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Day 235: The Long & Winding Road . . .

Leese - FitchWe are constantly amazed at the wines available today that are priced well under $15 a bottle and absolutely catch us off guard.  After 234 days, we’re pretty sure that we’ve tried almost 200 new, different wines that wouldn’t have been given a second thought before this year.  Don’t get us wrong. . .not everything that we have sampled has been a home run.  Come to think of it, we’ve had a lot of singles, doubles and triples–a few home runs, but we’ve also had our fair share of strike outs, pop outs and failures to play!  What it tells us as wine consumers, there are so many labels, so many wineries, so many varietals, so many regions, so many appellations. . .so, if that’s the case, the try something different.  Yes, we know ALL about buying our favorites–we were in World Market in College Station, Texas a few weeks ago and they were ‘closing out’ one of our all time favorites (Thank You, Patrick at Grape Juice)…Tait’s Ball Buster.  An almost $20 bottle of wine for $9.47 a bottle?  Are you serious?  Yes, we managed to get our fair share.  BUT, we also found a huge number of wines that have found their way into this blog.  Why?  Because we are staying true to our goal of not only trying and writing about a different wine every night for a year, but we’re also very focused on finding wines that those of us without deep pockets can enjoy without breaking the bank.  Even as we get further into the year, the call for finding wines with a good flavor, good nose, good palate range and finish — in combination with a good price tag is getting more and more difficult.  Jean has commented that each time we go to a store to find the next set of wines to taste and write about, it’s a case of done it, done it, done it, done it…too expensive, done it…etc.  The challenge continued this evening…

Following a Leadership San Marcos event that saw Brian and nine other team members graduate through the program, we were faced with trying something new!  The story on the label is certainly impressive. . .(sorry, you’ll need to find it or buy it, we won’t tell you that story) but the wine in the bottle, that IS the question.  As we’ve grown to enjoy delicious Cabernet Sauvignons, when we come upon new, young wines, we get a little nervous.  But, we shouldn’t have worried, deep purple in color, the 2010 Leese – Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon blend jumps from the glass with aromas of juicy blackberries, ripe blueberries, dark chocolate, and toasted walnuts. A lot of great Cab flavor in the mouth; currants, blackberries, dark cherry, milk chocolate, espresso, clove, vanilla and oak tastes.  The finish is truly lingering with a lot of dark fruit notes as well as some great structure and integrated French and American oak flavors.  Oh yeah, this one is going to catch you off guard. . .AND, with a price tag around $13 a bottle, you may want to keep some to drink now and save some to drink in a couple of years.  Even though it’s labeled as a Cab…the actual concentration is a blend…79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Alicante Bouchet, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 4% Sirah, 1% Carignane and 1% Petite Sirah…talk about a wine-lover’s blend!  WOW!

Instead of taking ‘the road more often traveled’–trying wines that were well known or had pedigree; we’ve opted to take the ‘road less traveled’ or as our title suggests, ‘the long and winding road’ of new and different wines. . .these Leese – Fitch wines fit the bill to a tee and are priced right, taste right and ready for enjoying now!

Whether or not you try this wine is up to you, but just remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 234 – Have You Any Wool?

Le Grand NoirThere is enough ‘seriousness’ in the world to go around the globe WAY too many times.  After the events of the past week, we’re ready for some levity and a chance to kick back and have a few laughs.  No, we aren’t going to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep, as the title of tonight’s wine might suggest.  No, we’re thinking about something that was a long time ago but still has humor today.  We’ll paraphrase the actual recording, but suggest that if you want to hear the real thing, you can google it, iTunes it or some other server-it until you find IT!

When Brian was growing up, his brother had a couple of Bill Cosby albums.  For those of you missing for the last couple of decades, albums were made of vinyl and with one continuous groove, music was embedded into the vinyl and played via a diamond stylus on a record-player.  You may have seen a renaissance of record players at Best Buy and other places, but few will compare with the turntables of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Anyway, we digress. . .after we had been married for about three years, we had the opportunity to see Bill Cosby in person at the Music Hall in Houston.  The year was 1986 and he was in the middle of his ‘Fatherhood’ tour.  If you’ve read the book or seen the video, Cosby is at his all time best!  This was right around the time his show, The Cosby Show, debuted on Thursday nights on NBC.  We don’t think we can remember laughing as hard as we did.  The biggest part of his routine was talking about being a parent–which we weren’t and wouldn’t be for another five years–and all of the trappings associated with parenting from birth on—

One of his first albums was ‘Why Is There Air’?  As a Physical Education major at Temple University, Cosby was quickly cast as the typical ‘coach’ in training–his line, “Ha, ha Phys. Ed. you’re dumb!”  Well  it made an impression.  But, so did his routine about driving in San Francisco, going to the dentist and waiting for the novocaine to wear off, and playing football against Hofstra—“Don’t Touch Certain Parts of Your Anatomy”!!  If you have never downloaded, bought, played, listened to or seen this guy in action, Cosby brings life into focus!

