casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


Day 360 – Welcome Back…

DiMajo Norante SangioveseOkay. . .up front, we’re dating ourselves.  BUT, there was a sitcom back in the 70’s that starred Gabe Kaplan and a little known actor whose character name was Vinnie Barbarino. . .and the actor was?  John Travolta!  Yep, before Saturday Night Fever or Urban Cowboy–before Pulp Fiction or Face Off. . .there was Welcome Back Kotter.  Imagine going back to teach in the high school that you graduated from only a few short years before. . .well, that was the premise of the show.  The catch, of course, was that the names had changed but the game was still the same.

In the realm of public schools, today–in Texas–was the first day back to school.  And Brian had a terrific opportunity to watch kids and parents arriving at a local elementary school, we can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are GLAD that the girls are where they are today!  Parents have changed.  Schools have changed.  Teachers have changed.  BUT, one thing has remained the same. . .kids will always be kids.  AND, no matter how much you prep them, guide them, cajole them or force them—a certain number of kids can’t wait to get into the building.  AND, a certain number of kids are petrified of going into the building!

Parents, on the other hand, well, they look like deer in headlights. . .especially first time parents dropping their child off for pre-K programs.  Uh, they NEVER taught us this in ‘Lamaze’ classes!  Nope. . .and guess what, kids DON’T come with owners manuals!  After watching the proceedings today at one of the schools, we were glad that a the girls were way passed this age and that they were fairly ‘low maintenance’ when it came to school starting!  And the more we greeted parents and kids, the better it felt knowing that in our world, those days were long gone.

So we needed a wine that would be a nice combination of old and new.  And thanks to our friends at World Market, we found the perfect choice.  Our 2009 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese is the essence of what this blog is about.  A terrific red wine with lots of cherries, blueberries, tobacco and cedar just waiting to be opened and enjoyed.  Even as good as this wine tasted, it’s got the potential to be even better–yep, this wine has ‘moxy’ and we think it’s got the ‘legs’ to go the distance.  Italian wines have an earthiness to them that can’t be measured by our standards.  No, not every bottle of wine produced there is a hit, but as good as the wine that we’ve tasted from Italy has tasted, we know that the BEST stuff never leaves the country!  Robert Parker rates this wine at 87 points–which for a $10 bottle of wine is pretty awesome!  They said, “this Sangiovese exhibits fresh aromas of violets, woodland berries, sweet spice and leather. Deliciously smooth, plush and juicy on the palate with loads of ripe fruit, Di Majo Sangiovese is recommended with meaty pastas or pizzas, chorizo and granular cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or aged Gouda.”  We enjoyed it with buffalo chicken tenders in hot and bbq sauce along with fresh steamed carrots and it was the perfect way to “put out the fire!”

We know that there are a lot of parents breathing a sigh of relief tonight.  The first day of school is in the books and the daily routine has just begun.  We remember those days and being welcomed back.  It’s a special time in the kids lives, your lives and their teacher’s lives. . .savor the moments.  Life comes at you way too fast and when you blink your eyes, they’re grown.  We hope that as your kids go back to school that you’ll stop and enjoy the moment, and if that means sipping on a glass of your favorite wine, we hope you’ll do so responsibly and always remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 359: Drive for Dough, Putt for Show . . .

