I got this germ of an idea in the ol' inbox not long ago from Andrea S.:
"Sometimes when everyone's being social, I just don't feel like it. I'd just rather sit at home, pet the dog, turn on some music and pour a glass of wine. I deal with people all the time, and I just want to shut off my brain for awhile. What's something decent that I can pick up, open, pour, and not think about too much?"
As I said, I wish that I'd been able to get this out early enough for the mid-Atlantic folks to get to their local wine stores and stock up for the latest thrust of this winter of our discontent -- since right now, it sounds like snowshoes and dogsleds are about the only way to get around.
Andrea raises an excellent point -- especially after an exhausting week at work, the siren song of the couch cushions every now and again sounds way too tempting to head out to happy hour, dinner, concerts, or what have you. Even making dinner can become too much of an effort. Heck, even contemplating wine can be a strain.
So, for the sake of "Uncork, unplug, unwind," here are a couple of wines that I've run across that fall squarely into the "at least decent enough to be surprisingly good at a time like that" category:
Round Hill 2007 Merlot -- Not the biggest, not the strongest, not the most flavorful -- but it's got a good fruit backbone. While the nose is a little grapey, it's not overwhelmingly so and it calms down into plumminess after it gets a little air. This is the sort of wine that an aerator could work wonders on. The finish is adequately full for an evening's low-key needs -- which probably include random leftovers scavenged from the fridge to accompany that Netflix movie you've been paying for over the last two months since you haven't found time to watch. It'll go reasonably well with chocolate, pizza rolls, or a cut up chicken breast, some shredded parmesan, and salsa. Not that I'd know. $7.
Cupcake 2008 Columbia Valley Dry Riesling -- I found myself in a situation after a long day at work that I simply didn't have the energy to do a full-on wine shop. The domicile was running low on white, and I needed something to go with a spicy chicken soup I planned to cobble together one an evening setting up to be bitterly cold. What can I say? I'm a sucker for cupcakes. I didn't have any expectations, and at $8, I thought I'd just use a little palate background noise for the occasion. What I cracked was a decent kabinett-style American Riesling. The nose was floral enough that it bordered on viognier territory, with a soft peachy, appley body and a surprising mineral thread winding through it. ("It's fruity, but it doesn't hit you over the head with sugar like a lot of other cheap Rieslings," commented the SPinC) The finish, as promised on the label, is generally dry with a little sour apple. With the soup, the spices balanced well. Solid value.
Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine 2007 Pinot Noir -- One of my favorite "slothing at home" activities is a good, long soak and a big ol' glass of wine. Red wine relaxes me more than white -- but when I'm up to my neck in hot water and bubbles, huge tannic reds can be a bit much. Lighter red, like pinot noir, works nicely, but I generally don't want to crack a 1er cru Burgundy while I'm getting all pruney, and many inexpensive pinots can be watery and uninteresting. I was pleased to find this very serviceable pinot noir for $12. Rarely does a pinot at this price point have much in the way of the smoky complexity that makes pinot...well, pinot, but this one had a pleasant cherry-laden, smoky twist on the nose. Medium bodied with dark cherry flavors, some smoke and surprisingly good balance. The finish is lightly tart and little dry. Again, nothing that knocked my socks off, but for tub time -- perfectly workable. It's also a very tasty food wine. Before the cold really kicked in this winter, I had this with grilled skewers of shrimp, sausage, fennel, mushroom, and tomatoes. Very tasty.
Bogle 2006 "The Phantom" Red Wine -- So, what if you're lucky enough to get snowed in with some good company? Perhaps a fire if that's an option, some dark chocolate sundries, a little 'Trane, and this bottle, again picked up on a whim on the way out of the wine store. The SPinC found ourselves in just such a situation, and we decided to break this open just because we we had it lying around. We didn't expect such a complex, sultry little number for $16. It's a big blend of mostly zinfandel and petit sirah, so it's not as "subtle" as you might expect a phantom to be. ("Bogle" means "Phantom" in old Scottish) The nose is a confectionary in winter -- heavy with melted chocolate and pine needles. Not especially fruity on the palate, but full of smooth layers of coffee and vanilla. It finishes lush and thick with coffee and a little dark fruit, and for sipping deep into the night, a winner.
So eschew the social temptations of the outside world and break open a bottle or two. It's good for the soul. As for the DC folks, stay warm, stay indoors, and if your cable still works, don't watch any TNT reruns of "Alive."