casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


Leave a comment

Day 303: Time for a Trip to Washington . . .

snoqualmieWe love Sundays.  We especially love Sundays when it rains.  We especially love Sundays when it rains in the morning.  Today. . .was one of those Sundays. You know. . .you wake up and it’s just getting light.  You figure–hey, I’ve still got at least an hour or two before I have to get up!  So, like anyone, you fall back asleep, but wake up 45 minutes later, and it’s darker than when you woke up the first time!  Hmmm, not exactly sure what’s going on here, but just to be on the safe side you check your clock–and, yes, the time IS later than previously noted.  A little lightening. . .a little thunder. . .and a little wind gust tells us it’s about to open up.  Add to the mix three dogs who would rather NOT deal with bad weather and you have the makings of a Central Texas early morning thundershower.  A perfect way to start the day. . .oh, and eventually ending up watching a classic movie like Rudy on AMC! (Come on now – who doesn’t blubber like a baby at the end of Rudy?)

After yesterday’s 108 degrees, we figured that the rain could only help keep a lid on the high temperatures–and thankfully, the forecasters were calling for ONLY a high of 97 degrees…oooooo….break out the sweaters!  Yeah, kind of funny when you stop to think about it–an eleven degree drop in most places would cause folks to be a little concerned.  You know if you go from 92 degrees to 81…there’s a pretty good weather event about to take place. And, if you go from 70 degrees to 59–well, that cold front has made it through.  BUT, when it goes from 108 to 97–we’re sorry, you CAN’T tell the difference!  Hot is hot no matter how you slice it.

And because of the unbelievable heat, we decided to take a trip to the Great Northwest. . .to the lands of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. . .Washington state.  Recently, Jean’s sister, Sara sent us a 2013 Washington State Wine Guide, and one of the coolest parts of the book was a wine time line.  It seems that in the 1970’s, there were less than 50 wineries and growers in the state of Washington.  Today, there are more than 750 and growing!  An industry that had pretty much set up shop and cornered the market in California had now made its’ way north into Washington. . .and Oregon for that matter.  Literally, some of the BEST wines in America are coming out of Washington.  There are some amazing wine makers and growers who are changing the face of wine making in our country–and for the BETTER!  Since Jean is Sara’s favorite sister, we’ve been planning a trip to get together.

Tonight we went down a familiar road to enjoy a different variety from a previously blogged wine maker. . .Snoqualmie.  We thought the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was good earlier this year?  Well, with all due respect, it had NOTHING on the 2009 Syrah we enjoyed tonight.  Admittedly, when we opened the bottle, it had a beautiful aroma of black berries and oak, but the first taste was, well, less than enticing.  However, after about 30 minutes of air time, we noticed that the wine not only opened up but was becoming full-bodied and with loads of structure.  It was becoming a complete wine.  Rich blackberry and blueberry fruit aromas with subtle smoky impressions, same followed on the pallet with soft tannins and sweet oak flavors.  Another part of the wine making that we’ve come to appreciate is the process. . .under the leadership of Joy Andersen, winemaker since 1991, Snoqualmie has become a leader in sustainable and organic winemaking in Washington.  Great wines and attention to the environment . . . a winning combination.

With a price point under $10 a bottle, we think that Snoqualmie may be one of the best hidden secrets of Washington wine.  Yes, we know that there are 749 other vineyards out there that  are competing for attention, but as of right now, we are sold on Snoqualmie!  We hope that you’ll agree when you try this wine.  If not, remember to  enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


Leave a comment

Day 302: Another day at the Chateau . . .

chateau st jean…Or in other words, we drove by the house today to check and make sure that it was still there…of course, it was.  For the better part of the past two years, we’ve had other people living in our house, while we live  here, so it’s with mixed feelings when we drive by and see junk on the front porch and overflowing trash cans by the garage.  Home ownership is a source of pride for the both of us.  Even as report after report is coming out and saying that home ownership is becoming less and less of a part of the American dream.  We stand by the premise that there is nothing better than owning your own home.  It allows you the freedom to do with it in any way you’d care to.  It gives you the opportunity to landscape it; paint it; decorate it; make it your own.  When we drive by our house–and the folks living there aren’t taking care of it the way that we would–we wonder if we’ve done the right thing by renting it out.  It’s a hard decision in a challenging economy to forgo the cash flow of renting in favor of selling especially when the length of time needed to sell the property tends to run 6-9 months.  As we drove by today, we got a little bit closer to deciding what direction we want to go.