Which is why we decided to focus on something fun and different tonight.  Look at the label. . .notice anything wrong?  If wine labels were like minted coins, we’d be ‘in the money’ with a simple little mistake.  But, we digress. . .The Black Sheep. . .From a country renowned for its wine-making tradition, Le Grand Noir wines offer non-traditional blends from traditional French varietals. In a world where so many things look the same, a wine that doesn’t sheepishly follow the herd.  The select vineyards used to produce the wines of Le Grand Noir are located in the notable regions of Minervois and Carcassone. Situated among rolling uplands and broad plateaus between the Pyrennes and “Black” mountain ranges, the diverse soils are comprised of limestone, chalk, clay, granite, and schist. The mild Mediterranean climate provides ideal conditions for producing high quality fruit.  What we LOVED about this wine–in true French fashion–it got better and better as it stayed opened.  For less than $15 a bottle, you’re going to find this wine a little addicting.  It’s got loads of fruit paired with lots of earthy goodness.  This is a wine that should cost a lot more than offered by our friends at Twin Liquors or H-E-B!

Comedians have come and gone over the past 40 years.  Few, if any, have the staying power of Bill Cosby.  His routines transcend time to this day.  His message isn’t lost among multiple generations and his humor is as clean today as it was back in the mid-1960’s.  Yeah, he can deliver an entire routine–have you busting a gut laughing–and not a blue word among his dialogue.  Kind of makes you wonder about today’s comedians who rely on profanity to generate laughs.  Not much material needed.  We think that taking some time to enjoy a good laugh is crucial to maintaining a level of calmness and sanity.  So, the fact that our wine has a black sheep on its’ label should give you a reason why we chose tonight’s title.

We hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly–because if you enjoyed it irresponsibly, there’d be consequences we don’t want to deal with–and please recycle whenever possible.

(BTW—If you stare at the label on the wine bottle, there is a closed parenthesis missing under the black sheep—worth millions?  NOT!  Have a great evening and we’ll talk with you tomorrow!!

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Day 233: And Sometimes, You’ve Got To Enjoy The Moment . . .

cask cabernetSundays are great days to sit around, relax and prepare for the upcoming week.  It’s also a time to visit with family, friends or both.  Last night we talked about visiting with Elaine and Sam and how much we enjoyed having them stay with us.  We really had fun when Elaine’s Mom and Dad – P&L – arrived at the house around 11:30 last night!  Yep, we’d been putting wood on the fire pit for a few hours and had settled in for a nice quiet evening, and that is where we were when they pulled into the driveway!

It’s always cool to visit with folks that you just plain like to be around – such is the case of P&L – and so even though they were actually not supposed to be here until this morning . . . they made it last night.  It says a lot about folks that are willing to get in a car at 10:00 at night and drive for an hour and a half.  It says one of two things really – 1)Wow, those are some amazing friends and SO dedicated to seeing family – or 2)Are they slightly crazy?  Getting in the car and driving for an hour and a half just to try some wine?  While most people – in the sanity column – would easily choose number one.  And why not?  It makes sense.  Those who know these folks are–well–they are number 2!!

The good news in all of this is that we enjoyed some delicious wine. . .compliments of Jean’s adept abilities with the ring toss.  You know, carnival ring tosses are usually good for a stuffed animal or two; well, we had the opportunity to play a ring toss for WINE at a recent event and even though we spent quite a bit of money–we spent less than the retail value of the wine! Tonight we enjoyed (and I mean really enjoyed) a 2008 Cask Cabernet Sauvignon from Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estates.  And, even though we’ve had some really amazing wines during this blog, this wine really stands on its’ own.  “Cask” is Rubicon Estate’s tribute to the style of Rutherford Cabernet produced by Inglenook Winery in the 1940’s, when it was regarded as the best in Napa Valley. This 100% estate Cabernet is aged for two years in American oak prior to release. It reveals a nose of currant, cherry, and earth. The palate is rich and full-bodied, with suave tannins, layers of creamy fruit and spice, and scents of tobacco and cedar on the finish.  Smooth doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the finish. . .it was a fantastic wine! Wine Spectator rates this wine at 94 points and we couldn’t agree more.  It’s  a really good red wine–but it also has a higher than blogging price tag.

