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Day 242: A Little Too Sweet . . .

Fratelli MochettoToday was a good, crazy day – – between a cracked windshield, a binder clip poking a hole in the bottle of a styrofoam cup of Coke (for the record – the cup holders in a Jeep can hold up to 20 oz of liquid – what can your car’s hold?), and checking with dear friends who just opened a B&B here in San Marcos – it was a busy, but good one.  D#1 is days away from her final college exam before graduation coming up soon and D#2 is fighting a cold preparing for her final college exams before coming home for a visit from the East.  Looking forward to some time with all four of us together under one roof.   Life is just zipping by – can tomorrow really be May 1st?  Wow!!!

So . . . tonight was a stretch for us.  We knew that we’d be faced with one of these situations.  It’s like you’re driving and you look ahead and see really dark clouds, and that’s when you know that you’re going to have to drive through a thunderstorm.  Or you know you’ve got a test in a tough class, and you’d really rather be doing anything other than studying for the test but you know that you’re going to have to study in order to take the test.  It’s like having a client who you know is not a happy camper, but you have to go and face the  music by visiting that customer in person.  Tonight–for us–is all of these things wrapped up into one wine.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We don’t mind trying new wines.  Shoot, we’ve probably tried 220 new wines of the 241 tasted so far, but as we’ve been told and even noted ourselves, we tend to focus more on red wines than anything else.  We’ll sprinkle an occasion white wine in there to keep some folks reading . . . but a rose’? We’ll have to confess that this one was going to be – if you’ll pardon the pun . . . tough to swallow.

Tonight we opened a 2011 Vino dei Fratelli Mochetto — a dessert wine made from moscato, muscat and delle venezie varieties and hails from Northeast Italy.  Believe it or not, Wine Enthusiast rates this wine at 85 points which to us seems high for a dessert wine.  The taste is very fruity and sweet–almost syrupy sweet.  It’s a pale pink sparkling wine that offers easy aromas of sweet raspberry and pink grapefruit. It’s a rosé sparkler that will pair well with fruit ice cream or panna cotta with fresh forest berries.  Priced around $15-$17 a bottle, it’s not a ‘throwaway bottle of wine’.  IF you like dessert wines, you’ll like the freshness, the crispness and the sparkle it gives off in the glass.  We served it chilled but could easily see it being served as just a bit cooler than room temperature.  For red wine lovers, it’s not going to make it on the top 10 list–let along the top 365 list!  Have to give our friends at HEB some credit – they told us we had to blog about this wine – just because . . .

We can officially say that we’ve tasted and blogged about a dessert wine, and if we were fans of dessert wine, this one would be a winner.  BUT, we just don’t care for the sweetness of it.  It didn’t stand a chance when we realized  we were going to be faced with trying a dessert wine.

Well, chalk it up to experience. . .and try to enjoy YOUR favorite wine responsibly.  Please remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 241: Paying It Forward . . .

Banfi Chianti ClassicoIt’s Monday.  The start of another work week, and we both agreed that if it were Friday, we’d be very happy campers!  Here in our neck of the woods, a late afternoon/early evening series of thunderstorms brought much needed rainfall to the area.  Over the past dozen years of living in south and central Texas, we’ve come to appreciate rainfall.  Like a lot of Texas, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, it’ll change!  Truer words have never been spoken. . .the only problem is that for the last three to four years–and not five minutes–it hasn’t been changing.  So, to get the afternoon thunderstorm that popped up out of no where is reminiscent of years gone by in Houston when you could set your watch to pop up afternoon thunderstorms.

Following up on Jean’s exceptionally successful Catholic Schools dinner back  in January, she and the team are on the road making check presentations BACK to the schools!  What a concept!  Bringing people in to celebrate something as special as a Catholic education, and turning around and paying them to keep focusing on the mission!  Hearing stories of young boys and girls who’ve found their niche as a result of the foundation given them through Catholic schools–it’s something you can’t bottle up, you can’t imitate, you can’t fake and you can’t believe how awesome it really is!

