What to Wear (and Drink) on These Cold A** Days

After a little blogging hiatus, it’s time to come back to the computer and get back in the practice of sharing the wine love. And the wine love related stuff.

Today, because it’s not just any old day, but one of the coldest days in the world, ever, I decided to write about my outfit.  More specifically, what a MN wine industry rep wears to work during the bleak abyss of the oddly named and especially cruel Polar Vortex.

It was so cold that school was cancelled today. So cold that when I stopped into my accounts, their faces registered surprise and they couldn’t seem to believe a wine rep just showed up.


Even after work it’s too cold to take them off.

I wore these to work today. Professional attire? Not sure about that. But, when the thermometer reading showed a balmy -20 degrees this morning, I thought I’d cut myself a break from my fancy shoes and perhaps return home at the end of the day with ten toes intact. I hesitated for all of a nanosecond before giving myself the green light, hoping that my customers would appreciate my winter sensibility.  My wardrobe today, aside from the obvious winter coat, wooly mittens and stocking cap, included long underwear (top and bottom), wool socks, corduroys, two sweaters and yes, my Steger Mukluks. Hot I was not. But warm, well, I can say that on occasion today I was actually warm.

I took only two wines on the road with me, both of which I tucked into my Duluth Pack alongside my computer (risk-ay) instead of towing a rolling wine bag through the ice and nasty snow-muck. They were a dry Furmint from Hungary and a tasty little Spanish red.

I already talked about that little Furmint, the lovely Evolucio here. But the other wine I tossed in my bag is the Neil Santofimia 2012, made from the grape Garnacha Tintorera, which is grown in Spain’s southeast, as is the case with this wine from Almansa, Spain. Truth is I already had it open a couple days, but it proved that it has the structural integrity to hold up to some oxygen. In fact, it’s got a beautiful combination of tannin, acidity and a mineral austerity that keeps it really interesting. It’s complex but not opulent. It would get down with some food, but is totally quaffable on its own. I think that on day three it’s showing at its best yet, and at around $12.99 on the retail shelf that should earn it a spot on some dining room tables.

Neil Santofimia 2012

Neil Santofimia 2012

Neil Santofimia 2012

Grape: Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet)

Deep brooding purple-black color. Nose is blackberry and cassis, with some anise and graphite. Wine has opened up quite a bit aromatically with the fruit becoming somewhat more “baked” as would be expected. Palate echoes the nose but adds the textural interest of medium-plus tannins and ample acidity. Could this wine age a while? From what I know about the price point it doesn’t make sense, but I actually guess it would hold up 5-7 (or more) years. Score!

Cheers to this fantastic glass of wine in front of me, hoping that it can bring a little heat forth from the inside out.

Surly Cynic Belgian Waffles*


I had just moved back to Minnesota, and slowly began the process of unpacking. I was digging through boxes of stuff that’d been living in storage when I pulled out my oil splattered Belgian waffle maker. I immediately tossed it into the garage sale pile.


But it needed to be scrubbed. So, I did that, to the tune of about 25 minutes. Then it hit me- I just wasted 25 minutes of my life to earn a buck, literally (that was my proposed price tag). Silly. At this point, and it did become a pride issue at this point, I saved it from it’s fate as a secondhand appliance thrown haphazardly into the back of somebody’s beat up minivan, I resurrected it to its full glory. And since then I’ve been in waffle production, almost every morning. It’s daily use has now become a ritual, and my kiddos give me a totally peeved look when the waffle house is not in production just to let me know that cereal and toast are no longer acceptable.


I first developed a curiosity, then a mild obsession with the idea that the my basic Belgian waffle recipe had room for improvement (gourmet-ifying). So I thought of beer, and naturally Belgian beers to go with the Belgian theme, duh. Well, I ended up whipping up this recipe on a beautiful autumn day for my friends at St. Paul’s Wine Thief, and then it turned into a full on appetizer bar which accompanied the afternoon’s wine tasting. The reviews came back very positive, and I hope you’ll like it too if you decide to give it a try.  Tweak it to your own specs. I have about a hundred more ideas about how to do them next time. The variations get my little wheels spinnin.


With the help of the nifty bearded gents at The Ale Jail, we settled on Minnesota’s own Surly Brewing Co. Cynic, which is a tasty little number made in a Belgian-style Saison. A Saison is a beer brewed with orange peel and coriander, in case you’re wondering.


This makes a savory waffle, a fun little idea for an hors d‘oeuvre or in our case, afternoon noshing. You could sweeten them up as a brunchy treat with a tablespoon of sugar mixed into the dry ingredients, and finish with with sweet toppings, like berries and whip.


Surly Cynic Beer Waffles




2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


1 tsp salt


4 tsp baking powder


1 1/4 tsp baking soda


5 Tbsp olive oil


3/4 cup warm water


1 cup of Surly Cynic beer, at room temperature


2 large eggs


Roasted, salted pumpkin seeds




Sea salt, big flaky style


In a large mixing bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.


