Brews, Bites & Bottles

Lucky 7 Strikes Again

Bottles, Bites, Minnesota, Pinks, Reds, Whites, Wine, CheeseNatalie Wright
7 Vines Vineyard and Winery

If there is one Minnesota vineyard and winery I’ve visited that’s not quite like the others, it’s 7 Vines Vineyard & Winery. Nestled back in the winding roads surrounded by the forest of Dellwood, 7 Vines is nothing like you may previously imagine. In the best way.

When you arrive, the picturesque property is filled with greenery, acres of vines, fire pits and patio tables spread outside of the tasting room. 7 Vines planted their first vines back in 2012, and has since grown into 10 acres of Minnesota grapes on the property.

First impression? It was really beautiful. But then, you go inside. And wow, jaw drop. It was the swankiest Minnesota winery I’ve ever set foot in. Modern meets rustic. Clean and bright. Every Joanne Gaines loving, HGTV watcher’s dream.

This visit was extra special as we were celebrating one of my best friend’s birthdays. In true wine-o, gotta try them all fashion, we each order a flight (she ordered the Marquette, True North, & Cabernet; I ordered the Riesling, Frontenac Rosé, & Marquette) as well as a Charcuterie & Cheese Plate. Because, cheese.

I really enjoyed the Rosé, but the Marquette ended up being the fan favorite, so we ordered an additional glass of that one.

From the property itself, the tasting room atmosphere, the snacks, and also the wine, 7 Vines is a must try. As if that wasn’t enough, please give this Minnesota winery an extra gold star by adding “memories” to the pro’s list, as it ended up being the place I asked my wonderful friend to be the Matron of Honor in mine and Pharaoh’s wedding next year (she said yes, for the record).

In short, I highly recommend. For the place, for the wine, for the mems.

The Perfect Summer Spritzer

Bottles, Local, Minnesota, Party, Reds, WineNatalie WrightComment
Raspberry Lime Spritzer Recipe

In these dog days of summer, there's nothing better than cooling off with something bubbly and refreshing.

For me, it's been a fantastic summer full of happy hours, time with friends and family, weekend getaways, and lots of A+ snacks and beverages. Oh, and did I mention I got engaged?! Hands down the highlight of these summer months, and also, 2018 in general.

Enjoying the last moments of sweet summertime was my inspiration for this latest recipe: a raspberry lime red wine spritzer.

Saint Croix Vineyards Summer Red is always a favorite of mine this time of year. A medium bodied, semi-sweet red wine that is served chilled with notes of raspberry and cherry. This wine is truly multi-purpose. Use it in sangria, use it in mulled wine, use it in a spritzer.

This recipe uses semi-sweet red, fresh fruit and carbonated water to make the ideal summer beverage.

Here's what you'll need for 6 servings of this refreshing drink:

  • 1 bottle semi-sweet red wine, chilled
  • 1 bottle flavored sparkling water, I used raspberry blackberry
  • 3 limes
  • 1 container fresh raspberries
  1. Add raspberries to the bottom of a glass.
  2. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the raspberries.
  3. Pour wine over the raspberries to fill halfway.
  4. Fill to the top with sparkling water.
  5. Enjoy!

What's your favorite beverage to enjoy during the hot summer months?

Raspberry Lime Wine Spritzer Recipe

Lowertown Stop to Black Dog Cafe

Bottles, Local, Minnesota, Pinks, WineNatalie Wright
Black Dog Cafe

Over the weekend, it was the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. We decided to go down to Mears Park to listen to some great music and enjoy the beautiful weather, but beforehand, we made a pit stop at Black Dog Cafe.

This lowertown spot has been open for the last 20 years, and is an awesome spot to grab coffee in the morning, a quick bite, or come for dinner and drinks to enjoy some tunes. Black Dog frequently has events like live jazz, blues and more.

Over the years, they've become a staple in the St Paul community for people to gather for all occasions.

