Tag Archives: wine

DIY Time: Wine Barrel Cocktail Table Tutorial

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself crafty, but here and there, I work on a DIY project that turns out pretty well.

Finished Wine Cork Wreath

DIY success: my wine cork Christmas wreath

I think that becoming a homeowner has made my hubby and me more DIY people. For instance, recently he built a new pergola for our backyard with my father-in-law…

Boys building the pergola

…after our old, seemingly sturdy and very heavy pergola flipped over into our pool during some crazy winds during a rare San Diego storm:

pergola in the pool

This was not fun! 

We’ve since stained the pergola, added a solar cover, and planted flowers in the hopes that their vines will start to wrap around the sides of the pergola (fingers crossed):

The view from the pool

The view from the pool

I think that it came out pretty great! We also recently re-painted our bedroom and redid the guest bedroom/my workout room, though we do have our limits: A few weeks ago we hired professionals to re-paint our kitchen and dining room – because that would have been a little too much DIY work for our liking!

wine wall

I mean, do you see all of those shelves?! This is actually before the re-paint, but you get the idea. I think we would have gotten paint all over them had the job been done by us – and it would have taken us, like, three months to get the job done, as opposed to the two days that it took the pros.

But I digress.

wine barrel table tutorial

Another DIY project of mine in recent months was a wine barrel cocktail table for my backyard. It came out pretty cool and I love that it adds a unique touch to my backyard, where we hang out pretty often. Today I thought that I’d share how I made it with you guys. Let’s get to it!

Wine Barrel Sale

Step 1. Find a guy selling used wine barrels on the side of the rode in wine country. I was with a girlfriend wine tasting in Temecula and couldn’t resist pulling over to check out the barrels. It was only a moment or two before I was sold on the idea of nabbing one!

Step 1b. Buy the barrel on the spot (this type of find doesn’t happen every day people!) and figure out a way to fit it into the backseat of your hybrid car – ideally without scratching your car door as I did but eh, you lose some and you win some right?

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Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad + 4th of July Weekend Recap

Hi everyone!

I hope that all of you American readers had a great 4th of July weekend, and that everyone else has had a fabulous last couple of days as well.

veggie cutting board

On the workout front, my long weekend included a mountain biking + swimming workout on Sunday…

pool HRM

…my first ever TRX class on Friday morning (more on that sometime soon!), and hiking with my pup on a hot but breezy Saturday.

Elijo Hills Hiking

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Fun and food-wise, my weekend included Sunday afternoon wine tasting with friends, followed by tempeh tacos with sweet potato fries from a cute vegan joint we found…

Carruth Winery collage

tempeh tacos

…spinach and artichoke dip making, muffin baking (also more on that later on!), and having another couple and their adorable baby over to hang out poolside on the 4th.

spinach dip

My drink of choice that day was sangria….

sangria

…and I made salsa and guacamole, pesto pasta salad, put together fresh fruit skewers…

pesto pasta salad

fruit skewers

…and also made a watermelon salad. When my hubby asked what the dish was and I told him watermelon with feta and mint salad, he was all, “Watermelon with cheese??”

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Indeed, it is a weird but wonderful combo. The watermelon and mint was so nice and refreshing to eat in this summertime weather, while the feta adds a bit of a salty, flavorful oomph to the salad.

Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to try it for yourself!

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Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large watermelon, diced into chunks and chilled
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ red onion, minced
  • ½ cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • Juice from ½ medium lemon
  • Sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the watermelon chunks in a large salad bowl. Add the feta, red onion and mint leaves.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice together. Drizzle over top watermelon. Sprinkle sea salt to taste. Gently toss to evenly combine.

 

On a funny note, I did not see one single firework on the 4th of July. After our friends left, my hubby and I formulated a plan to take our motorcycle to see some fireworks, laid down to watch some DVRed World Cup action, and proceeded to both pass out and sleep through fireworks time. Whoopsies, I suppose we needed some extra zZzzz time. I blame it on the sangria!
sangria pitcher

Instead we sat in our backyard and finally made our first fire:

fire pit

It was definitely a fun-filled 4th of July weekend!

