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Diary of a mad wine blogger

27 Jun

Darlings, Señorita Vino is fried. Some of you may  know that in addition to being a wine blogger, my day job comprises freelance writing about food and wine,  and a gig as managing editor of a local magazine that’s not about wine.

The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of deadlines and wine tasting. Consider the following a glimpse into my diary, a feel for what it’s like to walk in my stilettos  for two days.

WineLaptop

Wednesday, June 25.

7 a.m. – Checking email and deleting a ton of pitches from PR people trying to get me to write about stuff not related to wine, like yarn.

8:30 a.m. – My final personal training session. After this, it’s up to me to drag myself to the gym three times a week and force myself into torture-chamber-like devices and pull heavy weights while trying not to look fat.

11 a.m. – Mapquest be DAMNED! Hopelessly lost and late to an interview with An Iconic Artist for an article I’m writing. Nervous as hell–this is my first-ever interview with Someone of Cultural Importance Who Used To Hang Out With The Great Rock Bands of The 1970s.

11:10 a.m. – Just hiked up Iconic Artist’s steep driveway. In heels. Trying to control heart palpitations and hoping the perspiration dries off in the gentle morning breeze.

11:12 a.m. – Wow. Iconic Artist is down-to-earth and really nice! And he likes cats!

1 p.m. – Driving  Iconic Artist to view his new studio. He’s not wearing a seatbelt. Wonder if he’ll get annoyed if I tell him to put it on. Better not risk it.

2:30 p.m.  Driving home with signed copy of Iconic Artist’s book in my backseat.

5 p.m. – Setting up for a Tweetchat about wine. I’ll be attending Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 next month in Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara Vintners has sent me five lovely wines (stay tuned for a future post) from local winemakers.

6 p.m. – On the laptop and iPhone, with five wine bottles on my desk and five glasses of wine, tasting, tweeting, Instagramming, and trying not to spill wine all over myself while attempting to sound  clever in 140 characters or fewer.

WineSwirl

7 p.m. Dinner with Señor Jim. Lucky to be married to someone who puts up with wine bottles all over the house.

11 p.m. Reading an academic book sent to me for review. Barely make it past page 2.

2 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. Insomnia-palooza.

Thursday, June 26.

9 a.m. Watching the U.S. – Germany World Cup match–on the elliptical machine at the gym.

11:30 a.m. Germany won. In my kitchen feeling kinda woozy and eating everything in sight.

2:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  - Rewriting three articles submitted four days late by a freelancer.

7 p.m. A glass of wine and dinner with Señor Jim. Stressed about three articles I have due on Friday that I couldn’t write today because of aforementioned late articles.

10:30 p.m. – Out like a light.

Friday, June 27.

9:30 a.m. ¡MIERDA! I didn’t write a blog post this week!

11 a.m. Writing blog post.

11:30 a.m. YAY! Just found out I passed the WSET Level 3 exam!

12:06: SHOOT! Just remembered I have three articles due today. Wait – isn’t there a World Cup match going on?

#Halloween #Wines – Boo!

30 Oct

Scared silly about what vino to bring to your Día de Los Muertos or Halloween fiesta? Fear not, chicas y chicos. Señorita Vino has cleared the cobwebs and summoned the black cats to unearth some frighteningly tasty wines for your freaky festivities. Ready for some thrills, chills and–we hope–no spills? (Cue bloodcurdling scream).

If you’re a naughty little diablo, this 2010 Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington’s Columbia Valley should represent you well at your boo-riffic bash. Black cherry, dark chocolate and black pepper aromas will pair well with beastly beef sliders and super-scary spaghetti in blood-red tomato sauce.

Spread the Merlot amor at your Día de los Muertos party with some ruby-red fruta. The 2010 Día de los Merlot from the Temecula Valley displays ripe plums and red cherries thanks to a warmer growing climate, making this a festive ofrenda for a vino-loving loved one’s memorial altar.

Speaking of Día de los Muertos, have I got a pair of sweet wines to go with your sugar skulls! Vino de los Muertos Rojo Dulce is a red blend. Its companion, Blanco Dulce, is a blend of white grapes. Both taste sweet and pair beautifully with pan de muertos, the traditional sugar-sprinkled bread loaves sold in Latin American bakeries all over the U.S. this time of year.