Stone CapSo, as you may recall – Jean played golf on Friday and had a wonderful time and a couple of pretty decent shots during the round – her team didn’t win, but had a wonderful time.  Not that she and her sister Sara are the least bit competitive when it comes to the links, but . . . Jean now stands in awe of six year younger sister for her incredible feat today.  You see, Sara in a very gifted athlete – she’s ridden the MS150 numerous times, has been known bowl a 300 game and today accomplished a feat that few people do once, least of all twice in one day.  While on a business trip to Denver, Sara took up her clubs and hit the course and proceeded to shoot a 50 on 18 holes . . . made possible by TWO, yes . . . count ’em TWO Holes In One!  Come on now – that just doesn’t happen.  We’ve checked the record books and can’t find any comparison to this feat.  Upon reading the news on Facebook, we had to know the details – but Sara didn’t answer her phone.  What was her secret?  A new club – some new super charged golf balls – has she been secretly taking something to improve her strength and accuracy (don’t think she knows A-Rod) . . . what could it be?  Perhaps the altitude in Denver makes the difference – we’ve heard that on a humid night a baseball actually travels farther than on a cold night . . maybe it’s something like that or she had the wind at her back (there is a bit of Irish on Jean’s side of the family) . . . Regardless of the who, what, when, where and how – we ARE impressed.  Yep, tonight Sara took home the crown!  Job well done – Jean is super jealous!

To celebrate this feat, we opened a wine from Sara’s neck of the woods – a 2010 Stone Cap Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley. . .as in Washington.  We know we need to make a trek out that way for a visit and will be sure to make this winery a stop on the tour.  The wine comes from Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard which is located on the ridge of Goose Hill, across from Red Mountain in the Columbia Valley where the Yakima River converges with Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. The vineyard has gentle, south-facing slopes and warm temperatures. The Monson Family planted the vineyard in small blocks to produce high quality estate-grown wines. The 1,600 acre vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, and Pinot Gris.

Upon opening the wine, we loved what was on the nose.  An amazing fragrance of dark fruit and a floral.  On the palate, we were excited to find a full-bodied wine with black cherry, raspberry and currants that combine with toasty oak, chocolate and spice.  According to the wine maker, grilled pepper steak or herb-roasted rack of lamb are favorites with this smooth and powerful wine; however, we opted for a spice mix of kung pao chicken and steamed white rice.  A terrific combination that highlighted the sweeter notes of the wine as well as the deep structure.  It’s yet another example of food and wine working very well together!  At around $8 bucks a bottle, you’ll think you’re enjoying something far more sophisticated, but you’ll love how little the cost is compared to the flavor!  We’ll definitely add this wine to our list of deck wines to be enjoyed on a moment’s notice.

So, back to the golf game.  We are still in shock and awe!  Two holes-in-one. . .on the SAME DAY and the SAME COURSE!  Even the guys on the PGA Tour can’t muster this kind of performance.  Finally got an update – it seems that Sara might have had some assistance from a guy named Don Quixote on the Windmill hole – but other than that . . . she gets full credit for her feat tonight!

Quick reminder – please continue to send in your votes for the Top Ten Bondy Deck Wine list – time is getting short until Day 365!

As always, please remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 358: Home for a Visit . . .

Spanish White Guerrilla

As parents, there is NOTHING better than when a child returns home for a visit – albeit a brief one.  Today, D#2 flew in from the East (and boy, are my arms tired . . . ok, sorry about that – it’s a very old joke).  Anyways, she arrived safely from Boston a wee bit after Noon today – so after we snagged her from the construction zone at Bergstrom Airport, off we headed to inner Austin and a rendezvous with D#1.  Based on her early arrival time, all seemed right in air flight land today – doesn’t always happen.

We got to D#1’s place and our course all had to go in a spend a few minutes with Bridget Jones (aka, the Grand Dog) – no visit is complete without paw prints on your shorts and shirt and a wet sloppy kiss – not to mention the tail-waggin’ going on.  The “love” we received was well worth the visit.  Off we headed to Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant – gotta tell ya – they have some of the best food in town . . . especially their refried beans!  We left there stuffed and popped over to the Mall for a bit of walking – and maybe a purchase or two.  All in all, it was fun to all be together and yuck it up for awhile.  A drop off of D#1, a quick stop at HEB in Kyle and BAM, we were home.  A short afternoon rain created a slight alteration of plans for tonight . . . but, Brian was still able to grill up some Salmon and asparagus – along with some Mustard Potatoes (to die for – just saying) and, at the end of the day – ALL was good.

