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Day 143: Puff The Magic Dragon . . .

Cigar BoxHa . . . remember the song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary?  It was the classic 60’s anthemn . . . puff, the magic dragon . . . yeah, right!  If you were a teenager or even a twenty-something, you KNEW exactly what they were talking about . . . right ;-)?  When we were in school, this song was one of the songs that “got away” with talking about drug use.  In fact, according to Wiki, “After the song’s initial success, speculation arose — as early as a 1964 article in Newsweek — that the song contained veiled references to smoking marijuana. The word “paper” in the name of Puff’s human friend (Jackie Paper) was said to be a reference to rolling papers, and the word “dragon” was interpreted as “draggin’,” i.e. inhaling smoke; similarly, the name “Puff” was alleged to be a reference to taking a “puff” on a joint. The supposition was claimed to be common knowledge in a letter by a member of the public to The New York Times in 1984.”

However, the research piece goes on to say, The authors of the song have repeatedly rejected this urban legend and have strongly and consistently denied that they intended any references to drug use Peter Yarrow has frequently explained that “Puff” is about the hardships of growing older and has no relationship to drug-taking.  He has also said of the song that it “never had any meaning other than the obvious one” and is about the “loss of innocence in children”.  It’s tidbits like these that make conversation (and wine blogs) so much fun to talk about and read about!

We thought about that tonight when we opened a 2011 Reserve Malbec called Cigar Box from Mendoza, Argentina.  Although still relatively young, this Malbec can stand up to anything it’s got a terrific nose and lots of cranberry, earthiness and just a small hint of vanilla on the nose.  The taste to us was full bodied and fruity . . . something that we’d enjoy on the deck with a roaring fire or with good, spicy food.  Tonight’s dinner was homemade pizza and the wine paired exceptionally well – especially with the jalapenos on Brian’s side of the pizza!  One of our favorite comments was from which posted, “Drink with grilled meat or salmon, or alone in your room with the door locked… you are the boss!”  Something strange yet funny about recommending one to enjoy it in a room alone with the door locked . . . let your minds wander!

Cigar Box is yet another fine example of the quality wines coming from Argentina–especially Malbecs.  We’ve come to really enjoy Malbecs ever since Patrick from Grape Juice introduced us to Alamos Malbec way back when!  Since then, we’ve learned to appreciate this beautiful grape and the wine that is made from it.  We also remember when staying at Barr Estate this past fall and they were harvesting Malbec grapes for the 2012 vintage.  Wine making is hardly like ‘puffing on the magic dragon’!  No, we’re just kidding, but still remember it like it was yesterday.  The music back then spoke to a cause–and with all do respect to music today, that tends to be focused on doing one thing only–at least it was music with REAL musicians and lyrics that could actually be UNDERSTOOD!  Sorry, we’ll get off our soapbox!

Enjoy this wine. . .at less than $14 a bottle, you’re going to have trouble finding a better Malbec for the price.  In terms of value for the dollar, the 2011 Reserve Cigar Box Malbec is above the competition and worthy of an addition to your wine closet–or wine garage–or wine shelves.

Regardless, enjoy this wine or any others you really like – responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 142: ‘Win One for the Gipper’. . .

saddlehorn barn redIn our part of the world, today was a beautiful Sunday with sunny skies and warm temperatures.  It was the kind of Sunday where after Church  you pack the Jeep and head out on a road trip.  With a rough idea of where we wanted to go, we set out around 10 this morning, and after driving through Martindale, we turned on Hwy. 142 with Smithville as our intended destination . . . Smithville, Texas was where the Sandra Bullock movie, Hope Floats was filmed.  As we made our way towards our destination, we turned on to Farm Road 535 and found ourselves going past the Rockne Museum in Rockne!  Whoa, is that a bust of Knute Rockne?  We turned the Jeep around and pulled into the museum parking lot and lo and behold, it was!  So, we then asked ourselves, was Knute Rockne from Texas?  We sure didn’t think he was, and a little research confirmed that he was actually born in Norway and moved to Chicago when he was five years old.  Okay, so what’s the deal?

