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Day 321 – Sometimes It’s Just Good Stuff

seghesio old vine zinClassic baseball movies. . .The Monty Stratton Story; The Babe, The Sandlot, The Natural, Field of Dreams. . .Bull Durham.  Yeah. . .there are probably fifty or sixty more movies that we missed.  Baseball and the cinema have gone together with each other for more than three quarters of a century.  There’s something about a young pitcher or hitter who is finding  his way through the streets of small town America while working his way up to the “show”!  We love baseball. . .we love baseball movies; in fact, not that long ago, there were a bunch of articles about the 25th Anniversary of The Sandlot. . .“You’re killing me, Smalls!” 

It’s one of those movies that we’ll STOP dead in our tracks and watch.  It doesn’t matter what part of the movie is showing. . .the happy part or the sad one; the reality is that  good pitching stops good hitting all the way to the bank!  You can show all of the home run hitters you’d care to show, BUT,  at the end of the day, it’s the pitching that gets you out of the jam.  It’s the pitching that clinches the win and it’s the pitching that keeps you in the game–(or costs you the game, the pennant and/or the season).  Rest assured that if the pitcher is ‘bringing it’, then you’re probably on a one way ticket to “The Show”!

Tonight–being Thursday night–we felt obligated to bring out the Good Stuff. . .sitting there watching Bull Durham, it was calling our names!  Oh how the baseball gods were smiling even as the night wore on an the All Star Break didn’t end until tomorrow!  The good stuff came to us earlier this year during an amazing cooking school demonstration at Central Market North in Austin.  Pete Seghesio was in town with family recipes and family wines, and none of them were singles hitters–they could ALL ‘bring it’!  One of the wines–served with dessert–was a 2008 half bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel from Seghesio’s original zinfandel vines.  This is a 91 point wine and every single drop of it is the ‘good stuff’; we can’t believe how good a wine can taste, but it all comes from excellent fruit!  Review after review of this wine raves about its character, its’ flavor, its’ body–one of the reviewers had this to say, “Lots of juicy fruit. Black fruit and big mouth feel. Would buy more in a heart beat. Luscious and decadent.”  Yeah, we couldn’t agree more!

Wine like this doesn’t come along everyday.  It’s meant to be enjoyed with good food, good company, good times.  You’d expect that when you break out the good stuff, and Seghesio—by definition—is the good stuff!  With as many of their family of wines that we’ve enjoyed, we’re hard-pressed to be critical of their selection.  Maybe their pricing–which tends to be a little on the high side–but at the end of the day, the quality and taste offset the cost.  Sitting here watching Bull Durham, chewing on some homemade chicken fajitas with fresh pico de gallo and homemade guacamole, well it just seemed right to bring out the good stuff!  And, whether you’re nickname is “Meat” or “Nuke” or some other crazy moniker, remember that the good stuff gets its name for a reason!!

As we embark on the last day of the work week, please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 280: Friday Night Fence Sitting . . .

Picket FenceAhhh, Friday – how we love thee.  Trust us when we say that we both love our jobs and truly enjoy what we do . . . however, like most people – we don’t sit on the fence when it comes to enjoying our weekend time.  Because of the nature of our employment, there are evening and sometimes even weekend commitments that we don’t mind – but readily admit we do enjoy those “free to do whatever we want” segments of time.  Daughter #1 is out-of-town with the granddog and Daughter #2 is settling back in Boston – – – which means . . . we are “free” this weekend (well – – – as free as we can be with the “other” three girls of the four-legged variety still very much at home) – regardless the smell of mischief is in the air . . .

But, we digress – here we are wrapping a bow around another productive week.  As noted in several blogs – regardless of the date on the calendar, Summer is here with a vengeance.  In fact, no fence-sitting on this one either – it’s just plan hot in the afternoon and no doubt higher temps on the horizon.  Since it was another “warm one”, we opted to open something on the lighter side of the scale.

Tonight’s wine is a 2011 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley called Picket Fence.  We’ve actually had this one laying in the blog rack for quite some time but never seemed inclined to open it until tonight.  Couldn’t find too much information about this wine other than its making reunited two old friends in the wine business – vineyard manager Pete Opatz and winemaker Don Van Staaveren who are apparently legends in the Sonoma Region.  Don is best known for his famed Cinq Cepages wines for Chateau St. Jean, for which his 1996 vintage was named by Wine Spectator as the “No. 1 Wine in the World” in 1999. More recently, Wine Spectator rated his 2006 Chardonnay for Three Sticks as a 95 and his 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages as a 93 – pretty impressive in our book.

