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Day 207: I Spy . . .

eye spy cabWow!  So many memories . . . I Spy was a television show that ran in the late 1960’s starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby.  Yes, the same Bill Cosby who has entertained audiences for almost 50 years – can you spell JELLO!  Bill Cosby had two albums out before we even knew he existed.  Brian’s brother, Tim had both of them . . . and Brian can still remember getting a hold of those albums and listening to some of his bits . . . The ‘Lone Ranger’ & ‘Tonto’ after a little too much to drink!!  Driving in San Francisco . . . and having to shift gears!  Going to the dentist and having the novocaine wear off!  If ANY of these relight a fire from your past, you’ve probably watched, I Spy.

I Spy was also the name of a book series that was aimed at children.  These books featured AMAZINGLY DETAILED photos of things in a child’s room or things in a play room and the object was to find – among all of the items in the picture specific things that may or may not be easy to see with the ‘naked eye’.  We bought several of these books for the girls when they were growing up and can tell you that we literally spent hours looking at them.  It’s a part of childhood missing for too many kids – that quality time before bed when a book and the pictures with the book, tell hundreds of stories.  Even as adults, we marvel at the detail in books – something that gets lost in today’s ‘translation’.

“I spy, with my eye, something that is . . . ” a familiar sound in car road trips across the country.  It didn’t matter if you were half way across the state of Kansas or in rush hour traffic outside of Denver, when you played “I Spy”, all you had to do was look around – observe your surroundings–to find the ‘right’ answer.  Driving vacations – yet another American institution on the brink of extinction–sad, because driving trips were part of the ways we bonded as family.

So, tonight – purely by accident . . . we came across at H-E-B – and opened a 2010 Eye Spy Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley of California.  Um, this wine isn’t going to take home ANY gold, silver or bronze medals.  BUT, it will bring home some amazing fruit flavors – a nice combination of light and dark fruits here – but a lot of fruit nonetheless!  The finish on this wine is right out of a jar of maraschino cherries . . . it’s scary how after you’ve tasted the wine the aftertaste is . . . well, you have to try it to believe it!  Beyond the finish, we loved the deep, dark color . . . for a Cabernet, it’s a beautiful thing.  It’s not the smoothest wine you’ll ever taste, but still not a bad bottle of wine for the price !

Interestingly, we’ve searched numerous websites trying to find out more about this wine and uncovered an Australian wine maker utilizing the exact bottle design.  Further digging yielded few if any clues as to where this Cabernet Sauvignon is actually made–the bottle clearly says, ‘Napa’ but the websites clearly don’t agree.  It must be a ‘big-name’ winery using a little known name to unload some of it’s product.  This wine is not more than $12 a bottle . . . in fact, you can probably get it on sale for $10 a bottle.  And, if you’re looking for something a little different, but with a good taste and finish, then “Eye Spy” is worth checking out . . . otherwise, you can miss this one.

Whether it was a television show, a book series, a car game or something else, I Spy or Eye Spy is synonymous with past culture.  Keeping it alive for future generations may not be as easy as it was previously, but there are opportunities for families to reconnect – whether it’s through games like “I Spy” or some other means, the time spent together as family – actually helps BUILD family.  But, hey, what do we know . . . we’re just wine bloggers on a mission of our own!

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


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Day 184 – Simplify, Simplify. . .

reunion malbecWoke up to snow this morning . . . yeah, snow is the only precipitation that, when it comes down, actually makes it brighter outside.  We thought for sure that the sun was out because of the bright light peering through our hotel curtains.  However, that hope was dashed in second when we saw the flurries coming down. The good news was that it wasn’t sticking to the ground and the temperature was in the low 40’s so everything was going to be melting anyway.

