casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


Day 360 – Welcome Back…

DiMajo Norante SangioveseOkay. . .up front, we’re dating ourselves.  BUT, there was a sitcom back in the 70’s that starred Gabe Kaplan and a little known actor whose character name was Vinnie Barbarino. . .and the actor was?  John Travolta!  Yep, before Saturday Night Fever or Urban Cowboy–before Pulp Fiction or Face Off. . .there was Welcome Back Kotter.  Imagine going back to teach in the high school that you graduated from only a few short years before. . .well, that was the premise of the show.  The catch, of course, was that the names had changed but the game was still the same.

In the realm of public schools, today–in Texas–was the first day back to school.  And Brian had a terrific opportunity to watch kids and parents arriving at a local elementary school, we can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are GLAD that the girls are where they are today!  Parents have changed.  Schools have changed.  Teachers have changed.  BUT, one thing has remained the same. . .kids will always be kids.  AND, no matter how much you prep them, guide them, cajole them or force them—a certain number of kids can’t wait to get into the building.  AND, a certain number of kids are petrified of going into the building!

Parents, on the other hand, well, they look like deer in headlights. . .especially first time parents dropping their child off for pre-K programs.  Uh, they NEVER taught us this in ‘Lamaze’ classes!  Nope. . .and guess what, kids DON’T come with owners manuals!  After watching the proceedings today at one of the schools, we were glad that a the girls were way passed this age and that they were fairly ‘low maintenance’ when it came to school starting!  And the more we greeted parents and kids, the better it felt knowing that in our world, those days were long gone.

So we needed a wine that would be a nice combination of old and new.  And thanks to our friends at World Market, we found the perfect choice.  Our 2009 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese is the essence of what this blog is about.  A terrific red wine with lots of cherries, blueberries, tobacco and cedar just waiting to be opened and enjoyed.  Even as good as this wine tasted, it’s got the potential to be even better–yep, this wine has ‘moxy’ and we think it’s got the ‘legs’ to go the distance.  Italian wines have an earthiness to them that can’t be measured by our standards.  No, not every bottle of wine produced there is a hit, but as good as the wine that we’ve tasted from Italy has tasted, we know that the BEST stuff never leaves the country!  Robert Parker rates this wine at 87 points–which for a $10 bottle of wine is pretty awesome!  They said, “this Sangiovese exhibits fresh aromas of violets, woodland berries, sweet spice and leather. Deliciously smooth, plush and juicy on the palate with loads of ripe fruit, Di Majo Sangiovese is recommended with meaty pastas or pizzas, chorizo and granular cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or aged Gouda.”  We enjoyed it with buffalo chicken tenders in hot and bbq sauce along with fresh steamed carrots and it was the perfect way to “put out the fire!”

We know that there are a lot of parents breathing a sigh of relief tonight.  The first day of school is in the books and the daily routine has just begun.  We remember those days and being welcomed back.  It’s a special time in the kids lives, your lives and their teacher’s lives. . .savor the moments.  Life comes at you way too fast and when you blink your eyes, they’re grown.  We hope that as your kids go back to school that you’ll stop and enjoy the moment, and if that means sipping on a glass of your favorite wine, we hope you’ll do so responsibly and always remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 237 – Brought To You By The Letter ‘I’

ISo, tonight’s blog is going to be about a wine we tried when P&L were here recently.  Jean is out of town and that leaves Brian to write the blog.  The headline is an attention grabber–especially if you grew up watching Sesame Street or had kids growing up watching Sesame Street.  Brian’s first ‘experience’ with the show was way back in the late 1970’s when visiting his sister, Sharon and her family in the Denver area.  At that time, the oldest was 4 and the youngest was almost 1…it was his first experience in the beauty of afternoon naps!  Not just for the kids. . .there is a tremendous amount of energy expended on young children and in many cases, when they go down for naps, so do the parents, grandparents, care-givers, etc…

He recalls a particular day when after a busy morning of playing inside and outside and up the stairs and down the stairs…stopping for lunch…and then, the MOM-edict…”we can watch Sesame Street, but when it’s over, it’s nap time!”  Okay…that sets the stage–the 4 year old understands the ground rules…the baby could care less!  Back in those days, it was Bert, Ernie, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Grover and Big Bird as the  main  characters.  An occasional visit from ‘The Count”–Brian’s favorite…and that was about it.  BUT, you knew that it was “nap time” when at the end of the show, the announcer would say something like, “Sesame Street was brought to you today by the numbers 4 and 9 and the letter ‘I’.  Boom–off to bed for the little ones and time for a little shut-eye for the adults!  Great stuff!