Brian has been focused on being a small part of promoting the San Marcos C.I.S.D. bond election.  Yes, we know that we live in a conservative world–although you’d never know it coming from the nation’s capital–but schools here haven’t had the easiest time rising to the top.  Under the leadership of their superintendent who started a couple of months after Brian started at the San Marcos chamber, the district is on the verge of turning a corner towards greatness.  Yes, our community is challenged with an underprivileged population, BUT there are so many people who see incredible potential here. . . educators, parents, business leaders, elected officials. . .even the students themselves.  No one likes to take on debt, but there are times (like buying a house instead of renting) when taking on debt makes sense.  We’re at the point when it makes sense.

‘Paying it forward’ means something different to many people.  In the world of Education, it means making a difference today so it can make a REAL difference tomorrow.  ‘Paying it forward’ acknowledges that what’s happening today–while significant–could pale in comparison to tomorrow if we do the RIGHT things!  And, it’s funny that whether we’re talking about a private school environment or a public school environment, we’re always thinking about the future with a nod to the past and our feet firmly established in the present.  Ultimately, we know that their are sacrifices that have to be made.  It’s just a part of who we are. . .it’s a part of who our parents were when they made decisions in the past, and who our grand parents were when they made decisions that laid a foundation for where we are today.  Overly dramatic?  Perhaps, but in our ever changing global economy, we sometimes forget that paying it forward has been going on for generations. . .keeping it going forward, is, well, it’s up to our generations!

Tonight we opened a really nice 2009 Chianti Classico from the Italian wine maker, Banfi.  This is an amazing wine for the money.  Rated between 88-90 points, the ruby red color is mesmerizing…it’s so gorgeous and clear that we could hardly believe that we were tasting a chianti!  The bouquet is intense with varietal notes of cherry, plum and violet. The taste is fresh, balanced and what we had hoped for from a Banfi Chianti Classico.  Priced under $17 a bottle, you’ll find yourself looking for multiple bottles of this wine just because of the value; however, we liked it for the food!  As we tasted this Italian wine, we enjoyed with Chinese food, and oh how it worked so well together.  When you have a good wine and pair it with good food, it really doesn’t matter where it’s from or when it was vinted–it means that they were meant to be together!!  This is a really nice wine from the Tuscany region–would sure like to go there sometime–and with a price point based on value, we’d recommend this wine for family AND friends.

We really like when it rains. . .even if it means a little less sleep because of restless dogs.  We really appreciate the teachers, parents and students that make up the Catholic schools in this area. . .they are committed to educating kids in a disciplined, faith-filled environment.  We seek the best for our public schools–even during challenging economic times–to rise above the chatter of rhetoric and become the beacon that has made this country the best on earth.  Education–paying it forward was NEVER more important.

As you try your favorite wine, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 240 – Radio Days

radio boca

There is no doubt that times change.  We’ve admitted on several occasions that we’re a little biased towards things in the past.  Now, please understand that even as we ‘age’ we still understand that the future is always going to be about change.  It’s the natural order of things.  However, when it comes to the medium of radio, we’ve seen a LOT of changes over the years.  Consider that in the 1960’s, AM radio was the ONLY radio.  Your choices were AM Radio, 45 rpm singles and 33 1/3 rpm albums…some still remember 78 rpm albums as well.  Reel to reel tape decks were only for the wealthiest of music enthusiasts.  AM Radio. . .when DJ’s ruled the airwaves and a singer or group could make it or break it depending on a DJ’s decision.  Many were the artists that camped out at radio station studios for the ‘chance’ to get on the air.  Depending on where you lived, you could pick up an AM station from miles away. . .say, living in the Chicago area and picking up KMOX out of St. Louis–and those Cardinals broadcasts!  How many can remember listening for the chance to call in to win tickets to this concert or that. . .a chance to go back stage or be picked up and chauffeured to the show?