But, what got us there was a haircut for Jean, and a visit with P&L at Grape Juice for lunch…and a bottle of wine.  It’s always nice to stop in and see how things have changed; grab some grub and enjoy a bottle of grape juice.  For the record, if you’re ever in the Kerrville area and need a great place for lunch, Grape Juice has a terrific lunch menu at reasonable prices – a tip of the hat to Patrick and Keri…but it’s the wine that brings us back.  While we were sitting there, it was great to see a good friend–they recently sold their business in town and looked terrific.  We decided to try one of their menu wines, a 2010 Chateau St. Jean Signature Red wine from California.  The wine was pretty rough when first opened. . .you know, that puckery feeling you get in the back of your jaw when something sour hits it.  While this wine was quite that bad, it was pretty close; however, there was a really nice tasting of fruit left on the finish that gave hope as the wine opened up. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Malbec which shows plush notes of blackberry, mocha, and spice. Wine displaying a sensuous, deep purple in the glass, this fruit showcases the sophistication of the five varietals in style along with a nice roundness and a spice element.  Priced at around $18 a bottle, it’s actually a little overpriced for what you get.  We’ve enjoyed better wines for less money during our 302 days thus far, but on the upside this wine got better as the afternoon wore on.

At the end of the day, we’d probably opt for a different selection, but are glad that we’ve tried it. . .around these parts it was HOT today!  Driving back to SM, the car thermometer showed 108 degrees outside!  And, really, does it matter if it was really 102 or 104 degrees instead of 108?  Could you really even tell the difference?  Probably  not!  We really enjoyed seeing some good friends again today and sharing wine with them.

We hope that as your weekend winds down tomorrow that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


Leave a comment

Day 301: Anothter one Bites the Dust . . .

June 28

300 down…65 to go!

The mantra for Friday nights should be – a line from the Queen’s single – “another one bites the dust,”  Think about it – another Friday = another week gone by.  When the summer is as hot as it’s been the last few days, we wonder exactly who’s biting the dust?  Seriously, with temps at 103 degrees today and a projected 105 degrees tomorrow, the lyrics of the song have taken on a whole new meaning!  We know that summer is supposed to be hot.  We know that we’ve been living in drought conditions for the past three years.  We know that the more people that move to our part of the world, the more stress that will be put on the infrastructure.

There was a time in the not too distant past when summer afternoons were filled with pop up thunder storms.  You could set you watch to them, but they were scattered by nature!  Yep, what we mean is that they were truly afternoon thunderstorms that popped up because of the heat of the day.  Growing up in Houston, we could almost set a watch by them. . .but one never knew what side of town was going to get them.  Be it northwest, west, southwest or wherever, the afternoon thunderstorm was an important part of what we remember growing up.  So, tonight we decided that we needed something different, something that was going to mix well in the heat, but keep us from “biting the dust”!  Yeah, the heat is on so the wine must be enjoyed to keep it from going ‘bad’ because there sure aren’t any afternoon thunderstorms on the horizon to cool things down.

Our wine tonight is a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mission Bell.  And, we stopped to think about songs with the words ‘mission’ and ‘bell’ and other key notes to catch our attention. . .from Matt Nathanson, Mission Bells, “I had a dream you died And I just wanna be with you tonight Mission bells were ringing!”  Or,  from Donnie Brooks, “My love is higher than a mission bell (how deep) Deeper than wishin’ well (how strong) Stronger than a magic spell.” And even Fleetwood Mac, covered the same lyrics.  Clearly, enjoying Mission Bell Cabernet Sauvignon was in the cards tonight.  With a fruity nose, we were anticipating a really nice, big, bold wine, but were disappointed to find a thin, weak and relatively boring wine.  The bell didn’t ring for us as we tasted this wine. . .even with grilled salmon and sauteed vegetables, the wine couldn’t stand up to the food or the demands of a wine loving database.  We’d hardly recommend this wine–even with its price under $10 a bottle.  You can do WAY better for the money and for the varietal than Mission Bell, but it’s one of those things that will take time to build a wine collection/cabinet that is stocked with wines that YOU love!  This wine shouldn’t be one of them.  Plain and simple. You’ll enjoy too many others before you find the need to include Mission Bell.