Avast ye wanna-be pirates! Leave the Made-in-China Jolly Roger flag at home and seize this wicked bottle of 2010 Poizin Zinfandel instead. Direct from Sonoma County’s Armida Winery, this jammy, spicy red has hints of vanilla and milk chocolate. It’s frighteningly good with grilled meats and barbecued ribs.

Twisted, gnarled vines. A bleak expanse of parched land blasted by a furnace-like sun. ¡Ay, qué miedo! This, chicas y chicos, is not the set of Hostel Part 31, but Aragón, Spain, home to some of the finest Garnacha vineyards. Add some hot thrills to your Halloween party with Garnacha’s famously fiery high alcohol content (this one clocks in at 14.5 percent!) and abundant fruit. Blackberries, black currant and lovely lavender and leather notes make this a good match for rich duck in a cranberry or cherry sauce, spooky sausage, or a hearty fall stew.

This next bottle scared the hell out of me. No joke – I’ll probably have nightmares over this one, good Catholic girl that I am. I mean, look at it! What the hell is that? Someone call an exorcist! I’m almost afraid to type the name, but here goes: Hex vom Dasenstein.

Okay, phew. I’m still here. This 2010 Pinot Noir from Germany displays strawberry and raspberry aromas with a zingy acidity. Pair this Pinot (or Spätburgunder, as Pinot Noir is called in Germany) with bacon-wrapped salmon or pork loin with spooky mashed potatoes.

P.S. Forgive me, darlings, for judging a wine by its label. Through the magic of a Google search, I discovered the real story behind Hex vom Dasenstein. It’s my Halloween treat to you:

Once upon a time in 14th century Germany, a sexy young fraulein whose nobleman father  was an obnoxious control freak made the mistake of falling for a hot, strapping young commoner. When her father discovered that his daughter and the young peasant had hooked up, he threw her out of the castle, leaving her with nowhere to go but a pile of rocks known as Dasenstein [it seems Studly Peasant Man was only after her Deutschmarks, since nowhere in the story does he welcome her into his humble shack once Pops gives her the boot]. These being the pre-Botox days, over time the lovely young fraulein grew into a wrinkly hag. But a nice hag. Dasenstein was surrounded by vineyards, and the vines began to thrive under the watchful eye of the now haggard little lady. And because no good deed goes unpunished, the townspeople thanked her by giving her the title, Hex vom Dasenstein, or the Witch of Dasenstein.

I dedicate this post to the memory of my great uncle Victor, whose humor, wit and intelligence continue to inspire me. Tío, te extrañamos y siempre pensamos en ti. Qe en paz descances.

A #Pisco Cocktail for Peruvian Independence Day

27 Jul

Break out the lomo saltado and the bottles of pisco, chicos y chicas: Tomorrow is 28 de julio, or Perú’s Independence Day ! I know I promised you part 3 in the Canadian wine series, but guess who’s up to her eyebrows in deadlines? So in lieu of the final installment in the Canadian wine series, I present you with a re-blog of a post that was a hit about this time last year: Señorita Vino’s very own “Caipirinka” recipe: A Peruvian twist on a Brazilian classic, with pisco (of course!) as the main ingredient. So shout it with me one more time: ¡Que viva el Perú, carajo! 

Variety, chicas y chicos, is the spice of life, so to add a little sabor to your weekend, it is my supreme pleasure to introduce my latest invention…the Caipirinka. It’s a refreshingly  exotic blend of mangoes, lime and pisco.

Yep, it’s like the Brazilian Caipirinha but with a two-fold Peruvian twist: 1). Pisco is the national drink of Perú*, and 2). Mangos grow happily in Perú. And of course, there’s 2a: Señorita Vino’s parents hail from the land of the Incas.

If you’re not familiar with pisco, it’s a clear alcoholic spirit made from grapes. Some say it’s comparable to Italy’s grappa and Greece’s ouzo. And  like grappa and ouzo, pisco can knock you flat on your asti spumante, so be forewarned: un poquito goes a long way.

