The Splendid Grape

Discovering Life Through Good Wine and Good Food

A New Home and a Better Attitude, Thanks in Part to Good Wine May 3, 2014

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 5:11 pm
Tags: , ,

I whined quite a bit in my previous post about how hard it was to look for a new house.  Well, on the house front, after some patience and many more tours, we finally found a home we liked and wanted to call our own.

While looking at homes, I critiqued each one the way I did wine, and found the experience slightly more enjoyable.

I don’t want to jinx our potential new home, so I am not going to post pictures or talk about it. But once the financing is complete, I will probably find a way to talk about our new home in all my posts. Consider yourself warned.

I made sure to supplement our home search with a few good wines.  After all, what good does it do to come back from looking at some “yuck homes” only to pour a glass of bad wine.

A glass of good wine cures any bad day and helps change a bad attitude into a more optimistic one.  The more remarkable wines that cured my can’t-find-a-home-blues, include:

L Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. A straw yellow (with slight green tinge) wine, with a yeasty and almost dosage nose (similar to what I smell when drinking champagne.  The wine was light and savory, with a slight citrus after taste. It was refreshing and bright, much-needed after a blah day.

Maison Bleue Jaja 2012 Columbia Valley White Wine. Always a fan, I have enjoyed every Maison Bleue wine that I have tried, and this was no exception. Light yellow in color, this wine was also savory and citrus, very light and airy. The palette matched the nose: light, with a slight citrus aftertaste. You can never go wrong with a bottle of Maison Bleue.

Two great wines that turned my frown upside down, and made the search for a new home just that much easier. Once the purchase is complete and we are fully moved-in, I look forward to a relaxed summer of trying wines and starting a new chapter of our lives.

 

 

Searching for a Home is a lot like Critiquing a Wine March 29, 2014

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 1:13 pm

If stored properly, wines age nicely- yielding results that are both memorable and savory. The same should be said for houses. If aged well (kept up properly), the result should lend to a beautiful home with personality and curb appeal. Unfortunately, when it comes to houses and wine, this ideal situation is just that – ‘ideal’.

Photo Credit: Lis Bokt

Photo Credit: Lis Bokt

We have started the hunt for a home – taking another step into adulthood and accepting the mothership of responsibility and investment. Our budget is such that we are not within reach of the glamorous new houses, but instead are left with the mere fixer uppers and starter homes.

After looking at a handful of homes and being left with feelings of disappointment and depression, I realized that looking at a prospective home is a lot like tasting wine. While there are a lot of affordable wines out there on the market, not all of them are good, and you have to taste a lot to find those few gems.

To make the home search a little more relevant to me, I have decided that going forward, I will conduct my home search as I would review and taste a wine. I will note my findings on this site.

When trying wine, I look at three different things:

  1. Visual (the color of the wine)
  2. Nose (the smell of the wine)
  3. Palette (the taste of the wine)

And this is how I will apply these to my home viewing:

1. Visual = Curb appeal.  How does the house look on the outside. Visual also applies to the neighborhood.  It may be a gorgeous house, but in a bad neighborhood.  I will keep in mind to not always judge a wine by its label.

2. Nose = What does the house smell like.  Odd? I think not.  If the house smells like dampness, mold, weird left-over cooking smells (but the house is empty) or something just “off”, those could be signs of other bad things.  Think water damage, black mold; not to mention some kind of stank that no amount of bleach will remove.

3. Palette = No, I am not going to taste the house (yuck), but I am going to look at the finishes, home improvements (or attempts of) or the little things that could make or break a home.  The house might look pretty at first glance, but closer inspection may reveal cracks or things that we will ultimately have to fix.

One thing to not forget (for both wines and houses) is “potential”.  It may be a fixer upper, but the location and the overall house is good.  Similar with wine, it may be a bit ‘green’ tasting, but a few years in the cellar make for a great drink.

Honestly, house hunting is not really very fun (sorry, HGTV). There are quite a few houses out there for sale, but you have to weed through all the bad to find the few good.

