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Day 81: Not So Much . . .

There is something about this time of year that makes us smile.  Whether it’s the thought of spending time with our daughters or visiting family – or stopping for a bite to eat and a night cap at a local business – the atmosphere spells “HOLIDAYS”.  Thanksgiving has always been the ‘traditional’ beginning of the Christmas season.  There was a time (we know, we’re dating ourselves) when you didn’t get to see ANY holiday decorations until the day AFTER Thanksgiving.  It was a ritual, and an unwritten  law, ‘thou shalt not promote thy Christmas until thouest hath finished Thanksgiving.’  A little over the top?  Perhaps, but true.  Ask anyone born in the 70’s or before and they’ll tell you that rarely  –  if ever  –  did a store ‘reveal’ it’s Christmas displays – let alone their after Thanksgiving specials–a week, a month, a half year before the actual shopping day . . . AFTER Thanksgiving.

Something happened in the early 1980’s – we were newly married and remember walking into one of those “supercenters” and being amazed and astonished by the sheer volume of Christmas decorations and “deals” for the holiday shopper.  It has only gotten worse since then.  We know that’s a matter of opinion, but from where we sit, it’s become LESS about the HOLIDAYS/CHRISTMAS and more about getting stuff.  Don’t get us wrong – we LIKE stuff, especially if it’s red and comes in a wine bottle . . . BUT, and we’re kind of on the same path from earlier this week, if all we are doing is opening early to make the sales that we would have made the next day at a much more reasonable hour – then what gives?  Is this what the Holidays have degraded to?  Not so much.

Thinking back to the days of no shopping malls – no outlet centers – no regional strip centers – just good old fashioned Main Street businesses that supported their community; worked hard for their customers and gave back to their community.  Today . . . not so much.  Just like the retail business, it’s more of a ‘what do I get out of it ‘ mentality – as opposed to what can WE do to make the place better.  Times sure do change – for the better?  Mmmm–not so much.

Tonight we sampled a 2009 Forefront from Pineridge Vineyards.  Now, what’s cool about Pineridge Vineyards is that they are not set in the status quo . . . in fact bringing reduced vine spacing from Burgundy to the Napa Valley and introducing Dijon clones to Carneros established a new level of winemaking excellence in the States. The experimentation with clones, rootstocks and winemaking techniques, which continues today, allowed for constant learning and improvement. From vineyard to bottle, the winery has continually embraced innovation in the pursuit of ever higher quality.  They challenge the status quo with ForeFront. Their adventurous spirit joins decades of knowledge and expertise to produce an array of intriguing, high quality wines. Wines that are modern and distinctive. The nose of this wine – very nice; fruity but not too much with lots of oak . . . you can’t be misled when you get a snoot full of oak and black cherry!!

The taste; however, turned dark and ominous – could it be?  Two nights in a row with a thumbs down?   The taste was missing something – fruit, oak, smoke, cedar, tobacco . . . anything please, but NO, the taste and finish of this wine was a big “THUMBS DOWN” –  which is really a bummer because the fruit for this wine was sourced from two different and distinctive appellations. The lush taste and bright characters of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from Lake County elegantly balance the dark berry fruit and deep complexity of the Napa Valley Cabernet and other Bordeaux varietals.   BUT, it just doesn’t deliver.  Too bad . . . we were really thinking that this could be a magnificent wine.  This wine we got at HEB for $13 and don’t think we will purchase again.

Alas, just like the early shopping times this wine falls short on our list and it’s ‘Not So Much’ when it comes to a recommendation . . . so as you get ready to enjoy your Thanksgiving with your favorite wine, please remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 80: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose . . .

So, you may have noticed a trend in past blogs – we not only like wine, we enjoy a bargain.  Well, as the old saying goes, “sometimes you win,sometimes you lose” – as a matter of fact, tonight’s wine wasn’t one that was a winner.  But, before we get to that – when talking about “that old saying”, we couldn’t remember if it was a saying, a song, a movie or what.  So, because we are who we are – we looked it up.