As we left the museum, we drove next door to the historical marker in front of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.   And, here’s what we found out, “Rockne has been known by several names. First called Walnut Creek because of its proximity to the stream, it was known as Lehmanville when the Lehman Post Office was established in 1900, and as Hilbigville after William Hilbig opened a store here. In 1931 the children of Sacred Heart School were given the opportunity to permanently name their town. A vote was taken, with the children electing to name the community Rockne in honor of Knute Rockne, the famous Notre Dame University football player and head coach who had died in a plane crash in 1931.”  How about that?  A Sunday drive – AND – we learned something!

After stopping and scouring Smithville for antiques (good thing we had the Jeep – all the stuff we liked wouldn’t fit in the back), we hit the road for LaGrange, and found our way to a winery just northeast of town, called Rosemary’s Vineyard & Winery where we met Emmett.  No worries, we’ll talk more about them at a later date.  Continuing on our trip we drove through Round Top – which may be the ‘Antique Capitol’ of Texas.  When we stopped at a roadside antique shop, we learned that in the Spring, there are 25 miles of antique shops, vendors, booths, tents and such but only for two weeks.  We’ll keep you posted on that!  After driving, what seemed to be forever, we stopped at the Windy Winery and sampled a little of their wine . . . and, more about them later as well.  Back on the road, and heading towards Brenham, home of Bluebell Ice Cream . . . not open, GRRRR!!  Heading back on 290 West and just outside of town is a beautiful red barn, that when you turn on the road, you can’t miss it!  Inside this former horse barn is the Saddlehorn Winery.  The tasting room is beautiful – complete with clear windows to see through to the wine making operation.

Tonight’s wine is from Saddlehorn, it’s their Barn Red.   Those who know us, know that we aren’t huge fans of Texas wines.  As a rule, they’re either too sweet, too expensive or in many cases, both.  So, we’re naturally skeptical when it comes to a blend, and Barn Red is a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel. The wine showcases rich berry fruit with a touch of oak.  It’s a light to medium body wine with a fresh nose of dark berries and a  hint of spice.  As wines go, it was better than some of the wines we’ve talked about in our first 140 days of the blog, but we’re not quite ready to go full boar into Texas wines.  Steve Morgan and his family are building a nice business, and as tough as the wine making business is, we like to see folks like them succeed, so here’s a shout out to Barn Red from Saddlehorn Winery!  If you’re looking for that special Texas wine with a great name and a nice blend, then this is your chance.  And, if you’re looking to make a trip to the “Bluebonnet Country” this Spring, then stop in and visit Steve.

And, if you’re lucky, you’ll drive through Rockne, Texas on the way!  More research on the plane crash that killed Rockne turned up the following, “After visiting his two sons in Kansas City , Mo. , Rockne boarded Transcontinental-Western’s Flight 599 to Los Angeles on March 31, 1931. Shortly after takeoff, one of the plane’s wings separated in flight and the aircraft plummeted into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kan. There were no survivors. Rockne was 43 years old.”  Sad passing of a notable person who left their thumbprint on the world – and can you imagine having a town that you have no connection with named after you by a group of school children – what an honor.  A great reminder that we touch lives each and every day, some we know and many we don’t.

Enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 141: Stan the Man . . .

Adobe Red

Tonight we just had to break out a good wine to salute a wonderful baseball player.  Yes, by now you know we are fans of the game – true to our Redbirds, but love them ‘stros.  Today baseball lost a legend – Stan Musial.  Now we’d like to tell you that we’ve met him, or even watched him play an inning or two – but truth be told, we’ve done neither.  But – We did see him riding on the Anheuser Busch Beer Wagon at many a Cardinals games at the old Busch Stadium.

He won seven National League batting crowns, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s (just a wee bit before our time).  He spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and made the All-Star team 24 times – baseball held two All-Star games each summer for a few seasons.  There is no doubt he was “Mr. Baseball”.  From what we hear, never a bad thing was said about Stan – something we should all aspire to.  He loved the game, played it with dignity and no doubt will be missed.  There is a statue outside of Busch Stadium – home of the Redbirds – as a tribute to a man that lived a good life and played the game of baseball.