As Sunday winds down and Monday is on the horizon, we pause to reflect on a terrific weekend with Elaine and Sam and P&L (NOT profit & loss!)  We ended up with a terrific wine and even managed to sneak in some pizza tonight.  We hope that you’ll figure out a way to get a hold of this wine.  It’s a classic–in the making!

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

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Day 232: Sometimes You Gotta Slow Down . . .

cote EST catalanSpringtime is probably the favorite season around here.  The trouble is that for the last few years springtime has been interrupted (rather rudely) by summer.  Temperatures in the 90’s in April is no way to ‘enjoy’ spring.  Fortunately, this year has given us a pause for celebration.  Yes, we’ve had some days of heat–but you expect that living in Texas–but we’ve been blessed with some cool fronts that have been coming through lowering temperatures to spring-like degrees!  Today was one of those days.  A very cool start to the morning–gave way to an amazing day of full sunshine, a nice breeze, no humidity and virtually no bugs!  If it got above 74 degrees (F) we’d be surprised and quite frankly, we could care less.  When you can sit on the deck for the better part of the day, listening to music and enjoying conversation.  Well, it’s really tough to beat – especially after the week that it has been.

Last night, Sam and Elaine came into town . . . Elaine is presiding over a friend’s wedding tonight and they needed a place to crash for the weekend.  Elaine is the youngest daughter of fellow wine lovers and travelers, P & L . . . we consider their family like our family, so if they need a place . . . we are ready to host!  For all of us, the day was lazy – but relaxing, and relaxing – but just enough things to keep us occupied!  A little yard work, a little television, a little reading, a little nap – they all played a part on a beautiful Saturday in San Marcos – which was of course followed by a nice evening on the deck – with finally . . . a fire in the pit!

Since we were sitting outside and enjoying a beautiful day, we pulled a really, really nice white wine – yes, that’s right Kathryn – and we automatically thought of you, a White Wine!!  Lafage Cote Est Catalan is a delightful white wine gem from the Roussillon wine region of southwestern France. The wine’s official appellation is Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes. Deep in this Catalan region of southwestern France, Domaine Lafage blends juicy, aromatic wines that deliver the rare combination of distinctiveness and affordability. Although only in his thirties, Jean-Marc Lafage already has almost 15 years of world-class winemaking to his credit.  Lafage Cote Est Catalan is an unoaked blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Marsanne. Super crisp and tank-fermented, this racy white is bursting with citrus, white flowers and minerals. Juicy on the palate, dry but ripe with good apricot and yellow peach fruit character. It is long and flavorful on the finish.  Pure and simple this wine rocks!  We enjoyed it on the deck – by itself, but it could easily have made chicken or fish or grilled veggies taste even better.  Priced under $12 a bottle – and available at H-E-B . . . you can afford to buy 6 or 12 of these gems and save them for your friends.  We couldn’t stop raving about how good this wine tasted.  It’s a white wine . . . that because of this blog – we’ll enjoy many more times (Leah, yes another one for the “do-over” list).

Speaking of enjoying . . . we hope that you got outside today – wherever you are.  And, whether it was raining, snowing, windy or sunny, there’s something special about April.  The rains last week-though sparse-have paid huge dividends in greenery around town . . . and when things are green in the spring, you just feel better.

We also hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and as always, please recycle whenever possible.

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Day 231: Oh What a Night . . .

Buena VistaYeah…we’ve been watching WAY too much news this week AND tonight.  The Marathon Bombings, the Explosion in West, Texas and tonight, the finale to the manhunt as a result of the Marathon Bombing!  NOT to be believed.  The dealings of this week have been over the top and hard to bring back down to Earth!!   Needless to say, it’s been a roller coaster ride without leaving the station.