It turns out that the phrase comes from a number of places –

A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.’ Think about that for a while.”                                                                                                                                                                                                      Kevin Costner in Bull Durham

That’s the way life is, sometimes you win sometimes you lose
Part of it you can’t control, Part of it you choose”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Poem by Sam Arjomandi

 “Sometimes when you win, you really lose. And sometimes when you lose, you really win. And sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what on needs.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Rosie Perez to Woody Harrelson in “White Men Can’t Jump”

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose
And sometimes the blues get hold of you
Just when you thought you had made it”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Lyrics from “Sweet Season” by Carole King

So, now you know, and so do we, that these six little words have quite a history.  Okay, enough already – onto the wine.  While at Trader Joe’s on Sunday, we picked out a wine that looked interesting enough – especially since it was from Barossa Valley in Australia – home  of a number of our favorite wines.  Tonight, we opened up a bottle of 2010 The Black Shiraz from Berton Vineyards, and – to be honest, we thought maybe, just maybe, it would compare to Mr. Black’s Little Book (which by the way, we found on closeout at HEB in North Austin – yes, sister Sara – you are getting a bottle on Thanksgiving).  Well – sometimes you win and sometime you lose – it wasn’t anywhere near Mr. Black’s.  In fact, this one is probably going to be better off cleaning your drain pipes or perhaps peeling wallpaper!  A little harsh you say?  We have to admit when we opened the wine the nose was actually beautiful – lots of earthy, tobacco, with spices and fruit – which made our mouths water for the tasting.  Unfortunately, there was no taste.  There was no finish.  There was just red wine that didn’t make any kind of an impression.  We swirled it – No good.  We aired it out – No better.  We’ve even double decanted it – Nope, not happening.  For a $7.49 bottle of wine, many will say, “You got what you paid for.”  But, we know that there are great wines out there for less than $10 .  .  . we’re working on finding some of them – and  .  . . this ISN’T one of them.

Clearly, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose . . . tonight we kind of felt like the Bears against the 49ers – it wasn’t pretty and we’re glad that it’s over!  So, we move on, but as always, please remember to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 79 – We Like Having Options

Since most of our area seemed to be heading north today to enjoy some F1 racing – and Jean having experienced the traffic back ups first hand on Thursday and Friday – on a whim, we decided to head south and meet up with friends at Max’s in SA for a little brunch, wine tasting and walking through the brand new Trader Joe’s .  .  . even managing a stop at World Market near Selma.  As we get closer to Thanksgiving, we’re looking for wines to enjoy and wines to share with friends and family.  We debated buying a case of “Two Buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s, but just couldn’t pull the trigger – sorry family, you’ll have to drink some good stuff on Thursday.  Today’s stops gave us opportunities to fulfill both!

As this blog continues to unfold, we have tried and are trying wines that we’d never have given a second thought about in the past.  On the one hand, it’s pretty exciting to think that we can come up with 365 different choices to taste and write about, but on the other hand, it’s kind of intimidating to think about the unbelievable number of wines out on the market.   Clearly, some days are better than others – not only in terms of the wine we chose but how it smelled, tasted etc.  We know that we prefer red wines over white wines, but we’ve had a couple of killer white wines already and we know that there are several more in the queue.  So, when days like today afford themselves to us, we keep looking for other options.  Almost all of the wines that we have sampled and reviewed have been acceptable.  Some not nearly as much, trust us, many have ended up down the drain.  Even liking some of the wines, it’s kind of difficult to keep wine fresh for long periods of time.