When P brought out this bottle, we were extremely excited having enjoyed Orin Swift’s other Locations wines, E and F and we’ve previously blogged about both of them.  By way of recap… E is for Spain (Espana); F is for France and tonight, we break into Italy!  You may not know that Italy boasts more than 2000 indigenous grape varieties.  Diverse components were meticulously assembled that represent the finest from each region. The result is a vibrant wine that captures the spirit of Italy with a touch of new world bravado.  This wine features a blend of Negroamaro, Nerod’Avola, Barbera, and native varietals from Puglia.  This wine was magnificent. . .from the minute the cork was pulled, the aromas of earthy goodness came out…lots of cherry and leather on the nose, but it needed about 45 minutes of air time, and as we poured the first glass, the color was gorgeous.  It wasn’t quite as dark as we would have thought with a blend, but it looked silky pouring into the glass.  If you like fine Italian wines, then this is worth getting in your cellar.  Without question, tonight’s blog is definitely brought to us by the letter ‘I’…it’s a wine worth celebrating!

Speaking of celebrating. . .tonight we give a birthday shout-out to our good friend Kris from Kerrville. . .Happy Birthday, Kris. . .we’re sorry Big Blue didn’t win the NCAA Championship, but you should still be proud of their efforts—even at your age!!!  All the best.

Remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.  Speaking of recycling, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a plug to a San Marcos event coming up on May 11th–the 4th Annual Texas Green Home & Living Show runs from 10 am to 4 pm and offers great ideas for saving green by going green–and recycling is just one of the answers!

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Day 167: Love is in the Air . . .

Ruffino Riserva

So, here we are – the day for wine, chocolate and roses . . . among other wonderful gifts we shower each other with to show our love.  Love comes in so many shapes and forms – we love our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings, our faith, our friends, our pets – just to name a few.  Sometimes, we mistake love for other things – like something we really like to eat or drink, or a movie or book that we really like.  It can be a tough one, especially if we try to wrap all up into just one day a year.  Good friends tell us that “it’s Valentine’s Day every day at our house.”  Now, that’s what we’re talking about – every day should be a celebration of love.  Why not make every day special and never let a day go by that you don’t say those three simple words to those who mean so much to you – yeppers, we mean – I LOVE YOU – and say it like you mean it, because one day you won’t be able to say it because that person will be gone.  So, don’t waste a minute – say it anyway you want, but say it.  Could be a “Chow Mein”, a “As you wish” or perhaps another way that conveys the message you want to express.  Just Do It!

We wanted to try and do a quick recap of why there is even a St. Valentine’s Day – other than to improve the stock of Hallmark.  So out we went to the web and found one of the simpliest answers on (actually, more than we needed to know, but here goes).

“Every February we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving flowers, candy and cards to those we love. We do this in honor of Saint Valentine. You may be wondering, “Who is St. Valentine”? Time to brush up on your Valentine’s history!  Legend has it that Valentine was a priest who served during third century Rome. There was an Emperor at that time by the name of Claudius II. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those that were married. With this thought in mind he outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military base. Supposedly, Valentine, decided this decree just wasn’t fair and chose to marry young couples secretly. When Emperor Claudius II found out about Valentine’s actions he had him put to death.

Another legend has it that Valentine was an imprisoned man who fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. Before he was put to death he sent the first ‘valentine’ himself when he wrote her a letter and signed it ‘Your Valentine’, words still used on cards today.

Perhaps we’ll never know the true identity and story behind the man named St. Valentine, but this much is for sure…February has been the month to celebrate love for a long time, dating clear back to the Middle Ages. In fact, Valentines ranks second only to Christmas in number of greeting cards sent.  Another valentine gentleman you may be wondering about is Cupid (Latin cupido, “desire”). In Roman mythology Cupid is the son of Venus, goddess of love. His counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros, god of love. Cupid is often said to be a mischievous boy who goes around wounding both gods and humans with his arrows, causing them to fall in love.”

Wow – who knew?  Tonight we enjoyed a 2008 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Classico Chianti with Bill/Dad – how perfect, to enjoy a bottle of passionate, delicious red wine from Italy on Valentine’s Day! The first thing that captured us was the intense, ruby red color of the wine.  The nose on our Riserva Ducale showed an outstanding elegance, characterized by flowery and fruity notes. Violets, cherries, wild berries and plums meet with spicy hints of tobacco and white pepper grains, followed by elegant scents of red roses.  Like we said, a perfect wine to celebrate the day, and what made it even better was a Caesar Salad and homemade spaghetti with fresh bread for dinner.  The wine and the food were meant for each other.  As we tasted the wine, we got notes of fresh fruit and gentle tannins.  The tasting is even better on the finish; it was incredibly fresh with a nice mineral quality to it, and a finish that was long and flavorful–somewhat enhanced by hints of rosemary and intensified with the food pairing.  All in all a very good wine and while a little out of our normal price zone, you can typically find this wine for less than $30 a bottle.  Previous vintages of this wine have been rated as high as 90 points, this vintage is rated in the mid-to-upper 80’s.  You’ll get your money’s worth and more from this wine.