Musial’s versatility was immortalized in verse, by popular poet of the times Ogden Nash, who in “The Tycoon” wrote of the Cardinals star and entrepreneur:

“And, between the slugging and the greeting,

To the bank for a directors’ meeting.

Yet no one grudges success to Stan,

Good citizen and family man,

Though I would love to have his job

One half tycoon, one half Ty Cobb.”

Stan, you will be missed – heard there is quite a ‘pick-up game’ in heaven – it’s where the REAL field of dreams exists – we think they’ll pick you for the team in a heartbeat.

To give ourselves comfort tonight, we returned to an old friend.  Clayhouse “Adobe Red” has been around the block a few times.  We first tried it more than 5 years ago – and always know that it will not disappoint.  Of course, it’s a blend. . .Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Verdot make up this fun, medium body wine.  Let’s face it, this wine won’t win too many awards, BUT it will win the hearts of wine lovers looking for something that’s easy to pour and easy to taste.  This wine has aromas of cherry spice, blackberry and pepper, with hints of brambles and plum. Cherry/berry flavors are dominant on the palate.  The finish is fruity but quick.  We enjoyed the wine with a variety of cheeses including an habanero gouda that was out of this world with the wine!  What’s good to know about Clayhouse Adobe Red is that from year to year, you know you’re getting a good wine for the money.  Clearly, some vineyards give you home runs one year and double plays the next.  With Red, whether it’s 2007, 2008, 2009 or today, the wine stands up each year and the value holds the same.  It’s one of the reasons we like a wine like this.

With a true baseball legend gone, many of the greats of the game’s past are slowly disappearing.  In fact, in addition to the passing of Musial was former Baltimore Orioles manager, Earl Weaver – the manager you loved to hate!!!  “The” team upstairs just keeps growing.  It is interesting to note that no one was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this Year – but that’s another topic we’ll address at a later date.

Unfortunately, thanks to steroids, players who have finished playing and will – most likely – be feeling the effects of their actions, won’t be around as long as Stan.  You see, Stan WAS The Man!  A man who played hard and didn’t need an injection to help him play better.  From high school to college to the professional sports, athletes should stop worrying about putting up numbers and start learning  how to play – within their ‘God-given’ talents.  They just don’t realize that their cheating themselves, their families, their fans and ultimately . . . making it to age 92 isn’t likely to happen.  Sleep well, Stan for tomorrow you’re in the line up – and Earl is the manager.  Do us a favor – say hello to “Mark S.”, number one Cardinal Fan!

Enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


Day 140 – Thank Goodness for Katherine

Katherine GoldschmidtWoah, dude. . .seriously, you could hurt someone with that thought!!!!

Man, we caught some grief after yesterday.  It seems that A.) We’re off our rockers in recommending  a wine that doesn’t even have a vintage, and B). We’re nuts for reviewing wines under $15 a bottle.  Really?  You’re joking, right?

We know that there are more than enough wines for the ‘well-heeled’ at $35, $50, $60, $90 a bottle, but are they that GOOD?  Just because a wine costs a lot, does it guarantee that it’s going to be an unforgettable bottle of wine?  Please understand that we’ve had one or two of those higher end wines. . .and in the final analysis, only a few can stand the test of a good tasting bottle of wine for the price.  Many are priced because of their label, their name, their marketing or their ad agency.

We have sought to find wines that don’t typically get the press they deserve because they’re in an industry–like Hollywood–that only lives for image.  Substance is long forgotten in return for plastic and silicon!  Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but we’re trying to tell you that there are a TON of really great wines out there for LESS than $20 a bottle that people turn their noses up at because it ‘can’t be that good if it costs that little’!  Really?

