Mulled wine is the perfect set-it-and-forget-it elixir for holiday parties. You can tweak any recipe as you see fit, but don’t use your Blue Apron reds! Mulled wine was first created centuries ago to make spoiled wine drinkable, but modern wines are of much higher quality and last longer. So shop for a simple, cheap-and-cheerful red that could use some spicing up. You’ll have a delicious, winter-warming drink for everyone to enjoy by the fire!
2 750ml bottles of fruity red wine
10 whole cloves
2 star anise pods (optional)
5 cardamom pods (optional)
5 Tbs granulated brown sugar
1/2 Cup water
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 Cup of Port
Two shots of Bourbon (optional)
Make a small pouch with the cheesecloth. Put the cloves, anise and cardamom pods inside and tie it tight with string. Zest the lemons and oranges using a vegetable peeler, pulling off wide strips. Cut the fruit into 1/4 wedges.
Put a pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, zest and spice pouch. Heat to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved, then turn the heat to low and wait until the water volume is reduced by half.
Add all remaining ingredients, and squeeze the juice of the fruit wedges into the pot before adding them. Leave until heated through, about 20 minutes. Don’t let the mixture boil. Serve warm and garnish each serving with a new cinnamon stick.
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Steve Matthiasson was perhaps the most in-demand viticulturist in Napa when he and his wife, Jill, decided to start their own wine label. The critics couldn’t withhold their excitement—and we can’t contain ours, with the Matthiasson White blend in our October wine selection. (And today, Steve’s unquestionably the most in-demand viticulturist in Napa.) We caught up with Steve in the middle of this year’s grape harvest to talk about one of his favorite subjects: gathering friends to eat, drink and be merry.
How’s the 2017 harvest looking?
We’re picking multiple vineyards every single day right now. We’re doing our first red this Friday. After the last five years of drought we’re finally kind of back on track with normal ripening. It’s still three weeks early as compared to a decade ago, but we’re more in line with where we need to be.
After harvest ends and you and Jill start entertaining again, how do you select wines for your parties?
I think about who’s going to be there, and what they’d all be excited to try. For non-wine-industry parties, I keep it simple. At our end-of-year soccer party, for example, it’s just Cabernet.
For wine-industry people, I try and think about what everyone’s going to get a kick out of that they don’t taste every day. We once hosted for several winemakers and Jay McInerney from The Wall Street Journal, and the theme was all northeastern Italian wines.
So you do have different plans for hosting wine geeks versus family, then?
Definitely. At Thanksgiving, for example, I work with my cousin-in-law, Coby, who collects as a consumer, and we strategize together since there are 20 relatives who attend. From there, you have to have a mix of whites and reds for the people who only drink one or the other. Then he and I raid our cellars for six bottles each. He brings the richer, buttery whites and fuller-bodied reds to keep people who love those wines happy, and I select the crisp, minerally whites and lighter reds for the other contingent. It’s always my personal mission to get people to open their minds a little, but you still need to have a good mix.
When people bring a bottle to your parties, do you save it or serve it then and there?
One of the great things about being in wine country is that at any party, there’s always a wine table—everybody brings a bottle. You just ask, “Where’s the wine table?” as you show up, and you can always count on a lot of interesting wines to try. It’s like a wine potluck.
Sometimes it’s really nice to bring two bottles: One for them to stash and one to serve now.
When winemakers get together, do you all try to impress each other with your fanciest wines?
It’s definitely not about impressing. It’s about representing—bringing a bottle that’s special in some way, to you.
I learned this one year that Daniel Johnnes, the organizer of La Paulée, (the famous annual Burgundy tasting event), gave us tickets to the gala dinner. Everyone brings a bottle, and I traded a bunch of my wine for a $1,000 bottle of 1989 Burgundy to bring. A wine writer sitting across from us had brought a $50 bottle of Chablis—but it was well picked out. It wasn’t about price, it was about being thoughtful. The wine was real, handmade with intention. It was every bit as legit as the $1,000 bottle we brought.
What’s the easiest pairing to provide an “aha!” moment?
Pinot Noir and salmon. Also Merlot and lamb. Some of those classics are classics for a reason.
