion wine. It’s luscious and complicated, but still approachable and drinkable. It would be great holiday wine, perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Ratings 4.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Skywalker Vineyards Sommità – This $42 bottle of red wine from California is a great special occasion wine. It’s luscious and complicated, but still approachable and drinkable. It would be great holiday wine, perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Ratings 4.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Skywalker Vineyards Sommita at the bar at Charlie Palmers Steak DCA little more than a month ago, a friend texted me a picture of a Yoda statue saying “You’ll never guess where I am.” It turns out, he was at a conference at the Skywalker Ranch, and while he was there, he did a wine tasting at Skywalker Vineyards. My envy was as green as the old Jedi Master.

Knowing my love of Star Wars and excitement about the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he brought me a bottle of Pinot Noir. Since Hubby doesn’t drink, though, it seemed most appropriate that my friend and I open it together. So, we headed to Charlie Palmer Steak DC for lunch. They don’t charge a corkage fee for U.S. wines, although the wines can’t be something on their wine list, and they only allow guests to bring two bottles.

2012 Skywalker Vineyards Sommità Pinot Noir

2012 Skywalker Vineyards Sommità Pinot Noir

The 2012 Skywalker Vineyards Sommità (winery, snooth) is made in Marin County, California with 100% Pinot Noir grapes. The wine was a deep ruby with flecks of purple and big, drippy legs. On the nose, there were dark cherries and raspberries mixed with hints of cloves and earth. In the mouth, there were dark cherries, raspberries, and cranberries mixed with cedar, baking spices, and hints of white pepper, earth, and mushrooms. The wine had a medium-to-full body, medium tannins, and medium acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  At $42, this wine is not an everyday bottle, but if you’re looking for a special wine that is under $50, this is definitely worth considering. It’s luscious and complicated, but still approachable and drinkable. It’s a wine that can just as easily be paired with food as it can be enjoyed on its own.

Skywalker Vineyards CorkI paired the wine with the hand-cut yellowfin tuna tartare, which is on a bed of avocado and is made with a soy and lime emulsion. It also comes with sesame flat bread. I couldn’t have picked a better pairing, as the dish emphasized the earthiness in the wine, while still allowing everything to taste fresh and without being overpowering.

This wine is definitely drinkable now and would make a nice addition to a Christmas or New Year’s feast. Or, as the wine has some aging potential, so you should feel comfortable buying a bottle or two and holding on to it for a couple of years. Either way, if you’re a Pinot Noir or a Star Wars fan, this is a wine worth finding.

Question of the Day: Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet? What did you think of it (no spoilers, please!)? And, have you ever had a wine from Skywalker Vineyards?

Me meeting R2D2 at the Disney screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night

Meeting R2D2 at the Disney screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night

Price: $42
Overall: 4.5 Corks

Valletta: A Thanksgiving Day Red Wine

As we are getting closer to Thanksgiving, I’ve been going through my wine notes looking for wines I haven’t blogged about, but that would be nice additions to the Thanksgiving table. That’s when I was reminded of this gem—the 2012 Valletta Barbera d’Alba.

I actually opened this wine at the end of August with some work colleagues when they come over to see the “new” house. We made a day of drinking Italian wines and eating prosciutto and Soppressata, truffled gouda and Cherry Glen’s Monocacy soft-ripened goat cheese, homemade calzones, and Fine Sweet Shop’s cannolis. It was a truly delicious, but gluttonous afternoon, and not dissimilar from Thanksgiving except with a different main course.

2012 Valletta Barbera d'Alba -- At $25 a bottle, this Italian red wine is food-friendly and seductive, without breaking my wallet.  Whether you’re pairing it with slightly spicy meat calzones or a roasted turkey dinner, this wine begs to be sipped and enjoyed.  Rating: 4.5 out of 5.  | AGlassAfterWork.com

2012 Valletta Barbera d’Alba

The 2012 Valletta Barbera d’Alba (winery) is 100% Barbera grapes made by winemaker Claudio Alario in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy. The wine was a deep ruby with flecks of garnet. On the nose, there were cherries and plums with hints of earthiness. In the mouth, there were cherries, blackberries, and plums mixed with earthiness and something toasty. The wine was medium-to-full bodied with velvety tannins and balanced acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At $25, this wine everything I look for in an Italian red–seductive, food-friendly, and delicious–and all without breaking my wallet. The Valletta paired the way I had hoped when we enjoyed it with our slightly spicy meat calzones. And, as I thought back on that pairing, I realized that its versatility as a food wine practically begs to pair it with a roasted turkey. It won’t overpower the food, but rather blend, enhancing the flavors as you eat and drink. Sure, it’s a little different than the more common Pinot Noir or Beaujolais options, but I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Question of the Day:  Have you started buying your Thanksgiving wines yet or are you waiting a little longer?