Questions: What strange but good food combos do you like? Have you ever napped through something fun you planned on doing?

A Visit to Livermore Valley Wine Country

October 2nd was a special day in my household – my 4th anniversary!

While Adam and I haven’t made our anniversary a huge deal thus far, we definitely like to celebrate the occasion and spend time together. I planned on making my spaghetti squash casserole for dinner and having a low-key, relaxing night together.

I happened to be coming back from Seattle in the afternoon, and wound up hitting crazy traffic on my way back from the airport due to a horrendous accident. Running late, I wound up nixing the spaghetti squash idea and making a quicker dish – spinach & ricotta stuffed shells. I also decided to make an oreo ice cream cake for dessert, because for some oddball reason, I was craving oreo cookies (I hadn’t had an oreo in probably 10 years!). Since I was short on time, I needed to prep the cake and then stick it in the freezer to chill for a few hours as soon as I got home. The ice cream was melting and the fudge wouldn’t spread easily, so the cake looks like a hot mess, but oh my gosh, it was sinfully delicious!

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We drank Mark West Pinor Noir. It’s the wine we were drinking when he proposed, so I like to pick a bottle of it up for special occasions like this. It’s a yummy and cheap wine!

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I found it funny that we both got each other cute animal cards. We both <3 animals!

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To further celebrate our anniversary, we decided to head to Livermore Valley yesterday for an afternoon of wine tasting. The wine region is located about an hour from our place in South Bay, and this was the first time we’ve visited the area. Livermore has a cool wine history, as Spanish missionaries were said to have planted the first wine grapes in the 1760s. The first commercial vines were planted in the 1840s.

Livermore Valley is known for its cabernet sauvignon. Yesterday my hubby and I both liked cabs and a number of other red varietals from the wineries we tasted at.

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The first place we visited was McGrail Vineyards. My first impressions were that the winery was really pretty, and the woman serving us was really friendly and helpful. I really enjoyed their 2010 Cabernet Reserve, which spends over 30 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak.

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Next we visited Murietta’s Well, a winery that focuses a lot on blending a bunch of different varietals. It’s owned by Wente Vineyards, which is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery (founded 130 years ago!). After that, we checked out Garre, an Italian winery  that offers bocce ball and samples of olive oil as you try their wines.

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anniversary-12After working up an appetite wine tasting, we next went to the Underdog Wine Bar to grab a bite to eat. The restaurant is part of Concannon Vineyard and has a lovely outside dining area perfect for a gorgeous day like yesterday.

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We sat on the patio and enjoyed the scenery, as I munched on a cheese plate and drank a glass of riesling from a nearby winery. Anniversary-14

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On our way out of town, we checked out one more winery, then headed home for the night. With bellies full of wine, we relaxed on the couch with my pup, watched TV, and did nothing for the night, and it was a great anniversary celebration!

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I absolutely love visiting wineries during the harvest season, when all of the grapes are plump and purple, just waiting to be crushed and fermented into glorious wine. Wine tasting is one of my favorite weekend activities!  anniversary-10

What’s on your list of favorite weekend pastimes? 

Thursday Travel Throwback: Across the U.S.A.

Happy Thursday, and welcome to my third Thursday Travel Throwback series post! Today I’m sharing with you the highlights of my adventures driving from the East to West coast.

At the end of 2009, my Marine and I drove from our temporary residence in the Pensacola, Florida area where he was training, back to our home state of New Jersey for the holidays.

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Christmastime in New Jersey – and one of the few times I’ve ever held a gun in my life

Right after spending Christmas with our families, Adam and I packed up a Uhaul, sold his car, and trailered mine on the back, and we were off to move to San Diego!