Adding to the Caipirinka’s uniquely Peruvian flair is the mango. Perú is one of six countries that exports mangos to the U.S.  The mangos I used to make the Caipirinka were generously provided by the Mango Board, which probably had no idea I’d use them to make an alcoholic beverage.
In case anyone’s keeping track, this is arguably the world’s most nutrient-rich cocktail. Mangos contain more than 20 different types of nutrients and vitamins, and just one cup of mangos is 100 calories and provides 100% of your recommended vitamin C allowance. See? Señorita Vino cares muchísimo about the health (and girlish figures) of her readers.

I used fresh, pureed ataulfo mangos, the oblong, bright yellow fruit in the photo above. ¿Porqué ataulfo? Because this variety has no fibers and is as smooth as butter, making it a great option to blend in cocktails or fruit smoothies. Not only that, but the flesh is gloriously golden, calling to mind the gold treasure of the Inca empire. Now there’s a culture that literally worshipped its bling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So without further ado, here’s how you can add a little Inca gold to your Peruvian Independence Day celebration. Because we all have different palates (See “Vino 101″), you may want to adjust the amount of sugar, lime or pisco. If you do up the pisco content, Señorita Vino takes no responsabilidad if you wake up in an exotic land, covered in gold sequins and tropical bird feathers. ¡Salud!

*There is some debate between Perú and Chile as to which country ‘invented’ pisco. It was Perú, of course (see 2a above).

Señorita Vino’s Caipirinka 

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 cup of ripe Ataulfo mangos (about 2), cubed

6 tablespoons of  sugar syrup (make ahead: Dissolve 8 tablespoons of baker’s sugar into 8 tablespoons of water in a pan over low heat. Bring to a boil, then boil for 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate. Keeps for about 2 weeks in the fridge).

8 ice cubes, cracked

4 key limes (or 2 regular limes), cut into small wedges. Save a few slices as a garnish, if desired.

4 teaspoons raw cane sugar, divided

4 ounces of pisco

3 additional ice cubes, cracked

In a blender, place the 8 cracked ice cubes, the mango and the sugar syrup. Blend until the mango is completely liquefied. Set aside. Place an equal amount of lime wedges into four small glasses. Add a teaspoon of raw cane sugar to each glass. With a muddler (see photo) or wooden spoon, crush the lime and sugar until it forms a paste.

Place the remaining three cracked cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add 2/3 cup of the mango puree and the pisco and shake until condensation forms on the shaker.

Shake it, chica!

Pour immediately into the cocktail glasses. Garnish with lime wedge if desired.

Can red wine give you six-pack abs?

3 Apr

Darlings, 

Spring is in the air, which means summer is around the corner, and bathing suit season will soon be upon us. Time to dust off this post about red wine and the waistline. Red vino seems to block fat cells from developing, according to scientists at Purdue. The way I see it, a few glasses of vino and before you know it, everyone look hot in a swimsuit. ¡Salud!

Just when you thought it was safe to get on the treadmill, a new (as in, yesterday) study by Purdue University has concluded that a compound found in red wine can block the development of fat cells. This is great news for people like me, whose fat cells haven’t seen the inside of a gym in about two weeks. Not only that, but red wine as a weight loss tool beats the South Beach Diet, hands down.

Red wine. Better than Pilates.

In all seriousness, chicas y chicos, we’ve known about the health benefits of red wine since the 1980s, when someone thought to connect red wine consumption with the reason French people have healthier corazones than we do, despite devouring triple-creme Brie and buttery croissants with a certain je ne sais quoi that looks a lot like goose liver fat.

The French Paradox: Lab rats who drank whole milk got fatter than those who ate cheese. It’s true – watch the 60 Minutes piece on YouTube.

But don’t take it from me. Go to YouTube and search for “French Paradox” to learn how drinking red wine can lead to a healthier heart.

Lest I digress and break into the Camembert, the Purdue researchers identified the fat-busting compound as piceatannol (say that 10 times fast), which, no surprise, is similar in structure to resveratrol, the red wine component that is believed to stave off cancer and heart disease.

Although Señorita Vino is a bit of a science geek, I promise not to get too technical here. In short, piceatannol prevents immature fat cells from  growing. I’ll drink to that.