The 70’s brought about the advent of ‘album rock’ and on the FM side of the dial, there was more music with fewer interruptions–mainly because so few people had FM radios–and less ‘personality’ than their AM brethren.  Some of the most remembered music of that generation was played on FM–Steely Dan, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones. . .and so many others that had followings found their fan base growing because of repetitive play on FM.  Added to the mix during this time was the wildly popular–but short-lived–eight track tapes followed closely by cassette tapes.  As FM grew in popularity, AM’s stronghold on the listening audience waned–significantly.  FM Radio would go on to dominate listener appeal. . .until Compact Discs arrived.  Suddenly, that crisp, studio quality sound was available in home and automotive audio.  Something that was originally reserved for only the wealthiest of listening affecionados was now available to anyone that wanted it.  An amazing transformation that has continued to evolve to this day.

Tonight we opened a 2011 Radio Boca Tempranillo from Valencia Spain.  This is a young fruity wine; it’s a medium-body but has nice color and a wonderful nose upon opening.  Priced at less than $11 a bottle, we were surprised by the taste, the structure and complexity of the wine.  As fans of tempranillo, we thought that as young as it is, we probably weren’t going to get a lot of the fruitiness, but instead were extremely impressed with what we tasted.  There is an earthiness to the wine as well, it’s something you’d expect from a well vinted Spanish wine.  Clearly, this wine isn’t going to wind up in cellars for the next 50 years, but it is going to make a great Sunday afternoon even better!  We served ours with grilled Portobello mushrooms and sautéed vegetables, and it was a great combination.  We picked this little wine up at World Market in Bryan – while a light wine – we’d more than likely pick up another bottle at the sale price of under $10 . . . probably wouldn’t pay much more than that.

With iPods, iPads, iPhones, Smartphones, MP3 players, Sirius/XM Satellite radio and SO MANY other choices available for music, we harken back to the days of AM Radio and the beginnings of FM Radio.  Sometimes, you can have too many choices. . .leaving you without a clear preference . . .and the choices may not be what you really want.  We remember–going to SFA in Nacogdoches–Nocturne 92.1 FM–the mellow sound in a college town!!  Wow, that’s WAY too much information!

Here’s to a new week – Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 239: Time Stood Still . . .

Tic TokToday we ventured to Kerrville to participate in a secret mission – a surprise birthday party for our good friend Kristy – this past week she hit a milestone – the BIG 60!  Wow . . . while a few years our senior, she is anything but old – we prefer to acknowledge that she is wise beyond her years or better yet, like a fine wine she gets better and better the longer she’s around!  In her case time has indeed stood still – she has the spirit and enthusiasm of a person 1/3 her age.  We were glad that we were able to pop over and be part of her surprise!

Anytime we make the 1.5 hour road trip to Ktown, we always try to tack on as much as we can.  This trip, Jean got a haircut, we checked out one of our favorite stores and we took time to drive by the home we still own there to check on an oak tree that has indeed seen better days.  The best part of driving to our place is the opportunity to check in with dear friends and former neighbors.  Bob and Dee were at home so we got to spend about an hour catching up on all the news and Jean got to feed her deer that frequent the backyard between our houses. Our seven years living in the house afforded the opportunity to see many a fawn born on our deck mature into full-grown bucks and does.  These deer are somewhat like dogs – they come when you whistle and one known affectionately as Pretty Mama was extra special.  Pretty Mama holds a special place in our hearts – every year she would make a point of bringing her newborn (or twins) into the yard so we could get to meet them.  It was a special bond – have to admit, it’s pretty cool to have a deer eat out of your hand.  

