Wine For Everyone

Disclaimer: The product and promotional item were provided by Barefoot Wine & Bubbly for this review.

I’m not usually a big wine drinker, and typically take “whatever white you have” when out and craving a glass, but I’d like to think my palate has been expanding over the years. So, it seemed only logical to jump at the offer to sample some of Barefoot Wine’s new “refresh” line of wines. I’ve had Barefoot Wine before and have always enjoyed it, so I was confident the new line wouldn’t disappoint. I actually received the e-mail asking if I was interested while I was wine tasting in Sonoma during my San Francisco trip (I promise a recap on that deliciousness is coming soon)!

There are four different wines in the new refresh line, and we were able to select two of the four to sample. I decided to give the “Crisp White” and “Perfectly Pink” blends a try as I gravitate towards white and blush wines. It’s not that I don’t like red wine, but they stain my mouth, lips, and teeth within minutes of drinking, so I tend to avoid them. The wines in the new line are each described as “a flavorful, light-bodied, and refreshing wine specifically created for the ever-increasing number of wine occasions that extend beyond the traditional dinner table.”  Since I don’t drink wine frequently, I realize I’m not someone that can easily pick up a winemaker’s tasting notes. I always read the tasting notes for wine, coffee, beer, etc., but rarely take a sip and think, “wow, I can really taste that citrus and cinnamon” or whatever the notes may be. Even though I don’t have a sensitive palate, I still enjoy drinking wine!


I decided to start with the Perfectly Pink, and sampled it on just an ordinary weeknight while cooking dinner. I first noticed the color, and then the bubbles. It definitely screams “girly wine” but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (for me, at least). It tasted just how I expected a Chenin Blanc and Moscato blend to taste; light, crisp, fruity, and sweet. It was a little too sweet for me (7.5% residual sugar), but I think it’s perfect for celebratory sips! I saved the Crisp White for a sushi dinner with friends at the end of the week, and between the three of us, there wasn’t a drop left. It paired really well with my veggie rolls, and added a nice sweet element to the saltier dinner (only 3.3% residual sugar). It’s a perfect wine for people that aren’t big wine drinkers (like some of my friends); one even referred to it as a “less wine-tasting wine” (we’re sommeliers, can’t you tell?). While it’s a Riesling blended with Chenin Blanc, it reminded me of a lighter, slightly tarter Moscato, which I loved.

All of the Barefoot Refresh Wine varieties are extremely affordable (only $8 for a 750-ml bottle), and based on the two I was able to sample, I am definitely going to pick up some more next time I’m at the store.

Are you a wine drinker? What’s your favorite type?

Our Second Thanksgiving

This was the second year in a row that my fiancé and I decided to host Thanksgiving for both our families. We figured it was the easiest way to make sure we could see everyone, and also avoid the whole traveling thing. Plus, since I like cooking, I certainly don’t mind! Last year I enlisted the help of my mom to prepare the turkey and stuffing the day before. This year, though, I decided to be a big girl and do it all on my own.

Our menu was as follows:
– Bruschetta
– Cheese & crackers
– Shrimp Cocktail
– Turkey
– Stuffing with sausage, onion, and celery
– Broccoli casserole
– Cornbread
– Mashed Potatoes
– Mashed Turnips
– Corn
– Cranberry sauce
– Pumpkin Pie
– Apple Pie

Our original plan was to have everyone over around 2pm, with a 3pm eat time. Well, I underestimated the time Ralph (what we named our Turkey – last year it was Charlie) took to cook, so we didn’t eat until about 4:30/5pm. Since we had plenty to munch on and a plethora of beers and wine to chose from, no one seemed to mind. Everything was absolutely delicious, but without the help of both my mom and my fiancé’s mom, it would have been much more stressful.

On Wednesday night we took the time to clean and prepare Ralph, and also make the stuffing. Our turkey was 18.5lbs, so in order to make the stuffing with some left over, I did the following:

Semi-homemade Stuffing
– enough to fill an 18+ lb turkey –

2 bags Arnold’s herb seasoned cubed dry stuffing

1 onion
3 stalks of celery
1 roll of pork sausage
water (according to Arnold package)
butter (according to Arnold package)

1. Chop onions and celery, sautée until almost translucent with about 1 tbsp of butter. Then add sausage, cook until browned.
2. Slowly add stuffing mix, butter, and water, combining along the way until moist and all combined (about 15-20 minutes).
3. If making day-of, once cooled, stuff turkey. If making ahead of time, set in refrigerator until cooled, then stuff accordingly.

I also made the broccoli casserole ahead of time, with the exception of the crust. This recipe actually came from a co-worker who made it during our company Thanksgiving a week earlier. It was so simple and delicious, I thought it would be a nice trade for the typical green bean casserole (though I love that as well). It isn’t the healthiest, but boy is it good.

