casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday

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Day 260: Waltz Across Texas . . .


So, today when we awoke we were not in the comfortable confines of Casa del Vino – instead we were at the Comfort Inn in Nacogdoches.  As mentioned last night, we drove over after work in order to eliminate a back and forth today in conjunction with relocating Daughter #1 and all her worldly possessions back to San Marcos and under our roof.

The sun was shining bright and we were glad that we opted to start early – that big blue sky at 8 a.m. was a good indicator of the heat the day would bring.  Thanks to a limited gaggle of help which included Daughter #2, Zach, Christine, Daughter #1 and us two – we were able to get all belongings from upstairs to downstairs (OK – – – – Movie Trivia Contest for a bottle of special wine – – – Who started in the movie “Up the Down Staircase”??), get carpet cleaned and shampooed, clean bathrooms and get trash to the dumpster all before 11:30 a.m.  After a great lunch and a quick stop to get a few “wearables” at the bookstore, we headed out of town.

Brian took the lead in the 16 ft moving truck, D#1 and D#2 were close behind in the red Rav4 sag vehicle – Jean was the caboose on the trip and after a quick redezvous at Buccee’s in Madisonville, the group headed West.  Brian remembered that this was wine pick up weekend at Saddlehorn and called Jean on her cell – his idea was that she could take an alternative route and head to Burton and all would reconnect in San Marcos.  Well, not wanting to be a negative Nancy – Jean somewhat reluctantly agreed.  Think about it – everyone else would be at home unpacking while Jean could be sitting at the winery and enjoy a glass of their special red wine – Barn Red . . . well, needless to say it was a dirty job, but someone HAD to do it – that’s just how Jean is – – – always thinking of the next person . . . . it ended up that vehicle one and two beat Jean home by at least an hour – – – but the trip was worth the trouble.

All arrived home well before dark – Dominos was the order of the day – and because it had been a long, tiring, sweaty day, we dug deep into our  wine vaults for a superb, young wine from Peachy Canyon . . . their 2011 Vortex Zinfandel is poetry in motion.  Imagine enjoying a wine at a young age or saving it – – laying it down and enjoying it 2-4 years from now.  The wine that makes all of that possible is this 2011 Vortex Zin . . . the nose is blueberries and tobacco; the palate includes hints of black berry, anise as well as the blueberries and tobacco.  The finish incorporates all of these plus adds a hint of vanilla.  How does a winemaker do this?  Clearly the folks at Peachy Canyon in Paso Robles know a thing or two about Zinfandels . . . they have multiple vineyards growing primarily Zin grapes but also have Petite Sirah and others.  Their tasting room is nestled under beautiful trees in a picturesque backdrop.  As mentioned, another feature of Peachy Canyon wines is their ability to be cellared and opened in two-four years – amazing how good wine gets better!

So, here we are all together again – thinking all will sleep really well tonight.  We hope you rest well and as always, remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 170: Oh, Give Me A Home . . .

brennan rhomeAs beautiful Sunday’s in February go, today was tough to beat.  Skies as blue as you could see . . . a warming wind from the southwest . . . and the first ‘top down’ of the year for the Jeep.  Well, technically, we only partially opened the roof but it still counts!  There is something special about driving a winding Texas backroad with the top of your Jeep Wrangler off and the sun pouring in!  And, the best part?  It’s ONLY February!  Yeah, we’re looking forward to March and April for full-blown, trip-to-the-coast type of weather.  It’s coming . . . and it won’t be long!

The other part of this time of the year is — yeah, doing taxes.  Hey, the old saying is still true – and always will be true . . . . ‘there’s only two things in this life that are guaranteed, Death and Taxes!’  We’re not so sure that one doesn’t cause the other!  Now, you know that we’re no spring chickens, so the fact that we’ve been doing the ‘tax thing’ for a lot of years is no surprise.  But, it’s amazing how much MORE complicated it is to do a return today than even five years ago.  In fact, before 1996, we used to do taxes the ‘old fashioned’ way – we filled in the forms, BY HAND!  We know, we know – how archaic!  Computers and software have literally changed the way we do things, and filing taxes is one of those changes.  We can still remember waiting until April 15th . . . and driving our return to the Post Office where people were standing outside collecting returns to postmark them before the midnight deadline.  TurboTax and HR Block software have really changed the landscape.