So…we had NEVER heard about a 2010 Spanish White Guerilla Verdejo wine. . .nope.  Not on our radar screen until a visit to our local Twin Liquors and BOOM, there it was on CLOSEOUT!  Not being ones to shy away from something completely different and out of the ordinary, we decided that if there was ever a reason to blog about a white wine, this was it!  The 2010 Spanish White Guerrilla Verdejo is 100%  Verdejo grown in a single vineyard located in the Valles de Sadacia growing area, which is a white wine only DO (Denominacion de Origen) located inside the Rioja district, in Spain. The wine was aged in large stainless steel vats for two months, and the color is pale butter yellow with green apple highlights. The nose is pear and apricot, peach and creamery butter. The Verdejo has a full, rounded mouth-feel, pear and lime lead the way, the mid-palate has a slightly medicinal edge that also adds peach and papaya. The acidity is well balanced and helps the finish last for a very respectable time.  We opened it chilled, but found that the taste was improved as the temperature of the wine warmed.  When it was cooler, the taste was flat and non-distinguished.  When the wine warmed, it was as fruity and crisp as we’ve enjoyed.

Don’t be scared off by one of Sponge Bob Squarepants friends on the label or a grape varietal that you may not be familiar with, this Spanish White Guerrilla Verdejo is a well-made, delicious, refreshing, change of pace, summer wine. . .no one was more surprised than us!  The Spanish White Guerrilla Verdejo should sell for around $10, if you like your white wine with a bit of body and strong, fresh flavors, this is a wine you should consider.

Family. . .it’s a LOT like wine. . .it gets BETTER with age.  We relish the time we spend with our daughters.  Each moment is a snapshot that will forever be imprinted in our brains. . .we aren’t sure if our parents ever felt this way, but as they get older, smarter and ready to take on the challenges of the world, we see two incredible ladies who have gifts that are ready to take them places!

Enjoy your favorite wine–responsibly, of course, and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 357: Five is a Great Number . . .

Five WiseToday was a great day, especially for Jean – she got to play golf . . . AND support San Juan Diego Catholic High School in Austin – WHAT a GREAT job!  She and two co-workers (Lisa and Scott) plus a wonderfully supporter and friend (Ron) took to the links in order to help raise funds for the school.  Now, normally the idea of playing golf and not being in the office would be tough for Jean, BUT – her boss (aka Scott) pretty much said she HAD to play . . . so, rule of thumb in our house is NEVER go against what the Boss has said.  Ok, ever so slight exaggeration there . . . Jean signed up and coerced Scott and the others to play (for the record . . . the arm twisting really wasn’t all that tough).  Nonetheless, a wonderful time was had by all – yes, it was a wee bit hot – but as the saying goes . . . a bad day on the golf course beats a good day in the office.  Anytime she plays golf, Jean is reminded of the days as a young girl heading to the course on Saturday mornings with Bill (aka Dad) and his buddies to play a round – Jean was allowed to hit a ball with a shortened 3 Iron – to this day, one of the clubs she hits the best.  She would be negligent if she didn’t mention all the fun times she and sister Sara have had on the course as well (yes, Jean can hit a tee shot further than Sara – just setting the record straight).

Ok, on to other things – – – the number FIVE(5) is a really important number at Casa del Vino – ya see, we are BOTH (or as D#1 and D#2 like to say BOLTH – gotta love those inside family jokes) the FIFTH (5th) child in their families.  We think that’s pretty special . . . BUT WAIT – it doesn’t stop there —- we were born on the same day / same year (approximately 45 mins apart . . . . yes, for the record, Jean is older).  Brian was born at St. Joseph’s and Jean was born at St. Mary’s (pays to be Catholic to make that connection) – we were baptized on the same day – both our Dad’s worked for Shell Oil their entire careers and finally (yes, just one more – sorry P&L . . . didn’t mean another bottle) – when they got married that both had sisters who were nurses living in Denver.  Call it what you will . . . we call it both Divine Intervention and a God Wink.  Makes for lively conversation, especially when doing legal work and date of birth is involved.  Oh, and one last coincidence – we were married on the same day.