We've visited the Black Dog several times for music and drinks, but this time the weather was beautiful and the mood was easy.

We chose a glass of sparkling rosé (apparently I'm really into rosés lately) and the Lazy Hazy cocktail. Both were equally refreshing and the perfect compliment to a warm summer night.

What's your favorite local spot in the summertime?

A Pick for Rosé Season

Bottles, Wine, Roses, Pinks, FrenchNatalie Wright
Cote Des Roses Rose

Summer is upon us. 

Long days of sunshine. Warmer temperatures. Snacks by the pool. What is the perfect addition to this combination? Rosé. 

We tried out a new rosé this week that proved sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover.

Côte des Roses is a rosé from the French vineyard Gérard Bertrand. Côte des Roses does come in a red and white wine, as well.

Upon first glance, you'll notice this wine is very pretty as its pretty pale pink color is exhibited in a bottle with a gold rose that happens to perfectly match an beautiful rose etching at the bottom of the bottle.

Cote Des Roses Rose Bottle

The amazing characteristics of the bottle may make you concerned that the product won't live up to the hype, but you would be wrong. This. Rosé. Is. Excellent.

Full of fruity and floral notes, this light wine has the perfect balance of sweet and crispness. Ideal for a hot summer evening with appetizers on the patio.

If you are looking for a new, refreshing summer wine, may I suggest this one? Do it for the bottle, at the very least.

Cheers!

Yes Way Rose

Weekend Wineries Series: Part 2

Bottles, Bites, Local, Minnesota, Reds, Whites, WineNatalie Wright
Winehaven

Here we are with Round 2 of the Weekend Wineries Series! This week's feature is Winehaven Winery and Vineyard in Chisago City, Minnesota. This one provided a memorable experience.

As you drive up to the vineyard, it made me immediately think of Napa Valley in the way that the building is designed, as well as the picturesque vines lined up alongside the driveway.

A few things I really enjoyed about our time at Winehaven:

  • Learning about the history of the vineyard. Winehaven is a family run establishment that started with honey wine. Apparently, making wine with honey is incredibly difficult, so when the owner tried his hand at it and received blue ribbon results, he was encouraged to try making wine with grapes as that was much easier and he would likely be good at that, too. And (in my opinion) that was correct.
  • Being able to pick your own wine to taste on the menu. The tasting menu provided great variety and had a little something for everyone. My personal favorites were the Marquette Reserve and the Honey Wine.
  • The cheese tray. It had merlot asiago as one of the cheese options which is one of my absolute favorites, so I was very satisfied.

Beautiful grounds, family history, excellent wine and a great experience overall.

Highly recommend this one if you are in the area!

Check out Part 1 of my Weekend Wineries Series.

Weekend Wineries Series: Part 1

Bottles, Cabernet, Local, Reds, Whites, WineNatalie Wright
Chateau St. Croix

Over the weekend, we took a little trip up to the Taylor's Falls area and went to a couple different vineyards while we were there. This post will be part 1 in a series about local wineries.

To start us off, I give you Chateau St. Croix in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

I'm pretty excited to share this one because I tried 6 different wines while I was there and I loved every single one of them. Let me tell you, that's a pretty rare find.

Chateau St. Croix  is regal and memorable from the moment you pull up. Modeled after a chateau in France, this vineyard has been growing its grapes since 2004. They source most of their varieties of grape from right on their property, as well as some that get sourced from out west.

While we were there, we did a tour which proved to be informative and interesting, as well as a tasting which included our choice of wines. My favorites were the Cabernet Reserve and the Chateau Rogue. But, again, I really did love them all.

Did I mention there's also a deli and an art gallery on site? We didn't get a chance to do those this time around, but we will definitely have to go back and check them out.

I would highly recommend coming to visit Chateau St. Croix if you are in the area. The atmosphere, service and wines all make for an excellent experience! Photos just don't do it justice.

  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Service: 10
  • Wine: 10

Cheers, friends!

