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).

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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.

Can Red Wine Save the Day?

I love a glass of red wine. Whether it’s a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, the smooth and complex taste always seem to refresh my palate, as well as accompany a good dish. Recently, I have been reverting back to the reds, after a craving of Chardonnay in the fall after a trip to upstate New York. One thing is for certain, Virginia has no shortage of good red wines that are comparable to many in Napa Valley or Washington State.

Currently, after finishing my new favorite, Scarlet Oak Red (Naked Mountain Winery, Markham, Va.), I decided to try Rappahannock Cellars‘ Noblesse Rouge. Noblesse Rouge is a Bordeaux blend with blends of Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is smooth tasting with a lot of depth. The smoky hints are perfect, and it complemented the pizza I had earlier, along with the 72% Dark Chocolate I had for dessert.

This winery is one of my favorites in Virginia, and their red wines are excellent. As for the wine, it definitely provided some rescue from the stresses of tax season. Not to mention, the red wine is filled with flavenoids, which is good for you too.

Snow = Baking Storm

With a snow storm in our midst, I had the chance to catch up on baking.  I love to bake.  It is one thing that gives me great joy to provide a warm treat for loved ones and friends.

Tonight, I made some Cranberry Bread.  I had a box mix to use up from Christmas, so I decided to bake it as a surprise for my boyfriend, who sprained his ankle.  It was flavorful and moist.  Granted, I could have doctored it up a little by adding some almond extract or almonds to the mixture, but I wanted to keep it simple not to overpower dinner.

The main star was tonight’s dinner.  I made a chicken rice casserole that was perfect for the snowy evening.  This casserole was simple and easy to make.  In fact, you could even make it ahead of time too.  The casserole begins with cooked chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts) seasoned with garlic.  The sauce has a Cream of Mushroom base, and you can adapt the seasonings to taste.  It is a healthy, comfort food dish.

Chicken Rice Casserole

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cubed)

2 cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 c. Milk

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 c. slivered almonds

1 tbsp. tarragon

2 packs of microwaveable brown rice (unseasoned), cooked

1/2 c. dry bread crumbs

2 tbsp. Grana Padrano or Parmesan cheese, grated

**Note:  I used 2 tbsp. Grana Padrano and 2 tbsp. Raspberry Cheddar Cheese

1 tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. Smoked Paprika

First, saute the chicken in garlic and olive oil.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Second, stir together two cans of cream of mushroom soup with 1 c. milk.  Once combined, add the chicken, almonds, tarragon and rice.  Stir together and place mixture in a greased 13X9 baking dish.

Third, combine bread crumbs, melted butter, smoked paprika, and cheese together.  Spoon bread crumbs over chicken rice mixture.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool a bit before serving.

If you are looking for a wine to pair with this casserole, I would pick a Pinot Grigio or a light red, like a Sangiovese. Three Fox Vineyards has two great offerings. Their Appassionata Vidal Blanc is a really good white, as it sweet and crisp. The Il Volpe Sangiovese is a light red that would pair well with meats and cheeses. With cherry and spice notes, this wine is 75% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Chambourcin.

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.

Charming Christmas!

Well, after another long break, Charm Offensive Cooking is back. There are some recipes that I have tried out over the holiday, along with some fabulous wines.

First, let’s begin with two recipes that will be in the recipe box from now on. The other recipe has already been made successfully over time and has won rave reviews from friends and boyfriend alike. Peppermint Bark is a time honored Christmas tradition, but there are two healthier dishes that won rave reviews.

When I went to visit my parents’ house, Mom came up with a wonderful idea of making Kale Chips and served these along with Turkey Burgers. One day, Mom was watching Rachael Ray on TV and was impressed by the fact that Ray created this awesome recipe out of vegetable that many despise as much as brussel sprouts. The kale chips were filled with flavor, even if it was the simple use of sea salt and olive oil.

Kale Chips
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

1 large bundle of Kale
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to broil (if you have a broiler, place it on high heat). On a cookie sheet, combine Kale with olive oil and sea salt. Broil chips until crispy (3-4 minutes).

The other recipe is one I tried for my boyfriend’s birthday. This recipe, Garlic Chicken with Creamy Tomato Pasta, came from Paula Deen’s magazine, and it definitely won me over due to its simplicity. It is one of those recipes that you can easily cook in one pot and you can adapt it due to your taste. I served this with Garlic Parmesan bread and ended the evening with Blackberry Cobbler.

Garlic Chicken with Creamy Tomato Pasta
Adapted from Cooking with Paula Deen, March/April 2010

3 C. Cooked Rotini Pasta (you could also try this with Penne or Rigatoni)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut in bite size pieces)
1 shallot, sliced
1/4 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 C. baby spinach

In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, shallot, bell pepper, and garlic; saute until chicken is done. Add tomatoes, cream, and italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and stir in pasta and spinach. Serve immediately with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.

With every good dish comes a good wine to complement it. For the pasta dish, I served it with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah from Thirsty Owl Wine Company. Thirsty Owl is one of the wineries that I visited during a trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Located off Cayuga Lake, this winery offered a spectacular views along with good wine. They also had an onsite restaurant, which served an amazing cheese plate.

Across the road from Thirsty Owl was Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, which also offered spectacular wines. Cayuga Ridge offered an excellent Chardonnay, along with an awesome sparkling Cranberry wine and a great Riesling. I served the Cranberry Frost as a dessert during Election night festivities, but it would have worked well with a Christmas dinner too.

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