So, as you can see the number Five (5) is a big deal ’round these parts.  So tonight we opened a Five Wise Meritage Blend.  A wonderful combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  We picked this little number up at World Market last weekend – during halftime at Dave & Busters – it was less than $12 and a BARGAIN.

This wine has some really nice characteristics.  The nose is pure fruit. . .lots of berries with hints of tobacco and plums.  The palate opens up to a nice oak and tobacco taste along with some black raspberries and black cherries.  The finish is long, smooth and memorable. . .all of the flavors stay on the finish making this wine smooth to the taste from start to finish.  We enjoyed this with some smoked sausage and potatoes as well as a spinach salad. . .all in all a really nice find for not a lot of money.  We’re intrigued by the wine because there isn’t a lot of information available about it.  From Greenfield, California which is in Monterrey County; Greenfield is located in one of the developing wine grape growing regions of California with over twenty vineyards and wineries within a thirty mile radius, several of which have tasting rooms and offer a wide selection of wines for sale. Some of the Vineyards and Wineries located nearby are Hahn Estates Smith & Hook, San Saba, J.Lohr, Hess Select, Estancia, and Graff Family Vineyard.  Having driven through this area back in October, we learned that it’s also the area know as the “Salad Bowl” for the country.  There was an unbelievable amount of produce being harvested at that time. . .truly amazing.

This wine is different, unique and not on a radar screen, and it’s for these reasons, you should try it.  Might just sneak onto the BOndy Top Ten Wine List . . .

With so many commercial labels (heck this may even be a commercial label), it’s kind of refreshing to find one that doesn’t have 91 points or lengthy vintages in its’ history.  We’re open to hear from you; maybe you know something about Fivewise Meritage that can shed some light for us.

Anyway, it’s Friday!  Time to enjoy the weekend and your favorite wine.  Please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 356: It’s About Time . . .

Tappas Wine CollectionAnd here we sit–T-Minus 9 . . . about 12 months ago, we got this hair-brained idea that we, yes . . . we, the then 53 old, self defined “old farts” decided that we should do a wine blog . . . you know, we’d watched Julie & Julia one too many times and, oh, what a great idea – blog about a different wine EVERY night for a year.  Yeah, we know . . . blah, blah, blah – but, truth be told – we were gamers.  Yup, we thought silently — and then aloud. . . . oh, heck – this will be easy, doing something we enjoy (tasting wine) . . . we are so in!

BUT…like all things in life, the truth of the matter is . . . we’ve just ’bout run out of the will to finish.  It was fun in September. . .even better in October when we took a trip to Paso Robles, California.  November was a delight but December just wasn’t right. . .January came and went and February seemed spent.  March roared in like a lion but by April we’d begun cryin’. May and June weren’t easy and July made us feel queasy.  So here we are in August and the finish line is just ahead, all we’re hoping is that when we get there, no one’s feeling dead!!

Tonight we opened a 2009 Tempranillo from Alicante, Spain.  “The Tapas Wine Collection” Tempranillo–it’s got an imposing name and an equally graphic label. Tempranillo is a variety of red grape that is widely grown in Spain to produce full-bodied red wines. It has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since Phoenician times. Tempranillo wines are often characterized by a dark ruby color with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla leather and herbs.  Interesting fact: Tempranillo is the most widely planted red grape variety in Spain.  And while the preferred foods would be red meat, spicy foods, cured meats and cooked vegetables, we opted for a more traditional Dominos Pizza!  On a Thursday night, after a Business After Hours for Brian and extended office time for Jean, the thought of cooking something to match the wine–well, it JUST wasn’t happening!  However, that said, the pizza turned out to be the perfect complement to the wine.  A Dominos Extravaganza which DID have cured meat and cooked vegetables was the ideal pairing for us with this wine.  Priced at around $11 a bottle, you’re NOT going to confuse this wine with a bottle of Clio from the same year. . .OH NO, not even close; however, you may think you’ve stumbled upon something because it has a 2009 vintage, and those year’s wines are getting harder and harder to find.  A pick up from our recent visit to World Market, if you’re in the mood for a nice, smoky Tempranillo, then by all means get a  hold of this bottle.  However, if you looking for long and smooth to be a part of the conversation, with all due respect, you’ll probably look elsewhere.