Chateau St Croix Tasting

Gift Roundup: 9 Things Buy a Wine Lover

Bottles, Cabernet, California Grapes, Local, Merlot, Reds, Party, Whites, WineNatalie Wright
Gifts to Buy a Wine Lover

If there's anything I love more than wine, it's giving gifts. I've always loved trying to figure out the perfect gift to buy someone, whether it be for their birthday, housewarming gift or just because.

Below, you'll find a roundup of items you can buy for that person in your life who loves wine! These are fun things that a person may not buy for themselves, but are also still useful (which is my favorite kind of gift).

Also note: I did not include the actual gift of wine on this list, but obviously buying a bottle of wine for someone who loves wine is never a bad option.

Enjoy!

  1. Vacu Vin Wine Sealer: for those who don't finish a bottle of wine in one night.
  2. Wine Club Membership: a great gift to encourage someone to try wines they normally wouldn't.
  3. Haley's Corker: pours, stops, aerates and does all the things.
  4. Wine Charms: perfect for people who like to host parties.
  5. Outdoor Wine Glasses: with summer approaching, plastic (but still classy) glasses are a must!
  6. Wine Making Kit: for the DIYer in your life, why not help them try their hand at making wine at home?
  7. Houdini Corkscrew: a savior for those who are challenged when it comes to opening bottles of wine.
  8. Recycled Wine Bottle Candle: what could be better than a candle that looks like wine and smells like wine?
  9. Reusable Wine Tote: has saved me so many times when at the liquor store.

Wine is the Best Souvenir

Cabernet, California Grapes, Bottles, Reds, WineNatalie Wright
Deerfield Reserve Cabernet

I personally have never been to Sonoma County, but, people have brought me back things from there. Wine really does make a great gift.

This wine in particular was gifted to me by my parents who just came home from Sonoma a few weeks ago. They were so generous as to bring me back this bottle from Deerfield Ranch Winery.

Though I haven't been to this winery myself, I heard nothing but great things about their experience and man, was this an A+ bottle of wine.

Deerfield's 2013 Cabernet Reserve blends together a combination of (mostly) Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aged for 30 years in French and American oak barrels, it has a beautiful, medium-heavy body with jam flavors and a dash of spice.

This wine stands well on its own, but if you're looking to pair food with this Cabernet, rich pasta or meat dishes (if you partake) would go nicely.

Let's have a round of applause for Mama and Papa Wright, and Deerfield Ranch, shall we?

Merlot vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

Bottles, Cabernet, California Grapes, Reds, Wine, MerlotNatalie Wright
Merlot vs. Cabernet

Am I the only one who can't really tell the difference between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon? To me, they seem to (generally) be drier, medium-heavy bodied wines that come from California that I very much enjoy drinking.

So, I sought out to find the differences. When I did so, I found that there were actually a lot of similarities between the two (I guess I shouldn't be surprised):

  • Origin: both varieties of grapes originated in Bordeaux, France in the 15th century. 
  • Where They're Grown Now: you can find these grapes in many places now, like certain parts of California, France, Australia, etc. and for the most part they do still share the same region of growth. 
  • Climate: both grapes are dependent on their climate. Cooler climates lead to a drier wine with earthy flavor and higher tannins. Warmer climates lead to a fruitier flavor and less tannin. 
  • Oak-Aged: both Merlot and Cabernet are aged in oak barrels.

So, yes, there are many similarities that can be found between the two wines. Which, again, brings me to the question: how are they different? So, here we go. Unique characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot:

Cabernet: best grown on soil that has gravel to allow for more absorption of heat which leads to faster ripened grapes. Cabernet has higher tannin levels which makes it a grape that can stand alone rather than in a blend. Best to pair with heavier, rich foods (due to tannins).

Merlot: best grown on soil that has clay to allow the growth process to be cooler and the grape can be slower to ripen. Merlot is typically blended with other grapes which is what gives it less tannins and a lighter body than you'll find in a Cabernet. Best paired with lighter dishes.