Glorious. Rich. Creamy. Stinky. Delectable. Delicioso.

Now here’s El Disclaimer: I am not in any way advocating excessive red wine consumption as a weight loss program, so put down that bottle of Malbec. Gently. You might need it later. Common sense (and my husband) says that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. As a matter of fact, piceatannol is found not only in red wine but in blueberries, grapes and passion fruit, proving once again that you really do need to eat your fruits and veggies.

But if a little sip here and there of my favorite Shiraz is sending the fat cells in my thighs into suspended animation, I say pass the queso, por favor!

Peruvian restaurants expand their wine lists

11 Jan

Pan pipe music, tarnished brass tumis and fuzzy little llama dolls are standard fare at Peruvian restaurants in the U.S., but donde está el wine list?

Look! A tarnished tumi! (No restaurants were dissed in the making of this photo. This guy happens to hang in  Casa de Señorita Vino)

Look! A tarnished tumi! (No restaurants were dissed in the captioning of this photo. This tumi lives in Casa de Señorita Vino)

Here’s a summary of my wine experience at Peruvian restaurants over the past couple of decades:

SERVER: Can I get you anything to drink?

ME: Do you have a wine list?

SERVER: There’s red and white.

ME: Yes, the Peruvian flag is elegant in its simplicity. And I ADORE that little vicuña on the crest!

SERVER: Mujer, you could use a pisco sour.

ME: Actually, I’d like a glass of wine. Do you have any Sauvignon Blanc?

SERVER: No. There’s just red or white.

ME:  About that pisco sour…

So now you know why I’m blogging and not writing for Letterman. The good news is that this scary scenario is starting to fade. More and more Southern California Peruvian restaurants are adding wine lists, and it’s not just the fancy novo-andino joints with the minimalist decor, hipster bar scene and ear-splitting decibel level.

The wine list at Casa Inka in Fountain Valley, Calif. features Malbecs and New Zealand Pinot Noirs, among other choices.

The wine list at Casa Inka features Malbecs and New Zealand Pinot Noirs, among other choices.

Case in point: Last night I met up with the familia at Casa Inka in Fountain Valley, Calif. (and no, this is not a sponsored post. Casa Inka, if you’re reading this, de nada. Maybe we could get a papa rellena on the house next time we’re there?). We were seeing my brother off before he headed back east after coming home for the holidays.

Located in a nondescript Orange County strip mall, Casa Inka stands out for its Jimmy-Buffet-esque facade: A glass-enclosed bamboo loft housing a couple of stuffed parrots and faux jungle flora. Inside, the decor is a blend of Peruvian kitsch–grinning llamas, serranita dolls, and a looming, oversized photo of Machu Picchu)–sprinkled with some artistic photos of Lima’s trendier neighborhoods and the city of Cusco.

Casa Inka's facade stands out in an otherwise ordinary strip mall.

Casa Inka’s facade stands out in an otherwise ordinary strip mall.

On the menu are popular dishes you’d see at most Peruvian eateries, and–holy cau-cau!–a new wine list!

Here’s a sampling of what we ordered and the wines we paired them with:

APPETIZERS

Anticuchos are skewered, marinated chunks of beef heart. Yummy!

Anticuchos are served with a side of chimichurri sauce. Yummy!

Authentic anticuchos are skewered morsels of marinated beef heart. I paired these with the Ampakama Malbec 2009. The wine’s bold fruit contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the marinade.

Yuca a la huancaína:

Yuca a la huancaína: Fried cassava in a spicy cheese sauce

Yuca, or cassava, is popular throughout Latin America. At Casa Inka, it’s prepared in the huancaína style, smothered in a rich sauce of fresh cheese and ají amarillo, served with slices of hard-boiled egg and black olives. The zingy acidity of the Rata Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand was a perfect match for this creamy dish.

MAIN COURSE

Arroz con pollo is ideal for cilantro lovers.

Arroz con pollo, a cilantro lover’s dream.

Señor Jim ordered his standby dish, arroz con pollo, with his standby wine, Sauvignon Blanc. The New Zealand Rata’s grassy notes complement the cilantro in this traditional chicken dish. The wine list features the Rata Pinot Noir 2008, which also works.

