What Inspires You?

Outdoor dining season is here! I’ve literally been working on fixing up my backyard for two years. It’s really kinda close to being done about halfway done…

Instead of taking advantage of the great weather the past couple weeks and finishing the landscaping, I stayed true to form and started a new project in the backyard that could also be left almost completed (for now). It’s a really simple design, my son Jake built the skeleton (in record breaking slow motion). He used stainless steel deck plates that we happened to have laying around for the counter tops. Then I used fence boards to finish it. The unfinished part is the shade. Stainless steel will definitely need to be in the shade before summer, it’s already really shiny. So, a gazebo (from my favorite Bargain Market, perhaps) may be in order…

outdoor kitchen 1     outdoor kitchen 2

Welcome to the outdoor kitchen

I don’t know if it could actually be classified as a ‘Kitchen’. It has no electricity for a mini fridge (yet) and there’s no sink or running water – even though I have mentally ran water lines every possible route from the source to the new kitchen. Every route is completely complicated. So, maybe it’s more like an outdoor food prep/bar. But it’s enough. And, it inspired me to move Front Porch Wine Tasting to the back porch!

And, in turn, drinking on the back porch inspired me to add a couple of Fancy Craft Beers to the tasting menu

Quimera craft beers

Quimera Premium Craft Beer from Chile

750 ml Amber Ale or Imperial Stout $3.19

Elsewhere price $11.99

We tried the Stout first, it is very dark with brown foam. Smelled kind of sweet and tasted of burnt caramel. I don’t usually like dark beers, but I didn’t hate this as much as I thought I would. Arvin tasted cocoa and Connie tasted coffee. Steve definitely liked it. He said it tasted like good clean dirt. I have no idea what that means.

On-line review: This Chilean Impy Stout pours pitch black with an off-white head that lingers. Intense malty aroma with notes of burnt sugars, molasses, dark chocolate, cigar smoke, tar and ashes. Taste is sweet with an ashy hint, not overly complex but with good development in the mouth and thoroughly enjoyable. Body is big with a dense texture. Almost viscous and chewy. The 8.2% alcohol is well disguised. A well-made strong stout.

I really enjoyed the Amber Ale. It had a nice creamy colored foam, you have to be careful when you pour or you’ll get way too much of it. Everyone liked this one. It was an easy drinking beer. Steve commented that he would enjoy this beer during a Packer win or even a loss.

On-line review: Poured a very pleasant amber color with minimal head. Nose was nearly pure malt and this followed through in the mouth. A very nice beer.


Then, on to the wine…

03 21 14 four wines

 Eco Love Riesling ~ Blue Fish Riesling ~ Washington Hills Syrah ~ Lady in Red Cabernet

For some reason I was inspired to experiment a little with the food. I came across a recipe for Swordfish Skewers with salsa verde. They were easy to make and I found the swordfish right here at Manteca Grocery Outlet. So convenient.

Turns out, I love Swordfish! (2lb $9.99 in the freezer dept)

swordfish skewers

Click the picture for the recipe from Food & Wine

blue fish

2011 Blue Fish Sweet Riesling $2.99

Elsewhere price $13.95

This beautiful blue bottle of Sweet Riesling from Germany was refreshing. Larry tasted peaches and nectarines and thought it was excellent. Terry said she really liked it, that it was clean and crisp tasting. Connie also enjoyed it, saying it was very summery. I definitely will be getting a case of this wine. Of course I enjoyed drinking it, but I plan to make a nice chandelier from the bottles to hang in the outdoor kitchen. Thermodynamics (from middle school science class) is my new best friend.

blue wine bottle     wine bottle chandelier

Like this one, but with blue

On-line review from Snooth.com: Color: Soft gold with green reflections Bouquet: Seductive perfume of fresh apricot, peaches, and ripe pineapple Taste: Fruity sweetness with a full-bodied structure and refreshing acidity

 wine bottle torches

or this would be pretty cool too!


eco love riesling

2009 Eco Love Riesling $3.99

Elsewhere price $15.00

This sustainably grown Riesling is from the South Island of New Zealand and also comes in a really pretty bottle! We found this wine to be refreshingly crisp and fruity. Perfectly paired with the grilled Lemon Pepper Shrimp Kabobs as recommended by the on-line reviewer at yumsugar.com below.

