casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday

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Dat 269: A Salute to All Veterans . . .

Rare Find Memorial Day. . .a time to stop from shopping, swimming, camping, driving or hiking to pay respects to the thousands of men and women who have paved the way for us to enjoy what we enjoy each and every day.  Looking back over history, we’ve seen so many changes in our world–many of them brought about by armed conflicts–that have made a difference in our lives.  Rare indeed is the soldier who comes back from battle to a job, a home, a family and a way of life that was close to the same existence before being deployed.  Rare indeed is a society that on the surface supports our men and women in uniform, but when it comes to providing a livable income upon return, the tendency is to turn the other cheek.  Rare indeed is the family unit–held together by a spouse on the homefront–so precious to the long term survival of this country.  We live in changing times–change that has been good and change that hasn’t be so good, but change that has been made possible by the sacrifices made by veterans of armed conflicts.

As baby boomers, we grew up with the stories of heroism from World War II, and from our parents mouths we heard first hand of the bravery in the fields, in the air and under water of people who drew together for a common goal.  A common goal.  Hmmmm, something totally missing today.  We’ve lost the ability to seek a common goal.  Unfortunately, as Memorial Day 2013 draws to a close, we’ve become a country that is deeply divided.  We have leadership that seeks to polarize the citizenry and a media that exploits it at every turn.  Soldiers who have come and gone before us seem to have fought and died in vain because we no longer (as a general rule) espouse the values of a country united for a common purpose, but instead have become a nation forged on ‘what’s in it for me’.  Not to be on a soap box, but Memorial Day provides us the perfect back drop of historical significance, patriotic prowess and determination to succeed–all of it compliments of those who have come before us.  And, how do we recognize their contributions?  We minimalize their accomplishments by getting bogged down in rhetoric and shying away from substance.  We’d rather see sound bytes than deal with reality.  We’d prefer to see everything packaged neatly in an Entertainment Tonight segment rather than deal with the fact that the middle class is shrinking; the poor are growing in numbers and the skilled workforce is being replaced by the unskilled without a drive and determination to do better than their predecessors.  It’s a curious predicament. . .but we can’t blame the contributions of our veterans!

So tonight we opened a really nice wine from Paso Robles, California. . .a 2011 Rare Find Cabernet Sauvignon.  We picked this wine up at the HEB Plus in Kyle, Texas as we watched a “Chopped” showdown between the cooking team from the Kyle Fire Department and the Buda Fire Department. . .the event was held in the store and was an appropriate tribute for the hard working first responders in our area.  This wine–while inexpensive to buy–tastes like wines that are two to three times its price.  The nose was one of sweetness–kind of like trying a raspberry cobbler or blueberry pie. . .a la mode. . .very jammy.  We tasted the wine and were immediately greeted by the berry flavor; a nice oak finish and a long, pleasing after-taste were a surprising combination for this wine.  While still young in the bottle, we felt like it was better than many in its’ price range and could easily be enjoyed in six to nine months without issue.  All in all it was a decent wine to break out on Memorial Day.

As we all head back to our homes for the week ahead, we can’t help but think about–with gratitude–the men and women who have served our country in the past.  The ideals and values that they fought and died for were as real then as the are today–so hopefully, we won’t lose sight of our values and ideals. . .because in losing them,  we do a tremendous disservice to their contributions to our lifestyle.  To the men and women of our country who continue to serve, thank you.  You are shining stars on otherwise cloudy skies of society, and we respect you and wish you godspeed to return home to your families, your friends, your communities and your careers.  YOUR leadership will prove to be the difference in the future and for that WE are a nation that is grateful.

Please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 179: Gone In 60 Seconds . . . or less

auto moto merlotTuesday nights are ‘Chopped’ nights at Casa del Vino.  Yep, we are hooked on Food Network’s, “Chopped” series and have been regular viewers for almost four years.  If you’ve never ‘partaken’ of the show, it pits four chefs against each other and the same ingredients in a basket four three rounds . . . appetizer, entree and dessert.  After each round, one of the chefs’ gets Chopped and it’s down to three chefs – then two before the ‘Chopped Champion’ is chosen from the final two.  The things that are put in their baskets would amaze even the most seasoned chef . . . chicken feet (complete with toe nails); chicken in a can; star fruit; purple asparagus; and some of the strangest ingredients on the planet.  Most of the time, the cooks’ are restaurant trained or professional cooks.

We watch the show – not so much for the recipes, which there are NONE! It’s more for the individual styles that these culinary artists put into their creations.  Admittedly, some look really delicious and others look, well, that’s why they have judges!  The show features three judges who are accomplished professional chefs, restauranteurs and successful foodies in their own rite, and their tasting and observing helps determine the champion.  Tonight’s show (originally aired this past Sunday) featured top amateur chefs’ and it was awesome.  To have a totally different career and cook food on the side as an avocation is a true calling.