Lomo saltado appears on just about every Peruvian restaurant menu.

Lomo saltado appears on every Peruvian restaurant menu in the galaxy.

Ask my brother how he judges the quality of a Peruvian restaurant, and he’ll answer in two words: Lomo saltado. The  classic Peruvian stir-fry pairs beautifully with Chile’s Torreón de Paredes Carmenere 2009, a red wine with elegant tannins [NOTE: The wine list spells the name as "Torreón Parpois," but since I actually  fact-check my material, I found it as Torreón de Paredes, so that's what I'm sticking with].

Tacu-tacu, a dish that's not commonly found on the menu in U.S. Peruvian eateries.

Tacu-tacu, a dish you won’t see on too many U.S. Peruvian menus.

This, my friends, is what you want to eat before you set out to hike the Inca Trail. Otherwise, you’ll gain about 10 pounds approximately 30 minutes after you scrape the last remnants from your plate. Tacu-tacu consists of stir-fried beans and rice topped with a steak and an egg over-easy, with a little bit of fried plantain for the heft–I mean heck of it. One of the classic pairing rules is to match the weight of your meal with the weight of your wine. A robust Zin, California’s Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2009, is the ideal choice.

DESSERT

The Machu Picchu of alfajores towers...

The Machu Picchu of alfajores towers.

A South American version of a dessert from Moorish Spain, the alfajor is a shortbread and dulce de leche sandwich sprinkled with powdered sugar. Damn, I think my thighs just grew an inch after writing that. Here’s where I channel my inner Señor Jim and pair this with an espresso. Oh, and I cannot tell a lie, so  I confess I don’t remember whether there were dessert wines on the wine list. It’s probably because I was too busy chismeando with my dad (NOTE TO NON-SPANISH-SPEAKING READERS: “Chismear” is to gossip).

My brother models a mini-alfajor.

My brother offers up a mini-alfajor.

Wait–I’m not finished! I’m pushing 900 words here, but no one ever said Peruvians were succinct. I dedicate this post to my super-fantástico brother, whose visits to California are always much too short. Nino darling, may the road be paved with lomo saltado, and be wary of strangers bearing cans of peanut brittle. Besos, P.

Casa Inka, 8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley, CA. (714) 847-7555. Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.

Wines for the End of the World – Part 2

20 Dec

Gotta love the Mayans. They built some epic pyramids, started a centuries-old love affair with chocolate, and now they’ve given doomsday prophets something to scribble on crude, handwritten signs. In case you’ve been hiding in a wine cellar, the world as we know it is scheduled to end mañana, 12-21-12.*

That means I have a lot of wine tasting to do in the next 24 hours. And if you’re reading this blog, you should get busy, too. Not sure where to start? No worries–here for your sipping pleasure  is my End-of-World Wine Bucket List.

*The world was supposed to end last year on May 21, but to the complete mortification of the doomsday-tripper who raised all the fuss in the first place, we were all still here the next morning. In case you want to take a peek at ‘Wines for the End of the World – Part 1,’ here you go.

Señorita Vino’s End-of-World Wine Bucket List 

1.Château d’Yquem Sauternes, 1945

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I have no idea who took this. If it was you, let me know and I'll make sure you get proper credit.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photographed by Megan Mallen.

I know, I know. I’m starting with the dessert wine. But hey, it’s all over tomorrow, so who’s keeping tabs? One of the world’s most prized wines, Château d’Yquem hails from France’s Bordeaux region and is worshipped for its exquisite apricot aromas and nectar-like taste. The 1945 vintage will set you back about $5,000, but if the world ends tomorrow, so do Visa credit card statements. Santé!

2. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1978 Grand Cru

The Romanée Conti vineyard. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photographed by Andrea Schaffer.

The Romanée-Conti vineyard in France’s Burgundy region. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photographed by Andrea Schaffer.

Quelle horreur! I’m going from a dessert wine to a red! But all’s fair in love and wine on the eve of the apocalypse. Some time ago I came across a study that said people are more inclined to like a wine if the price tag is on the high side. Currently, the average price for a bottle of  the world’s most expensive wine is $17,361, according to WineSearcher.com. Can’t say whether I like it since I’ve never tried it, but if the world ends tomorrow, this is the wine I’d want to have in my glass as the sun explodes.