On-line review: But I was equally taken by their Riesling’s layers of fruit: peach skins and petrol on the nose to start, followed by a puckery citrus and green apple palate, then a gooseberry finish.

lemon pepper shrimp skewers 

Click the picture for the recipe from McCormick


washington hills syrah

2011 Washington Hills Syrah $5.99

Elsewhere price $11.99

You know I love me some Syrah! Terry commented that it is very smooth and Larry said Hoorah for the Syrah. Steve thought it was sweet for a Syrah. Connie noted that it is full bodied and she noticed a spiceiness. I asked Arvin how he liked it and he said, “Well, it’s gone”. I think that means he likes it. We all did. The whole bottle was gone. Lol.

On-line review from Snooth.com: Lots of blueberries and blackberries. Very calm, slightly sweet but very delicious. I like this a lot!


 lady in red cabernet

2009 Lady in Red Cabernet Sauvignon $10.99

Elsewhere price $24.99

Arvin started us off on this Cab. He said it has a full noise and is sexy! Every other comment that was made was either inappropriate for this blog or I was completely distracted and didn’t write it down. The on-line review is spot on:

5 of 5 stars from TotalWine.com: Aromas of blueberry jam, cherry, red currant, blackberry and elderberry. These are balanced by tea, tobacco, cedar, spice and vanilla which develop in the glass and on your palate leading to a nice, lingering finish.


Why drink wine?

Why not? There are so many great reasons to drink wine. Here are my favorites:

1. Drinking wine actually could be good for your health Click to read more, it’s really great info!

2. Something about drinking from a stemmed glass is just sexy. Picture yourself taking a sip, your hair blowing back in the wind… Yeah. Sexy like that.

3. Choosing new wines each week is like a fun adventure that ends in drinking wine.


4. Some of the wine labels you find are really fun.

5. Sipping wine makes me feel sophisticated, even in my jammies.

6. wine with dinner makes the food taste better.


7. A glass of wine takes the edge off a stressful day.

8. You can make really cool stuff with the corks.


9. Enjoying wine can be very social and it makes me friendly.

10. How else can you make these without empty wine bottles?

wine bottle candles

Now go ahead and start up your own weekly wine time with friends and drink like classy people!

Here’s this week’s picks:

five new wines

~Rock Hollow Sauv Blanc ~ Heritage Ranch Chard ~

~Valentine Cab ~ Emma Pearl Merlot ~ Chianti Classico~


Rock Hollow Sauv Blanc

2010 Rock Hollow Sauvignon Blanc $8.99

elsewhere price $22.99

Larry started us off by announcing that he has really started liking Sauvignon Blanc (he usually prefers Chardonnay) He says It’s much lighter than most Chards. I thought I tasted crisp. Steve and Larry both tasted melon. Steve commented that it was very tasty and Larry said he really liked it.

86 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine: Nicely crisp in acidity, this has a minerally scour that cleans the mouth. The pineapple, lime and guava flavors are strong, and the finish seems just a little sweet

90 points from Cellar Tracker: Excellent QPR


Heritage Ranch Chardonnay

2010 Heritage Ranch Chardonnay $4.99

elsewhere price $9.99

Terry noticed that this Chardonnay started sweet and Steve pointed out that it had a buttery finish. Larry tasted vanilla. I thought it would have more of an oakyness, but was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. An enjoyable Chardonnay. Wow, we are really getting the hang of this!

