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Day 285 – Cover This One!

Cover Drive CabIn the sport of cricket, batting is the act or skill of hitting the cricket ball with a cricket bat to score runs or prevent the loss of one’s wicket. A player who is currently batting is denoted as a batsman, while the act of hitting the ball is called a shot or stroke. The terms batsman or specialist batsman are also used generically to describe players who specialise in batting (as opposed to e.g. bowlers who specialize in bowling).  During an innings two members of the batting side are on the pitch at any time: the one facing the current delivery from the bowler is denoted the striker, while the other is the non-striker. When a batsman is out, he is replaced by a teammate. This continues until the end of the innings or 10 of the team members are out, whereupon the other team gets a turn to bat.

Forward and Back, Leave, Vertical Bat Strokes, Defensive Shot, Glance and Drive are a few batsman terms that describe different batting techniques.  A drive is a straight-batted shot, played by swinging the bat in a vertical arc through the line of the ball, hitting the ball in front of the batsman along the ground. It is one of the most common shots in a batsman’s armory and often the first shot taught to junior cricketers. Depending on the direction the ball travels, a drive can be a cover drive (struck towards the cover fielding position, an off drive (towards mid-off), straight drive (straight past the bowler), on drive (between stumps and mid-on) or square drive (towards point). A drive can also be played towards midwicket, although the phrase “midwicket drive” is not common usage. Drives can be played both off the front and the back foot, but back-foot drives are harder to force through the line of the ball. Although most drives are deliberately struck along the ground to reduce the risk of being dismissed caught, a batsman may decide to play a lofted drive in order to hit the ball over the infielders and potentially even over the boundary for six.

You know. . .we’ve read this over and over and still don’t get it.  Cricket may the be forerunner to our American baseball, but we ‘Yanks’ don’t get it.  The terminology, the equipment, the scoring. . .it’s, well, tough to cover!  And, because of that exact reason, we found and tried a 2008 The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon from Jim Barry out of Coonawarra, Australia.  Surprisingly, this wine is well-known among wine lovers with ratings consistently in the upper 80’s.  Parker’s rates this wine a solid 90 points which explains a lot. . .the fruit for The Cover Drive comes from 50% Clare Valley and 50% Coonawarra. Deep garnet-purple colored, it gives pronounced aromas of eucalyptus, blackberry and blueberries with some cinnamon and cloves plus a hint of cedar. Medium to high level of finely grained tannins support the ample body in the mid-palate of this full bodied style.  We were impressed with the nose…a very full aroma of scents, but were disappointed with the initial taste.  A little too much green pepper for our tastes; however, the finish was classic Australian Cab. . .big, bold and full of fruit!  Normally priced around $20 a bottle, this one was available at Central Market for $15.  If you can grab a bottle of the 2008, you can enjoy it now through 2018.  And, the good news is that the 2009 and 2010 are both rated at 90 points or above!  Not bad for a value-priced wine from down under!!

We’re typical Americans. . .give us baseball any day!  You know, the St. Louis Cardinals kind of baseball!  Yes, yes, we know–the “Muts” beat us tonight, but over a 162 game season, we like our chances.  Whether they hit a straight drive in the gap or loft a line drive to the power alleys, we’re all about baseball.  However, we respectfully tip our caps to the thousands of cricket players here and across the pond. . .and whether you’re setting up a slog or a slog sweep—or—a scoop or reverse sweep, you’ll be batting away and trying to score runs!

As we wrap up the middle of the week, and with only 80 days left before we complete 365 days of different wines tasted and talked about, we hope that you’ll enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 188 – A Crack of the Bat and Pop of the Glove

ozv zinfandelWhen February gives way to early March, few things capture the attention of a winter-weary world than baseball.  It’s that magical time of the  year when everyone has a clean slate; when everyone is undefeated, the pitching looks great and the hitting looks even greater.  It’s the time of the year when kids who were in high school last spring are now playing for roster positions in “The Show”.  For the fans, it’s an amazing time to watch spring training, watch spring training games and seek autographs from players who may or may not become the next Hall of Famer.

About a dozen years ago, before we left St. Louis, we remember the spring training that changed the Cardinals . . . there was a young hitter in the Cardinals organization who played third base, the outfield and first base.  He was living in the Kansas City area, and even though he didn’t have a tremendous amount of minor league time under his belt, what experience he did have was used very effectively.  It wasn’t his glove that made the coaches, manager and other players take notice.  It was his BAT.  At a tender age of 21, he wasn’t even supposed to be at the major league club’s spring training.  But, one of the true beauties of American professional sports is the rite of spring training.  It truly is a time when veterans and rookies can work in a totally different environment than during the regular season, and with that different environment, legends have been born.

And so it was . . . back in the early part of the 21st century when a young Cardinals hitter stepped up to the plate in spring training and within a short period of time cemented himself as a true Major League ballplayer.  During his inaugural spring training, he tore up Grapefruit League pitching–singles, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, high batting average.  Each article that ran in the paper heralded this player as someone who could make a difference.  That year. . .a legend was born in the Cardinals spring training complex in Florida.  Albert Pujols was barely a blip on baseball’s radar screen before that amazing spring training, but by the time it was over, “King Albert” had already started the process of rewriting the Cardinals record books.  Who would have known that in 11 seasons, he would go on to hit well over .300; slam more than 400 home runs and drive in thousands of runs–things like this ONLY happen in the movies, right?  He was a big man with a bold swing and he lifted an entire roster onto his huge shoulders and for a dozen years, they rode the wave!