There you have it! A brief breakdown of differences between the mysterious Merlot and Cabernet grapes. Are there any wines you have a hard time telling the difference between?

 

For Your Valentine: Red Wine Hot Chocolate

Bottles, California Grapes, Reds, Wine, ChocolateNatalie Wright
Red Wine Hot Chocolate

Just in time for Valentine's Day: a new, rich chocolate treat to make and enjoy with someone you care about, or keep all the deliciousness for yourself.

Red Wine Hot Chocolate. 

I'll admit, at first this sounded a little strange, but this treat combines two of my favorite things so we thought we'd give it a whirl.

The ingredients were simple: 

  • 1/2 Bottle Red Wine (we used a red blend)
  • 4 Cups 2% Milk
  • 2/3 Cup Dark Chocolate Chunks or Melting Chocolate

All you need to do is combine the milk and chocolate chunks on the stove and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Add in your red wine and stir until the drink is warm. Pour in mugs and enjoy. That's it! Super simple.

But man, did it hit the spot. A rich drink that is warming and the perfect addition to a cold night. It had a great chocolate flavor with just a hint of taste from the red wine, nothing too overpowering.

This one is definitely a winner that we'll make again this chilly season.

Jumping into 2018 + New PNW Wine

Bottles, Bites, Local, Reds, Wine, Pacific NorthwestNatalie Wright
Photo Jan 02, 7 15 25 PM.jpg

Happy 2018, friends! 

It was a whirlwind of a holiday season, hence my blogging absence the last month. With amazing travels and family milestones under my belt, I'm excited to jump back into the swing of things and create an ebb and flow for the new year.

I love New Years because it is a fresh start, a reset button. With Brews, Bites and Bottles this year, I'm excited to take this opportunity to grow and try out new techniques and skills to express my love for some of my favorite things.

Speaking of my favorites, I received a gift for Christmas that I want to share. Living in the Midwest, there's a certain variety of smaller scale vineyards we get the opportunity to try. So, I'm always excited when I get to try local wines from other regions of the country.

This wine comes from the state of Washington in the Walla Walla Valley. I can't get over how fun that name is. This Syrah is accredited to Amavi Cellars, a vineyard that is 100% sustainable and is "committed to making a positive impact both within our estate vineyards and within our community."

This 2014 variety has a really nice medium rich body with notes of blueberry, blackberry, and a plum aroma. It had a great balance and it's one that I wish I had easier access to.

The evening we enjoyed this wine, we made vegan tacos with beans, rice, peppers, corn, spinach and salsa. I'm out to prove this year that eating vegan doesn't mean salads everyday and boring meals. 

What are you looking forward to in this upcoming year?

Warming Up the Season with Mulled Wine

Bottles, Local, Minnesota, Reds, Wine, PartyNatalie Wright
Photo Nov 24, 6 00 47 PM.jpg

I think I should add a tab to my blog that’s titled “treats to help get through winter.” Because here’s another one for you!

During the cold winter months, I love to cozy up in a blanket on the couch next to our Christmas tree with a warm beverage. Tea will do. Coffee is great. But, wine? Yes. Please, count me in.

Over the weekend, we made mulled wine in our crock pot and it was a delight. This recipe can be made over the stove, too. Both forms are easy and you can just stick the lid on the pot and let it do it’s thing.

For our mulled wine, we used a bottle of Saint Croix Vineyard’s Summer Red, mulling spices and a little brown sugar. Since it was just the two of us, one bottle was enough. If you’d like to make more than enough for 2, I recommend using a 4:1 ratio of semi sweet red blend to one part Zinfandel (not White Zinfandel, the red kind). You can use a variety of mulling spices, we just used one that came in a sachet so we could just toss it in.

This certainly isn’t a complex recipe, but it really is a cozy drink that is perfect for this time of year.

Cheers!

