Valle Reale Wine Review

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Everybody in Arlington thinks that they live in the best neighborhood, but I really do. On my street we don’t just get together for block parties, we regularly have backyard barbecues, game nights, afternoons with the Patriots and dinners together. And the food is always extraordinary. But on Friday, after a week at work when everyone just wants to hang out, we often throw together a big green salad order a couple of pizzas and holler to the ‘hood that the door is open.

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Since the venerable Nicola’s closed, we don’t have a regular place for pizza but, as long as there a hot cherry peppers on top, I’m good—so we’ve sampled lots of local places. This Friday, it was two large pizzas from the Northender Italian Kitchen in Arlington Heights. We got a plain cheese and a sausage, onion and hot cherry pepper (my favorite) and put out the call to the neighbors.
I’ve discovered that same way it can elevate a burger from fast food to fine dining, a nice glass of wine can make a takeout pizza feel like a meal in a trattoria. I had a bottle of Valle Reale Montepulcano D’Abruzzo (2010) and when I called in the pizza, I opened the wine to let it breathe a bit. We lit a fire in the fireplace, and the neighbors came in, grabbed a paper plate, a slice of pizza and pile their plates with salad. The fire was roaring and for a while, no one spoke. It was the silence of contentment. Then Dave said “Hey, what’s this wine? It’s pretty good.”  I poured myself a glass and took a sip. He was right.
I like a Montepulcano because it’s bold enough to hold up to hearty food without the strong tannins that I sometimes associate with Italian wine. The Valle Reale Montepulcano D’Abruzzo (2010) was a deep rich red—almost purple. The first sip was satiny and offered notes of blackberry, a bit of mineral and even a hint of chocolate as it lingered on my tongue. I sipped again and swore that I tasted vanilla. I piled some arugula salad on top of my pizza and took a bite.

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While I wasn’t exactly transported to a trattoria in the Italian foothills, it was a delicious combination and made even better by the wine, the company and the prospect of a weekend ahead.

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The neighborhood fun continued on Sunday when my neighbor Nancy, christened her new family room by inviting a gang in for an early supper, followed by football. The Patriots were playing Kansas City— which I think called for ribs, but Nancy made a wild mushroom and pasta dish that felt like pure comfort food. I pulled together another huge salad and brought another bottle of the Valle Reale Montepulcano D’Abruzzo (2010). While some thought that white wine would pair well, I found that the earthiness of the mushrooms was perfect with the Montepulcano. Others agreed and I congratulated them on their ability to cast aside outdated ideas like: “only drink white wine with mushrooms.”  But the real congratulations of the night went to the Patriots. What a great game! What a great neighborhood!

Thanks for reading, Carol Band

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The Huntsman

The Huntsman

The holidays were hectic. Beginning at Thanksgiving (actually, Halloween…) it’s been cooking, hunting for Tupperware tops, laundry, houseguests and dishes. It’s been fun, but I welcome getting back to the routine and a little peace and quiet. That’s why when my husband called at 5pm on Tuesday and said that he’d be working late, I was happy to have a few hours of solitude and meatloaf in the oven.

The week before, with house guests in tow, we had gone to TWK in Winchester for a burger. If I have a burger in the afternoon, I usually get a beer, but at night I’ll order a glass of red wine to elevate the burger to a higher cuisine. That’s what I did at TWK. The burger was delicious, but the wine really blew me away. Served by the glass, The Huntsman Cabernet Sauvignon from Ross Andrew in Washington’s Columbia Valley was silky, smooth and delicious.

I had two glasses and stopped by Mystic Wine Shoppe on my way home to see if they carried it. They do (!) and I picked up a bottle to share with my friends. But, in the flood of New Year’s champagne and morning-after Bloody Mary’s the Huntsman somehow, through the onslaught of guests, remained untouched.

Then, as I pulled the meatloaf out of the oven on that mundane Tuesday night, I wondered…if the Huntsman Cab could make a burger feel special, imagine what it would do for my meatloaf. Ordinarily, I might not open a nice bottle of wine just for myself – but I was savoring the solitude and somehow, it felt like a special occasion. I opened the cabinet, uncorked the bottle, poured a bit and swirled it in the glass. It was a gorgeous color— deep and fragrant. I sipped and tasted blackberries and whiff of vanilla.

I cut a generous slice of meatloaf, buttered a baked sweet potato and served myself some roasted cauliflower. It was a plate of comfort food—a post-holiday celebration of a return to normal. The owner of the vineyard named this wine The Huntsman because he likes to hunt, I imagine that this wine would pair as nicely with venison or wild boar as it did with my meatloaf.

I drank two glasses, corked the bottle and put it in the fridge. I bet it’s fantastic with meatloaf sandwiches, too!

Here’s my meatloaf recipe (it’s not rocket science, so feel free to tweak).