Upon returning to San Marcos well before sunset, we opened a wine, James Oatley, Tic Tok Shiraz from Central Australia.  Normally, we gush over wines from the land down under, but tonight. . .we barely got past the first sip.  More on that in a minute because the story of the winery is pretty cool. . .it seems that James Oatley was a clock maker back in the early 1800’s who went a bit on the errant side and was caught stealing bed linen.  Apparently, this was an extreme crime back then and he was sentenced to life and shipped to Australia.  He soon became the premier clock maker on the continent, was eventually pardoned by the governor at the time, built a clock tower for the city that still works to this day and subsequently granted 300 acres of land as remuneration for his work.  Wine maker, Bob Oatley crafted this wine.  We can only imagine that at some point in the travels from Australia to America, this wine got cooked.  The color was closer to copper than dark red and the taste was as bitter as a teaspoon of vinegar.  Since it had a twist off cap, there was no cork to spoil the wine, but high temperatures in shipping, storage or some other part of the journey caused the wine to sour.  Too bad. . .probably won’t try this label again.  For those of you who wonder what we do when we come across a bad bottle of wine. . .we pour it out!  No sense keeping bad wine.  A shame, but it’s reality.  With a great story like James Oatley’s, having a good tasting wine to match up with it would have been a nice way to end the day. 

Instead, our day ends with great memories of surprising Kristy and visiting with Bob and Dee – along with a side conversation with Pretty Mama.

We hope that your day was great as well and that you sat down to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly.  Please remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 238: Calatayud On A Hot Tin Roof . . .

Pieza El CollSo, here it is . . . Friday night – Wow . . . this is one that just couldn’t get here soon enough.  Or, as they say in Jean’s family – Freitag gott sei dank (Thank God it’s Friday in German) Freitag is Jean’s maiden name and many years ago her whole family had t-shirts made up with that saying . . .  in fact, Jean still has one buried deep in a tub in the garage.  Regardless of how you say it – we are glad this week is over.

As an aftermath to last week’s tragedy’s in Boston and West, this week seemed to be one of closure.  Boston has reopened its doors for business and three funerals were held to bury those killed at the marathon – prayers for those families.  The community of West held a memorial service yesterday attended by dignitaries of national proportion and close to 10,000 people.  Jean had the honor of attending a Rosary last night for one of the firefighters killed in West – and the chance to extend condolences and hugs to family members.  Events such as these are gentle reminders that we are not in control and should not take anything (or anyone) for granted.  Life indeed is too short.  Collectively, our country and communities will heal and store our reserves of resolve for the next event that sadly is lurking around the corner – we ARE the land of the free and the home of the brave and can overcome ALL adversity – we are proud to be Americans!

Even in sadness there are events that bring a smile to our face – last night Jean and co-worker traveled north and since they had events scheduled up that way today had the opportunity to stay at a somewhat isolated retreat center in Belton.  Knowing they would pretty much be the only inhabitants of this remote space didn’t cause any alarm until they started chatting about scary movies as they headed to the mostly dark facility.  Laughing about movies such as Bunnyman (ok, just curious if anyone but us has actually seen this movie – – – anyone, anyone . . Bueller?), Friday the 13th, Maximum Overdrive and Candy Cane seemed quite humorous until they found themselves solo and tucked into a one bedroom, two bed cabin.  Not that they are chickens by any stretch of the imagination – but both did sleep with one eye open and more than likely would have had to been peeled off the ceiling should a knock happen on the door or window (for the record, Jean slept by the window and neither Bunnyman nor any of his creepy counterparts showed up).  The light of day couldn’t come any too soon – both will no doubt sleep like logs tonight to make up for last nights lack of.

Tonight’s wine hails from Spain – a 2008 Pagos de Familia Langa Calatayud – ok, now that’s a mouthful!  Our eyes were drawn to the great color – deep dark ruby-red.  On the nose you could tell that it had potential – nothing overpowering, but certainly tickled our fancy.  Truth be told, this was a fun little wine – lot’s of fruit, but yet some backdoor pepper.  We found that as it aired out it lost a bit of the fruit and mellowed into a nice little treat for a Friday night.  It would most likely fall into our “deck wine” category – big enough to hold its own, but would certainly enhance just about any meal it was served with.   The price was right in our wheelhouse – under $11 a bottle – another gem that we plucked off the shelves at Central Market.