We managed a quick visit with Daughter #2 before she headed off to the library for some studying , so sitting at the hotel after lunch, we looked up directions to Walden Pond.  Yes, the very same Walden Pond that Henry David Thoreau lived at for two years from 1845-1847.  It was literally twenty minutes from the hotel, so off we went.  As Thoreau would say, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.  As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”  And, confidently, we drove in the direction of Walden Pond, and finding it, the surroundings were even more beautiful than expected.  Yes, the Pond was frozen; yes, the wind was blowing from the Northeast; yes, it wasn’t an ideal day for a hike; and yes, we met and talked with guy who was ice fishing on the back side of the pond!  Imagine what this place must have looked like 175 years ago?

We thought it was extremely inciteful when we stumbled upon this quote, “I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.”  Isn’t it amazing how historians, poets, writers and businessmen of the past can have such an altruistic view of things, but today, we only look at what’s in front of our noses?  Amazing.  And, so was Walden Pond.  If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Boston area, you’ve got to see all that is Walden Pond.

Appropriately, we tasted a 2011 Malbec called, Reunion, from the Mendoza area of Argentina.  Oh, the tobacco on the nose; together with hints of cedar and dark fruits, it was tough to take a sip because we were enjoying the nose!  However, being troubadours, we dove in and were not disappointed. . .even for a young Malbec, this one was smooth, fruity and complex.  The dark fruits–blackberries, raspberries–all at the front of the line, and the finish was every bit as good as the front.  It’s a unique wine that can pull of the complete picture with such a young vintage, but Reunion did just that.  And, given the day’s events, we felt like it was a perfect name to pair with our adventures!

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”  So, Thoreau would probably be amazed at today’s society . . . there’s no doubt that living in the present is what seems to occupy most everyone, but there is something so amazingly prophetic about many of his quotes.  We hope that you’ll simply your life – enjoy good wine–live in the present–enjoy good wine, and know that life is a kick to be enjoyed.

It was so wonderful that we managed to hook up again with D#2 for dinner and then one more hug before we headed out to the hotel.  These kinds of hugs are long and hard to release from – but we know that it’s time for us to head back to Texas in the morning, knowing that we leave a little piece of us here – to act as a holdover until we see each other again.  And we know she is in good hands with the special people in her life here – we are so glad we got to meet them and look forward our next visit.

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


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Day 163: That’s a Wrap . . .

Paulo - Messina HofHere we are Sunday night and quickly realizing that another weekend has bit the proverbial dust.  Albeit busy, it was a great weekend.  Friday night we attended the CASA Mardi Gras gala and had a wonderful time.  Saturday was mostly a lazy day – complete with an afternoon nap in preparation for heading north to Georgetown last night.  We had the pleasure of attending St. Helen Catholic School’s annual gala/fundraiser.  It too was a Mardi Gras theme – so the leftover beads from Friday night served us well when getting dressed for the evening.

If you’ve never been to a school or non-profit fundraiser – do so.  The passion and dedication to “the cause” is like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Last night we witnessed parents of kindergarten students in a fierce, but very friendly, bidding war for the class project – which so happened to be a cookbook with recipes written by these Top Chef wannabees.  As the auction took place, snippets were read aloud – didn’t know that something needed to be cooked at 800 degrees for 6 hours – can only imagine what it would taste like after being in the oven so long . . . hmmmmm.  Bottom line is that a terrific amount of funds were raised to support a wonderful educational institution – Hats off to all those who work hard to support what they believe so strongly in.

We must admit that in her youth, Daughter #1 had a similar project and documented how to make her favorite dinner – “Chicken Corn on Blue”.  Surprisingly, or maybe not so much if you knew her, the recipe was relatively similar to the Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe that Jean makes.   Having passed down the real recipe, Jean is proud that D#1 makes a wickedly good version – and has learned that one must use white wine for the cream sauce as red wine makes purple cream sauce which does not excite the eater.  Ironically, D#1 called this evening and mentioned in passing that she was making CCB for dinner tonight.