Photo Nov 24, 4 13 36 PM.jpg

3 Ways to Store Your Wine & Keep it Fresh

Bottles, Whites, Wine, RedsNatalie Wright
bacchus-delight-1514323.jpg

How do you store your wine? Do you have a wine rack? A cellar? Do you just set the bottle on top of the fridge and call it a day?

When you stock up on wine, there are a few important things to note when storing it to make sure it is delicious upon opening the bottle. Some factors may be easier than others depending on where you live but, for the most part, they are adaptable for most spaces.

  1. Controlled temperature: preferably on the cool side (around 55 degrees) as heat causes wine to age further and change the taste of the wine as it makes it go bad quicker. It is critical to make sure that the wine stays at around the same, consistent temperature. Temperature fluctuations may make the wine expand and contract within the bottle, causing the cork to either dry out or seep through. 
  2. Upside down or on its side: storing the bottle either on its side or upside down helps keep the cork from drying out. If the bottle is a screw top, there’s no need to worry about this step. Storing bottles on their side can be a more efficient use of space, but this one is more of a personal preference. The important thing is to keep the cork from drying out.
  3. Keep in a dark space: light can cause the wine to prematurely age, especially UV Rays.Turning the lights off or keep in a space where there isn’t much natural light is the best way to go to keep your wine fresh.

What do you do to help keep your wine fresh until you open the bottle?

 

The Sweetest MN Orchard

Bottles, Local, MinnesotaNatalie Wright
Photo Sep 23, 2 55 02 PM.jpg

Sweetland Orchard, located in Webster, Minnesota, is a charming, family run orchard nestled just 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities area. Specializing in hard cider, as well as apples and pears, this is the perfect place to go in the fall if you're in the mood for a laid back, fun experience.

The space is picturesque, and the perfect spot to relax with friends and family with their provided yard games, lawn chairs, picnic tables, and scenic views. 

Inside the barn, you're able to do apple, pear and cider tastings. Try out different apples and pears, find which you like, and create your own peck to take home with you. My two favorites: Sweet Sixteen and Honeycrisp.

In addition to the apples, be sure to try the cider! Sweetland has excellent ciders with different flavor varieties to try. My two favorites: Scrumpy's Cherry Rhubarb and Perennial.

I'd highly recommend a visit to Sweetland Orchard. If you aren't able to visit the physical location (which would be a shame!), you can also purchase their ciders at the liquor stores listed here.

Cheers, friends!

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Trader Joe's Gem

Bottles, California Grapes, Reds, WineNatalie Wright

Reason I love Trader Joes #849: their unique, affordable and delicious wine selection (we all know that reason is much higher on the list than 849).

I recently tried a new Trader Joe's California Red: Wish Flower. I wasn't planning to write about this wine, to be honest, but it was so good I had to recommend it.

Why I gave it a thumbs up:

  • Its smooth and fruity flavor that had just a hint of cinnamon-y spice.
  • I loved the medium body it had which made it super easy to drink.
  • Wish Flower would be great on its own (and it was) but I also paired it with my leftover Mojo Monkey donuts and that was an excellent pairing, as well.

What are your favorite wines to get at Trader Joe's?

A Day at Alexis Bailly

Bottles, Local, Minnesota, Reds, Whites, WineNatalie Wright

This last week, I had the opportunity to visit the oldest vineyard in Minnesota - Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Located in Hastings, ABV was the first to commercially produce 100% Minnesota grown grapes. This is pretty impressive and needless to say, they are trendsetters. Between their opening in the 1970's to today, Minnesota has added dozens of wineries to the state that grow and produce wine from Minnesota grapes.

Alexis Bailly is charming from the minute you pull up on their grounds. Their property is beautiful and spacious, the perfect place to have a picnic (which they encourage and we did so ourselves), take advantage of the lawn games they provide, or even some live music (on Sundays in the summer they have Jazz music). When you step inside their tasting room, it's like entering a cozy cabin that's ornately decorated with oak barrels, colorful rugs, paintings, and their award winning bottles of wine.