Have we descended so far as a society to really believe that hogwash?  The answer is ‘YES’…we have lost–to a certain extent–the ability to look at something and take it at face value.  NO, we have to ‘peel away the layers’ because surely there’s a greater issue hiding behind the surface—when in fact, it IS what IT IS!  Do we have you confused?  Tonight’s wine is a little gem we picked up at Twin Liquors for LESS than $20 a bottle (for shame), and because it’s from one of our favorite parts of Sonoma County—Alexander Valley—we felt a kindred spirit to sample it and write about it.  Tonight we tasted a 2010 ‘Crazy Creek’ Katherine Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon.  The only other Katherine (sp). that we’ve known in wine making was Kathryn Hall–and believe us, there is no wine there under $20–or was it $50?  “According to Wine Enthusiast – This is really one of the best values in Cabernet on the market. It’s so deliciously rich in blackberry, currant and chocolate, you’ll want to drink the whole bottle right now. Kudos to winemaker Nick Goldschmidt for producing a wine this good at such a good price.”  Uh. . .yeah!  We get the fact that Wine Enthusiast gives this wine 91 points. . .HELLO!!!

We noted, blackberry, black pepper, and plum flavors with a sweet oakiness. There was a round and fleshy middle palate, with nice concentration and good structure. The finish was full of silky tannins and really nice hints of spice.   Yeah, this is a sweet little gem…hidden from view by the ducks and oaks of the trail.  More importantly, the wine got better and better as it was open and for us, that’s a complete game.  All of this goodness was purchased (on sale) for $17 a bottle.  Most references for this vintage gives you $18.50-$20.00 a bottle so we’re feeling pretty good about what we’ve found.

So many things in society have hung their reputations on being a higher priced item and because of the higher price have been deemed a better value.  When it comes to wine, we’ve learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what you think is awesome at $10 a bottle, may not resonate with someone else.  Conversely, when you think a wine is awesome at $85 a bottle, there are those folks who’ll disagree from the word ‘GO’!  Contrary to popular belief, wine tasting, wine reviewing and wine blogging is NOT a scientific discourse; rather, it’s an opinionated odyssey through the lenses of individual tasters who enjoy tasting wine.  What you CHOOSE to get out of it is ENTIRELY up to YOU!

We really liked yesterday’s wine–Stark Raving Red, un-vinted.  And tonight, we really like our 2010 Crazy Creek Katherine Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon.  Hey, at less than $20 bucks for a good bottle of wine—what have you got to lose?

Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 139 – They’re Coming To Take Me Away. . .

Stark RavingOK, we’re REALLY dating ourselves, but tonight’s wine inspired (reminded) us to recall a song from Dr. Demento back in the sixties. . .of course, we were just children and thought it had a funny beat and a strange score, but other than that, the teens of the day loved it.

And, who wouldn’t. . .after almost 45 years, tonight was the first time we’d actually READ the lyrics!  Wow, no wonder our parents’ didn’t like us listening to the music back then.  Wait–that’s what we said to our kids not once, not twice. . .but TONS of times over the past 6-7 years!  It really is true–what goes around comes around…and you’ll grow up to become your parents!!

For those of you who have forgotten Dr. Demento’s song, it’s called “They’re Coming To Take Me Away!”–and it goes something like this,

“Remember when you ran away
And I got on my knees and begged
You not to leave
Because I’d go berserk?
You left me anyhow and then
The days got worse and worse
And now you see I’ve gone
Completely out of my mind And
They’re coming to take me away, Ha-ha
They’re coming to take me away, Ho-ho
To the funny farm
Where life is beautiful all the time
And I’ll be happy to see those
Nice young men in their clean white coats and
They’re coming to take me away, ha-ha!
You thought it was a joke
and so you laughed, you laughed,
when I had said that losing you
would make me flip my lid.
You know you laughed
I heard you laugh
You laughed, you laughed
and laughed and then you left but
Now you know I’m utterly mad
They’re coming to take me away, ha-ha,
They’re coming to take me away, ho-ho,
hee hee, haa haa
To the happy home
With trees and flowers and chirping birds
And basket-weavers who sit and smile
And twiddle their thumbs and toes
And they’re coming to take me away, ha-hahaha…”

Yeppers, they don’t write lyrics like that anymore!  Actually, depending on the kind of music you choose to listen to, it may be a lot worse!

