Wine Review for the Weekend: Rappahannock Cellars Chardonnay

Source: Rappahannock Cellars

White wine is such an acquired taste.  While I tend to prefer red wines, I have been on the search for a perfect wine to pair with poultry and seafood dishes.  This wine also has to have the ability to be enjoyed on its own.

Imagine my surprise when I visited Rappahannock Cellars in Hume, Va. one weekend to find the perfect white wine that could meet the criteria above.  When I had the first initial sip of Rappahannock’s 2010 Chardonnay, I knew this wine would pair well with a crab cake and would also be able to be enjoyed while sitting on the porch.  This Chardonnay was aged in French and Virginia oak barrels, and you could taste the oak overtones, along with a buttery finish.

Rappahannock is one of my favorite wineries in Virginia, and the staff is always friendly.  I strongly urge you to make the trip out there to enjoy their wines (Noblesse Rouge is one of my favorites, and my boyfriend loves their Red Dessert Wine).

The Unofficial Start of Summer

Lately, I have been on the road traveling to visit family, but also getting away from it all. Needless to say, I have been yearning for a weekend to cook at home and enjoy the company of friends to balance the chaos that has been occurring in life lately. Well, I have finally had the opportunity to jump back into the kitchen to prepare a good meal.

This weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to have a mini picnic at a local park to celebrate the beautiful weather we had over the weekend. For starters, our menu included homemade guacamole, burgers, Italian Sausage with peppers and onions, and rum-soaked berry shortcake. Along with the meats, guacamole, and shortcake, we had great wine and conversation.

We started with the guacamole. I love guacamole, as it is a cool, refreshing dip with a lot of healthy stuff in it. Paired with a multigrain tortilla chip, you have a good nutritional snack. We also had deviled eggs, which I ate, since BF does not eat them. Deviled eggs mark summer picnics, and Whole Foods has some of the best.

Before leaving, I began to prep the rum-soaked berries. After removing the stems and halving strawberries, I added blueberries to be combined with 2 oz. dark rum and 1/4 c. sugar. After stirring the berries with the rum mixture, it was off to the refrigerator to chill until later in the evening.

After preparing the dessert, I moved on to working on the peppers and onions. I started off with 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil to heat in a skillet. Once the skillet was warm, I added the onions (coarsely sliced), one red bell pepper (sliced), and one green bell pepper (sliced). I cooked until the peppers and onions were soft. The onions were beginning to caramelize.

While the peppers were cooking, I diced an onion and combined it with a pound of ground beef. In addition to the onion, I added some bread crumbs, Penzey’s Smoky 3S seasoning, and pepper.  I made mini hamburgers that I would be taking with us (along with the sausages), since the apartment complex does not allow grills.

Thankfully, our friend came to join us for the picnic, because we could not eat all of the food alone. Our friend brought a bottle of wine as a gift. Monte Ducay Tinto Pergamino is a smooth tasting wine with hints of cherry. This wine was a beautiful red that paired well with the two meats, but it was perfectly fine to drink alone.

I also had some leftover Church Creek 2009 Cabernet Franc. Two weekends ago, I traveled to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to visit three wineries and enjoy some time away from the hectic pace of the DC Metro area. The Church Creek label is made by Chatham Vineyards, and this winery offers great wines. The Cabernet Franc is a smooth tasting wine with hints of raspberry. It was aged in French oak for nine months. This wine pairs well with Italian dishes, in addition to some good barbecue. We had the wine with the burgers, and it was a great way to finish the bottle.

Overall, you can’t complain about the unofficial start of summer. Picnics, good food, great wine, and tons of great company create memories to come.

Guacamole

2 ripe avocados, mashed
1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. Vidalia Onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp. cumin
Cilantro to taste

First, cut avocados and scrape the avocado out into a bowl, mash the avocado and squeeze the juice from the lime onto the mashed avocado. Add the minced garlic clove, onion, tomatoes, diced jalapeno, cumin, and cilantro. Continue to combine all ingredients, and promptly serve.

