casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


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Day 325: Spicing Things Up . . .

spice blockAs the countdown to the final 40 days of Casa del Vino tick away, we’re reminded that not spending time with the ones we love is probably one of the most regretted things in our lives.  As Jean covered the blog over the weekend while Brian was spending time with his Mom, it was all brought into focus.  We’ve been extremely fortunate, even though we’ve each lost a parent, to spend some amazing time with our remaining parent.  Jean’s Dad and Brian’s Mom have had the opportunities to watch our girls grow up, graduate from high school, one has graduated from college and the other isn’t too far behind.  We stop and smile every time the girls get a moment to visit with these terrific people. . .their body of knowledge and wealth of life’s experiences keep us grounded in knowing that we still don’t know as much as we thought we did!  We hope that as you enjoy your wine tonight or the next time you open a bottle that you can draw on the experiences of a close family member.  Their eyes have seen things before us that we can only read about.  Their ears have heard things that today can only be reproduced.  Their hearts have been through more than ours and our kids’ combined.  They are a treasure trove of memories.  Stop and cherish them. . .and if you’ve got some strains in those relationships, now’s as good a time as any to patch them up.  We’ve learned that their history is our history and their grandkids’ legacy. . .good stuff when you stop for a moment and soak it in!

Mondays are good days in that we get back into the swing of things after a weekend. . .and whether visiting family or staying home, when we’re off in different directions, it kind of messes up the ‘body clock’.  We’re happy that the weekend was fruitful from a bigger family perspective, but very happy that the weekend is over and we’re back under the same roof.  And so, while he was gone, Jean had some extreme success at Twin Liquors–finding some great closeouts and other deals for the tasting.

Tonight’s selection is a 2010 Spice Block Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.  This wine exhibits noticeable flavors of blackberry, black cherry compote with a slight hint of mocha yielding a velvety finish of very fine and supple tannins refined by oak aging of 9 months. It had a very nice roasted aroma combined with an almost nutmeg scent.  It’s dark purple color was beautiful to look at and swirl in the our glasses.  This Spice Block Malbec is definitely suited to compliment grilled beef — which Argentina is so famous for!  Unfortunately, we opted for tasting only tonight after a nice break at Garcia’s for tortilla soup, chips and queso and chicken fajita quesadillas!  Oh well, so much for “perfectly” pairing food with wine!!  As value-priced wines go, this Malbec has some chops!  Priced around $12 a bottle, you’re going to find a wine that has very nice appeal now, and if  you can hang on to it for another 6-9 months will probably be even better!

Love to be around family.  Yes, we know that not everyone does.  But, when you spend time around those who are related to you, you’ll be amazed at what you learn and who you’re related to!  Family is the spice of life and we hope that you’ll shake some into yours every once in a while.  When you share your favorite wine, you have a common denominator with those who are part of your world.

Enjoy your favorite wine responsibly (hopefully with family) and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 244: What Happens in 120 Days . . .

Tilia MalbecIt’s kind of cool…for the past several days, we’ve been tasting and writing about wines from places other than California.  It’s amazing to sip wines from Spain, Italy, France, South Africa, Australia. . .and other wine growing regions.  This blog has helped us expand our tastes, grow our library of wines and improved our abilities to sample and note good wines and not-so-good wines!

On a separate note, just when we thought it was safe to go into the water–because it was getting warm and that’s what we DO this time of year–Mother Nature threw a curve ball at us today with a windy, blustery day and falling temperatures.  When Jean got ready for an early trip into Austin this morning, the temperature was 66 degrees…when Brian got ready for work and trekked to the office, the temperature was 59 degrees, and when we both checked the temperature prior to starting tonight’s blog, it was 49 degrees with a forecast of 39 in our part of the world.  We laugh because we’re chilled, but we know that August isn’t that far away and neither is the high temperatures that comes with the dog days.  So, we’re content to listen to the howling wind, see the clouds moving at a blistering pace, and know that it’s going to be chillier than normal for a couple of days.  Uncomfortable?  You bet.  Can we live with it?  Without a question!