More generally, though, wines with more acidity pair with more foods, so a lot of times the “aha” moment is when people taste a wine and think it’s a little tart at first—and then the food comes out. When they try the two together, all of a sudden it all comes to life.
What is the safest, most crowd-pleasing wine to serve at or bring to a party?
Just bring your favorite, because someone else is going to like it, too. If not, then you can’t go wrong with a bottle of something sparkling, especially Champagne. But if you found something that you think is really cool and want other people to try, definitely bring that.
Spritzers in summer, mulled wine in winter: Yes, or ultimate party-foul?
All ok in my book. I love mulled wine, and I love spritzers. Here in Napa we have our annual Grape Grower banquet in the summer, and it’s 80 degrees and everyone’s pouring Cabernet. I put ice in mine to make it more refreshing.
Formal wine education didn’t exist when you started out. How did you teach yourself?
In the 1970s in New York, wine was a closed society. There were five men who controlled wine media, who wrote for every magazine in the US. Eventually, I was assertive enough to one of the five men, who said they would let me taste with them if I didn’t talk. I tasted with them for eight years, and I never said a thing. But I listened and started to piece things together.
What makes the The Wine Bible different from the other wine books available?
I wanted to have an American voice and viewpoint. That is, by nature, more casual. The wine books I learned on were really stripped down—there was very little history, culture, food and never anything funny. Mine was the first book to have sidebars about tangoing in Argentina, or the history of the French baguette or why the Italians never use spoons with pasta—asides that put wine in its rightful context and its place in that culture’s history, art and life. It made wine more understandable.
At all levels, from newbies to sommeliers, what’s the consistent piece of advice you give students?
The best way to learn nothing about wine is to continue to drink only what you know you like. We tend to drink pretty narrowly—two or three varieties. That’s the equivalent of eating carrots and chicken for every meal the rest of your life. There are at least 5,000 grape varieties. At least 150 of those are widely available. So to be choosing between two or three any given night is kind of crazy.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen a new wine drinker do?
I’ve taught thousands of people, and one of the things that always happens is someone cries. It hits them how deeply evocative of the earth wine is, how mysterious it is. You begin to understand why it was and is the beverage of religion. People have this oh-my-god moment, when they’re really emotionally moved, when their first instinct was purely hedonistic.
What do you tell students to help them get over wine’s intimidation factor?
Wine is merely liquid flavor. At its core, that’s all it is. If you can go to a restaurant and understand if the burger tastes good or not, then you have all the brainpower you need to understand wine. The brain makes no distinction between solid and liquid flavor. As soon as I tell people that, they get it.
What’s your secret guilty-pleasure food-wine pairing?
I could drink sparkling wine and eat potato chips all day long. I don’t even feel guilty about saying that. Salt and acid is the ultimate, all-time great pairing.
Finding that perfect pairing for your delicious home-cooked dinner has never been easier, thanks to our simple and savvy pairing key.
Instead of selecting one specific wine match for your meal, we’re now suggesting a style of wine that pairs well with your dish. The wines within this style share common flavors, aromas and characteristics and will each complement your recipe in their own unique way. So not only does this key lend flexibility to your wine pairing process, it’s also designed to open your eyes to meal and wine combinations you may not have otherwise considered.
With Turkey Day fast approaching, we’re answering the question that many folks have this time of year: what kind of wine should I serve?
Luckily, when it comes to pairing food and wine on the big day, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. You can serve one type of wine for the whole feast, or leave it up to guests to personalize their picks according to their favorite dishes—whether it’s the ever-so-generously buttered mashed potatoes, the sumptuous stuffing or the juicy bird itself. Whichever approach you decide to take, we’ve got you covered.
Each of these wines will amp up everything on your Thanksgiving table. (Only dessert has a hands-down winner.) Look for the dish you keep on craving to see which bottle to plunk between you and the closest relative.
Pairs with: Cranberry Sauce
Calling all cranberry sauce lovers. Like cranberry sauce, Zinfandel is tart and sweet, and its spice brings extra life to the party.
Pairs with: Sweet Potatoes
Do you head straight for the sweet potatoes? Then make a beeline for a Riesling and its crisp autumn flavor.