3. Château Cheval Blanc 1983

Cheval_Blanc_1983

a bottle of 1983 Chateau Cheval Blanc. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photographed by schuey.

Yes, another red, but I’m partial to reds (and dessert wines), and if the Mayans are correct, today’s my last day to indulge, so that’s why I’m rounding out my list with a Merlot blend from Bordeaux’s Saint-Emilion  appellation. The tasting notes for this wine mention meaty aromas followed by earthiness. Give it a few swirls and you’ll be sniffing plum, cedar wood and beeswax. It sounds too good to be true, and at about $600 a bottle, I should have ordered a case for my Last Days libations. But I figured the purchase would have triggered the fraud alert at American Express, thwarting my plans for toasting the demise of the planet in style.

So there you have it, chicas y chicos. And don’t get all teary-eyed over that pesky Mayan calendar. Look on the bright side. If we really are toast tomorrow, you don’t have to deal with the horror of last-minute holiday shopping this weekend.

I bid you a fond ¡Salud!

Día de los Halloween Wines

31 Oct

Scared silly about what vino to bring to your Día de Los Muertos or Halloween fiesta? Fear not, chicas y chicos. Señorita Vino has cleared the cobwebs and summoned the black cats to unearth some frighteningly tasty wines for your freaky festivities. Ready for some thrills, chills and–we hope–no spills? (Cue bloodcurdling scream).

If you’re a naughty little diablo, this 2010 Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington’s Columbia Valley should represent you well at your boo-riffic bash. Black cherry, dark chocolate and black pepper aromas will pair well with beastly beef sliders and super-scary spaghetti in blood-red tomato sauce.

Spread the Merlot amor at your Día de los Muertos party with some ruby-red fruta. The 2010 Día de los Merlot from the Temecula Valley displays ripe plums and red cherries thanks to a warmer growing climate, making this a festive ofrenda for a vino-loving loved one’s memorial altar.

Speaking of Día de los Muertos, have I got a pair of sweet wines to go with your sugar skulls! Vino de los Muertos Rojo Dulce is a red blend. Its companion, Blanco Dulce, is a blend of white grapes. Both taste sweet and pair beautifully with pan de muertos, the traditional sugar-sprinkled bread loaves sold in Latin American bakeries all over the U.S. this time of year.

Avast ye wanna-be pirates! Leave the Made-in-China Jolly Roger flag at home and seize this wicked bottle of 2010 Poizin Zinfandel instead. Direct from Sonoma County’s Armida Winery, this jammy, spicy red has hints of vanilla and milk chocolate. It’s frighteningly good with grilled meats and barbecued ribs.

Twisted, gnarled vines. A bleak expanse of parched land blasted by a furnace-like sun. ¡Ay, qué miedo! This, chicas y chicos, is not the set of Hostel Part 31, but Aragón, Spain, home to some of the finest Garnacha vineyards. Add some hot thrills to your Halloween party with Garnacha’s famously fiery high alcohol content (this one clocks in at 14.5 percent!) and abundant fruit. Blackberries, black currant and lovely lavender and leather notes make this a good match for rich duck in a cranberry or cherry sauce, spooky sausage, or a hearty fall stew.

This next bottle scared the hell out of me. No joke – I’ll probably have nightmares over this one, good Catholic girl that I am. I mean, look at it! What the hell is that? Someone call an exorcist! I’m almost afraid to type the name, but here goes: Hex vom Dasenstein.

Okay, phew. I’m still here. This 2010 Pinot Noir from Germany displays strawberry and raspberry aromas with a zingy acidity. Pair this Pinot (or Spätburgunder, as Pinot Noir is called in Germany) with bacon-wrapped salmon or pork loin with spooky mashed potatoes.