We’re  a little mesmerized by tonight’s wine, “Stark Raving, Red”–from the Rosenblum Cellars folks.  The Stark Raving Red is a non vintage blend of 34% Tannat, 28% Zinfandel, 18% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Sirah and 6% Other (why do they just say “other,” it’s not a field blend, they know what grapes they purchased) sourced from 80% Central Coast AVA and 20% Lodi AVA (which is inside the Central Coast AVA). The wine is produced by Rosenblum Cellars and should retail for under ten bucks…at Twin Liquors in San Marcos, we picked this wine up for under $9. . .of course, it was on sale.  And, even though it’s a non-vintage, we have to tell you the combination of dark cherry and plum shine through, there are layers of flavor that carry through from the mid-palate (especially the plum in mid palate)  to the back and the finish is better than several wines we’ve tasted that cost double the price.

Would we bring it out with special guests?  Probably not, but we’d sure use it as a deck and fire pit wine.  With fajitas, it was a nice complement right down to the rice and beans.  But the name. . .oh, the name, it’s a winner!  And, the graphic on the bottle looks like something out of “Back To The Future!”  Look, we know there are tons of wines out there to choose from, and trying whimsical wines is part of what we wanted to do this year.  Give this one a shot; we think you’ll be surprised. . .or is it ‘Stark Raving’ Mad–er, Red!

As we wrap up another week and head into a three day weekend, we hope that Dr. Demento isn’t on your doorstep singing, “They’re Coming To Take Me Away!”, but that you’ll continue enjoying your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 138: Better Than A Tucker . . .

coppola rosso

So, way back in 1988 a little known film by Francis Ford Coppola hit the screens of America’s movie houses. . .Tucker, A Man and His Dream starring Jeff Bridges debuted to less than thrilling audience attendance.  Yes, the film was critically acclaimed, but audiences just couldn’t connect with the content.  The film recounts the story of Preston Tucker and his attempt to produce and market the 1948 Tucker Sedan, which was met with scandal between the “Big Three automobile manufacturers” and accusations of stock fraud from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Coppola had a certain amount of personal affinity with the short-lived legacy of Preston Tucker. His father, Carmine Coppola, had been one of the original investors in Tucker stock and purchased one of the cars off the production line.  Coppola included the involvement of Preston Tucker’s children, grandchildren and members of the Tucker Estate during the development of Tucker in the late 1970s, as well as during filming in 1987.  Despite helming his “labor of love,” Coppola was insistent that Tucker: The Man and His Dream would be his last Hollywood project.  He reiterated a long-held dream of his own, embarking on a “period of amateurism and experimentation as a Hollywood dropout.”

Who would have known that shortly after this film’s release, Mr. Coppola would go into the wine business by purchasing a vineyard. . .and who would have thought that a few short years after that, Mr. Coppola would begin producing award winning wines recognized throughout the Napa Valley (Geyersville, California) as big, bold and trend-setting.  We even visited Rubicon Estates when on a wine trip there in 2008. . .and on the second level of the expansive tasting room was a fully restored, 1948 Tucker automobile.  It was–a thing of beauty.

Tonight’s wine is a tip of the hat to Mr. Coppola and his movie magic and wine making prowess.  Jean found this while on a ‘scouting’ trip to HEB.  We opened a 2011 Rosso & Bianco Rosso Red Wine–Rosso is made from a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from diverse growing regions across California.  We immediately noticed an overwhelming aroma of dried plums, dates and apricots.  The nose was distinct; however, the tasting was much more complicated.  We struggled for any fruit on the palate or the finish.  While the tannins were relatively smooth, the wine had nothing to offer in the way of real taste.  The winery stated, “The supple texture and rich, juicy flavors of plum, cherries, mocha, and strawberry jam make this wine a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal.”  We were left with a meal and a red wine to help wash it down.  At less than $15 a bottle, you can do really well by finding other wines in the same price point with better flavor and better finish–there are plenty of better wines.  Is this wine too young?  Perhaps, but one could suggest that it’s commercial value through thousands of cases is better suited to the wine DRINKER and NOT the wine LOVER.

