Day 60, WOW – almost two months into our 12 month sojourn of trying 365 different wines in 365 days. We have to confess, this started out as a passion for wine, but after two months, it could be a labor of love! 60 – sixty seconds in a minute. 60 – sixty minutes in an hour. 60 – the number of home runs hit by Babe Ruth during a 154-game season; it’s been broken three times since by Roger Maris, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. 60 – the age for a senior citizen in some cultures, clearly not ours where Social Security qualification keeps going up and benefits keep going down. 60 – the common speed limit for a large number of highways in our country – but NOT the new Highway 130 in Central Texas where the speed limit is 85 – – – YES, that’s right the posted speed limit is 85. 60, as in 60 Minutes – that show has been on the air since 1969; it has seen more reporters than most television stations and keeps on “going” like the Eveready Bunny! 60-the number a car accelerates to from zero to show performance “The car went from 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds.”
We could go on and on – the fact is that 60 is a significant number no matter how you describe it. When we started this blog on September 1st, we weren’t thinking about 60. We were thinking about August 31 of NEXT YEAR!!! But, in order to get to that date, we’ve got to make it through tonight, tomorrow night, next week, next month, the Holidays, the Spring, the Summer—whew, it wears us out thinking about what we’ve signed up to do!
So tonight we’ve called in the heavy artillery . . . one of our stops in the recent trip to Paso Robles, California was at Croad Winery. Who could pass up an invitation that offered, “Come on up for a visit down under!”? Not us–a beautiful tasting room (complete with the Cowboys playing the Ravens in Baltimore on the big screen), and the weather was magnificent. We learned a lot about Croad wines and vines…for example, their “wines are produced primarily from estate fruit surrounding the winery. The vineyards are planted on south facing hills, maximizing sunlight exposure while minimizing the chances of frost damage. Planted in this special micro climate, rooted within calcareous soils and nestled in the center of the “Templeton Gap” area, brings unique fruit characteristics to the wine. The vineyards consist of Zinfandel, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Petite Sirah vines.”
We opened a 2009 Syrah from Croad Vineyards, and we have to tell you–this is AWESOME wine. The smell of the cork was the first indication that we’d hit a grand slam with this wine. It exhibited beautiful oak and black cherry notes–and this was before pouring the first tasting. The wine poured out like velvet with long legs and deep purple hues. Putting our noses to the glasses and we were immediately entranced by aromas of toasted oak, big blackberries, a beautiful rolled cigar from fine tobacco – the essence of a great wine is in the nose, and this Croad didn’t disappoint! Next came the initial tasting–somewhat reluctantly because the aroma was so beautiful we didn’t want to be disappointed by the taste! Good News–the taste OUTDID the nose! Yep, what a smooth, silky, incredible tasting experience we had with this wine. To be totally honest, we’re not sure if this wine is available commercially or only at the winery, but this is a MUST TRY wine. When we tasted it at the winery, we thought it was good, but not THIS good. Perhaps because we combined it with a meal of sauteed chicken breast in garlic and olive oil combined with pasta shells and garlic, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and black olives for a beautiful complement to the big wine taste. We both agreed that the addition of capers and artichoke hearts the next time would intensify the flavors even more.
You know how it is–try different wines and who knows what can happen. Sixty days into our odyssey, we’ve tried 60 different wines and been mesmerized by some (like tonight) and disappointed by others. The beauty of this journey isn’t just to taste wines that we already know and like; our goal is to really try a huge variety of wines with the knowledge that some are going to be good, others great and still others–not so much! And, as we wrap up day 60, thank you to all who have hitched their wagons to our stories.
With 305 days to go, it’s going to be a fun ride, but always remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.
We hate beating a dead horse, but you have to admit that today’s storm was pretty amazing to watch. Whether you had your television on CNN, MSNBC, Fox or the Weather Channel, you couldn’t miss the ‘Sandy Effect’. Everything from Wall Street to Main Street was affected. We’ve never seen so many Tweets than coming from the Mayor of New York’s office or the Governor of New Jersey’s office, but at the same time, were blown away by the coverage of this storm. With a daughter in Boston and a niece in Washington D.C. and more family in New Jersey, to say that we were keeping a watchful eye on things may be an understatement. Having been through a hurricane, a tropical storm or two, a snowstorm and a flooding event, we feel like we can relate to what has been going on up on the East Coast.
