casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday

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Day 313 – Cheers to a new job!

castoro due mila ottoEvery once in a while you gotta celebrate.  There are moments in life when you know you’re going to need to have a glass of wine handy to toast.  In many cases, the need to toast comes after  a long and arduous journey.  Tonight we have two reasons to lift our glasses in celebration!  While we’ve shared over the past year the exploits of daughter #1 wrapping up her four years of college culminating with graduation back in May.  We haven’t yet had the opportunity to raise a glass in toast to her first professional position in education.  Now–we could-as parents-shamelessly yell and shout that we’ve finally got one off the payroll!  Woo-hoo!  But, that would be self-serving and unprofessional. . .hmmmmm, SORRY—wooooo-hoooo!!!!!!  How cool is that?  We’ve got a reason to ‘think’ about retirement!  And, just as important–daughter #2 has officially ended her teenage years by celebrating #20!  We only wish that we could have been with her to celebrate!  Next year–count on it!!

Yeah, so education is a tough field right now.  With the Legislature nose deep in funding every two years, finding teaching jobs isn’t like it used to be.  Time was a person could get a degree and a certificate, interview a few times and boom, a job offer loomed.  Today, well, teachers tend to stay longer which means fewer opportunities for those who are graduating.  Add to that the number of graduates from large schools like UT, Texas State, Texas Tech and others–guess what?  Those positions disappear—-quickly!  Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for teachers to ‘cut their teeth’ at private schools.  And, for many of them, not having to deal with state mandates and overly burdensome testing dates is a relief.  Imagine actually being able to TEACH and not to the test!  We are exceptionally proud of daughter #1’s new opportunity and wish her the BEST–because the kids she’ll be teaching will be getting the BEST!!! (Just a little biased!)

It’s never easy having one of your kids living so far away that you can’t be there for milestones in their lives.  Yes, we get the fact that they have to grow into their independence, but as parents it’s never easy.  We’ve been to visit her–within the last 10-12 days–and while that helps in the short term, it doesn’t do a whole lot for the long term.  All that being said, we are so proud of daughter #2 and wish we could have been there to help blow out all of those candles!  As a side note, it’s also Brian’s Mom’s 87th birthday, so when you start adding up all of what’s going on in our world, today has been a pretty good day!

So, since we were in the celebratory mode, we opened an amazing bottle from our friends at Castoro Cellars…a 2006 Due Mila Otto–a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  We  have to say that this was a truly spectacular bottle of wine.  Whether it was the fact that it was 7 years old or whether it came from Castor Cellars or the variety of grapes used in the blend, this wine was delicious.  From the nose–full of dark, rich fruit, oak, smoke, and a mellowness that had to come from 7 years in the bottle, to the taste, full frontal fruit!  Holy Smokes!  There was more fruit on the front end of this wine than a whole lot of others we’ve had over the past 312 days.  The finish is where this Castoro wine wins BIG.  To say that it was long-lasting is an understatement.  To say that it kept going like the “Everready Bunny” is a gross misrepresentation.  No the finish on this Castoro gem–goes on and on and on and on!  Yep, it’s that good!  It was the perfect wine to celebrate with tonight!

Whether it’s a professional accomplishment or a family-member birthday, a good wine helps make the moment just a little more special…we found that out this week!  As your Wednesday gives way to Thursday, we hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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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.

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Day 295 – Look, Up In The Sky…Super Moon

lunaticEver been to Boston?  Have ANY interest in American History?  The two literally came alive today.  After a terrific breakfast at a local restaurant called, Sound Bites, we headed into downtown to walk the ‘Freedom Trail’.   Being lovers of history always provides an interesting back drop for trips like this.  A little over a year ago, Brian went to visit daughter #2 and insisted on driving south to the spot where the Pilgrims came to the New World. . .Plymouth Rock.  While there’s no rock any longer, just being in the same spot gives a sense of purpose and belonging through history.

Today’s walking—and we mean serious walking—included King’s Chapel, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, the grave sites of Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Ben Franklin’s parents. . .along with Generals and Commanders from the Continental Army who died either during the American Revolution or shortly thereafter. . .markers that have been in the ground for 300 + years.  History was a great way to start the day; we also had to make a visit to the home of ‘Cheers’…where everybody knows your name!  A final stop and we headed back to drop the girls off at their place and we headed back into downtown for some sunset viewing.

So, tonight was the rising of the ‘Super Moon’ and with an early moonrise, we headed for the shoreline around Quincy, MA…we pulled over at a roadside beach where we had previously stopped and found a perfect place to watch the sun go down and the moon come up.  Because it was such a beautiful day…there was a bit of haze on the horizon so it was almost an hour after sunset when we finally spotted, ‘Super Moon’ up in the sky.  It wasn’t quite as magnificent as had been promised, but because of the beautiful sunset, the orange glow on the moon was spectacular!  We’ll try again tomorrow night, but today was a full day…that was full of fun, laughs, history and lots of people!