I was able to do a tasting of all of their table wines, my favorite (which  I ended up buying a bottle of) was their Voyageur. A bold red, smooth and full of flavor. I also enjoyed their seasonal Sangria and Country Red.

From start to finish, I really did enjoy my time at the vineyard and appreciated the knowledge the staff, as well as the the variety of activities, spaces and products provided. I would definitely visit again.

Do you have a favorite vineyard to visit where you're from?

3 Simple Rules to Help You Choose a Wine Glass

Bottles, Wine, Whites, Party, Reds, ChampagneNatalie Wright

When it comes to wine glasses, there are many questions I ask myself:

  • Which glass do I use for red wine? 
  • White wine?
  • Champagne?
  • Do I actually need to buy all these things?
  • WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OPTIONS?

So, really. What is the deal with wine glasses? Are all these options really necessary? As is with most things, it is up to the person. But, here are 3 rules of thumb to follow when choosing a wine glass for your vino:

  1. Air = Reaction. When it comes to wine, the flavors, tone, structure and scent are all affected by the amount of air they are exposed to. So, the larger shape of the wine glass, the more air the wine interacts with, which in turn, affects its flavor. Some wines, heavy bodied reds for example, are designed with this in mind so it is recommended that you drink this from a wider rimmed glass so you can aerate (AKA swirl) without spilling the wine. White some wines, like delicate whites, lose their scent with more air exposure so it's recommended to drink them from slimmer shaped glass.
  2. Reign in the bubbles. Celebrating with champagne or sparkling wine? Make sure to drink champ out of flutes or VERY slim glasses so you can keep the carbonation bubbly as long as possible and keeping the aroma for you to enjoy.
  3. Stem is important. As much as I love stemless glasses, stems do serve a purpose: less exposure to heat (your body heat, that is). As we hold stemless glasses, the heat from our hands can affect the taste in a negative way and takes away from your wine tasting experience.

So, there you have it. Just a few of rules when it comes to picking out a wine glass. Now, please excuse me while I clean the dust off of my glassware with stems....

Adventures in White Wine

Bottles, Wine, Whites, California GrapesNatalie Wright

If someone were to ask me if I preferred red, pink or white, I would say RED every single time. When I go to the store to buy red wine, I feel like I know what I'm doing. When it comes to white wine, I feel like a lost puppy.

Last weekend, I was craving something cool and refreshing to go with the hot and humid weather, so decided to go the liquor store down the street and try to find a white wine. I haven't gone on this type of excursion since I was in college and enjoyed the sugary juice varieties of white wine (thanks for the good times, Barefoot Moscato).

After much deliberation and staring at the endless options, I decided on Line 39's Sauvignon Blanc. I thought I remembered that Sav Blanc wasn't as sweet as other types of whites (thankfully I was correct). When I opened up this baby and took my first sip, I was happy. This wine is full of grapefruit flavor and a hint of lemon. Crisp and refreshing, it really was enjoyable for me to drink.

As someone who typically enjoys reds that are on the dry side, this Sauvignon Blanc helped make white wine less scary for me. I think I'll give them another go.

What are your favorite white wines? Clearly, needing recommendations.

Dreaming Tree Hype

Bottles, Wine, CabernetNatalie Wright

I've heard a lot of hype about "Dreaming Tree," the wine that Dave Matthews has a hand in. People have nothing but positive things to say about it, so of course I had to give it a try.

With an emphasis on providing quality and sustainable wines to everyone, I appreciate Dreaming Tree's drive to create wines that reflect the uniqueness of where they're grown: California. We ended up choosing the 2014 Cabernet for our first Dreaming Tree experience. I don't think it will be our last.

This wine has delicious tastes of raspberry, cherry, with just a hint of chocolate. And, boy, is it smooth. The definition of easy drinking, in my opinion. We ended up pairing the cab with some homemade popcorn (can you tell I'm a fan?). We did a half and half mixture of salt and Tony Chachere's creole seasoning.

Life's simple and delicious pleasures are what it's all about.