When we got married in 1983, we spent an August day at home in our little apartment watching horizontal rain fall as Hurricane Alicia came on shore. We lost power for a few hours, but Jean’s Mom and Dad lost power for more than a week, and so our wedding cake in the freezer became Jean’s sister’s birthday cake! When Daughter #2 was born, we had endured massive amounts of rain and even watched farmhouses being swept away by rising river levels . . . after the floods that year, someone told us that the confluence of the Illinois River and the Missouri River had moved north by 20 miles! Never confirmed that, but you have to admit, nature is POWERFUL! When we moved to Aransas Pass down on the Gulf Coast by Corpus Christi, we had a couple of close encounters of the tropical kind and we still remember buying sheet after sheet of plywood to cut window openings in case we needed to board up our windows. Instead, we were inundated with 20 inches of rain which yielded mosquitoes the size of 767 airplanes!
The plain reality is that Mother Nature is always going to throw you a curve. How you handle it is entirely up to you! After talking with our daughter and hearing from Brian’s sister about how the kids were faring, we figured that we were more stressed – by a long shot – than the kids were. Confirmation of that came when we found out that Domino’s was still delivering in the Nation’s capital, and classes were back on for Tuesday at Tuft’s in Boston. So, it seemed kind of like a no-brainer to select tonight’s sampling . . . a 2008 Plungerhead Zinfandel from Lodi, California – the heart of serious Zin Country!! This wine was a great choice for a long Monday – a great nose – we mean SERIOUS Zin-like qualities, lots of pepper not only on the nose, but also on the taste. A great, fruit flavor of black cherries and currants with a hint of spices and leather. For a $14 bottle of wine, you may want to grab more than a bottle of it. We enjoyed ours with some pan-fried salsbury steak and roasted potatoes with red peppers and red onions. The food went really well with the wine, and the win – well, the wine went well. Period! We picked this wine up for under $15 at our local haunt – Gabriel’s, but you can find it at a number of places.
Unfortunately, according to the latest news from several sources, over 3 million homes are without power along the Eastern Seaboard . . .which kind of bites. Losing power is no fun. Whether its from a hurricane, a snow storm, a thunderstorm or other causes, and it forces us to take drastic action . . . do we open the refrigerator to try the bottle of white wine we’ve been holding out to try? Or, do we go ahead and open the red wine and keep the refrigerator door shut? With a bottle of 2008 Plungerhead Zinfandel – we’d opt to keep the door shut. If you’re on the East Coast, no worries, we’ve got your back and understand the hardships today and potentially in the days ahead. If you’re elsewhere in our great country, keep these folks in your thoughts, and prayers . . . natural disasters are tough, and when you enjoy your wine, please do so responsibly–especially if the power has gone out. And remember, recycle whenever you can.
Not sure about you, but we’ve been watching the weather maps pretty much all weekend. A hurricane in the Gulf or in the Atlantic isn’t news. A hurricane in the Atlantic at the END of October is BIG news. Add in the ‘big dog’ cold front working its’ way to the East Coast and you have the makings for a nasty storm. The media have drubbed it “Frankenstorm” . . . and after watching ‘The Perfect Storm’ with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg (way too many times), to say that we’re concerned might be an understatement. You see, one of our own, daughter # 2 is up at a university in the Boston area, and our experience with weather and Boston hasn’t exactly been great. In 2011 when we packed up the car and took her to school for the first time, we were greeted by the arrival of Hurricane Irene. Yep, the EXACT same weekend that the students were to move in to their dorms and begin orientation, the hurricane put an end to that. We literally sat in a hotel room without power during the storm (enjoying wine, of course – what a surprise to find out that the licqour stores are open on Sunday, and during a hurricane . . .) while the daughter was safely on campus with power and plenty of things to keep her occupied. Brian’s return flight to Texas was cancelled that Sunday night which meant trying to get a different flight out on Monday – Jean drove home solo and saw virtually no impact from the hoopla. Irene turned out to be a minimal bother in the Boston area which is why we’re really watching to see what unfolds over the next few days.
