The Absent Wine Blogger

I think I should change the title of my blog to “The Absent Wine Blogger”, because that’s

View of Yonah Mountain from The Cottage Winery - Cleveland, GA

View of Yonah Mountain from The Cottage Winery – Cleveland, GA

just what I’ve been…absent. I don’t know how other bloggers with full time jobs do it. After spending 8-10 hours on a laptop, I’m toast at the end of the day. My creative juices are all used up and it’s all I can do to make dinner.

On the weekends I’m trying to play catch up on house work, projects and spending time with my husband. My hats off to those who seem to do all of it because I’m truly failing at doing it all.

So what have I been up to? Well I’m still drinking wine, of course but now it’s an even bigger challenge for me to source affordable wines. If you read my blog you know my husband and I moved to NE Georgia in 2011. Having come from Tampa I was spoiled with the ample places to buy good wine at good prices. The area I live in now has one wine store with a limited number of wines and unfortunately none of them at everyday drinking prices, at least not for my budget. We do have the big box grocery stores but the wines are so overpriced they typically go for twice the price they would be at other large wine retailers. The liquor stores offer a few opportunities but are still limited…sigh.

So what’s a wine drinker on the cheap to do? Well once a month I trek down to Alpharetta and spend a couple hundred dollars on wine. I always get the same question, “Are you having a party?” My response used to be, “No, just stocking up.” Now I try to make it a game to see what kind of responses I can give. My favorite is, “My parents are coming for the weekend” and I don’t offer additional info. Sometimes they laugh and other times they have a somewhat concerned look.

My other new source is Aldi. The selection is very limited but is better than nothing and they do have a few that are very drinkable and priced right.

Outlander Meritage – $8.99 – Blackberry aromas with flavors of blackberry, dark plum and a hint of vanilla in the finish.

Lil’ Koala Shiraz – $4.89 – Spicy aromas with plum and dark berry flavors. For $4.89 it’s not something I would take to a nice dinner party but it is drinkable when you just can’t spend $15+ on a bottle of wine every night.

Burlwood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon –$4.89 – Flavors of dark fruits and a hint of spice in the finish. Flavors are a little flat and truly benefits from proper chilling but still not too bad in a pinch.

Los Andicos Malbec – $7.99 Flavors of plum and black cherry with a spicy vanilla finish. We had this one this past week, not bad really.

Herres Brut Sparkling – $4.89 – my go to every night sparkler. Fresh apple flavors, listed as a brut it tends to be on the drier side but there is just a touch of sweetness. Light and good for the price.

Don’t have an Aldi? Don’t worry; they’re expanding into markets just like their sister company Trader Joe’s. Owned by Germany’s Albrecht family they are listening to US consumers who are listing both stores as their favorite grocery stores beating out Safeway, Kroger, Wholefoods and even the south’s beloved, Publix. For an interesting article on the two stores, published by Time click here.

Well kids, that’s all the time I have this week.

Happy drinking!

Posted in Red wine, Sparkling Wines, Wines under $10 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Applesauce, Not Just For Pork Chops Anymore

DSCN3166We’ve all seen the Brady Bunch episode where Peter Brady tries to reinvent himself and gives his horrible yet now well-known impression of Humphrey Bogart. Peter walks into the Brady’s burnt orange and avocado green kitchen and asks “What’s for dinner?” Carol and Alice respond with pork chops and applesauce. Peter: “You say we’re having pork chops and applesauce. That’s swell.”
I don’t know about you but I’ve uttered this phrase when telling my husband what’s for dinner more times than I can count. Problem is, we really don’t have the applesauce because my husband’s not a fan, until now.
Our neighbor came back from Iowa with bags full of apples which they happily shared with us. My brain started thinking, what can I do with all these apples? I don’t really like apple pie and apple butter just sits in my fridge, so applesauce they became.
I didn’t puree, I left the apples chunky which got my brain going again, this applesauce is more than just a mere side dish, this applesauce can be the star of the show.
Think holiday season, parties, dinners with friends or just dinner with your family.
Just a few ideas:
Water crackers topped with Gorgonzola, applesauce and chopped almonds
Crustini with applesauce and smoked almonds.
As a chutney served over ice cream or well just about anything.
Crumble bacon on top and just eat!
Or as the usual applesauce with pork chops or brats

