013 My part of the globe, Chicago, isn’t too warm right now.  As I look outside, wind at 25 miles per hour is blowing snow in circles, I can hardly see the house across the street, and the sky is the same color as the snow.  The last weather report declared that the temperature is 5 degrees and, factoring in the wind chill, any person crazy enough to venture outside will think that it’s -16. We’re expecting more snow and frigid temperatures tonight and into tomorrow.  Yes, Polar Vortex 2015 has begun.

Knowing that much of North America is much colder than a bottle of bubbles and many of us wine lovers are on lock down at home, what are some activities that will be simultaneously productive and fun?  I’ve been able to accomplish a few projects that have been on my list and to relax with wine all the while appreciating modern heating techniques.  It’s your turn.  Perhaps you’ll want to try these ideas.

Organize your wine collection – If you’re like me, you have plenty of wine…in your basement, on your counter, in your wine refrigerator, in your kitchen refrigerator, and perhaps, still in boxes.  As a birthday gift, I received stackable racks from Wine Enthusiast because my wine stash was contained in all of the above.  There was no order and I was constantly looking for a particular bottle while declaring “I know I have this!”  I easily assembled eight sets of racks and arranged the bottles, some of which I had forgotten I owned.  Categorized first by varietals and then by region I marked the location of each bottle on a spreadsheet.  Each row is assigned a letter and each space a number. For example Rack 1, Row A, Space 1 holds a bottle of Bedrock Ode to Lulu 2012. After it is removed from the rack and enjoyed, I will simply identify the new bottle that will hold the space and mark it on the spreadsheet.  Voila!

Open a bottle of wine – (…because now you can find it).  Lately I’ve been feeling like Dr Zhivago’s Julie Christie and short of taking mandolin lessons or cracking open a handle of Russian vodka (not a bad choice, by the way) I pulled a sample bottle of Rutini Encuentro Malbec 2011 (Rack 2, Row D, Space 3 in case you’re interested).  From vineyards in the Argentina’s Uco Valley where it’s now summer, this was a perfect choice for a bitter winter day in the northern hemisphere.  Aged in French and American oak for twelve months, this 100% Malbec was the color of purple ink in the glass.  Aromas of rich black and red fruit and fragrant violets gently emerged and tingled my nose.  On the palate, its bracing acidity, soft tannins, and intense flavors of blueberry jam, more dark fruit and rich chocolate were structured and delicious.  The satin like finish was so satisfying and warming that it was difficult to believe the cost is only $18.99.

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Read a book – A must read for any foodie and wine lover is Provence, 1970 written by Luke Barr whose great-aunt was M. F. K. Fisher.  The story is set in the winter of 1970 when six “iconic culinary figures, including Julia Child, James Beard, and M. F. K. Fisher, found themselves in the South of France.”  I thoroughly enjoyed Barr’s interpretation of the dynamics among the culinary greats and how that moment in time helped create today’s food culture.  His story is based on M. F. K. Fisher’s journals and letters and, yes, wine is mentioned a few times…

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Watch a movie – I’ve seen Bottleshock, Somm, Sideways and other entertaining wine-centric movies.  However, I was thrilled to finally watch A Year in Burgundy, a documentary that was not only interesting but educational (I couldn’t just drink wine all day!), on Netflix.   I was reminded yet again that Burgundy is one of the most beautiful places on earth, that I love the French name Celeste, and that French women really are skinny despite the amount of wine they drink.

Hone your culinary skills – I love to discover a new recipe.  It’s incredibly calming to listen to music, enjoy a glass of wine, and create a dish that is not in my standard repertoire.  After reading about Julia Child and her cohorts in cuisine, I was inspired to try something new.  I chose to tackle a recipe I found in the New York Times, Mushroom Lasagna, with an incredible béchamel sauce.  Obviously you need to love mushrooms since crimini and porcini or shitake mushrooms are the main ingredients.  A highlight is that you have another reason (as if you need one) to open a bottle of Rhone or Syrah; it’s an ingredient.  The lasagna takes only 90 minutes to prep and cook and warrants a place on the table as either a main dish or side.

Open another bottle of wine – If you haven’t already finished the bottle needed for the lasagna, you may want to consider popping the cork in a bottle of Prosecco, a sparkling that pairs with just about anything – even snow and blowing wind.  As a bow to healthy eating (the Mushroom Lasagna) and drinking, I chose Ceradello Prosecco produced from 100% organic Prosecco grapes from vineyards in Veneto, Trentino, and Friuli in Italy’s Alto Adige region and sent to me as a sample.  Subtle citrus and herbal aromas and a lively mousse were fresh and clean.  The Prosecco was extra dry with high acidity and gentle tastes of more citrus and herbs with the minerality sensation I love. This was just right to enjoy as an aperitif, with dinner, or as a palate cleanser.  Just raise your glass and celebrate a successful day defying the Polar Vortex!  Cost is $16.

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By the time you read this article the temperature may be in the 30s! But keep these suggestions in mind because you may have another opportunity to stay at home for an extended period of time… a heat wave perhaps?

Cheers~ Cindy

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