It’s always wine o’clock somewhere

On this past weekend’s episode of First World Problems: Ben wanted to have some coworkers over for a wine night, and we couldn’t figure out which wines to serve.

That was easily remedied by asking everyone to bring something they liked or wanted to try. We also invited my brother-in-law, Josh, who is known for his love of the nicer things in life (including good wine). He seemed pretty interested in the idea of a wine night, but he did have some specifications.

“No Arbor Mist,” he declared, indicating that this would be the most sophisticated of events. He also vetoed Two Buck Chuck (sad face).

I decided to come up with a cheese tray, since it seemed like that’s what you’re supposed to come up with for a wine night. Real Simple has a pretty good article on The Perfect Cheese Platter, and I borrowed from that a bit. I got an inexpensive serving tray from Target, and put it all together with some odds and ends from Publix. All in all, it cost less than a night out typically would. I mean, I’m all about going out. But sometimes, it’s really nice (and most of the time, more economical) to entertain at home.

Here’s the finished product:

jellyClockwise from top left: grapes from Publix (on sale), Publix Goat Cheese with Honey, Havarti cheese with dill, Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits (bought BOGO at Publix), a wheel of Brie cheese (topped with blueberry preserves from Costco), Back to Nature Flaxseed crackers, pistachios (which kind of got cut off in the photo) and cashews.

Thank you for humoring me while I explained all the intricacies of my cheese tray. I will now move on to the interesting part of the post: the wine!

Disclaimer: I am no wine expert, nor would I claim to be. But here are some of the opinions I had of the wines we tried.

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Estancia Pinot Grigio: There are plenty of better pinot grigios out there, but this one is great when you’re looking for something drinkable and inexpensive. And it usually has a coupon attached to it (no shame). The bottle doesn’t lie — there are definitely crisp notes of apple in this one. It’s one of the few drier white wines that I can get Ben to drink. You can pretty much find it anywhere (I got this bottle at Target).

J.V. Fleury Cotes du Rhone Blanc: This one is made from Viognier grapes, and is supposed to contain notes of floral and peach. (I thought it tasted more like melon, though.) I have to say, this was one of the more interesting wines I’ve tried in a while. It was very smooth and easy to drink. I think this would be a great go-to white table wine if you just wanted to have something on hand.

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay: I usually don’t like chardonnay, as I’m not a huge fan of oakiness. However, I started drinking chardonnay probably earlier than any other type of wine, just because the name was familiar to me. But once I discovered pinot grigio and shiraz, I never looked back. And on first sip, even this one tasted strange to me. It gradually grew on me, despite the fact it is EXTREMELY buttery, which I’m not used to. It paired well with the Havarti cheese and crackers, which was a happy accident. On a less-sophisticated note: the bottle is ceramic, which is cool. If you’d like to try a chardonnay without the oakiness, this is a great choice.

Sugarland Cellars Martha Jane Rosé: This wine comes from Sugarland Cellars, a winery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I’ll admit that the first few sips of this wine weren’t pleasant. Compared to the drier wines we tried, this seemed like taking a sip of syrup. The Muscadine is strong in this wine. But, if you could get through the initial sugar shock, the wine finishes with what we thought was tobacco. That’s an odd combination, and it might even sound a little gross, but it works. The bitterness at the end offsets the sweet flavor of the red and white Muscadines. I do prefer Lakeridge Winery’s Sunblush or San Sebastian Winery’s Rosé over this one, but I’d love to visit Sugarland Cellars one day.

Bogle Vineyards Petite Syrah: Admittedly, I meant to buy the Cab from this brand, but I misread a recommendation my coworker sent me. But this ended up being one of my favorites of the bunch. I was ready for a break from sweet after the rosé, and this wine contained enough fruit and vanilla notes to help along with the transition back to dry. According to the bottle, there are supposed to be coffee and leather tones in this wine. I can always taste coffee, but I am not refined enough to detect leather (and I’m not sure I want to be…). I’m looking forward to trying other wines from this brand.

Well, there you have it — a recap of our first (of hopefully many) wine nights. Have you tried any of these wines? What do you think of them? I am always interested in learning more about wine from others.

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