Well, since it was Sunday and we do live in Texas, and Jean, her sisters and Dad did a Texas Wine tour last weekend, we are going out on a limb (or perhaps a branch) and tasting Messina Hof’s 2010 “Paulo” Primotivo.  Now, we must admit – we are not big fans or endorsers of Texas wines.  Call us “wine snobs”, but historically we have not been overly impressed with the taste, and more so the price, of Texas wines.  As you may recall, we did blog recently about a new “find” for us – Saddlehorn Winery outside of Brenahm, in Burton.  But, again we’ve never liked most of the Texas fare.  So – while visiting the winery last weekend, Jean met Keith at the tasting counter.  Keith, to sum it up, was really good – he literally “made” Jean taste all the wines, and kept the best for last.  The “Paulo” wines are the vineyards premium wines and truth be told are much more impressive than the others.  Jean, with the help of sister Cathy, purchased three bottles and tonight arm twisted Brian into trying the first.

So, the verdict is in and “very tasty wine, great nose, full body, lots of fruit, and all the things you look for in a wine – except one thing . . . a little on the high side price wise”.  Bottom line, we liked it and look forward to posting about the other two.- we do however, caution our Texas vineyards into not overpricing themselves.  We’ve had many, many out of this world wines from other parts of the globe, including the U.S. that are lower in price and as good, if not better, in quality.  Does this mean we won’t ever purchase Texas wines – No, we will continue to expand our palate and look not just for “bargain” wines, but wines that are priced appropriately, and are available to a wider audience.

We encourage you to expand your wine world, and continue to share with us your “finds” – we do appreciate the suggestions – keep them coming . . . we still have 202 days to go with this “adventure” of ours.  We so appreciate the following that we have  – thanks for being along for the “ride”

As you wind down your weekend, remember to enjoy a glass of your favorite wine, or perhaps a new one, responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 122: A Gander Back . . .

Hall CabHere we are the final hours of 2012 and we have to ask ourselves the proverbial question – where has the last year gone?  Seriously, has it been 365 days since we were in this same position and asking ourselves the same question about 2011 – the only difference was that we weren’t blogging about it.

Last year we kicked off the year enjoying the beauty of Big Bend National Park and Lajitas with “the gang” – commonly known as P & L and M & D.  Needless to say it was a great time away from the rest of the civilized world.  The hike to the “Window” was downhill and awesome – the view was glorious and the picnic was a perfect – the hike back was uphill and although a few more stops were needed, was equally as awesome.  We enjoyed the stay and came back to reality ready to face the challenges that awaited us in 2012.

So tonight, we figured we take a few and recount the highlights of our year – the best way to start the year was the finding of Jasmine (see, she got out while we were in Lajitas – and turned up on New Year’s Eve – we were so relieved – those four legged kids kinda grow on you)

Next up was Brian’s one year anniversary at the SM Chamber, our 29th wedding anniversary, Daughter #1 turning 21,  Spring Break at the beach, reserving our travel plans to Paso, Dad aka Bill moving back to Texas, Daughter #2 working in Boston for the Summer and turning 19, our 53rd birthday, Jean celebrating one year at the DOA, an offshore fishing trip that yielded 4 sailfish, THE trip to Paso – we could talk about this forever!, Thanksgiving in Stephenville with Jean’s family, Christmas with Bea aka Grams – Brian’s mom at our house – – – not to mention starting this blog and enjoying a number of really great wines (and yes, some not so great) with great friends and family.

To finish off the year, we opened a bottle of yet another one of our favorite wines – Hall 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  We really love Hall (rumor has it that sister Sara has a membership and we are waiting for a bottle of Darwin to grace our doorstep) and really enjoy the great wines they produce.  This Cab did not disappoint – a snoot full of tobacco greeted us and the taste was long and strong with flavors of black cherry, cranberry. . .all coming together in a long, smooth finish that treated the front, mid and back palates.  This wine was clearly meant to be enjoyed with food–rich food, scrumptious food; however, being that it was New Year’s Eve, we chose to sample it for our blog–save some smoked venison sausage, cheese and crackers provided by P&L while waiting to gather Daughter #2 and return back to San Marcos – – – – it’s been a long road tonight, but wonderful NYE.  This is a terrific wine and while the price is a little more than our preferred pricing category, when a New Year’s Eve comes around, you want to do things right!  With Hall Wines, you’ll do things right every time.