P.S. Forgive me, darlings, for judging a wine by its label. Through the magic of a Google search, I discovered the real story behind Hex vom Dasenstein. It’s my Halloween treat to you:

Once upon a time in 14th century Germany, a sexy young fraulein whose nobleman father  was an obnoxious control freak made the mistake of falling for a hot, strapping young commoner. When her father discovered that his daughter and the young peasant had hooked up, he threw her out of the castle, leaving her with nowhere to go but a pile of rocks known as Dasenstein [it seems Studly Peasant Man was only after her Deutschmarks, since nowhere in the story does he welcome her into his humble shack once Pops gives her the boot]. These being the pre-Botox days, over time the lovely young fraulein grew into a wrinkly hag. But a nice hag. Dasenstein was surrounded by vineyards, and the vines began to thrive under the watchful eye of the now haggard little lady. And because no good deed goes unpunished, the townspeople thanked her by giving her the title, Hex vom Dasenstein, or the Witch of Dasenstein.

I dedicate this post in loving memory of my Great Uncle Víctor, whose dry wit and prankster tendencies are still very much alive in my world. Tío, que en paz descanses. Siempre te recuerdo.

Why we drink wine

19 Apr

Some drink wine to forget. Others–like the soldiers of the Roman Empire–drank it to avoid the nasty effects of guzzling contaminated water. Yours truly is drinking it in hopes of killing off some fat cells (see my post from April 5).

The reasons we drink wine are as unique as the thousands of grape varieties used in winemaking. But don’t take it from me. Allow me to introduce you to a group of  accomplished Latinas who clearly illustrate why enjoying the occasional copa is good for the soul. I raise a glass to their intelligence, wit and belleza. !Salud, chicas!

Jackie is a mover and shaker who likes to relax with a glass of wine and a little chisme.

1. We drink wine to connect.

Busy public relations executive Jackie Quintanilla Aker says Pinot Grigio is her favorite wine. She’s lucky enough to have a cousin who studied wine, and luckier still that she and her prima are close. “My cousin is like a sister to me,” Aker says. “We like to share a bottle of wine and just chat about our day or vent. Or gossip.”

L to R: 'Green' blogger Catalina Juarez (Greenery in Mommyhood) and mommy blogger Ruby Wright (Growing up Blackxican) love their Muscat!

2. We drink wine to relax.

For blogueras Catalina Juarez and Ruby Wright, sipping a glass of Muscat is the perfect way to unwind during a conference break. Both prefer sweeter wines, so Muscat is the wine of choice while they take a breather between workshops and panel discussions. Juarez, who works, blogs, has two teenagers and is a student, says wine provides a little stress relief when things get loco.

Sometimes, life goes better with wine, says Helena Osorio-Zavala, a lifestyle blogger at Pink Guayoyo.

3. We drink wine to enjoy ourselves and the people we love.

Food and wine go together like un cafecito y conversación. Makes sense, especially if you’re Helena Osorio-Zavala, a Venezuelan writer whose blog name, Pink Guayoyo, is a fanciful spin on a traditional Venezuelan coffee drink. But get her started on wine and ay, ay, ay!  “I’ll be having a glass of wine with my husband and all of a sudden, he’s looking really good. So I’ll have another and I’ll tell him, ‘You’re looking pretty fine.’ So he’ll say, ‘Have another glass–I love it when you tell me I look good.’”

4. We drink wine as an excuse to photograph perfect strangers. Especially if they’re good-looking. 

I'll have a glass of red, thanks.

I know what you’re thinking. Señorita Vino is happily married, yet she dutifully follows her mother’s brand of marital advice, which is mira, pero no toques (look but don’t touch). I swear, Mom (and Señor Jim), the only thing I touched was the glass.

Why do you drink wine?  Post a comment and tell us!

Which wines go with comfort food?

12 Apr

Señorita Vino is scoping out the Miami wine scene this week, so here’s an earlier post with a timeless subject: Wines that go with your favorite comfort food. ¡Salud!

Your suegra just made another snide remark about the messy kitchen, you have a pile  of work projects due like, yesterday, and your angelito is squealing with delight after dumping the contents of his sippy cup on your keyboard. Ay, ay, ay…

Before you reach for that can of diet cola (or run screaming from the house), consider this: Wine (consumed in moderation, of course!) has been shown to have some heart-healthy benefits, thanks to a few of its natural components. Diet soda? Nada, baby. In fact, a recent study showed that diet colas can actually raise blood pressure – just what you need when you’re stressed out.

