Taste Wine Like A Pro!

When it comes to wine tasting, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

To begin, try to learn a little something about the wine even before it touches your lips.  If you’re dining out, wine notes may be found in the menu; most wine tasting events will supply you with a laminated card describing in detail the wine being served.  Depending on the event, additional brochures and pamphlets may also be available.  Making time to read the available literature can truly enhance the experience.  While reading, take mental notes regarding which fruits, spices, and aromas the wine is said to display, as well as any other characteristics that might influence its taste.  Was the wine aged in wood barrels, and if so, what type of wood?  How long was it aged?  In what kind of soil were the grapes harvested?

Your server or steward will pour a small amount of wine into your glass.  Note the color and composition of the wine.  Is it faint or bold?  Thick or watery?  Based on appearance alone, how do you expect it to taste?

Holding the base of the glass flat against the countertop, swirl quickly for at least ten seconds.  This allows the wine to oxygenate, which helps draw out aromas and flavors.

Swirl

After you’ve swirled to your heart’s content, dive in nose first and smell.

SmellRemember those mental notes you made?  Now is the time to start recalling them… what do you smell?  Try to identify at least one scent. Cherry? Pepper?  Honeysuckle? Does it smell fruity at all? Can you smell any alcohol?

Give it one more big whiff, then take that first sip!

Sip

Keep the wine in your mouth and let it roll around on your tongue.  Play the same game… what do you taste? Is it spicy or sweet? What fruit flavors are present?  If it hasn’t been aged in oak, it should be crisp with a lot of fruity components. If it has, then the flavor might be smokier, even buttery or reminiscent of vanilla.

Now, for the swallow.  Gulp and then immediately exhale deeply through your nose, let those nostrils flare! Can you still taste it on your palate? This is the finish!  The longer the taste lasts, the better the finish.

Swallow

Finally savor the wine you just tasted.  Reflect on it and enjoy any lingering flavors.

Savor(2)

Have a cracker or a bite of food to cleanse the palate, then on to the next!  Now you can taste like a pro!

*Artist is Sidonia Om Dunia

In the Kitchen with Nicole

In the Kitchen with Nicole!

In the Kitchen with Nicole!

You may remember Nicole from my post about the egg nog cookie disaster of 2013.  She is also a close friend and was our wedding coordinator!

She’s also the mother of a sweet Little Elfin Princess (who acts as her sous chef).

Little Elfin Princess

I have been looking forward to watching Nicole do her thing in the kitchen as I have long admired her culinary skills and tasty treats.  When the time came she suggested doing brunch as it is her habit of making a nice hot breakfast/brunch on the weekends.

And can we talk about this kitchen island for a minute?

island

Swoon.

*ahem*

The Q&A!

How would you describe your cooking style? I think my cooking style depends on the time of year for me. I enjoy using fresh ingredients when I can.  During the spring and summer there is so much more variety of fresh produce in season that I tend to prepare meals that consist of more whole foods during those two seasons.  When late fall and winter is here I prepare more comfort meals that bring warmth and relaxation to my dining room. Overall, I would say my style is simple and elegant as I not only want what I cook or bake to taste good, but I want the appearance to be appealing as well.

Who are your cooking influences? I was fortunate enough to have both my grandmothers and my mother as an influence.  Though growing up I was resistive to being in the kitchen and I dug my heels in every holiday when I was asked to help prepare one of the dishes.  Now, that I have my own space and can cook my way I have much more enjoyment from it.  In fact, I really enjoy playing soft music, drinking a glass of wine (when I’m not pregnant), and preparing dinner.  My kitchen is one of my happy places and somewhere I can retreat to at the end of the day to find some peace and sanity.

Tell me about your eating habits.  Have they changed over the years? My eating habits have changed drastically over the years. I use a lot more fresh and whole ingredients when I am cooking compared to five years ago. I rarely use salt when I cook and recipes that call for a lot of salt I won’t usually prepare.  With my daughter having food sensitivities it has resulted in a decrease in dairy products. For dairy alternatives I use almond milk, coconut milk yogurt, and though I still use cheese it is significantly less. I also prepare more gluten free recipes which I have found to be more challenging to satisfy all three sets of taste buds in my household.