So, as we move into 2013, we hope that you’ll continue reading our blog and hope that each of you has a terrific year filled with many glasses of your favorite wine – let us know about more of your favorites – Red or White or Other.  If you like what you’re reading, pass it on to people you know.  And, if you’ve followed us and commented to us since we began this endeavor, thank you . . . we really appreciated hearing from you, whether it’s a good friend from Kerrville or another cool wine blogger from somewhere else around the globe!  It’s part of what makes this medium so cool, so portable and so informative!

Have a terrific year and remember to continue enjoying your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 117: A Night at The Roxx . . .

Moss Roxx ZinThe Day AFTER Christmas!  We have to admit, it’s hard getting excited about the day after any holiday–it’s worse when it’s the day after Christmas.  The ‘let down’ of all the build up and excitement leading to the ‘big day’ and then “WHAM” it’s over in the blink of an eye.  Well, that means we’re only 364 shopping days until Christmas!

Today, after an early start we loaded Brian’s Mom in the car and made a return trip to Houston after a terrific visit.  Traffic was bearable for  the most part–unlike some areas of the country dealing with rotten weather, we had beautiful (but cold) weather and made it back to her apartment in slightly more than three hours with a stop in between.  It’s visits like this and having Jean’s Dad over that help us keep things in perspective.  Family is where it’s at.  You can have all the friends in the world, but without family, it’s a long haul through life.  Seeing how each of our parents’ have coped with their soulmate’s losses over the years has been a study in true love.  We’ve often remarked that we should be as fortunate as they–it’s the stuff that’s missing from a LOT of this country.  Love, Commitment, Passion and Family.  We see it in their eyes; we live it in the presence and we’ll miss it when it’s not available to us any longer.

Love of family came home in a different way as we learned this morning that one of Brian’s cousins in Canada had passed away on Christmas Day.  Paul was a young man by today’s standards; a devout Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus.  We’ll NEVER forget the weekend the Knights had a bowling tournament in Collinsville, Illinois during the years we were living in St. Charles, Missouri.  It was the same weekend as Palm Sunday.  These guys were not your ordinary bowlers–they came prepared!  So, when we arrived to visit with them at their hotel, it caught us completely off guard that they had brought their own Priest with them.  We proceeded to have Mass in the hotel room–even as the ice was shifting in the bath tub as it cooled the beer!  It was one of the most memorable and fun nights we’ve EVER had.  Paul, his twin brother, Pat, their brother Roy, sister Mary, her husband Carr, and a host of other family members were there and are still to this day in our hearts.  So, it’s with a heavy heart that we opened a bottle of wine to appropriately remember Paul and at the same time continue the celebration of the Christmas Season.

We tasted a 2007 Moss Roxx Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi, California.  We picked this up at World Market for just under $18 and thought of two things: first, it’s a Zin, so probably worth trying and second: it’s from 2007, which in that part of California that year was pretty good for zinfandel grapes.  But, it was a name that we weren’t familiar with, so there was some trepidation involved in trying it.  The description that we found online sums up better than we could ever put into words about the beautiful wine we tasted. . . From queenbwine.com, “The 2007 Moss Roxx Ancient Vines Lodi Zinfandel, comes from the oldest operating vineyards in Lodi, California.  This zinfandel is full body with a big flavor, with lots of fruit and is meant to be drunk with a hearty meal.  The wine comes in a very impressive bottle, so heavy it gives  the feelof more wine in the bottle than it really is, but in fact you are getting a 750ml bottle of wine and no more.  In the glass the color is dark and inky, with herbal and earthy aromas, on the palate that all changes, bursting with ripe dark fruit, blackcurrant, ripe plums and a hint of walnut and old fashion fruitcake.  With 14.5% alcohol, it’s perfectly balanced and the finish is silky and smooth.”  Like we said, they summed it up perfectly!  It’s a really superb bottle of wine and is the kind of wine that you could lay down for two or three more years and it would get better.  It’s no secret that we love a good Zin, so finding this little treasure was worth the trip!