84 points from Tastings.com: Pale golden color. Aromas of vanilla salt water taffy and dried pineapple with a dryish light-to-medium body and a pencil shaving and floral bath talc accented finish


Valentine Cab

2000 Valentine Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon $6.99

elsewhere price $24.99

I tried this Cab as I was getting ready for wine tasting. I was a little worried about it’s age, not sure if it held up over the years, lol. I didn’t even let it breath, and I immediately liked it even though it had a touch of oak and was on the dry-er side. Later, Terry thought it was bold and Larry really tasted the tannins.

92 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine: Bright yet plush, with black cherry, currant, sage, herb, spice, licorice, blackberry, chocolate, toast and smoke flavors all neatly layered for complexity. Firm, solid, ripe tannins add good structure. Finishes long and lush.

93 points from Wine & Spirits magazine: Long and sleek, this dramatic mountain cabernet has a reservoir of flavor at its dense core, a lovely fruit richness that keeps giving with overtones of the underbrush in a pine forest by the sea.

Awards – Valentine Vineyards 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon

June,   2004 Valentine   Vineyards 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon wins a Bronze Medal at the 2004 San   Francisco Wine Competition.Source:   http://www.valentinevineyards.com/or.html



Emma Pearl

2010 Emma Pearl Merlot $4.99

elsewhere price $19.99

I was excited to try this Merlot, the label was so pretty. Tiffany blue. Very elegant. I also, tried this one ahead of time and I think it may have ruined all the other wines for me. I liked it that much. But, I powered forward and tried them all anyway. Terry commented on the smoky-ness and Steve tasted the spicy finish. Larry liked the tart red cherry that he tasted and I really enjoyed how smooth it was.

89 points from New Hampshire Wine-man: In the glass, the color appears slightly more ruby than pomegranate and is quite clear, but is crowned with only a thin clear rim. Mildly aromatic, the nose is a sweet red cherry, light cinnamon and cedar, with just a whiff of alcohol (14.5%). Good acidity and mild tannin are carried by its medium body and a “normally” smooth and textured Merlot. Flavors of  tart red cherry, plum, with hints of smoke and alcohol trail long into a spicy finish. I was pleasantly surprised by this Merlot, and I would certainly recommend it, but the caveat is that great spice on the finish: some may prefer less of it.



2007 Chianti Classico $6.99

elsewhere price $21.99

Chianti is Arvin’s favorite, but we had to try this one in his absence as he and Connie were on vacation this week. We missed you guys, hope you thought of us while you enjoyed the tropical beach!

Arvins beach

I noticed right away how dry this Chianti was, which would definately make it go well with food. Larry said it made him pucker and Steve decided that this was his absolute favorite!

93 points from WineFetch.com: A vivid garnet red color with flashes of violet fading to the rim reveals an elegant bouquet of wild berries and violets with notes of roasted coffee beans and flinty minerality. The core of fruit is plush and caressing with notes of dried strawberry, Bing cherries, pipe tobacco, leather and violets and a long, silky finish. The silky tannins are ripe and integrated into the wines forward personality. This is textbook Chianti that will continue to develop for 5-7 years. Enjoy it with anything Italian, burgers and grilled meats.

Chianti 101 from WineWeekly.com: ‘Almost all producers of Chianti Classico belong to a consortium that acts as a watchdog and ensures that high quality is preserved in the wine. Wines made by these high standards are identified by a black rooster on the neck of each bottle. (Why a rooster? That’s a whole ‘nuther story…)’

What does the Rooster signify?: What makes unique Chianti Classico compared to other Chianti wines is the unmistakable pink label with the Black Rooster seal. This particular label is the symbol of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, founded in 1924 to protect, promote this wine and prevent wine fraud.

Chianti Classico is a DOCG wine and shows unique peculiarities and characteristics. To be named “Classico” is not enough to be produced within the Chianti region. In fact Classico wine has to respect specific rules. Its blend is 80% for Sangiovese, red grape typical of this area, 20% for other grapes that can native grapes such as Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as other international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.