Wine. It is the maker of memories for some, the reason memories are forgotten for others but always great nonetheless. In its most undeveloped form, a wine’s life begins on beautiful vineyards as grapes. One standard acre of grape vines produces about five tons of grapes. After the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and pressed it is turned into roughly 14 barrels of wine. Each of those barrels yields around 35 average-sized bottles, which equates to about 4,000 bottles of wine. If each bottle serves two people, that’s about 8,000 drunk people per one standard acre of grapes.
The subject of wine weighs heavy for some because of the vast and constantly changing amount of information, but there are a few basic things that everyone should know. This information is especially useful for the avid drinker who is sick and tired of that same, cheap beer buzz.
First, and most importantly, wine is not only for the rich and famous. Anyone can walk to their local Twin Liquors and find a nice bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet or La Crema Chardonnay on special for around $15, and that’s the expensive stuff.
Second, one should acquaint themselves with the most basic varieties of wine. At the simplest level, there are reds, whites, pinks and sparkling wines.
White wines are most often made from white grapes and include:
- Chardonnay - said to be the “queen of white wines” with its lightly sweet and sometimes creamy flavor; it usually has notes of fruit, nuts, butter, oak, spice or vanilla.
- Pinot Grigio - tends to be more acidic and possess a citrusy flavor.
- Riesling - has a distinct flowery, fruity flavor and aroma.
Red wines are made from black grapes and differ from white in not only color, but amount of tannins, which help preserve the wine and make it more bitter. Popular varieties include:
- Cabernet - dark purple or ruby in color and has an array of intense aromas and flavors.
- Merlot - has rich flavors of blackberry, plum and cherry.
- Shiraz - exhibits wonderful flavors of spice and fruit.
A third important feature of wine is that it works wonders as a marinade ingredient, a cooking liquid or as a flavoring in a finished dish. The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance and accent the flavor and aroma of food, and it is good for baking, too!
Two San Marcos wine hot spots are Three Dudes Winery and Italian Garden. Three Dudes winery is located off Interstate Highway 35 at 125 Old Martindale Road and sits on the San Marcos River. They have a covered patio with an expansive, peaceful view. The seating accommodations cater to both small and large parties with available tables or flat grassy areas near the river where you can bring a bottle of wine and a blanket to lay on. They have five moderately priced, home-crafted wines made from grapes only grown in Texas. The bottles range from $10 to $17 and the menu is limited to only cheese and crackers, so pack a lunch and have a picnic.
Italian Garden, located in the square at 415 North LBJ Drive, is just the opposite with an extensive menu and no bar. Specializing in Italian, the menu is very diverse with salads, pizza, subs, homemade pasta, imported pasta, chicken, veal and seafood specialties. They even have a diet friendly section, a surplus of side orders and appetizers and a hearty dessert menu. You might wonder how this venue satisfies a wino’s needs without a bar, and the answer is BYOB (bring your own beer). Instead of charging you a bottle’s worth for a glass, they just let you bring the bottle of wine and provide you with an empty glass.
Chardonnay Spice Cake:
1 box (18.25 oz.) white cake mix
1 package (5 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
3/4 cup chardonnay (or other white wine)
3 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of a Bundt pan with canola cooking spray, then dust with about two tablespoons of flour.
- Add cake mix, vanilla pudding mix and nutmeg to mixing bowl, and beat with electric mixer on low speed to blend well.
- Add the sour cream, wine and eggs to mixing bowl, and beat with mixer on medium speed for five minutes (scraping sides and bottom of bowl after a minute).
- Pour into prepared Bundt pan, and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool on rack in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert pan on serving plate to release the cake. Serve.