In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl mix the olive oil with, water, and beer.  Add in the eggs and whisk together. It will foam up so take cfile://localhost/Users/AprilStar77/Desktop/A843E8lCcAA-ARC-1.jpg-large.jpegare that your bowl is large enough.


Make a well in the dry ingredients and fold in the wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth.


Heat your Belgian waffle maker and grease lightly with olive oil.  Pour 1/4 cup into the waffle maker, and heat for a couple minutes or until your preferred level of goldeny deliciousness.


Finish with a dollop of Mascarpone, a light dusting of high quality sea salt and a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds.


Next time I want to whip some pumpkin puree into the Mascarpone for a dash of flavor, and put it into a squirty bottle and drizzle it over the waffle so that it’s distributed onto every tasty bite. Deliciousness.

*This blog post is my own, but was originally published at Roasted Passion, Fermented Love


White Zin… Once in a Blue Moon?

White Zin for the people.

This post is in honor of cousin extraordinaire Aimee Jean.  She’s a connoisseur of adult beverages herself (just don’t ask her to go halfsies on a pear cider). Miss Aimee Jean and I have on multiple holidays had the pleasure of being stuffed into a house crammed to the gills with extended family.  And if we’re not flinging mashed potatoes at each other (actually we only did that once…sorry, grandma) sometimes we’re marveling a what a wonderful, and huge, family we have.

By and large, our family is made up of the type of folks who usually reach into the cooler during the aforementioned holiday get-downs for a reduced-calorie American pilsner. But, once in a blue moon (and there’s one this month, you know), or if it’s a special occasion (i.e. it’s Sunday and the liquor store’s closed) they might also reach for a glass of vino. In which case they open the fridge and pull out the timeless and elegantly packaged box of Franzia White Zinfandel. There are many special things about this wine I’m sure, but the true magic of it is that it manages to offer both refreshment and sweetness, while leaving your breath smelling all boozy and watermelon-laced (this only applies on the way down, teens).  Not to mention, it’s a spot on perfect pairing with tater tot hot dish.

To you and your family, and to my cousin Aimee Jean, on this non-holiday I raise a glass and say CHEERS!

Passing of a Legend: Goodbye MCA

My love of the Beastie Boys predates my love of wine, so I respectfully post here on my wine blog.  I’ve learned to love and appreciate both, sometimes together, in a way that’s completely shaped the person I am today.

It’s impossible for me to not wax sentimental at the passing of Adam Yauch, or better known to me and most of the world as MCA of the Beastie Boys.  I learned about it last night right before dinner, while I was still reeling from an amazing wine trip to southern Dalmatia.  It felt like a punch to the stomach, and  one I had to deal with alone at the dinner table.  My husband grew up on the musical mayonnaise* of the Beatles and storytelling songwriters like Harry Chapin and Gordon Lightfoot, and while he appreciates music it’s generally within the pop genre.  And while my music appreciation certainly runs the gamut, from jam bands like the Grateful Dead to some of my perpetual faves like Modest Mouse and Radiohead, the Beastie Boys and their raucous rhymes won my adoration from the get go.  The video for “(You Gotta) Fight for your Right (to Party!)” is an earliest MTV memory and their albums were played (on vinyl, usually) at every party I ever attended in college, and for many years later in my kitchen in a well-loved Sony boom box.  In between were many road trips, windows rolled down in my shitty old Ford Escort with a battered and bruised, dashboard sun warped Paul’s Boutique or Check your Head cassette tape pounding away in my factory stereo, full blast.


I had this poster in my dorm room.

I’m flooded with nostalgia. I have a million Beastie Boys moments and there’s nary a lyric I don’t know by heart. They’ve coined so many of the phrases that rattle out of my mouth on a regular basis. Even now, 15 years after living on a college campus where maybe some of the strongest memories come from, the B-Boys play a key roll in my musical repertoire. They blare out randomly when my iPod is playing on the home stereo in shuffle mode (“Sabotage” has been known to pop on and sort of rudely interrupt an otherwise peaceful moment, I must admit).  My son has learned, over time, to rephrase the question “What’s the time?” as he knows what answer he’ll get.  They’ve held my pace on long marathon training runs.  And they’ve earned more than just my musical admiration when they went on to champion human rights in Tibet, leveraging their popularity to fight for more than just their right to party, but for justice and an end to political oppression.

So today, in honor of the passing of Adam Yauch, critical member of one of the most important trios of all time, I’ll be listening to some solid white boy hip hop and reliving moments of my past.  Maybe I’ll even roll down the car windows and crank it up a notch.

RIP MCA, you’ll be missed.

*JD Fratzke gets credit for this metaphor, he said it and it stuck.

Wine # 8. On the 8th Night of Croatian Vino…

Drinking at the hair salon?