Have a great summer! I will try to have some more updates in the next few days from my travels, including two winery reviews and some more innovative ideas from the kitchen.

I feel bad for neglecting you…

Here it goes…I’m sorry that I have not updated this site for a while. This stuff happens when you are too busy with life, work, writing for two additional websites, studying for class, and nursing an injury. Due to this long list of excuses unforeseen circumstances, it has impacted my cooking/baking. Not to worry, we still have wine reviews.

Let’s start with Easter dinner. My boyfriend and I hosted dinner at my apartment for our families. It was their first time meeting each other. The food was delightful, and I didn’t even have to cook, as my boyfriend prepared the meal. Our menu included: Country Ham basted in Dr. Pepper, Macaroni and Cheese, Easter Bread, and two salads. If I can get the recipe for the ham, I’ll include it in a follow up. Right now, we are finding creative ways to eat ham.

One way is to fry it like bacon and season it accordingly. My boyfriend likes to season it different ways using herbs. For one variation, he created a savory version using sage, thyme, rosemary and dill. This was my favorite version. Another variation was a more sweet-heat version, using cumin and Penzey’s Baking Spice. There was a barbecue version using smoked paprika, chipotle hot sauce, brown sugar, and cumin. This was awesome and made me crave some Riscky’s BBQ…can’t wait for Texas. The curry version was also yummy.

Aside from ham, I haven’t done much in terms of wine tasting. The day after Easter, my boyfriend and I wanted to try two awesome wineries near Front Royal. Philip Carter Winery was our first destination. When we arrived, we noticed that it was closed, despite what the website said. We decided to travel to Fox Meadow Winery instead, and it was well worth the trip.

Fox Meadow Winery offers some of the best red wines in the region. They were all so good that we had a tough decision to make. We loved their Syrah, which paired well with a good sharp cheddar. We also loved their Freezeland Red, which is a semi-sweet wine. The Cabernet Franc was out of this world and would have paired well with a steak. I also liked their Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

The atmosphere was great, and the owner of the winery did a superb job explaining the food pairings for the wines.

I’ll have more later. Hopefully, I’ll make that Piña Colada Cake over the weekend that I have been promising my boyfriend.

Luck of the Irish…or Luck of the Unicorn

Lately, we have been blessed by beautiful weather here in Virginia. Today, despite the sneezing from allergies, my boyfriend and I decided to visit Unicorn Winery in Amissville. Three weeks ago, we attended my friend’s wedding in Fredericksburg, and while traveling back from the ceremony, we visited Hartwood Winery. Hartwood was having a Mardi Gras festival, and Unicorn was there providing tastings as well. One of the owners gave us a complimentary tasting card, and we decided to visit.

Unicorn Winery is a small winery, but they offer amazingly good wines at reasonable prices. We happened to visit during their St. Patrick’s celebration, which we happened to miss since they ran out of soup. However, the staff made up for it by providing a fun atmosphere with the tastings. The man in charge of our tastings was very knowledgeable about the wines and what food would pair well.

Some particular favorites included:

2008 Chardonnay: If you don’t like a lot of oak taste, then this wine only provides just a little hint. This wine is full bodied with hints of apple blossom, honey, and pear. It would pair well with seafood, especially scallops and mussels.

2008 Traminette: Thai food will pair well with this wine. With hints of honeysuckle, lavender, and citrus, this wine has a sweet, smooth taste. Traminette was first produced at Cornell University in 1984.

2008 Meritage: This Bordeaux-style blend provides a literal party in your mouth, as hints of berry, smoke, and cherry come into play. This full bodied wine will get better with age. In fact, our tasting guide told us that the 2002 vintage is served at the Inn at Little Washington. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Enjoy this one with good BBQ or Sharp Cheddar. This is also a good wine to enjoy with cigars.

