casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday

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Day 357: Five is a Great Number . . .

Five WiseToday was a great day, especially for Jean – she got to play golf . . . AND support San Juan Diego Catholic High School in Austin – WHAT a GREAT job!  She and two co-workers (Lisa and Scott) plus a wonderfully supporter and friend (Ron) took to the links in order to help raise funds for the school.  Now, normally the idea of playing golf and not being in the office would be tough for Jean, BUT – her boss (aka Scott) pretty much said she HAD to play . . . so, rule of thumb in our house is NEVER go against what the Boss has said.  Ok, ever so slight exaggeration there . . . Jean signed up and coerced Scott and the others to play (for the record . . . the arm twisting really wasn’t all that tough).  Nonetheless, a wonderful time was had by all – yes, it was a wee bit hot – but as the saying goes . . . a bad day on the golf course beats a good day in the office.  Anytime she plays golf, Jean is reminded of the days as a young girl heading to the course on Saturday mornings with Bill (aka Dad) and his buddies to play a round – Jean was allowed to hit a ball with a shortened 3 Iron – to this day, one of the clubs she hits the best.  She would be negligent if she didn’t mention all the fun times she and sister Sara have had on the course as well (yes, Jean can hit a tee shot further than Sara – just setting the record straight).

Ok, on to other things – – – the number FIVE(5) is a really important number at Casa del Vino – ya see, we are BOTH (or as D#1 and D#2 like to say BOLTH – gotta love those inside family jokes) the FIFTH (5th) child in their families.  We think that’s pretty special . . . BUT WAIT – it doesn’t stop there —- we were born on the same day / same year (approximately 45 mins apart . . . . yes, for the record, Jean is older).  Brian was born at St. Joseph’s and Jean was born at St. Mary’s (pays to be Catholic to make that connection) – we were baptized on the same day – both our Dad’s worked for Shell Oil their entire careers and finally (yes, just one more – sorry P&L . . . didn’t mean another bottle) – when they got married that both had sisters who were nurses living in Denver.  Call it what you will . . . we call it both Divine Intervention and a God Wink.  Makes for lively conversation, especially when doing legal work and date of birth is involved.  Oh, and one last coincidence – we were married on the same day.

So, as you can see the number Five (5) is a big deal ’round these parts.  So tonight we opened a Five Wise Meritage Blend.  A wonderful combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  We picked this little number up at World Market last weekend – during halftime at Dave & Busters – it was less than $12 and a BARGAIN.

This wine has some really nice characteristics.  The nose is pure fruit. . .lots of berries with hints of tobacco and plums.  The palate opens up to a nice oak and tobacco taste along with some black raspberries and black cherries.  The finish is long, smooth and memorable. . .all of the flavors stay on the finish making this wine smooth to the taste from start to finish.  We enjoyed this with some smoked sausage and potatoes as well as a spinach salad. . .all in all a really nice find for not a lot of money.  We’re intrigued by the wine because there isn’t a lot of information available about it.  From Greenfield, California which is in Monterrey County; Greenfield is located in one of the developing wine grape growing regions of California with over twenty vineyards and wineries within a thirty mile radius, several of which have tasting rooms and offer a wide selection of wines for sale. Some of the Vineyards and Wineries located nearby are Hahn Estates Smith & Hook, San Saba, J.Lohr, Hess Select, Estancia, and Graff Family Vineyard.  Having driven through this area back in October, we learned that it’s also the area know as the “Salad Bowl” for the country.  There was an unbelievable amount of produce being harvested at that time. . .truly amazing.

This wine is different, unique and not on a radar screen, and it’s for these reasons, you should try it.  Might just sneak onto the BOndy Top Ten Wine List . . .

With so many commercial labels (heck this may even be a commercial label), it’s kind of refreshing to find one that doesn’t have 91 points or lengthy vintages in its’ history.  We’re open to hear from you; maybe you know something about Fivewise Meritage that can shed some light for us.

Anyway, it’s Friday!  Time to enjoy the weekend and your favorite wine.  Please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 195 – There’s Always a Better Half

Eberle The Better HalfThere was a commercial–not too long ago–where a Mom with twin boys had just enough peanut butter left to make one sandwich.  And, the concept was that she gave one of the boys the responsibility of choosing where the knife cut on the sandwich went. . .(he, of course, was thinking that he would get ‘the better half’).  But, like good Mom’s do, she throws a curve ball and let’s the second twin choose which piece.  A classic piece of marketing and a small case study in fractions!

From the time we’re born and raised, the stakes have always been getting the bigger (better) half.  Whether it was a piece of birthday cake, a helping of mashed potatoes or something else, the premise was the same–getting the bigger slice, the more preferential treatment, the larger dollop of food.  It’s a competition.  Right?