So as the holiday of love winds down, we hope that you’re enjoying or have enjoyed your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible – and told someone you care about that you love them.


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Day 160: Birthday Wishes . . .

Castiglioni ChiantiHistory.  It teaches us.  It reminds us. It brings us back.  It also makes us smile.  Twenty-two years ago today . . . yes, that would be 1991 . . . we welcomed the newest member of the family.  (No. . .it wasn’t another dog–or a cat for that matter!)  Daughter #1 came into this world 22 years ago today and for the record – Motown was cranked up in the background, and as parents go – just being a little biased – we were smitten from the moment she came into this world.  She doesn’t know it, but Brian was there to hold her first . . . to weigh her . . . to help put her next to her Mom.  It was in one word – AWESOME!  It brings tears to his eyes to this day.  For Mom, the incredible joy of holding a daughter – gave her a sense of  what it must have been like for her Mom 31 years before.  Life Is Amazing when you sit back and think about it.

And, what becomes of a young lady who clearly and completely stole our hearts?  Who was clearly in control as a baby – but didn’t know it?  With both parents working, memories flood back to rocking in the chair with the bottle in hand while one gets ready for work and then the roles are switched as we prepare the diaper bag, plenty of bottles for the day, all of the ‘In Case of Emergency’ notes . . . and then, BAM off to daycare.  Could it be that six weeks went by like a blink of an eye?  Yes it did – and so did the next 22 years.  Rolling over, crawling, the first steps  . . . they all come so fast – and ONLY ONCE!!  Special moments?  You’d better believe it.  Little things like that are taken for granted – maybe even ignored today, but we craved the chance to see the one or two things that – once they happened – we’d NEVER see them again.  If you stop and think about it, the number of these amazing – once in a lifetime opportunities that our children give us-are lost in the day-to-day living and GONE forever.  Learning how to use a spoon, learning how to take her first steps, learning to talk (at 10 months and it hasn’t stopped yet!!!!) these are the little miracles that are laid before our feet as parents and what we CHOOSE to do with them, remains in our hearts for the rest of our lives.  And that’s before BARNEY!!!

Because what happens next is life – yep, kindergarten, grade school, girl scouts (thanks, Mom), middle school, boys . . . and then CELL PHONES, iPods, parties, friends,high school, jobs, driver’s training, driver’s license (YIKES!), cars, boys, dates, concerts, and suddenly – – – graduation!  The train gets going so fast that we forget to enjoy the ride.  We forget to let the horn blare out – – – this is OUR KID!  And–so we stop and take a deep breath and SMILE.

Today, 22 years ago . . . our family started . . . and THE FAMILY is getting better and better each and every day!

We needed to break out a wine that was special for today, so we found a really nice, but young (funny how that works!), 2010 Castiglioni Chianti, in honor of Daughter #1’s birthday and a remembrance of her trip to Italy this past May.  Since the wine was so young (hmmm, common theme developing here), we decided to decanter it while we created an amazing feast of corn tortillas, lightly fried in oil to give them a fine crunch; paired with the finest of prepared cheese and diced tomatoes with green chiles.  It was a feast that could only be made better by a fine wine.  Funny as it may seem, this wine was delicious.  It was fruity–as you’d expect from a young chianti, but it also had structure and body that reminded us of bigger, bolder wines.  Decantering the wine gave it a chance to open up and the aroma was superb.  From the wine maker, “The color is a purple red with violet reflections. On the nose, cherry is prevalent followed by strawberry and raspberry with floral sensations of rose and classic sugared almond. The palate is soft, warm, vinous, pleasantly balanced. The finish is persistent, with round notes that return to cherry in the aftertaste.” 

Normally,  we laugh at reviews like this, but in the case of this wine – SPOT ON! At a price less than $15 a bottle ( on sale) you’ll be  hard-pressed to find an Italian wine that’s this good and yet so young.  We’ve enjoyed big-dog Barolo’s for way more money, but in the short term they couldn’t measure up to this Chianti.  You might want to get a hold of this wine before it gets better as it ages – and that means the price will keep going UP!

Birthday wishes . . . to Daughter #1.  You came into our lives at the perfect moment in time – – as laid out by the Good Lord.  And, even though your parents brought you home from the hospital – laid you down on the couch (next to Calvert The Dog) and proceeded to look at each other and wonder when the parents were going to come home to claim you!  YOU have grown into an AMAZING young woman with a passion for life and a gift that can only be appreciated by those who LOVE YOU.  Cheers Lo!  We Love You!

If you have a son or daughter, raise a glass to them, because they are our future – your future – and you gave them your world!

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