Broccoli Casserole
– Serves 8-10 –

1 package Velveta
4 boxes of frozen chopped broccoli (or 2 bags)
40 Salteen crackers (non-salted)
1 stick of butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Cook broccoli according to package, saving water when done.
4. Melt 3/4 stick of butter (reserve remaining 1/4 stick for topping)
5. In sauce pot, melt cheese with already melted butter, adding 1/2 cup of leftover broccoli water. Stir constantly until melted.
6. Pour cheese mixture over broccoli, mixing well, add to greased casserole dish.
7. Crumble crackers, melt remaining butter in small sauce pan, adding crumbled crackers. Sauté until butter has coated crackers – be sure not to burn. Sprinkle on top of casserole.
8. Bake 30 minutes, let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday morning involved last minute cleaning, and general preparations. We had to make sure the cheese and crackers (with Hormel pepperoni!) was out, our Magic Hat, Dogfish Head, and Saranac beers were cool, and our Cupcake Vineyards wine was ready to go.

My fiancé’s mom was kind enough to make us her amazing bruschetta (it has huge chunks of tomato and garlic – yum!). She also prepared a huge shrimp cocktail, corn, made delicious corn bread, and gave us the ingredients for making mashed potatoes. My mom took care of her favorites – mashed turnips and delicious cranberry sauce. She also made an apple and pumpkin pie, which at quick glance looked store-bought! We certainly ate well on Thursday, that’s for sure.

Friday evening was Thanksgiving round 2 at my parent’s house. Any year that my family doesn’t have Thanksgiving at home, my mom insists on making her own turkey with all the fixings so she can have leftovers herself. So, we headed over to assist in the devouring of their “measly” 12 pound turkey. After having a Thanksgiving dinner two days in a row, I was unsure how I’d manage to finish the 5 mile Turkey Trot I was signed up for on Saturday.

While it was beautiful outside when looking out the window, gusty winds and a cool temperature made standing around pre-race no fun. Since the race started at 11am, I was thankful the sun was shining. However, I didn’t hand over my jacket until the last possible moment. Unlike your typical Turkey Trots, this particular race was a 5-miler in my hometown that both starts and ends at a nearby park. Once we got started I didn’t mind the cold, but there were points where the wind was blowing directly in my face, making it difficult to breathe. I’ve found that the hardest part about cold weather running, for me, is breathing through all the mucus (gross, I know). I spent a decent part of this race trying to prevent myself from choking. At any rate, I finished in 39:40, a solid 7:56 minute/mile pace (fastest race pace ever!) and was 6th in my age group, 43rd woman, and 206 overall! There were a total of 843 runners. My wonderful fiancé came in 3rd in his age group, 46th man, and 53rd overall. A friend of mine from high school also ran, who is super fast (hello 3:08 marathon!) and was the 2nd female overall, and of course the winner of our age group! Afterwards we rewarded ourselves with bagels, and had Thai for dinner – an overall successful day!

I think it’s safe to say my mini-four day vacation was a complete success. We finished everything off on Sunday with another chilly 8-miler, and some leftover turkey and cheese quesadillas. I’m looking forward to whipping up some interesting recipes with the leftovers throughout the week!

Cupcake Vineyard Wine

After searching for a cupcake themed wine, I found Cupcake Vineyards, which had also been written up by one of my favorite cupcake blogs, Cupcakes Take The Cake.

I excitedly went to the website, unsure of if it was something I could find in my local liquor store. Because I had never heard of it before, I figured it was going to be hard to find, and something that I would possibly need shipped to me. When I realized New Jersey has weird alcohol shipping laws and this wine was from California, I began to worry. After some more research, though, I found the wine at a local Wine Chateau.

After telling the fiancé, who is just as much of a cupcake fiend as I, we decided to grab some after work on Friday to enjoy with our dinner. We decided two get two variations; their 2008 Chardonnay, and 2007 Merlot.

We started off the taste test with the Merlot. It was definitely decadent, and something that would go great with desserts. It was very smooth, with a hint of coffee, chocolate, and cherry; three flavors I love! My only qualm, as I have with all red wines, was the teeth staining. I always feel so silly while drinking red wine, because my teeth turn purple. That’s why I really only drink red wine at home, I try to avoid it if I’m out. But it was good. So good we finished the bottle, and I want to buy it in bulk!

We decided to then move on to the Chardonnay, which was equally delicious. More citrus-y and refreshing, it had hints of apple and vanilla with a crisp fresh finish. This was also a favorite of mine, and I would definitely buy it again, and in bulk!

Both of the wines were under $10, at $8.99 each. So really, how could you go wrong?! While you might think they’re dessert wines from the name, they definitely aren’t. They’d be great with almost any dish. But of course they would go excellently with dessert, specifically cupcakes! The Cupcake Vineyards website even offers cupcake recipes that would pair perfectly with each of their wine offerings.

So next time you’re in the liquor store looking for some great wine to have with dinner, dessert, or to bring to a friend’s, get yourself some Cupcake Vineyards – you’ll be glad you did!