It’s been a long Spring Break week.  While we’ve enjoyed ‘watching’ Daughter #1’s dog, we have to admit, puppies flat out wear us–and our older, lazier dogs–out!  We should have expected this. . .it’s really not that big of a surprise.  Puppies have more energy.  It’s like the cell phone commercial…which is better less or more?  Which is better high energy, bouncing off the wall or laying on the floor like a piece of carpet?  Puppies are much better at bouncing off the wall.  Not only are they good at it, but they are USED to it!  So, when Daughter #1 comes to retrieve her ‘prized possession’, we’ll be sad to see her go, BUT our dogs–the three of them–will be anything but SAD to see her go~

As Thursday winds down and the weekend is at the front doorstep, tonight we opened a bottle of Eberle “The Better Half” from 2010.  Recall that Eberle was one of the stops we made during our trip to Paso Robles last fall.  This wine is something to behold.  A perfect combination of 51% Zinfandel and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon!  It’s a match made in heaven—This is a little fruit explosion waiting to happen; complete with lots of crush; we couldn’t believe how delicious this wine was for such a young age.  Raspberries, blackberries, dewberries. . .all of them coming at us at one time!  An amazing picture of wine growing and harvesting excellence.

More and more Eberle Wines are finding their way to liquor and wine stores across the country.  They’re still family owned and operated, which gives them a leg up on their corporate competitors. The small, boutique winery is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  But, with Eberle, you still get world class wines without the huge volume of tasteless wine!  Their wine selections and pairings are things of beauty.

So, as your weekend unfolds, find yourself a bottle of Eberle Wines or select your favorite wine to enjoy.  Remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle your bottles and other items whenever possible.

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Day 187: To Blend or Not to Blend . . .

SorrelWhat makes this blog so much fun is when we stumble upon a hidden treasure that absolutely rocks the house.  In the span of the first 186 days, we’ve tried some good wines, some bad wines and some wines that we tasted, wrote about – but couldn’t bring ourselves to buy again.  We started the blog as die-hard Zin fans and in the 186 days since we started, there is a case being made each and every day for blends.

It used to be that blends were considered left overs.  They were made from the grapes that the premier vintners never used and so they became expendable.  Wine makers would buy the left over grapes and create blends depending on the quantity and variety of grapes they had . . . some of the most famous from California wines are blends – ike T.J. Swan, Annie Greensprings and MD 20/20!  Yep, sad as it may be, blended wines have a ‘tainted’ past. BUT, there are wine makers who understand the value of and the potential for future business, and thus are willing to take a chance on ‘leftover’ fruit.

We aren’t sure if tonight’s wine is made with leftover grapes or if it’s just an opportunity for a vintner to truly make inspired wine!  We opened with and enjoyed a 2008 Sorrell from Canyon Cellars.  This 2008 Meritage from the North Coast region of California is a special wine.   The reality is that this wine is spectacular.  From the nose to the finish, it’s a clear winner.  A terrific aroma of oak, berries and cassis; the taste was oh so smooth and sultry – each of the nose elements played through – in a big way during our tasting – in fact, we were surprised by its’ complexity – much more than expected.  And, at less than $12 a bottle, you’ll be getting one heckuva value or as Bob Barker would say “The Price is Right”.

Review after review commented on the wine’s incredible structure, taste, nose and overall appearance and is consistently ranked as high as is possible, but it’s the taste that’s going to catch you off guard.  How can a wine that costs so little, taste so BIG?   At the end of the day, this wine is a winner.  Priced at the lower end of the scale, don’t let that scare you away from trying it.  We purchased during the Twin Liquor Sale earlier in the week and enjoyed it very much.

So as we head into Thursday with a weekend on the horizon, we hope you enjoy your favorite wine responsibly—and remember to recycle whenever possible.


Day 180: Where Angels Goes, Trouble Follows . . .

lock & key meritageWe knew we were in trouble.  It started with an email that Jean received on Monday.  She forwarded it to Brian at work and to the house.  Oh, this wasn’t going to be good . . . not at all!  It intensified Monday night.  Yep, we had just turned on the television to catch the late, local news, and there was the second sound (aka our good friend Sandra) of trouble.  It got worse on Tuesday morning; when the alarm went off and the third sign that we were in trouble played on the radio.  The message was repeated on the television — not once but twice — we were doomed.  To make matters worse, it was happening over THREE days.  They already knew that they had us.  All we could do is raise a white flag, throw in the towel, walk away from the ring, hang up our cleats . . . and give in.  It was like – we could hear the theme song from the movie, “Jaws” playing in the background and getting louder and louder (“think you’re gonna need a bigger boat”)  . . . What are we talking about?Twin SaleUh yeah!  The folks at Twin Liquors really know how to sucker punch a couple of wine lovers!  Oh, no . . . it’s not good enough to just have a 75th Anniversary Sale last August . . . NOOOOO! They had to go out and create a ‘Dollar Sale’ for three days in February.  So, they mark down their product to the lowest price; add a dollar for margin and sell it.  For wine lovers, it’s the difference between three bottles and eight bottles.  For amateur wine bloggers, it’s like a gift from above!  We can “unlock” some great values in different wines, and the “key” is to save some cash!