What would have for your last meal? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy (lots of it), sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, fudge pecan pie, and wine.

Nicole’s Menu
Veggie Quiche
Blueberry Muffins
Mixed Berries
Tangelo Juice

Nicole got started right away on the quiche by pouring about ¼ cup of olive oil into a large pan on the stove set to medium heat.

Olive oil

Then she added 2 minced garlic cloves, cooked them for a couple of minutes, added ½ cup of minced onions and cooked them together for about 5 minutes.

garlic and onions

Next she threw ½ cup of mushrooms into the pan and sautéed until tender.

Mushrooms

Meanwhile she boiled up a small head of broccoli, cut into florets, until it was soft enough to stick a fork straight through, at which point she put it under cold water to stop the cooking process.

ice bath for broccoli

It was at about this time that the little ankle biter in the family showed up to get in on the cooking action.

Boomer

Nicole returned to the pan and added a handful of spinach (1 cup) and continually stirred as it cooked down.

Spinach

The pan was then removed from heat and ½ cup of feta was added.

Feta

Nicole finely chopped the broccoli and Little E acted as a taste tester to make sure the broccoli passed muster.

taste tester

The broccoli was added to the pan and left to cool while Nicole preheated the oven to 375˚ and produced a premade pie crust, which she then baked for 6 minutes to keep from getting soggy over the next several steps.

The egg mixture for the quiche consisted of 1 cup of almond milk and 4 eggs (well to be precise it was 3 egg whites and 2 whole eggs because that’s what she had on hand – but she assures me that normally 4 eggs gets the job done).  She also added a little pepper to the eggs to taste.

eggs

She filled the pie crust with the veggie mix.

Veggie mixture in pie crust

Sprinkled ¼ cup of grated cheese over the vegetables and added the eggs.

Pouring the quiche

More cheese was sprinkled on top.

The quiche was put it in the oven and Nicole got poked in the rear.

Poke

That sous chef is sassy!

Up to this point Little E had been observing and asking questions as well as posing and using improved toys to take pictures of the process and of me.

E taking a picture with her camera

But she finally started to earn her keep as she and Nicole got started on the muffins (you can find the recipe they are based are here).

Together they added 1/3 cup of almond milk, 1 egg and ½ tsp of vanilla bean paste, and a stick of softened butter into the mixer.

wet ingredients

In a new bowl they added ¾ cup of flour, ½ cup sugar and 3 ¼ tsp baking powder.

dry ingredients

Little E stirred that together nicely and it was added to the wet ingredients in the mixer.

Mixing

Nicole brought out some delicious-looking blueberries and dusted them with flour so they wouldn’t sink to the bottom of the muffins.

blueberries in flour

Then she gently added them to the muffin batter.

mixing in blueberries

And then added a little more milk because the batter was really thick.

adding a little more milk

At this point the quiche had been baking for 15 minutes.  Nicole sprinkled a little more cheese over it and put it back in the oven to keep on baking for another 35 minutes.

Sprinkling more cheese on quiche

And we’re back to the muffins!  For the muffin crumb topping she used a different recipe (which is the topping for cheesecake cupcakes you can find here).

The crumb topping consists of dry ingredients including ½ cup of flour, ½ cup of brown sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon which were stirred together.

making the crumb topping

3 tbsp of softened butter was added and stirred with a fork.

crumbly

The muffin batter was poured into cups and then the crumble was added on top and given a soft pat down.

E placing cups in tin

muffin batter in tin

crum topping

In the oven the muffins went side by side with the quiche and perfectly timed with 20 minutes remaining.

Once time was up, the muffins were taken out of the tin and placed on a cooking rack to cool.

Muffins

Muffins

The quiche came out looking (and smelling!) amazing.