Tonight’s wine is a 2009 A by Acacia – which is a blend from Acacia Vineyards of Napa, California.  Of course, it’s a blend!  85% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 2% Grenache, 2% Petite Syrah and 1% Zinfandel – makes for a tasty wine.  From the nose, we got hints of fruit, earth and spice, while on the palate, we discovered both bright fruit and a certain acidity.  It had hints of strawberry, raspberry and dark cherry that really came to the forefront in the finish. The texture was soft, supple and, to a certain extent inviting.  It was the kind of wine you’d want to break out over the holiday season.  Even though the dominant grape is the Syrah, the others work well to balance the overall make up of the wine.  We enjoyed it so much, we are thinking about bringing a bottle with us for Thanksgiving festivities.  You can get a hold of this wine for under $15 a bottle .  .  . even less if you can find it on sale!  So, it’s a nice blend at a good value – which, this time of year, is a good combination to find!

It’s always cool to visit with good friends; enjoy good food; sample good wine and enjoy a beautiful day – and stay away from traffic nightmares.  Today we accomplished them all, and as we head towards the holidays, it reminds us to stop and enjoy the moment.  Whether it’s spending time with friends or family or both, it’s a realization for us, once again, life is too short (to drink bad wine, as one dear friend would say).  We enjoyed our trip to Trader Joe’s and our stop at World Market, and hopefully, we’ve identified one or two future blog wines with the stops we’ve made today.

As the evening unfolds, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 78 – The Secret Is In The Formula

We’re a little late posting tonight – we know, you’ve been waiting up all night and couldn’t go to sleep until you read today’s blog – okay, we’re sorry.  .  . we went to a fund \raising dinner in north Austin tonight for St. Dominic Savio with Dr. Ned and Judy ?  If you don’t know about this high school, you should do some research – seriously well-run and their academics and fine arts programs are the envy of the area, and the school has only been in existence for four years!  There are some remarkable people who commit their professional lives to the education of young minds, and in a setting like Savio, the minds are cultivated, mined and polished.  We sincerely hope they did well tonight.  One of the formulas to success is building an event where people feel comfortable and they see opportunity.  We think they did both!

The other thing that has the entire region buzzing is the arrival of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Formula One Race in East Austin.  Depending on which news report you hear, there are either 100,000, 200, 000 or 300,000 more people in town as a result of this race.  A visit to the San Marcos Airport on Friday confirmed that more than 70 planes will eventually be parked on the tarmac of this facility – they all will need fuel and other items which is good news for San Marcos.  Today we went to the world famous Outlet Mall in San Marcos–it’s actually two separate companies: Tanger Outlets on the south side and Premium Outlets on the north side.  Together they encompass more than 1 million square feet of retail shopping bliss.  Today’s trip included learning about the variety of cultures involved in COTA and that they love shopping in America.  This was confirmed when we visited with an employee at the Polo Factory Outlet who told us that yesterday (Friday) they had a sales goal of $90,000, but they ended up DOUBLING it to $180,000 – in ONE DAY!  Today, the place was a zoo and with the kick off to the holiday season coming up at the end of the week, this is good news for San Marcos.  Another formula for success is being in the right place at the right time, and San Marcos is most definitely in the right place.

Our wine tonight came from a trip to H-E-B and it’s yet another excellent value under $20 – this one was $18 and is from the Silverado Trail outside of Napa, California.  Some of the wine country’s best wines come from this exact area.  Tonight we opened a 2010 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wow, what a beautiful color . . . deep, dark purple – so dark as soon as you poured it in the glass, you couldn’t see the bottom of the glass!  The nose was fresh – young and smoky (asked for an id to make certain it was of age).  It definitely is a wine that could benefit from laying it down – 6 months, a year maybe a little longer.  The wine tasted good – lots of black cherry, currants, spice and toasted oak, but the tannins weren’t as smooth as they could and should be.  Thus, the need to probably lay it down for a while.  One thing we did notice was that the longer it was open, the better the nose and the better the finish.  What’s kind of interesting is that this was a small operation–family owned and operated–until 2010 when the Indelicato Family bought the winery .  .  . they make many kinds of wine and are a much larger company.