Regardless, we are fans of several Coppola wines.  His top of the line, Rubicon Estates vintages are the stuff that legends are made of and red carpets are made for, but tonight’s offering was no better than a Saturday matinee.  We’ve watched Jeff Bridges in Tucker, A Man and His Dream several times.  While the film wasn’t a commercial success, if you watch Mr. Bridges,  you see some acting brilliance that would carry him through the 80’s, 90’s 2000’s and now in the 2010’s. . .talk about a true professional at his craft!!  Sometimes we go to the movies because the story line grabs us; sometimes we go because the actors/actresses appeal to us. . .and sometimes we go to the movies to escape.  Tonight we escaped–but still had to taste the wine.

Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 137 – Push Me, Pull You

Pull merlotGot home from work this evening–really cold outside by our standards–and after getting into more comfortable clothing we turned on the TV and the movie, ‘Shrek Ever After’ was on.  Now, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind to ‘stimulate’ our minds for the evening, but admittedly, the scenes that we watched were entertaining and classic, Mike Meyers.  His voice and the inflections in his tone are the reasons–in our opinion–that the series has been so successful.  Well, that and some really good writing.  But, as we’re sitting there listening to him speak in his Canadian, no British, no Australian, no…we’re not sure…accent, thoughts of Dr. Doolittle came to mind.  AND, when the character, Donkey, played by Eddie Murphy came on, well the die was cast.

But, the Dr. Doolittle played by Murphy in two separate films–while very entertaining–pales in comparison to Rex Harrison’s portrayal in the classic, ‘Dr. Doolittle’.  Released in 1967, the film had an impressive cast including Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Sir Richard Attenborough and Anthony Newley (Note: These are Hollywood names from a long time ago, but in the day-they were some of the best) who worked through horrible film locations and more than enough animals to beat the band.  Apparently, the original budget for the film was around $6 million, but because of the challenges, it ballooned to more than 3x that amount.  It opened to less than thrilling reviews, but the folks at the studio worked their magic and it was one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Set Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Music Score and Scoring of Music and finally, Best Sound.  Not bad for a show that featured a man who could talk to animals.  And, part of the film involves a gift–given to the good doctor, from Wiki, “Long Arrow, a friend of Dolittle’s, sends him the rare two-headed Pushmi-pullyu, a creature that looks like a llama with a head on each end of its body, from Tibet. Matthew, Tommy and Dolittle take the creature to a nearby circus, run by the lovable yet greedy Albert Blossom (Richard Attenborough), who makes the Pushmi-Pullyu the star attraction. Meanwhile, the doctor befriends a circus seal named Sophie who longs to return to her husband. He disguises her in women’s clothing, sneaks her away, and throws her into the ocean from some cliffs.”  And for the rest of the story…you’ll need to rent the movie.

When we got home. . .and comfortable. . .we decided to try our first Merlot of the blog.  Jean had picked this up on one of her stops at H-E-B scouting for another great wine, and because it’s from one of our favorite places–Paso Robles, California–decided that this might be worth a try.  A 2010 Merlot called ‘Pull’ from the Broken Earth Winery in Paso Robles. This wine opens with ripe berry fruit with a hint of tobacco leaf. The palate is rich and the finish is cranberry-filled, with long and luscious tannins. There are hints of dark cherry with some coffee, which are similar to some French wines from the Bordeaux region.  We enjoyed it with–believe it or not–chicken noodle soup!  Guess what, it rocked the house!  It’s amazing how well wines and foods go together even if they weren’t meant to be!  Not being fans of Merlot, this wine changed our minds…no, we won’t go hog-wild and start reviewing a lot of Merlots, but the chances are good that you’ll see more than one or two in the next 220+ days.

It’s kind of funny, when we sit down to write these blogs, we never know what’s going to come out and onto the screen.  Some days. . .it’s like lightening in a bottle. . .it happens fast and furious while others are like pulling teeth. . .without novocaine!  Tonight, it was an easy transition and a great opportunity to try a variety that we’ve avoided until now.

We hope that you’ll step out of your comfort zone and try a new variety as well.  Remember to enjoy your favorite varietal responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 136: Double Dog Dare. . .