One of the first pieces of good news was a forwarded email that classes have been cancelled for tomorrow which gives a certain piece of mind knowing that students won’t be walking (or blown all over) to classes. The next part of the equation is watching how the storm unfolds and what kind(s) of precipitation falls or how bad the wind blows. Actually, that’s the part that we think about the most – the wind. It’s a ‘crap shoot’ because you don’t know how bad the gusts will be; how prolonged the wind speeds will be and what kind of damage the combination of the two will evoke. So, for us, there is comfort in tasting and talking about a really great bottle of wine that we originally tasted on our recent trip to Paso Robles, California.
We had a great meeting of Robert Hall’s wine maker-extraodinaire, Don Brady, and he took us on a terrific tour of their wine making facility in Paso Robles. At every turn, there were oak barrels – some from France, some from America and some from Eastern Europe. Each of them have specific purposes in the wine making process. Some of them have been a part of the Robert Hall wine making for a decade! At Robert Hall, not only is the wine delicious but the tasting room and grounds are beautiful and relaxing. Today’s wine is the 2009 Robert Hall Pape de Robles – a gorgeous blend of Petite Sirah. 35% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, and 17% Mourvedre. While wines with Grenache, tend to be on the lighter side, this wine with its’ four big-grape cousins is an awesome blend with a beautiful, fragrant nose of cranberry, vanilla and spices combined with a fruit-filled finish of black raspberries, currants, cedar and spices. It ends up being the perfect wine to wrap up this weekend . . . a weekend full of family, fun and food. We’ve sampled other Robert Hall wines previously, but this 2009 Pape de Robles is a special wine from a special wine maker . . . Don Brady has roots here in Texas, so we’re happy to not only enjoy his wines but also to give him a shout out as well!
As the weather unfolds over the next few days, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Boston area as well as the Washington D.C. area – no, not because of any last-minute campaigning, because we also have a niece attending American University there. The East Coast has OUR full attention this week, and if it doesn’t have yours, that’s okay . . . break out a bottle of your favorite wine and when you do, please enjoy it responsibly. Please remember to recycle whenever possible.
We’ll be back here tomorrow night with a follow-up to the weather and thanks to all who have called, sent a text message or left a Facebook post asking about how things are going up there. Until tomorrow, Cheers!
The nice thing about a Saturday is the fact that you don’t necessarily have to get up at the crack of dawn. You know, Monday through Friday it’s the same old thing . . . get up early, fight the traffic, work, fight the traffic and come home. BUT, Saturdays represent the last bastion of relaxation – more so if your kids are off at college and you don’t have yard work to do! Today was one of those days, our oldest – as previously noted – arrived safely from college late last evening and there were NO time constraints on getting going this morning. That is probably why we were awake at 6 a.m. this morning – that and the fact that the front door was WIDE open, which with less than 45 degree weather made for a very cold house this morning! (Yup, there is a story – good news is that no one escaped out the door and no uninvited guests came in!)
Anyway, the day was spent in preparation for a visit from Brian’s older sister and her husband from The Woodlands. It turned out to be a beautiful day with lots of blue sky, a few fluffy clouds and some wind out of the Northwest. By the time they arrived in our neck of the woods, it was early afternoon and we were ready for just about anything. Off we went to Driftwood Estates Winery in Driftwood, Texas to enjoy sampling some of their best wines and feel the warmth of the sunshine! At the tasting room, we met a great couple who are currently living in the Fort Worth area, but who originate from the Kansas City, Missouri area. As former residents of St. Louis, we always enjoy meeting people from Missouri and having a conversation about the Chiefs and Rams or Royals and Cardinals – and barbecue. It seems folks from KC love their barbecue – with sauce! YIKES!!! Here in Texas, we know that the only way to truly enjoy great barbecue is without sauce so you can taste and enjoy the flavor of what real smoked meat tastes like.