  • 1-½ pounds of ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 large sweet onion chopped
  • 1-½ cups of old fashioned oats
  • Salt to taste
  • A generous sprinkling of pepper
  • Squirt of ketchup
  • Squish mixture until well blended then shape into loaf pan.
  • Frost generously with a mixture of ketchup, mustard and brown sugar.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and done (about an hour).

Written by one of our wine guru’s, Carol Bend 

Featured Bourbon: Macallan Rare Cask

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Macallan knows a thing or two about whisky, in fact, they know about everything. With their new batch, they sought out to create an experience along with the action of drinking. The November release makes Rare Cask a new member of the prized Macallan collection, but a top tier bottle at that. IMG_6667 2

This carefully mastered bottle contains a flavoring of mahogany-red wood at its heart. That deep wood whisky is then showcased with sherry seasoned oak casks and lightened with natural color. The scent of Rare Cask leaves you with notes of vanilla and sweet citruses.

“Rare Cask combines knowledge, skill, passion, commitment and creativity to create a remarkable whisky worthy of its name. Crafted to showcase complexity and depth, Rare Cask is drawn from the broadest spectrum of casks used in maturation on The Macallan Estate.”

If you aren’t already familiar with Macallan and their collection, here’s a shot of info. Their beautiful distillery is located in Scotland surrounded by a 485 acre estate. The surrounding environment, including the woods, rivers, and plateaus have always been an inspiration to the Macallan flavors. Their obsession with quality and mastery is unmatched, and is a main reason behind being one of our personal favorites.

We have a limited amount left, here, at Mystic Wine Shoppe. This is definitely an addition you do not want to miss out on. A new taste for collectors and connoisseurs, yet also a great introduction into becoming a whisky fanatic. 

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Guess who’s coming to dinner? It’s Ken Forrester – He loves a good meal!

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I am fortunate that when my daughter was in elementary school, she picked her friends well.  What I mean is that she hung out with a group of elementary school girls whose parents I adore.

Best of all, everyone lives within a few blocks of each other. So, twenty years later, the girls have all gone their separate ways, but we parents, now a group of empty nesters, continue to see each other almost every weekend for dinners, election night gatherings, holidays, birthdays and lots of laughs.

This group is bound not just by our parenting experiences but we also we share a passion for politics, travel, the love of a good argument and we are all devoted to creating good food. It doesn’t have to be fancy, (we’ve had amazing hot dog and bean dinners- homemade beans, of course-) but it’s always delicious.
Last Saturday at Andrea and Dennis’ house on Jason Street, was no exception. In fact, Andrea is probably the most serious cook in the group. She worked as a professional caterer and also had her own business providing meals to go that she made at home.  And, she knows wine. So a dinner at Andrea’s means that not only do I agonize over what to make for a dessert or appetizer, I also put some serious thought into the bottle of wine that I’ll bring to share.

Pork and chorizo stew was on the menu. Andrea had suggested a Gewürztraminer
(white and light) but I went with a red and matched the earthy flavors in the stew with a silky yet substantial Ken Forrester Renegade 2013, a blend of Grenache and Syrah from South Africa. I was glad I did.

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This wine did exactly what wine is supposed to do. It complimented the food (not that Andrea’s cooking needs any enhancement!). The slight heat in the stew, along with the green rice, spiced with poblano papers set the wine off perfectly and revealed its subtle notes of plum, black olive and a trace of chocolate that made me pour myself another glass to accompany the bourbon chocolate cake that someone else had brought for dessert. We lingered over the table, went back for seconds on the pork stew, sliced a little more off the chocolate cake, cleaned up the edges of my lemon meringue pie and were reminded again of just how lucky were are to have daughters with such exquisite taste in parents. Here’s to old friends, a new wine and to friends who can cook!

 

Thanks for reading, Carol Band

December’s Eggnog Cocktail

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Tis the season to be merry, buy gifts and drink eggnog cocktails! This month we’re pulling out the good old eggnog to create a warming cocktail that will have you singing “fa la la la la la la” all evening long. Feeling weary about using eggnog in your cocktail, don’t! This smooth, bold and delicious drink makes the perfect mate with vodka and other spirits.  Read on for all the tasty details…

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Ounces Vodka (we used Kettle One Vodka)
  • 1 Cup Eggnog
  • 3 TBSP Cinnamon & Sugar (for rim and topping)
  • 2 TBSP Chocolate sauce

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Mix It UP:

  • Pour vodka, eggnog and 1 TBSP of chocolate sauce into a shaker and Shake Shake Shake
  • To make rim:
    • place the chocolate sauce on a plate
    • mix cinnamon & sugar together and place on a plate
    • place the top of the cup into chocolate sauce then into the cinnamon mix
  • Pour the shaken mix into the sugar rimmed cup and enjoy

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Add Ons:

  • This recipe could also be great with Kahlua and/or Baileys

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We hope you enjoy this delicious cocktail with friends and family this holiday season! Thank you for all your continued support.

