casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday

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Day 47 – There’s No Place Like Home . . .

Good evening, wine lovers!  After spending the past five days in the beautiful Central Coast wine country of California, we have arrived back home.  Soledad, Paso Robles, Cambria, Big Sur and Monterrey .  .  . amazing places to visit and a great way to spend a vacation.  But, there is no place like home – we have really enjoyed writing about the experiences of the past few days but relish the opportunity to write about WINES going forward.  It was a beautiful morning in San Francisco .  .  . cool, sunny with almost no breeze.  Our day started with breakfast – thank goodness for Denny’s coffee and a trip to the airport.  You can really tell that San Francisco has planned their airport for LOTS of traffic.  We were dropped off at our airline by Ellie Mae and Jethro who had a later flight – we proceeded to the ‘dreaded security area’.  Actually, the wait was much less than anticipated and we made it through scanning without much to talk about. (We did get full body scanned – quite a treat to start the day) It was almost amusing when we got to our gate and our flight was non-stop to Austin and in the gate immediately to our left was a non-stop flight to San Antonio that got in a half hour earlier!  Mr. Drysdale and Ms. Jane joined us on the flight – so it was eventful!  After a delay on pushing away from the gate, we were in line for take off – seven, count them seven planes ahead of us!  We ended up taking off a half hour AFTER departure time, but miraculously, we arrived ON TIME in Austin at 4:15.  Man, it always feels good to take a trip but it ALWAYS feels good to get home.

After a quick stop for a sandwich, it was on to the house and a chance to visit the ‘family’!  Our four-legged children were very excited to see us after being cared for by our special pet sitter, Mitsie Benton with Happy Paws Pet Service.  As usual, she did a great job of taking care of them, so we could keep them at home as opposed to taking them to a kennel.  There is a magic with vacations that you know you’re ready to get home when you realize there is work to do and you can’t wait to get home to do it!  On top of that, the break was just long enough for us to enjoy some great wines, some delicious food and our great friends.

Coming home tonight, we decided to forgo our Paso Robles wines (no worries, you’ll be hearing ALOT about them in the days ahead!) and instead opted for a Sonoma County Zinfandel given to us by Jean’s Dad, Bill.  The wine is a 2007 Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zinfandel, and it is a great way to come back home!  Of course, you’ve come to expect us to talk about zinfandel, and this wine kicks some butt .  .  . thank you very much!  A great nose of pepper and spice with lots of fruit greeted us when we pulled the cork, and then the first sip – WOW, it was smooth, tasty, fruity and oh, what a nice velvety finish.  We couldn’t have picked a better way to wrap up our vacation and usher in the next several months of wine blogging.

For those of you who have recently signed on to follow us, thank you.  We have learned that not only do we appreciate good wine, but we appreciate the process of making wine, the concept of marketing wine and the fun that comes from sampling and tasting wine.  Even though we are now home, we’ve learned and continue to learn about the stories of wine makers that are inspirational, family-oriented and have a cool under current.  We visited with Don Brady at Robert Hall Vineyards who  has ties to Texas and man, he is a great guy who really knows how to make delicious wines; we visited with Greg and Tealy at Barr Estates Winery who showed us that it takes hard work to make a quality product.  We can’t wait to talk about some of the amazing  wines that we tasted during our trip.   One of the great things about visiting wine country is ordering some wines and counting the days until their arrival – kind of like Christmas!

Tonight, we relax and enjoy our final hours of vacation with a renewed sense of energy and focus – good wine is not just a hobby – it’s a passion and much like the makers and sellers of wine that we met over the past several days, we hope that you’ll continue to enjoy good wine as well, but please remember to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 42 – It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over!

It has been a day.  Let’s see, where do we begin.  We embarked on our trip to Paso Robles today getting an early start for an early flight.  One of the things that we weren’t counting on when we made reservations with our friends way back in April was not being on the same flight.  We bought our seats at the exact same time and last night, we found out that the friends were flying out at 6 a.m. and going to Los Angeles and then on to San Francisco.  Our flight was scheduled to fly to Houston and then on to San Francisco.  Frustrating?  You bet, but not the end of the world.

After a short night and an early ride to the airport; we were ready to go by 5:00 a.m. this morning.  They left on time and we left on time.  We got to Houston and immediately looked for the board with departures for our trip to San Francisco.  And, there it was…in red letters – CANCELLED.  The frustration of having completely different flights than our friends just took another turn for the worse.  We stopped at United Airlines customer service and this is when you know that others have bad days too – who didn’t know that the flight had been cancelled.  The options that she was offering us wasn’t sitting well with us (leaving Houston at 6 p.m. just wouldn’t do) and so she offered to put us on a flight to San Jose and offer shuttle service to San Francisco.  At the same time, our other friends in Arlington were dealing with their own nightmare in trying to join us in San Francisco – ending up in Denver before eventually getting to San Francisco.  We did met a couple of neat people in the van on the way between the San Jose and San Francisco airports – best wishes to newlywed’s from Florida – hope you have a wonderful time in Napa and places in between . . . let us hear from you and what wineries you visit.  Our new friend who lives in San Francisco and shared online marketing strategies – thanks for the advice on our blog!