Speaking of calling, tonight’s wine was out of the ordinary for us.  A Merlot – – – something that we really don’t care for all that much and a close out at Gabriel’s . . . a 2005 Auto Moto Merlot and available for under $10 a bottle.  So, you’d think that  a 2005 Merlot would be stout, fruitful and long-lasting . . . you’d think!  It had an ‘interesting’ nose . . . not fruity, but not oaky . . . not full-bodied but not light.  It had a kerosene aroma that mixed with green pepper and black cherry. . .Weird?  Yeah, we TOTALLY get it.  The taste was less than awe-inspiring.  On the palate was a real nice, smooth black cherry taste along with hints of pipe tobacco.  BUT, the finish was GONE.  It WASN’T there.  There was NO after taste . . . no fruity elegance; no smoky goodness; no slate or limestone or tobacco . . . NOTHING.  It was gone!  As the wine opened up, we thought that the finish would open with it, but to no avail.  So, to make sure that we weren’t off of our rockers, we did a little “recon” and found out that others describe the wine as, “It’s a clear, bright light to medium colored ruby-violet wine with some structure to it. Your nose will detect some definite berry notes for this one, (raspberry/blackberry) but not especially pronounced. This follows on to your palette as well (again raspberry/blackberry) with some well modulated tannins and a very light astringency that will dry the mouth but not aggressively so. A good thing, at least for me. This leads to a pleasing finish and good balance. Best for sipping but with a light enough lunch that won’t tax it too much, you might be able to use it there too.”  HUH?  A pleasing finish and good balance?  Maybe it was because we tasted it on a Tuesday, but this wine – even at a discounted price – was not what we’d hoped it would be.

Yep, we know . . . we’ve had another string of less than stellar wines (good news though – our good friends at Twin Liquors are repeating their “Dollar Sale” this week – looks like a shopping trip is in order).  But, remember, we’re here to taste 365 different wines in 365 days, so that means some are going to be good; some are going to be bad and some are going to cause us to ride the fence.  Tonight was clearly a night for bad wine.  Okay, we understand, and we hope that you do as well.

So, when you enjoy your favorite wine, please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 39 — On Tuesday Nights…

When we got married back in 1983, we watched the finale of M*A*S*H on television.  It was billed as ‘the’ television event of all time.  For two and a half hours, we muddled through a mediocre script with some really good actors who knew that this was the end.  And, in the end, it was, at that time, the highest rated show ever watched.  A few years later we got caught up in a new Bill Cosby sitcom – The Cosby Show – we couldn’t miss a Thursday night show . . . especially when it led into Miami Vice!  But, as the kids grew up (they always do!), the show lost its’ luster.  The concept of introducing new characters to replace the ones that got ‘too old’ for the show kind of wore us out!  Around this same time, we got heavily involved in L.A. Law with its ensemble cast and ‘compelling’ story lines, we rarely missed an episode.  But, just like the sitcoms, as characters “wore out their welcome” or became too unbelievable to believe, the show lost its luster as well. (Guess we showed our age a bit here – not really followers of Gossip Girl or Real Housewives of New Jersey – my how TV has changed).

Magnum P.I., Cheers, Mad About You, China Beach, Friends, Seinfeld, Dallas (can’t bear to watch the “new” Dallas), Falcon’s Crest – the field is littered with shows that had a meteoric rise in audience appeal, but died a quick and painful death with the loss of characters and actors.  Over the years, network television has lost gargantuan ratings to the cable channels that because of their niche programming, just keeps eating away at their audience and, no doubt their ad revenues.  Fast forward to today and it is a RARE night that the television finds ANY of the local broadcast channels.  A combination of washed up programming with poor concepts has made network viewing passe’ at best. (Unless, of course, a football game or playoff baseball game is on!)  We have settled in and have found a HUGE following for a show on of all places the Food Network.  On Tuesday nights, you will normally find us watching, no – make that, loving, Chopped at 9 p.m.  This show has captured our attention for, at least the last five (5) years.  And, what a concept – four chefs from a variety of restaurant and other culinary backgrounds – all working with the same ingredients to create an appetizer and then an entree and lastly, a dessert.  The catch is that after each round, one of the chef’s gets ‘chopped’ as in bye-bye. What you end up with at the end of the show are the last two chef’s making a dessert and facing “the chopping block” for a chance at  $10,000.  While this may not be ‘life-changing’ television . . . it is highly entertaining, clean, educational and is a perfect venue for tasting wine.

As we watched tonight’s episode of Chopped, tilefish, spaghetti-o’s, miniature pineapples, honey comb cereal to name a few, filled their baskets, we decided that another Zinfandel was in order, so we pulled out a 2007 G Di’Arie Zinfandel, and we were really pleasantly surprised.  Upon opening – a screw top – the nose was less than exciting and the taste – well, just plain olde’ too tart.  We thought for sure that we’d be writing about a DUD; however, this wine began to open up and the true zin qualities began to emerge.  From raspberries and black pepper to wild herbs and a smooth, toasted oak and dark chocolate finish, we were really impressed with the wine.  This one, from Twin Liquors’ 75th Annivesary Sale, was less than $10 a bottle.  Being big Zinfandel fans, this is probably a wine best enjoyed among other zin fans – it’s not big and bold, but it’s tasty.  It’s not super peppery but it has some spice and when combined with the ingredients in the basket on Chopped, we found that it was the perfect way to wrap up our Tuesday.

So now you know that on Tuesday nights around 9 p.m., we’ll be settling in for another NEW episode of ‘Chopped’ . . . and the chances are GOOD that we’ll be breaking out that night’s wine for sampling while we enjoy a show whose characters change every week, but the end result is always delicious. So, regardless of what your day serves you up tomorrow – who knows, you might get some tilefish and spaghetti-o’s tossed your way, make the best day of it you can – remember to add in some spice to make everything better.

Please be sure to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle when ever possible!