While there are a heckuva lot of recipes and random musings on this blog, I realized recently that, while I drink wine beer and the occasional cocktail pretty regularly with meals and on weekends, I’m not very good at sharing those favorites with you. Until now! Today, I’ll do a quick round-up of some of my favorite wines and brews (complete with costs). In the future, I plan on doing a few posts about pairing wine with food — specifically, how to move beyond the “white with fish, red with beef” sorts of rules and really combine flavors in creative ways. Bottom’s up!
First, as shown above, I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s 3-Buck Chuck, a.k.a. Charles Shaw. While I’m not afraid to spend a little more than 3 buckaroos on a bottle of vino, it’s hard to beat the value of Charles Shaw wine. And frankly, the flavor’s great, no matter the blend or type.
WINE LABEL: Charles Shaw
FAVORITES & PAIRINGS: My favorites are usually the Chardonnay with pretty much anything, Cabernet Sauvignon with marinara pasta, steak or pork chops, and Rose with a light-flavored meal like Spaghetti Limone Parmeggiano or Shrimp and Tomato Pizza.
COST: $3 pre-sales tax. Can you beat that price tag? Nope.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check out more information about 3-Buck Chuck here.
Secondly, Australia’s the Little Penguin is an affordable, tasty label with several offerings that I like. I’m not sure how widely available it is in other areas, but I see it regularly in DMV liquor stores. The brand actually benefits the Penguin Foundation, an Australian non-profit that supports the actual “little penguin” species on the continent’s southern coast. (On their site, you can actually adopt a penguin! ZOMG!) Affordable and animal-friendly — what’s not to like?
WINE LABEL: Little Penguin
FAVORITES & PAIRINGS: Their Chardonnay is a good with-food or pre-dinner wine. Buttery and smooth, it goes well with pasta, baked egg or fish dishes, or even a pizza. Their excellent Shiraz, however, is my favorite. Australia tends to dominate this type of wine, and the Little Penguin proves no exception. Good with dinner; good after dinner; good on a stressful Tuesday night when you just need a “Cougar Town”-sized glass of winey goodness. Try it with spicy sausage or any red-sauced pasta.
COST: Averages at $10 to $12.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check out their website here.
Third, the widely available Cupcake Vineyards is a big favorite of mine and THT’s. Surprisingly, their wines aren’t only sweet; they carry a variety of types, including Cabernet, Moscato, and even some blends (more on those later). This Livermore, CA winery has a lot to offer the frugal oenophile. If you haven’t already, give it a try!
WINE LABEL: Cupcake Vineyards
FAVORITES & PAIRINGS: Their Red Velvet red blend is so. Darn. Delicious. It was a housewarming gift from two good friends when I moved to DC, and I think its warm, tannic-without-being-too-dry goodness was consumed in, oh, maybe 30 minutes flat. Try it with spicy pasta sauces, anything grilled, or beef dishes. The white wine counterpart, Angel Food, is right up a buttery white wine-lover’s alley. Try with butter- or oil-sauteed dishes, or anything cheesy. (Wine and nachos? Don’t mind if I do. #pleasedon’tjudge #youknowyou’dtryit.)
COST: $10.99 to $13 (This is the range I’ve seen in stores / online)
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit their site here.
On the beer end of things, one of THT’s favorite things to do is try 750 ml small-batch bottles of beer, especially from Delaware’s stellar Dogfish Head. Whenever we visit our favorite bars — particularly Chinatown’s RFD — he scours the menu for whatever new brew is available in that champagne-size bottle. I’m also not above smuggling the bottles home in my purse once we’re done; a small collection is building up on our bookshelf, actually!
Here are THT’s thoughts on small-batch, big-bottle brews from Dogfish Head: “Don’t be afraid to try something new; you never know what you’re going to find! Some things that sound unappealing actually are, and some things that seem appealing actually aren’t. Give it a shot.”
BREWERY: Dogfish Head
FAVORITES & PAIRINGS: While these are often seasonal and not always regularly brewed, I can still recommend a few. The Bitches Brew, pictured above, was a dark and hoppy beer that would appeal to any fans of I.P.A. or similarly hoppy brews. (It’s named after a Miles Davis album, complete with album-esque artwork.) Try it with grilled meats or something dark and savory, like a beef stew. The Theobroma is spicy and unique, with hints of honey, cocoa and chiles, and would be tasty with vegetarian dishes featuring dark greens (spinach, kale), Ethiopian or Indian dishes, or a big bowl of chili.
COST: Averaging $15 in a liquor store, potentially higher if purchased in a bar or restaurant.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit their website here.
While I could wax on forever about all of my favorite beers, I have to give a shout-out in this post to Spoetzl Brewery, and particularly their classic Shiner Bock. The first and best beer I ever had in Texas, Shiner is such a locally-loved and deliciously-flavored favorite in the Lone Star State that it immediately takes me back, Proust-and-the-madeleine-style, to my time there. If I’m debating which slightly artsy 6-pack to bring to a friend’s party, I head straight to the Shiner. Drink up, y’all: It’ll always be a good decision.
BREWERY: Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner, TX (yup, it’s a real town.)
FAVORITES & PAIRINGS: Shiner Bock is their best and most famous brew; full-bodied without feeling heavy, with a caramel flavor and lovely amber color, it’s delicious with Mexican food, anything Tex-Mex (think chili or, better yet, Frito Pie), or a good old-fashioned hamburger. Their seasonal brews are also excellent; try the Shiner Hefeweizen in the fall with Thanksgiving-flavored foods, or Shiner Blonde in the summer with a slice of orange.
COST: $8 to $10 for the average six-pack. Cost may vary.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check out their website here.
There you have it! While their are many other brews and vinos that find their way into the galley kitchen (as well as a number of liquors and liqueurs — more on those in a future post!), these are some favorites that we buy frequently. What are your favorite brews and wines? What do you usually drink with dinner, and what are your go-to hostess gift wines or brews? Happy … er … drinking!