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Weather-wise, it was a little risky driving cross-country in the middle of the winter. We did hit some snow, but we were lucky enough to not get stuck in a big storm or anything.

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One of my favorite parts of the trip was spending a few days in Missouri. We explored around St. Louis, including walking around downtown and on the waterfront, and went to the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch:

St. Louis Arch

We also visited the Anheuser-Busch brewery. My favorite part of the tour was seeing the Clydesdales – they were huge!

Anheiser Busch

Even though I’ve never been a fan of beer, after the tour I decided to embrace the moment and try a beer…

cross country-13…and as always, did not like it in the least bit!

We also visited a winery in a little Missouri town called Hermann called Stone Hill Winery. It was in a rural area, and the Uhaul could barely trek up the hilly roads leading to the winery. We kept joking that we weren’t going to make it, but we somehow got there okay!

Stone Hill Winery Stone Hill opened in 1847, making it Missouri’s oldest winery. We toured the winery’s underground cellars – the largest series of vaulted cellars in America – and it was pretty damn cool. Definitely worth the trip off our route to the countryside!

Another fun stop during our trip was to Colorado to visit friends of ours. We spent New Year’s Eve hanging with them, were in awe of the beauty of Pikes Peak, and spent an afternoon in the quirky nearby town of Manitou Springs.

Pikes Peak

After driving through the deserts of New Mexico…

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…we stopped in Arizona to see:

Grand Canyon

I was psyched when we made it to the California border. It was my first time ever being in this beautiful state, and I immediately loved it!

Cali Collage

I have such great memories of our cross-country trip. We now have a bit more baggage – including a dog who doesn’t like the car, an additional car and motorcycle, and a hell of a lot more furniture – but I’d love to venture on a cross-country trip again and take another route. There’s so much beauty in the U.S., and I want to see it all!

A lot of people thought that driving 40+ hours cross-country sounded like a nightmare, but I was so excited to see parts of the country with Adam that neither of us had ever experienced before. Besides seeing new areas, I had fun consulting our maps and reading random facts about wherever we were, jamming out to whatever radio stations we got at the moment, and laughing with my new husband. It was a blast!

Have you ever driven cross-country in the U.S.? If so, what was your experience? If not, would you want to if given the chance?

My New Favorite Dessert: Wine-Baked Peaches

This week my favorite nearby winery, Clos LaChance, was having a sale on a bunch of their wines. Naturally, I felt the need to stop by the winery yesterday to nab a couple of bottles on my way to the gym. Can’t let a sale of yummy local wine pass me by!

Besides buying bottles of grenache and pinot noir, I also got a bottle of their sweet late harvest semillon nectar white wine with one thing in mind: dessert last night.

Semillon-WineI had a couple of ripe peaches hanging out in my fruit basket ready to be eaten, and had the brilliant idea of baking them with some of the nectar wine, sugar, and cinnamon – because I love to sprinkle cinnamon on nearly everything – then pairing them with vanilla frozen yogurt.

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Oh.my.gosh. It was SO DELICIOUS and such an easy dessert to make.

peaches-1First I sliced the peaches in half, removed the pits, and cut out larger center cavities…

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…then I placed the peaches on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Next I whisked together the wine with truvia baking blend sugar mix, filled the center of the peaches with the wine/sugar mix, and sprinkled cinnamon on top.

peaches-4I popped them in the oven to bake at 350. After a long half-hour of smelling the glorious scent of baking fruit and sweetness, I took the peaches out, paired them with vanilla fro yo, and inhaled enjoyed my peach dessert with my hubby – because I was nice enough to share half of my creation with him. 😉

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I had one more ripe locally grown peach left in the house today, and seriously considered making another wine-baked peach. But then I realized that it was only noon on a Wednesday and I was working, sooo I resisted the urge and just ate the peach with cottage cheese and cashew pieces instead. Not quite as amazing, but the peach was still yummy!