So, maybe–just maybe–we’re a bit melodramatic in our journey.  Surely, if it was that BAD, we’d have abandoned our quest long ago.  And the short answer to that would be ‘you’re right’.  There have been a number of times when we thought that it would be best to stop it in our tracks and be done with it.  What motivated us to continue?  What motivates anyone to continue?  Never quitting!  By golly, we’re going to make this happen!  It’s like the character of General Custer in the movie, “Night At The Museum, Battle of The Smithsonian”…”We’re Americans, we don’t think, we DO!”  Yeah. . .kind of like that!

We hope you’ll stay with us for the rest of the blog. . .actually, you can help us by passing it on to friends and family. . .we’d love to get more folks reading just in time to stop!  No! Not really, but it sounded good!  AND, if you’ve been with us from the start or any portion of the journey, help us by sharing your thoughts about a Top Ten List-if you’ve enjoyed some of the wines we’ve written about, tell us about your thoughts and which ones should be on the BJWINE365 Wall of Fame!

Thanks for staying with us; enjoy your next bottle of wine responsibly and remember to recycle when you’re done.


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Day 355 – All The World’s A Stage. . .

cline mouvedre…and we are but players!  Well, not exactly how it’s written but the point is that we’re a blip on the radar screen of civilization.  The time spent in our lives doesn’t even register on the time clock of the planet, solar system or galaxy.  Yep, just like the song, we are like dust blowing in the wine!  Ooops!  We meant blowing in the WIND!  Yes, of course!  But, we’re also reminded that time is always moving forward.  So, tonight we spent some time watching the Little League World Series playoffs, and were struck by their similarities to real life–shaking hands after a job well done. This is the kind of baseball we know and love!

So tonight we opened a 2011 Cline Mourvedre. . .and WOW, what a wine!  Very tasty; loads of fruit, a terrific finish and all for a closeout price of $10 at Twin.  Ancient Vines Mourvedre offers a hint of Eucalyptus on the nose, distinct chocolate characteristics and a luscious deep plum flavor. This surprisingly and unusually delightful wine has a substantial mouth-feel followed by soft tannins.. . like we said…lots of wine and not a huge investment.  We enjoyed it with smoked center cut pork chops, some garlic pasta shells and a romaine lettuce salad.  All of these were perfect compliments to the wine.

Even as we close in on the end of our blog series, we’re amazed at the wines that are available for a good price and a great taste.  This wine fits the bill to a tee and because it’s a varietal that most people don’t (or won’t) go to look for and try, those of us who have tasted and believe are going to snatch them up!  It’s a great wine for the price; it’s a flavorful wine for your palate and you can amaze your friends and family with your vast knowledge!  Okay. . .so that last part was a REAL stretch!

As you know, the Mourvedre grape is rarely bottled as a wine by itself.  Typically, this grape is used in blends–most blends that we’ve enjoyed have Petite Syrah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in them, so this grape is probably used to soften the wine against the big and bold of the other grapes.  What we never expected was a wine with great taste and body and a smooth finish.  It’s yet another example of trying something out of our ‘wheelhouse’ (remember an earlier post?) and being rewarded for trying it!