Pairs with: Turkey
If you’re all about the bird, pour a glass of Pinot. Its berry flavor gets on famously with light meat, and its earthiness cozies up to dark meat.
Pairs with: Mashed Potatoes
A buttery tower of spuds yearns for a Chardonnay. Oaky Chards are like an extra drizzle of butter, while light, fresh Chards leave you with room for seconds.
Pairs with: Pumpkin Pie
If the best comes last for you, the choice is simple. Have some Gewürztraminer with that pumpkin pie. It’s like dessert in a glass.
Pairs with: Stuffing Is stuffing the centerpiece of your feast? Petite Sirah is for you. Its spice makes oh-so-nice with your family’s secret recipe.
Like your favorite seasoning or spice, wine can instantly enhance a meal. To help you master the perfect pairing, we’ve offered simple tips, as well as highlights from our October wine delivery, to keep in mind as you plan your Blue Apron meals–your taste buds will thank you!
1. Vandenberg Shiraz
About 150 years ago, a Dutch merchant ship sank off the coast of Australia. One of the few survivors was Ari Vandenberg, whose great grandson now helms the same vineyard he founded.
Profile: Quintessentially Australian, this red is full-flavored and rich, with robust tannins.
Pairing: Opposites attract, so offset this fruity wine with a spicy dish, like our Roasted Pork Steam Buns.
2. Wooldridge Creek Cabernet Franc
Wooldridge Creek makes Old World-style wines in America. Until now, their wines were only available on tap at Oregon bars and restaurants, but winemaker Greg Paneitz made a rare exception and created this wine exclusively for us.
Profile: A fruitier and zestier take on a Cabernet Franc from a sunny region in Oregon’s southwest corner.
Pairing: Fruit is a natural flavor enhancer, so this Cabernet Franc livens up the flavor of our Sokichi Squash Pasta.
3. Artan Sauvignon Blanc
Artan’s winemaker Grant Semmens was among the first to identify the superiority of Mount Gambier, a tiny region in Australia’s Limestone Coast known for its crisp, zesty wines.
Profile: This wine is bursting with bright tropical and citrus flavors riding a wave of crisp acidity.
Pairing: The acidity of Sauvignon Blanc complements the lime juice and cilantro of our Avocado Tempura & Kohlrabi Tortas.
While we’re excited to introduce these exclusive varieties to all of you, we’re especially excited introduce them to our Pennsylvania chefs. For the first time, residents of the Keystone State can receive our exclusive reds, whites and rosés.
Remember the last time you uncorked a great-tasting bottle of wine? Sure, the vineyard probably deserved some credit for growing tasty grapes in the first place. But the real star behind every wonderful red or white is a winemaker who’s skilled at blending—the art of mixing and matching lots of grapes, batches of wine or both. Blending wine is simple in theory, and most winemakers are plenty good at it—but to achieve perfection in a wine, you want winemaker Helen Keplinger in your corner.
She is the undisputed master at selecting and blending grapes. It’s why we knew she’d make a perfect—and perfectly food-friendly—red and white just for Blue Apron Wine.
Blending is basically the same as an Italian grandmother combining just the right amounts of beef, pork and veal to make her awesome meatballs. Or think about baking a strawberry rhubarb pie. Strawberries bring the sweetness; rhubarb the tartness; and usually some lemon juice and orange zest bring acidity—but the pie only tastes good if you get the proportions exactly right. Same goes for wine, whether it’s a ten-dollar Dolcetto or a $1,200 bottle of Bordeaux. Almost every wine is blended to achieve great flavor and balance—just like a meatball or a pie.
So, let’s say you’re the winemaker of a Napa Cabernet that’ll cost $500 per bottle. Your first job is to crush the grapes and ferment them in a large tank. A few weeks later, you’ll siphon the wine into several oak barrels for aging. Several months after that, you’ll taste, analyze and select the best barrels, then blend them together in a tank. At this point, the wine might be missing a little finesse, so you may blend in, say, a few gallons of Merlot to give the wine that extra dimension of flavor or aroma you’re seeking. Only then do you bottle the wine and collect the five bills for each one.
Guess who made $500 Cabernets like this not so long ago? Helen Keplinger.
