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Where wine is on the table everyday

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Day 215 – Bookmark This One

BookmarkHard to imagine living in an area where it rarely rains.  After watching weather reports all winter of these monster (named) storms (Thank You Weather Channel),  we wondered if our part of the world was ever going to see any measurable precipitation.  Those who live in the west, midwest and certainly, northeast have been inundated (pardon the pun) with wet winter weather this year.  Moisture in the winter time is the baseline for a spring growing season. . .more rain=a longer spring growing season.  Less rain= a shorter spring growing season or in some cases, no growing season.  As is the case here in San Marcos, the drought of 2011 had a profound affect on trees in this area.  Numerous long-time growing live oak trees have died as  a direct result of the drought.  2012 brought rain in the early part of the year followed by hot, dry temps in the summer. . .and virtually no rain in the fall.  This winter has been drier and warmer than expected. . .similar to 2011.  The impact?  Again, more trees–stressed to the max–are showing signs of succumbing to Mother Nature’s wrath.  And all the while, other parts of the country are buried in snowfall, have rain storm after rain storm to deal with and are greener than green heading into spring.  Amazing

One of the wine regions of the country we have yet to visit it Washington State.  And, before we started this blog, you could count the number of times we had Washington wines on our hands.  Not so much!  Since we started; however, we have tasted some amazing wines from that state and are really starting to enjoy trying new, tasty varietals.  It also means that at some point, we’ve got to have a road trip to the Great Northwest!  Until then, we’ll keep trying something different and, at least until August 31st, we’ll keep writing about them!  And tonight’s wine is a wine that you will want to bookmark!!  Oh, wait, that’s the name of it, tonight’s wine is the non-vintage Bookmark Red from J. Bookwalter Wines in Columbia Valley.  This wine–available at H-E-B–is less than $12 a bottle and it’s worth every penny!  The color, the nose, the taste, the finish–all of these are amazing for a wine in this price point.  But beyond the technical aspects of the wine, it’s just plain nice to drink.  We can see this as an everyday wine–you can serve it with big dishes or cheese and crackers, you can break it out for a party or keep it for a special evening.  This is a versatile wine that–along with others–is why we’re doing this blog…to talk about wines that aren’t on most folks’ radar.  Bookmark Red absolutely needs to be on your radar. . .hey, the price alone is a trigger for many wine lovers, but the taste–oh the taste, wow, what a cool wine!

The wine has toasty notes followed by espresso, chocolate, red fruit, dark fruit, and cracked pepper. The nose are attention getting indicating an oak program obviously intended for a much more expensive price point. And, as we mentioned before, the palate is soft and silky, lush, rich and fruit filled with ripe dark fruit and abundant chocolate flavors and a sweet, lingering finish. It’s a GREAT combination of grapes. . .33% Syrah, 31% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% mixture of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Roussanne.  Seriously, have you ever tried a blend like this for a price like this?  We didn’t think so. . .find out where it is in your local area and try Bookmark Red.  It’s a wine worth noting. . .a wine worth bookmarking!

Please enjoy your favorite wines 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 179: Gone In 60 Seconds . . . or less

auto moto merlotTuesday nights are ‘Chopped’ nights at Casa del Vino.  Yep, we are hooked on Food Network’s, “Chopped” series and have been regular viewers for almost four years.  If you’ve never ‘partaken’ of the show, it pits four chefs against each other and the same ingredients in a basket four three rounds . . . appetizer, entree and dessert.  After each round, one of the chefs’ gets Chopped and it’s down to three chefs – then two before the ‘Chopped Champion’ is chosen from the final two.  The things that are put in their baskets would amaze even the most seasoned chef . . . chicken feet (complete with toe nails); chicken in a can; star fruit; purple asparagus; and some of the strangest ingredients on the planet.  Most of the time, the cooks’ are restaurant trained or professional cooks.

We watch the show – not so much for the recipes, which there are NONE! It’s more for the individual styles that these culinary artists put into their creations.  Admittedly, some look really delicious and others look, well, that’s why they have judges!  The show features three judges who are accomplished professional chefs, restauranteurs and successful foodies in their own rite, and their tasting and observing helps determine the champion.  Tonight’s show (originally aired this past Sunday) featured top amateur chefs’ and it was awesome.  To have a totally different career and cook food on the side as an avocation is a true calling.