And so 120 days from today will be Day 364–which means we’ll be on the eve of our final blog in our year long quest.  We anticipate a very fast summer, so if we stop and sound a little nostalgic…it’s only because we’re still not believing how fast the year has gone by.  To complicate matters is tonight’s wine is a 2011 Tilia. . .oh, it’s from Argentina!  Oh, it’s a MALBEC!  Yeah, we know, but this wine has some chops.  This wine is LESS than $10 a bottle and is rated at 90 points by Robert Parker.  Let us be perfectly clear. . .a $10 bottle of wine—from Mendoza, Argentina. . . .90 points!  How is this possible???  The 2011 Tilia Malbec, from Eastern Mendoza and Uco Valley aged in oak for six to nine months; has an attractive, comparatively complex bouquet of blackberry, crushed stone and black pepper. The palate is medium-bodied with tense, edgy tannins on the entry that counterpoise the tight ball of blackberry, briary and minerals with style. This is an excellent wine for the money.  What we like is this Tilia Malbec has a dark, blackish purple color. The nose offers ripe black fruits, black pepper spice and floral notes. The mouthfeel is full yet soft and supple, with black raspberry and currant flavors mingled with notes of sweet spice and a touch of leather. The finish is long and persistent with soft, sweet tannins.

Yep. . .the weather may change in five minutes around here but finding a 90 point Argentine Malbec under $10 a bottle and we’ll call the deal even.  Bundle up. . .if that’s your choice or turn on the furnace on LAST time, but stay warm and enjoy your favorite wine responsibly, and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 218 – Seeking Bluebonnets

Seeker malbecSpringtime in the Hill Country = wildflowers, warm days, cool nights and wine to make the day complete . . . is a time for new beginnings.  We’ve seen the bluebonnets in the Hill Country after cold, wet winters, and we’ve seen them during warm, sunny and dry days!  We are seekers.  We seek wines that define who we are!  or, as it’s been  put with the wind in your hair and the uncharted ahead, you command the helm. You follow your compass toward fortune. You wander by land and sea and stars and sky, because for you there is no other way. To each man a fate and to each fate, a fury itching to fly. But don’t worry, you’re in good company; we’re flying beside you.  Nice, but it doesn’t tell the full story.

This wine . . . a 2011 Malbec from our friends in Mendoza, Argentina.  What we like is a smooth and robust, with juicy, ripe black cherry flavors and a lingering, spicy finish.  On top of really great growing areas.  Low carbon footprint: special lightweight glass, sustainable farming, winery recycling program and more.   This is a delicious wine with lots of fruit – gushing from the minute the cork is popped!  It’s got a finish of vanilla and tobacco, that for us, is really hard to beat.  We like it because it’s got a beautiful color, awesome structure and a finish that keeps on going.  It’s rare to find wines that are so complete.

Having spent the afternoon and early evening riding in the jeep with the top off in search of the ever-elusive bluebonnets, we’ve decided that even though this year isn’t as “good” as last year, there are plenty of flowers to look at!  From McKinney Falls State Park to Spicewood’s Narrows’ recreation area, we saw some magnificent pictures!  When the sun is warm and the breeze happily matches, it’s springtime in the Hill Country.  And, while this year hasn’t been stellar compared to previous years in the bluebonnet department, we’ve found a number of stellar wines and the bottom line is this that wine is GOOD.

It’s late and this is brief, but we want you to try this amazingly delicious wine.  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 143: Puff The Magic Dragon . . .

Cigar BoxHa . . . remember the song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary?  It was the classic 60’s anthemn . . . puff, the magic dragon . . . yeah, right!  If you were a teenager or even a twenty-something, you KNEW exactly what they were talking about . . . right ;-)?  When we were in school, this song was one of the songs that “got away” with talking about drug use.  In fact, according to Wiki, “After the song’s initial success, speculation arose — as early as a 1964 article in Newsweek — that the song contained veiled references to smoking marijuana. The word “paper” in the name of Puff’s human friend (Jackie Paper) was said to be a reference to rolling papers, and the word “dragon” was interpreted as “draggin’,” i.e. inhaling smoke; similarly, the name “Puff” was alleged to be a reference to taking a “puff” on a joint. The supposition was claimed to be common knowledge in a letter by a member of the public to The New York Times in 1984.”

However, the research piece goes on to say, The authors of the song have repeatedly rejected this urban legend and have strongly and consistently denied that they intended any references to drug use Peter Yarrow has frequently explained that “Puff” is about the hardships of growing older and has no relationship to drug-taking.  He has also said of the song that it “never had any meaning other than the obvious one” and is about the “loss of innocence in children”.  It’s tidbits like these that make conversation (and wine blogs) so much fun to talk about and read about!