While the wine has potential, it’s not there yet.  We think that it will be delicious by this time next year, and if you’re in a position to try something new – buy this one and put it away in your closet until next fall; we think you’ll be glad you did!  The formula for success in wine-making is starting with great fruit and letting nature take its’ course.

So, whether you’re going to a fundraiser for your favorite organization or church, or you’re heading to the track to watch the race, be sure to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.  Until tomorrow night, cheers!

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Day 77: Sometimes You Need a Decoy . . .

We’re just slightly overwhelmed by the “Black Friday” commercials proliferating television, radio, the internet and even print advertising.  All of this shopping after Thanksgiving has given way to shopping ON Thanksgiving.  What used to be a “safari” to go shopping as early as 5 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving  has turned into a nightmare on Thanksgiving evening.  Adding to the complexity of the “shopping experience” is the use of the internet to ‘supplement’ sales.  All in all, it’s gotten a little out of hand.

Now the stores – in the ever-enticing world of retail – have resorted to opening on Thanksgiving evening.  It wasn’t enough to digest your dinner in front of the television watching football, now we are expected to run out and jump on “Black Friday” specials on Thursday night.  While we’re certain the economy loves the marketing, we’re a little concerned about the human element, which seems to have been left out of the equation.  Thanksgiving was meant to be a family day – shared with loved ones, giving thanks for whatever we may have.  It WAS one of the few days in the world of retail when stores CLOSED.  Unfortunately, the ‘wizards of lightening our wallets’ have devised this new plan that pulls families away from each other as early as 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon in order to be ready for their 8 p.m. store opening.  So much for family. . .

Don’t get us wrong – we enjoy the thrill of the hunt, the opportunity to chase, but we enjoyed doing it on OUR terms.  You know, fill our bellies up on Thursday; digest everything in the evening and get up at the crack of dawn on Friday.  It worked.  It was exciting. It was the natural order of things.  BUT, things have changed and not necessarily for the better.  It’s like a ‘Black Friday’ decoy – “oh, we want you to shop our great Black Friday deals, but we want you to do it on Thanksgiving.”  Say What?  And to make matters worse, we’re falling for it – hook, line and sinker.  While Jimmy watches football and dozes in the lounger, Jill heads off to the big boxers for their “once in a lifetime” deals.  Even these lovers of Christmas-time are struggling with the latest in sucking money from the wallets.  It’s just plain wrong.

So, tonight we opened a 2010 Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon from Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley, and even though it’s a young wine, it has a certain flair for the dramatic.  Not quite as bold as we expected, but the longer it was opened, the better it became.  Clearly, this wine is meant to be opened now and we were greeted with scents of raspberries, green peppers, cedar and earth-tones.  As the wine opened, the nose settled into a mocha and spice–very different from when it was first opened.  The taste is what caught us off guard–only because we expected less based on the nose.  No, it was full-flavored, soft-toned and the spiciness on the finish was pleasant and unexpected. In short, we were surprised.  Upon closer inspection, we learned that this 2010 Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon is 96% Cabernet, 3% Merlot and 1% Petite Verdot – clearly, the winemakers knew what they were doing.  The price was a good value as well–at it’s listed at $29.99 a bottle; however, at H-E-B, we were able to get it for under $18 .  .  . still high for some, but a value for others.  We can’t say that we’d necessarily recommend it on a regular basis, but as a ‘I need something nice – fast!’  This one might just work .  .  . but we can’t help but feel that we’ve been led to something better especially with its’ lineage from the Duckhorn Vineyards. It’s kind of like Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving.

Good wines are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family; we’d probably choose others to share with our friends and family, but in a pinch, this one could work.  We still struggle with the thought of people being required to work on Thanksgiving so stores can open up Thursday night.  There’s just something UN-American about that.  It smacks of ‘forced labor’ hidden under the glimmer of retail bliss.  Too dramatic?  Perhaps, but if you read this and you know someone in your family or friends of your family who has been told (not asked) to work on our day of Giving Thanks, then perhaps you’ll have some empathy for them.  Thanksgiving is Thursday – reach out and say ‘thank you’ to the important people in your world and enjoy a glass of your favorite wine with them.