She worked for some of the biggest names in Napa before she set out on her own. The blending skills she mastered making those wines went into her special Vermillion red and white for Blue Apron Wine (available here until September 16 for far less than $500). But for us, she didn’t simply select a barrel of this or a barrel of that. She searched far and wide for special vineyard plots, and selected from them grape varieties no one else would think to blend together.
Helen’s journey to create the Vermillion red and white wines involved logging 1,200 miles on the road each week, visiting the vineyards as often as possible in the few months before harvest to ensure the grapes would be picked at the right time. She put in all those hours behind the wheel before the work of blending even began! The Vermillion red wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah from vineyards separated by about 180 miles. The Vermillion white is made of seven different grape varieties from multiple vineyards spread across the reaches of Napa and Sonoma.
Next time you sip an especially flavorful, balanced wine that pairs well with dinner, think about the hard work the winemaker put in getting the wine to taste just right. Then taste your Vermillion red and white—you won’t have to ponder how much harder Helen worked to get her blends tasting just right. It’ll be obvious from the very first sip, with or without grandma’s meatballs alongside the wines—perhaps even enlightening if you uncork the red with our Lamb & Beef Feta Burgers, and the white with our Chicken & Fresh Basil Fettuccini.
We engaged star winemakers Pax Mahle and Ian Brand to craft these covetable wines that will elevate your upcoming Blue Apron meals. They made these wines specially for Blue Apron Wine, to complement your meals this month. These wines work so well with food because they were crafted to have balanced acidity, which is the key to making great-tasting, food-friendly wines. Sign up to have these wines delivered by 6/17!
Here’s an easy way to think about why acidity is important: Imagine a great slice of pizza. One of the reasons it tastes as good as it does is that the tomato sauce is acidic – it’s what draws out the flavors of everything else on the slice, be it the cheese, vegetables or the meat. Wine works in more or less the same way: It tastes good because its natural acidity balances with the flavors in the wine. The wine’s acidity also enhances the flavors of the food you’re eating.
June Wine Spotlight: Meet Pax of Pax Mahle Wines
Pax went from sommelier to superstar winemaker practically overnight. There’s a waiting list to get most of his small-lot wines, which earn scores over 90 points from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.
Pax achieves food-friendliness in his wines by working with vineyards in high-elevation areas. Up there, the vines get more sun exposure to ripen the grapes, but the process goes slowly since the air is so cold. Over the course of the growing season, the grapes ripen to that point of perfect taste – just the right balance of sugar (which ferments into alcohol) and acidity, which remains in the wine and elevates the flavors of the food on the plate. Specifically, the Pax red wine pairs well with bigger, bolder-flavored Blue Apron recipes on this wine’s page.
June Wine Spotlight: Meet Ian Brand of P’tit Paysan
Ian was a broke surfer dude living out of his van when he got a job on the bottling line at Bonny Doon Vineyard, the biggest name in Santa Cruz wine. He was promoted to the lab, then went to work the vineyards at Big Basin, the most prestigious producer in the region. At age 30 and with $2,000 in his pocket, he and his wife Heather ventured south to Monterey to find vineyards for a label of their own. Their vibrant, zesty wines were an immediate hit.
Ian achieves food-friendliness in his wines by working with vineyards in remote areas of the foothills in the deep valleys of Monterey and San Benito Counties. While the elevations aren’t as high, the effects are similar since he finds vineyards exposed to cold winds blowing in off the Pacific and long sunshine hours. But the vines he works with are also in very rocky, nutrient-poor soils. So the vines have to extend their roots deep into the ground in search of water and nutrients to just get enough energy to ripen the grapes to a sugar-acid balance by the end of summer. Learn more about his wine here.
Quick, before midnight strikes, get ready to make a crystal ball drop…into your glass.
Using edible glitter and round ice “cube” trays (both available at the nearest cook’s supply store), you can make sparkly cylindrical ice cubes. Be warned: this is a little messy! Basically, you freeze water in the round, then sprinkle glitter all around the balls when you take them out of the casing.
Then, for each cocktail, place a sugar cube in the base of a champagne flute and add a few dashes of your favorite bitters over top. Top it off with champagne.