Ready to wine down and chill? Perhaps you’d like to hop over to Instagram where you can find wine art and photography at #WineDownAndChill. Follow me there then return here each Friday to find food, movie, wine and music recommendations that are paired in a theme. Read on for an easy, no-recipe-required fabulous dinner paired with an affordable wine, some music, and a viewing suggestion. We’re here to help you sit back, wine down and chill.
It’s been a crappy week. Hello, weekend!
Bloodthirsty for Merlot
This isn’t the first Friday the 13th of the year. Back in September, 13 weeks ago to be exact, we had the unusual phenomenon of a full moon on a hallowed day, something we won’t see again until 2049. And, it was a Harvest Moon to make things all that much more “extra.” We celebrated with wine down and chill recommendations of a wine, dinner, and movie tied into the moon theme. Today, we’re celebrating vampires who reportedly don’t just surface at Halloween, but they also make an Earthly appearance on every Friday the 13th.
Do you have your garlic necklace around your throat to protect you?
A bloody good Merlot
All year, we’ve been using our wine down and chill column to debunk the myth that only expensive wines taste great. Not so! Don’t let this week’s $12 per bottle price tag trip you up. This affordable Merlot by Vampire Vinyeards could easily pass as a more expensive option – if you blindfolded the taster. One of the more interesting aspects of this wine, according to its vintner, is its coveted blend of “mystical grapes” which it has been perfecting since it first debuted in 1988.
This wine is aged in oak to smooth and round out the flavors. Doing so imparts woody and toasted notes which nicely complement the black cherry and faint herbal aromas that you’ll be able to catch if you focus on what you’re tasting.
When you’ve finished your wine, keep the bottle to use as a candlestick holder for red, high-drip candles as part of your Halloween party décor next year.
Merlot – the other red wine
Merlot grapes are famous for their dark fruit flavors and originated in France on Bordeaux’s right bank. Merle is the French word for blackbird and is thought to be the inspiration behind the varietal’s name. Wines made from this grape, and blends, were enormously popular throughout the 1990s and 2000s until 2004 when the film, Sideways, boosted Pinot Noir consumption ahead of Merlot, which has since been dethroned by Cabernet Sauvignon – a wine down and chill fave.
Grown in Italy, Spain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Switzerland, Bulgaria, China, France and the US, Merlot grapes are recognized for their medium body, low tannins and acidity (relative to other red wines) and ease of cultivation. These attributes spurred widespread plantings of the vines in sub-optimal growing conditions which didn’t have the cool temperatures and clay soils that aid moisture retention. As a result, low-quality Merlots flooded the market which destroyed its prominence.
A bloody soup
When you think of vampires, images of Transylvania and the Urals of Russia come to mind. Which triggers thoughts of local culinary classics, like this bloody beet soup, Borscht. My dad makes an excellent version of it. The more garlic the better – gotta keep those bloodsuckers away!
Five ingredients and five steps
One, boil beets in vegetable or chicken broth. Peeling them is difficult so you may opt to buy pre-peeled, partially cooked beets.
Two, fry up some onions and garlic, which is pretty much the base for just about every dish regardless of ethnic origin.
Three, chop up some peeled potatoes into bite-sized chunks.
Four, ditto for carrots.
Five, season and garnish with fresh dill.
Adding red cabbage or chunks of pork is optional. A dollop of sour cream makes it look pretty and adds some nice flavor as well. Pour yourself a glass. It’s time to wine down and chill.
Watch the V Wars – if you dare
I rarely watch TV but do watch at least one, if not two movies per week. However, when I do watch TV, it tends to be an all-out binge event. Last week, on December 5, with the debut of another Netflix original, Season 1 of V Wars, was the second such event of the year (Stranger Things was the other Netflix binge-watch). After consuming 10 episodes, 45 minutes each, in about 8 hours straight, I emerged from my couch in the wee hours with bloodshot eyes, all alone: my family abandoned me for sensible bedtimes. Watching horror movies, by one’s self, in the dark, in the middle of the night heightens the senses and makes the experience all the more, well, interesting.
The original thesis of the series captured my attention from the opening scene given that I’m a science nerd and (former) genetics geek. As a result of climate change, historic pathogens are reappearing. Some, with even greater virulence. This is fact, bolstered by scientific evidence and it is also where the series diverges from science and fact and enters the realm of vampires and entertainment. Through accidental exposure to the pathogens, some people (those with a genetic co-factor) develop super-human abilities. However, they also evolve into vampires and must feast on human blood to sustain themselves.
Apparently, viewers were polarized by the show and it’s unclear if it will be renewed for a second full or partial season, if at all. Another aspect of the series that I really liked, besides the smoldering cast which boasts household names like Ian Somerhalder, Adrian Holmes, Laura Vandervoort, and many others, is that it may be the best example of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. Plus, the diversity seemed natural, not contrived. And it accurately reflected our own society with inter-racial and LGBTQIA couples. Bravo!
Wine down and chill but don’t forget to look under the bed. Just don’t go down to the basement. Ever. It never, ever, ever ends well.