And because family (and friends) are an important part of enjoying wine (reference last night’s blog!), we hope you’ll stop during the busy holiday season and spend some time with those people who are important to you.  Cherish each moment as if it was your last with them.  Share a glass of wine or a glass of milk — but share.  It does the heart good to share and spread the love.  We’ll miss Paul– A  LOT!  He was present at most of our family’s major milestones.  Even though he never married or had a family of his own, Paul was–in every sense of the words–a family man.  May God Bless His Soul.

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


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Day 116: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh . . .

Christmas 2012So, here we are at the end of another Christmas Day.  We must admit, this one makes the Top Ten list for us.  Not only were we blessed to have Daughter #1 and Daughter #2 here with us, we had Brian’s mom (aka Grams) under our roof for the past couple of days.  This was the first time in a long, long time that we had others with us on Christmas morning to share our quirky traditions.  It takes a special person to understand why the cars (as in the vehicles parked outside the house that we drive to work daily) give each daughter a calendar and have done so for as far back as we can remember, or how the dogs are able to make it to the store and pick out gifts for everyone in the family – including Grams.  Boy, oh boy, those are some smart hounds – even get sizes correct!

An added bonus for today was the early afternoon arrival of Jean’s dad (aka Bill), Jean’s sister Mary and her husband Tom (for the record they all also got gifts from those crazy dogs of ours).  They ventured through Austin and arrived safe and sound in our neck of the woods.  So – the day was by all means – a home run!  Brian battled the winds, but managed to produce some yummy smoked ribs, pork tenderloin and shrimp on the barbie and Daughters whipped up a green bean casserole.  If you went away hungry tonight – it was your own fault.

As with any feast and celebration – today we celebrated Jesus’ Birthday – there’s never a better reason to roll out some of our best wines.  We went into the wine fridge and pulled out a couple of seriously delicious wines.  With eight people in the house, we wanted to start things off light, we opened a 2009 Dry Creek  Fume Sauvignon Blanc . . . crispy, fruity and very clean, this wine was perfect with the variety of cheeses and crackers put out for snacking.  It’s rich in lemon, lime and pineapple flavors, with intense, zesty acidity for balance, and the finish was spicy.  A perfect way to begin our dinner celebration.  This was followed by an amazing 2009 Sea Smoke “Ten” Pinot Noir.  Now, earlier this year, we blogged about the Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir, and this wine is it’s bigger cousin.  We commented back then that it was much bigger than your ‘typical’ Pinot, and this ‘Ten’ is in our book, well, at 10!  Consistently rated in the lower to mid-90’s, the 2009 Sea Smoke Ten begins with notes of chocolate cake, dried blueberry and lavender, then cassis and dusty black berries.  Firm, mature tannins are followed by a long, velvety finish. We couldn’t have picked a better wine, and as a beginning to our smoked ribs and pork loin, it was delicious.  It was our second phenomenal wine to enjoy for Christmas.