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine is as full bodied as you might think. In fact, it was a light bodied wine with strong hints of cherry and raspberry. The smoky hint would pair well with a burger or any pasta dish.

Overall, the atmosphere and great wines made this worth the traffic we encountered earlier. This wine was truly a luck of the Irish find.

Winery Review: Naked Mountain Winery

If you travel westbound on I-66, there are several great wineries to choose from during your trip towards I-81 or Front Royal. For one, I like traveling on the winding country roads in search of a good Virginia winery. Two weekends ago, my boyfriend wanted to test out his truck in order for it to pass the dreaded vehicle emissions test. We drove west to visit North Mountain Vineyards, and along the way, we passed the signs for Naked Mountain Winery. I mentioned this winery to my boyfriend about stopping by, since I have never been there, and he said we stop by this one on the way back.

After the visit to North Mountain, I was excited to try out Naked Mountain. First, I had heard some great things about their white wines. In fact, one of my friends raved about their Chardonnay, and this intrigued me more since I was on a white wine kick. Normally, I love the full bodied taste of red wines, but ever since visiting some great wineries in upstate New York, I have been reverting back to white wines. Upon traveling down the winding driveway, we arrived to find a packed tasting room. I always like to say that the sign of a great winery is often determined by the crowded nature of the tasting room.

As soon as we found a tasting area, we got to sample two amazing chardonnays. The 2006 Chardonnay had a wonderful taste of oak and citrusy hints. It did not taste like it was fermented in oak, rather steel, since the finish was crisp. On the other hand, the 2007 Chardonnay was perfect. I think I might have found a Chardonnay from Virginia that I love, since it had a creamy taste with hints of vanilla and apple. The 2007 will pair well with any chicken, seafood, or pork dish that I prepare. The server even recommended pairing this wine with apple pie. While we sampled their Chardonnay-Riesling, I eventually settled on purchasing the 2007 Chardonnay.

The server moved on to the reds, which was particularly exciting for both me and my boyfriend. We love red wines. If you served us a glass of Cabernet Franc, we would be happy with this decision. We started off with the Cabernet Franc. Virginia is the capital of Cabernet Franc, and I don’t think another state could compare with this title. I had Cab Francs in Ohio and upstate New York, but none of those could compare to those in Virginia. The Cab Franc from Naked Mountain was smooth and had a great balance in tannins. This could seriously pair well with a charteucerie plate.

The second offering was the Scarlet Oak Red, and this wine was our favorite.  This wine would complement my kitchen sink pizza and a good steak.  It had a smooth, yet spicy taste.  The flavor was complex, as the wine consisted of 45% Syrah, 45% Mouteverde, and 10% Tannat, but it finished with hints of berry.

The Merlot was also a good smooth tasting wine, and there was no doubt that I was torn on deciding which wine to buy.  This Merlot was blended with Cabernet Franc, Tannat, and Petit Verdot.  This wine had hints of oak, cherry, and vanilla, and this would pair well with Elk and Venison.

There were two pre-release wines that we sampled:  Raptor Red and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Raptor Red was very good, as it was a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Cab Franc.  The wine was medium bodied, and the taste was smoky.  While this wine would pair well with a cheese platter, I found myself leaning more towards the Scarlet Oak Red due to its smoother taste.  The Cabernet Sauvignon was also good, as it tasted more of plum and earthy hints.  This wine would pair well with cheeses too.

By the time it came to purchase the wines, my boyfriend and I had a hard decision to make concerning the reds.  We were sold on the 2007 Chardonnay, but we were torn between the Cabernet Sauvignon and Scarlet Oak Red.  Eventually, we decided on the Scarlet Oak Red due to the complex flavors.

This winery is a hidden gem, and there is no doubt that there will be return visits in the future.

