Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sipping Port in my smoking jacket

This morning while kneeling over one of those irritating table-top ironing boards, I looked over at what I'm calling "The Wine Rack That Ben Built"* and noticed that it was fully stocked with an amazing assortment of wines. I think that this is my initiation into adulthood for many reasons: 1. I have a wine rack aka furniture that didn't come with the room; 2. I have an existing bottle of wine, not just a recycling bin full of empties; 3. Each bottle of wine cost more than $10.

In the wine rack I have an Alamos Malbec, a Pinot Noir from Sonoma (from Lot18.com, a great wine site with super values), a French and a Californian Rose (also from Lot18), a Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon and a few other easy to drink table wines. I will be tasting and testing and writing about them all... but in a fit of adulthood inspired writing, I wanted to write about something that makes me feel (and seem?) rather ancient: Port.

Port is one of those things that you immediately associate with elderly men and cordial glasses. Maybe a smoking jacket, too. Happily it's not only something pulled out of musty cellars by British men with bad teeth, but it's also pulled out of liquor cabinets by my father, who has decidedly less bad teeth than the British.

My Dad loves port and first served it to us as part of one of my parents' anniversary dinners. We had it with cheese and pears, in tiny little crystal glasses. And I thought it was the worst thing in the world, besides peas, that I'd ever ingested. Lucky for me, my Dad forced me to finish my glass (isn't this backward?)... and continued to make me finish my port glass from then (I was maybe 16) on. I remember having port on the holidays when we were visiting my grandmother, and then at home a few times in the evening while playing cards. And I don't remember liking it very much until a few days ago when I had an amazing port that was on sale at Trader Joes (you can find it at Safeway too). The Warre's Warrior Porto Wine Special Reserve (normally $18, marked down to $14.99), is one of the oldest brands of port still in existence. Warre's was founded in 1670 in Portugal by the British.

Though I don't have any tasting notes to offer you, but that it was a lighter, more palatable port (without sacrificing richness or that fortified sweetness), it did pair amazingly well with the strong cheese we had it with. If you're interested in port already and want a great one, check out the Warre's. It's consistently rated between 88 and 91 points by Wine Spectator and I don't think you can find a better port for under $20.

Some helpful Port drinking hints: If you're going to buy port, buy some pairings too - I prefer Stilton cheese, but a blue cheese will work as well. I also love pears or apples with port. Though some people prefer dark chocolates, but I think the sweetness can be overpowering. When tasting the port with a strong cheese, if you take a small piece of cheese and start to chew it, then have a sip of the port, the two together will combine to become a brand new flavor. For people that are new to port entirely, it's best as a dessert substitute. Port isn't meant to be gulped or chugged, but instead is best sipped leisurely in teensy glasses while talking about your land holdings and your impudent serfs.

*"The Wine Rack That Ben Built" is a long story with a happy ending. About a month and a half ago, as I went to order a wine rack on Amazon.com, Ben decided he was going to make me one. He designed a rack in class, calculated the angles, the lengths, the sizing... and then we went to Lowes, where it cost more than the online wine rack to buy the cart full of tools and supplies. A few mis-cuts, a few more trips to Lowes, one injured shoulder muscle, and weeks and weeks later: he was able to finish it. In summation: it may have taken forever and cost more than the $30 rack on Amazon, but it's gorgeous and a lot more love went into building it than would have gone into a credit card swipe.

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