Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wine Tasting In Fashion

I know that after the Twelve Days of Christmas Cocktails you might be ready for a detox, but as I see it, it is the holidays and you should enjoy yourself.  Christmastime for me means time well spent not just with family but with friends as well,  gathering around a great bottle of wine makes it all the merrier.  

I am so fortunate to have such amazing friends in my life.  No matter how far apart we are in distance we are always there for each other and just a phone call and a glass of wine (or cocktail) away.  So this holiday season in honor of fabulous friends I have teamed up with a great friend of mine Erica Deputy from Conflicted Pixie.  She is an amazing blogger with outstanding style and will always keep your budget in mind.  So to brighten your holiday season I bring to you great wines for under $15 (all purchased at World Market) to serve at a tasting party, bring as a hostess gift or just share with a close friend.  To find the perfect outfit to wear this season check out Erica's suggestions on holiday party fashion.

Foodies Chardonnay 
I know this seems a bit cliche for a foodie to suggest this wine but I couldn't pass it up, besides this is such a cute gift idea for your foodie friend without the gourmet price.  It is a beautiful easy drinking wine that has a fruity aroma with a buttery smooth taste, finishing clean on the palate.  Foodies Chardonnay is a perfect pair for your Christmas dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes.

Amberhill Secret Blend
This is a perfect middle of the road, not to light and not too bold, wine everyone can enjoy.  Greg and I served this at our wedding in October and let's just say there weren't too many bottles left behind.

Barbed Wire Meritage
An amazing Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Savingon and Merlot.  This is my husband's favorite because it is a full body wine with a great lingering finish! 

Lodi Old Vine Zin
This one is a new favorite for me!  It has a smokey like aroma and taste.   Followed by a raspberry jam flavor with a wonderful mocha finish.  It is a fantastic wine and perfect for the wine drinker who loves interesting things and up for a wine adventure.

Wine tasting note: If you are planning to serve these for a tasting I suggest to serve them in the order as listed above.  Starting with light fruit flavors to bold and interesting.  Also, fresh glasses for the red is preferred along with water for your guests to cleanse their palates in between wines.

Mulled Spiced Wine

Now as the temperatures are dropping even more, including here in Southern California, you may want to warm up with a delicious mulled spiced wine served hot.  I first had this served to me by my sister two Christmases ago.  I love how the spices infused with the wine warm you up and give off a lovely aroma that will fill your house as it cooks on the stove. I researched many different ways to make this and have come up with my own twist including substituting bourbon for brandy (for all my bourbon lovers) and adding peppercorns for a kick.

Mulling Spice Ingredients
2 teaspoons ground or whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns (I use rainbow peppercorns)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 small strips of orange rind
1 sachet

Place all ingredients into the sachet.  Close the sachet tight and secure.

Mulled Spiced Wine Ingredients
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup bourbon
1 750-ml bottle Cabernet Sauvignon (I use 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon which is also great on its own)
1 sachet mulling spice
Cinnamon stick for garnish

In a large saucepan combine the honey, bourbon, cabernet savignon, and sachet of mulling spices.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally to make sure all the ingredients are combined and evenly distributed.  Discard the sachet and serve hot.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Sauteed Swiss Chard and Prosciutto 

Now to soak up all that wine, I thought I would share this appetizer that I recently created using rainbow swiss chard from my box of Farm Fresh To You.  Lately, I have been obsessed with Trader Joe's Rosemary Italian Style Crackers.  The sauteed swiss chard and onions with a little prosciutto for a finishing touch on this cracker makes this appetizer perfect for any holiday party.  

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used lemon olive oil from 41 Olives)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
1 small bunch of swiss chard, cut off thick stems and discarded, cut out center ribs and chop, chop leaves separately
1/4 cup white wine (I used Foodies Chardonnay)
salt and pepper to taste
1 box Trader Joe's Rosemary Italian Style Crackers 
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto cut into pieces
4-6 ounces cream cheese

First prepare your crackers by breaking them into smaller appetizer pieces, about 4 small pieces per cracker.  Spread cream cheese on each cracker and top with prosciutto and set aside.

In a large skillet melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and onions until slightly browned and fragrant.  Add the center chard ribs and wine.  Simmer until the the swiss chard begins to soften and the wine is absorbed.  Stir in the swiss chard leaves and cook until wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Using a fork place about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of the sauteed swiss chard onto the prepared crackers and serve.  Makes 20-25 servings.  

Alternative options:  Substitute the cream cheese for goat cheese, brie or even gorgonzola for a bolder flavor.  Exchange the prosciutto for crispy crumbled bacon mixed with the sauteed swiss chard or leave out the meat altogether.  Replace the crackers with a crusty french bread.  Instead of swiss chard you could try tuscan kale which is another one of my latest obsessions or simply serve this dish as a side dish and pair with a grilled salmon or juicy steak.  For a spicy kick add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.