The wine was made in small lots and runs around $13 a bottle.  Truth be told, we are trying to remember where we bought this bottle (hazard of this blog) – but are 99.9% sure it was at World Market.  We were very impressed with this bottle – on the nose it wasn’t overpowering, but very inviting – the color was ample enough for a Pinot, but not the deep ruby-red of a Zin or Cab – the palate was very user-friendly for us, we really enjoyed the bing cherry and spice combination . . . you know what we mean – a nice balance of tart fruit with a dash of spice to even things out.  The finish was perfect – nice and smooth, lingering just long enough to encourage you to take another sip.  We paired it up with some grilled sausage from our like all time favorite place to buy sausage – Krolchyck Meat Market in Hempstead (you must check this place out!! It’s tucked inside the Exxon Station at 47506 Highway 290 Business).  Don’t let the fact that they sell gas and bait deter you from stopping . . . . it IS the best and well worth the trouble to go a wee bit out of your way !

We digress, again – bottom line is that we would definitely purchase this one again – could make the Top Ten Bondy Deck Wine list.  It was light, fruity and smooth – everything you want a Pinot to be.

As we turn the corner and head into Saturday ready for whatever comes our way – enjoy your Friday night and 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 201: It’s Better In Person . . .

Seghesio ZinSo, back in 2008, we had the opportunity to visit Napa Valley and Sonoma.  Yeah, that’s a LOT of territory to cover in a few days, but we forged ahead regardless of the mileage.  Anyway, we stayed at a Best Western in Healdsburg, California for our first leg of the trip and learned that there were several wineries within walking distance of the hotel!  Imagine that . . . walk to some of the best wines in the country – enjoy them without having to drive ‘home’.

Tonight we spent the evening at Central Market in North Austin.  We’ve been there before for a cooking school when Chef Brian from Hahn Winery was in town.  Cooking school is kind of a misnomer in this case because the cooking has already been done, and the school is on paper!  In other words, you’ve got the recipes but here’s what the recipes taste like.  For most folks, going to the cooking school is about the food  –  for us, it’s about the wine!  So, for example, when Chef Brian was in town from Hahn, we knew the food would be good, BUT we knew the WINE would be fantastic.  And, from start to finish, it was all that and more!  Going to Central Market on a Wednesday night . . . hmmm, not a lot of fun when you’re traveling from San Marcos north to Austin; however, being the foodies and wine-lovers that we are it was ‘onward through the fog’ or simply put, we’re dealing with traffic!

Pete Seghesio is the grandson of the founder of Seghesio Vineyards . . . great stories tonight about how the business got started way back in 1895.  Who would have thought that in the early part of the 20th Century, 90% of Napa and Sonoma was planted with Zinfandel grapes!  Who would have known that in the early years of the Seghesio history, Italian Swiss Colony was the primary producer of wines from the grapes grown on their land.  Who would have known that Seghesio is to Zinfandel what Opus is to Cabernet Sauvignon?  Yeah – we’re talking about family ties, lineage and generations of family . . . something that the Seghesio’s are still involved in – family wine making!  The stories that Pete shared about his Mom and his grandfather; his cousin, the wine maker, another up-and-coming family member . . . even his own sons ages 10 and 13, it’s the stuff that American business legends are made of!

Pete’s family recipes were the basis of the food tonight and of course, Seghesio Family wines were the heart of the dinner.  However, Chef Christina from Central Market and Chef Vance were the stars of this evening’s cooking school.  We first met Christina during Chef Brian’s visit back in January – this lady can flat out cook!  AND, she knows how to bring the recipe down for those of us who need step by step instructions to make it happen!  A former Four Seasons Chef, Christina totally gets the customer experience at Central Market and we are really appreciative of her talents and customer service skills!!  Jean had a meeting that ran late tonight so she showed up towards the end of the dinner, and thanks to Cheryl from Steel Branding who hooked Jean up with the full dinner and all the wines thanks to Chef Vance.  These folks bent over backwards tonight – on a night when they were clearly exhausted having back to back nightly events–but it didn’t stop them from putting their best foot forward.  We even learned about becoming volunteers with the Cooking School – whoo hoo!!!

