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A Wine Connoisseur’s Guide to Inexpensive Wines

There is an urban legend in wine-tasting and wine appreciation that ‘you get what you pay for’. In other words, if you want a good wine, you must be willing to pay a higher price. This is simply not true, unilaterally at least. Obviously some lower priced wines lack the bouquet and depth of a Clois du Bois. But it is very easy to purchase a respectable wine for a very reasonable price. Here’s how.

Let’s look at a wine that is fast becoming America’s favorite: Shiraz, or Syrah as it has been called in times past. Perhaps the epiphany of Shiraz is due to good years for the grape. Or it may be that wine connoisseurs are developing a taste for heavier-bodied wines. In the days when dinner in wealthy homes consisted of five to seven courses, each with its accompanying wine, diners needed wines that paired well with each course. Can you imagine the indigestion from consuming five to seven different wines, on top of soup, fish, fowl, joint followed by rich dessert liqueurs and heavy Stilton cheese?

For wine connoisseurs want to enjoy a good vintage without paying top dollar, there are several really nice reasonably priced wines at your local grocery store. These red wines are rich and dark with a heavy body that clings to the glass.

Oak Leaf from Ripon, California is quite good and retails for $2.97 a bottle at Walmart stores. They don’t carry a Shiraz, but their Merlot is similar in taste.

Crane Lake: a modest-priced 3 bottles for $10 might cause the less discerning to shy away, under the mistaken assumption that Crane Lake couldn’t be good wine with such a low price. Such shallow thinking will mean that the wine-lover misses a very respectable wine. I’ve not tried the other varieties, but Crane Lake Shiraz is very tasty. This is one of the smokiest of Shiraz that I have ever consumed. I happen to like my Shiraz very oakey and this wine was a nice treat.

Gato Negro: $4 to $6 a bottle has a Merlot and a Cabernet Merlot variety that have a nice bouquet and rich, rewarding taste.

Redwood Creek is slightly higher in price but absolutely worth it. A rich dark red that rivals Woodbridge and Robert Mondavi.

Bon Appetit and may you enjoy your wine in bliss!

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Hearty Red Wine Roast Beef with Winter Vegetables

Hearty Red Wine Roast Beef with Winter Vegetables – For those who like to put a variety ingredients together and have fun: a preparation for a satisfying, mouth-watering roast with a high-class taste!

What Goes In:

  • ½ bottle good quality red wine. Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink! Shiraz and Pinot Noirs are great for this – Merlots can be a bit too soft.
  • 1 red onion, minced up fine
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • Beef broth
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 (3- to 4-lb.) boneless chuck roast (trimming is a good idea)
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into thick slices
  • 1 lb carrots sliced
  • 7 Red potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 large onions, cut into sixths or eighths
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2-3 tbsp cornstarch
  • Coarse ground pepper

Now What Do I Do Then, Huh?

  1. Slice up the garlic cloves and sautee them over medium heat in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until you get that nice, garlicky smell and they go a little brown
  2. Combine wine, onion, sautéed garlic, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a cup of beef broth if you need some more liquid volume. Place roast in a large pan or ziplock bag and marinate in the fridge for at least 10 hours – more like 16 or so is great.
  3. Remove the roast and place in a pan with a thin pan of vegetable oil. Not too much or you’ll have greasy meat! Honestly, you don’t have to brown the thing. It’s a pain in the rear and doesn’t “seal in juices” or any of those myths.
  4. Cover the roast in heavy aluminum foil and bake at 300° for 2 1/2 hours. At this point, take the roast out and turn it over, making sure to evenly coat it with the juices at the bottom. After turning, add the potatoes, carrots, potatoes, and onions. Bake 1 hour, then add the squash and celery. Bake one more hour or until roast is done.

Wait, that’s it? Come on.