Putting on my Suave Disclaimer Voice, the following is not medical advice but a tongue-in-cheek perspective on how to slow down when la vida gets loca. Drink responsibly, as in no more than one glass a day, and make sure your health history allows it. Oh, and do not try this at home if you’re under 21.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way… Who doesn’t feel like a drink after a crazy day? A glass of wine helps me chill with a pre-dinner snack, a homemade meal, or while I’m cooking. If you’re like me, stress ups the snacking ante, so here are some suggestions on how to make that [insert comfort snack food here] go down smooth as seda:

1.    Chocolate 

Nothing tames the Stress Monster like cacao. The Mayas were on to something when they named chocolate a sacred food. Make your chocolate binge a religious experience by pouring yourself a glass of Pinot Noir to go with it. The strawberry and raspberry aromas that characterize this wine will complement the sweetness of the chocolate without being over the top.

You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a good Pinot Noir. Trader Joe’s and your local grocery store have some quality selections for under $10. A worthwhile investment when we’re talking about our sanity.

2.    Queso

Ah, cheese…my number one go-to comfort food when I want to make the world go away (or hurl my laptop out the window). Cheddar and Pepper Jack go really well with a sassy Shiraz. The spicy notes and rich character of this wine complement the kick in spicier foods, and the richness of the cheese tames any rough edges in the wine. A match made in stress-free heaven.

I’ve written about this one before, but one of the best deals I’ve found is the Luchador Shiraz, available at Cost Plus World Market for the insanely low price of $6.99.

3.     Chips

Maybe it’s the calming taste of corn tortillas or potato chips, maybe it’s the texture and rhythm of the crunch, crunch, crunch. Or maybe it’s just the salt. Either way, a bag of chips is my edible blankie when things get a little wacky.  I like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with my salty chips. Heck, even a buttery Chardonnay works well with the vegetable oils in fried tortilla chips or in the Peruvian version of the classic bag of Lay’s, pictured here. Once again, you can find great white wines for under $10 at your favorite grocery store or deli.

If you didn’t see it here, let me know what your favorite stress-relieving snack food is, and I’ll suggest a vino that would work with it. Salud, and happy stress-busting!

Can red wine give you six-pack abs?

5 Apr

Just when you thought it was safe to get on the treadmill, a new (as in, yesterday) study by Purdue University has concluded that a compound found in red wine can block the development of fat cells. This is great news for people like me, whose fat cells haven’t seen the inside of a gym in about two weeks. Not only that, but red wine as a weight loss tool beats the South Beach Diet, hands down.

Red wine. Better than Pilates.

In all seriousness, chicas y chicos, we’ve known about the health benefits of red wine since the 1980s, when someone thought to connect red wine consumption with the reason French people have healthier corazones than we do, despite devouring triple-creme Brie and buttery croissants with a certain je ne sais quoi that looks a lot like goose liver fat.

The French Paradox: Lab rats who drank whole milk got fatter than those who ate cheese. It's true - watch the 60 Minutes piece on YouTube.

But don’t take it from me. Go to YouTube and search for “French Paradox” to learn how drinking red wine can lead to a healthier heart.

Lest I digress and break into the Camembert, the Purdue researchers identified the fat-busting compound as piceatannol (say that 10 times fast), which, no surprise, is similar in structure to resveratrol, the red wine component that is believed to stave off cancer and heart disease.

Although Señorita Vino is a bit of a science geek, I promise not to get too technical here. In short, piceatannol prevents immature fat cells from  growing. I’ll drink to that.

Glorious. Rich. Creamy. Stinky. Delectable. Delicioso.

Now here’s El Disclaimer: I am not in any way advocating excessive red wine consumption as a weight loss program, so put down that bottle of Malbec. Gently. You might need it later. Common sense (and my husband) says that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. As a matter of fact, piceatannol is found not only in red wine but in blueberries, grapes and passion fruit, proving once again that you really do need to eat your fruits and veggies.

But if a little sip here and there of my favorite Shiraz is sending the fat cells in my thighs into suspended animation, I say pass the queso, por favor!

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