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Wine-Baked Peaches
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large ripe peaches
  • 3 oz sweet white wine
  • 1½ TSP truvia baking blend (or 1 TBSP of regular sugar)
  • ¼ TSP cinnamon
  • 1 cup low fat/nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Cut two peaches in half lengthwise. Remove pits, then cut a large cavity in the middle of each peach half.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the wine and sugar blend together. Pour into each peach hole and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  4. Bake for half an hour. Remove from oven, and place 2 halves in 2 bowls. Top each with ½ cup vanilla fro yo, and enjoy!
Notes
*I used frozen yogurt that has the following nutrition info per ½-cup serving: 100 calories, 2 g fat, 18 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 4 g protein*
Nutrition Information
Calories: 210, Fat: 2 g, Carbohydrates: 41 g, Sugar: 28 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 5 g

Touring Clos LaChance Winery

Hi friends! Long time no talk. Happy 4th of July weekend!

My parents, younger brother, and sister flew into San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon from New Jersey, and we’ve been having a lot of fun together ever since.

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We spent the afternoon that they arrived walking around Fisherman’s Wharf, checking out shops, having a bite to eat, and sipping Irish coffees from the famous Buena Vista.

San-Fran-2

Since my hubby and I just moved to the Bay Area a couple of months ago, this is the first time that my family has visited us here. It’s been fun showing them around our new area and having them at our new home. Though my brother and sister have met Harley before when visiting, this is the first time that my parents have met her. Harley is such a character and big part of my little family, so it’s been nice to finally introduce them to her. My mom and I have taken her hiking every morning, which has been fun.

My parents are big wine enthusiasts too, so we’ve done a lot of wine tasting in the past couple of days. We found a few new wineries that I really liked, and have done one of my favorite things both yesterday and Thursday: picnicked at a winery.

wine-tasting-1The highlight of our wine adventures so far has been a wine tour I arranged at Clos LaChance, where Adam and I are club members. We toured the vineyard and learned more about its history and their winemaking.

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My favorite part of the tour was getting to do tastings right out of the barrels:

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wine-tasting-6The view from the winery is absolutely breathtaking. There was a wedding going on there yesterday evening, so we got to see it all decked out for the event and the bridal party taking pictures. After the tour, we hung out outside for awhile. Relaxing outside with my family with a beautiful vineyard backdrop while enjoying wine and a spread of cheese, crackers, fruit, and bread was a pretty spectacular way to spend my afternoon.

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I’m off to see what we’re going to be up to today. Enjoy your weekend!

 

Homemade Winemaking: The Basics

Happy Sunday!

Guess what yesterday was in my house?

corks

That’s right, our merlot has been sitting pretty for about a month, and yesterday was the day we rented a corker and bottled the wine. This is my first batch of homemade wine and I learned a lot throughout the whole process, so I thought it’d be fun to talk about what’s involved in making wine at home.

The first step is buying all of the supplies and figuring out what type of wine you’ll make. There are a good amount of things you’ll need – from yeast and cleaning powders to a hydrometer, wine thief and oak chips – but we luckily found a fermentation store that easily provided everything we needed. As far as the type of wine to make, we decided to just buy grapes already crushed since this was our first go-around, and chose merlot grapes from California’s Stags Leap District. I would love to go to a winery around here next time around and crush the grapes ourselves, and also look forward to trying our hands at making a white wine sometime!

crushed-grapes

The first phase of making wine is primary fermentation. With a red wine like merlot, this involves combining the grape juice with warm water, bentonite solution, oak powder, and the grape skins, which are placed in a mesh bag. Making wine is pretty scientific, and you need to take samples and measure levels of things throughout the process. At this time, you have to make sure that the temperature of the juice is between a certain range before adding yeast in. Temperature is also pretty important when it comes to where the juice is stored, and I was kind of obsessed with checking out the thermometer during this phase to make sure the juice wasn’t too warm or cool.

primary-fermentation

It’s pretty interesting to see how the mixture bubbles when the yeast activates. This is the first step in the grape juice turning into wine! For the next week, you pretty much just wait it out, push the grapeskins down into the mixture, and make sure the temperature is within an ideal range.