This is what wine blogging is all about!  Yes, the wine is important, but the EXPERIENCE is what makes the wine even more enjoyable.  Eric, who represents Seghesio wines here in Central Texas area was an awesome resource . . . and actually selected the menu for tonight’s dinner – yeah, this is what we mean by a total customer service experience.  We already knew that the wines were going to be outstanding since we’d been to Seghesio before . . . OH, yeah, the hotel that we stayed at in Healdsburg was a Best Western and the winery that we walked to and from was . . . you guessed it, Seghesio!!

Tonight, one of the wines we samples was their 2011 Zinfandel.  Don’t let the young age fool you . . . WOW, this is a Zin for Zin-lovers!  At 25 brix, this wine has the chops to become one of the best!  Harvested when the grapes were at their peak, the 2011 Zin is magnificent . . . “it’s spicy, lush black fruit flavors of Sonoma County. Big raspberry flavors are present, along with structure of the cooler Dry Creek Valley area.”  At just under $25 a bottle, this wine rates consistently at 90+ points . . . previous vintages have gone as high as 94 points.  The fact of the matter is, when it comes to Zins in Sonoma County, Seghesio is THE name!  Our 2011 was superb with the food served tonight. . . and, it’s also a great ‘deck’ wine . . . perfect for enjoying by the fire or after a hard day’s work.

Central Market has a flair for bringing great wines together with great food.  But, it’s the people at Central Market and their suppliers that make the whole package work!  Having been to Seghesio back in 2008, we knew and loved their wines.  Visiting with Pete Seghesio and hearing about his family tonight–brought us full circle.  We hope you’ll give this wine a try . . . you won’t be disappointed.

Remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible! 


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Day 169: Just Hangin’ . . .

HangTime

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 104 – Only the strong survive!

rodney strong cabSo, here we are . . . 12-13-12 . . . no magic.  No perfect alignment of the stars, the planets, Jupiter or Mars.  Nope.  Just another day . . . like yesterday.  Maybe because we’ve been around for a while or maybe because we’ve become a little cynical, the hype (media driven, of course) about yesterday (being 12-12-12) and about the upcoming Mayan calendar timeline (12-21-12) . . . it just doesn’t register.  Wasn’t it last year that a “foreseer” forecast the end of the world not once, but TWICE in the same year?  How about that for padding the plate?  What’s sad is that people actually believed him and sold all of their possessions to anticipate the ‘end of the world’.   Maybe we’ve become naive as a country – or maybe we’ve been spoon fed way too much television, but the last time we checked, there were a whole lot more reasons to live, grow and prosper than to sell, prepare and die.

It’s almost as if we grasp everything that is dished to us as ‘gospel truth’ . . . when a teacher, who has more of an impact on a child’s life earns around $40,000 a year (some more than others), but a television ‘icon’ who gets pregnant and then earns roughly $2-3 million?  As they say on Sportscenter, “C’mon Man!”  You want to talk about misplaced priorities?  Sports ‘heroes’ earn $50-$100 million a year . . . teachers, oh, sorry, already noted at $40,000.

Only the strong survive . . .

Tonight, we opened a Central Market special, a 2010 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon.  Regularly priced at $19.99, it was on sale for $14.99 during our most recent trip.  So, to enjoy a good named wine at a good price seemed like the right thing to do on the day AFTER 12-12-12!  Well, maybe it was because the planets hadn’t lined up for us or that the Mayan calendar had a glitch in it, but we weren’t feeling it with tonight’s selection.  Oh, the nose was enticing.  The oak and smokiness was there as was the undertones of tobacco and cedar.  For us, it seemed like we were walking into a ‘rainforest’ of wine perfection.  That all changed on the taste . . . kind of like drinking something that causes the ‘pucker up’ in your neck . . . you know, just a wee bit too tough to swallow?  Yeah, this wine just didn’t hit it for us.  Now, we can tell you that as it opened up, the wine smoothed out significantly, but it was too late – the damage was done.  If you’re going to buy a bottle of wine – regardless of the price point–and your goal is to open the bottle to enjoy it, then it ought to be good from the start.  Unfortunately for us, this Rodney Strong was anything but, and it probably is yet another example of a large corporate winery, producing less than superb wine simply because a lot of people will buy it just for the name.  We did.  It didn’t. We won’t.