Speaking of calling, tonight’s wine was out of the ordinary for us.  A Merlot – – – something that we really don’t care for all that much and a close out at Gabriel’s . . . a 2005 Auto Moto Merlot and available for under $10 a bottle.  So, you’d think that  a 2005 Merlot would be stout, fruitful and long-lasting . . . you’d think!  It had an ‘interesting’ nose . . . not fruity, but not oaky . . . not full-bodied but not light.  It had a kerosene aroma that mixed with green pepper and black cherry. . .Weird?  Yeah, we TOTALLY get it.  The taste was less than awe-inspiring.  On the palate was a real nice, smooth black cherry taste along with hints of pipe tobacco.  BUT, the finish was GONE.  It WASN’T there.  There was NO after taste . . . no fruity elegance; no smoky goodness; no slate or limestone or tobacco . . . NOTHING.  It was gone!  As the wine opened up, we thought that the finish would open with it, but to no avail.  So, to make sure that we weren’t off of our rockers, we did a little “recon” and found out that others describe the wine as, “It’s a clear, bright light to medium colored ruby-violet wine with some structure to it. Your nose will detect some definite berry notes for this one, (raspberry/blackberry) but not especially pronounced. This follows on to your palette as well (again raspberry/blackberry) with some well modulated tannins and a very light astringency that will dry the mouth but not aggressively so. A good thing, at least for me. This leads to a pleasing finish and good balance. Best for sipping but with a light enough lunch that won’t tax it too much, you might be able to use it there too.”  HUH?  A pleasing finish and good balance?  Maybe it was because we tasted it on a Tuesday, but this wine – even at a discounted price – was not what we’d hoped it would be.

Yep, we know . . . we’ve had another string of less than stellar wines (good news though – our good friends at Twin Liquors are repeating their “Dollar Sale” this week – looks like a shopping trip is in order).  But, remember, we’re here to taste 365 different wines in 365 days, so that means some are going to be good; some are going to be bad and some are going to cause us to ride the fence.  Tonight was clearly a night for bad wine.  Okay, we understand, and we hope that you do as well.

So, when you enjoy your favorite wine, please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 137 – Push Me, Pull You

Pull merlotGot home from work this evening–really cold outside by our standards–and after getting into more comfortable clothing we turned on the TV and the movie, ‘Shrek Ever After’ was on.  Now, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind to ‘stimulate’ our minds for the evening, but admittedly, the scenes that we watched were entertaining and classic, Mike Meyers.  His voice and the inflections in his tone are the reasons–in our opinion–that the series has been so successful.  Well, that and some really good writing.  But, as we’re sitting there listening to him speak in his Canadian, no British, no Australian, no…we’re not sure…accent, thoughts of Dr. Doolittle came to mind.  AND, when the character, Donkey, played by Eddie Murphy came on, well the die was cast.

But, the Dr. Doolittle played by Murphy in two separate films–while very entertaining–pales in comparison to Rex Harrison’s portrayal in the classic, ‘Dr. Doolittle’.  Released in 1967, the film had an impressive cast including Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Sir Richard Attenborough and Anthony Newley (Note: These are Hollywood names from a long time ago, but in the day-they were some of the best) who worked through horrible film locations and more than enough animals to beat the band.  Apparently, the original budget for the film was around $6 million, but because of the challenges, it ballooned to more than 3x that amount.  It opened to less than thrilling reviews, but the folks at the studio worked their magic and it was one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Set Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Music Score and Scoring of Music and finally, Best Sound.  Not bad for a show that featured a man who could talk to animals.  And, part of the film involves a gift–given to the good doctor, from Wiki, “Long Arrow, a friend of Dolittle’s, sends him the rare two-headed Pushmi-pullyu, a creature that looks like a llama with a head on each end of its body, from Tibet. Matthew, Tommy and Dolittle take the creature to a nearby circus, run by the lovable yet greedy Albert Blossom (Richard Attenborough), who makes the Pushmi-Pullyu the star attraction. Meanwhile, the doctor befriends a circus seal named Sophie who longs to return to her husband. He disguises her in women’s clothing, sneaks her away, and throws her into the ocean from some cliffs.”  And for the rest of the story…you’ll need to rent the movie.