As the week begins a tilt towards the weekend, we can’t tell you the number of comments and likes we’ve enjoyed knowing that the blog is quickly coming to its conclusion.  We especially like the folks from Sweden, Japan, Germany and other countries who have accidentally (yes, we’re not so vain as to think we have a world-wide following) stumbled upon our blog.  And, after looking at the variety of search terms used, we’re convinced that most folks have no clue what they’re looking for!! But, hey, we’re glad they stopped by and checked us out.  Enjoy your Thursday, and prepare for the weekend.  We’re now in a T-Minus mode starting tomorrow, we’ll be at T-Minus 10 and counting.  If you’re in the mood to try new, value priced wine, then stay tuned for some great stuff; and if you’ve come to expect great information…don’t miss the last 10 days!

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

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Day 354: Sometimes things are better left alone . . .

santa julia torrontesYeah, so we’ve already talked about the Santa Julia Malbec and tonight we’re going a little crazy because we’ve found a white wine from the same folks.  The only catch is that this wine is from a torrontes grape.  Torrontés is a white Argentine wine grape variety, producing fresh, aromatic wines with moderate acidity, smooth texture and mouth-feel as well as distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose.  Keep that in mind…we’ll come back to it later.

We are closing in on the final days of our quest to taste and write about 365 different wines in 365 days.  While we are deeply appreciative of the following that has grown over the past eleven and a half months, we know that the world isn’t sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the next blog!  However, Doug – one of our followers asked ever so sweetly – and we paraphrase . . . “what, you can’t stop – i love your blog . . . can’t you just go on forever”.

Simply put, we have found an AMAZING number of wines over the past 353 days that reminds us of how many varietals, labels, wine makers and vintners there are in our world.  We thought that we’d scratch the surface of wines in a year’s time, but sadly, we aren’t even close.  Thank you to the comments that have asked us to continue on past our 365 days!  While we appreciate the comments and support, the budget isn’t as willing.  After reading a fair number of other blogs, we can tell you that all but one of our reviews have been wines purchased by us.  No freebies, no giveaways, no tainting the process; everything that  we’ve smelled, tasted, reviewed and written (other than the one bottle) has been purchased by us.  SO, if you wonder why we’re wrapping this puppy up in 10 days, well, the coffers are thin and we’ve accomplished our goal.

However, the best part of this journey (other than the wine) has been the comments, the followers and the friends who have stood up and joined us on our journey. . .from all over the country and the world!  It’s a medium like this that provides platforms for promoting something we love very much. . .good wine, good food and good friends!  Tonight’s wine is an extension of that very thought process.  Torrontes–a grape variety from Argentina.  Santa Julia, a wine maker from Mendoza, Argentina.  We previously tasted and wrote about their Malbec, but we had no idea about their home grown varietal until purchasing this Torrontes from Twin Liquors.

Three Torrontés varieties exist in Argentina: Torrontés Riojano, the most common, Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. It is primarily Torrontés Riojano that has received attention for the quality of its wines, and is the variety used for most Argentine wines simply labeled Torrontés.  Our wine tonight, a 2010 Torrontes was very tart from the beginning to the end.  Like biting into a granny smith apple, this wine had ‘pucker power’…yeah, it wasn’t a smooth and elegant wine.  It was more like an in-your-face-kick-butt wine!  Wines like this are tough to review because they have a flavor and aroma about them, but they aren’t necessarily big dog wines that you’d keep on your shelf for periods of time.  After plenty of tastes and sniffs, we pretty much decided that the wine is ‘nice’ but there is NO WAY that we’d consider adding this to our deck wine favorites. For the record, Kathryn – aka – we have conquered the white . . . be proud!

In a perfect world, we’d keep right on writing.  But, let’s face it, ours is NOT a perfect world.  We have been reluctant (or scared) to tally up our “investment” in this past year’s blog.  When we write our final piece on August 31st, we’ll have talked about a LOT of wine that is available all over the State of Texas.  What happens after that. . .well, who knows but YOU will have a terrific opportunity to take the journey with us. . .try some of the wines and who knows, you may want to venture out on your own.

For us, we’re closing in on a finale.  For you, we hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.