So, tonight, we “invested” at Twin Liquor in San Marcos and found this 2009 Meritage from St.  Helena, California in the heart of Napa County.  Most places have it priced between $13 – $16 a bottle, but tonight we made off with it for less than $11.  In terms of pricing, score a big one for the bloggers.  When we opened it up, the cork was fresh, moist and the smell was fruity with hints of oak.  This wine, we learned, is from the Trinchero Family of wines . . . which means, it comes from a BIG operation!  This wine is a true Meritage blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc and the grapes are sourced from some of the best vineyards in Sonoma and Lake counties.

To be honest, at first we weren’t too sure about this bottle . . .  The nose was heavy with prunes or dates – not sure which ones because it was overpowering.  The color was oh so close to copper but still held a dark burgundy tone.  The taste upon initial opening wasn’t good at all.  It was more like ‘pucker time’ than wine time!  However, like most wines with a good heritage, the key to unlock the flavor of this wine was time . . . the longer the bottle stayed open, the better the wine began to taste.  Even as we type tonight’s blog and sip on the wine, it’s changing . . . the flavors are now deepening and becoming much more pronounced.  A richer, deeper flavor that seems to be much more advanced than the wine that we smelled and tasted upon opening.  Again, it was soft and supple with a pleasant combination of black cherry cola, dark spices, sandalwood and tannins making it a tremendous value at this price point.  In other words, the wine works – – even though it was slow to open, the wine is extremely enjoyable and delicious and for the price point under $11 a bottle, we could be convinced to buy a few more of these and save them for “later”.

For the record, there is a golden oldie movie classic with the same name as tonight’s blog.  Name two of the actresses who starred in the movie and have gone onto much higher levels of fame.   A bottle of tonight’s wine goes to the first one who chimes in with the correct answer . . . pretty sure there are a few Freitag’s out there who can “name that tune” . . .

Regardless of whether you lock your wine or open it with a key, please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible!

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Day 74 – The Meritage Express . . .

It’s no surprise that we enjoy tasting and blogging about blends.  Once the bane of wines, blends have become one of the more accepted wine varietals coming from California, New Zealand, Australia and other countries.  When we blogged earlier in the fall about Elements which was a 60/40 blend from Napa and Sonoma .  .  . we really enjoyed it and have shared it with many friends ( another shout out to Ed and Lori).  So, when we made our ‘infamous’ stop at World Market a few weekends back, we came across this little gem (or we were hoping) from a familiar name (Artesa) with a familiar name (Elements) only something was different.  It was more expensive – this one regularly retails for around $30 a bottle .  .  . it was ON SALE plus we got the ‘membership discount’ which meant  that our cost was $16.  Hmmm – kind of illustrates the mark up doesn’t it?

This blend is made up of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon; 16% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; 5% Malbec; and 3% Petite Verdot – now ANY of these grapes in the hands of skilled wine makers can produce some amazing wines.  And, this wine coming from the Napa Valley, indicated to us that it had some pretty good lineage behind it.  What makes it a little challenging tonight is that we’ve already blogged about an Elements wine, so is this considered a duplicate?  According to the judges (we’ve thrown out the score from the Boone’s Farm Judge), this is a totally different wine – which we kind of already knew, but just to be on the safe side we double checked our previous blog . . . WHEW!

This one is simple.  If you can get your hands on this 2009 Elements Meritage – BUY IT!  No questions asked.  You’ll thank us in the long run – you’ll want to email us; call us; text us – because when you smell this wine and then taste this wine, you’ll be amazed at how beautiful it is.  We immediately get black cherry on the nose and the more it stayed open the more pronounced the cherry scent became.  The taste was just as flavorful with black cherries, cinnamon and spice and a hint of vanilla on the finish.  Depending on your food of choice, you’ll even get hints of chocolate – maybe even some cedar or spice.  It’s just an awesome wine for the price point and one that you should definitely bring to your friends or family this holiday season. We enjoyed this wine tonight with a dish of pasta and sauteed vegetables – heavy on the garlic, thank you very much. This was one of the few nights that Jean cooked – have to keep her in practice from time to time – Brian is usually the chef de jour, so gave him the night off.

While we will typically recommend a Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving – you have to have something for the day after, and this wine will make everyone (as long as they like red wine) happy.  We’ve been asked on a number of occasions, would you really buy the wines that you write about?  Our answer is – YES.  On this 2009 Elements Meritage?  You’d better believe it – in fact, we’re not going to  tell you where we’re going to buy our next bottles because we don’t want the supply to diminish before we get there!!!  Seriously, rare is a wine that is affordable, delicious and you could easily lay this down for another three to five years and it’d be even better than it is right now.

Hey, Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday – we’re looking for some wines to enjoy at the holiday.  Jump on this one.  It’s a winner – in fact most of the wines from Artesa that we’ve tasted are winners.  As we were reading about this wine from several wine review sites, we stopped at one with a review from this past September – Five Stars with comments that basically intimated, ‘This Is A Winner!”

As we get closer to ‘Turkey Day’, we’ll offer some thoughts about holiday wines, but regardless of which wine you choose to enjoy, please enjoy responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.  Thanks for reading.

Dinner is served . . .