  1. Nope, now the sauce! Remove the roast and vegetables Skim fat from juices in roasting pan and use something to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. You can also add a little more of the leftover wine (just a few tablespoons) – unless you’ve swigged the rest of it already in your holiday cheer.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and about a half to 2/3 cup of very cold water in a small bowl until smooth. Then, mix the cornstarch slurry into the into juices in pan. Cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken.
  3. Brush the roast with the sauce and save the rest of dipping. Put a little coarse pepper on the top and voila! You’re golden!
  4. Arrange the roast in the middle of a serving platter with the vegetable around it for a great presentation. A sprig of holly on top always looks festive as well
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Sous Vide Mulled Wine

Making Sous Vide Mulled Wine

Making mulled wine has never been so easy thanks to sous vide. Mulled wine making used to be an incredibly tedious process, that would sometimes take days depending on what kind of base wine you were working with. Well, thank to sous vide, that process that used to take days now only takes a little over an hour!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 Bottle of Red Wine
  • Juices of 3 Oranges, 2 Peels
  • Juices of 1 Grapefruit, 1/2 Peel
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 75g Stevia
  • 2 Bay Leafs
  • 4 tbsp Vanilla Extract


Plug in your sous vide machine and set the temperature to 140 degrees F. Note: If you don’t already have a sous vide cooker, then I suggest you pick one up based on the best sous vide machine reviews at Sous Vide Wizard. Once the sous vide water bath is heated to 140F, you’re going to combine all of the aforementioned ingredients into a bowl and mix lightly. Pour the mixture into 3 sous vide bags and vacuum seal them shut. Place the bags in your sous vide water bath for 60 minutes.

After 60 minutes, take the mulled wine out. Let it sit for a few minutes. Serve chilled.

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Guide to Wine Storage and Serving Temperatures

Guide to Wine Storage and Serving Temperatures

The key to enjoying a good wine is not only its storage temperature but also its serving temperature. However, are you certain of which serving temperature for the particular bottle of wine you purchased? It the previous statement made you question your basic knowledge of wine serving temperatures, please read further as I explain the proper storage and serving temperatures.

Wines continue to develop character and flavor after they are bottled. The primary external factor affecting that development is the storage temperature. The ideal temperature for storing wine is not room temperature; it is instead between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature should also be kept constant so that the cork doesn’t expand or contract, letting in impurities and air. The best way to keep wine at a constant temperature is to purchase a wine refrigerator. If you no not have the money for a specialty refrigerator, a basement storage center in a darkened corner will be adequate. Make certain that corner is not too drafty, though.

Most people are aware that red wines can be served near room temperature. However, that does not imply that they can be served at room temperature. The ideal temperature for red wine is between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have just purchased a bottle of wine and would like to serve it right away, wine.com suggests that you refrigerate the bottle for about 20 minutes to bring it to the appropriate temperature. Uncork it, let it breathe for about ten minutes, and then serve it in the appropriate wine glasses.

White wine requires a cooler serving temperature. White wine such as chardonnay should be served at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or directly out of the wine refrigerator. Wine.com suggests that you can achieve this temperature for a freshly purchased bottle of wine by refrigerating it for one-and-a-half hours to lower it from room temperature.

Fuller-bodied white wines need an even cooler temperature than other white wines. Wines such as Riesling and Sauternes need to be chilled to between 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to WineIntro.com. You may discover disagreement about the proper temperature at which these wines should be served. My personal experience suggests that these wines taste much better and have a more developed nose when served slightly cooler than the cellar temperature of 55 degrees.

Finally, champagne should be served chilled. Chilled does not mean ice-cold; the ideal champagne-serving temperature is 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit. People associate champagne with an ice bucket. You can also chill it in an ice bucket for 20 minutes before serving. Ideally, it will be refrigerated before placement in the ice bucket.

Though you can drink wine outside of these recommended serving temperatures, your experience will not be the same. Proper temperatures bring out the true character of a wine. Notice that, and enjoy the wine more fully.