Congrats!  We’ve made it through another week!  As the weekend unfolds, continue to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


Leave a comment

Day 300: Red Sky at Night . . .

Sailor's Delight

So, today marked the last day of our adventure in Boston.  Over the past several days we have trickled home – Brian first on Tuesday night, Daughter #1 took the early bird on Wednesday a.m. and finally Jean today as she wrapped up her conference.  Must admit, it was so much fun to get to spend time with Daughter #2 in her stomping grounds, and to really see some sights.  When you figure that we departed at O’Dark thirty last Friday and just now are back in Texas – we essentially had seven days to explore.  In a nutshell, we did the Freedom Trail, saw the graves of some pretty famous people, visited the Old North Church, had a cold beer in an Irish tavern along with a very Irish bartender, had a cold beer at Cheers – where everybody didn’t know our name but were very hospitable, saw a Red Sox game and the Green Monster, visited Sam Adams Brewery, visited Salem and toured the Witch Museum (yes, there is such a thing), drove the entire Cape Cod route – stopping to hang on the beach . . . see the lighthouses . . . have some great seafood . . . and hit the souvenir shops.

Yep, it was a wonderful time and we are ready to head back one of these days.  But, now it’s back to reality – Brian has a head start, so Jean will have some catching up to do when Mr. Alarm goes off at 6 a.m. so this will be a bit on the short side tonight.

While waiting for her flight to depart, Jean decided to stop in at Cisco’s at Logan Airport and there she met Danielle behind the bar.  When asked for a wine recommendation, Danielle asked the most appropriate question – “White or Red” . . . silly girl – “Why, Red of course,” Jean replied in earnest.  Danielle suggested a local blend called Sailor’s Delight from Nantucket Vineyard which is a small winery located in Nantucket Island, MA, owned and operated by Dean and Melissa Long. In 1981 they planted ten acres of grape vines in hopes of producing enough grapes to keep the winery making plenty of wine. Unfortunately nature had other ideas. Because of low fruit production caused by the salty wind blowing off the ocean and the destruction to the vines caused by the occasional hurricane, in 1997 they began to make their wines instead from premium grapes grown in Yakima Valley, WA, Long Island, NY, and Central Valley, CA.

Of course upon hearing the name of the wine, the first thing that popped into Jean’s head was – “Red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in morning sailors warning“.  Well, it was closer to night than morning, so Jean figured it would be a delight to try this wine.  As it turns out, the wine is a blend of Syrah and Viognier from two premier vineyards in The Columbia River Valley of Washington and Oregon.  On the nose, it was fruit all the way . . . full-bodied and ready to rumble.  The palate revealed super flavors of blackberry, prune, and jam – rounding out with a medium finish.  This wine would be perfect for entertaining and is an honorable mention to the Bondy Deck Wine list – not in the Top Ten, but close enough to be added.  A shout out to Danielle for her recommendation!

So, here we are wrapping up yet another week – that is after Friday is over and done.  We hope you’ve had a great couple of days and enjoyed yourself as much as we have.   We are looking forward to a couple of days with the four-legged children just hanging out and trying to stay out of trouble – no promises!  In the meantime, remember to enjoy responsiblity and recycle whenever possible.


