Busy times in VineLand. The past month’s been a blur. Birthday celebrations. Passover and other family gatherings. Employment craziness for both myself and the Sweet Professor in Crime. A healthy dose of seasonal allergies. And, smack dab in the middle of it all, our 3rd Annual Kentucky Derby Shindig.
We had a houseful for the First Saturday in May. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ve undoubtedly seen and heard about the breakdown of Eight Belles that followed the absolutely brilliant race run by Big Brown. A hush fell over our crowd, mirroring what happened at Churchill.
I consider myself a slightly more than casual fan of thoroughbred racing, but I’m not going to wax poetic about the fallen filly or the pro/con of the humanity of the enterprise. (Although the statements by PETA about suspending Eight Belles’ jockey may have been some of the more idiotic things I’ve ever read…) I'll simply say that the whole thing was tragic -- and such a thing is heartbreaking whether it's on the biggest stage or in a maiden claiming. The horses themselves love to run, and that's enough for me.
Our gathering found its second wind, thankfully. Much food was eaten, 3 ½ liters of my magic juleps were consumed by the partygoers, and everyone left with smiles on their faces at the end of the evening.
We did offer more to drink than bourbon-based concoctions. I was able to put together a few equine-themed wines for general consumption. With Preakness and Belmont coming up, you might want to consider one of these selections:
Horse Play 2005 Rollicking Red -- An interesting California blend from White Rocket wines, an offshoot of Kendall-Jackson. This wine is made from almost equal parts cabernet sauvignon and merlot with a shot of syrah to add some fruit. The cabernet dominates initially with lots of tannin at first taste. In my opinion, you're better off letting it breathe for a bit right out of the gate. A very rich wine once it settles down, with plenty of blackberry and currant flavors and a strong, tannic finish -- almost like a cup coffee. Its richness calls for stews. At the aforementioned party, when I went to the burgoo I'd whipped up in the slow cooker, I took a break from the juleps to drink this wine and it meshed well. What's burgoo? For the uninitiated, it's a stew initially made from whatever was around the kitchen. (Or, as Vine Reader Miss Judy put it, "Whatever's on the road that morning...") I took a little more care with it. You can find this for $11-13.
14 Hands 2005 Red Wine -- If you're not familiar with horse terminology, a horses' height is measured in "hands," a unit equivalent to four inches or so. The name of the winery refers to the height of the wild horses that used to feed on the grasses in this part of rural Washington. The blend of grapes was very similar to the Horse Play, but the more northern latitudes where it was grown gave it a much softer, fruitier taste. The merlot was much stronger in the blend. That said, it still had some muscular plum and berry flavors, but the finish was smoother and less tannic. It worked wonderfully well with chocolate. $9-11.
Tall Horse 2006 Sauvignon Blanc -- This South African sauvignon boasts a drawing of a giraffe on the label. So what if I'm taking liberties here -- since "Tall Horse" was the name of a giraffe given as a gift to the French by the Sultan of Egypt in the 1800s. Still, four legs -- hooves, and a general horse shape. Work with me, people. This wine is a very refreshing quaff. It has a bright nose of melon and grapefruit. The flavors of melons and lemons are very crisp. The finish is dry with more of the melon flavor. It'll run you $8-10, but is an excellent party wine.
If you want to spend a little more, you might also check out some selections by Equus Run (for the Kentucky wine experience) or Wild Horse. You could also nip over to the blogroll and click on Dark Horse (home of one of the tastiest zins that you’ll find) or Iron Horse, best known for sparkling wine but also purveyors of some other tasty selections like the Benchmark I just raved about.
Place your bets...