We really enjoyed the wines from Driftwood, so much that we decided to enjoy a bottle on their patio – sitting in the sun, with some cheese and crackers – a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. So, when we got back to the house it was time to sample something new and thanks to Brian’s sister, tonight we tried a 2011 Rabbit Trick Syrah from Trader Joe’s and vinted in Healdsburg, California. Rabbit Trick California Syrah is a 100% Syrah blend from several different California appellations – that’s why it’s labeled “California,” rather than a particular geographic appellation. By blending specific amounts from specific regions that impart specific characteristics, they created a wine that’s a specifically spectacular sipper. Lots of fruit on both the nose and the taste . . . we enjoyed this wine sitting on the back deck with a fire in the pit this afternoon and really enjoyed it. The combination of great weather, a warm fire and a tasty bottle of wine was the perfect backdrop to enjoy this little gem, and the best part is that it’s available for less than $6 a bottle! Yep, just when you thought it was impossible to enjoy a wine from California for less than $10, we’ve found a winner!
As you continue to enjoy your weekend and you have access to a Trader Joe’s . . . now would be a great time to stock up on this value wine, and take a little time to enjoy what remains of it! Until tomorrow, please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.
So, here it is Friday night – the end of a week that was a blur . . . albeit a good blur, but a blur nonetheless. Seems like the days are just flying by and just yesterday was the end of August – we lost the entire month of September somewhere along the way. The bad thing about taking vacation in mid October is that you lose days and before you know it – it’s Halloween. For the record, no regrets about the vacation.
In addition to a bit of chill in the air tonight, there is a bit of excitement – daughter #1 is coming home in a few hours and bringing a special someone with her. Being 21 has its advantages – one of which is making grown up decisions about who you decide to spend time with and make part of your life – even if they are significantly younger than you. We are trying to keep an open mind – but as parents, this can be tough situation. Suppose we don’t approve, will they get along with the family, what is their family history, do they love #1 as much as she has shared she loves them?? So many questions – first impressions mean so much – time will tell . . . .
Since today was the first real “chilly” day we had we decided we should try a wine from where else but – Chile! We opened a 2009 Lapostolle Casa Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rapel Valley. Being newbies when it comes to Chilean wines, we decided to do a little research. According to the website, Wine-Searcher.com, we learned that “the Rapel Valley is located to the south of the capital city, Santiago, and named after the Rapel River which runs through its heart. The region stretches from the Pacific coast in the west to the slopes of the Andes 60 miles to the east, so it is not surprising that its landscapes and climates are varied. In recent years, other areas in the Chilean wine region have become better known than their parent, the Rapel Valley, as a result of the Chilean wine industry’s drive towards commercially-attractive regionalization. Wines not covered by either of these names are often labeled simply ‘Valle Central’ – a broad-stroke term referring to the entire 560 miles (1000km) between Santiago and Puerto Montt.” A graphic in the site indicates that wines prior to commercialization, specifically before June of 2009, were valued in excess of $60 per bottle and post-commercialization the prices have dropped to less than $13 per bottle . . . which is the price point for this wine. This wine was supposedly rated at 86 points by Wine Spectator, but we have to admit, it wasn’t that good. The nose was musty and earthy while the taste was anything but flavorful. It was like big leaf tobacco in a glass with no finish. It disappeared – completely. We aren’t sure what all the fuss was about, but for the low price (this was another “whale of a deal” wines at Twin), it wasn’t worth the trip down south. For our money, there are way too many other choices of good wines for low prices that put this wine to shame. We understand that there are some excellent wines from Chile, Argentina and other parts of South America. When you look at the land, the mountains, the micro-climates, you can’t help but be impressed with the capabilities of the region. However, just because it says “Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile” doesn’t mean it’s ready for your palate – or at least our palates! And, with family coming to town, it’s a good thing we offered ourselves up on this one; otherwise, “someone” might be a little upset!