Please remember to enjoy your wines responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible and to enjoy the weekend!

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Day 76: A Cut Above . . .

Back in 2008, we enjoyed a superb trip to Napa and Sonoma in California, and one of the tasting rooms we visited was at Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estates Vineyard.  Most people who enjoy wine know that Mr. Coppola has been in the wine making business for close to thirty years.  Let’s face it, wine making takes money and very few people other than those who are extremely successful have the money to A.) buy a vineyard and/or B.) make wine.  Even here in Texas, most of the new wine makers are Doctors – Neurologists – Radiologists, etc . . .  Why?  Because they have the capital assets to make the investment.  Wine making is NOT for the faint of heart.   The weather – rain, or lack of it, wind, sun, or too much of it, too cool, too hot – not enough days above this temperature or too many days below that temperature .  .   .the grapes weren’t harvested on time; they were harvested too early .  .  . we could go on and on.  And we aren’t even in the business.  The bottom line is that it IS a business and it takes MONEY to make the business go.

We digress – – the tasting room at Mr. Coppola’s Rubicon Estates is in a word – AWESOME.  A two-story building right out of – you guessed it, a Hollywood movie!  In fact, it’s SO out of a Hollywood movie, that on the second floor of the building is a late 1940’s model Tucker automobile in mint condition.  You movie buffs may recall a movie that Mr. Coppola made in the mid-1980’s starring Jeff Bridges as Tucker, The Man and His Machine.  We’re pretty sure that of ALL the Tucker’s left in existence, Mr. Coppola owns the majority of them.  The movie, while biographically significant, didn’t fare all that well at the box office.  We’ve watched it a number of times and find it fascinating from a historical perspective.  Imagine .  .  . the “Big 3” Automakers trying to put someone out of business?  Anyway, this film is, in our opinion, Mr. Coppola’s nod to the passion of perfection.  Our guess is that he has used this mantra in the wines that come from his vineyards.

Today, Mr. Coppola has a significant variety of wines .  .  . their basic entries are the “Coppola” labels; their mid-level wines are the “Director’s Cut” and their premium wines are the ‘Rubicon Estates’.  When we enjoyed their tasting room, we sampled the mid-level and premium wines which is what led us to this evening’s sampling.  Tonight we enjoyed a 2009 Director’s Cut Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County.  This is a beautiful wine – which is available at H-E-B for less than $17 a bottle.  If you like a good Zinfandel or you’ve NEVER tried a Zinfandel, this may be your wine of choice.  The nose on this one is so subtle–the pepper and spice; the cranberry and currants; the cinnamon and nutmeg – – WOW, what a combination!  The taste was every bit as delicious as the nose was enticing.  An amazing taste of fruit with a hint of oak–a smooth taste that we paired with roasted potatoes and grilled pork tenderloin.  You won’t have to go to Hollywood for this wine or even audition to buy it.

One of our all-time favorite movies – directed by Mr. Coppola – is The Godfather.  It’s a cinema classic that has stood the test of time.  Tonight’s sampling of the 2009 Director’s Cut Zinfandel is a classic that has the potential to withstand the test of time.  It’s delicious, affordable and ready for enjoying right now.

Please remember that whether you enjoy this wine or any others, enjoy them responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 75: Tying the Knot – NOT

Last night we raved about a blend from Artesa and couldn’t say enough good things about that wine.  Well, tonight we’re heading in  the other direction – south.  First of all, we  have had our share of excellent wines from Australia.  As a rule, they’re bigger, bolder and fruitier than many American wines.  So, when looking for another value priced wine when we visited our local Sam’s Club, we happened upon this wine from the McLaren Vale (pronounced valley) a place from where we’ve enjoyed some delicious wines – called Red Knot.

