Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blackberry Peach Sangria

Yes, the wine talk continues... I mentioned last post that one of the wines we picked up from the CT Valley Winery was their "Peachy" wine, which is a white wine infused with actual peaches. It's technically not a dessert wine (it only has 11% alcohol and dessert wines have more than 14%), but it's still a little too sweet to drink straight up, in my opinion. When I tasted it, I knew it would be perfect for sangria.

As luck would have it, I was also recently given the opportunity to try out some Zaya rum and Driscoll's berries - so I decided to bring everything together into a fruity, white sangria.

Turns out, I was right on the money about those ingredients being great for sangria. They make a nice, light drink that's slightly sweet but still very refreshing. It would be perfect for a hot sunny day, but I'll take it on a rainy Wednesday night, too ;-) I especially loved eating the fruit at the end - it's like wine and dessert all in one!

Blackberry Peach Sangria
Serves 3-4

1/2 c. Driscoll's blackberries
1 peach, sliced
3/4 c. peach wine
1 oz. Zaya rum
2 c. white cranberry-peach juice cocktail

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher. Refrigerate 1 hour to allow flavors to meld. Serve & enjoy responsibly!

Disclaimer: I received a coupon for Driscoll's Berries and a free sample of Zaya rum from Baddish Marketing Group. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just down the way... the Connecticut Valley Wine Trail

I know I have been remiss in blogging this summer. I have honestly been enjoying the weather and fun weekend trips away... much of which has taken away my desire to sit inside and type away. But! This last trip I took is one worth talking about.

About 2 weeks ago, we found ourselves with a gorgeous Saturday and no plans. So we decided to head south to the Connecticut Wine Trail. Friends had been telling us about it for months, but we'd yet to find the time. For our first trip, I had 3 vineyards mapped out. We made it to 2 before deciding that was enough wine tasting for one day if we were going to make it safely back home. That's the only problem with wine tasting -driving afterward. Don't worry, we played it safe.

Our first stop was the Connecticut Valley Winery in New Hartford. We sidled up to the bar with several other visitors to enjoy a tasting of 11 of their wines, all presented by one of the owners, Judy Ferraro. For each wine, she explained where the grapes come from (some are grown in CT, others are shipped in), what awards the wines have one, what notes people say they taste and what people use the wine for (other than drinking). I really enjoyed learning all about the wines - and of course, tasting them. Overall, I really liked the majority of the wines. They ranged from dry and crisp whites to rich, deep reds to fruity dessert-like wines.

My favorites were the Midnight (a red wine made from Frontenac hybrid grapes), Orange Vidal (a white wine with notes of honey and apricot), Just Peachy (a sweet white wine infused with peaches) and Raspberry Delight (white wine infused with raspberries). In fact, we bought a bottle of each of these! Tonight, I'm enjoying the Midnight again:

The one downside to the Connecticut Valley Winery is that there isn't a great outdoor space for lingering after your tasting. The winery building itself is a big barn set in the middle of a working farm. It was a gorgeous day and we wanted to be outside, but sitting next to a broken down tractor wasn't really appealing. So, we moved on to our next destination...

Up next was the Haight-Brown Vineyard in Litchfield. This is actually the oldest winery in CT and it  definitely had the scenery we were looking for. The main building reminded me of something from the English countryside:
Photo copyright 2010, Haight-Brown Vineyard

Out front was a huge wine barrel and all around were rows and rows grape vines. Out back, there was a deck overlooking the vineyard, which was perfect for lingering on. We did another tasting here and enjoyed 8 wines paired with 3 chocolates. Like the Connecticut Valley Winery, some of the grapes used are grown onsite and some are brought in.

There were some good wines on the menu, but we weren't quite as wowed as we had been with the Connecticut Valley Winery. Here, we had just 2 main contenders that we'd happily drink again: the Covertside White (a refreshing, unoaked white blend) and the Picnic Red (a fruity, medium red). Both are made with grapes grown in CT... perhaps that's the secret to their success over some of the others. 

We bought a bottle of the Picnic Red and headed out to the deck to enjoy a glass before heading home. It was absolutely wonderful to sit back and enjoy the sunshine and the views of the vineyard (sadly, I forgot my camera and Mr. ValleyWriter's Blackberry photos just don't do it justice, so I'm not bothering to post them). Haight-Brown may not have had as big of a selection that appealed to me, but their ambiance was top notch, to say the least.

There are 19 more wineries on the trail to try. We now have a "passport" we can fill out with stamps from 15 more by the end of October and then be entered to win a trip to Spain. Wouldn't that be fabulous? I don't know that we'll make it to that many - but we're sure going to enjoy trying!

Friday, August 13, 2010

And the winner is....

Commenter #5 - Prof. Kitty! She said she'd get a fresh pasta maker with her gift certificate. I agree it's a good choice - and I've even got some recipe ideas to get her started: Lemon pepper pasta, Spinach lasagna and Pumpkin & sweet potato ravioli.

Congrats Prof. Kitty! I'll be emailing you shortly!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Citrusy Grilled Chicken Salad

Warmer, muggier weather has come back to town over the last few days. On nights when the temps are still in the mid-80s at dinnertime, I look forward to something refreshing and light. This salad was just the ticket tonight. With fruit, nuts, chicken, lemon and herbs - every bite packs a slightly different flavor for your mouth to enjoy.

(As an aside, we eat a lot of salads in the ValleyWriter household and one of my favorite kitchen "gadgets" is my salad spinner, which makes cleaning herbs, spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens a snap. If you're in the market for one, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a $70 gift certificate to CSN stores. CSN has salad spinners and much, much more!)

Citrusy Grilled Chicken Salad
(Makes 2 main dish servings)

2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. fresh tarragon, roughly chopped

4-5 c. baby spinach
1/2 c. mandarin orange slices
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. roasted cashews

1/4 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 clove garlic, very finely minced
1/4 c. olive oil

In a glass bowl, mix together oyster sauce, soy sauce, thyme and tarragon. Add chicken breasts and toss to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. (I leave mine in all day - so about 10 hours.
Grill chicken breasts over medium heat until juices run clear, turning half way through (about 7-8 minutes per side for 1/2-inch thick breasts).
While the chicken is cooking, toss spinach leaves, mandarin orange slices, dried cranberries and cashews.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustaard, lemon pepper seasoning and garlic. Slowly add olive oil, whisking constantly.
Pour dressing over spinach mixture and toss to coat. Divide into two bowls.
When chicken is done, let sit 5 minutes. Then add to salad and serve.