o, what were you drinking when the lights went out? I’d love to hear what you thought were comfort wines during the ice storm and the blackout, but as for me, we started with a Candor Merlot.

We didn’t have electricity so I made baked potatoes and chicken legs on the grill and ate it by candlelight. I warmed some creamed corn on the gas burner built into the grill. It was quite the cozy, romantic dinner, all things considered.

You don’t need power to open a bottle of wine, so we stayed well-oiled throughout the Great Storm of 2014. (Maybe it should be Great Storm of 2014, part 2, because we had the snow storm a couple of weeks earlier.) But a little bit of wine and a fire in the fireplace helps keep things civilized when Mother Nature turns back the clock a century of more.

Yes, it was cold and uncomfortable, and I did not like hearing the loud crack of the ice-laden branches dropping off the trees. But the only time it got scary was when Teri and I huddled around the fireplace reading our Kindles and we heard an especially loud crack.

The debris on the deck. Luckily, most of it stayed outside.
The debris on the deck. Luckily, most of it stayed outside.

When something started falling from the ceiling onto my head I jumped up and said we needed to get out of there, as I knocked over a lamp. Turns out a large pine branch had shot through the roof and the ceiling of our den.

The Candor was terrific as usual, and helped to take our minds off the scary scene outside. This was Wednesday night, when we really didn’t know how bad it would be. The night before we went with friends to hear the outstanding St. Olaf choir sing at St. John’s United Methodist Church.

A wonderful singer from Augusta, Kirsten Newlin, is part of the choir. She and my son Michael were in high school together, so I knew she had an outstanding voice and I had heard great things about the choir. We were not disappointed. It was a moving concert.

So Teri and I joked that we were in the right frame of mind if a big storm did hit. Sure enough, we lost power Wednesday morning and thought it would return within a day or so. But the freezing rain and sleet kept pounding Augusta all day and by that night we were a little nervous. In the end it all was a major inconvenience, but the house is still standing, no cars were hit with branches, and no one was hurt.

Beauty amid the destruction.
Beauty amid the destruction.

(We didn’t get our power back until Saturday night. And I heard the St. Olaf singers were stuck here for three days, canceling at least a couple of their concerts.)

Candor Merlot and Candor Zinfandel are mixed vintage wines, which means the winemaker takes some wine from one vintage and some from another to create the perfect blend. The folks at Candor let me and some other wine writers make our blend a few years ago. It was fun and I thought the blend turned out pretty well. You can find my thoughts on that wine by searching this web site for Merlot Madness.

This version is a blend of 2011 and 2012 vintages from Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley. All vineyards are family owned and operated with minimal manipulation, sustainable practices and low yields.

Fermentation occurs in stainless steel vats with extended pump-overs to maximize color extraction and tannins. The lots are fermented separately before going into French and American oak barrels. The 2011 wine was aged for 14 months and contributes rich fruit flavors and structure. The 2012 wine adds youthful fruit expression.

More icicles.
More icicles.

The wine opens with aromas of blackberry and black cherry. Beautiful black plum flavors predominate with a touch of vanilla and cocoa. The finish is long and smooth. This is a wine with plenty of depth and character. It has delivered every time I’ve had it.

From: Central Coast
Winery: When the Hope family moved to Paso Robles in 1978 to grow grapes, they made farming quality fruit a top priority. They became one of a handful of pioneering families who helped shape the region that has gained widespread recognition for quality.

At first their fruit was bought mainly by wineries outside the region. Then in the early 1990s, the family began producing estate wines under the Hope Family Farms label. They decided that Paso Robles was better suited to produce bold red wines that can compete on an international level.

Austin Hope, president of Hope Family Wines, has decided he wants to make non-vintage wines that can compete with the best vintage wines in the world. As we see more outstanding blended wines emerge in the New World, it’s easy to believe the logical next step is to blend vintages. It certainly works with the Candor wines.

Their other high quality labels are Liberty School, Austin Hope, Treana and Troublemaker.

Austin Hope also takes an innovative approach to marketing his wines. QR codes are placed on the back of the Candor bottles. Scanning the codes with a smart phone takes you to videos: “Pairing with Pork” on the Zin and “How to Pair a Duck” with the Merlot. They are funny, entertaining videos, but they get important points across about the wines.

Cost: $20
Year: NV

Candor Merlot with grilled chicken and baked potato.
Candor Merlot with grilled chicken and baked potato.
Goes with: Without power, we cooked on the grill. I warmed up some previously grilled chicken legs, baked two potatoes and warmed up creamed corn on the gas burner attached to the side of my new grill.

Teri's loaded potato.
Teri’s loaded potato.

It wasn’t exactly a gourmet meal, but it felt good to have hot food even without power. The wine and candlelight made it a memorable meal.

Candor Merlot also would taste great with roast duck, pork tenderloin, steak in a red wine sauce or beef Burgundy. It also is a nice sip with some hearty cheese and nuts.

Broken limbs all around, but the grill was spared.
Broken limbs all around, but the grill was spared.

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