casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


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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 355 – All The World’s A Stage. . .

cline mouvedre…and we are but players!  Well, not exactly how it’s written but the point is that we’re a blip on the radar screen of civilization.  The time spent in our lives doesn’t even register on the time clock of the planet, solar system or galaxy.  Yep, just like the song, we are like dust blowing in the wine!  Ooops!  We meant blowing in the WIND!  Yes, of course!  But, we’re also reminded that time is always moving forward.  So, tonight we spent some time watching the Little League World Series playoffs, and were struck by their similarities to real life–shaking hands after a job well done. This is the kind of baseball we know and love!

So tonight we opened a 2011 Cline Mourvedre. . .and WOW, what a wine!  Very tasty; loads of fruit, a terrific finish and all for a closeout price of $10 at Twin.  Ancient Vines Mourvedre offers a hint of Eucalyptus on the nose, distinct chocolate characteristics and a luscious deep plum flavor. This surprisingly and unusually delightful wine has a substantial mouth-feel followed by soft tannins.. . like we said…lots of wine and not a huge investment.  We enjoyed it with smoked center cut pork chops, some garlic pasta shells and a romaine lettuce salad.  All of these were perfect compliments to the wine.

Even as we close in on the end of our blog series, we’re amazed at the wines that are available for a good price and a great taste.  This wine fits the bill to a tee and because it’s a varietal that most people don’t (or won’t) go to look for and try, those of us who have tasted and believe are going to snatch them up!  It’s a great wine for the price; it’s a flavorful wine for your palate and you can amaze your friends and family with your vast knowledge!  Okay. . .so that last part was a REAL stretch!

As you know, the Mourvedre grape is rarely bottled as a wine by itself.  Typically, this grape is used in blends–most blends that we’ve enjoyed have Petite Syrah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in them, so this grape is probably used to soften the wine against the big and bold of the other grapes.  What we never expected was a wine with great taste and body and a smooth finish.  It’s yet another example of trying something out of our ‘wheelhouse’ (remember an earlier post?) and being rewarded for trying it!

As the week begins a tilt towards the weekend, we can’t tell you the number of comments and likes we’ve enjoyed knowing that the blog is quickly coming to its conclusion.  We especially like the folks from Sweden, Japan, Germany and other countries who have accidentally (yes, we’re not so vain as to think we have a world-wide following) stumbled upon our blog.  And, after looking at the variety of search terms used, we’re convinced that most folks have no clue what they’re looking for!! But, hey, we’re glad they stopped by and checked us out.  Enjoy your Thursday, and prepare for the weekend.  We’re now in a T-Minus mode starting tomorrow, we’ll be at T-Minus 10 and counting.  If you’re in the mood to try new, value priced wine, then stay tuned for some great stuff; and if you’ve come to expect great information…don’t miss the last 10 days!

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


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Day 345: A Rose’ By Any Other Name . . .

Charles and CharlesSo – to be blunt . . . we’ve had a day, and are tired.  Up at 7:30 a.m. and kinda like the Beverly Hillbillies .  .  . we packed and headed to Austin.  Thank Goodness that Bruce Wayne had a truck that could handle D#1’s “stuff”.  Yep, key possessions were packed and strapped in the truck.  Since it was Sunday, the trip to Austin was short, sweet and to the point.  Yes – lock and load . . . moved in and headed to school for balance of requirements.  Upon arriving, the morning was spent “going through stuff” – and the afternoon was reserved for “memory” time – for those who have been there – we will connect before week is out.

So – on to the wine.  Gotta be honest – we purchased this from Trader Joe’s – way back when . . . since it was a Rose’, we have been stalling night after night – trust us, it’s been there in the Fridge waiting – waiting for the call.    As previously mentioned . . we have to continue our “imagination” and keep looking for the best wines we can.  Well, the mere fact that we’ve had this wine for several months should tell you something – just sayin’ . . .yes, we opened a 2011 Rose’ from Charles and Charles . . . no doubt in our minds – this is about as nasty as a wine can taste.  Not trying to offend anyone . . . but, nasty is just the term that comes to mind here. Obviously, we are not huge fans of Rose’ – but, we DID purchase the wine with the intent to blog.  This wine did hit #42 in the Wine Spectator list of 100 (seriously?) – but, it just didn’t do it for us.  According to one review – “The aromas of watermelon, grass, wet stones and citrus still dominate and they carry through the palate, but in a more dynamic way finishing with bright acidity”.  Our review – was much more along the lines of sweet, sweet, sweet – and too sweet—kinda reminds us of when you are making jello and you boil water, then add the “jello mix” – you let it sit and “simmer” then stick in the fridge.  As a child, the taste was appealing – kind of a warm, mushy sweet concoction that was really tasty – but as a wine “not so much” . . .

