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Day 113 – It’s In The Mail

Dead Letter OfficeOne of the staples of Christmas’s past, and to a certain extent present is the Christmas Card.  Time was when millions upon millions of cards flooded the bags of mail carriers between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Growing up, we can both remember THE basket that held the treasured cards.  They were acknowledgments from friends, family, former neighbors, former buddies, teachers, preachers, pastors, and so many others.  Some contained letters detailing the entire year’s activities for a certain family, and others had family pictures as the card.  It was fun to see how people changed from one year to the next–and it DID happen!  We can both remember getting 5, 7, 10 cards a day in the mail.  And, this was all before there was any real package mailing going on, so the main thing going through the post office was CARDS.

Today, the internet has completely changed the world of card giving.  As more and more people send electronic cards, electronic invitations and electronic pictures, the need for Christmas Cards becomes less and less.  Yet another ‘holiday institution’ going by the wayside.  Come to think of it, writing letters or any other handwritten correspondence is going by the wayside as well.  Admittedly, sitting down and signing, addressing, stamping and mailing 100 or more cards is, well, time-consuming.  However, with a database of email addresses, with one ‘click’ your message hits everyone on your list with the same generic greeting. . .not unlike a Christmas Card.  Maybe it’s because the personal part of sending the note is gone.  You know, when you signed the card–or someone you knew signed the card and sent it to you, they took the time to write to YOU!  Electronically-speaking, one simple, repetitive message can be sent to as many people as you have email addresses for.  But, it’s the thought that counts!

We’re not saying it’s bad…on the contrary, it’s pretty cool to think that you can send a message and reach a huge number of people with a single click.  But, tonight’s wine–from Australia–details a different part of hand-addressed mail.  Sometimes, the mail is undeliverable–incorrect address; incorrect return address; no return address; no address–there a huge number of reasons why some mail can’t be delivered, and in Australia, the Dead Letter Office is the place such mail comes to. . .for only here can a postal employee actually open a piece of mail with the sole purpose being to find a clue as to where it is supposed to be delivered.  Obviously, opening someone else’s mail is a federal offense, but in Australia, they’ve got it figured out.  So, we salute those folks who have to translate our ‘chicken scratch’ of handwriting in order to find where the piece should be delivered.

This 2008 Dead Letter Office Shiraz from Henry’s Drive is so big, bold and beefy, we wished we’d have taken it with us for dinner.  This is a widely-recognized wine with most of the better wine reviewers rating this between 89-92 points.  The nose is beautiful–you get a nice aroma of oak with lots and lots of fruit–mainly black cherry, currants and a slight hint of almond.  Swirling this wine in the glass only helped open it more and what an amazing scent there is.  The taste is so silky smooth, you forget that you’re drinking wine.  It’s finish is very long and fruitful. . .this wine is a terrific way to celebrate the holidays!  We only wish we had gotten more!  It’s available at World Market and is under $23 a bottle, but with their sale going on right now, we were in the $18 range. . .well worth the money for a big, tasty wine like this, but you’d better hurry because they’ll close early on Christmas Eve and then you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy it!

We noted that we’ve received fewer Christmas cards this year; probably because we’ve sent out fewer and fewer as the years have gone on.  Christmas Cards is one of those traditions that is great to remember from the past, but it’s doubtful that it will survive the future.  But, if it does survive, it’s good to know that people in the Dead Letter Office will be there to make sure as many of the poorly addressed cards get to their destination as is possible.

As for you, enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 80: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose . . .

So, you may have noticed a trend in past blogs – we not only like wine, we enjoy a bargain.  Well, as the old saying goes, “sometimes you win,sometimes you lose” – as a matter of fact, tonight’s wine wasn’t one that was a winner.  But, before we get to that – when talking about “that old saying”, we couldn’t remember if it was a saying, a song, a movie or what.  So, because we are who we are – we looked it up.

It turns out that the phrase comes from a number of places –

A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.’ Think about that for a while.”                                                                                                                                                                                                      Kevin Costner in Bull Durham

That’s the way life is, sometimes you win sometimes you lose
Part of it you can’t control, Part of it you choose”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Poem by Sam Arjomandi

 “Sometimes when you win, you really lose. And sometimes when you lose, you really win. And sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what on needs.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Rosie Perez to Woody Harrelson in “White Men Can’t Jump”

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose
And sometimes the blues get hold of you
Just when you thought you had made it”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Lyrics from “Sweet Season” by Carole King