Appropriately, we found a bottle of wine, a 2009 Lunatic!  The 2009 Lunatic Red has richness and complexity, owing to the fact that potent components are blended to magnify their individual contribution. We tasted the cocoa and cassis of barre- aged Cabernet, bright raspberry and pomegranate fruit of Sangiovese, the warm ‘Amarone’ and peppery spice of Zinfandel and the firm grip of Souzao’s tannins. You will taste the unexpected.   The blend is 39% Sangiovese, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Zinfandel, 9% Souzao–we think it’s an amazing combination of flavors and for a price that shocked us…less than $15 a bottle!  It’s yet another case of trying a different wine and finding a gem for a fair price.  We think that this is a wine that can taste good now and a year from now.  We’re aren’t as sure about newer vintages, but this 2009 is a really nice surprise—one that we’d like to buy again.

Good wine combined with a bit of a history lesson and a beautiful day. . .tough to beat.  Seeing some of our country’s greatest Patriot’s final resting places—PRICELESS.  If you’ve ever cared about American History, then it’s time you hopped a plane to Boston, there’s more to this town than meets the eye, but the history is amazing.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, 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 219: Coastal Yearnings . . .

coastline cabSo, after two days of road trips we hung pretty close to home today and took care of some of the chores we’d slacked up on.  You know, important stuff like laundry and grocery shopping – not to mention, not one – but two trips to Lowe’s . . . and sadly, almost a third.

Ah, a project in the making you ask?  Yes, after spending yesterday morning reorganizing the garage before heading out to play and hunt bluebonnets (yes, first we work – then we play) today we pulled two items out for some R & R – as in repair and restoration!  Yep, we’ll be busy the next couple of week doing some refinishing – more details as we make progress.

No doubt our favorite place is the coast – whether it’s East Coast, West Coast or even the Third Coast located right here in Texas.  We miss living on the Third Coast, miss Daughter #2 who lives on the East Coast, BUT really miss visiting wineries on the West Coast.

Tonight’s wine, a 201 Coastline Cabernet Sauvignon is from, like our all time favorite place, Paso Robles!  And while not ALL wine from Paso Robles is high-end, vintage quality; tonight’s wine is the definitive tasty, save some money-wine!  The nose on this wine isn’t going to light you up, BUT the taste will completely catch you off guard.  Smoky berry, cocoa, and cedar with a supple fruity medium body and a chocolate covered cherry and spice finish. . .oh yeah, it’s all that and more.  The longer this bottle was open, the better the wine tasted and finished.  For a price point of $8.99, we’ve found another hidden gem from our friends at H-E-B.  Most wine-lovers will turn up their noses at wines that cost under $10 a bottle, and we’ve been known to shun a few ourselves, but after tasting and enjoying this Coastline wine, we convinced that wines need to be tasted REGARDLESS of price points!  A little digging confirmed that this wine has been rated as high as 87 points and is bottled to be enjoyed now!  We completely understand.  It’s a wine that’s got food, or the deck on its’ mind!!  Coastline is made by Adler Fels Winery in Santa Rosa, from vineyards that are a straight shot inland from the famed Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Try it with a cheese platter and some nice rustic breads for a little lighter meal.

Yeah, we love the coast.  Fishing in the bays or offshore down in Aransas Pass; visiting daughter #2 in the Boston area – near so many historic landmarks; or wine tasting in California – either in Paso Robles or Sonoma County!  Each coast is defined by different areas of influence.  We know that Texas and Massachusetts will never be confused with California when it comes to wine production.  In a similar vein, California and Massachusetts will never be confused with Texas when it comes to great barbecue.  Ultimately, it’s a given that Texas and California will NEVER be confused with Massachusetts when it comes to New England Clam Chowder!  Each coast has its own specialty, but Coastline Cabernet Sauvignon is a winner from the start.

As Sunday rolls into Monday, please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible!

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Day 182 – You Meet The Nicest People

Billi BilliA long day of traveling from San Marcos to Boston has come to an end.  Along the way, we met some new friends and shared the blog with them!  We visited with Adrian who served us a quick glass of wine at the Newark Airport – – after a three plus hour flight and 30 minutes on the ground waiting for a gate!  Jean enjoyed a beautiful Italian varietal with lots of fruit and Brian went with a big, full bodied Cab.

As we got in line for the flight from Newark to Boston, Jean struck up a conversation (wow, now that’s a surprise) with a woman who was heading home to Boston after spending the week in the ‘Austin area’ – she apparently had been on our flight from Texas.  After a few questions and exchange of pleasantries, we found out that she was working in San Marcos for her company and had been staying at the Hampton Inn.  Oh, and to add icing to the cake, her seat assignment was in our row.  So, the three of us chatted up a storm (which is no surprise to those that know us) during the 40 minute flight.  She told us about places in Boston to check out and we told her about places – way better than Red Lobster – to check out in San Marcos.  Ironically, she will be heading back down south in a week or so and we plan to get together for dinner.  It’s the stuff that small worlds are made of and it clearly made our night.