So we tried this wine out of the blue–Buena Vista from 2008–in Sonoma County. . .hey. it can’t be all bad if it a.) came from Sonoma and/or b.) tasted like a vintage wine years before!!  the winery’s colorful founder, The Count of Buena Vista, pioneered premium wine making in California. A tireless and passionate devotee of California wine, The Count imported hundreds of premium vines from Europe, made Sonoma’s first wine caves, introduced innovative viticulture techniques, and wrote about California wine.  Buena Vista Winery honors his legacy, bold vision, and commitment to excellence through this red wine – the Founder ’s Red Wine.  The 2009 Founder ’s Red Wine is truly a wine that Count Haraszthy would be proud to have bear his name. Inviting aromas of ripe raspberries, cherries and blackberries lead to rewarding flavors of currant, blueberry jam and black pepper. This well-structured wine will please the palate with its lush mouth feel and lengthy finish.  What we enjoyed was the peppery nose–along with notes of anise and black cherry, and there was a beautiful body to this wine that we hadn’t expected.

We are constantly amazed by the men and women who are first responders.  They know what their job is and do it to the best of their abilities..we often underestimate the role they play in dealing with situations like tonight.  WOW!!!  THANK YOU!! for all that you’ve done during the past several months!  So, with a wine that costs less than $20 a bottle, you’ll be glad to raise your glass high and toast those closest to you!

We tip our hats to the law enforcement members from the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Police, the Cambridge Police, the Watertown Police and so many LAW ABIDING citizens who paid attention and cared!  Because of coordinated efforts, two really bad men are off the streets of our country FOR EVER. . .or it better be for ever!

We hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 230: It Doesn’t Get Much Wilder Than This . . .

wilder red table wineTo say that it’s been a ‘Wild Week’ may be the understatement of the century.  Seriously, Monday was Patriot’s Day in Boston and the running of the famed Boston Marathon.  Through good years and bad, we’ve watched the runners who’ve run this race finish strong, collapsed at the finish line and rejoice in what they’ve accomplished.  What an triumph!  To run 26.2 miles and endure some of the most grueling hills and terrain, the runners who participated Monday had NO idea of what lay ahead.

Last evening, as we enjoyed trivia night at the Waterloo Ice House, we had NO idea of what was taking place not too far north of our part of the world.  When our good friend, Kris, who is a key part of the Red Cross team told us about an explosion that had rocked West, Texas.  We–at first–didn’t quite know how to process what was being placed before us.  The small town of West, where Jean’s sister’s husband has family, had exploded?  Turning on CNN, the rumors became reality; the footage of the Dad with his daughters so close to the fire–and then–what an incredible explosion. . .nothing in its’ path. . .”Daddy, let’s get out of here, I can’t hear anything”…

Today, the FBI released photos of two men, who they say, are people of interest in the case of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Could it get any wilder?  The week has been like a roller coaster on steroids. . .so many twists, turns and drops that one must wonder what in the world is going on!

Enter tonight’s wine of choice…a 2010 Wilder Red Table Wine from Washington.  Color in the glass is a deep, clear garnet, and the nose is redolent of cassis, plum, boysenberries, and spice. Upon first sip, the Wilder Red is bright, light, and fruity with an elegant acidity that fades gracefully away to a dark, seductive earthiness. The finish just goes for miles, a swirling tornado of mushrooms and graphite, with the daintiest little tannins.  We’ve had the opportunity to expand our horizon’s with Washington wine and the truth is, we’re hooked!  Now, we can’t wait to get up to the Seattle area and visit with Jean’s sister, Sara and her better half, Sylvia!  This stuff is GOOD.  A little sweet to be sure, but as it opened up–wow, what a nice wine.

We’ve come to LOVE the city of Boston…not just because our daughter goes to school there, but because it’s a town with a ‘Can Do’ attitude.  Maybe it’s just a town with an attitude!  Seriously, no disrespect here…there are some places that you visit and you get the sense that they–well, they get it!  Boston is that kind of town.  We watched the National Anthem being sung prior to  the Bruins’ game. . .sorry, we’ve NEVER heard so MANY people singing–even dating back to the events after September 11th.  These folks clearly get it and NOTHING and we mean NOTHING will stand in their way.  We kind of like that–it’s a Texas quality as well.  We’ve watched like so many others of the closeness in the town of West.  Close doesn’t even begin to describe the way that folks look out for each other.  We know that cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and many others have ALL stepped up to lend a hand while secretly grieving because they’ve lost someone—someone they knew, someone their friends’ or families’ knew. . .but in a town of 2,500–let’s be honest, you know just about everyone!