Finally, we had opened our 2008 Bodegas El Nido “Clio “Jumilla from Spain.  This has been laying down in our fridge for a couple of years, and Christmas with family in the house seemed the perfect time to break it out!  We decantered it for an hour before serving and the air time made a great wine even better!  This wine scores 94 points Robert Parker’s scale.  We’ve had Clio before, but wanted to know more about it and discovered that the 2008 Clio is made up of 70% old vine Monastrell sourced from a vineyard planted in 1944 and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard planted in 1979.  Fermented in oak followed by malolactic fermentation in new barrels and aging for 24 months in new French and American oak.  A rich deep purple color caught our eye and it gave us a “wow” nose of earth, blueberry, and blackberry fruit leading to a full bodied, juicy wine with great savory flavors, and a lengthy finish – we really didn’t want the bottle to be empty, but alas it was.  What we can tell you is that this was a scrumptious bottle of wine befitting a celebration as big as Christmas!

Each member of our family was able to taste and compare their tastes and aromas on all three wines which was both fun and interesting to hear differing viewpoints . . .  yet another great reason to enjoy great wine!  We aren’t always “wise”, but when it comes to history, we know that Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were pretty special gifts.

While the food was an integral part of today’s wine sampling, each of the can stand firmly on their own.  Some wines are just better with food.  And, as Christmas 2012 comes to an end and we look ahead to “After Christmas Sales” and “Year-End Blowout Sales”, it’s nice to know that there are good reasons to enjoy good wine.

We hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 79 – We Like Having Options

Since most of our area seemed to be heading north today to enjoy some F1 racing – and Jean having experienced the traffic back ups first hand on Thursday and Friday – on a whim, we decided to head south and meet up with friends at Max’s in SA for a little brunch, wine tasting and walking through the brand new Trader Joe’s .  .  . even managing a stop at World Market near Selma.  As we get closer to Thanksgiving, we’re looking for wines to enjoy and wines to share with friends and family.  We debated buying a case of “Two Buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s, but just couldn’t pull the trigger – sorry family, you’ll have to drink some good stuff on Thursday.  Today’s stops gave us opportunities to fulfill both!

As this blog continues to unfold, we have tried and are trying wines that we’d never have given a second thought about in the past.  On the one hand, it’s pretty exciting to think that we can come up with 365 different choices to taste and write about, but on the other hand, it’s kind of intimidating to think about the unbelievable number of wines out on the market.   Clearly, some days are better than others – not only in terms of the wine we chose but how it smelled, tasted etc.  We know that we prefer red wines over white wines, but we’ve had a couple of killer white wines already and we know that there are several more in the queue.  So, when days like today afford themselves to us, we keep looking for other options.  Almost all of the wines that we have sampled and reviewed have been acceptable.  Some not nearly as much, trust us, many have ended up down the drain.  Even liking some of the wines, it’s kind of difficult to keep wine fresh for long periods of time.

Tonight’s wine is a 2009 A by Acacia – which is a blend from Acacia Vineyards of Napa, California.  Of course, it’s a blend!  85% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 2% Grenache, 2% Petite Syrah and 1% Zinfandel – makes for a tasty wine.  From the nose, we got hints of fruit, earth and spice, while on the palate, we discovered both bright fruit and a certain acidity.  It had hints of strawberry, raspberry and dark cherry that really came to the forefront in the finish. The texture was soft, supple and, to a certain extent inviting.  It was the kind of wine you’d want to break out over the holiday season.  Even though the dominant grape is the Syrah, the others work well to balance the overall make up of the wine.  We enjoyed it so much, we are thinking about bringing a bottle with us for Thanksgiving festivities.  You can get a hold of this wine for under $15 a bottle .  .  . even less if you can find it on sale!  So, it’s a nice blend at a good value – which, this time of year, is a good combination to find!

It’s always cool to visit with good friends; enjoy good food; sample good wine and enjoy a beautiful day – and stay away from traffic nightmares.  Today we accomplished them all, and as we head towards the holidays, it reminds us to stop and enjoy the moment.  Whether it’s spending time with friends or family or both, it’s a realization for us, once again, life is too short (to drink bad wine, as one dear friend would say).  We enjoyed our trip to Trader Joe’s and our stop at World Market, and hopefully, we’ve identified one or two future blog wines with the stops we’ve made today.

As the evening unfolds, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.