Reading the label, we noted that the wine is from the Aragon region, which upon a google search was found to be rich in history, and once the home of celebrated 16th century royals Ferdinand and Isabella and their daughter, Catherine of Aragon, maligned first wife of England’s King Henry VIII. Aragon is spread between the Pyrenees at the French border to the central Iberian plateau. Because the climate ranges from cool, mountainous conditions to warmer climates in lower elevations, many different styles of grapes are grown.  Calatayud is located in southwest Aragon and known for big, bold wines.  We wouldn’t classify this as overly big or bold – but certainly a wine that can stand tall among some of our other tastings thus far.  We are going to have to try to locate more wines from this region – or perhaps pack a bag and go check it our for ourselves . . . sounds like a road trip in the making!

So, as we wrap up another week, we hope that you and yours have had a good one and are ready for a weekend of some much-needed R&R – we know we are!  The forecast calls for some rain – but never fear . . . that won’t stop us from some type of adventure over the next 72 hours!

Get some rest tonight – and remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 237 – Brought To You By The Letter ‘I’

ISo, tonight’s blog is going to be about a wine we tried when P&L were here recently.  Jean is out of town and that leaves Brian to write the blog.  The headline is an attention grabber–especially if you grew up watching Sesame Street or had kids growing up watching Sesame Street.  Brian’s first ‘experience’ with the show was way back in the late 1970’s when visiting his sister, Sharon and her family in the Denver area.  At that time, the oldest was 4 and the youngest was almost 1…it was his first experience in the beauty of afternoon naps!  Not just for the kids. . .there is a tremendous amount of energy expended on young children and in many cases, when they go down for naps, so do the parents, grandparents, care-givers, etc…

He recalls a particular day when after a busy morning of playing inside and outside and up the stairs and down the stairs…stopping for lunch…and then, the MOM-edict…”we can watch Sesame Street, but when it’s over, it’s nap time!”  Okay…that sets the stage–the 4 year old understands the ground rules…the baby could care less!  Back in those days, it was Bert, Ernie, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Grover and Big Bird as the  main  characters.  An occasional visit from ‘The Count”–Brian’s favorite…and that was about it.  BUT, you knew that it was “nap time” when at the end of the show, the announcer would say something like, “Sesame Street was brought to you today by the numbers 4 and 9 and the letter ‘I’.  Boom–off to bed for the little ones and time for a little shut-eye for the adults!  Great stuff!

When P brought out this bottle, we were extremely excited having enjoyed Orin Swift’s other Locations wines, E and F and we’ve previously blogged about both of them.  By way of recap… E is for Spain (Espana); F is for France and tonight, we break into Italy!  You may not know that Italy boasts more than 2000 indigenous grape varieties.  Diverse components were meticulously assembled that represent the finest from each region. The result is a vibrant wine that captures the spirit of Italy with a touch of new world bravado.  This wine features a blend of Negroamaro, Nerod’Avola, Barbera, and native varietals from Puglia.  This wine was magnificent. . .from the minute the cork was pulled, the aromas of earthy goodness came out…lots of cherry and leather on the nose, but it needed about 45 minutes of air time, and as we poured the first glass, the color was gorgeous.  It wasn’t quite as dark as we would have thought with a blend, but it looked silky pouring into the glass.  If you like fine Italian wines, then this is worth getting in your cellar.  Without question, tonight’s blog is definitely brought to us by the letter ‘I’…it’s a wine worth celebrating!

Speaking of celebrating. . .tonight we give a birthday shout-out to our good friend Kris from Kerrville. . .Happy Birthday, Kris. . .we’re sorry Big Blue didn’t win the NCAA Championship, but you should still be proud of their efforts—even at your age!!!  All the best.

Remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.  Speaking of recycling, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a plug to a San Marcos event coming up on May 11th–the 4th Annual Texas Green Home & Living Show runs from 10 am to 4 pm and offers great ideas for saving green by going green–and recycling is just one of the answers!