Leave a comment

Day 299 — Everyone Is Equal…But Some Are MORE Equal Than Others…

Reds-Wine for the peopleDid you ever read the book, ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell?  “The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders, but also the ways wickedness, indifference, ignorance, greed, and myopia corrupt the revolution. It portrays corrupt leadership as the flaw in revolution, rather than the act of revolution itself. It also shows how potential ignorance and indifference to problems within a revolution could allow horrors to happen if a smooth transition to a people’s government is not achieved,” according to Wikipedia.  Perhaps the most telling line in the book was, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.  As a historical nod to post World War II Europe and Russia, Orwell was disgusted by the alliance between Britain, the US and the new Soviet Union.  Even worse, was his dislike for Stalin, whose power only grew stronger as a result of the successes in the War.  A commentary on socialism/communism, Orwell’s allegorical novel clearly paints a picture of mistrust, misuse of power and lack of leadership in a post-Lenin world.

If you’ve never read the book, it’s a true classic in American literature.  Orwell actually wrote the book during World War II–from November 1943 through February 1944.  It’s not a particularly long book, but it’s packed with innuendos, suggestions, thought provoking idealisms and down right attacks on a post World War II society.  NOW, why on the face of a beautiful earth, would we bring up such an ‘ancient’ piece of literature?  It seems that regardless of what side of the aisle you prefer, there are leaders who are trumpeting that everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.  Take for example health care. . .Congress passed the mammoth bill–over 1200 pages–but opts out for itself and governmental employees.  How convenient–but we are all equal.  Of course, the other key component in any society based on equality is that laws are passed for the people but not for government.  Agencies in government run unchecked, uninhibited and completely funded to do what ever they wish to whomever they wish…but government is immune to such ‘oversight’.

So it seems that art imitates life or was it life imitating art?  Hmmm, well, at least we found a nice wine to discuss matters of literature this evening.  Among our finds recently at Central Market South in Austin is this 2011 Reds a blended red wine that promotes itself as being “For The People”! With a name like ‘Reds’ and a tag line like you’ve just read, there must be some substance to this wine. . .Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah from pioneer vineyards in the heartland of California.  We noticed a lot of dark fruit on the nose and front palate.  There were hints of pepper, coriander and spice that came through on the finish after it had been opened for about 45 minutes.  This is a young wine but full of flavor and well worth the $11 a bottle price.  Here, once again, is a great example of wine with a great body, taste and structure for a price that leaves you speechless.  Good wines at prices that won’t break the bank are becoming the rage–threatening higher priced lower quality wines–but only a few have jumped on the bandwagon.

Depending on where you live, Animal Farm may be happening before your very eyes. . .state, county, local. . .all jurisdictions that tax and collect to fund their operations but without much oversight.  Over time, they may come to be viewed as Snowball and Napoleon–who felt the need to prepare for the revolution–but ultimately use their power to secure more power for themselves and less for the people. (pigs.)  We hope you’ll try Reds. . .the 2011 version is ready to enjoy today.  Thanks for reading and remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


Leave a comment

Day 298: Caught Up In The Crossfire . . .

crossfireSo much happening in the world – and it hasn’t stopped just because we decided to run away from home for a few days . . . the President in Africa, the Supreme Court made some huge rulings today, the Russians (or is it the Cubans?? – where is this guy) are courting their new found friend from the NSA, the Super Moon has come and just about gone, the Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup — sorry Bruins — and Paula Deen is still looking for work . . . WOW!

Having taken some time off, both for pleasure and for business, we’ve discovered that being away from home helps us appreciate being home.  Now, this never ever diminishes the value, love and importance of spending time with our kids.  We have to admit, we’re crazy about our girls and would love to have the both around as much today as we did when they were growing up.  It’s one of those things about growing up that gets us caught in the crossfire of life.  We love them and want them around, but we know that they’ve got to carve their own niche.

One of the best ways to avoid getting caught in the crossfire is to take some time and relax while doing some stuff you normally wouldn’t – – – like visiting the Sam Adams Brewery (which Brian and the girls did today while Jean was at her conference) or taking in a game at Fenway Park and catching sight of the Green Monster (which Jean and the girls, along with Clark Kent, did this evening while Brian was in route home to Texas).  Both were awesome times and adventures to check off the bucket list!