In summation, we came – we saw – we conquered . . . alas, poor Yorick . . . here we go again – down the drain we go.  Realistically, you can’t make up  bad wine.  Either it’s good and you enjoy the taste or it’s bad and  you wonder how they ever made this stuff!  For us, it just didn’t happen!  Our blog is short tonight – not only because the wine was “not so much”, but also because . . . we are just plain tired.

Another long day of classroom prep and helping D#1 move into her new home – furniture packed, loaded and headed north by 9:30 a.m.  We hope you have a terrific night and wherever you are . . . whatever you are doing – make sure you give it your all . . . as Red Skeleton used to say – “Good Night and God Bless”.

Until tomorrow – remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible . . .


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Day 231: Oh What a Night . . .

Buena VistaYeah…we’ve been watching WAY too much news this week AND tonight.  The Marathon Bombings, the Explosion in West, Texas and tonight, the finale to the manhunt as a result of the Marathon Bombing!  NOT to be believed.  The dealings of this week have been over the top and hard to bring back down to Earth!!   Needless to say, it’s been a roller coaster ride without leaving the station.

So we tried this wine out of the blue–Buena Vista from 2008–in Sonoma County. . .hey. it can’t be all bad if it a.) came from Sonoma and/or b.) tasted like a vintage wine years before!!  the winery’s colorful founder, The Count of Buena Vista, pioneered premium wine making in California. A tireless and passionate devotee of California wine, The Count imported hundreds of premium vines from Europe, made Sonoma’s first wine caves, introduced innovative viticulture techniques, and wrote about California wine.  Buena Vista Winery honors his legacy, bold vision, and commitment to excellence through this red wine – the Founder ’s Red Wine.  The 2009 Founder ’s Red Wine is truly a wine that Count Haraszthy would be proud to have bear his name. Inviting aromas of ripe raspberries, cherries and blackberries lead to rewarding flavors of currant, blueberry jam and black pepper. This well-structured wine will please the palate with its lush mouth feel and lengthy finish.  What we enjoyed was the peppery nose–along with notes of anise and black cherry, and there was a beautiful body to this wine that we hadn’t expected.

We are constantly amazed by the men and women who are first responders.  They know what their job is and do it to the best of their abilities..we often underestimate the role they play in dealing with situations like tonight.  WOW!!!  THANK YOU!! for all that you’ve done during the past several months!  So, with a wine that costs less than $20 a bottle, you’ll be glad to raise your glass high and toast those closest to you!

We tip our hats to the law enforcement members from the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Police, the Cambridge Police, the Watertown Police and so many LAW ABIDING citizens who paid attention and cared!  Because of coordinated efforts, two really bad men are off the streets of our country FOR EVER. . .or it better be for ever!

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


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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.


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Day 213 – Monday’s for the Dogs

Vinum petite sirahAs Sunday gave way to Monday, we noticed that our three “girls”—Pepper, Andie and Jasmine–were a little more subdued than usual.  Pepper was kind of walking around with a limp.  Jasmine didn’t want to eat her dinner (which Andie all too gladly took care of) and Andie–well, Andie just couldn’t decide where she wanted to sleep.  These are serious things when you’re a dog!   We often joke that after their morning routine of taking care of business, eating and taking care of business, their ‘rest of the day’ routine consists of an early morning nap, a mid-morning nap, a noon nap followed closely by the important early afternoon nap and wrapped up with the late afternoon nap until we get home!  Oh, the torture it is in being a dog in this house!

We’ve learned over the years that our dogs are creatures of habit.  Hmmmm, we wonder how that came to pass!  Anyway, they get up when we get up–well, that isn’t TOTALLY true–WE get up when they wake up!  A stop outside followed by breakfast followed by a stop outside (you get the picture?).  What’s funny is that EVERY morning after this routine has taken place, Andie and Jasmine head to their crates.  Usually, we don’t have to say a word; they just walk in and lay down.  Why?  Because of routine–they ‘know’ that it’s time to settle in for the day and their crate is ‘home’ for the day.  We laugh, but at the same time we smile at their incredible intelligence.  How is it that they know to go lay in their crates?  Why is it that they choose to go and lay down without a word being uttered?  We’ve decided that routines are as good for humans as they are for dogs.  And THAT is why we’re writing again tonight–it’s our ROUTINE!!!