I am hopeful that taking this new approach, reviewing a home as I would wine, will make these next few weeks or months of house hunting a little more palatable or, at the very least, entertaining.

 

Dining My Way Through Las Vegas February 16, 2014

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 8:48 am

I recently came back from a 5-day long trip to Las Vegas. I am not a huge gambler (a few penny slots is all I can handle) and I am not a huge drinker, so I decided the best way to explore Las Vegas was to dine at the different restaurants. Being a fan of the show, Top Chef, many of the big name chefs were familiar to me and I was eager to try their cuisine.

View of the Las Vegas Strip from the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel.

View of the Las Vegas Strip from the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel.

Las Vegas is unlike any place I have ever visited, it is truly larger than life.  The hotels are huge, the architecture pretty amazing and everything is done on a grand scale. We stayed at Caesar’s Palace, a beautiful hotel in the center of The Strip.

My dining adventure began at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill inside Caesar’s Palace.  We were attending a Super Bowl party at the restaurant, so there was a specific tasting menu for the event. The food definitely matches the name, it was all pub food, which was perfect for the event. Our selection included sliders, fries, soft pretzels and even a sticky toffee pudding.  I ordered a glass of Merlot to go with my sliders and fries, yum!

The next day, I spent most of the morning wandering through the different hotels and casinos.  I stopped for tea at the Lake of Dreams at the Wynn.  The Lake of Dreams is surrounded by trees and has a large waterfall at one end. It is an oasis in the middle of the strip, and the perfect stop on my journey.

For lunch, I ate at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Las Vegas. The restaurant is located inside The Forum Shops at Caesars, but they had patio seating, so you could dine and people watch at the same time.  I ordered the Chinois Chicken Salad and a cranberry spritzer. The salad was tasty and the service was excellent. I would go back based on the service alone.

The next day, I made my way up to Mandalay Bay and had lunch at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood. They had a lobster roll on their menu, which is something I have always wanted to try. The only catch – it had heavy cream. To my surprise, the server spoke to the chefs and they made my lobster roll with no cream – no fuss and no complaining. And it was wonderful, lemony, buttery and very fresh. I would recommend RM Seafood to anyone, they made my dining experience exceptional.

That evening, my husband and I dined at Rao’s (in Caesar’s Palace). We buy their pasta sauce often, and have wanted to try their restaurant. The food did not disappoint, I ordered the Salsa alla Marinara and the Pasta e Fagioli soup. The food was excellent and we left the restaurant full and satisfied.

My last lunch in Las Vegas was originally going to be Todd English’s Olives as the Bellagio. Unfortunately, my lactose intolerance and Todd English’s love of cheese did not mix, so I abandon my original plan.

I headed back to our hotel and settled on Central by Michael Richard. This is a newer restaurant that serves american food with a bit of flair.  The lunch menu was ok, and I settled on the Chicken Burger.  There was an interesting twist to the sandwich, a crispy, very thin potato was added for crunch. I understood the concept of the potato, but found it to be a bit too crispy, making my bites more gritty than crunchy. Otherwise, the sandwich was tasty and the people watching was fun.

My husband and me with Lucille Ball at Madame Tussauds.

My husband and me with Lucille Ball at Madame Tussauds.

I had so much fun eating at the different restaurants, an opportunity I do not get very often.  I hope to go back to Las Vegas again in the near future, so I can continue to try more cuisine cooked up by renowned chefs.

 

The Top 5 Things I Learned From My First Video Blog January 12, 2014

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 6:58 pm
Tags: ,

My brother and I want to take our blogging in a new direction this year, including using video blogs. And since we live in two different cities, we plan on using technology to our advantage and taste wine together online. Let’s just say, video blogging is a lot harder than it looks.

Our thought: split screen video of the two of us trying a wine, discussing what we are smelling, tasting, etc.  A fun, conversation, aimed at making the reader feel like they are sitting in the living room with us. Easy-cheesy, right? Not so much.