When we got home. . .and comfortable. . .we decided to try our first Merlot of the blog.  Jean had picked this up on one of her stops at H-E-B scouting for another great wine, and because it’s from one of our favorite places–Paso Robles, California–decided that this might be worth a try.  A 2010 Merlot called ‘Pull’ from the Broken Earth Winery in Paso Robles. This wine opens with ripe berry fruit with a hint of tobacco leaf. The palate is rich and the finish is cranberry-filled, with long and luscious tannins. There are hints of dark cherry with some coffee, which are similar to some French wines from the Bordeaux region.  We enjoyed it with–believe it or not–chicken noodle soup!  Guess what, it rocked the house!  It’s amazing how well wines and foods go together even if they weren’t meant to be!  Not being fans of Merlot, this wine changed our minds…no, we won’t go hog-wild and start reviewing a lot of Merlots, but the chances are good that you’ll see more than one or two in the next 220+ days.

It’s kind of funny, when we sit down to write these blogs, we never know what’s going to come out and onto the screen.  Some days. . .it’s like lightening in a bottle. . .it happens fast and furious while others are like pulling teeth. . .without novocaine!  Tonight, it was an easy transition and a great opportunity to try a variety that we’ve avoided until now.

We hope that you’ll step out of your comfort zone and try a new variety as well.  Remember to enjoy your favorite varietal responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 112: No Place But Texas . . .

Woodrose wineryYep, living in Texas is like a whole different lifestyle.  It can be as frenetic as the metro areas of Houston, Dallas, Austin or San Antonio or it can be laid back like Luckenbach, Fredericksburg, Kerrville or Stonewall.  There is a mystique about the State because Texas is way more than meets the eye.  We both “grew up” in the Houston area – products of, you guessed it, the oil boom of the early 70’s.  Jean grew up on the west side of town and Brian grew  up on the northwest side of town.  We were in the majority back then – the majority of us had parents transferred to Houston from other areas because of their involvement with oil.  When you come of age in a place like Houston, you adopt certain places, things, ideas, and other parts of life as part of your own.

One of the favorite places for barbecue in Houston is Goode Company.  Jim Goode started his business in an old gas station on Kirby Road.  It was small, cramped and the parking was atrocious, but the barbecue was (and still is) out of this world.  A lunch at the picnic table with a cold bottle of beer or two and back to the office – yep, those were the days when it was acceptable to enjoy a ‘beverage’ at lunch . . . for that matter, we can still remember the “three martini” lunch – it’s gone by the wayside, but it was a real and expected part of business back in the day.  Houston was a great place to grow up in the 70’s – construction was going on everywhere – from Memorial at Dairy Ashford to FM 1960 and Champions Forest Drive, there was something new almost every week.

Back before the baseball season ended, we drove to Houston after work to catch the Cardinals playing the Astros.  Coming in on I-10, we both were kind of blown away – 8 lanes on each side of the freeway!  When we were growing up, especially Jean on that side of Houston, I-10 was two lanes in each direction and three when you got closer to 610!  Times change – today’s I-10 eats up a tremendous amount of real estate that used to be service roads or businesses.  Such is the price of progress . . . that day we drove in for the game, we left San Marcos at 4:28 p.m. and walked into Minute Maid Park at 7:05 p.m.–not bad for a ‘congested’ freeway, and one of the best parts about living in Texas!

So, tonight – on the recommendation, and a gift,  from Cheryl at Steel Branding, we are sampling a 2010 Lone Barrel Reserve from Woodrose Winery of Stonewall, Texas.  Woodrose is one of a significant number of wineries that have opened along the 290 corridor from Fredericksburg to Austin.  It has become it’s own little wine zone which brings people from all over the State to the region.  This bottle of wine is a blend of Merlot and Tempranillo.  An interesting combination – and when you open the bottle, you’re going to be a little surprised.  It’s not deep dark purple.  It’s not a beautiful burgundy.  It’s not even mildly pink.  The wine’s color was almost copper which in typical wine-speak means bad wine.  But, a sniff of the nose cued us into the fact that this wine had some chops.  It’s fruity nature has long since passed – a nose of tobacco and oak was the prevailing aroma with the wine.  A sip and swirl on the palate reveals an amazing amount of dates, the tobacco comes through as does the oakiness.  It’s not a full-bodied wine but it’s not light or medium either – the swirl in the glass showed virtually no legs (sugar).  Clearly, this wine has spent a significant amount of time in oak barrels and for us, oak is a great way to enjoy good wines.  At $21.95, you’re probably going to find a better wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France – BUT, because it’s from Texas, you should at least give it a try.  After all, the Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You!!  Guess we are going to have a make a visit to Woodrose and check it out for ourselves.