To the first responders in Boston and West, we raise a glass and say, “Thank You”.  We don’t do what you do–we don’t always appreciate what you do, BUT we know that with you, we’re better and without you, we’d be lost.  First responders–like those who jumped in to help the wounded in Boston–they are an amazing breed of men and women.  The First responders in West–ALMOST ALL OF THEM-VOLUNTEERS–what can you say?  It’s not just a job–it’s a CALLING!  These people-who volunteer–are called to do something that very few people EVER do–help, rescue, care.  AMAZING.

We enjoyed tonight’s wine; probably because it’s name gave us a sense of purpose in knowing that whether in Texas or Massachusetts, there are still people in our world who care.  There are still men and women who are willing to risk everything and put it on the line–for others.  To the men and women who are First Responders, we salute you and pray to the Good Lord that you never lose that love.  For without YOU–we may become lost!

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

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Day 229: Stump The Band . . .

stump_jump_shiraz_mv_750Back when Johnny Carson was the ‘King of Late Night’, he’d go out into the audience and play a game called “Stump The Band”.  Folks from the audience selected ‘randomly’ had a favorite song from where they grew up, or when they were at camp–some kind of a song that the members of the band or Doc Severinsen had to guess…Get it right and the audience member got a prize. . .get it wrong and the audience member got a prize!  Kind of a ‘no-brainer’–but it was fun to watch and for those of us raised on the triviality of music, sports, literature, arts, science and whatever other categories Trivial Pursuit can throw at us. . .this kind of show was — pardon the pun — music to our ears!!

So, meeting up at South Park Meadows in South Austin with a great friend, Kris from the Hill Country Chapter of the American Red Cross, we settled in for trivia night at the Waterloo Ice House.  Now we are not wall flowers when it comes to trivia, so an eight round trivia challenge was a gauntlet to be beaten!  Seriously, how difficult could it be?  We spoke too soon… It all started with a visual round where there were 16–that’s right, 16 different pictures of Johnny Depp in roles that he has performed, AND, you guessed it, we had to identify the NAME of the character he was playing.  Sure, if daughter #1 was here, this would have been a slam dunk, but we didn’t get all 16 of them. . .we didn’t get 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, or 10 of them–no, we didn’t get 9 either. . .we got 8–not a great way to start a trivia game.

Thanks in large part to a team effort, after the first four rounds we were in second place out of eight teams and feeling pretty good about ourselves.  The feeling was short-lived as the rounds went on–and the trivia was newer and not older–well, we succumbed to the pressure finishing the night in 6th place.  However, we have vowed to return on another Wednesday night to once again, Stump The Band!

Isn’t it appropriate that tonight’s wine is a 2010 Stump Jump Shiraz!  Stump Jump is from d’Arenberg Vineyards in McLaren Vale Australia and year after year, this wine is rated from the high 80 points to the low 90 points.  It’s another example of really good Aussie wine at a reasonable price.  The 2010 Stump Jump Red nose features plum and bright red fruits with a hint of roasted meats, earth, pepper and exotic spices. The palate displays delicate fruit with juicy blackberry at the fore. A touch of dried herbs adds a savory edge with fine tannins that provided a long finish. It’s a wine with sophistication—but don’t worry it’s still a lot of fun to drink!  The fact that it has earthiness and spice makes it a favorite already because of our inherent love of big, bold wines.  At roughly $10 bucks a bottle, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better wine for less!  In fact, there are higher priced wines that don’t have the chops that this wine enjoys. . .so, if you like ’em big, bold and spicy, then Stump Jump is worth trying.

Our love for trivia goes back a long, long time.  From playing Trivial Pursuit when it first came out to playing in numerous ‘trivia nights’ in the St. Louis area and even trying to start one of our own at Our Lady of the Hills Regional Catholic High School in Kerrville, we’ve found a common denominator for people of ALL ages.  Trivia is the great generation-equalizer!  As ‘Boomers’ who have good trivia days and bad trivia days–when it comes to stuff like this, we salute tonight’s winners at the “Ice House” and look forward to a return match!

Thank goodness for wine–and good wine at that!  Whether it’s Stump The Band or some other late night show game, we enjoy the banter it creates and the fun it brings.

Speaking of fun, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

As news spreads of explosion in West at fertilizer plant – let’s all stop and pray for those near the area.