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.
Cuckoo for cookies
Sweet wines are generally not my thing but they have their place. Many people are introduced to wines with varietals like Riesling and Traminette (which we’ve featured in a previous column). But, it’s the holidays, so all bets are off, it’s time to wine down and chill by mixing things up a bit. Besides, wine calories don’t count at this time of year!
Rieslings are among the sweeter wines, particularly the late harvest options, but they are not as sweet as Moscato (which pretty much raises every hair on the back of my neck and makes me shudder, but that’s just me). They maintain a hefty level of acidity which tones down the sweetness. Hence, they make sense to feature here on our wine down and chill column.
That said, they pair exceptionally well with desserts. Like cookies. In our house, we have a real-life cookie monster. He’s six feet tall and you would not believe how many cookies disappear whenever he’s around. And he’s only blue when there are no more cookies left.
Our Dog Blue
When I first heard the name, Our Dog Blue, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Countless cases later (for me and for gifts – that’s how much I love this Riesling!), I clued in when I visited the winery, Chateau Morrisette. It’s nestled in the hills of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, completely off the beaten track, but the landscape is serene and inviting. Floyd, VA is also home to FloydFest, a music festival that celebrates art, sound, and life: no frowning in Floyd is allowed!
Their gift shop is filled with dog-friendly treats and dog-themed goodies. Not to mention that their wine is sold without mark-up (at their winery, TheDogs.com) which makes it all the more enticing. And their restaurant is cozy, intimate and wondrously decorated this time of year.
The wine bottle is blue, which in of itself is a differentiator. I’ve filled their bottles with battery-powered fairy lights for a nice patio look. The cork has a pawprint on it. As a lover of all things furry, this wine is as great as its label. Priced at $12/bottle, it’s tricky to find outside of the mid-Atlantic but worth the hunt. Plus, they do ship cases – to some states.
For the love of Riesling
Characteristic of Riesling grapes are the notes of fruity melon and apricots with a hint of flowers. Our Dog Blue wine blends Riesling, Traminette and Vidal Blanc for a soft and semi-sweet blend. The wine has a decent dose of acidity (which hails from the Riesling and Vidal Blanc grapes). This is probably why I like it as it’s not too sweet. It’s highly acclaimed, with numerous wins at international wine competitions.
Germany is the recognized leader in Riesling wines. The grape varietal was originally planted and harvested from the Rhine region, particularly those grown on the banks of the Mosel River. FYI, if you get the chance, take a river wine cruise over there, the wineries and castles are fabulous!
Lucky for us on this side of the pond, German vines were grafted decades ago onto new growth vines in Southern Ontario (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Australia, New Zealand, and the mid-Atlantic where the rocky, drier terroir contributes to the good flavor of the grapes. This varietal has been a popular mainstay in wine down and chill culture since Medieval Times with the first mention dating back to 1546.
Pineapple, peach, and pear notes are the ones most commonly associated with Rieslings. Even at cold temperatures, which is how they should be served (break out the ice-cubes!), the aromas jump out of the glass. Blending rieslings is not a common practice. Neither is oak-aging them.
Embrace your inner cookie monster
It’s the holidays. Things are already full-on at home, at work and you don’t have time to be futzing around in the kitchen making 20 different varieties of cookies. Plus, this is “wine down and chill” so the whole point is to keep things easy – so that you can enjoy your drink. Be the office hero with a few rolls of pre-made sugar cookie dough. Our Dog Blue is not a sweet wine, so it pairs nicely with spicy foods. And cookies!
Five ways to make store-bought cookies snazzy
One, use a cookie-cutter in holiday shapes. If you don’t have one, use a wine glass! Garnish with different colors of icing and sprinkles.
Two, roll the dough into little balls and do a thumb-print to flatten the middle. Dollop a scoop of fig, strawberry or other jams.
Three, blend in some cocoa and make little discs.
Four, blend in some peanut butter and make little discs. Garnish with a blend of sea salt and sugar crystals.
Five, if you’re feeling ambitious, cut out a series of circles, all the same size. For half the circles, cut out an inner shape. Spread jam on the full circle, dust the cut-out circle with icing sugar then sandwich the two together.
Pour yourself a glass. It’s time to wine down and chill. And, no judgment. None of us are counting how many cookies didn’t make it to the party.
Christmas With the Kranks
Finally, it’s not only time to wine down and chill, but it’s also time for a light-hearted movie. And yes, there’s a moral to this one, too. Christmas With the Kranks stars funnyman Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, along with a supporting role from one of my fave Canucks, Dan Akroyd. The duo makes for an unlikely couple but it works. Curtis portrays a woman who can’t get enough of Christmas but things fall apart when her husband decides to take the money they normally spend on the holiday and use it for a cruise vacation. What could go wrong, right?
Everything! When their daughter surprises them with a call on Christmas Eve saying that she’s coming home after all. And how she can’t wait to embrace all the holiday traditions because she’s missed them so much. Wait for it … of course, there is that Hallmark moment where we are all poignantly reminded about what the real spirit of the holiday is. Hint – it’s not about how grand the gifts are.
Raise your glass and wine down and chill your way through the holidays. But, be careful – a little is good, a lot is not. You don’t want to toss your cookies!