Price: $25
Purchased at Radici Market
Overall: 4.5 Corks

Sunday Baking: Lemon Cookies & A French Rosé

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

2012 Côté Mas Rosé Aurore – At $13, this bottle of French wine is a steal, and the pairing with the soft lemon cookies was irresistible. The brightness of the cookies mixed well with the citrus aspects of the wine, while the other characteristics of the wine enhanced the cookie flavors. The one warning I will give is the wine goes down very easily. Cheers! Ratings 4.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

Hello loyal readers! I’m sorry for not posting recently, but work has been all consuming. As you may remember, my day job involves working on federal policy and legislation, and a bill I’ve been working on for about 10 years is moving through both the House and the Senate. This is very exciting, but as there are still changes to be made, it also means a lot of early mornings and late nights. Unfortunately, that also means less time for blogging. Thankfully, though, I’ve still been able to open a few bottles of wine that I’ve been eager to share.

The last Sunday in May brought an end to the Memorial Day Congressional Recess, an end to the hottest May on record in DC. Hubby and I went into that weekend without having turned on the air conditioning, but since Sunday also meant baking night, he was convinced that we would cave and turn it on.   I think the only thing that really kept us from giving in was that the heat was supposed to break on Monday…that and the fact that I baked lemon cookies and opened a French Rosé, both of which were bright and refreshing in the humid summer heat.

2012 Côté Mas Sud de France Rosé Aurore with Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

2012 Côté Mas Sud de France Rosé Aurore with Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

It didn’t take me long to decide that this week’s cookies would be the Soft & Chewy Lemon Cookies were from Averie Cooks, a website that has become a go-to for cookie ideas.  For some reason, I associated lemon-flavored desserts with summer picnics. The dough seemed like it would be easy, and the cookies didn’t have a long baking time, so it was perfect for trying to make something summery, while having the oven on for as little time as possible.

The 2014 Côté Mas Sud de France Rosé Aurore (winery, snooth) by Domaines Paul Mas is from the Languedoc region of France and is made with 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 20% Syrah grapes. The wine was a bright pale-to-medium salmon pink. On the nose there were Bing cherries and tart strawberries and hints of something floral. In the mouth, there were tart strawberries with hints of cream and lime. The wine had a light-to-medium body with good acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At an SRP of $13, this bottle of wine is a steal. It’s a wine that has nice flavors that offer something other than just tartness and acidity, which is sometimes difficult to find in a dry rosé. The one warning I will give is that it goes down very easily, especially in the hot weather.

As for the Soft & Chewy Lemon Cookies, they did not disappoint. They were dense, but still had a slight fluffiness to them in the middle that made the strong lemon flavor a surprise with every bite. I dusted mine with some confectioners’ sugar to add a slightly more polished look.

Overall, the pairing was perfect. The brightness of the cookies mixed well with the citrus aspects of the wine, while the other characteristics of the wine enhanced the cookie flavors without getting lost in them. Normally, I only taste two cookies while baking…one when it’s hot and a second while it’s cooled off and I’m ready for my pairing. There may have been a couple of extras eaten in this batch though!

Question of the Day:  Do you enjoy dry rosé or do you associate all rose with the very sweet White Zinfandel-style?

Soft & Chewy Lemon Cookies
(*adapted from Avery Cooks: Recipes for the Sweet Teeth)
Yields: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 2 table spoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
Averie Cooks Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies.

Averie Cooks’ Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies.