Here’s my quick and simple recipe.
Apple Sauce
Apples – amount depends on how much you want to make, cut into bite size chunks
Peeled or unpeeled, the choice is yours
Liquid – I used faux moonshine* but you can use apple juice
Sugar – I didn’t add any since the shine was already sweet but add to your liking
Ground cinnamon – healthy dose

Place apples in sauce pan, pour enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. If your liquid is dissipating before your apples are cooked, add a splash more. The apples will add a little of their own liquid
Cook on medium heat
I continued to cook the concoction and stir for about 20 minutes. Once the shine began to thicken, it was done. The house will smell amazing.
I store mine in Weck jars in the fridge and should keep for about 2 weeks.

*Apple Pie “Moonshine” – given to us by our neighbors
1 gallon apple cider
1 gallon apple juice
3 cups white sugar
8 cinnamon sticks
1 liter bottle of 190 proof moonshine or grain alcohol – neighbor used Everclear
In a large pot combine the apple cider, apple juice, sugar, and cinnamon sticks.
Bring it to a boil, then take it off the heat and allow it to cool.
Add the liter of liquor.
Pour this into mason jars, put the lids on, and let it “age”.
Can be cut in half or ¼ to make smaller batches.

My husband and I drove up to Blue Ridge, GA last week. We took the scenic route up through the winding mountain roads and through Chattahoochee National Forest. This road used to scare the crap out of me, I still don’t want to drive it but I don’t have to shut my eyes now and can enjoy the beautiful scenery. We stopped at Woody Gap to take a look at the Yahoola Valley below and a pee break. The ridge gap is 3,160 ft above the Yahoola Valley and where the Appalachian Trail crosses Highway 60. There’s a small shed with trail bathrooms and let’s just say it was very windy, cold and well there were drafts hitting places on me that I don’t think have ever felt a draft.
After a nice day in Blue Ridge, albeit a very crowded day with leaf peepers, we headed home but went the other direction and through Gilmer County, the Apple Capital of Georgia. We stopped at one apple barn but I passed on getting more apples, instead we went for 3 huge heads of cabbage and huge bunch of turnips all for $5. Well can you guess what one of my upcoming posts may be, that’s right how to get rid of, I mean use sauerkraut and turnips. I know you’re excited.
Stay tuned. Oh and maybe we’ll talk about some wine again too.

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Basil Pesto Rigatoni and Herres Brut Sparkling

Basil Pesto Rigatoni with Shrimp

Basil Pesto Rigatoni with Shrimp

Every October I start watching low temps to see when I need to either make pesto with the remaining basil or try to bring a plant or two inside for the winter. Last year I brought two plants in and they did ok until around February. I think Daisy may have been snacking on them and they probably just didn’t get enough sunlight but they looked pretty pathetic.

Generally I make different varieties of pesto, sundried tomato with basil, spicy Thai basil, just regular basil you name it. Oh and the basil is great in compound butter too.
Last night I was feeling like I needed some pasta and since temps will be in the upper 30’s next week, it’s time to start using up the rest of that awesome summer basil.
Here’s my quick and easy recipe

2 cups of basil. I used two handfuls of mixed varieties
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil – add more if needed
2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts – I didn’t have pine nuts and don’t care for the flavor too much.
Pinch of salt
1 garlic clove – chopped fine
3 tablespoons of shredded parmesan
Tear the basil into small pieces and place in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and mix until all ingredients are in small pieces and blended well. If too dry, add more olive oil.Pesto 2015

That’s it, quick and simple. If using immediately cook pasta, add shrimp, chicken or whatever you like along with any other veggies. We did shrimp, peppers, fresh tomato and asparagus.
If you make a large batch freeze them in ice cube trays. Once frozen, place into zip top bags and store in freezer for whenever you need a taste of summer.

I struggled with what wine to pair the meal with as I felt it needed something that wouldn’t overpower. My husband’s not a big white wine drinker and if we have a white wine, it’s not always served with dinner but enjoyed on our front porch.