Next is secondary fermentation, which begins after you wait the week, then draw a sample of the juice to check its specific gravity. This indicates the amount of potential alcohol in the wine, and has to be within a certain range to move forward with what’s referred to as racking the wine for the first time. This is done so that sediment is left behind and the wine comes out clear, and pretty much entails siphoning the wine from one container (called the primary fermenter) into another (referred to as the carboy). You also remove the grapeskins at this time, then let it sit for 10 days.

grape-skins-2

grape-skins

After 10 days, you have to check the specific gravity of the wine again. This next stage involves adding in some fancy chemicals (metabisulphite, chitosan clarifier and sorbate) and vigorously stirring the mixture in order to drive off CO2. You also add in oak cubes at this time, then wait a bit over a week to allow the wine to clear.

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The next step is to rack the wine again to really polish it. A lot of sanitizing and cleaning is involved in making wine, which is kind of annoying but necessary to make sure that the wine doesn’t get contaminated with anything.

wine-racking

You now just let your wine sit for about a month to finish clarifying. The last step (the exciting part!) is to bottle the wine. We rented an old school corker, which was fun to use:

corker

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bottling-1Harley was not impressed with us bottling and corking our wine.

Harley-snoozing

And voila, we now have 31 bottles of homemade merlot!

bottles

I was worried about the still faintly present rotten eggs smell of our wine, called a “sulfide stink” by winemakers. I consulted a few books and the experts at our fermentation place about this, and they said that the smell is normal. Even when we bottled yesterday, the wine didn’t smell great, but it needs a lot more time to mature. Making wine is a test in patience, and hopefully our wine will not disappoint. Only time will tell!

 

Memorial Day Weekend Napa Valley Wine Tasting

Early this morning I was woken up by a very enthusiastic dog. She was psyched to start the day, and wanted to start it now!

I’ve made it a habit of either hiking or biking on Fridays. Sometimes it’s first thing in the morning, sometimes I’m at the park for a sunset workout, and sometimes it falls somewhere in between the two. Between Harley’s high energy levels this morning and seeing that the temperature is going to hit 90 degrees today, first thing in the morning sounded like a good idea to me.

So, we headed to a place we’ve been frequenting – Harvey Bear Ranch County Park:

Park-View

We were there for the perfect sweet spot between the cool night temperatures and the sun getting hot. We hiked before the morning busyness filled the park, and besides Harley’s constant attempts to chase the crazy ground squirrels everywhere, it was a really serene hike. This short work week has been super busy, and it was a nice, relaxed way to start off my Friday. Luckily I think it tired Harley girl out:

Harley-snoozing

Horrible quality iPhone photo I just snapped, but how sweet is she?!

Moving on, today I’m going to recap my glorious Memorial Day Sunday — which we spent wine tasting all day in Napa Valley.

My hubby and I started off the day at Crane Family Vineyards, a small winery we recently discovered at Trader Joe’s and simply had to visit first and foremost because our last name is Crane. To taste there, you have to call and schedule an appointment beforehand, so I made it our first stop so that we’d be sure to make it on time.

The winery is in an unassuming residential area, and as soon as we pulled up and saw the gorgeous view and quaint winery, I knew that I’d like it. When we arrived, the owner Tom greeted us and we quickly found out that he and his parents lived in New Jersey before moving to California. Jersey people unite!

Our experience at Crane Family Vineyards was great. Tom was very down to earth and easy to chat with, and we learned a lot about the history of the winery his parents started while sitting on the patio and relishing in this view:

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As I’m a fan of smaller, less corporate businesses in general, I really enjoy more boutique, intimate wineries more than the big commercial ones that are so prevalent – especially in an area like Napa. There’s just something about getting some one-on-one information about the thought and work that was put into making the wine that sells me. The winery offers a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, winemaker’s cuvee, a port, and they recently started making white wine, a chardonnay. I enjoyed every one of the wines we tasted, and we bought a couple of bottles to take home with us.