The first thing we noted – right off the bat – it’s a young wine.  A 2011 vintage means that it’s probably going to be much more fruity with less structure.  Very mild tannins with virtually no finish is kind of what we expected.  However, because of where it came from, we felt like we were heading down the right path for a good find and priced under $11 a bottle.  How often can you come across a sweet deal that includes a good price from a good ‘home’?

We should have known when we opened the bottle – and we have to borrow this phrase from our good friend Patrick Wilt at Grape Juice in Kerrville – he says, “At the end of the day, it’s all grape juice!”  Well, that’s EXACTLY what we smelled upon opening .  .  . it had the aroma (the smell?) of Welch’s Grape Juice.  Actually, it could have been ANY brand of store bought grape juice and we were not excited.  A pour into a glass and a swirl didn’t change a thing .  .  . a sip – a little aeration – nothing.  The wine had NO taste.  It was like drinking a glass of store bought grape juice.  We pulled out the receipt to confirm that we hadn’t spent too much on it, but in all fairness, this one was overpriced even as a value wine.

What makes our comments almost hysterical are the comments we read from Australia – Here are a couple of them: “Shingleback’s cheapy is a youthful beauty. Cabernet really belongs in the Vale and these guys are doing it very well.” or  how about this one: “That the discounters frequently trim the price of Red Knot is a sure sign of popularity. And popularity, in this instance, proves that Australia’s savvy palates know a bargain when they see one.” We’re sorry – are they CRAZY?  Trim the price because of popularity?? Savvy Palates?  Really?  Retail 101 – if it DOESN’T sell, mark it down and someone will buy it.  Continue marking it down UNTIL someone buys it!  Savvy palates know a bargain – or, as we translated, we were thirsty enough to drink the first bottle we came across!!

Don’t get us wrong; it doesn’t have to be  high priced to be good and there really are plenty of value-laden wines on the market – several of which we’ve already written about!  Unfortunately, we’re going to find the occasion ‘dud’ – just like in Monday’s blog about ‘Mystery Date’ – we rolled the dice and landed on a ‘DUD’, but you get to be the beneficiaries of our sacrifice – so you’re only homework is to decide for yourself if we’re right about our review of the wine or take it at face value and protect our wine’s identity.

For $10 we learned a lesson – not all wines from Australia’s McLaren Vale are going to be home runs.  We knew that sooner or later we’d run into one of these, and tonight, that is exactly what we did.  What made matters worse was the fact that this wine has won six Bronze medals this year in wine competitions and a Gold medal.  We can’t help but wonder how good it would have been had there been seven Gold medals and one Bronze!  Not to be the case today.

Regardless as to whether you enjoy your red wine or your white wine, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 74 – The Meritage Express . . .

It’s no surprise that we enjoy tasting and blogging about blends.  Once the bane of wines, blends have become one of the more accepted wine varietals coming from California, New Zealand, Australia and other countries.  When we blogged earlier in the fall about Elements which was a 60/40 blend from Napa and Sonoma .  .  . we really enjoyed it and have shared it with many friends ( another shout out to Ed and Lori).  So, when we made our ‘infamous’ stop at World Market a few weekends back, we came across this little gem (or we were hoping) from a familiar name (Artesa) with a familiar name (Elements) only something was different.  It was more expensive – this one regularly retails for around $30 a bottle .  .  . it was ON SALE plus we got the ‘membership discount’ which meant  that our cost was $16.  Hmmm – kind of illustrates the mark up doesn’t it?

This blend is made up of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon; 16% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; 5% Malbec; and 3% Petite Verdot – now ANY of these grapes in the hands of skilled wine makers can produce some amazing wines.  And, this wine coming from the Napa Valley, indicated to us that it had some pretty good lineage behind it.  What makes it a little challenging tonight is that we’ve already blogged about an Elements wine, so is this considered a duplicate?  According to the judges (we’ve thrown out the score from the Boone’s Farm Judge), this is a totally different wine – which we kind of already knew, but just to be on the safe side we double checked our previous blog . . . WHEW!