Directions

  • In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter (1 minute).
  • Add sugars and combine until pale and fluffy (1 minute).
  • Add egg and lemon extract. Beat until well combined (1-2 minutes).
  • Scrape down sides of bowl.
  • Add lemon zest and honey. Beat until well combined (1-2 minutes).
  • Scrape down sides of bowl again.
  • Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
  • Add baking soda, keeping the baking soda in a little mound.
  • Add lemon juice directly on top of baking soda. As long as your baking soda is good, it will bubble and foam (if it doesn’t, your baking soda is expired).
  • Beat on low until just combined (1 minute).
  • Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to days. Baking the unchilled dough will cause the cookies to spread, and you will have thinner, flatter cookies instead of slight puffs of lemon baked goodness.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  • Take a rounded tablespoon of chilled dough and roll between the palms of your hands to create 1-inch balls.
  • Place cookies on lined, chilled cookie sheets. Keep cookies about 1-2 inches apart.
  • Press to flatten slightly.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until edges look like they have set. Overbaking will result in the undersides becoming too brown.
  • Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
  • Once the cookies are completely cooled, you can dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Suggested Retail Price: $13
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4.5 Corks

Sunday Baking: Thumbprint Jam Cookies & Australian Grenache

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

Happy Spring, everyone!  I’m sorry for falling way behind in blogging, but I was traveling for work and just couldn’t get it all done.  I’m back, though, as is Sunday baking!

I never had a chance to write about the Valentine’s Day cookies I made.  Admittedly, Hubby and I aren’t big Valentine’s Day people, but I do enjoy the festive cookies, so with the holiday being on a Saturday this year, I made cookies the week before Valentine’s Day and the week following it.

Thumbprint jam cookies

Thumbprint jam cookies

My first batch was a Valentine’s Day Thumbprint Cookie.  I’ve been working on perfected a plain thumbprint cookie base, as thumbprints are perfect for almost any occasion and can be filled with all kinds of goodies–jam, Hershey’s kisses, mini Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups, Rolos.  The possibilities are endless, but only if the cookie base is good.  And, I think I’m finally there.  I modified the recipe I found on Simply Recipes, and the cookies stayed true to form (my Christmas thumbprints spread out flat), had a nice consistency, and tasted like a cookie without being overly sweet.  I used an apple-pomegranate jam that I bought from a local jelly maker, as I thought both the color and the flavors would be perfect for Valentine’s Day

2010 Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard Grenache

2010 Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard Grenache

To pair with the cookies, I opened the 2010 Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Grenache (winery, snooth), which is from the McLaren Vale in Australia.  The wine was a deep ruby with flecks of purple.  On the nose, there were roses and cherries mixed with hints of strawberries and lavender.  In the mouth, there were cherries and vanilla mixed with white pepper, a smoky cedar box, and flowers.  The wine was medium-to-full bodied with good acidity and tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  When I received this as a sample, the prices were about half of what they are now.  The current vintage is selling on Wine.com for $66.  At $33, this wine would be a steal…at $66 it’s still worth the price, but becomes less of an every day wine.  The 2010 vintage still needed to breathe a little, but once it opened up, there were some beautiful, unusual flavors.  The wine was exactly what an Australian wine should be—fruit forward without being jammy, well-balanced, and complex.

Overall, the cookies were a nice take on the thumbprint with jam and will definitely be a recipe I make again.  And, the apple-pomegranate jam helped tie the cookies together with the fruity flavors of the wine to make an absolutely delicious pairing!

Question of the Day: Do you travel for work?  Does your “after work” drinking change while you’re on the road? 

Valentine’s Day Jam Thumbprint Cookies
(*adapted from Simply Recipes)
Yields: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup jam (I used Let’s Jam! Appom, which is an apple-pomegranate jam from a jam maker at DC’s Eastern Market)
  • Sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts if you want to decorate the cookies

Directions

  • In medium bowl, mix together flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  • Separate the eggs. (If using sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts, reserve the egg whites in a small dish and whisk until frothy, as the eggs whites will be used to make everything stick to the dough).
  • Add the yolks, and mix until combined.
  • Add vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • On low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until just blended (about 30 seconds).
  • Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats and place in refrigerator to chill.
  • Take a rounded tablespoon of chilled dough and roll between the palms of your hands to create 1-inch balls.
  • If using sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts, dip the balls into the egg whites then roll them into the sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts until covered.
  • Place cookies on lined, chilled cookie sheets. Keep cookies about 2 inches apart
  • Press to flatten slightly, then press your thumb into the center to make a small well for the jam (do not press too hard or the cookie will crack and fall apart).
  • Fill the small well with 1/2 a teaspoon of jam
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly firm.
  • Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Suggested Retail Price: $66
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4.5 Corks