So, now you know, and so do we, that these six little words have quite a history.  Okay, enough already – onto the wine.  While at Trader Joe’s on Sunday, we picked out a wine that looked interesting enough – especially since it was from Barossa Valley in Australia – home  of a number of our favorite wines.  Tonight, we opened up a bottle of 2010 The Black Shiraz from Berton Vineyards, and – to be honest, we thought maybe, just maybe, it would compare to Mr. Black’s Little Book (which by the way, we found on closeout at HEB in North Austin – yes, sister Sara – you are getting a bottle on Thanksgiving).  Well – sometimes you win and sometime you lose – it wasn’t anywhere near Mr. Black’s.  In fact, this one is probably going to be better off cleaning your drain pipes or perhaps peeling wallpaper!  A little harsh you say?  We have to admit when we opened the wine the nose was actually beautiful – lots of earthy, tobacco, with spices and fruit – which made our mouths water for the tasting.  Unfortunately, there was no taste.  There was no finish.  There was just red wine that didn’t make any kind of an impression.  We swirled it – No good.  We aired it out – No better.  We’ve even double decanted it – Nope, not happening.  For a $7.49 bottle of wine, many will say, “You got what you paid for.”  But, we know that there are great wines out there for less than $10 .  .  . we’re working on finding some of them – and  .  . . this ISN’T one of them.

Clearly, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose . . . tonight we kind of felt like the Bears against the 49ers – it wasn’t pretty and we’re glad that it’s over!  So, we move on, but as always, please remember to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 75: Tying the Knot – NOT

Last night we raved about a blend from Artesa and couldn’t say enough good things about that wine.  Well, tonight we’re heading in  the other direction – south.  First of all, we  have had our share of excellent wines from Australia.  As a rule, they’re bigger, bolder and fruitier than many American wines.  So, when looking for another value priced wine when we visited our local Sam’s Club, we happened upon this wine from the McLaren Vale (pronounced valley) a place from where we’ve enjoyed some delicious wines – called Red Knot.

The first thing we noted – right off the bat – it’s a young wine.  A 2011 vintage means that it’s probably going to be much more fruity with less structure.  Very mild tannins with virtually no finish is kind of what we expected.  However, because of where it came from, we felt like we were heading down the right path for a good find and priced under $11 a bottle.  How often can you come across a sweet deal that includes a good price from a good ‘home’?

We should have known when we opened the bottle – and we have to borrow this phrase from our good friend Patrick Wilt at Grape Juice in Kerrville – he says, “At the end of the day, it’s all grape juice!”  Well, that’s EXACTLY what we smelled upon opening .  .  . it had the aroma (the smell?) of Welch’s Grape Juice.  Actually, it could have been ANY brand of store bought grape juice and we were not excited.  A pour into a glass and a swirl didn’t change a thing .  .  . a sip – a little aeration – nothing.  The wine had NO taste.  It was like drinking a glass of store bought grape juice.  We pulled out the receipt to confirm that we hadn’t spent too much on it, but in all fairness, this one was overpriced even as a value wine.

What makes our comments almost hysterical are the comments we read from Australia – Here are a couple of them: “Shingleback’s cheapy is a youthful beauty. Cabernet really belongs in the Vale and these guys are doing it very well.” or  how about this one: “That the discounters frequently trim the price of Red Knot is a sure sign of popularity. And popularity, in this instance, proves that Australia’s savvy palates know a bargain when they see one.” We’re sorry – are they CRAZY?  Trim the price because of popularity?? Savvy Palates?  Really?  Retail 101 – if it DOESN’T sell, mark it down and someone will buy it.  Continue marking it down UNTIL someone buys it!  Savvy palates know a bargain – or, as we translated, we were thirsty enough to drink the first bottle we came across!!

Don’t get us wrong; it doesn’t have to be  high priced to be good and there really are plenty of value-laden wines on the market – several of which we’ve already written about!  Unfortunately, we’re going to find the occasion ‘dud’ – just like in Monday’s blog about ‘Mystery Date’ – we rolled the dice and landed on a ‘DUD’, but you get to be the beneficiaries of our sacrifice – so you’re only homework is to decide for yourself if we’re right about our review of the wine or take it at face value and protect our wine’s identity.

For $10 we learned a lesson – not all wines from Australia’s McLaren Vale are going to be home runs.  We knew that sooner or later we’d run into one of these, and tonight, that is exactly what we did.  What made matters worse was the fact that this wine has won six Bronze medals this year in wine competitions and a Gold medal.  We can’t help but wonder how good it would have been had there been seven Gold medals and one Bronze!  Not to be the case today.

Regardless as to whether you enjoy your red wine or your white wine, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.