WelchesSometimes, you have to do something because the gauntlet has been thrown down – yes, we are talking “A Christmas Story” – “Double-Dog-Dare Ya” kinda throw down – maybe even a “Triple-Dog-Dare-Ya” – nope, we didn’t have to stick our tongue a frozen flagpole (but for the record, it was cold enough here today to do that and get stuck).  Today at work, Jean and her cohorts in crime celebrated the generosity of many who donate to the mission of the Church they believe in – goals were exceeded and the folks who “did the work” deserved to be recognized – Lisa, Elizabeth, Sonia and Margaret perform a yeoman’s job each and every day – especially the last several months during CSA season.

Since it’s at work and all, they couldn’t very well indulge in the real stuff – Scott made arrangements for the next best thing – sparkling White Grape Juice by Welch’s.  The nose was a bit light – not much there except . . . sugar?,  Upon close inspection, bubbles tickled one’s fancy and encouraged sipping this ice-cold concoction – served in ice-cold wine glasses . . . which, for the record, enhances the taste.  Not much on the mid-palate, and the finish was short, sweet and to the point.  Must admit – it was a refreshing way to start the day, but not too sure we’d go back there to cap off an evening.  So – again, a tip of the hat to the hardworking ladies in the Stewardship and Development Office – YOU ARE ROCKSTARS!!!!!!

Skulls A   

Ok, enough of that silliness, it’s time for some over the top red wine!  Yes, we are talking – Niagara Falls in a barrel kind of over the top!  You have a choice of what you see – yes, we’d like to hear from you to see what your eyes depict.  We partook of yet another one of our favorites a 2010 Skulls from Spainthis wine  is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Mataro raised in stainless steel.  It is dark ruby-colored and very rich looking when held up to the light – when taking the first sip we noticed how soft and smooth it was –  lingering just long enough on the front and then slowly making its way to a nice long finish –  it offers up a terrific combination of earthiness, spiciness, and cherry.  No doubt a crowd pleaser.  If it weren’t really, really cold (Ok, so Texas’s definition of cold isn’t the same as somewhere a wee bit east of here – say New Jersey, but it is chilly for us thin-skinned types), we’d be out on the deck with a fire going enjoying this wine – actually, we’d love to be out there, but Brian is a bit under the weather – so it’s not good timing.  Perhaps this weekend we can gather until the big Texas sky and put a fire in the pit.

So, back to the wine – we strongly recommend this wine – it is good with just about anything you can throw at it.  Beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or even cheese and crackers – you won’t be disappointed.  Go find it at your local Twin or Specs – it’s well worth the taste.

On another note, it’s a bit quieter in the house tonight.  D#1 and D#2 have both returned to their “home away from home”.  Needless to say, we miss them already – but know in our hearts that they are off where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to be doing.  God’s got the watch now . . .

Until tomorrow – enjoy your night, make the most of tomorrow and remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 135: Shake, Rattle and Roll . . .


It’s no big surprise that we love a good Zinfandel.  The pepper, the spice, the fruit . . . it’s a terrific combination and probably the true American varietal.  We’ve reviewed a variety of Zins in the first 134 days of this blog and some have been good and some not so much.  Having spent last night (Saturday) at the Central Market Cooking School with Chef Brian Overhauser from Hahn Winery in California, we learned a LOT about this family run business and the far-reaching parts of it that includes multiple wine labels with vineyards in several places in California.  What made the cooking school so incredibly special was getting to see Chef Brian again. . .yep, when we visited California back in October of last year, one of our first stops was at the Hahn Winery in Monterrey County.  It was a beautiful afternoon, and after some terrific wines in the tasting room, we were invited to stay for Chef Brian’s, “Wine Country Tapas” Menu for lunch.  All six of us were absolutely blown away by the amazing pairing of food with wine.  It zeroed in on the beauty of good foods with good wines.  So, when Jean found out that Chef Brian was coming to Austin for a Central Market Cooking School, she found the perfect Christmas gift for husband Brian.  And it was perfect.  From the Pinot Gris with a cold watermelon soup to the Estate Chardonnay with a lobster salad–and three more dishes paired with Hahn Wines, we were treated–once again–to an amazing combination of food and wine.