I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. As a matter of fact, I don’t see any point whatsoever in sitting there after 4 p.m. without a glass of wine in hand. Lucky for me I have a great little neighborhood spot, with Silvija, queen of the tresses, on hand. And if her boss is out of sight, or better yet, on ski break, we break too.  That is to say, break out the vino.

As promised (to the girls), a “before” style pic.

Tonight we were on a mission to have a good time.  It was my mom’s last night visiting me in Croatia, she was to board the plane and head back to the States in the morning, wrapping up our too-short time together.  So we started the evening at the salon in the company of a few other girlfriends. The girls and I sometimes make overlapping appointments there just so we have a chance to see each other, and we take over the place with appetizers and wine, much to the bemusement of the local clientele.  Our stylist, also part of the clan, joins in by bringing things to munch on and providing the secret stash of wine glasses. She maintains our confidence by abstaining from the wine, a strictly Don’t Drink and Cut/Color policy. And for that we thank her.

The Grimalda amongst companion bottles

So tonight we gathered, and opened a bottle of Matošević  Grimalda Red 2009, a lovely wine I’ve had before, which comes from Istria’s Limski Canal area, made by the friendly and fun Ivica Matošević.  In our mixed bag of wine tumblers it showed a pretty red-purple color and displayed great minerality and a mix of berry notes, with pretty blackberry and plum taking the lead, and hints of cranberry, cocoa and gunflint.  For me this is a very enjoyable bottle of red wine, totally balanced in its mouthfeel and  flavors without being overpowering in the slightest.  Tonight we drank it for our in-salon happy hour on its own, but I would love to try this wine with something fun like black bean enchiladas or chicken mole where the hints of cocoa could play together. This wine is a blend of Merlot (85%) and Istria’s native Teran (15%).

Mom and her fab new hair

Go grab a few bottles to have around the house, and make sure you have extra on hand. This also makes a savvy gift if you need one, the recipient will love both the hipster label and the great juice!

To you and your great hair, we raise a glass.  Cheers!

Wine #5. On the 5th Day of Croatian Vino…

On the fifth day of Croatian Vino, I was in for a surprise.  I was at another Christmas party, this one happened to be all comprised of Americans. Among this crew were a few of the A-Teamers, if you remember Kim and Christine.  Among this group of 15 we definitely had a mixed crowd of drinkers, not all wine aficionados by any means, but they were all game.

Korta Katarina Plavac Mali

After a fabulous meal of Caesar salad prepared by yours truly and Christine’s amazing lasagna, we cracked open the wine that I brought, which of course I previously cleared with the hostess. It was the Korta Katarina Plavac Mali 2007, from the Peljesac peninsula on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Widely regarded as one of Croatia’s finer, more prestigious wines, we were about to get some feedback.

The bottle went around the table after dinner. Some wine-murmurs started bubbling to the surface. I myself noticed something wasn’t right- the wine clashed with the meal we had just eaten. The wine itself was sound, the problem was that the strong flavors from dinner were still prevalent on our palates. We had Caesar salad, which was fabulous but wicked garlicky, and lasagna, which was all meat, cheese and more garlic. I knew it when I tasted it, these were not the flavors I wanted dancing on my palate as we embarked on this style of wine.

As the bottle went around and the comments started flowing, some others found this to be the case as well. This wine, which I have presented in the past to remarkable reviews, was getting mixed reviews here. All of the pretty fruit and floral aromas that make Plavac Mali such a special wine were being sabotaged here, victims to our strongly-flavored dinner. Also, because I brought only one bottle, there wasn’t a chance for people to try it over the course of several sips, thus cleansing their palates with the wine and transitioning to these new flavors. Comments ranged from “it’s good red wine” and “smooth, with hardly any bite” to “it tastes like seafood, maybe walleye.” Huh?!? Can’t say I agree with that one.

The case in point is that there really is some magic to pairing food and wine. And those who didn’t like this wine at this tasting would likely swoon over it in another setting, with another meal or maybe just on its own.

When I’ve tasted this wine on its own, I found this wine to have all the seduction you’d expect from a big, lush Plavac, with really pretty floral notes backed by amarena cherry, blackberry and blueberry notes. I find some Plavac Malis to be totally in your face, but Korta Katarina’s got it all under control, and the wine is smooth with broad, velvety tannins. For me, it’s a bigger wine than I usually drink, but fans of this super-lush style of wine will be very pleasantly rewarded with a bottle of this wine.

Full disclosure: I ripped off this picture from someone else’s blog, called “Wine Words and Videotape.”  Sounds a little naughty, right?

Hilarious sidenote: Later on we had fun with a gift exchange of all types of gifts, and  “Tastes like Walleye” opened a very special imported cheetah-print Snuggie. For those who don’t know, this is an all-inclusive blanket/sleeping bag/fashion item for those who take maxing and relaxing on their Lazy Boy to a  hole.  nother. level. (HNL). It was stolen by another friend who is shown here modeling it and kindly stole it for good, as his wife is about to have surgery.  I’m sure she’s grateful.

Christmas loot galore!