I also knew my husband was probably done with wine for the evening, so I popped open aHerres bottle of Herres Brut Sparkling from Aldi. Yeah, that’s right Aldi. Since I’m back, to working full time, I don’t have my Fridays to run to Alpharetta and hit Trader Joe’s, Total Wine or any of my other big box wine stops.

A few months ago, I decided to check out Aldi and picked up a few bottles to see what they were like. Herres, a German Sparkler quickly became one of my favorite inexpensive wines to turn to.
Flavors of crisp, fresh apples, dry and refreshing and priced at just $4.59, I’ve gone back for more several times. The other plus, my husband doesn’t like Champagne or Sparkling wines, so it’s mine, all mine.

We go down to 38 tonight. On my agenda for the day is making compound butter and transplanting one plant to bring in side. I’ll leave the rest for now and hope for the best. The basil will not go to waste, this I know.

Posted in Cooking, Germany, Sparkling Wines | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms and Wild Rice Soup

Rainy, dreary and all around kind of yucky. It’s October 1 and it doesn’t really feel like fall. The temps are cool but there has been so much moisture, it’s just been a muggy mess. To top it off, I’ve been swamped at work and just haven’t had time to write up a blog post this week.
However, since we are getting into “Soup Season” I do have a delicious Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms and Wild Rice soup recipe.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: About 5 servings
• 1 cup uncooked wild rice blend (I used ½ cup of wild rice and ½ cup Basmati)
• 1 small chopped yellow onion
• 1 cup of sliced portabella mushrooms
• 1/2 cup sliced carrots carrots)
• ½ cup sliced celery
• 7 Tbsp butter, diced, divided
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 5 cups chicken stock (can use chicken broth)
• Onion powder, garlic powder, salt and black pepper, to taste
• 1 lb cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts halves
• 1/2 cup flour
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
Melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion, mushrooms, carrots and celery and sauté until tender, add garlic during last 30 seconds of sautéing. Set aside.
Prepare rice according to directions listed on package. Mine took about 45 minutes. I used the same pot I used for sautéing.
In a separate pot heat stock and season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
Shred cooked chicken and add to the stock. Add cooked rice to chicken and stock.
In a separate pan melt remaining butter, add flour and cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. While stirring, slowly pour milk into flour mixture. Stir until the mixture thickens.
Add mixture to soup in pot and cook soup until thickened. At this point you can allow to simmer longer. Before serving stir in heavy cream.

My husband made rolls that night and they were divine with the soup.
We have enough left over to use in making Chicken Pot Pies which will be tomorrow’s dinner. I do love meals this time of year!

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Middle Sister Wines Part Two

Aw, fall, my favorite time of year. Brilliant pops of orange, yellow and red have been middle-sister-20150602-wine-bottlesappearing on store shelves for weeks and now the vegetation as well. I grew up in Florida and didn’t experienced a true fall. In Florida fall just meant you went to the beach less as the Snow Birds and other tourists flocked to the white sand and began clogging the roadways. Fall in NE Georgia is a true fall with leaves changing colors, temps dropping and the leaves too.
At my house, September brings what I consider decorating season as I put away décor that is up for much of the year only to brought out again on January 1. Currently my house is filling with pumpkins, both real and faux, ravens and little by little, Halloween. Oh yes, this weekend I’m bringing out all the Halloween décor and there are many. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about three of the Middle Sister wines I received as samples. I have a few more to cover in this post. So let’s get going.
Sweet and Sassy Moscato
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of sweet wines so Moscato is not my favorite varietal. However I happened to have a couple of house guests one weekend and one does enjoy sweet wines. I asked them to sample with me.
Tropical pineapple and mango aromas. Flavors of pineapple, peach and a touch of honey. I had just a small glass which reminded me of sweet tea minus the tannins. The sweet wine lover approved of the wine and enjoyed the rest of the bottle.

Varietal – 100% Moscato
Appellation – California
Alcohol – 12.5%
RS – 8.00%
TA g/100mL – 0.72
pH – 3.3
Aged – Steel
SRP – $12

Rebel Red Winemakers Blend
Smokey dark plum and blackberry aromas. Lush flavors of red currant, strawberry and plum with a beautiful leather finish. This was by far my favorite of the Middle Sister Wines. Drinks like a $20 wine.