Once we found our way to the hotel (so – there is snow on the ground that is leftover from the artic blast that barreled through the area a week or so ago – amazing!) and got checked in and walked into our room to find two ‘double’ beds instead of a king size bed.  Now you notice we put ‘double’ in a quote mark – – – well, because the beds looked more like an over-sized twin as instead of a true full.  A trip back to the lobby yielded a king size bed – albeit a long hike, but alas the bar was still open and across from the check-in desk . . . isn’t that convenient!  Here we met Marc,  who’s been a part of the hotel for seven years this month, and as he brought out our bottle of 2008 Billi Billi Shiraz from Australia, we started talking about sports.  Marc, it turns out, is a HUGE Cowboy’s fan (ok, we tried to be polite – but just because we live in Texas does not mean we are Cowboy fans – for the record, we are not) – – – as well as a Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics fan.  You get the picture?  A Cowboys fan in Patriots country!  Actually, we had a wonderful visit and look forward to visiting more with him during our stay.

So, according to the label, the wine contained – “Deep, dense purple Boysenberry and blackberry fruits, layered with spice and liquorice cool climate characters. Fine tannins are supported by bright berry fruit and delicate spice characters, medium bodied with good length of palate.”  Yeah, we read that and started picking up all of it plus a lot more.  This is a really nice bottle of wine that typically will sell for less than $13 a bottle.  We liked the fresh aroma of fruit on the nose and the hint of vanilla on the finish.  A big wine that didn’t pour big initially.  It’s a wine that gets better as it opens up and has some time to breathe.  This wine is from the Victoria region and is a different style compared to wines from Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale, but just a tasty.  We really liked it a lot and were lucky that Marc still had the bar open for us to try it.  Gonna have to track it down when we get home.

Planes don’t always leave on time or arrive on time.  Parking is usually a problem at airports and other places when you’re on the road.  But one of the things that makes traveling just a little more bearable is when you meet people who – well, just make a difference in your day . . . and today that was accomplished in a big way.  It really made our trip fun and memorable – and we’re just getting started!  Looking forward to a fun weekend with Daughter #2 and exploring her world up this way . . . oh, and trying to stay warm!

Here’s to the weekend.  Enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.  See you back here tomorrow!

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Day 146 – When Winter Is Spring

snoqualmie cabOkay. . .we know we’re going to regret writing this, but given the last few days, it’s something that we have to talk about.  You can see it in everyone’s faces.  The students at Texas State–they know what’s happening.  The cafe’s on the square–they know what’s going on.  The smiles on people’s faces say all that needs to be said.  Yep, we’re experiencing spring before winter.  A run of days in the 70’s has most of the town giddy with excitement.  Why not?  Normally, we’re excited to be in the 50’s or 60’s this time of year, but to be in the 70’s (closer to 80) in late January puts a spring in just about everyone’s step.

Without gloating (although we’re good at it) we talked with daughter #2 in Boston and it was 9 there yesterday.  Yeah, as in 9 above zero.  As in, it’s too cold to snow.  Factor in the wind chill and you’re talking downright nasty.  Oh, but don’t worry–most of the midwest, south and northeast are in the Big Chill.  How long it lasts is anyone’s guess, but having spent a fair number of winters in St. Louis, we can tell you that some years are just plain worse than others.  We still remember January of 1990. . .we were living in a rent house in St. Peters, Missouri–just outside of St. Louis County.  Early in the month we had a pretty significant amount of snow which was followed by several bouts of freezing rain, and the last piece of the puzzle was frigid temperatures.  The bottom line that year was we never could shovel the driveway or walkway because everything was frozen–solid.  And, just like up in the Boston area today, the wind chills were brutal. . .at one point, 35 below wind chill factors.  Not the stuff we were used to.

Since we don’t have a wine from where it’s really, really cold.  We decided to head up to Washington for tonight’s selection.  Our 2006 Snoqualmie Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley was a surprise and a treat.  This was a Twin Liquors find and if memory serves us, it was less than $12 a bottle.  According to their website,  “Founded in 1983, Snoqualmie was one of Washington’s first premium wineries, producing classic wine varietals from vineyards across the Columbia Valley.  Originally located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Snoqualmie opened its winery in Prosser, WA, at the base of the Horse Heaven Hills, in 2002.  Under the leadership of Joy Andersen, winemaker since 1991, Snoqualmie has become a leader in sustainable and organic wine making in Washington.”  What we like about it was the taste.  Yes, it had a classic Washington State Cabernet nose. . .picked up a lot of blackberries and black cherries.  But the taste–a real subtle earthiness to it which was enhanced by the smooth tannins.  Clearly, it’s aged well in the bottle and as a perfect accompaniment to grilled steak and a baked potato, this wine is now a favorite.  We’re also of the opinion that it could be a perfect deck wine. . .which we can enjoy because the weather is perfect for deck-time!

We know that at some point winter will come back to this part of the state.  It always does.  Two years ago, before moving to San Marcos, we still remember the weekend that we brought furniture up to Brian’s apartment–it was in the low 80’s and very sunny and warm.  By the end of the day on February 1st, the temperatures were in the 20’s where they’d stay for the better part of the month of February.  You never know what kind of winter is going to be thrown at you, so it’s nice when we can sit back, pour a glass of wine and enjoy it OUTSIDE this time of year.

As you enjoy your favorite wine (try the Snoqualmie) please remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.