Winery Review: North Mountain Vineyard

Two Saturdays ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing on what we should do for the day.  Eventually, it led to us looking at the Virginia Wine map and deciding whether to go down to Charlottesville for the day or head westward towards Front Royal.  Since we were looking for a different change of pace, we decided to make the drive west towards I-81 for leisurely drive.  Before we left Fairfax, we decided on North Mountain Vineyard.

Upon arriving at North Mountain, we noticed there were a lot of cars in the lot which was interesting considering that the weather was gloomy. When we entered the tasting room, there was not a lot of room at the counter considering a large group was finishing their tasting. We found a spot and began tasting the wines. Initially, I was not impressed by the winery until we tasted the Oktoberfest and Mountain Sunset Apple Blush wines.

Oktoberfest is the wine that will complement any German dish, including my personal favorite, spaetzle. The wine had great fruity aromas with a sweet, crisp taste.

Mountain Sunset Apple Blush was a blend of apple wine and riesling. This wine was also sweet and crisp tasting, and it would complement any pork dish.

In the end, we bought both wines. North Mountain is nice, as you have great scenic views around and it is an oasis off I-81. Will I go back? Probably not at this point. If I do, it will be to purchase the Oktoberfest wine.

Sunday Dish: Panzanella

It has been hot here in the D.C. area recently.  With the stifling temperatures and high humidity, the last place I want to be is in a overheated kitchen.  However, I have been wanting to try two new recipes (one from “The Joy of Cooking” and the other from 17 and Baking), so off to the kitchen I went…thank goodness for air conditioning.

While I baked a batch of Blueberry Coconut Cream Scones that 17 and Baking featured in an earlier post, my main focus was on making Panzanella.  Panzanella is a bread salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and other fresh vegetables.  It is a refreshing main course that does not have meat as the star taste.  If you want to serve this with a steak, knock yourself out.  However, this salad is good enough on its own.  With crunchy bread as the star, a wonderfully seasoned vinaigrette, and fresh vegetables, I paired this with Williamsburg Winery’s Susan Constant Red, which is a light red with smooth flavors of plum and black currant.

Panzanella (Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking”)

Ingredients:

1 loaf Ciabatta bread (Italian bread works well too), chopped into 1-inch cubes

Vinaigrette:

1/3 c. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 c. Red Wine Vinegar

1 Shallot, minced

3 tbsp. Lemon Juice

3 tbsp. minced parsley

1 tsp. minced garlic

First, bake the bread cubes in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  While the bread is baking, whisk together in a small bowl all of the vinaigrette ingredients together.

Take the bread cubes out of the oven to cool.  While the bread cubes are cooling, begin chopping the following vegetables:

2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)

3 Roma Tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 medium onion (red or yellow, which is what I used), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved

1/3 c. torn basil leaves

In a large salad bowl, place the bread cubes in the bowl, then place all of the chopped vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, olives, and basil leaves) in the bowl, and toss with vinaigrette dressing.  Add parmesan shavings to the bowl before serving.

Wine recommendations for this dish:

I would recommend a light red wine with this dish.  Of course, you could always pair a Chardonnay or a Pinot Grigio with this dish as well.  The other red wine I would suggest is Chrysalis Vineyards (Va.) Sarah’s Patio Red or Rubiana.

Deadliest Catch Night: Pizza and Good Wine

Tonight was one of the most saddest episodes of The Deadliest Catch as Captain Phil Harris died.  While the episode made me cry, I decided to host a party featuring some yummy food.  No, it was not seafood that was the star of the show (that was last night’s dish and the featured star of a post for the weekend), but it was freshly made pizza with some awesome ingredients.  This pizza was made with three different kinds of cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan reggiano), two different meats (sopressata and bresiola), marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh sweet basil.

Alongside of the pizza, a friend brought a bottle of Summerfield Merlot (California) and my boyfriend brought two bottles of Rogue Northwestern Ale. While I did not particularly care for the bitterness of the ale, I did enjoy the Merlot (even though, my boyfriend also brought a bottle of Fabbioli Cellars (Va.) Chambourcin).  The Merlot was very smooth tasting and complemented the pizza with its sweet, jammy hints.  With hints of black currant and raspberry, this Merlot also worked with the chocolate we had for dessert.