Varietal – 25% Merlot, 25% Mouvedre, 25% Malbe, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Zinfandel, 5% Carignane
Appellation – 25% Central Coast, 75% Lodi
Alcohol – 13.5%
RS – 0.50%
TA g/100mL – 0.55
pH – 3.75
Aged – 5 mos French Oak
SRP – $12

Wine sipping on the porch in the evenings is back in full swing. I love looking out at the Dogwoods and seeing more and more red leaves each day. I also notice the days are getting shorter and it’s dark by 8:00 PM. Some nights we just light a few lanterns and enjoy the outdoors, knowing in a few months we’ll bundle up and eventually just drink wine by the fireplace in the evenings. All that’s missing is a bearskin rug. Guess we’ll have to snuggle up to our dog Rooster instead.

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Middle Sister Wines

I started this blog in August 2009 as an outlet, a voice if you will. I had just lost my full middle-sister-20150602-wine-bottlestime status at my job of 10 years and I was angry, actually I was pissed. My husband and I had just married in May and I already felt like a burden, like I wasn’t pulling my own weight. I knew I wouldn’t make money as a blogger but I needed something to do with my extra time.
I enjoyed wine and figured I could learn more about it and share my experiences at the same time. I wasn’t sure if anyone was reading my words but I kept at it and in just a few months I received an email from a PR firm, asking if I would like to sample Cakebread Cabernet. My response, Hell Yeah! And so it began, I knew someone was reading and liking what they saw.

Over the years I’ve changed positions at my paying gig, sometimes I had more time than others to spend on my blog but there was definitely a decrease in posts.

Fast forward to August 2015, I began working full time again and find I have less time to spend on my blog. Oh I still drink the wine and I still take notes but carving out the time to put my words out for the rest of you to read has been a challenge. But, I vow to try to do better and to up my posts to if not weekly at the very minimum bi-weekly. So, without further ado, onto this week’s wines, and there are several.
Back in June I received a variety of samples for Middle Sister Wines. I had tried one or two years ago but have to say, I had no idea there were so many labels. Some how every time I pick up a bottle I hear, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”

Surfer Chick Sauvignon Blanc
Peach and citrus aromas and just a hint of minerality. Tropical mango and white peach flavors with a touch of sweet honey in the finish. An easy drinking summer wine.
Varietal – 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation – California
Alcohol – 13.5%
RS – 0.63%
TA g/100mL – 0.58
pH – 3.36
Aged – steel

Mischief Maker Cabernet Sauvignon
Bing cherry and jam aromas. Flavors were unusual as I detected cinnamon apple with a finish of cardamom and anise. I found the flavors wonderful; it was like fall in a glass. Maybe I was just ready for fall to arrive.
Varietal – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation – California
Alcohol – 13.7%
RS – 0.40%
TA g/100mL – 0.56
pH – 3.63
Aged – 18 months in French oak

Wild One Malbec
Rustic and woody dark berry aromas. Fresh off the vine blackberry, a touch of Bing cherry and a hint of vanilla in the finish. It was a bit one dimensional but still easy drinking.
We paired this one with handmade pizzas. One a simple Margherita topped with fresh from the garden tomatoes, basil from our garden and Trader Joe’s mozzarella. The other made with fresh eggplant, Andouille sausage and Kalamata olives.
Varietal – 100% Malbec
Appellation – Mendoza, Argentina
Alcohol – 12.7%
RS – 0.05%
TA g/100mL – 0.63
pH – 3.51
Fermentation – Aged 5 months in French barrels

Goodie Two Shoes Pinot Noir
Aromas of cherry and leather. Bright juicy plum and red fruit flavors with a hint of fig in the finish. Light bodied and low tannins. I’m very picky about Pinot Noir and I have to say, I didn’t hate this one. That’s saying a lot coming from me.
Varietal – 100% Pinot Noir
Appellation – California
Alcohol – 13.5%
RS – 0.50%
TA g/100mL – 0.59
pH – 3.65

Time really does fly, I just renewed my domain for another year. When people ask, “How many followers do you have?” My response is always “I don’t really know. I don’t keep track.”
Them: “Really? Take a guess.”
Me: “Seriously. It’s not something that’s important to me. I don’t do this to see how many followers I can get.”
Maybe that makes me a bad blogger but that’s just me. I’m not in it for the attention. I’m in it for me.