We thought about that tonight when we opened a 2011 Reserve Malbec called Cigar Box from Mendoza, Argentina.  Although still relatively young, this Malbec can stand up to anything it’s got a terrific nose and lots of cranberry, earthiness and just a small hint of vanilla on the nose.  The taste to us was full bodied and fruity . . . something that we’d enjoy on the deck with a roaring fire or with good, spicy food.  Tonight’s dinner was homemade pizza and the wine paired exceptionally well – especially with the jalapenos on Brian’s side of the pizza!  One of our favorite comments was from valleyfinewines.com which posted, “Drink with grilled meat or salmon, or alone in your room with the door locked… you are the boss!”  Something strange yet funny about recommending one to enjoy it in a room alone with the door locked . . . let your minds wander!

Cigar Box is yet another fine example of the quality wines coming from Argentina–especially Malbecs.  We’ve come to really enjoy Malbecs ever since Patrick from Grape Juice introduced us to Alamos Malbec way back when!  Since then, we’ve learned to appreciate this beautiful grape and the wine that is made from it.  We also remember when staying at Barr Estate this past fall and they were harvesting Malbec grapes for the 2012 vintage.  Wine making is hardly like ‘puffing on the magic dragon’!  No, we’re just kidding, but still remember it like it was yesterday.  The music back then spoke to a cause–and with all do respect to music today, that tends to be focused on doing one thing only–at least it was music with REAL musicians and lyrics that could actually be UNDERSTOOD!  Sorry, we’ll get off our soapbox!

Enjoy this wine. . .at less than $14 a bottle, you’re going to have trouble finding a better Malbec for the price.  In terms of value for the dollar, the 2011 Reserve Cigar Box Malbec is above the competition and worthy of an addition to your wine closet–or wine garage–or wine shelves.

Regardless, enjoy this wine or any others you really like – responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 97: You Better Watch Out . . .

Llama Malbec

It’s kind of funny. . .when we started this blog back at the beginning of September, our attitude was that we were going to do this even if nobody ever read what we wrote.  And then, after telling a few people who told a few more people, we found out that almost a dozen people were reading our blog—WOW, a dozen people!  We were HOOKED!  So, we kept on tasting and sampling and there were some days when four dozen people read our blog.  Now, we aren’t braggin’ but this was getting pretty cool!  The thought of a bunch of people who: A.) Liked or were interested in what we’ve been writing about to follow or B.) Stumbled upon the blog by sheer coincidence–and after a LOT of soul searching, we decided that ALL of our followers at that point were Type A readers!  To those who started with us and have stayed with us—‘thank you’! To those that have joined us lately – welcome aboard.

So last night we blogged about the Peachy Canyon Petite Sirah–(sorry Peachy Canyon folks, Brian’s spelling is sometimes atrocious!) and today we had a nice comment from the folks at Peachy Canyon.  Which was kind of cool.  And, while we are glad that they liked out post, it reminded us about why we’re doing this blog–we want to write about wine. . .pure and simple.  Wine is rapidly becoming a language of friendships–start talking about wine and you immediately find friends.  Start talking about wine and regardless of age, there are people who want to share their stories, their tastings, their favorites, their passion for the same thing that motivated us to start this whole thing in the first place.  We wanted to write about something that WE (as in Jean and Brian) are passionate about–WINE.  We already know that we’ve written about some amazing wines and we also know that we’ve written about some pretty lousy wines.  BUT, that’s a huge part of sampling wine–not everything is going to be a home run and not everything is going to be ‘rot gut’!

The good news for tonight is that we’ve gone back to Argentina–home of some amazing Malbecs–in the Mendoza region, which is home to some of the BEST Malbecs.  We are tasting a 2011 Old Vine Malbec called Llama.  This is a young wine but coming from vines producing fruit for almost 100 years is an indication that there might be something special going on in the bottle, AND there is.  While the wine is young-you notice it immediately on the nose upon opening-give this wine some time to open up.  Give it some air either with a Vinturi or by decanting it for 30-45 minutes.  You’ll immediately be impressed by the rich dark color, the earthy nose combined with a leather and cedar aroma that for us was quite intoxicating.  The taste was fruit – including plums, blackberries and a lot of spice that gives it much more life and body than you’d expect for such a young wine.  Some of the Malbecs coming out of the Mendoza region of Argentina are nothing short of amazing, but like many wines, you’ll need to sample, taste and decide for yourself if it fits your flavor profile.