So tonight we opened a selection from a recent trip to H-E-B, this 2009 Vinum Petite Sirah out of California is an interesting wine.  Surprisingly, “this inky plum-colored wine displays ripe plum and juicy blueberry fruit right up front and is backed with cassis and spice. The mid-palate is full bodied with blackberry and over-ripe huckleberry that is cloaked in generous, integrated French Oak that coat the palate and finish with a velvety texture.”  This is one review that we actually agree with their interpretation.  The color of this wine is magnificent; if you love that deep, dark and royal purple, then this wine is going to get your attention.  We’d suggest decantering it for 30-45 minutes before serving; this wine clearly gets better as it’s opened and  has time to breathe.  At less than $12 a bottle, you won’t break the bank with this wine, and you’ll impress your wine friends who never thought you’d try something so “out of the box”!  And, if for no other reason, we opted to try this wine because it has a black labrador retriever on the label!  Sorry, we’re suckers for black labs having had a very loyal and good friend in ‘Hershey’ as the girls grew up from babies to young ladies.  Yeah, dogs help define our lives. . .we remember them like snippets of time in our lives.  Hershey was part of the family from shortly before Daughter #2’s first birthday until she was 14 years old.  They truly become part of the family and really good friends.

Anyway, this 2009 Vinum Petite Sirah–while not the most luxurious wine you’ll ever consume–has character, structure, taste and body–but it will give you a brief respite from some of the boring wines that are on the market!  We’d be tempted to buy a few more bottles of this wine, if for no other reason than, to enjoy on the deck with the grill going or the fire pit in full flame or just enjoying the sounds of the evening after a long day at work. . .kind of like a Monday–one for the dogs!

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


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Day 208: Ohhh, solo mio . . .

barbera del monferratoOh, man. . .there is NOTHING like a really good Italian wine.  Yes, there are excellent French wines.  Of course, there are big, bold Australian wines.  Understandably, there are amazing Argentine wines.  BUT, when it comes to  ‘old world’ taste at new world prices, Italy and Spain clearly get it!  Yes, there are wines from these countries that can cost a lot of money and we’re pretty sure they’re awesome wines, but what we had in mind was something a little different.  We were thinking of a wine that was young, affordable, tasty and easy to find.

“HOLY COW” . . . as Harry Caray used to say on Cubs’ broadcasts–you mean that we’re asking for the big 4?  We want a wine from Italy that’s young.  Okay, this is a 2011 Barbera that has a lot of fruit–not a lot of structure–but a nose that says fruit salad!  And, we want a wine from Italy that’s affordable.  Let’s face it, when you buy an Italian wine in the middle of the week that costs (retail) less than$15 . . . it will grab your attention!  As it should. . .c’mon, this is an Italian wine – value should be its middle name!  It IS–and the price is well within most folks’ wheelhouse; we like this wine because it retails for under $13 a bottle and when you can combine a young wine with a lower price-you’ve got a nice combination!

But wait–you want taste?  You gotta be kidding us?  Really. . .?  It’s not enough to bring you a young, affordable wine?  You want taste?

YEAH, we completely understand!  This wine is sneaky–it’s got a great nose on opening, but the initial taste will cause you to pucker up!  HOWEVER, if you’re willing to decant and wait, this wine will be a winner.  We were really impressed by how much the wine opened up when decantered.  The wine took on different characteristics, taste and nose once we poured it from the bottle to the decanter—AMAZING!  Which leaves us with ‘easy to find’–UM, yeah!  So, if you are a ‘regular’ shopper at full line H-E-B stores, there’s a good chance that the 2010 Barbera del Monferatto is available.  IF?  Well, sometimes the variety is available and sometimes-not!

Simply put, this wine “is a lively and brilliant dark ruby-red. The perfume is fresh and intense with clean scents of wild berries, currants and sour black cherry. A light hint of vanilla and toasted oak. The flavor is warm and robust, full-bodied, pleasant and balanced. This Barbera’s sensory attributes make it an outstanding accompaniment for imposing first courses and main-course, meats boiled or roasted.”    Not sure what that means to those of us who just like to enjoy a good wine, but we’re guessing that it means–this is good wine!  Which is OKAY with us!  Having enjoyed a number of good Italian wines over the years, we’ve learned that when you have a wine with “Intense aromas of wild summer berries, red currants, and cassis, with a hint of licorice. Restrained on the palate, offering black currant and raspberry over light notes of toasty vanilla oak”. . .you’d better grab a hold of it!

We DID!  More importantly, we are excited to bring an ‘Old World’ wine with a great, fruity taste to the ‘New World”.  But, wait–NOW, it’s YOUR turn!  Yep, that’s right!  We’re interested in your opinion. . .so let us know.

Thanks for reading–thanks for enjoying wine–thanks for caring about the community, and thanks for being willing to bring this wine to your friends!!

Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine with responsibility, AND recycle whenever possible.