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Cartlidge and Browne Merlot and Chardonnay

Is it the destination or is it the journey? My husband will tell you he’s all about the journey

Columbia, IL - Mississippi River in the background

Columbia, IL – Mississippi River in the background

and mostly I just want to get to the destination. Sometimes it’s both. Just a few weeks ago I embarked on a road trip or a journey if you will, that took me back to my roots in Southern Illinois and Northern Mid-Missouri.

The main reason for my trip was to celebrate my great-aunt’s 95th birthday but I decided to turn it into a real road trip. I set out on a Tuesday and made my way to Metropolis where I had booked a room at Harrah’s Casino for the night. I came to Metropolis to find my great-grandparents home and their graves. I have an old scrap book that belonged to my great-grandmother with an address of a home where she once lived. Sadly, the house was no longer there, just a vacant lot and apparently has been vacant for many decades. I thought maybe I would recognize some structures from all of the pictures I have from her. Well the pictures were from the early 1900’s and like all things, the town had changed. It looked a bit sad and run down.

Waterloo, IL downtown

Waterloo, IL downtown

The next day I took my time getting to Waterloo, IL, the small German town where my mom grew up and where I lived until moving to Florida at the age of four. I took a two lane road that went through quaint small towns with beer signs hung outside of taverns (I love these types of bars) where tidy little houses lined the main street with beautiful flower gardens.

Once I arrived in town, it took a few minutes to get my directional bearings but soon I was driving passed the familiar buildings on Main Street, the brick bandstand where they still hold summer band concerts and old neighborhoods. As I drove around I felt the nostalgia roll over me. It was strange to return, knowing my granny and so many of others I’ve known my entire life, are no longer living. Surrounded by familiar sights I remembered the fond memories I have of this small yet growing town.

You know you can’t have a good road trip without good wine (enjoy after the driving is done for the day please) I brought along a couple of samples I had received a few weeks ago from Cartlidge and Browne, “The original garage winery”. That seemed fitting for a road trip.


Merlot – 2013
Purple plum and strawberry aromas. Bright and juicy flavors of plum and black cherry. Firm tannins with a dry albeit short finish.
Appellation – North Coast
Alcohol – 13.5%
pH – 3.57
Total Acidity – 0.57
I paired this with a wonderful hamburger I got from the bar at Harrah’s Signature Bar. I enjoyed one glass of wine at the bar while waiting for my burger and fries and high tailed it to my room to enjoy the burger and Cartlidge and Browne.
Chardonnay – 2013
Ripe peach aromas. Creamy and mellow lychee and peach flavors with the slightest hint of butter in the finish. An easy drinking wine on a hot Midwestern evening while watching the fire flies light up the night.
Appellation – North Coast
Alcohol – 13.5%
pH – 3.41
Total Acidity – 0.6
I now have proof that wine keeps you young and is good for your health. I took a picture of my 95 year old great-aunt (who still lives in her own home) enjoying a glass of wine that I immediately posted to Facebook, she was a hit. To protect her privacy, I won’t post here but she’s tipping back that glass of wine.

During my trip I had the opportunity to connect with relatives I last saw when I was too

Original log house on family homestead

Original log house on family homestead

young to remember, to some who I haven’t seen in over a decade and even some who I only know from their grave sites. The trip actually seemed to be a bit of a cemetery tour as I visited the graves of 3 sets of great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. Along the way I learned more about my family history. I visited some family homesteads, some in need of a little attention and one lovingly

Original log house on family homestead

Original log house on family homestead

Original barn on old family homestead

Original barn on old family homestead

restored to its original state of a log house. I really think I should reclaim this property as it sits on 246 acres with beautiful sunny open areas with gorgeous flower gardens. Other areas have been allowed to go back to prairie and provide refuge for the wild life and fowl. Some areas are being reforested (my great-grandparents grew Christmas trees on this property, so this seemed fitting). Given that so much of what I knew as corn fields has been developed into ticky tacky houses, it was nice to know there are still people who believe in preserving the land.

Unfortunately I’m unable to make this an annual trip but I promise it won’t take me 16 years to get back to this town I love.


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