One of my great pleasures is participating in a wine tasting group that meets every two or three months and samples wines! The expert in this group is Dick, who has taken a number of classes. For each session he picks a theme -- it generally is a region (we went through much of Italy last year and Washington State a few months ago). This time it was the Wines of Spain -- and it was our turn to host!
Step one -- plan dinner. After bagging my initial plan of making tapas (which was getting totally out of control!) I settled on herbed shrimp and sausages on skewers for the main dish, with orzo with dried fruits. Others contributed salad, dessert (to die for), bread and cheese for the tasting table, and Dick brought the wine!
Step two -- fill the house with flowers. (It was sub-zero... we needed spring!)
Step three -- prepare the table for the tasting, with glasses, plates and get ready for the cheese and bread to arrive with the guests!
Step four -- clean house!
Step five -- Make sure that Rick has a spot to play his guitar! (As a bonus, my Rick offered several Spanish tunes on the guitar!
Step six -- Enjoy wine with friends, followed by dinner!
Needless to say a good time was had by all -- this is an event that gets livelier by the taste! The raves went from "Better than vinegar" to "This is my all-time favorite!" Here are some of my favorites!
OCHOA, Bodegas Ochoa, Navarra Region 2004 -- this is a white, with a blend of 70% Viura grapes and 30% Chardonnay. I'm not generally fond of Chardonnay, but this was divine! Clean, crisp, not overly sweet...the kind of wine one enjoys on a hot summer day! (Or with anything else yummy and light, I might add!) ($12 -- unbelievably good deal!)
Marques de Caceres Rioja reserva 2001 (DOCa, Rioja Region -- 85% Tempranillo, 15 Graciano and Mazuelo. This was a deep red -- you can just salivate thinking of it with aged cheese, strong meats, and hearty dishes. Dick said it's aged in French oak for 22 months and two years in the bottle. It was fabulous. ($22 -- worth it, and $15 is generally my ceiling.)
Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza 2004 (DOCa), Rioja Region -- 85% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha Tinta and Graciano (slight difference here and the one before). This was awfully good, too but I think Rick and I preferred the red above. Still, can't beat the price -- $12.
The other three were also good, but I'll just put title and price here, in case you're interested...
- White Rioja, Marques de Cacersa, Rioja region 2006 ($7) -- dryer than the first white.
- Legado Munoz, Tempranillo 2006, Castilla Region ($10) (I wrote "very pleasant" and someone called it a "tooth stainer."
- Callejo, 2005, Ribera Del Duero region ($19) Rick said it was worth every penny and called it "serious"; I wrote "not my favorite."
The best part -- good friends and a good time! The perfect way to spend the coldest day of the year!
- Deveined, peeled shrimp with tails
- Olive Oil (as much as you need)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Your favorite herbs -- I used oregano, basil and thyme with some red pepper flakes
Marinate for an hour or so and cook on medium to med-high heat in a skillet with additional oil if the marinade isn't enough (cook in batches, so they all get done evenly). Put a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice over each batch and remove from heat. Squirt again to make sure juice gets on them all.
Put on skewers. Can be served cool or warmed up (but don't overwarm them unless you undercook the shrimp -- nothing's worse than overdone shrimp! You can skewer with proscuitto, grape tomatoes or medallions of chicken sausage (pan cooked -- I used Trader Joe's spicy and it was a nice combo).
I served with orzo. When boiling the water, I put in about 1/4 cup of golden raisins, 1/4 of dried cranberries and spiced dried mangoes, and some orange zest. (I used 2 c. of orzo for this quantity, but you can eyeball it.) When done, squirt some OJ on the orzo and if desired add minced candied ginger. Nice mix of sweet and kicky!