In this case, the “someone” has four legs, white paws and tip of her tail, weighs less than 20 lbs and is named “Bridget”. She is currently being “fostered” by #1 – translation to us is – “yes, I’ll be adopting her soon”. Being dog lovers, we couldn’t be happier – will let you know how things go. Not too sure how “the girls” are going to like their cousin. No doubt Pepper will remind this “young’n” that she is in charge therefore deserves to be bowed to and adored. Andie – well our money says she hides in the upstairs bedroom and wants nothing to do with this young whippersnapper. Jasmine, well this could be as Arte Johnson would say “very interesting“. Jasmine is the spoiled baby in the house and more than likely will take none to kindly to a “newbie” who will compete for attention. Stay tuned for an update – – –
Until tomorrow, please enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.
We were watching the weather tonight and heard about the big storm brewing up the East Coast . . . a combination of a hurricane coming up from the south, an arctic front coming from the north/northwest and a full moon which means high tides. They have dubbed this rare weather occurrence, ‘Frankenstorm’ probably because it’s biggest impact will be next week, which coincidentally, is Halloween! We admit – we are weather-junkies. Brian probably more than Jean (daughter #2 is equally addicted), but nonetheless, we are weather-junkies. You know the movie, Twister? With Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton? Yeah, we’ve seen it, like ten times. No, not on purpose, it just happened to be on TNT or TBS or something like that. Oh, and the movie, The Perfect Storm? Yes, the one with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg – among others. Apparently, the ‘Frankenstorm’ brewing this weekend is supposed to make the “Perfect Storm” look like a thunder shower – we shall see. More than a little concern since #2 goes to school in potential harms way on East Coast.
A phenomenon like this doesn’t happen very often. A blending of weather systems creates some pretty weird conditions. Back when we first moved to Missouri, we had spent a good part of spring break in Houston with family and friends. March in Houston is WAY different than March in St. Louis. We left that March afternoon in 77 degree weather . . . man, it was tough to give that up. When we arrived in St. Louis, the weather was beyond nasty. We’re talking rain, freezing rain, snow, temperatures in the low 30’s and a 1/2 inch of ice on the windows of our Isuzu Trooper. Almost as soon as we left the airport parking, the freezing rain turned to snow. We’re NOT talking snow showers here; this is a big dog snow, hard to see, wipers not keeping up with the accumulation on the windshield and defroster struggling to make any difference. Brian need to see going over the Missouri River and the bridge was getting icy so he started to roll down his window (now, for those of you who don’t know, windows in cars and trucks used to be opened by cranking a handle inside the car – the cranking would lower the window, thus opening it!) – but tapped on the window first to knock the snow off – only to see the window disappear in the door – as in, it wasn’t going back up. The ice was too much and the window came out of its track and so, for the next 7 miles, we drove in a blizzard with the driver side window down – snowing pouring into the car, the defroster on full blast and the wipers doing what ever they could to keep the windshield clear. We got home and the next morning woke up to 16 inches of snow and the whole town shut down. It’s the stuff that legends are made of, and if this storm is what they say it is, a new legend could be born by the middle of next week.
Our wine tonight is a terrific blend from the folks at Bogle. Their 2009 Phantom is a blend of Old Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Old Vine Mouvedre. It’s got class! We love the smoothness of this wine. The ’09 is deeper in color than the 2008 and it has a beautiful oakiness to it that really adds to our enjoyment. There is a lot of fruit both on the front and finish that you won’t miss, and the taste goes on and on. We recommend this with a big steak or a nice serving of pasta. It’s got character, flavor and for around $16 a bottle, you’ll enjoy this without breaking the bank. The ’08 is nice, but the ’09 will knock your socks off. We are constantly looking at Gabriel’s and Spec’s for this gem and truthfully, we can’t get enough of it.
So, whether you’re watching the weather in advance of Halloween or dodging storms around your neck of the woods, you’ll want to stock up on Bogle’s 2009 Phantom. You can enjoy it at the Opera or with the Ghouls and Goblins! It’s a great way to wrap up your week or slide into the weekend. Regardless of how you enjoy your Phantom, please do so responsibly and recycle the bottle when you’re done!
Have a great Friday and we’ll be back here tomorrow night – we get to meet the latest four-legged addition to the family . . . Bridget.
For more of our thoughts on wine and our adventures, follow us Twitter – @bjwine365