Ray's Garden Rows: Fine wines with a taste twist

Ray Mueller

As the holidays at the end of 2016 approached, three of the national magazines I subscribe to contained an insert offer I could not refuse: 15 bottles of wine for the princely price of $69.99 plus $19.99 for shipping.

This offer, described as the “Top 12 wines you need to try plus 3 bonus bottles” was promoted as a saving of $170 on wines that would ordinarily cost $240.96 from a supplier in Largo, Florida. Persons taking advantage of the offer were given a choice all red wines, all white, or a combination.

I choose the all red option. The shipment arrived at the promised time. The 15 wines in that selection came from California, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Argentina.

So far, I tried seven of the wines, but they taste pretty much the same. They're okay but not great — a bit too bitter for the most part.

Raspberries to the rescue

But I found a way to improve them greatly, making them more tasty and acceptable to the palate. What I've been doing is adding the juice which oozes from my frozen red raspberries as they thaw and before I add them to breakfast cereal or oatmeal.

The result is a wine with a really appealing taste. Maybe I got a good idea here. I suppose that can be categorized as “out of the box” or “out of the bottle” thinking.

Or, perhaps I should take the advice of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for the pairing of cheeses with wines for a taste combination that pleases the palate.

Satisfaction guaranteed

This wine offer came with a money back guarantee in case of dissatisfaction. I'm not going to do that, but I wish I could get rid of the follow-up emails and mailings from the supplier.

The supplier is counting on recouping the value of the discount on the special offer by getting repeat purchases by the buyers such as me. I wouldn't be too confident about having that happen.

However, if a similar offer comes along near the end of this year, I'm probably going to take advantage of the offer again — now that I know how to improve the wines to my satisfaction.

Making wine

I've been involved in making wine twice – two years in succession with a combination of elderberries, wild grapes, and lots of sugar. My partner, from northeast Fond du Lac County, had all of the equipment. He made wine quite often.

In the first year, the batch we made turned out quite well. In the 2nd year, however, the wine spoiled during fermentation. So that was the end of my involvement.

Back in the early 1980s, a dear elderly lady in Sheboygan Falls gave me a sample of dandelion wine — just wonderful — that she had made. I can't imagine how many dandelion blossoms she had to collect to make a batch of wine.

Fruit wine favorites

For the most part, my favorite wines come from the Kerrigan Brothers winery along Highway 55 between Kaukauna and Freedom in Outagamie County. They are fruit based wines made from blueberries, cranberries, cherries, strawberries, apples, blackberries, pears, rhubarb or some combination of them. My wife thinks most of them are a bit too sweet.

I always buy a case of 12 of the Kerrigan wines at a time. With the 15 percent discount given for a case by owner and winemaker Troy Landwehr (better known around the world as a master artistic carver of blocks of Cheddar cheese), the cost is less than $100 per case.

Disposing of bottles

Once the wine has been enjoyed, what should been done with the bottles? Don't just put them out for glass recycling, I suggest.

What I've done a couple of times is to give them as raw material for the art teacher and students at Chilton Area Catholic School. As a class or extra-curricular project, they've decorated the bottles for sale at a silent auction or another event.

There are also artists who could use them in creative ways. Keep that in mind when going to a garden show or other events where there is a vendor who would appreciate getting them.