I probably ought to explain, as I add another entry to my little wine-tasting experiment, that the point of the exercise is not, ultimately, just to become educated about wine and food. I do not really aspire to foodieness. Mostly, this exercise is about mindfulness. I tend to eat and drink rather thoughtlessly most of the time. If it tastes good and fits my nutritional needs, I spend very little intellectual effort on it. I wanted to change that attitude in a relatively healthy, life-affirming way, so I started this little project. By “life-affirming” I mean this: I want to distinguish my study here from dieting, which is one sort of mindfulness about eating (ultimately a profoundly unhealthy one, often leading to or supported by actively disordered eating). I want food to be joyful and deliberate. Hell, I want my whole life to be joyful and deliberate, and that takes a whole lot of work, let me tell you. So I’m starting with food.
Today’s Iowa wine offering includes another bit of work from Santa Maria Winery in Carroll, IA: their Ringneck Red, a sweet red table wine. For dessert, I also decided to try a Farm House Winery dessert white called (weirdly) Irish Charm. I prepared a Schwann’s-ish sort of frozen thing from the grocery store (Beef in Red Wine Sauce with potatoes and carrots), mostly because I was too lazy to come up with something fresh (which will be my goal in the future), and then bought some plain cheesecake for dessert. The reason I chose the (probably all wrong) food I chose for dinner, honestly, is because I loathe red wines most of the time. I can drink them in limited amounts, but by and large I have the same experience with red wines, no matter how good they are, that I have with coffee — smells great, won’t stay down, tastes like pain.
Yes, I said “tastes like pain.”
That is precisely what I meant and that’s exactly how it feels. I totally get why the ancients drank their damn wine watered down.
I’m a whiskey drinker, really, not a wine afficionado, so some wines just don’t do it for me no matter how good they may be. I chose a meal I knew would be palatable even with a pretty sweet red, and the cheesecake was a natural dessert choice (it was also recommended by the winemaker).
The Ringneck Red was…well, here’s how I looked before I drank it:
…and here’s the mildest face I made afterward:
What was I thinking? Well, nothing good, really. It tasted like stale Welch’s gone to alcohol at best, and didn’t really do much for me. I did, to be sure, try it before the food and after the food, and I did let it aerate first. It still didn’t work for me. I did, in order to make sure I wasn’t just drinking the wrong thing with the wrong food, try to give it a fair shake by comparison with a known-to-be-good wine my brother bought for me a while ago, a recent Bogle Phantom. The Bogle kind of overwhelmed me, to be honest — it was a good red, which is probably why I found it a bit hard to stomach. It was certainly a better pairing with the beef than the Ringneck. It kicked me in the head, I admit, but it was a worthy kick (thanks, Jim!). The food itself was actually pretty good for a frozen meal, although not as good as something freshly made would have been. I suspect that drinking red wines with something already steeped in a sort of red wine sauce was probably a bad idea, but I did it anyway, and I refuse to say I’m sorry. The cheesecake was likewise good for store-bought stuff (not as good as fresh Eli’s), so I have no complaints. Perhaps next time I’ll buy some fresh fruit to serve with it and try the wine/cheesecake/fruit combo to see how it goes.
The Farm House Irish Charm dessert wine was much better, actually, both as a wine (with more complex taste) and as a pairing with the food I’d chosen for it. It as exactly the sort of thing that ought to go well with cheesecake — light, a little sweet, but just tart enough to balance the taste of the dessert nicely. It was also much more pleasant to drink on its own. It wasn’t really the Moscato flavor that I prefer in dessert wines (I have a shameless sweet tooth), and it wasn’t the crisp kind of taste I expected, but it felt a lot nicer on the tongue than the Ringneck did (more like wine, less like grape juice gone wrong).
All the while, I was eating outside on my deck, listening to the birds and the insects and watching the day wane, and it was stunningly beautiful. I was just sitting there in the moment, which makes the whole meal worthwhile. As I type this, the moon is hovering, fat and full-looking, over the house across the street, and the sun’s below the trees behind my yard and setting their tops on fire. It’s a splendid evening, all cicada songs and wine, and I’m glad indeed to have the chance to enjoy it.
So much for mindfulness. :)