The final course of this cooking school was a stuffed pork tenderloin served with a new Zinfandel from the Hahn family.  It wasn’t available in Texas until last night, and OMG, this one is a beauty.  Now, it’s young; it’s a 2011 Boneshaker Zinfandel from their Lodi, California vineyards, but if it’s THIS good while being so young, we are really fired up to enjoy it when it’s a little older.

We had heard that 2011 was a terrific year in that part of California, which for us Zin lovers, is magic to our ears.  Boneshaker is a “rock on” style of Zinfandel. Deep purple in the glass, this wine has an aroma that reaches out of the glass and grabs hold of you with notes of ripe plums, hints of vanilla and blackberries. A taste shows off dark flavors of chocolate and black cherries underscored by a hint of sweet tobacco. This Zinfandel is as full-bodied as they come, with fine-grained tannins on the mid-palate and a long finish made up of subtle notes of spice and coffee. This wine is great on its own, but it truly shined along side the pork tenderloin prepared by Chef Brian. We learned that the wine is from Lodi’s old Zinfandel vines, this vintage of Boneshaker is big and bold.

It’s one thing to visit a winery and their chef and come home and resume your ‘normal life’.  It’s completely different when the chef comes into our backyard and prepares something out of this world–and focused on Texas citrus fruits–and pairs the dishes with some awesome wines.  We’ve become big fans of Hahn’s wines, and a big part of the reason for the shout outs to them is because of Chef Brian.  In fact, he told us that he’s working on a cookbook and hopes to have it out by around this time next year.  We know who will be waiting to get a copy of that bad boy!!!  So, we have some recipes and cooking techniques and wines so the next step is to try some of them ourselves. . .but it sure is cool to watch the pro’s do their work.  And, we have to give big-time kudos to the cook team at Central Market. . .Chef Christina and her group worked their tails off and at the end of the night, you could tell they were ready for a break . . .or a drink!!!

Boneshakers is now available at Central Market for less than $20 a bottle, so if you’re looking for a Zinfandel with the ‘chops’ to bring home the bacon, then grab some bottles of this wine.

And, regardless of your wine of choice, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 134 – Trust In The Wine

honoro vera monastrellIt’s been a long day, so tonight’s blog is going to be short, sweet and to the point.  We enjoyed a night of good food and good friends at the HEB Central Market, but what really made the night so special was getting home and sharing terrific stories with friends.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years is that good friends and good wine go hand in hand and tonight was no different.  We enjoyed a 2011 Honoro Vera  Monastrell.  And, OMG, this is a beautiful wine.  The nose alone will catapult you into the stratosphere–the aroma is amazing–fruit, kerosene, leather–it kind of depends on your mood, but they are all there and pronounced.  Amazing!

Did you know that, “Bodega Juan Gil has hired Aussie winemaker Chris Ringland to do some of their winemaking; however, he doesn’t make this particular wine. The Ozzie-influence certainly comes through the other wines from Juan Gil i.e. in their fruit-forward approach. Some would argue this isn’t necessarily “staying true” to their regions of origin…but hey….to each their own…”  As huge fans of Chris Ringland wines, we can tell you that regardless of where he makes them, they’ll be amazing.  And this year’s wine is NO exception.

With a superb price point under $15 a bottle,  this wine is deeply colored with aromas of sweet herbs and spices, and the lush palate is bursting with ripe raspberries, blackberries, and cherries. Backing all of these aromas and flavors are firm tannins; which makes the wine a great match for braised lamb and pork dishes, as well as a plate of figs and aged cheeses  From our standpoint, it’s a wine that was meant to be shared with friends. . .which is EXACTLY what we did tonight.

Here’s what we’ll tell you . . .this wine has some serious life.  From a great nose to a great taste on the palate, we could tell that this wine was going to be special.  And, it was!  The more we tasted this gem; the better i tasted.  The More we tasted the wine; the better we liked it.  The bottom line is that—at 2:35 a.m. on January 13th,—we really like this wine and hope that you’ll give it a try.  Wines from this part of the world with flavor, structure and a history are tough to find.

As we settle into Sunday, we hope that  you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.