Your friends at Mystic Wine Shoppe

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Brewery of the Month: Castle Island Brewery

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Our featured brewery this month is located in Norwood, Mass. It’s Castle Island Brewery, sound familiar? This industrial, yet cozy environment provides a fun, welcoming experience with communal tables and board games. Not to mention, they have delicious snacks from Mi Niña tortilla chips, Chico de Gallo salsa, Moody’s, to some Kalahari Biltong jerky. Yum! Depending on the Taproom-v2season, they also have rotating food trucks, giving you a new experience every visit.

Company Founder, Adam Romanow, fell in love with the industry when he dropped his boring desk job for a brewing apprenticeship. In May of 2011, he decided to open a brewery of his very own. Ronamow took his time to research locations and types of brews to ensure a quality brewery. Finally, in March of 2015, Castle Island found its home. They successfully turned an empty warehouse into the beautiful brewery it is today. They even pulled an all-nighter to brew their very first batch of beer. It was a long time coming, but it was the thoughtfulness and passion that has made Castle Island so well-known (and delicious).

Now let’s get to the important part, the brews.

47038511_10101051595840803_5058845023643107328_n (1)Righteous Goals Sour Blonde Ale: This guava mixed brew leaves you with a fruity, tangy taste. This sweet brew contains hops of pilsner, white wheat, and flaked oats. “Proceeds from Righteous GOALS benefit the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association, whose mission is to discover treatments and a cure for ALS, and to serve, advocate for, and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest.”

Keeper New Age India Pale Ale: They really overloaded this brew with hops, including simcoe and cascade. Providing a balance with multiple malts, they packed a punch that even beginners can try. A smooth choice for pros.

Hi-Def Double IPA: This IPA is full of fruity flavors. With bursts of melon, papaya, and tangerine, this beer is beautifully balanced with a touch of honey and heavy hops. Make this a year-round favorite.

Candlepin Hoppy Season Ale: This is your beer for anytime and anywhere. Candlepin is an easy, light brew with a mix of47350049_10101051595800883_4662727607341547520_n (1) columbus and citra. Make this an addition to your next tailgate.

Can’t wait to try them out? You’re in luck. Not only can you visit Castle Island Brewery to get a taste, but we carry all four of these brews at Mystic Wine Shoppe! Stop in and find a new favorite.

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Bourbon Tasting Recap

It was another successful Winter Whiskey tasting! We continue to be so very grateful for the support of this community! Guests enjoyed sampling six delicious Buffalo Trace Bourbons along with locally made snacks.  Everyone was engaged and learned a lot about different bourbons (including us). It’s an annual tasting that we LOVE to host and we can’t wait for next year.  Thanks to everyone who came out and thank you to Buffalo Trace for sharing your Bourbon and knowledge with us.

 

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Thanks again to everyone who joined us! Make sure to visit us for our Friday Beer Tastings from 6-8pm and our Saturday Wine Tastings from 5-7pm.

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The Holiday Spirit is a Phantom: BOGLE PHANTOM 2015

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I’m not Jewish, but my husband is and, as is the case with holidays both secular and religious, it often falls upon the woman to create the traditions…which in my house means food.Potato-Latkes-300x257

So it has come to pass that I, the non-Jew, have become an expert at making latkes. I think that the crisp potato pancakes are the one thing that Hanukkah has over Christmas.

At our annual latke fry on Sunday, I grated both sweet and Yukon gold potatoes and served them with applesauce and sour cream, of course, but also with a hearty bowl of Portuguese kale soup and a romaine-free salad.

The soup is robust and smoky with chorizo and kielbasa, kidney beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and kale. But it cries out for a substantial red wine to elevate it from peasant food to festive holiday fare.

IMG_1318Bogle Phantom 2015 is just that wine.

 

Don’t be intimidated by the label that proclaims “mysterious and hauntingly seductive.” This is a very approachable blend  (44% Petite Sirah, 44% Zinfandel, 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon) that pairs well with comforting winter dishes like beef stew, pork loin and…my kale soup.

The girls and I opened it before dinner, let it breathe a bit and sampled it while pondering the New York Times crossword puzzle. Then we set the kitchen table and poured some for everyone.

It’s smooth but bodacious, yet it doesn’t overwhelm the tongue with tannins. This will become the winter house wine here on Bartlett Avenue.  Even my daughter (a millennial!) who tends to gravitate toward pinot noirs gave this wine high marks. It’s loaded with subtle flavors and it drinks like a high priced bottle. Good thing we had two.

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P.S. I made “Craft Beer Menorahs” for the “kids” and picked up some really interesting local brews to wish them all “Hoppy Holidays!”