casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


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Day 342: Getting Ready for School . . .

red splashYou can see it. . .parents carting kids into the big box retailers and clothing stores.  You can hear it. . .radio and television commercials extolling the virtues of back to school sales.  From college campuses to elementary school hallways, the return of teachers, custodial staff and administration personnel are signalling the start of a new school year–just around the corner.  There was a time (a long time ago) when we collectively didn’t like this time of year.  Whether it was shopping for school supplies (mainly crayons, pencils and paper) or the dreaded clothes shopping — “stop growing, we can’t afford to keep you in pants!”, when the calendar turned to the middle of August, we knew it was ‘BACK TO SCHOOL TIME’!

Now, granted while most public schools don’t start until the end of the month — many private and parochial schools will be starting in the next couple of weeks.  This means that the teachers for those schools are prepping their classrooms now.  They’re cleaning up, fixing up, decorating up, prepping up and doing just about anything they can to create a superb learning environment.  In our household, we have our first teacher preparing for her first class and we’re not too sure who’s more excited–us or her!  When you walk into a classroom as a student or parent, you see things with eyes that are –well more consumer-oriented.  What we’ve learned is that when you walk into a classroom with a teacher, especially one who is fresh from the student-teaching experience–the things you see or should see are about creating a way for kids to feel safe, secure, and ready to learn.  It’s about creating space for learning; it’s also about creating space for teaching.  It’s about removing barriers that send the wrong messages to kids who aren’t quite sold on the idea of being back in school–yet!  Colors, shapes, desk layouts, bulletin boards, lights–they all play a vital role in the education of young people and teachers are the driving force behind all of it this time of year.  There are still a couple of weeks left before the first bell rings, but we can state beyond the shadow of a doubt that we’ve learned more from our teacher, than we ever dreamed!

With a glance to the start of school and kind of ‘jumping in with both feet’, we opened a really nice 2007 Red Splash from St. Francis Vineyards in Sonoma County, California.  Surprisingly, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Old Vine Zinfandel that’s aged 18 months in oak and then 8 months in the bottle is unbelievably affordable at less than $10 a bottle.  It’s a wine that has a gorgeous nose. . .with hints of pepper and allspice as well as dark fruit and leather.  Food & Wine Magazine called it “One of the Best American Wines under $15” and the San Francisco Chronicle named it a “Top 5 Hearty Red $15 and under”. according to Snooth.com.  Red ripe fruit flavors with spicy aromas make this a wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. Great with grilled foods–we enjoyed it with grilled ranch burgers and it’s probably awesome with pizza or pasta dishes with red sauce. We think that it would be the perfect wine to serve at a cocktail party or backyard barbecue.  So, here’s a great example of a sub-$10 bottle of wine coming from a well-known wine maker and absolutely dazzling with taste and finish.  Having previously enjoyed and blogged about St. Francis Zinfandel, we’re not surprised by the taste of its’ low-cost cousin.

As we head towards a weekend, around these parts, it’s ‘Sales Tax Free’ Weekend–which around here means…..CHA-CHING!!!  It also means stay away from the shopping malls, the big box retailers. . .go somewhere and enjoy some wine.  You’ll be glad that you did.

When you head out, remember to enjoy your favorite vintage responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 124 – Snap To It

Snap DragonWow, who would have thought going back to work after a restful vacation would be so . . . so . . . challenging?  No, there weren’t any ‘fires’ to be extinguished, but – okay, do you remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait for Christmas vacation to start?  It seemed like it took four years to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas . . . and THEN, freedom for the best time of the year.  Oh, how we relished those days – they went by so SLOW!  Each day getting us closer to the magical day of Christmas, and then POOF, that part of the vacation was over – BUT, we still had the New Year’s celebration to look forward to and still no school.  But, like it always does, the day comes – it’s New Year’s Day!!  Woo-hoo . .  .parades, football, dinner, bed, time to get up for the first day of school.

Oh my gosh, those were the WORST days to be a kid – c’mon, you know that you dreaded having to go back to school after the Christmas break.  Well, okay, maybe not ALL of you, but we did.  So, it was with our break this year.  We both enjoyed time off starting at the end of the day on December 21st until the end of the day yesterday.  Oh, it was like magic had somehow transported us back to our school days – don’t have to get up and get ready.  Don’t have to be somewhere at a specific time . . . and then Christmas came – and went – and POOF, that part of the vacation was over . . . BUT, we still had the New Year’s celebration to look forward to and still no work.  But, like it always does, the day comes – it’s New Year’s Day!!  Woo-hoo . .  .parades, football, dinner, bed time to get up for the first day of work.

We’ve always been taught that the more things change, the more they stay the same . . . so even as time has flown by, some things in life are still the same.  And since we’re talking about things changing (or was it staying the same?), we decided that tonight would be a perfect night to enjoy a Pinot Noir.  Yep, the same folks who love those big Australian wines, those big California Cabs and Zins are breaking down and sipping on some beautiful Pinot Noir.  We decided to open a 2009 Snap Dragon Pinot Noir from Snap Dragon Winery of Sonoma, California.  Challenge #1:  the winery has no website of its’ own.  So, those in the business can probably tell us the reasons why; however, those of us NOT in the business call this a bit of a problem when trying to help the wine gain some identity.  This wine is fruity.  Pure and simple.  It’s light, airy and ready for easy drinking.  At less than $12 a bottle, it’s not going to be lining the racks of your wine closet, but for something that’s out of the ordinary, fresh, fruity and easy to sip, it’s not a bad choice.  Would be buy it in quantity?  No, probably not, but for our friends who enjoy Pinot Noir, is it something worth trying – sure, why not.  It’s best described as, “Juicy and fruity with ripe raspberry, fresh strawberries and spicy oak notes. This wine gets along with pretty much any dinner companion – from roast chicken to spicy pasta to difficult in-laws.”  Put in that context, pretty decent!!!

In the big picture, we’d probably find a different Pinot to enjoy.  There are some AMAZING wines from California, Oregon, Washington and other areas, that would and should offer better Pinot Noir’s than this one, but at least we’re ‘branching out’!  And, speaking of branching out, as your New Year unfolds, we hope it’s easier getting back in the saddle whether you’re going back to work, back to school or back to the basics.  Having gotten today out of the way, it ‘should’ be easier getting up tomorrow . . . and we both know that there will be plenty of work to do once we get back into the swing of things.

We hope that you have plenty to keep you in the swing of things as well, and as you enjoy your favorite wine, please do so responsibly and recycle whenever possible.