The first video attempt was riddled with problems, including the incorrect software, a blind tasting and slow streaming.  Fortunately, we both have a sense of humor and ended up laughing quite a bit.  At the end of the first attempt, we had a long video that basically looked like a side-show presentation.  Our audio, while it sounded great, was not jiving with the very slow video.

This was definitely a learning experience, and I stepped away from our failed attempt with some new knowledge, and 5 key things to keep in mind when trying to do our next video:

1. Know everything about the software you are planning to use. We used Skype for our video, which in and of itself, is perfectly good.  However, I failed to realize that I needed to have a different software to do the actual video recording.  While Seth waited on Skype, I had to do a quick Google search and download Evaer, a software that allows you to record Skype video, with some cool different options.

2. Test, test, test.  Had we done any testing, we would have realized that one of us (or both of us) have some bad internet connection.  Or something.  I still need to figure that one out.  But, the slow streaming is what caused the side-show effect with our video.

3. Taste the wine beforehand. This was a blind tasting for both of us.  But after listening to our audio, there was a lot of empty space and meaningless chatter as we tried the wine.  It would be better for our audience if we got straight to the point on our wine tasting experience.

4. Have a script of some kind.  Sounds silly, especially since our goal is to make the viewers feel like they are sitting in the living room with us. But this was totally off-the-cuff and we ended up talking over each other, filling up space with meaningless commentary and making the video drag on and on.  At least a few main talking points would be good, and a designated time frame.  Let’s be honest, people do not want to hear the two of us talk forever over a glass of wine.

5. Don’t get discouraged.  So, our first video was a flop.  No biggie.  That is what private YouTube channels are for anyway.  We plan to keep testing, trying different things until we get the right mix.  No reason to let one bad video keep us from video blogging.  Otherwise, how would we learn, right?

We are  not going to give up on the video, but the next attempt, we will be a little bit more prepared. And once we find the right mix, and start producing videos we like, not only will they be showcased on our blog, but also on our YouTube channel.

I will continue to post my learnings, both from failed and successful attempts. I think it is only fair that you all learn from my mistakes.  I am also open to any suggestions, so, don’t be shy, I have lots to learn.

Cheers!

 

Chicken Spiedini, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a little Treveri to ring in the New Year January 5, 2014

Continuing my virtual journey through Italy, I incorporated a little bit of Italian cuisine into our holiday meal.  One of my favorite meals that my husband prepares is Chicken Spiedini, which hails from the Garozzo’s in Kansas City (and the Abruzzo region in Italy)

Chicken Spiedini

Chicken Spiedini

Spiedini basically means “skewered meat” and while it can be prepared many ways, my husband prepares it a la Garozzo with a lemon marinade, and serves it with a red sauce.  Quite a tasty meal and what better to pair it with than with wine from that region: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Why did I chose a red wine to go with chicken? My research all pointed to pairing the wine to go with the sauce.  In this case, the chicken is covered in a red sauce, make a red wine a better choice.

MasciarelliI chose a 2011 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  A lovely ruby-red wine with a nose of tart cherries and slight citrus (perfect for the chicken marinade).  There were also hints of leather and warm plums.  It was a medium bodied wine with a palette of tart cherries and mild spices. It paired nicely with my meal, playing off the marinade and the marinara sauce.

After celebrating Christmas with an Italian twist, I decided to ring in the New Year with something local and popped open a bottle of Treveri Cellars sparkling wine.

Treveri CellarsI chose the Blanc de Blanc Brut. The wine is made from primarily chardonnay grapes from the Columbia Valley, using the Methode Champenoise. The wine had a fruity almost lemon curd nose with a dry, tart palette.  It was light and airy, the perfect mix of tart and fruit.  Very refreshing and a great way to ring in the new year.

I have to say, 2013 included many great wines and great meals.  I am looking forward to what I will discover in 2014.

 

Wine is my Zen December 21, 2013

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 6:38 pm

sunshine and wineLife is pretty fast paced and demanding and it can be hard to slow down. At some points in my day, I am so distracted, trying too hard to get too much done at once, I am not even smelling or tasting.  I am plowing through my day, focused on getting to the next task.