Baked quiche

Nicole had prepared some mixed berries and tangelo juice prior to my arrival to compliment the quiche and muffins.

Mixed berries and tangelo juice

I eagerly prepared a plate.

Quiche and Muffins

Plated brunch

So here is what I didn’t tell Nicole that day: I don’t really like broccoli.  I may have told her a little white lie and said I did because I wanted her to cook authentically for her family.  The amazing part?  It actually tasted pretty good in that quiche! I won’t lie now when I tell ya that I was surprised I liked it. Happily so!

And I could have eaten about 10 of those muffins. YUM.

Thanks so much for inviting me into your kitchen Nicole – your baking improvisation and modifications were impressive and inspirational. I had a blast with you and the Little Elfin Princess!

the living room

Our Temporary Arrangement

Things have been at a standstill with the living room floor since my last update, which was approximately 400 years ago.

We had someone out to bid on laying a new hardwood floor, but were dismayed by the price tag.  The bid came with a recommendation that we lay a new floor on top of the old one, but forgive me, I’m reluctant to cover up a floor that took so long to uncover.

And so.  The floor remains as such:

living room

You may be wondering, how in the heck we could live so long with an unfinished floor?

Well, though we had been using that space as the living room, there’s actually an adjoining room (which we named the ‘front’ room upon moving in) that probably was the living room for previous owners before the now-floorless room was added on.  So we simply allowed that room to reprise its old role for a while.

Let me show you what I mean.  I’m so thankful for this room right now!

living room view from the front room

front room

picture window

In my last post on this project I mentioned a crazy idea.  I was thinking about sanding the whole thing, both hardwood and plywood, then drawing lines on the plywood in order to mimic the appearance of hardwood tongue and groove.

I saw it on Pinterest.

However, that’s another labor-intensive process, and now I’m considering just sanding, staining, and sealing the whole floor.

At this point my thought is, what harm could come from trying it out and seeing how it looks?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Ste. Chapelle

Upcoming Event: Snake River Valley Harvest Festival

If you are local to the Treasure Valley I hope you will join me this Saturday, September 13, in attending the Snake River Valley Harvest Festival at Ste. Chapelle Winery!

Ste. Chapelle and other area wineries will be providing a “Grand Tasting” alongside live music, educational food pairings, local fruit and produce vendors.

But the best part? I’ll be vending with Jessica Wyman!

You won’t want to miss it.  Jessica will be offering fifteen minute yoga tasters every hour as we introduce Vino & Vinyasa, our new collaboration.

You may remember me mentioning that Jessica and I had a secret project in the works around the time we visited Ste. Chapelle a couple months ago.  We were looking for a winery with a park area large enough to accommodate yoga because what goes better with yoga than wine?

We both love the beautiful setting of Ste. Chapelle so fast forward a couple of months and here we are giving  a little preview of what a Vino & Vinyasa event might look like.

Jessica and I will be there from noon to 6pm.  Please come by and chat with us about our blogs, our wares, Vino & Vinyasa, and enter to win one of two gift baskets!

For more information on the event please check out the official event page here.

Snake River Valley Harvest Festival
Saturday, September 13, noon-6pm
$20 presale, $25 wine club members, $30 guests

grapes arbor and up close

Backyard Grapes Gone Wild

When Nick and I bought our house in 2012 one of things we acquired was our backyard grapes. That year there weren’t many grapes to harvest and in 2013 there were even less, so imagine my surprise this year when this happened:

grapes corner

What? You can’t tell what’s going on in that jungle?

Let’s take a closer look:

grapes over arborgrapes

grapes pic 2

grapes pic 3

grapes pic 4

Everywhere I looked there were grapes!  I quickly filled the first bucket.

grapes in bucket

And then another… and another… and well…

grapes in buckets

So what to do?

I have decided NOT to make wine even though I’m tempted.  Instead I’ve begun the process of de-stemming and washing the grapes in order to make juice and jelly.

grapes in sink

grapes up close

So far I’m two days into that process so stay tuned!