I love lazy weekends in front of my fireplace with a glass of wine and a book… or my laptop. I like coffee just as much, but we’ll talk about wine today.

This morning, I started two batches. Pinot Noir and a Riesling. I have one bottle of my last perfectly aged Pinot that I’m taking to a friend’s this weekend. I really should have started this one several months ago, but ah well.

I make wine from kits. I have friends who make it from scratch and some of them are so wonderful you can’t believe they didn’t come from a hundred- year- old winery, but it’s just as easy to have one flop this way. I do plan to venture into wine from scratch, maybe this summer, but and oh, this is sad, I worry that it’ll take up too much writing time. We writers do everything around our precious writing time.

Today, I’ll talk about the kits and share a couple of my favorite recipes with wine.

Pinot is an elegant wine. I like its velvety, smooth texture. There are different wine kits that offer Pinot wines — some that offer the taste of cherry, oak or spice. This one from Vintners Reserve winexpert has come out perfectly every time so I’ve stuck with it. I do plan to try their more expensive versions soon, but I need to stock up my favorite cooking wine. Don’t get me wrong, this is no run of the mill cooking wine– it’s better to cook with wine you would drink — this one is incredibly good after a few months of aging.

I originally started making wine because my tastes ran very sweet at the time and I fell in love with a neighbor’s Island Mist Green Apple Riesling. I still make that one today. It’s more of a dessert wine or a wine-based drink. It can be added to liquors to make a fun, tasty dessert treat. I’m bottling some Green Apple Riesling tonight– have the bottles getting ready now. (I know I was supposed to do it last week, but when bottling, it’s imperative to have a good clamp to stop the flow through the tube and mine broke. The place I buy supplies was out of clamps, so my wonderful and clevor hubby came up with something new yesterday. We’ll see how it works tonight. )

I stayed with making wine for many reasons. One is I love to cook with it. Not the Green Apple or my Peach, Apricot Chardonnay (haven’t figure out what this sweet wine would do in high temperatures– but I’m curious about using them with pork), but I do cook with good strong reds and dry whites.

An easy sure fire way to cook a roast is to rub it with garlic, pepper and salt, maybe onion powder, then sear it in olive oil on a high temperature. I sear every side and use a tall stew pot with a lid to keep the splattering down. Sometimes, I chop fresh garlic and let it sear a bit toward the end. I then place the roast (and garlic) in a crock pot, mix red wine with some water and an envelope of Lipton’s Beefy Onion soup. I cover the roast, so I use a lot of wine. Let that baby cook all day on low and it falls apart when you lift it from the crock. Makes a terrific gravy, too. (Yes, the wine makes it good, but searing is the secret!)

So, since I cook with a lot of wine, it can get expensive — especially when you like to cook with good wine. Cooking with ready made “cooking wine” can be okay… if you must, but watch the salt! Great tasting wine can make all the difference.

With making my own, I can average a little over two dollars a bottle and the quality of the wine tastes as good as anything I’ve spent way more on. Now, I’ve been doing this for years and have accumulated a lot of supplies and bottles– it’s a little more expensive in the beginning. Making wine is more about the labor than anything and even then, I don’t see this as difficult. The bottling is where you spend your time, but if you have an excellent corker, no biggie.

I’m a fan of Rieslings. It’s a cool white that is easy to drink, refreshing, always popular with dinner guests and it comes in so many varieties. My sisters and I held our own little wine tasting Saturday night and we fell in love with two of them. Okay, one we buy all the time– Relax Riesling. It’s German, tasty and inexpensive — anywhere from ten dollars a bottle to 15. You can’t miss it either. Beautiful blue bottle with Relax in silver down the side. Some rieslings come sweet, some dry. You can get spicier versions with citrus, apple or peach flavors. I’ll have to go find the bottle from the other Riesling we loved.

Another good recipe I’ll share is easy and so good! I call it Pan Steaks with Wine and Rosemary. This works with any cut, btw, but I usually use club steak since we buy grain fed beef and have a lot of these easy little tender steaks. Again, rub them with your favorite spices and sear them in hot oil. This time, turn the temperature down and cook the steaks to how you like them. Take them out and keep covered so they’ll stay warm. Chop garlic (2 or 3 cloves) and saute it in the juices from the steak. (If you’re an onion fan like me, chop fine and saute some with it) You may have to use a little more olive oil, but don’t clean that pan first! The sauce breaks up what the steaks left and makes it wonderful. Add a dry white or Marsala wine mixed with chicken broth (I’ve also used beef broth and red wine or beef broth and white for something different) to the garlic and let it boil until it reduces down to half. Then oh, best part, add butter and crushed rosemary. I usually serve this sauce in a gravy boat for my family to pour over the steaks. Some like to have a small bowl to the side for dipping. I suppose I could give you measurements, but I do it differently every single time. (grin)

If you want a good basic recipe of this, I found a version on All Recipes – complete resource for recipes, cooking tips and food (think it was called Pan Fried Steaks with Marsala and they used rib eyes). All Recipes is an excellent site because of the review section. People make the recipes, tweak them and discuss. My version is a bit different because I use more than salt and pepper to flavor the steaks. I’ve even used Montreal Steak seasoning as a rub. (Montreal Steak seasoning should be added to all marinades… (grin) ) I also more than double the amount of liquids and let it reduce longer for flavor. It works well with Marsala, Chardonnay or Merlot. I cook with Merlot quite a bit.

Let me know if you like hearing about recipes with wine and I’ll keep sharing ones I’ve tried that turned out well. Like my Wine and Cheese Bisque. Oh man, this one is good.

BTW, if you’re interested in making your own wine and you live in or near OKC, go here The Brew Shop Chuck will set you up and even offer tips and advice. If you don’t live nearby , I’ve also successfully bought supplies from http://www.grapeandgranary.com/ though Chuck will ship. I know people in Texas who buy from him. I also have all my friends and family save their wine bottles for me but when I’ve needed more or wanted a lot of one style, I’ve actually found great deals on Ebay. I bought some last year on Ebay when I made wine for a friend’s wedding.