When my husband and I first got together, we were looking for fun things to try that we could both get interested in. We both had a love of singing that had us going to a lot of karaoke bars and I’d desperately wanted to learn to shoot pool, and he plays league, so that was the other half of our initial dates.
Then, we found wine.
We both liked wine, but didn’t know much about it. And, when I suggested wine tasting, his face was less than enthusiastic.
As He puts it, “we’re long-haired, freaky people and this will not end well”.
Craig is my gorgeous, long-haired man…and I’m heavily tattooed and pierced. Sure, we don’t look the wine tasting type, but I’ve never been one to follow social rules.
And, what “Lola wants, Lola gets” (its since become an inside joke since he usually ends up enjoying my off-beat suggestions).
Arizona, believe it or not, has some fantastic wine country, that produces some critically acclaimed wines. We started with one kinda local vineyard, and now have tasted wines from all over the state, the country and the world.
What’s so fascinating about wine? Well, that’s a different blog. But, there’s some fascinating things you can do with it, whether you’re a wine geek like us (wine “snobs” swish and spit, where geeks know their wine and enjoy it by swallowing), or a grocery store, special occasion opportunist.
Red Wine Lollipops
We’re mostly white wine drinkers, but I sure wouldn’t turn down one of these! Stella Rosa makes a phenomenal red table wine that’s moderately sweet, and would be perfect for these. In fact, the original Stella Rosa was our wedding wine.
We do prefer sweeter wines, like Moscato and Riesling, but if you’re worried your white may be too sweet, this guide may come in handy.
Red Wine Hot Fudge Sauce
As if we needed an excuse to eat ice cream! I can almost taste this drizzled over vanilla bean or even dark chocolate and caramel.
Red Wine Velevet Cupcakes
Wine…chocolate…cupcake. What’s not to love? These would be perfect for a girl’s night or a Sunday brunch. Remember, once you lick the frosting off, its a muffin…and muffins and wine are healthy!
Slathered on an English muffin or eat it straight out of the jar! PB&J has never been so epic.
Red Wine Truffles
The ultimate in decadence. What better way to savor every sip, than with a mouthwatering chocolate confection?
Red Wine Salt
You read correctly – red wine salt. Make a batch to sprinkle on steaks, burgers and hearty fish like Steelhead or Wahoo; two of my favorites. Or, soak Epsom salts for the next idea…
Bathe in Red Wine
Red wine has a ton of great benefits for the skin…taken internally and externally. Try a red wine bath or one of these other relaxing baths while enjoying a glass of wine.
Wine Cork Pendants
Now that you’ve used all the wine, what do you do with the leftovers?
You know, the cork and the bottle (since leftover wine is a terrible urban legend!).
I think these are a super cute way to upcycle those corks. Use ones that are pretty as is, ones with special meaning (your anniversary wine, for example) or add stamps and colors to more mundane corks for extra style.
Wine Cork Ombre Wall Art
If you drink a little of everything, like we do, this could be a fun project and a heck of a conversation piece. A lot of wine bars and liquor stores that offer tastings just throw corks away, so ask them to save them for you. If the color isn’t quite what you’d like, a quick dip (or long soak) in a bit of food coloring will help achieve the desired color.
Wine Cork Cheese Knives
What goes better with wine than cheese? Go all out and make some wine cork cheese knives to really keep the theme. If you’re really into wine or like to host wine parties, you could also hot glue corks together to make a cheese board – just top it with a piece of glass (most craft stores will cut glass to size) to keep it beautiful and functional.
Not sure what cheese goes with which wine? Really, it’s all about what you like, but find some pairing ideas here. Also, some ideas on simple food pairing and even junk food pairings (a local winery serves Cheetos and flavored potato chips with their wines).
Wine Bottle Accent Lights
Subtle, yet beautiful. Add string lights (a.k.a. Christmas tree lights) inside wine bottles for a gorgeous glow. Even battery operated tea lights or votive candles would look stunning. You can find battery operated string lights, as well as tutorials on glass cutting, all over the internet. Wine bottle house numbers are pretty neat, too.
Message in a Bottle
While I certainly don’t condone throwing a bottle into the ocean, these are a bit more specific. Use empty wine bottles for love notes, wedding invites or favors. Fill with sand, shells, photos or other momentos, to add a special touch to your decor. Have a special bottle from when he popped the question? Make it a whole theme, with a cheap ring, a flower he gave you, the menu from the restaurant you went to…the possibilities are endless.
Being all about beauty, I’d rock these wine glass nail decals in a heartbeat!
Still unsure? You can always let the stars decide, and check your wine horoscope.
If you happen to live in Arizona, or are passing through, please do check out local vineyards and wineries!
The Arizona Wine Trails are phenomenal! Since we’re outside Tucson, we frequently visit the Sonoita and Elgin trails, where you’ll find about 15 wineries and vineyards all within a corks throw of each other. Some we love for the wine, but hate the service. Some we love the service but the wine isn’t quite our style; some feature both service and wine we like, but it’s amazing how much things have changed in the six years we’ve been traveling down there. I’m going to blather on about some of our experiences, and you can Google those that may interest you. I’m an “underpaid” blogger, not a robot!
Sonoita Vineyards was our first experience, and forever holds a sentimental place in my heart because of it. Their Sonora Blanca is my favorite (great with candied almonds or cinnamon rolls), while Craig always has a soft spot for Angel Wings, which was developed as a communal wine for neighboring churches. We both love their Sparkles, especially when they add the edible hibiscus flower! Its kind of gross looking at first, but soft, slightly chewy and tastes a bit like plum or prickly pear fruit, “blooms” as the carbonation in the wine settles into it.
The view is breathtaking, but as wine tasting has come back into fashion here, their service and overall atmosphere has gone from very warm and personal, to “let’s just get these people out of here”.
The original in this region, I’d say give them a try, regardless.
Wilhelm Family Vineyards is another that’s service has suffered due to the tasting boom, but the wine is just so good! In summer months, you must try the sangria slushies (she makes a red and white; both outstanding) and in winter the Gleuhine (I always misspell that and even spell check is like, damn…got nothing) which is a warm, mulled wine. If you like hot apple cider, it’s to die for. And, Karyl (the owner) makes port wines that are addictive! The butterscotch and chocolate mint are our faves.
Village of Elgin goes back and fourth on service. They started out treating us like shit, but the last few times have gone so far as to bring us homemade baklava and tastes of wine not on the menu yet. They produce under three “brand” labels, but the white merlot was our 5th anniversary “occasion” wine, and a running favorite.
Charron has the most spectacular patio tasting area, with views that make me weak in the knees. The first time we stopped here, they had two wines – a red and a white. They’re now up to about 15 award winners, and service has always been fantastic.
AZ Hops and Vines…oh, where to start. The wines are great and they do junk food pairings in a very eclectic tasting room. Service, for us, has always not just sucked, but been downright nasty! I did a makeup and hair presentation at a local convention a couple years ago, which got us an invite to the “after party”. They sponsored it, and without even recognizing us (Craig, my model for the presentation was in full costume), still treated us like trash. I’ve heard varied opinions from others, so you’ve been warned.
Kief-Joshua produces a small selection of wines drier than we prefer, but we always stop in. Every festival, every event they remember us and treat us like family. Bonus…? The tasting room looks like a castle!
To be honest, we’ve literally tried them all, including a few in Wilcox which isn’t far away from Sonoita/Elgin.
There’s also an amazing one called Windmill, outside of Florence, AZ, that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Beautiful property that sees more weddings than tastings, the pomegranate and Hummingbird are our favorites.
If you’re in the Scottsdale (Phoenix) area, Su Vino is it! Their fruit wines (especially the sparkling Razzle Dazzle that comes off a tap, like beer) had us there for about two hours enjoying several glasses. Service can’t be beat; even though they were preparing for a 150 person event later that night, we were never neglected, never ignored and treated like we were the only people who mattered in the world.
In Tucson, we frequent Cata Vinos, where our local wedding reception was held. Yvonne, the owner, is always on the premises and addresses any problems immediately! She spoiled us rotten with a special tasting and extra bottles (on the house) as her gift to us as newlyweds! All her wines are under $15 too, which is a bonus. Indoors and outdoors tasting areas, she provides “palette cleansers” (a.k.a., snacks) with tastings, but also offers tapas style, small plates of meats, cheeses and olives at an additional cost. We’ve had some wines that weren’t our style here, but never a “bad” wine (which, is why there are so many available! Everyone has different tastes!).
Bear Tracks used to be a favorite before they switched locations. Now, their wine and attitude has changed. The green chili wine (yes, with peppers in it), the port aged in old whiskey barrels, the smoked oysters from Washington and the handcrafted artisan Wisconsin cheese are fabulous – just be prepared to wait unless you’re a cute college girl or over 60 and look rich. Not to be rude, but that’s exactly what was said to us when we did a tasting before our wedding. Too bad; we won’t return.
Enjoy! But, as always, please do drink responsibly.
Images: deviantart, personal