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Day 236: Clap For The Wolf. . .

Wolf TrapWe’re digging them out of the past for tonight’s blog…with a name like Wolf Trap…well, it just BEGS us to do this!  Okay, so here’s the first one. . .what group sang this song?

Clap for the Wolfman – he gonna rate your record high
Clap for the Wolfman – you gonna dig him till the day you die

Very nice. . .for those of us old enough to remember–good stuff, and those not old enough, welcome to our classics!!  Alright, next up,

Scott Howard: Styles, I got something to tell you. It’s kind of hard, but…I’m… a werewolf

Hmmm, that’s going to be a tough one to pull off. . .but there’s one more to complete the trifecta!

I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a pina colada at Trader Vic’s And his hair was perfect.

Don’t get caught in the trap!  A hint—two songs and one movie. . .okay now that we’ve set the table, it’s time to serve up the main dish!

The Boekenhoutskloof estate was established in 1776.

Located in a far corner of South Africa’s Franschhoek Valley, the farm’s name means “ravine of the Boekenhout” (pronounced Book-n-howed). Boekenhout is an indigenous Cape Beech tree that’s greatly prized for furniture making. In 1993, the farm and homestead were bought and restored, and a new vineyard-planting program was established.  The winery now makes an array of exceptional wines, and there’s an interesting story behind “The Wolftrap” label. When the farm was founded, the Franschhoek Valley was far wilder than it is today — as the wolf trap once discovered on the property illustrates. Today, the mountains are still alive with indigenous animals, including the majestic leopard.  No evidence of wolves has ever been found, however, so “The Wolftrap” was created as a reminder of the mysteries and legends of days gone by. “The Wolftrap” Red is a rich, deep and delicious cuvee — a legendary wine in the making.  You gotta love it!

We did. . .we were completely caught off guard on this one.  A $9 bottle of wine that tasted and reviewed like a $25 or $30 bottle of wine.  It’s yet another example of the world-wide phenomenon of wine making.  South Africa continues to make a name for itself here in the States, and even though their wine still has a ways to go, many of their labels-including this one-have potential written ALL over them!  It’s a beautiful blend of 65% Syrah, 32% Mourvedre and 3% Viognier. . .the Syrah brings a richness to the wine while the Mourvedre gives it a fruitiness. . .across the board, this wine has more to offer than many of its more expensive ‘cousins’.  Intense red color with a purple rim. A spicy profile with ripe black fruit and violets. Smooth and rich on the palate with soft tannins, good density and a hint of oak. A well balanced, unpretentious wine made for easy drinking.

At this price point, we should be worried about a wine that’s too sweet or too tart or not blended right.  Seriously, at this price, people who opt for Barefoot or other labels at the same pricing level are missing the opportunity to not only try something new, but try something new from South Africa!  Which now leaves us to the answers to the questions at the top of tonight’s blog.  If you were paying attention you’d know that #1 is: ‘Clap For The Wolfman’ from Burton Cummings and The Guess Who in 1974!   Oh, so close!!

#2 would be Scott Howard–aka Michael J. Fox– from the original 1985 Teen Wolf!  We still remember the scene where he’s ‘surfing’ on top of a cargo van through the middle of town!  Yeah, like that would ever play today!!! NOT!

Finally, #3–probably one of the best written and performed songs of the late 70’s from Warren Zevon. . .Werewolves of London a classic to this day!!  We mean–who else can write lyrics like this: ‘He’s the hairy handed gent who ran amok in Kent,  Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair.  You better stay away from him,  He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim,  Huh! I’d like to meet his tailor.’  Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!!

We hope you’ll try tonight’s wine.  It’s a value for the money; it’s got big bold fruti flavors and it’s got a GREAT name!  The 2011 Wolf Trap blend is a nice young wine that should be added to your wine loving blog!

As always, enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible!