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Day 343: Show Me The Money . . .

Shatter Yeah, we did watch Jerry Maguire tonight!  It’s a perfect way to start the football season. . .really, it’s a lot better than watching preseason football.  There are preseason games on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night. . .and for the first few weeks, they are nothing more than auditions for ‘The Show’.  Even though every sportswriter, every television commentator, every radio mouth-piece and most fans are jaw-jacking about glaring weaknesses here and glaring weaknesses there.  Really?  Have you looked at the rosters of these teams?  In Pro Football, training camp starts with 90 players.  AND, roughly half of them will NEVER see the field of dreams.  So, the preseason games really are auditions for a future. . .either in professional football or in the REAL WORLD.  We suspect that most guys on these rosters would much rather be football players than dealing with the  REAL WORLD.

So, in the movie, Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Rod Tidwell of the Arizona Cardinals…we don’t have to go into the plot since the movie has been out since 1996, but it illustrates the cut-throat nature of representing professional athletes, it represents the greed of take it all now mentality and the obvious…”what’s in it for me” mentality that professional athletes have been groomed to expect.  And, it doesn’t matter what sport–translated loosely to business–they’re in.  Basketball, Football, Baseball, Hockey–it’s ALL about showing them the money!  We all know why–because the OWNERS are filthy-rich, spoiled and get exactly what they want.  At some point, in the not-too-distant-future, professional sports will collapse on itself–under the weight of drug abuse, greed and lack of trust.  Baseball is probably the first to go. . .

Fortunately, when it comes to enjoying a nice wine, you don’t always have to show the money.  In fact, as we’ve been able to show over the past 342 days, there are AMAZING wines available for only a few dollars a bottle that offer amazing taste, structure, finish and value.  Tonight, we add yet another nice wine to the stable – actually it runs around $30 per bottle, but we found it on sale for half that at our Kyle HEB.

This wine was first tasted in the land of the BRWC – aka Casa de P&L.  It is a 2010 Shatter Grenanche – now we must admit, and have several time throughout this blog, that we are not big fans of French wine . . . it’s nothing personal, some of our favorite foreign exchange students are from France – heck, even the Coneheads are from Remulak (somewhere in France, right?).  When we first popped open the cork, we knew immediately that it needed some air time.  After decanting for about 30 minutes, the nose opened up to strawberry, pepper, cherry, black plum and vanilla notes.  The palate continued down the path of dark berries, plum and cherries. The strawberry notes there, but less noticeable. Barreled in french oak helps this wine – but the pepper balances it out nicely.  The finish is nice enough, smooth yet a bit of a bite – but overall very nice.  We’d buy it again at the sale price, but not at a regular price of $30 plus.

Let’s face it. . .there are literally hundreds of sports stories out on the silver screen. . .from Monty Stratton to Gale Sayers and from the US Olympic Hockey team to the US Ryder Cup Championship, if there’s a way for Hollywood to make a buck–they’ll make a picture.  Jerry Maguire was a mere glimpse into the world of sports agents. . .OZV Zinfandel is a mere glimpse into the world of truly value-priced wines that taste good, look good and are worth every penny.

We hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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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 202: Another One Bites the Dust . . .

Castoro Primotivo

Wow – who’d a thunk it . . . 202 days of blogging about wine!  When we decided to pursue this adventure we hadn’t really thought it through.  There is something to be said about purchasing a different bottle of wine every day for 365 consecutive days (for the record, Jean’s not so good with consecutive day stuff – just sayin’). BUT, here we are. . .moving ahead and staring into the face of yet another weekend.  Weird, but this weekend is the first one of Spring!  Yeah, so this has been happening since last September 1st. . .granted it was late summer, but it means we’ve made it through fall and winter and now we start blogging during the Spring!  Time sure flies–when you’re having fun!

It’s been a long week–same number of days, but just a long week.  You know how that goes—a couple of early mornings combined with several long evenings. . .and the end result is a long week!  Fortunately, we have Daughter #1 and Daughter #2 to keep us ‘entertained’. . .this past week had Daughter #2–camping and sailing along the Eastern seaboard of the US. . .now, before you get too impressed, remember–in THAT part of the world, it’s still winter.  Yeah, like in cold temperatures and cold rain and wet snow.  In fact, that part of the world could go into late April with cold and wet. . .exactly why we chose not to live in them thar parts!!  That said, she’s had a great time sailing and being a part of something that she’ll remember for the rest of her life. . .c’mon, sailing on Spring Break for your College?  How cool is that?

Daughter #1 was back in the classroom this week as Spring Break ended and reality began to sink in–yep, in less than eight weeks, that college experience is DONE!  We’re looking at graduation, new employer and starting fresh.  It brings back amazing memories of our graduation from SFA–how awesome is it to share that same experience with our daughter?

Tonight, we enjoyed a wine from one of our favorite Paso Robles wineries–Castoro Cellars—-as THEY say it, puts out some “Damn Fine Wines”.  From OUR perspective, they are spot on!  From Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels to amazing blends and Petite Sirahs, Castoro has become our favorite ‘house’ wine.  We love their varietals, their wine makers and yes, their wines!  So, in keeping with their really good wine, we opened a bottle of 2009 Primitivo from the Castoro Cellars Whale Rock Vineyard in Paso Robles, California.  We learned last night that Primitivo is the Italian version of Zinfandel in America.  No wonder we like it so much!!!  This is a BIG wine. . .and not for the faint at heart.  From the Castoro website, “The last two years our Primitivo has been the top selling wine in our tasting room and after just one sip you will understand why. From our organically farmed Whale Rock vineyard, this clone of Zinfandel is a fruit-filled wine crafted in an Italian style.”  The grapes for this wine come from the Templeton Gap.  As this vineyard matures the grapes are developing more character and layers of flavors which you’ll notice in the aromas and the mouth.  Primitivo is a clone of zinfandel imported from Italy, thus some of zinfandel’s characteristics will be found in the wine. It’s a lively, fruit-filled wine that has a touch of earthiness that is associated with northern Italian wines.

What we know is that this wine is a terrific option for Zin-lovers.  It’s got lots of body, structure, taste and finish. . .which we’ve come to expect from Castoro!  Whether enjoying with gourmet food or sitting back on a Thursday night after a long day at work, Castoro knows how to make good wine, AND make it ready to show!

Until tomorrow, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible!

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Day 193: Let The Choosing Begin . . .

Ali SangioveseWhat a spectacular day!  Spring is truly just around the corner and the temperatures today confirmed that fact.  According to a car thermometer, the temperature at 1:30 pm this afternoon was 78 degrees.  Not bad for March the 12th!  The sky was as blue as you’ve ever seen and the breeze was warm and light from the southwest.  So, it’s appropriate that we salute Spring Break and the time that ‘students’ are enjoying away from the classroom.  Unfortunately, most of the ‘real world’ has to endure office cubicles, sales meetings, webinars and telecommuting…oops, scratch that!  Telecommuting seems to have become passe’!

Sometimes, as we’ve learned over the past six plus months, we really prefer to sit down and enjoy a lighter wine with some structure, some fruit forward taste and a great finish. . .most of the time–if you’ve kept up with what we’ve been blogging about–we focus on the bigger, bolder, deeper reds and may not be as kind to those quality wines that are lighter, tastier and more balanced.  Call it ‘big red wine block’ because, there are times when that’s ALL we want.  In reality, the variety and diversity of red wines that we try is as different as the day is long.  Whether it’s a blend from Spain or a big Shiraz from Australia, we’ve figured out what’s big and what isn’t!

First ballots are in and the smoke is black at The Vatican.  It’s the signal that no Pope has been selected. . .YET!  As ‘baby boomers’ we were talking about the number of Popes selected in our lifetime and it’s a relatively small number compared to the early 20th Century and even the late 19th Century.  Near as we can tell, there have been five Pope’s in our lifetime. . .of the five, John Paul II was the longest tenured–from 1978 through 2005.  He was the second longest-tenured Pope and the first non-Italian since the early 1520’s.  We were still in college when JPII was elevated in ’78 and parents of teenagers when he passed away.  Life gives us these milestones as ways to remind us that each day we have with each other, with family and friends or with our spouses and kids is a special gift.  When the Conclave convenes, it’s usually a signal that change is about to happen–something that is a regular part of life.

Because changes are in the offing, we opted for a really nice 2007 Ali Sangiovese de Toscana. . .”According to the winemaker “…This wine has aromas of juicy red berry fruit. Medium-bodied and soft on the palate, with balanced acidity and ripe tannins. Delicious with pastas and grilled meats, yet also very drinkable without food.”  At $10 a bottle, you aren’t going to set the world on fire with your vast knowledge of Italian wines, BUT you will earn extreme value for finding a wine that tastes amazing for a lot less than most people pay for something similar!  At 84 points, this wine won’t set the world on fire, but it will cause you to take notice. . .a good wine for a good price. . .isn’t that a big part of what trying new wines is all about?

We enjoyed this wine with some fresh made pizza–stacked with prosciutto ham, red onions, green olives, lots of chopped garlic and Italian seasonings. . .and cheese!  LOTS of cheese.  It’s amazing how good a wine can taste when you factor in good food!  The addition of a beautiful sunset on a warm — almost Spring evening — is the perfect complement!  With tomorrow being the middle of the week of Spring Break, that means many will begin the process of packing up and heading out–or at least thinking about it.  We’re looking straight ahead into a St. Patrick’s Day weekend–and coincidentally, our very good friends Patrick and Richelle will be tying the knot this Saturday. . .how appropriate that they come together on such a festive time. . .just like good wine–they get better with age!

As you enjoy your spring break–or not–remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 148 – Good Wine Should Be Shared . . .

clos du valFollowing an evening of good thoughts, good topics, and praise for outstanding “heroes”, we ended up in the lobby of the Austin Renaissance Hotel and decided that it was time to celebrate.  “The Team” had put together and pulled off an outstanding evening honoring Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Austin.  One of the best parts of the evening was getting to visit once again with Fr. Leo Patalinghug – he is AWESOME!

So, there we were with about 8 people all sitting around, relaxing, unwinding, and it was time to bring out some good wine.  Sadly, the hotel WiFi wasn’t so free, and it was already today when we sat down to write – so we finished out tasks in Austin, came home and took a nap and are now tying this entry up to post.

Funny thing about a bottle of good wine (and eight glasses) it doesn’t last long.  Add in the fact that we enjoyed a 2008 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, and you have the makings of a great way to wrap up the night.  The nose on this wine is stellar.  Deep, dark fruit with hints of oak, chocolate and spice converge to make the wine almost too good to drink.  Continuous swirling allows the wine to open and close as the aroma intensifies.  The beautiful color of the wine adds to the ambiance of the nose.  Clearly, this is a wine that can be enjoyed in so many different ways.  Tonight, it was purely enjoyed by itself–a victory toast of sorts for the hard work put in by so many people in helping make an event even better than anticipated.  However, we all agreed that the wine could be even better with a nice thick slab of dark chocolate–you know, 70% cocoa.  Naturally, a wine as big and bold as this cabernet would be the perfect compliment to a thick, juicy steak.  The list of pairings for this wine could go on and on.  The taste was fruitful; the oakiness subtle but the bursting of flavors really comes out on the mid and back palates.  The finish is long, long, long and it was evident that we were all in the mood to savor the finish.  As one person was observed, just smelling the glass was almost as good as drinking what was in it (nice job there SW).

At a little over $30 a bottle, this wine can be found on sale at numerous places for slightly under $25, and if you come across a sale like that, we heartily recommend that you take advantage of it.  This wine is rated at 91 points and the vintages before and after are rated in the same range or higher.  The “drink-ability” of this 2008 Cab is good now through 2017.  Lay it down or pour it–either way, this wine is an excellent value for the money.

Yes, this was an evening to share some good wine over some great conversations and relaxation!  It’s one of those wines that you break out when you know something really good has just taken place.  We really enjoyed sharing it with multiple people–because we enjoy sharing wine.  As the blog continues to unfold, we’ve really learned to appreciate the sharing aspect of wine.  Whether it’s sharing through actually pouring a glass with friends or family, or it’s sharing by writing about different wines that we’ve tasted.

We now have our work cut out for us.  Because the evening was so successful, we are posting day 148 today, and we’ll have to ‘take one for the team’ and post Day 149 this evening!!  Ah, the sacrifices we have to make to maintain continuity!!

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


Day 86 – Call In The Guards. . .

 We couldn’t help but notice, and since no one else even bothered to comment, we blew the whistle on ourselves.  Yep.  Yesterday, we were out of sequence.  It happens to the best of folks; when you’ve made the commitment to sample and write about 365 different wines in the same number of days, it was going to happen.  We didn’t write a disclaimer before we started, so now is probably as good a time as any to note that, occasionally. . .and we mean occasionally. . . there may be discrepancies in the numbers of days reported compared to the actual number of days reviewed.  Through no fault of our own, the “numbering system” gets flawed and we may, inadvertently, skip or duplicate a number–which is EXACTLY what happened last night!  So, just to be clear–tonight is Day 86 and tomorrow will be Day 88–it’s all part of the NEW MATH!  Any questions?

So, the sales totals for the first full weekend of shopping for Christmas is starting to come in and the numbers are pretty impressive.  We really wonder how many people actually hit the streets to shop on Black Friday or Saturday or Sunday, or the real number of people who wait until – – – CYBER MONDAY – – – to do their shopping.  Since all we’ve heard about today is the amazing number of deals available for cyber-shoppers, we thought that maybe online sales could eclipse in-person sales this year.  We saw an estimate this morning that seemed to conclude that today’s sales could exceed $1.5 billion!  On the one hand, that is an impressive amount of business–tough to imagine anything but success with those kinds of sales.  However, the pie is only so big which means that sales from traditional ‘brick and mortar’ retailers is probably going to suffer.  It only stands to reason that if you buy something from Retailer A online instead of buying it from Retailer A’s store in your town, that Retailer A does just fine but the store and the sales tax to the local community – – well, NOT SO MUCH.

We wanted to have some fun on a Cyber Monday, so we chose a blend that we bought at Trader Joe’s . . . tonight’s wine is a 2009 Guard Shack from Sonoma County, California. . .it’s a blend from DC FLYNT MW SELECTIONS who specialize in varietal blends from Napa and Sonoma Counties.  This particular wine delivers a blend of spice, sweet, rich, black and red notes that range from cassis to wild red berries all deftly supported by the smell of warm earth and tannins.  What we immediately noticed was the amazing nose of fruit, smoke and cedar that was parlayed into a taste of all of the above and then some.  We were pleasantly surprised by, not only the amazing taste on the palate, but the long beautiful finish. Certainly not what you’d expect from a relatively ‘no-name’ wine available at Trader Joe’s.  We like big, inky red wines and this one fills the bill.  Just to be sure, we grilled some beef with sauteed mushrooms and red onions along with garlic mashed potatoes.  Needless to say, the food and the wine paired exceptionally well together.

The hardest part for most wine lovers is to break outside of their ‘box’ – a comfort zone of two or three labels of wine that are just too ‘easy’ to give up (please note, this is not to be confused with BOXED WINE).  We encourage you to “call in the guards . . .” and try this 2009 Guard Shack.  It’s a nice little change of pace from your ‘normal’ varietals and you may just like it.  If wine places like, Max’s Wine Dive, has it on their menu, one of two things comes to mind – A).  They must like what Guard Shack has to offer in value and taste. . .or. . B).  They are looking for a few good suckers to buy something that will make them extra money.  The cynics will opt for ‘B’, but the answer is clearly ‘A’ which is your cue to give this wine a taste.

And, whether you’re a Cyber Monday freak, geek or sheik . . . the key is to ALWAYS remember that life is too short to enjoy BAD wine.  Until tomorrow, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 71 – The School of Rock

Have you ever seen the Jack Black film, The School of Rock?  Okay – not exactly Academy Awards material, but very good, very funny and exceptionally well-written.  Who could forget his character’s name?  Dewey Finn.  Now that’s a classic!  And the basic plot is that he’s a rock musician kicked out of his own band. (Trivia Question #25:  What was the name of the band that Jack Black’s character was kicked out of?)

Without a way to pay for rent, he masquerades as a substitute teacher . . . now there’s something original!  We’ve seen A LOT of people over the years masquerading as ‘substitute teachers’.    In this movie, Jack Black is believable as a rocker turned pseudo-teacher; his biggest challenge is turning a bunch of fifth graders into a band!  Seriously, we read four full paragraphs about the movie’s plot on  Wiki and were about to fall asleep!  It’s a fun show to watch, but don’t spend the time reading about it; holy schmoly, it’ll put  you to sleep in a heart beat.  This is an extremely funny movie and it is a must watch if you’ve got middle school kids . . . we’ve been there and saw MULTIPLE traits of our children in the characters!

So, tonight we opened a 2010 Syrah from Castle Rock (get the title?) in Calistoga, California .  .  .  who would have thought a wine like this would come from this area??  It’s a completely different wine than we expected.  Truthfully, we thought at first taste, it was a wine from Washington state.  It had so much fruit on the front end and a crispness that we hadn’t anticipated, and that was combined with a ‘green pepper-like’ finish that left us wanting – water.  Yep, this one is missing the mark from our perspective.  If we have to wait 45-minutes to an hour for this young wine to open up – it’s NOT happening!  Now, for you true wine affecionados . . . this wine may impress you.  It’s winery price tag is not less than $136.00; yep, that’s what their website says.  We DIDN’T even come close to this price, but it illustrates the value placed on a superb blend of grapes!  This particular wine according to their website, “is medium-bodied and deep ruby red in color. It is well balanced, ripe and spicy, and offers complex, concentrated flavors of dark ripe fruits, smoke and black pepper. The finish is long-lasting and harmonious with lingering spice nuances. It makes an ideal accompaniment to a variety of red meat dishes, pasta, or cheese, and it pairs well with most spicy food.”.   After all of the fuss and bother, this 2010 Syrah isn’t bad . . . it isn’t “off-the-charts-great” either, but it will definitely work! 

Do you remember the end?  According to Wiki, “At the competition, the band plays “School of Rock”, a song written by their lead guitarist Zack Mooneyham (Joey Gaydos), instead of Dewey’s “The Legend of The Rent”. Despite the strong reception from the audience, including Ms. Mullins and the students’ parents, the class loses to No Vacancy, but accept their defeat due to Dewey’s proclamation that they were not here to win and that they were going to play “one great show”. The audience, however, becomes angered by No Vacancy’s victory and shout for School of Rock to come back on stage. The band goes for an encore, playing a cover of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” by AC/DC with an altered ending. During the closing credits, Summer is seen arguing a deal over her cell phone as she enters the “School of Rock”, a newly opened after-school program where Dewey continues to coach the class and Ned teaches beginning music students, and the credits roll as the class, breaking the fourth wall, sings “The movie is over, but we’re still on screen”.

The movie is a classic; the wine – well, not so much, but it’s getting there.  We’d suggest that if you buy this wine that you cellar it for a while. Lay it down for six to nine months before  opening. It’s going to take a LOT of energy and enthusiasm for this wine, so you might as well give it a chance by laying it down!  We think there are some exceptional characteristics about this wine that most people never  understand.

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

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Day 43 — Make New Friends, But Keep the Old.

As a Girl Scout, Jean was reminded many times of the creed made famous by girls in green – “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old – One is Silver and the Other Gold”.  Those words about sums up our day today – and what a beautiful day it was.  We were greeted by a blue sky and lots of sunshine as we embarked on Day One of  our visit to the Central Coast wine area.  Given the fact there are six of us, the car was packed to the roof and we bore a striking resemblance to the Clampett’s – not saying who was Granny, Uncle Jed, Jethro, Ellie Mae, Mr. Drysdale or Miss Jane Hathaway – but you get the visual.  Anyway, we headed south.

We started our day at Hahn Winery and it seemed that we would be the only people who showed up!  The tasting room opened at 11 a.m. and we were there by 10:59 a.m.  But, as they say, the early bird catches the worm . . . now, if you’ve read these blogs previously, you’ll remember that back at the beginning of the month, we wrote about a wine from Hahn, so the opportunity of visiting and learning about their wines was an excellent way to get our day started.

Our host, David proceeded to give us the biggest and best tasting we could imagine from the long and varied wine list.  He made certain that we each had a taste of each of the wonderful delights Hahn had to offer.  We sampled several wines, so it’s hard to determine which one was the best.  In the course of the tasting, David mentioned a special Saturday lunch featuring a tapas menu paired with Hahn wines and since it was already getting close to lunch time, we figured it was worth the time to stay. . . the food, the beautiful day and of course, the wine.  The first tapas item prepared elegantly by Chef Brian was locally-grown vegetables chopped and wrapped in a philo dough and then slow roasted to perfection paired with the 2011 Hahn Chardonnay.  The wine was absolutely the star of the dish–very smooth, and not buttery like a lot of chardonnays, this one actually had a ‘baked apple pie’ finish and it was a marvelous accompaniment to the food.  Next up was a salmon roll wrapped in a daikon radish and topped with a puree’ of cauliflower and paired with their 2010 Chef’s Table Pinot Noir.  It was equally fabulous; although we agreed that the food outshone the wine on this course.  The pinot was very fruity and much more full-bodied than we have had in the past, but it was the smoky finish that surprised us.  This led to our final course of beef tenderloin grilled (medium rare) and served on a bed of barley roasted with a balsamic reduction and paired with their signature 2010 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon.  The food was outstanding and the wine. . .well, the wine was the perfect combination and something you’d expect for this type of pairing.  It was a big cab; very smooth – almost like velvet but clearly a winner.

Of course, when you have six people in your group, the conversation can get loud and a bit boisterous, and usually people around a group like this gets to overhear a lot of comments and laughter.  So it was no surprise that we met a couple who used to live in San Antonio and had been living in the area for a couple of years.  It’s another reason why wine brings people together and is a common denominator for learning more about the winery, the wines, the area and the people!

This visit was followed by a stop at Treana/Hope Wines which provided some excellent tasting for wines we’ll discuss in the future, and a final stop at Red Soles in Paso Robles.  The Red Soles stop gave us an opportunity to meet one of the owners, Randy, who was a blast to talk with and learn from and with a bottle of wine outside among the grapevines, we finished our first day.  We will be detailing our visit to Red Soles at a later date as well.

We were exhausted from running so much and had a lot of fun meeting people and sampling wine (some good and some – not so much), but it reinforces why we enjoy it as much as we do, but always remind ourselves to enjoy our wines responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

Hahn Vineyard

David and Chef Brian at Hahn

Our new friends from San Antonio that now live in CA.


Making new friends at Treana

A good selection at Treana

A tip of the hat to Tiffany and John at Red Soles

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Day 41 — All Our Bags Are Packed. . .

When Brian was growing up, vacation consisted of  everyone getting in the family car and a six plus hour drive to visit Grandmas and Grandpas for two and a half weeks.  In essence, vacation wasn’t about seeing the sights.  It wasn’t about some new adventure.  It wasn’t about learning a new skill or relaxing at some exotic place.  Vacation was about family.  Lots and lots of family.  So when Brian met Jean, and she told him about their family vacations to the big Redwoods in California (if you are nice to her, she will teach you the Big Sur Park song) and places in Colorado and other trips to Missouri . . . well, it left kind of an empty feeling for Brian.  Vacations, after all, are supposed to be relaxing moments doing exactly what YOU want to do.  And, in looking back over those years, Brian’s parents wanted to do exactly that by spend time with family.  Period.  Jean’s parents spent time AS a family.  Now, don’t misunderstand – this is not a criticism – it’s just a reality of the times and the circumstances of our lives.  We took many fun vacations with the girls as they were growing up – imagine we will share one or two before this year is up.

So, tonight, as we opened a bottle of 2008 Sausal Zinfandel, we talked at length about our upcoming vacation.  This time tomorrow we’ll be in Monterrey, California and by the weekend in beautiful, Paso Robles, California.  We are joined on this trip by the cast of the Love Boat – but no worries, you’ll get to know more about them in the days to come.  Some of the best wines coming from that State are coming from Paso Robles.  We’ve been there before when about five years ago we made a similar trip with Thing 1 and Thing 2 and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of wines we sampled.  In some respects, it further defined our preferences and tastes in wine.

Whether it was taking a picture with the pig outside of Eberle Wines or visiting with Rebecca at Peachy Canyon or sitting down in Roger’s dining room at RN Estate, we found a common denominator in good wine from Paso Robles.  One of our final stops that trip was at a place called Adelaida – now, if you’ve been following us from the beginning, you’ll remember that we sampled and wrote about a wine from Adelaida.  This was a beautiful winery with a full compliment of fine wines to sample, and initially, our ‘server’ was a little more than put off by our presence – however, as we asked more detailed questions, our ‘server’ became more engaging.  When a local tour guide busted through the doors with 15-20 tourists, suddenly their attention was focused more on us and less on having to ‘deal with’ the guests that had just arrived.  As it turned out, this was our favorite stop of the day.  We bought some wine; had some laughs and learned to appreciate really nice wine.

Tonight’s wine – sampled on a trip a year later to Napa is from Sausal Vineyards.  These folks know about good Zinfandel.  When we visited them in 2008, we learned that they farm Century Vines . . . meaning, these vines have been producing for over 100 years.  Wow, think about a tree that is 100 years old and how thick the trunk is – vineyards aren’t quite that way, but they looked like trees.  But, these vines don’t produce as much fruit as they did years before, so the fruit that comes from these vines is special and Sausal treats the fruit appropriately.  Tonight’s wine, while not from their Century Vines, still comes from amazing lineage.  Zinfandel grapes like they grow are true American classics and this wine fits the bill from the moment you pull out the cork.  What a great nose.  What a beautiful presence in the glass.  The taste is true zin with lots of fruit, pepper and spice on the palate and a load of pepper on the finish.  We know that we are zin-hounds and don’t shy away from it, but if you’ve NEVER had a good Zinfandel, then this is your starting point because, you’ll never be able to appreciate a good zin until you’ve had a GOOD ZIN.  Sausal delivers Zinfandel as well as any vineyard in California.

So, pack your bags and join us on a trip to the heart of our country’s wine meca.  Yes, other States have wine production – including Texas – but NO ONE has the quality of wine that California does. For the record, Peter, Paul and Mary sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane“, but Jean’s FAVORITE (and no, she’s not ashamed to admit it) singer, John Denver (aka John Düsseldorf – who is a Texan and went to Arlington Heights High School in Ft. Worth) wrote the song.

Try a bottle of Sausal and see for yourself – but remember to enjoy your tasting responsibly and try 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!

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