This one is simple.  If you can get your hands on this 2009 Elements Meritage – BUY IT!  No questions asked.  You’ll thank us in the long run – you’ll want to email us; call us; text us – because when you smell this wine and then taste this wine, you’ll be amazed at how beautiful it is.  We immediately get black cherry on the nose and the more it stayed open the more pronounced the cherry scent became.  The taste was just as flavorful with black cherries, cinnamon and spice and a hint of vanilla on the finish.  Depending on your food of choice, you’ll even get hints of chocolate – maybe even some cedar or spice.  It’s just an awesome wine for the price point and one that you should definitely bring to your friends or family this holiday season. We enjoyed this wine tonight with a dish of pasta and sauteed vegetables – heavy on the garlic, thank you very much. This was one of the few nights that Jean cooked – have to keep her in practice from time to time – Brian is usually the chef de jour, so gave him the night off.

While we will typically recommend a Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving – you have to have something for the day after, and this wine will make everyone (as long as they like red wine) happy.  We’ve been asked on a number of occasions, would you really buy the wines that you write about?  Our answer is – YES.  On this 2009 Elements Meritage?  You’d better believe it – in fact, we’re not going to  tell you where we’re going to buy our next bottles because we don’t want the supply to diminish before we get there!!!  Seriously, rare is a wine that is affordable, delicious and you could easily lay this down for another three to five years and it’d be even better than it is right now.

Hey, Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday – we’re looking for some wines to enjoy at the holiday.  Jump on this one.  It’s a winner – in fact most of the wines from Artesa that we’ve tasted are winners.  As we were reading about this wine from several wine review sites, we stopped at one with a review from this past September – Five Stars with comments that basically intimated, ‘This Is A Winner!”

As we get closer to ‘Turkey Day’, we’ll offer some thoughts about holiday wines, but regardless of which wine you choose to enjoy, please enjoy responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.  Thanks for reading.

Dinner is served . . .

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Day 73: Open the Door for Your Mystery Date . . .

So, when selecting tonight’s wine Jean couldn’t help but zip back to her childhood and remember the Milton Bradley game, “Mystery Date”.  For those not old enough to remember, the original version was introduced to the world of teenage girls in the early 1960’s (yes, sadly we were alive and kickin’ way back then).  The purpose of the game was to spin and move your marker around the board until you got to open the door and discover who your “mystery date” would be.  The good-looking surfer?; the hunk all dressed up for the prom, the bowler or heaven forbid “the dud”.  The game provided fun and anxiety – who knew who you would “get”.  Advertised as “a game of romance and mystery for one and all – Fun and surprising – that’s Mystery Date” – wow, nowadays this would be called or perhaps even Speedating. Although it was a simple game – it did provide hours and hours of fun – because, you just NEVER knew who would be behind that door.  Jean did chuckle out loud when she confessed to Brian that nine times out of 10 she got “the Dud”, otherwise known as the Plumber.  Fortunately for her, her real “Mystery Date” turned out to be a pretty swell guy that she met in college and will celebrate 30 years of marriage with in January.  Please let us know if you remember this game.

So, onto tonight’s wine – this is yet another gem that we picked up in College Station during “the voyage to Lufkin: a weekend or two ago.  We found this wine at World Market for a mere $10.19 (originally $12.99 – see it really pays to join “clubs” and get those discounts!).  The wine is a young Mountain Door 2011 Malbec from Mendoza (some dear friends are traveling there in the Spring and might have to check this place out for us – surely they won’t mind having to sample a wine just for us!).  As young as this wine is, it has a lot of flavor . . . we sensed it on the nose where there was a hint of vanilla mixed in with a smell of raspberries.  Upon tasting, both of these were confirmed along with a finish of cherries.  We were surprised by the mellowness of the wine on the palate and the finish.  It seemed like a much older bottle of wine given its’ structure and tannins.  We enjoyed this wine with a spicy leftover chili and the combination was perfect.  You may want to try it with some grilled steak or salmon . . . sure to be delicious together.  The color is magnificent and the wine is clear and ready for enjoying.  As we mentioned earlier, the price is outstanding and now after tasting, the value is off the charts.  We are constantly amazed by the quantity and quality of wines coming from the Mendoza, Argentina appellation.  For wine lovers, this represents some uncharted territory in wine selection and enjoyment.  We have been and continue to be impressed with wines, especially Malbecs, coming from this region.  Knowing that the Argentina wine growing region has some impressive  altitudes, these grapes are probably sourced from older vines where the fruit is darker and riper giving it the beautiful color we saw in the glass.