Anyway, we digress – it was a Sunday to get some things done around the casa, and to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.  It was also time to break out some wine . . .  and tonight, we’re staying home – where the buffaloes roamed . . . yep, tonight’s wine is from Texas.  Now, before you California, Australia, Chile, Argentina wine fans head for the exits, you need to know that there really are some good wines being made in the Lone Star State.  And, while tonight’s wine is a new variety for this wine maker, he is quickly carving a name for itself in  the state and in the country.  We first visited Brennan Vineyards when driving through Comanche, Texas back in 2009 on our way to Stephenville to visit family for nephew Ryan’s graduation.  They had two wines that stood out in our minds . . . a blend called, “Austin Red” and a Syrah.  Both of these wines weren’t your normal Texas wines that had all the taste of a chemistry lab and the color of Oklahoma clay.  Yeah . . . these wines had something, so when Jean brought home Brennan’s newest wine, a 2010 Buffalo Rhome from her sister weekend in Fredericksburg – they are part of a great little stop on 290 called 4.0 Wine, we knew that it was going to be something special.

Vinted in the Rhone-style of wine making, this wine opened beautifully.  It’s nose was fruity with just a hint of spiciness.  The first pour was lighter than we’d expected, but still a beautiful red color – not copper!!  This wine had a soft, elegant feel with a solid finish that seemed to last forever.  We enjoyed this wine after a good old fashioned burger and tater tots meal . . . it was the perfect ending to the day.  For a wine like this to catch our fancy, it has to have some muscle, and the flavor, structure, color and finish . . . all combine to make this a good purchase.  Available for less than $20 a bottle, you’ll find it to be a better value than other Texas wines with “better” names.  We’d suggest that you blow past the labels in the grocery store and find this wine either online or go to Comanche and sample in person – either way, you’ll walk away with a better Texas wine.  If you go to Comanche – make sure you meet Dr. Brennan – a super guy and he does hang out at 4.0 on a regular basis.

Now, for those who read this on a regular basis, you’ll note that we are still HUGE fans of Saddlehorn Winery outside Burton, Texas.  So, don’t think we’re only singling out one winery in the State.  We think that there are other wines that are worthy of review in the blog and we’ll strive to try them–in the meantime, if you think that there’s a Texas wine worthy of notation in our dwindling days of wine reviews . . . let us know.

Otherwise, continue to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


Day 169: Just Hangin’ . . .


Not sure about your neck of the woods, but here in central Texas it was a beautiful “deep blue sky” day and we just knew we had to go for a ride in the Jeep.  Sadly it was just a little too cool to go topless  (as in, take the top off the Jeep – just thought we’d clarify that) but those days are not too far away.  We made it a short ride since Jean’s knee is acting up (injury – NOT old age – just thought we’d clarify that) and sitting for a long ride just wouldn’t do (MRI next week will pronounce judgement on next steps).  But, because it was such a fine day we knew we could pull off a quick trip – and since it was “pickup” day at Saddlehorn Winery – off we went.   The afternoon was great and we made a couple of new friends . . .  hmmmm, wine + beautiful day + on the spot fresh made brick oven pizza = new friends (it’s the new math!).  We enjoyed a taste of Red Barn (we’ve blogged about this before and find it to be a great little deck wine and the price is so reasonable for Texas wines) and hung out with Cindi and Leon.  It was a great couple of hours – then back in the Jeep and home we went.

For us, meeting new people and just hanging out is one of our favorite hobbies – everyone has a “story” and we just love hearing them and discovering what a small world it really is.  As it turns out, Cindi and Brian were at arch rivals Spring and Klein high schools at the same time and actually had a mutual acquaintance.  See – we just can’t get enough of this kind of thing – BUT, you won’t ever uncover these stories unless you put yourself out there and share yours.

So, in honor of “hangin’ out” today, we open a 2008 Hangtime Cellars Pinot Noir.  Hangtime Cellars is located in northern Sonoma County, CA.  The long, narrow Dry Creek Valley lies between the cooler Russian River Valley and the warmer Alexander Valley. The name of the winery comes from a key part of grape growing – the amount of time grapes spend hanging on the vines. The longer the time on the vine, the more concentrated the fruit character, resulting in wines of distinctive, delicious varietal expression.  Here we just thought is was for just hanging out with friends and enjoying a glass of wine – nope, wrong answer . . . thanks for playing.

We’re pretty sure we’ve had this wine before at one of our favorite Kerrville haunts – Rails, A Cafe by the Depot.  And if memory serves us correctly, we kinda liked it.  The color was gorgeous – bright, ruby-red.  The nose was fantastic – a combination of plum, a little spice, and bright cherry . . . really, fresh and lively.  Kind of what you’d expect from a pinot noir.  As it opened up, the aroma was even more pronounced; fruity, spicy and generally awesome to smell.  On the palette, it just wasn’t there – not bad, but not good . . . just wasn’t there  – not sure if because it was an 2008 or what – just kinda eh.  Not a taste that we sat up and said . . . WOW – let’s buy some more or this.  But, good enough that we didn’t pour it down the drain (which by now, you know we are capable of doing).