Long story short, we were reunited with both of our friends and began our quest to try a variety of wines during this week.  And once we got our vehicle, we immediately headed south towards Monterrey – what a beautiful drive – photo below won’t even do the beach justice – where we stopped at Bonny Doon Vineyard to try some of their old-world style wines.  The wine for tonight was a 2006 Ca’ del Solo Nebbiolo and what a wine it was!  Lots of dried fruits, nuts and herbs that all yielded an incredible intensity.  The wine is lighter than ones we traditionally try, but it was beautiful with loads of taste and exceptionally smooth on the palate.   We could only imagine how good this wine could be with food!  It was a great sampling to start our California trip.  Lauren was working behind the really cool concrete counter – she reminded us alot of our own daughter #1 – great personality and made our visit an enjoyable one.  (Lauren – will get your photo up in the morning _ trouble with the computer!!)   If we lived in Monterrey we would spend lots of time here – it’s a fun place with a twist on aliens . . .  they even have a Roswell Happy Hour.

Why airlines insist on cancelling flights without notice is beyond us.  We understand when lousy weather dictates cancellations, but that wasn’t the case today.  And when all you hear about from these companies is how great their customer service is, well I think when you catch someone on a bad morning, you wonder if the training is working!  Regardless, our customer service person rallied to help us–ultimately allowing us to be here and enjoy our first sampling.  The day was made complete with a comeback miracle by the St. Louis Cardinals  –  WOW!!!  This turnaround was a great reminder that you never quit and as Yogi Berra said “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”  Bring on the Giants . . . but first, bring on a pillow – it’s been a long day!

We hope you’ll look for it where you shop and when you buy this 2006 Nebbiolo, please remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

Lauren at Bonny Doon – thanks for taking such good care of us!

Reserve Tasting enjoyed by Brian and Mark


Bonny Doon is out of this world!


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Day 41 — All Our Bags Are Packed. . .

When Brian was growing up, vacation consisted of  everyone getting in the family car and a six plus hour drive to visit Grandmas and Grandpas for two and a half weeks.  In essence, vacation wasn’t about seeing the sights.  It wasn’t about some new adventure.  It wasn’t about learning a new skill or relaxing at some exotic place.  Vacation was about family.  Lots and lots of family.  So when Brian met Jean, and she told him about their family vacations to the big Redwoods in California (if you are nice to her, she will teach you the Big Sur Park song) and places in Colorado and other trips to Missouri . . . well, it left kind of an empty feeling for Brian.  Vacations, after all, are supposed to be relaxing moments doing exactly what YOU want to do.  And, in looking back over those years, Brian’s parents wanted to do exactly that by spend time with family.  Period.  Jean’s parents spent time AS a family.  Now, don’t misunderstand – this is not a criticism – it’s just a reality of the times and the circumstances of our lives.  We took many fun vacations with the girls as they were growing up – imagine we will share one or two before this year is up.

So, tonight, as we opened a bottle of 2008 Sausal Zinfandel, we talked at length about our upcoming vacation.  This time tomorrow we’ll be in Monterrey, California and by the weekend in beautiful, Paso Robles, California.  We are joined on this trip by the cast of the Love Boat – but no worries, you’ll get to know more about them in the days to come.  Some of the best wines coming from that State are coming from Paso Robles.  We’ve been there before when about five years ago we made a similar trip with Thing 1 and Thing 2 and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of wines we sampled.  In some respects, it further defined our preferences and tastes in wine.

Whether it was taking a picture with the pig outside of Eberle Wines or visiting with Rebecca at Peachy Canyon or sitting down in Roger’s dining room at RN Estate, we found a common denominator in good wine from Paso Robles.  One of our final stops that trip was at a place called Adelaida – now, if you’ve been following us from the beginning, you’ll remember that we sampled and wrote about a wine from Adelaida.  This was a beautiful winery with a full compliment of fine wines to sample, and initially, our ‘server’ was a little more than put off by our presence – however, as we asked more detailed questions, our ‘server’ became more engaging.  When a local tour guide busted through the doors with 15-20 tourists, suddenly their attention was focused more on us and less on having to ‘deal with’ the guests that had just arrived.  As it turned out, this was our favorite stop of the day.  We bought some wine; had some laughs and learned to appreciate really nice wine.

Tonight’s wine – sampled on a trip a year later to Napa is from Sausal Vineyards.  These folks know about good Zinfandel.  When we visited them in 2008, we learned that they farm Century Vines . . . meaning, these vines have been producing for over 100 years.  Wow, think about a tree that is 100 years old and how thick the trunk is – vineyards aren’t quite that way, but they looked like trees.  But, these vines don’t produce as much fruit as they did years before, so the fruit that comes from these vines is special and Sausal treats the fruit appropriately.  Tonight’s wine, while not from their Century Vines, still comes from amazing lineage.  Zinfandel grapes like they grow are true American classics and this wine fits the bill from the moment you pull out the cork.  What a great nose.  What a beautiful presence in the glass.  The taste is true zin with lots of fruit, pepper and spice on the palate and a load of pepper on the finish.  We know that we are zin-hounds and don’t shy away from it, but if you’ve NEVER had a good Zinfandel, then this is your starting point because, you’ll never be able to appreciate a good zin until you’ve had a GOOD ZIN.  Sausal delivers Zinfandel as well as any vineyard in California.

So, pack your bags and join us on a trip to the heart of our country’s wine meca.  Yes, other States have wine production – including Texas – but NO ONE has the quality of wine that California does. For the record, Peter, Paul and Mary sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane“, but Jean’s FAVORITE (and no, she’s not ashamed to admit it) singer, John Denver (aka John Düsseldorf – who is a Texan and went to Arlington Heights High School in Ft. Worth) wrote the song.

Try a bottle of Sausal and see for yourself – but remember to enjoy your tasting responsibly and try to recycle whenever possible.