Cheryl, many thanks for the gift and recommendation – we were not disappointed.  Until tomorrow, please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly, and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 65 — Only 300 more to go!

The first night after the end of Daylight Saving Time is always a little strange .  .  . it feels like 7 p.m. but it’s really 6 p.m.  It’s not that late, but it ‘s dark outside.  we’re tired, but it’s only 7 o’clock .  .  . what’s up with that?  When friends come to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we kind of expect that they’ll be here for a long afternoon of football, fire in the pit and good wine, but not leave until – say, tomorrow.  What a beautiful afternoon it turned out to be, with clear blue skies and a light wind to go with warm temperatures.  We call this kind of day, ‘Chamber of Commerce’ kind of weather, and judging by the number of people out and about, we’d say it was exactly THAT.

Kris and Veronique came from Kerrville today and we really enjoyed seeing them.  We’ve known these guys a long time – and really love when they come to visit.  They make an afternoon of watching football a fun time – First Down! Our “girls” love to see them as well – greeting them with tag wags and kisses and even a jump into the lap.

So, today, they brought an  American Merlot from the winery of a friend of ours.  The 2009 American Merlot from Kerrville Hills Winery is a treat and a bit of a surprise for those of us who have come to  love California wine.  In our world the combination of ‘Texas Wine and Merlot typically is met with a turned up nose and a glance to the side as to admit that we’d be sampling something inferior.  When we popped the cork; however, we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful aroma.  We immediately enjoyed a nose of oak and lots of black cherry.  The pour was intriguingly beautiful – a dark purple hue that seemed almost too dark for a Merlot.  The nose was awesome for  this little Texas wine and the legs on the glass confirmed that our taste buds were going to be enjoying something completely different.  The taste was full-bodied and finished with a nice smokiness that we weren’t expecting.  The wine was bigger and bolder than we expected – both for a Texas wine and for a Merlot.  Very enjoyable – Wayne, ya done good!

Kris does incredible work with the Hill Country Chapter of the American Red Cross – we both remember when she took over a dying chapter that was living on  fumes and since her arrival to the organization, we’ve seen huge steps in response to crises as well as community members stepping up to support the chapter.  Like so many non-profit organizations that we’ve been a part of or have supported, a large part of their success is the people who run them – as donors and supporters, we ‘buy’ into the mission of the organization NOT because of the mission of the organization but because of the PEOPLE who are a part of the organization.  Those people are what gives the MISSION A FACE.  Unfortunately in our society, and we’re already seeing this on the East Coast – certain nonprofit organizations struggle to get their aid to the right people because the people in ‘charge’ have to be the ones at the forefront even though – in most cases – the ones at the ‘top’ haven’t lifted a finger in a long, long time.  We feel that organizations with national roots, like the Red Cross, need to let their local chapters run the show in disasters and put their collective egos in check when it comes to ‘taking credit’ for getting supplies or aid to those in need.  Veronique is a classic example of someone who is taking their skills on the road – she has created a company who is teaching Red Cross life saving skills – no better teacher can be found – if your company is in need of such skills, let us know –  we will put you in touch.

The next time that you care to make a donation or contribution to an organization with national ties, we’d like to suggest that you specify that your contribution be used specifically for the local area where you live.  Once your contribution becomes ‘restricted’, then it can only be used for the purpose which you – the donor – intended for it to be used.  Which in most cases means it won’t be used by a large national organization to fund their large national organizational salaries.  Many organizations in Texas are working hard to take care of emergency needs and deal with life saving situations .  .  .  isn’t it nice to know that when you make a contribution to one of these groups that the money stays here and does EXACTLY what it was intended to do?  We couldn’t agree more – thank you Kris and Veronique for joining us today and thank you to Wayne for a really nice American Merlot from Kerrville Hills Winery.

The next time you enjoy your favorite wine; please remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.