While this was an emotional episode of The Deadliest Catch, the pizza received rave reviews.  My boyfriend even mentioned that it was better than the two area pizza joints nearby.

Krystle’s “Kitchen Sink” Pizza

1 package of prepared pizza dough (you can find this dough at Wegmans or any speciality grocer)

1/2 c. pizza sauce (I used marinara with burgundy wine)

2 c. mozzarella-provolone cheese blend (you can buy this pre-shredded at a grocer)

1 c. parmesan-reggiano cheese

4 tbsp. sweet basil, chopped finely

1/2 c. marinated artichoke hearts, chopped

1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes, chopped

1/4 c. sopressata, chopped

1/4 c. bresiola, chopped

Preheat the oven, according to package directions.  Grease pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray or extra virgin olive oil. Spread the dough to fit the pan and pour on the sauce (spreading evenly).

Then, layer in this order:

meats

cheese

artichokes

cheese

sun dried tomatoes

cheese

basil

Bake for the amount of time on the package directions.  I cooked the pizza for 18 minutes.  After pizza is done, remove from oven and cool for five minutes before slicing.

Serves 8.

Additional wine recommendations with the “Kitchen Sink” pizza:

Fabbioli Cellars (Va.) Chambourcin

Barboursville (Va.) Merlot

First Colony (Va.) Cabernet Franc

Columbia Crest (Wash.) Cab Sauv./Merlot blend

Yellow Tail (Australia) Merlot

Barefoot (Calif.) Cabernet Sauvignon

Restaurant Review: The Burger Joint

The Burger Joint in Arlington might strike some as the usual hamburger establishment. After one of their burgers, your opinion will soon change. Using quality ingredients, The Burger Joint offers a wide variety of hamburgers and other sandwiches, in addition to homemade milkshakes and fries.

The Burger and The Greek Burger

“The Burger” might be an original hamburger. However, The Burger Joint allows the natural flavors of the meat to stand out. Using all-natural grain fed beef, “The Burger” can be supplemented with their famous Mojo Sauce, in addition to cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and your typical thoroughfare condiments. My boyfriend had this burger, and he remarked at how fresh everything tasted.

Their turkey burger was one of the best burgers I have had in a long time. I do not each a lot of red meat, but this burger did not disappoint. Using ground turkey, The Burger Joint also added in gorgonzola cheese and portobella mushrooms into the mix to create a juicy sandwich. Just like “The Burger,” you have the same choice of condiments and extras. I chose to have mine with the mojo sauce, lettuce and tomato. The Greek Burger is also good, as the meat mixture had lamb along with the ground beef. Additionally, this burger was loaded with feta cheese, tomatoes, and a tzatziki sauce. Another delicious choice that can be cooked to your specifications.

Their fries are also fresh, and just like other burger establishments in the area, they offered seasonings of rosemary, sea salt, garlic, and parmesan. The Gold Standard are the fries that I ordered. However, they offer Sweet Potato fries (The Orange Standard) and Asparagus Fries (The Green Standard).

If you are a milkshake aficionado like I am, then you will love The Burger Joint’s milkshakes.  Thick and creamy, they come in a variety of traditional flavors, including double chocolate, vanilla bean, strawberry, and a flavor of the month.  For the month of June, the flavor was Key Lime Pie.  Key Lime Pie had the graham cracker crust bits with a lime garnish.  This shake actually tasted like a slice of the namesake dessert.  The month of July pays homage to Peach.  Another delicious shake made with peach ice cream, fresh peach bits, and graham cracker crumbs.

All together, this is one of the best burger joints that I have visited. If you are in Arlington (they also have locations in Alexandria and Bethesda, Md.), it is well worth the visit.