I recently read a post on Zen Habits, where the author outlined his method to finding balance. One point stood out to me, the importance of pausing:

“Pause regularly. In our lives, we are so busy and caught up in what we’re doing that we have no space for thinking.”

Reflecting on this point, I came to the realization that the “pause” is one of the reasons I so enjoy learning about and tasting wine.

When I pour a glass of wine with the intention of truly tasting, learning and writing about it, I am taking time to soak in the whole experience.  I am looking at the color, noticing the different scents and flavors – how the wine changes through the passage of time, with a meal or after the bottle has been open for a while.

Too often we move too fast, we don’t slow down to just enjoy something – anything. No matter how silly you may feel (or maybe the comments or looks you may get from an outsider), it is so important to find that one thing that slows you down. Find this thing now, before it is too late, before life passes you by.

 

The Importance of Making Bad Wine Pairings November 24, 2013

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 3:45 pm

We have all been there – standing in the wine aisle at the grocery store, hoping the perfect wine will just jump into the cart. Meanwhile, the minutes are ticking away, dinner needs to get cooked. Giving into the pressure and confusion, you reach for the mid-priced wine with the interesting label and hope that you made the right choice.

Doing a simple internet search, you will find a multitude of articles around the “perfect” pairing and the “perfect” holiday wines. To me that makes enjoying wine and food downright stressful.

But, let’s be honest for a minute. It is okay to make a bad pairing.  It is not like it is going to render the wine undrinkable or the food inedible.

Plus, what better way to learn than by actually trying and failing a few times.  And I have definitely had my fair share of misses.

I would have to say that my biggest food/wine nemesis is Mexican food.  I don’t mind Mexican food, but Mexican food does not necessarily like me, and maybe this is part of my problem.

I love the smell and the flavors of a good taco or tamale, but about halfway through the dish, I am regretting my choice.  And maybe that is why, without fail, I always order Chardonnay with my meal.  I should be ordering something red, rich and spicy, like a Malbec or even a Cabernet Sauvignon.  But why do I choose white?  Am I hoping the white will cool my burning stomach? Am I onto something?

If we were to follow the normal adage – red goes with red meat and white goes with poultry and fish, then how would we learn that Pinot goes with Salmon or that Riesling tastes good with spicy Thai?

Learn through experience; try and fail.  You will remember the best pairings and learn quickly which do not work.  And there is also a possibility of finding something amazing.

 

Fall Wine Classic: Chappellet, Piccini Memoro and Campo Al Mare November 10, 2013

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 10:25 am
Tags: ,

The cooler weather and shorter days are a sure sign fall is here. To me, this means it is time for something a little heartier on the menu and in the glass. A recent shipment from Wine Chateau brought me three great wines, a fall classic of sorts. My selection included a bottle of Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon, Camp Al Mare Bolgheri and Piccini Memoro Vino Bianco.

These wines are all warm and fruity, perfect for cool days and welcoming the holiday season. So, that is exactly what I did, welcomed in the holiday season with a glass of each wine.

FallWines

I started with the Piccini Memoro Vino Bianco. Part of a family of Italian wines, the Piccini estate is located in the Chianti area of Tuscany. Sunny in color, with a light citrus on the nose and palette, this wine was acidic and bright. Reminiscent of sitting on the porch on a hot sunny day, this wine would be great with salad or seafood. It could also be used as a palette cleanser after a heavy meal.

I then poured a glass of the Campo Al Mare Bolgheri IGT 2010. This wine comes from the famed Bolgheri region of Tuscany, an area known for its Bordeaux wines. This wine was a beautiful deep red, with a touch of garnet. It had a nose of warm plums and fruit and tasted of dark fruits, blackberries and anise.   This wine was warm and would be nice fireside.

I finished my tasting with a glass of the Chappellet Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Signature. Heralding from the Napa Valley, this family owned winery is committed to being sustainable, which yields a wine that embraces the region.This wine was also a deep red in color, and had a nose of ripe dark fruits and cooked cherries. The palette tasted of black cherries, spices and berries and had a nice fruity finish. It went nicely with my steak dinner.