Needless to say, at 103 days into this journey, we expected more from this 2010 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon.  We’ve had their Gnarly Vine Zinfandel (which is not to be confused with Gnarly Head Zinfandel – don’t drink it – it will make your head gnarly) and been mesmerized by the fruit and spice, but not with tonight’s wine.  Which is a good reason why we are trying 365 different wines in 365 days.  The cold hard reality is that some will rise to the top and some will sink to the bottom.  No disrespect–just a couple of folk’s opinion that is just as easily disputed by someone who swears by the wine!  Once again, that’s what makes wine tasting so amazing – you’re going to like something or dislike something because of how it TASTES!  It’s why you buy the wine!

So, even though today is just ANOTHER day . . . no fancy date to get people’s attention.  And it’s Thursday, the 13th and not Friday the 13th . . . so nothing exciting there.  Good news is that the world is still here and tomorrow is Friday! We guess, it’s just another day where only the strong survive and we hope that you did just that!  And regardless of your wine of choice, please remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible! 


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Day 86 – Call In The Guards. . .

 We couldn’t help but notice, and since no one else even bothered to comment, we blew the whistle on ourselves.  Yep.  Yesterday, we were out of sequence.  It happens to the best of folks; when you’ve made the commitment to sample and write about 365 different wines in the same number of days, it was going to happen.  We didn’t write a disclaimer before we started, so now is probably as good a time as any to note that, occasionally. . .and we mean occasionally. . . there may be discrepancies in the numbers of days reported compared to the actual number of days reviewed.  Through no fault of our own, the “numbering system” gets flawed and we may, inadvertently, skip or duplicate a number–which is EXACTLY what happened last night!  So, just to be clear–tonight is Day 86 and tomorrow will be Day 88–it’s all part of the NEW MATH!  Any questions?

So, the sales totals for the first full weekend of shopping for Christmas is starting to come in and the numbers are pretty impressive.  We really wonder how many people actually hit the streets to shop on Black Friday or Saturday or Sunday, or the real number of people who wait until – – – CYBER MONDAY – – – to do their shopping.  Since all we’ve heard about today is the amazing number of deals available for cyber-shoppers, we thought that maybe online sales could eclipse in-person sales this year.  We saw an estimate this morning that seemed to conclude that today’s sales could exceed $1.5 billion!  On the one hand, that is an impressive amount of business–tough to imagine anything but success with those kinds of sales.  However, the pie is only so big which means that sales from traditional ‘brick and mortar’ retailers is probably going to suffer.  It only stands to reason that if you buy something from Retailer A online instead of buying it from Retailer A’s store in your town, that Retailer A does just fine but the store and the sales tax to the local community – – well, NOT SO MUCH.

We wanted to have some fun on a Cyber Monday, so we chose a blend that we bought at Trader Joe’s . . . tonight’s wine is a 2009 Guard Shack from Sonoma County, California. . .it’s a blend from DC FLYNT MW SELECTIONS who specialize in varietal blends from Napa and Sonoma Counties.  This particular wine delivers a blend of spice, sweet, rich, black and red notes that range from cassis to wild red berries all deftly supported by the smell of warm earth and tannins.  What we immediately noticed was the amazing nose of fruit, smoke and cedar that was parlayed into a taste of all of the above and then some.  We were pleasantly surprised by, not only the amazing taste on the palate, but the long beautiful finish. Certainly not what you’d expect from a relatively ‘no-name’ wine available at Trader Joe’s.  We like big, inky red wines and this one fills the bill.  Just to be sure, we grilled some beef with sauteed mushrooms and red onions along with garlic mashed potatoes.  Needless to say, the food and the wine paired exceptionally well together.

The hardest part for most wine lovers is to break outside of their ‘box’ – a comfort zone of two or three labels of wine that are just too ‘easy’ to give up (please note, this is not to be confused with BOXED WINE).  We encourage you to “call in the guards . . .” and try this 2009 Guard Shack.  It’s a nice little change of pace from your ‘normal’ varietals and you may just like it.  If wine places like, Max’s Wine Dive, has it on their menu, one of two things comes to mind – A).  They must like what Guard Shack has to offer in value and taste. . .or. . B).  They are looking for a few good suckers to buy something that will make them extra money.  The cynics will opt for ‘B’, but the answer is clearly ‘A’ which is your cue to give this wine a taste.

And, whether you’re a Cyber Monday freak, geek or sheik . . . the key is to ALWAYS remember that life is too short to enjoy BAD wine.  Until tomorrow, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.