As we wrap up tonight – enjoy your Saturday night . . . hope you stop and take some time to just hang out with friends (old, as in know for a long time – just thought we’d clarify that – or new) – and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine.  But remember if you do, to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible. 

Saddlehorn Winery - new friends

Making new friends at Saddlehorn Winery

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Day 142: ‘Win One for the Gipper’. . .

saddlehorn barn redIn our part of the world, today was a beautiful Sunday with sunny skies and warm temperatures.  It was the kind of Sunday where after Church  you pack the Jeep and head out on a road trip.  With a rough idea of where we wanted to go, we set out around 10 this morning, and after driving through Martindale, we turned on Hwy. 142 with Smithville as our intended destination . . . Smithville, Texas was where the Sandra Bullock movie, Hope Floats was filmed.  As we made our way towards our destination, we turned on to Farm Road 535 and found ourselves going past the Rockne Museum in Rockne!  Whoa, is that a bust of Knute Rockne?  We turned the Jeep around and pulled into the museum parking lot and lo and behold, it was!  So, we then asked ourselves, was Knute Rockne from Texas?  We sure didn’t think he was, and a little research confirmed that he was actually born in Norway and moved to Chicago when he was five years old.  Okay, so what’s the deal?

As we left the museum, we drove next door to the historical marker in front of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.   And, here’s what we found out, “Rockne has been known by several names. First called Walnut Creek because of its proximity to the stream, it was known as Lehmanville when the Lehman Post Office was established in 1900, and as Hilbigville after William Hilbig opened a store here. In 1931 the children of Sacred Heart School were given the opportunity to permanently name their town. A vote was taken, with the children electing to name the community Rockne in honor of Knute Rockne, the famous Notre Dame University football player and head coach who had died in a plane crash in 1931.”  How about that?  A Sunday drive – AND – we learned something!

After stopping and scouring Smithville for antiques (good thing we had the Jeep – all the stuff we liked wouldn’t fit in the back), we hit the road for LaGrange, and found our way to a winery just northeast of town, called Rosemary’s Vineyard & Winery where we met Emmett.  No worries, we’ll talk more about them at a later date.  Continuing on our trip we drove through Round Top – which may be the ‘Antique Capitol’ of Texas.  When we stopped at a roadside antique shop, we learned that in the Spring, there are 25 miles of antique shops, vendors, booths, tents and such but only for two weeks.  We’ll keep you posted on that!  After driving, what seemed to be forever, we stopped at the Windy Winery and sampled a little of their wine . . . and, more about them later as well.  Back on the road, and heading towards Brenham, home of Bluebell Ice Cream . . . not open, GRRRR!!  Heading back on 290 West and just outside of town is a beautiful red barn, that when you turn on the road, you can’t miss it!  Inside this former horse barn is the Saddlehorn Winery.  The tasting room is beautiful – complete with clear windows to see through to the wine making operation.

Tonight’s wine is from Saddlehorn, it’s their Barn Red.   Those who know us, know that we aren’t huge fans of Texas wines.  As a rule, they’re either too sweet, too expensive or in many cases, both.  So, we’re naturally skeptical when it comes to a blend, and Barn Red is a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel. The wine showcases rich berry fruit with a touch of oak.  It’s a light to medium body wine with a fresh nose of dark berries and a  hint of spice.  As wines go, it was better than some of the wines we’ve talked about in our first 140 days of the blog, but we’re not quite ready to go full boar into Texas wines.  Steve Morgan and his family are building a nice business, and as tough as the wine making business is, we like to see folks like them succeed, so here’s a shout out to Barn Red from Saddlehorn Winery!  If you’re looking for that special Texas wine with a great name and a nice blend, then this is your chance.  And, if you’re looking to make a trip to the “Bluebonnet Country” this Spring, then stop in and visit Steve.

And, if you’re lucky, you’ll drive through Rockne, Texas on the way!  More research on the plane crash that killed Rockne turned up the following, “After visiting his two sons in Kansas City , Mo. , Rockne boarded Transcontinental-Western’s Flight 599 to Los Angeles on March 31, 1931. Shortly after takeoff, one of the plane’s wings separated in flight and the aircraft plummeted into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kan. There were no survivors. Rockne was 43 years old.”  Sad passing of a notable person who left their thumbprint on the world – and can you imagine having a town that you have no connection with named after you by a group of school children – what an honor.  A great reminder that we touch lives each and every day, some we know and many we don’t.

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