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 You can sense my enthusiasm about Crane Vineyards in this picture:

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My posing = a little out of control. 😉

After leaving our first winery, we decided to stop at Stag’s Leap Winery. We’ve been there before, and although they are pricey and one of the bigger type of wineries that I mention above, their wine is really good. The wine that we’re making is merlot from the Stag’s Leap district, so we had fun tasting merlot there (and everywhere else we went) and joking around that our homemade wine will be as good if not better!

Stags-Leap

Afterwards, we went to a market/winery we had been to before called V. Sattui to pick up some things for a picnic. It was insanely crowded and we parked literally in the vineyard a mile away. Usually Adam and I avoid crowds like that, but their fresh mozzarella is SO WORTH IT!

After nabbing our grub and waiting on line for about 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, we got the hell out of the chaos and ventured over to a place I had read about in Wine Enthusiast called Rutherford Hills Winery. The magazine noted the winery as having a gorgeous view, so I thought it’d be a great place to eat lunch. We first did a tasting there, then we reserved a picnic table (slightly bizarre to me to pay to sit on a bench for a bit, but that’s Napa for you!). We thought the wines we tasted were just okay, except for their merlot, which I thought was pretty good. We nabbed a bottle of it to go with our lunch, and then feasted on fresh mozzarella, cheddar cheese soaked in cabernet, grapes, fresh bread and crackers:

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Seriously, I could eat that meal – particularly that mozzarella – every day of my life!

It was nice to just sit outside and enjoy some food and wine. We had nothing scheduled for the rest of the day, so we stayed a few hours. Between the wine and sitting down not doing much but relaxing, Adam and I joked that we really wished there were outside canopies around to take naps in.

Post lunch, we drove to St. Clement Vineyards – a place that we had a picnic at with my parents last time we were in Napa. I absolutely love the view and atmosphere at this winery:

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We sat on a swing on the patio, shared a tasting, and listened to a musician softly playing the guitar. The weather was perfect, and I loved every minute of it.

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After St. Clement Vineyards, we had just enough time before the wineries closed to fit in one more tasting somewhere. We found ourselves at nearby Alpha Omega Winery, a place we have never of before. Long story short, I wasn’t a big fan of their wines and thought they were way overpriced. Pretty view like many other wineries around Napa though!

Alpha-Omega

One of the perks Adam and I discussed in moving up to the Bay Area was that we’d be close to great wine areas. Last weekend was exactly what we’d had in mind, and we had an awesome time together!

I’m off to get some work done. Hope that you have a great weekend!

Just Call Me Robert Mondavi

Hi friends! Today’s topic: wine. Why?

Because my hubby and I recently picked up a fun new hobby… winemaking!!  That’s right, besides drinking wine, I’m now making it as well.

I’ve certainly spent some time at wineries, from getting married at one in New Jersey…

Renault Winery, NJ

Renault Winery, NJ

…to visiting an underground winery in Missouri….

Stone-Hill

Stone Hill Winery, MS

…from many day trips to the little California wine region of Temecula….

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A tasting day with my best friend Meaghan

…to touring Sicilian wineries with a native restauranteur as our guide…

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…from picking grapes at a tiny awesome winery, to stomping grapes at a festival in Julian, CA…

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with my hubby and friend Jackie

….to making our way up the California coast and visiting Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Napa, and Sonoma area wineries…

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 …and now living in the Bay Area within a few miles of some adorable wineries. From the first winery I ever went to, I’ve been a lover of wine culture. More than just finding it all so obviously romantic & beautiful, I think it’s so interesting how tastes in wine change over time, even depending on the day or the mood you’re in, or how a food pairing can make all the difference in the world. I think the whole process of making wine is fascinating, and I want to soak up as much about it as I can. While I’ve learned things about wine along the way, I’m someone who learns best when I actually do. And so a few weeks ago it was decided that Adam and I would venture into the world of winemaking.