Tonight, we opened a 2007 Crossfire from JK Estates out of Lodi, California.  Lodi is one of those places that we want to visit.  Lots of great Zinfandels and Cabernets from Lodi and it’s in a great part of the state.  Tonight’s wine is a wonderful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  This wine greeted us with strawberry pie, boysenberry, blackberry, black licorice and pomegranate juice aromas and flavors.  Its’ soft tannins and spice, the Syrah’s plum flavor along with black pepper and black cherry make this wine a royal treat with a lingering clean finish. It is an excellent wine for sipping or to serve at an elegant dinner as the perfect compliment to beef, lamb, pork with rich fruit sauces and hearty pastas.  At less than $13 a bottle, this highly rated wine is recommended as a best buy, and given its’ 2007 vintage, if you can get a hold of some, we’d suggest you get it and FAST!

Spending time away with family makes it an even better deal and this week we’ve been able to get a real taste of the Boston area – it is truly a great place and we look forward to returning and spending more time.

As the week unfolds, we hope you’ll avoid the crossfire by continuing to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remembering to recycle whenever possible.


Leave a comment

Day 297: Now We See…

ifyouseekayThe year, 1692, was not particularly good in the developing history of the New World.  After a trip to Salem, Massachusetts today (Brian and girls went on an adventure while Jean attended her conference) it was learned about what happened during a 13-month period starting in that year.  If there is one word that can describe what took place when ten 12 year old girls were mistakenly accused of being witches, that word is ‘hysteria’.  One story begat another story which begat another and fingers were pointed in multiple directions. . .by the time it was over, 19 people had been hanged.  Five men, 14 women and (get this, really??) two dogs—all hung—all accused of being witches.  All of this took place while the general population sat back and let it happen.  No due process.  No trial of peers. No support from loved ones.  Hysteria. . .the kind of stuff that makes people do strange things, say regrettable words and gives power to those in control. . .a control that when used to one’s advantage—helps keep people quiet.  And so, based on what we learned today, we found out more about the Salem Witch Trials than we had ever previously known.  It only came to an end, when the hysteria hit a fevered pitch, when the Governor’s wife was accused of being a witch.  From that point forward, those accused were no longer charged; those in prisons were released and the hysteria came to an end. . .BUT not before innocent people had been put to death.

Our description probably doesn’t do the story justice, but hidden between the lines are a couple of important lessons:  first, hysteria creates bad decision making.  Governments, both in this country and abroad, use hysteria to garner public support or in some cases, demand it.  Hysteria can be used to point fingers at someone and render them guilty before they’ve ever been on trial–regardless of their innocence.  Sound familiar?  Think the ‘Salem Witch Trials’ can’t happen today?  Ever watch some of today’s media frenzied papparazi?  Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if someone was being interviewed and admitted something and within 24 hours had lost their job?  Hysteria…an open door for a witch hunt?

So tonight we’re trying something really ‘hysterical’!  Having found this in a store outside of Boston, we just had to try it.  Originating from the creative wine making wines of Jayson Woodbridge and Chris Radonski of No Holds Barred Wines – the same guys behind Layer Cake wines – ‘If You See Kay’ is a no-holds barred wine from vineyards in Laszlo, Italy.  A cabernet sauvignon blend, this wine is deep, dark and very full bodied.  It has a fruit-filled nose and a terrific finish.  This is the kind of wine that fits perfectly with our day today.  And, while the wine makers want the brand to represent something as important as being true to oneself and daring to question something that doesn’t fit with who you are.  Well, we aren’t so sure that a wine needs to go that deep, but this one is tasty and a good value at less than $14 a bottle.  It’s surprising that a wine this big and bold comes at a price so affordable, but that’s the beauty of wine tasting.

Another terrific day and we’re ready to wrap this one up – taking in the Bruins game tonight (on TV – no tickets available) followed by the Red Sox tomorrow night – as they say . . . . when in Rome!!

After this post, we’ll have 67 more posts and the year will be complete. . .thanks for riding along with us.  We hope you’ll finish our own ‘Tour de Wines’ and as you sit down to enjoy your favorite, please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.