I can’t say I have a favorite of the three because I liked them all. Each had their own distinct flavors and I will be drinking all of them again (and again). The warmth of the wine, combined with good food and great company, makes embracing fall just that much easier.

 

 

Oregon Pinot Noir and My Return to Rex Hill Winery October 26, 2013

Filed under: Tasting Wine — Chloe Nichols @ 9:04 am
Tags: , ,

It started with a piece of salmon and the search the perfect pairing.  And that was when I found my bottle of Rex Hill Reserve Willamette Valley 2008 Pinot Noir.

Rex Hill  Reserve 2011 Pinot

A beautiful garnet colored wine, it looked beautiful in my wine decanter. It had a nose of tart cherries, tannins, black pepper and a hint of citrus.  And when I took my first sip, I realized just how far I had come along my wine journey.  The wine was lovely – it was the perfect combination of spice and sweet, black pepper and cherries, with a nice warm finish.  Robust enough for my salmon dinner, but not overpowering.

Rex Hill Winery 10-13Rex Hill was the first winery I visited when I started my wine blog.  And it is still one of my favorite Oregon wineries.  The winery is beautiful, warm and friendly.  The staff is always welcoming to me and my little one.  When I went to Rex Hill the first time, I had no idea what I was doing or really how to taste wine.  The person pouring the wine was very friendly and helpful, but honestly, I was still a little lost.

The Founder, Bill Hatcher, extended a very generous offer to teach me about wine and tasting.  Such a kind offer, making my experience so much better and endearing the winery to my heart.

Over a year and a half later, I returned to Rex Hill.  It was a beautiful fall day, sunny and not too cold.  The leaves were starting to turn and the winery grounds were beautiful.

rex hill winery grounds

While I did not have time to do a tasting on this trip, I did purchase two different Pinots.  The Rex Hill Willamette Valley 2011 Pinot Noir and the A to Z 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir (A to Z is Rex Hill’s parent company.  My plan is to do a comparison tasting of the two Pinots.

Now to find the perfect dish to go with my wines. More to come!

 

Lunch at the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in Seattle – Good Food and Wine August 4, 2013

Filed under: Tasting Wine,Washington Wines — Chloe Nichols @ 9:30 am
Tags: , ,

My brother, Seth and I decided to treat ourselves to a lunch and a glass of wine.  After all, we have been working pretty hard lately and a little treat was much-needed.  We chose Purple Café & Wine bar - a restaurant here in Seattle known for its healthy wine list.

Purple Café has a few different locations, but we chose the one in Downtown Seattle, closest to our respective homes.  We took the ferry across the water to downtown and then walked to the restaurant.  It was the perfect way to enjoy the sun and to thoroughly enjoy our treat.

When you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by a big spiral staircase that wraps around their tower of wine.  It is reminiscent of those restaurants in Las Vegas that have “wine angels” and such.

wine staircase at Purple Cafe

 

We both ordered a glass of white to start – I had the Tempus Cellars Evergreen Vineyard Riesling.  It was crisp and fruity, but not too sweet.  My brother had a glass of Montinore Estate Müller Thürgau which to me was reminiscent of a hard cider.  And was also quite delicious.

For lunch, we both settled on the “Painted Hills Burger”.  Also quite delicious.  Funny that we were drinking white wines with red meat, but I didn’t really notice it to be a bad combination.

Seth ordered a glass of the Woodward Canyon ‘Nelms Road’ Merlot from Walla Walla.  I loved the nose on this wine, it was warm and smelled of cardamom and nutmeg.  It reminded me of Christmas.

Enjoying Lunch

The food was good, the wine was good and the service was good.  We had a very nice lunch and never felt unattended.  I also learned that Purple Café was named one of the “100 Best Wine Restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine - and I can see why, the wine selection alone had something for everyone. An experience I recommend trying!

 

 

 

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: