Root:1 2008 Carmenere
Colchagua Valley, Chile

Ok, I originally promised to include some wine critiques and pairing info with the blog, and I am officially starting this week.  My thought is to pick a wine a week, under $15 bucks to highlight.  There is so much good wine out there at this price point – or less!  These are great wines to drink, and also great wines to bring to someone’s house as a gift – even if they are big wine drinkers!
So, to start our world wide search for great wines under 15 bucks, we are going to go to the Colchagua Valley of Chile.  Chile produces some awesome wine, and the Colchagua Valley was picked by Wine Enthusiast magazine as the best wine region in the world in 2005.  After about a half hour of my favorite thing – wine shopping – I decided to go with a Carmenere, by  Root: 1.  Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina, or Merlot to France.  It was introduced to the region in the 1800’s by France, and is now one of the primary grapes of the region.  Carmenere has the smoothness of a Merlot, the spice of a Cabernet, and the body of a Cabernet Franc – ie smooth as silk, plenty of spice, but a lighter body, with the cherry/fruit of a Cab Franc. 
Root:1 produces some awesome wine for the price point – produced from grapes grown on the “original, ungrafted root systems tended by our Master Winemakers”  I have had both their Cabernet and Chardonnay, and both are phenomenal values.  These are $12.99 wines that could easily stand up to many wines twice as expensive.
A couple of notes on wine hardware: good glasses and a decanter.  Even inexpensive wines benefit from the proper glass, and decanting.  Yes, decanting.  I am going to taste test each wine right out of the bottle, and decanted for an hour, to show the difference decanting makes.  Glasses are critical.  In my cooking classes, I bring wine to pair with the food, and I always to a comparison between a proper wine glass by Riedel for example, and a cheap, small glass, virtually everybody can taste the difference, no matter what their wine drinking experience.  You can get Riedel’s now for about 3 or 4 bucks a stem, and they are WELL worth the price.  The proper size bowl makes all the difference in taste – I can easily spend an entire post on that alone.  Suffice to say for now – go get some if you don’t have them.  Most liquor stores sell the glass (not crystal) versions at a very reasonable price. The same goes for decanters – you can buy a decent one by one of the major stemware makers for about $20 bucks. Well worth the investment!
Petit Sirloin, with Guiness marinade,
Mushroom and Green Onion Risotto
2008 Root:1 Carmenere 

So back to the Root:1 Carmenere.  This wine was a 2008, and retailed for $12.99.  The bottle describes it as a “complex red wine with flavors of ripe plum, blackberry and spice”  Pretty accurate actually.  Right out of the bottle, the “nose” or smell, was a little alcoholy ( not really a word, but you know what I mean),  and very jammy.  The wine had great body, it tasted primarily of tobacco (the “spice”) then the berry/plum flavors came through, with pretty strong tannins ( that kind of tea bag tartness on your tongue),and then a strong finish of cherry.  After decanting it for an hour, the tannins smoothed out really nicely – the wine was much smoother; the cherry/plum flavors moved more up front; and the nice spicy flavor mingled nicely with the cherry in the finish – which remained incredibly long. (how long you can still taste the wine after you swallow is the “finish”)

Overall, it was a great bottle of wine for 13 bucks!  I paired it with a pair of petit sirloins, marinated in Guinness, garlic and Worcestershire sauce, then sautéed in the marinade, and a baby portabella/green onion risotto.  Yum…..
Saute steaks in marinade

For the marinade – about ½ cup of beer, 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce.  Salt and pepper the meat, rub with garlic cloves.  Dice the garlic up, and add to marinade.  Pierce meat with a fork, and marinate for about an hour or so, the longer the better.  Heat 2 tbs olive oil in sauté pan over med-high heat.  Sear steaks on both sides ( about 2 or 3 minutes per side).  Reduce heat, add about 1/3 of the marinade and simmer steaks for about 7 minutes per side, or until fairly firm when poked with a fork.  Add some marinade as sauce reduces to keep the pan moist.  Add balance of marinade for the last 3 minutes or so, and reduce to a sauce consistency.  Serve over steaks.

For the Risotto, I took abbut 6 green onions, and diced up the green parts, and about a handful of sliced baby Portobello mushrooms.  Before cooking the steaks, I used the sauté pan to heat mushrooms, onions, a diced shallot, and 2 cloves of minced garlic in about a tbs of olive oil.  Cook garlic and shallots until translucent first, then add mushrooms and onions, and saute until mushrooms just starting to soften.  Set aside, and use the same pan to cook the steaks.
Prepare the Risotto ( I used about 1/3 cup of raw rice) to instructions – I use chicken bullion instead of water.  I heat 4 tbs butter, then add the rice, stirring constantly.  I then add about ¾ cup white wine, and whisk till absorbed.  Add chix bullion about ½ cup a time, whisking constantly until absorbed before adding more.  Continue until rice is smooth, creamy and not crunchy when tasted – about 20 minutes.  Remember – the trick to great Risotto is to not stop stirring!!  Add the mushroom/onion mixture, and heat through – about 2 minutes.  Serve with diced green onions on top!
Bon Appetit!!