I’ve been off my game lately when it comes to food and wine.
In CT, food and wine were kind of my reason for being – it seemed like I was always off at some farm-to-table dinner, trying a new restaurant, or hanging out in the cellar at Thames River Wine and Spirits.
For whatever reason, it’s taken me a little while to get my groove back here in Ypsi/Ann Arbor. Although I got off to a strong start with cheese making and wine tasting at Dusty’s (not to mention Taste of Ann Arbor and Greek Fest at St. Nick’s), I’ve been in a funk lately. I haven’t even cooked.
Luckily I seem to be snapping out of the funk. I credit several things: A) learning how to live with Scary House and her ridiculously tiny kitchen; B) going to Ladies Weekend and being exposed to amazing food and wine; and C) Noe watching “Julie and Julia” on Starz last night (not sure why) and me feeling very guilty for not even unpacking Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
And, I’ve had another reason to snap out of this funk pretty quickly – Noe and I got engaged (this isn’t THAT susprising, people – we’ve owned property together for three years now) and are attempting to get this shindig together by October – meaning I’ve got some serious taste-testing to do. Therefore, it is in my best interest to get my appetite for both food and booze back, stat.
The one wedding decision we’ve made so far is to serve beer and wine (duh). However, we have not yet decided which beers and wines. Most of our guests will be beer drinkers (which is great, as I think you get the most bang for your buck with beer) but there’s a core group of wine drinkers, as well as that ever-present group of booze drinkers who will drink wine because there’s no hard liquor available.
Selecting wine is always a challenge, but how do you choose for a group that includes A) a few great palates; B) a few who would honestly prefer white zin with ice cubes to a provencal rose (but still want to “drink wine”); and C) a fairly limited budget? Where do you draw the line between not serving crap and not wasting money on people who won’t appreciate the beverage?
In the end, because I love wine, I’ll probably end up springing for some favorites. But just to live on the edge, I decided to start taste-testing some cheapies from Trader Joe’s while Noe grilled me a delicious dinner tonight. I’ve defined true cheapies as $5.99 and under.
(Side note: I’ve been through my Two-Buck Chuck phase. At one point I deemed the Sauvignon Blanc “drinkable.” This was before I discovered I actually didn’t like most California Sauvignon Blanc in general – it lacks the minerality of the French or the bracing acidity of the New Zealands – but even taking my prejudice into account, the last time I drank Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc, it tasted like dishwater. So…Two-Buck Chuck was not included in my cheapie tasting adventure.)
Here were my three taste tests for the evening:
Zafrika (Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa, 2009):
Blah with a capital “B” – whatever teases of grassiness and citrus were there were hidden by an overwhelming wateriness. Also tasted a bit alcoholic for such a watery flavor. Just to be sure, I tested it on Noe, my non-wine drinker – he deemed it “weak but kind of offensive.”
Josefina Syrah Rose (Paso Robles, CA, 2006):
Four words for you: DO. NOT. BUY. THIS.
I know I generally prefer lighter (French) roses, but I was willing to give this pretty $5.99 bottle the benefit of the doubt. I was wrong. If anything, I expected too much dark fruit and maybe some flab from a not-great grape – however, this wine had such a nail-polish remover FUNK to it that I would have sworn it was corked had I not pulled the rubber stopper out myself. Perhaps as a 2006 it had simply sat too long, but I can’t believe it had much going for it to begin with.
Les Caves Joseph Bordeaux Blanc (France, 2009):
Most of my favorite white wines are French, at least part Sauvignon Blanc, and a couple (Chateau La Rame, Chateau Guiraud) have been from the Bordeaux region. Not that I necessarily thought that everything I love about those $18-$30 bottles would translate into a $5.99, but I had hoped that maybe something that I loved in these very quality wines would come through in the Trader Joe’s version.
At 50% Sauv Blanc and 50% Semillon, it was a little “wet” for my tastes. It had a bit of a strange, slightly sulfuric floral note/taste to it. It was probably the best of the three I tried this evening, but in all honestly – that’s not saying much.
So…my Cheap Wine Tasting Round 1 was kind of a bust. Luckily, there are two full months to go!
I leave you with a question: what are your recommendations for non-expensive, crowd-pleasing wines? (Caveat: I won’t serve white zin. Sorry – while I try not to begrudge anyone what they like, and do recognize white zin as a gateway wine, I just can’t go there.)