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Easy Wine Sauces

Easy Wine Sauces

I wouldn’t consider myself an outstanding cook, but I try my best. My biggest problem is following recipes. I can’t really do it for some reason. I always have to improvise or add a little something extra. Most of the time that works. I can tell you one time where it definitely doesn’t work for me and that is…. baking. Not my area of expertise and believe me I have tried. I am not even able to make the simplest batch of sugar cookies without screwing it up. When it comes to cooking though, now we’re talking. I believe there is one reason that I can cook and that is, if I can add wine to it, then by all higher powers, I will add wine to it. Now how can you mess that up? Trust me, it’s kinda hard to do and if you allow yourself to sip the wine while cooking, well, if you screw up you won’t care by then.

The one thing I don’t cook at home but once in a long while is fish. I’m not a big fan of fish unless its Yellow-Tail Snapper. That is about the only dish I go out to dinner for and will pay whatever to get. However, that is not practical to do as often as I like. I think my favorite part of that dinner is the sauce. Essentially it is just a beurre blanc sauce at the restaurant which is incredibly simple to make at home. It’s as easy as chopping some shallots, saute in pan until soft (do not brown them) and then adding butter, white wine and lemon juice (all in small amounts) and lightly bubbling until it’s the consistency you want it to be. Since I buy cheap white wine, it’s almost always in the house. I have also made this sauce without the shallots and instead I add a little heavy cream to thicken the sauce for noodles. Pouring this sauce over a baked piece of talapia (or any other mild flavored fish) almost makes me forget I’m not eating snapper. I also love this sauce on egg noodles served with thin breaded pan-fried chicken or pork. Another alternative if you’re not cooking with shallots is to add chopped chives and white pepper at the end of cooking this sauce. The white pepper adds a little bite to it and the chopped chives (fresh is preferable) really liven up the flavor.

When it comes to meat, which we eat a lot of in our house, I had to have an alterative. Steak, steak and more steak. Due to this fact, I had to have something other than a steak sauce or, dare I say it, ketchup. Yes. I am guilty of dipping my steak in ketchup (I think that’s sacrilegious in some parts of the world). I think the first time I used red wine in cooking, other than pouring loads of red wine in my spaghetti sauce, was my mother’s stroganoff recipe. I remember asking my husband to dinner for the first time while we were out on a golf date. I asked him if he liked stroganoff and he thought it was a vodka. Well, maybe he didn’t know what it was, but once I made it for him, the rest was history. To this day though I’m not sure if it was me or the gallon of red wine I used in that beef stroganoff that hooked him. I guess I can’t bring that up and then not tell you how I make my stroganoff, so here it is, as simple as I can make it. First I cut a bottom round roast into small chunks and place them in a bowl of red wine until ready to cook. Chop regular onion and brown in butter in skillet deep enough to fit all beef and once browned I add the beef as I drain it from the red wine. Cover skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender. As the liquid cooks out I slowly add red wine to the beef to keep it simmering. I then add a packet (or two depending on how much beef you cook) of brown gravy mix adjusting the water amount added as I want the sauce to be thick. I also always throw in a couple teaspoons of Gravy Master. If the sauce is too thin I’ll just add a little flour mixed with a small amount of water (paste consistency) to the beef. Once the gravy is as thick as I like it (i.e., when I know it’s going to stick to the egg noodles) I will take the cover off and turn the stove to low and slowly add in sour cream until smooth. I then pour this over cooked egg noodles and let rest for about 20 minutes and serve. Yummy.

Now back to my easy red wine sauce for steaks. Just as I do my white wine sauce, I will chop shallots and cook in butter. I slowly add red wine and stir while simmering until I get a nice thick consistency and will pour this sauce over my steak. It works on any kind of steak whether it be rib-eye, sirloin, strip or tenderloin. If you have some in your house I would also add a dash of red wine vinegar and chives. If you sauce is thinned out too much by the wine, then just add in a little more butter, cooking until it thickens. Worse case scenario, add a little corn starch to thicken.

With these two simple little sauces you can have an abundance of simple yet romantic dinners every day of the week. I caution though, this is not for children. I have been pleasantly buzzed from eating these sauces and we don’t want to turn our children into eating alcoholics. However, the white sauce can be made without the white wine. Add a little white vinegar instead for the kiddies.

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