After purchasing all of the necessary tools, reading up on the art of making wine at home, and a minor hiccup involving my breaking the very delicate hydrometer necessary to start the fermentation process, followed by texts from Adam forbidding me from touching any more winemaking glassware….

texts

…my first batch of wine has now been nicely fermenting in my kitchen. Words like ”carboy” and ”sulfide stink” are now in my vocabulary, and I’m having fun with the process so far. It faintly smells like a winery in my house these days, and I like it!

primary-fermentation

I may be jumping the gun here, but hopefully within a couple of months, we’ll produce some very drinkable – or dare I say, good – merlot from California’s Stag’s Leap region (knock on wood)! I will certainly be blogging about it as we move forward with our at-home winemaking endeavor.

Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto Balls

When I think back to my time studying abroad in Italy, a lot of mouthwatering food comes to mind – including rice balls. Though a lot of the time they contained ham or some other kind of meat, here and there I was able to find vegetarian ones. They were gooey, rich, and delicious, and I’m not sure that I’ve eaten them since my time in Sicily. That’s why when I came across risotto cakes in my newest cookbook, Essential Vegetarian, I knew I had to try the recipe.

Rice balls are typically deep fried. While they taste scrumptious, anything submerged in a bath of oil isn’t exactly waistline friendly. That’s why I tweaked the recipe and used less oil.

When I decided to make them last night for dinner, I failed to realize that this recipe takes a good amount of prep time. After cooking the risotto, I became impatient and hungry, and didn’t let the risotto chill for as long as instructed. They came out tasty, but they were probably harder to roll into balls than if they were refrigerated for the right amount of time. The effort is worth it, but consider yourself warned — leave 2+ hours to make these bad boys!

I pulled out all stops and made this meal a fancy-schmancy one! I paired the risotto balls with greens drizzled with olive oil + balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with sea salt & pepper…

…and garlic knot breadsticks made with pizza dough:

For dessert, I made a heavenly chocolate peanut butter treat. I took the easy route and threw together a Trader Joe’s truffle brownie boxed mix  (By the way, it’s the first time I’ve made these dutch cocoa brownies and they’re YUMMY), but I added a fun twist to them by whisking peanut butter with almond milk, vanilla extract, and confectionary sugar, then drizzling it on top of the brownie batter.

Side note: As I took the above photo, someone was lurking behind my kitchen table shooting me very serious, pleading looks:

Lastly, the drink of choice for this meal was a bottle of Stag’s Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon:

My hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed our vino with full bellies while watching the movie Bottleshock. It was a California wine themed night!

Here’s the risotto cake recipe:

Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto Balls
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ¾ oz [light] butter
  • ½ small onion, minced
  • 1¼ cup arborio rice
  • ⅓ grated parmesan and/or pecorino romano cheese (I used a blend)
  • ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover, and keep at a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden. Reduce heat to low, then add arborio rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is lightly golden (around 3 minutes).
  3. Pour in about ¼ of the hot stock and stir constantly until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this process until all the stock has been added and the rice is tender. This will take around 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the grated cheese and remove from heat. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, allow to cool, then refrigerate for an hour.
  5. With wet hands, roll 2-3 TBSPs of the rice mixture into a ball. Push a cube of mozzarella and a few pieces of sun-dried tomato into the ball, reshaping to cover up the cheese and tomato. Repeat with remaining rice mixture to form 18 balls. Refrigerate for another 15 minutes.
  6. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium low heat. Using a large slotted spoon, lower ½ of the risotto balls into the oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown, then flip over. Remove with the spoon, and drain on paper towels. Repeat this process with the remaining cakes. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 3 risotto balls, Calories: 280, Fat: 15 g, Saturated fat: 3 g, Carbohydrates: 33 g, Protein: 5 g