This is a really nice ‘cheap’ wine.  And, let’s face it, for $10 a bottle, you can decanter it and show it off to your best friends .  .  . they’ll never know!  Or, you can open a bottle and pour a couple of glasses and go out on the deck with a fire in the pit and relax after a hard day’s work. You choose the moment, but you really owe it to yourself to try this wine.  We’re going back to buy a few more bottles of it to have around as we get closer to the holidays.  It’s amazing how, after 70+ days, we’re really starting to learn more about and enjoy different wines that we’d never otherwise try, so we want you to try them too .  .  . let us know what you think.

But more importantly, remember to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible and be sure to open the door – you never know who your mystery date will be!

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Day 72: Chili Today – Hot Tamale . . .

You knew it was a matter of time before we brought back another one!  We gave you a glimmer of hope with a review of a really nice white wine earlier this past week.  But, no – back to Zin!!  There is a common bond with Zin lovers; it’s almost impossible to separate us from our passion.  We just can’t help ourselves – we’re hooked.

After a busy day of chores, errands and laundry (and of course some FOOTBALL tossed in there, tonight, we settled in to watch another episode of The Amazing Race, and we don’t know about you, but there is an inner nagging for us to attempt this show.  Okay, as long as there is NO eating of insects or other raw creatures of the earth, we think we can make this.  From the physical tests to the mental tests and from the cultural tests to the cultural tests .  .   . this is a show made for couples.  We qualify beyond the shadow of a doubt – and if the stars of the world ever aligned with the planets, then we might have something going!!  Seriously, it’s always been a ‘dream’ of ours to make that show – we’ve watched every episode of this show almost without fault and believe that we are destined to be a part of it.  We have even gone as far as downloading the application when they “interviewed” in Austin a few years back – but didn’t think our respective employers would give us time extended time off needed – maybe one day!

Tonight’s wine is a 2009 Zinfatuation from Trinchero.  This is a decent wine. Nothing about it is over the top. A smooth to medium-bodied effort with good fruit, nothing overly ripe or concentrated. it had some cherry and raspberry, light to moderate tannin structure, and slightly better than average length.  It’s a simple wine for folks who need a simple wine.  You won’t be tasting huge amounts of fruit with this wine.  Trinchero has an excellent reputation as a wine maker that is willing to stick its’ neck out for the product being made or the customer making the purchase.  Zinfatuation is an alright product; we enjoyed it this evening with homemade chili complete with soda crackers and a relaxing dinner hour.  We picked them little gem up in College Station at World Market for under $10 on sale – so for the money, it was a tasty treat.  No matter how you slice it, this wine isn’t a bad addition to your holiday collection; for us, it’s a step closer to realizing our goal of reviewing 365 wines in 365 days.  Enjoy this product with the understanding that it’s probably going to get better as time gos by.

Here’s to the start of a hopefully less hectic week at Casa del Vino in preparation of T’day – which means a meeting of the three F’s – – – – Family, Food and FOOTBALL!  There will be lots to be talking about next week.  Chances are good there will be a pinot or two on the horizon and we are looking forward to a “cool” snap – about all we can hope for in these parts of Texas.

Zinfatuation is but one step on the wine journey of life; remember to enjoy YOUR wine responsible and recycle whenever possible.