We liked this little wine.  A sweet little find at World Market, this wine retails for just under $14 a bottle but if you’re a part of their wine club, you can enjoy this for as little as $12 a bottle–which if you’re looking for some nice wine for the holidays–this could fill your cart without breaking the bank!  No, it’s not Peachy Canyon’s Petite Sirah–but, given a choice between Llama and some of the others we’ve written about in the past week, we’ll gladly stock our shelves with this one.  Besides, Malbecs are becoming one of the hottest varietals in the states, so you may as well jump in at the beginning–it’s going to be a great ride.

As we wrap up a week, we pause to say thanks to all who stop to read what we write.  It’s truly our love of wine that motivates us to try the 365 different wines in 365 days and, let’s face it, challenges are tough to step down from. . .so give this wine a try and we’ll keep on bringing you options.  Thanks again to our friends at Peachy Canyon for their comments today.

With the start of the weekend on the horizon, please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 73: Open the Door for Your Mystery Date . . .

So, when selecting tonight’s wine Jean couldn’t help but zip back to her childhood and remember the Milton Bradley game, “Mystery Date”.  For those not old enough to remember, the original version was introduced to the world of teenage girls in the early 1960’s (yes, sadly we were alive and kickin’ way back then).  The purpose of the game was to spin and move your marker around the board until you got to open the door and discover who your “mystery date” would be.  The good-looking surfer?; the hunk all dressed up for the prom, the bowler or heaven forbid “the dud”.  The game provided fun and anxiety – who knew who you would “get”.  Advertised as “a game of romance and mystery for one and all – Fun and surprising – that’s Mystery Date” – wow, nowadays this would be called Match.com or perhaps even Speedating. Although it was a simple game – it did provide hours and hours of fun – because, you just NEVER knew who would be behind that door.  Jean did chuckle out loud when she confessed to Brian that nine times out of 10 she got “the Dud”, otherwise known as the Plumber.  Fortunately for her, her real “Mystery Date” turned out to be a pretty swell guy that she met in college and will celebrate 30 years of marriage with in January.  Please let us know if you remember this game.

So, onto tonight’s wine – this is yet another gem that we picked up in College Station during “the voyage to Lufkin: a weekend or two ago.  We found this wine at World Market for a mere $10.19 (originally $12.99 – see it really pays to join “clubs” and get those discounts!).  The wine is a young Mountain Door 2011 Malbec from Mendoza (some dear friends are traveling there in the Spring and might have to check this place out for us – surely they won’t mind having to sample a wine just for us!).  As young as this wine is, it has a lot of flavor . . . we sensed it on the nose where there was a hint of vanilla mixed in with a smell of raspberries.  Upon tasting, both of these were confirmed along with a finish of cherries.  We were surprised by the mellowness of the wine on the palate and the finish.  It seemed like a much older bottle of wine given its’ structure and tannins.  We enjoyed this wine with a spicy leftover chili and the combination was perfect.  You may want to try it with some grilled steak or salmon . . . sure to be delicious together.  The color is magnificent and the wine is clear and ready for enjoying.  As we mentioned earlier, the price is outstanding and now after tasting, the value is off the charts.  We are constantly amazed by the quantity and quality of wines coming from the Mendoza, Argentina appellation.  For wine lovers, this represents some uncharted territory in wine selection and enjoyment.  We have been and continue to be impressed with wines, especially Malbecs, coming from this region.  Knowing that the Argentina wine growing region has some impressive  altitudes, these grapes are probably sourced from older vines where the fruit is darker and riper giving it the beautiful color we saw in the glass.

This is a really nice ‘cheap’ wine.  And, let’s face it, for $10 a bottle, you can decanter it and show it off to your best friends .  .  . they’ll never know!  Or, you can open a bottle and pour a couple of glasses and go out on the deck with a fire in the pit and relax after a hard day’s work. You choose the moment, but you really owe it to yourself to try this wine.  We’re going back to buy a few more bottles of it to have around as we get closer to the holidays.  It’s amazing how, after 70+ days, we’re really starting to learn more about and enjoy different wines that we’d never otherwise try, so we want you to try them too .  .  . let us know what you think.

But more importantly, remember to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible and be sure to open the door – you never know who your mystery date will be!