casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday

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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!