In deference to spring training and the refreshing start that it represents, we went back to an old favorite–only because we’ve enjoyed this wine before–and it was part of the big sale recently at Twin Liquors!  Tonight we opened a 2009 Oak Ridge OZV (Old Zin Vines) Zinfandel.  We’ve enjoyed this wine for many years–enjoying vintages in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and really enjoying the 2009 vintage.  It’s a Zin-lover’s delight—lots of fruit on the nose and on the palate; gorgeous deep, dark purple color and a superb taste on the finish.  For a $10 bottle of wine, you’re not going to stand up to the finest wine makers in Europe or even California, but with OZV, you’re getting a very drinkable, fruit-forward wine that’s both affordable and relatively easy to find.  We paired ours with a homemade pizza complete with ham, green olives, yellow peppers, red roma tomatoes, fresh basil, prosciutto ham and a huge helping of grated cheese.  It’s a great combination when enjoyed with a glass of wine!

Who knows what this year’s spring training class of rookies will yield down the road.  It could be as simple as–no talent, no hit, no pitch and we’re done, or it could be a future fire-baller from the bullpen; a pinch-hitter deluxe or a position player with a great glove and a greater bat!  And, because it’s spring training, we’re counting on the fact that during this magical time of the year–‘hope springs eternal’ as every major league ball club hopes to have all of the players it needs to win a Championship!

Before we get too far along in the spring training and World Baseball Classic season, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 96: Pick Me Out a Winner, Bobby . . .

Peachy Canyon - Petite SirahAfter hearing a comment repeated by a number of our readers, we decided to take action.  Yep, a number of you have noted that we’ve hit a bit of a “bad spell” when it comes to our evening wine choice. So, we drew inspiration from one of our all time favorite movies “The Natural” and as Brian headed to “the shelf” to find a tasting for tonight he was urged on by Jean quoting Roy Hobbs telling bat boy Bobby Savoy to ” pick me out a winner, Bobby.”  As you’ve probably figured out by now there are a few “sacred cows” in the household – let’s see . . . dogs, the St. Louis Rams, the St. Louis Cardinals, Chopped, movies and of course – BASEBALL.  So, when you combine movies, baseball and to Jean’s delight, Robert Redford – you get the trifecta – yep, it just doesn’t get much better than that.  For the record, the addition of Glenn Close in the movie is an added bonus.  The movie is a classic – if you haven’t seen it, you should – if you have seen it, watch it again.  There are such wonderful movies lines – and not to mention, Robert Redford.

Truth be told, we think there is a perfect movie line for almost any situation – think about it.  What can you say when something you do goes a bit too far over the top – “think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch“.  What do you say when a project is larger than you expected – “think you’re gonna need a bigger boat.” What do you say when somebody just doesn’t get what you are explaining to them – “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”  Enough already – you get the picture – and a prize of a great bottle of wine to the first person who can name all three movies.  So next time you encounter a situation of any kind – stop and try to come up with a movie line to sum up the situation.

As usual, we digress – so on to tonight’s “winner”.  Knowing we needed something good – we went back to an old standby – Paso Robles – one of our favorite wineries from both our first trip to Paso AND our second trip was from Peachy Canyon.  Tonight’s wine is a 2010 Petite Sirah and we have to tell you . . . this wine is NOT for the faint of heart.  It’s as big and bold as they come, and as much as we enjoyed it, this one could lay down for another two or three years and be even better.  There is lots of oak on the nose, which if you love those big, oaky wines, you’ll absolutely love this one.  If you don’t, well you may want to pass the bottle on to a friend.  You’ll get some nice cherry fruit on the front of your palate . . . and you’ll definitely finish with it as well.  We noticed that the longer the bottle was opened, the sweeter the cherry taste.  If you like spice,  you’ll love this Petite Sirah.  If you like fruit, you’ll like this Petite Sirah.  If you like a dark, inky purple color that is thick with juice, you’ll love this Petite Sirah.

The bad news is that this wine (the 2010 vintage) is priced above our threshold for preferred wines . . . at about $30 a bottle.  The good news is that you can find Peachy Canyon Petite Sirah at Gabriel’s Outlet in San Marcos for less than $25 a bottle and it’s an older vintage!  We’re big fans of Peachy Canyon; their Zinfandels rock and this year we’re also going to be tasting their 2011 Viognier.  A winner . . . picked out – not by Bobby – but by Brian (who does bear a resemblance to Robert Redford in Jean’s eyes)!  Until tomorrow, “turn out the lights, the party’s over…”

No matter who picks out the winner or what your favorite wine may be, please remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 83 – Giving Thanks . . .

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What a day!  We don’t know about you, but this is one of our favorite holidays . . . what a better opportunity to enjoy family, friends, food and football along with a beautiful warm day!  After a short drive to Stephenville, we enjoyed the afternoon at Cathy and Steve’s place where a big bird had been on the smoker since 8 a.m. and a spiral sliced ham waited for an easy carving.  Add in the mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, yams and all the trimmings, and we truly enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends – some had traveled from the West Coast and some from the East coast – it was kind of like a mini reunion.  We ate, drank and were merry – a highly competitive game of Trivial Pursuit rounded out the afternoon.

Tonight’s wine is from one of our favorite wineries following our recent trip to Paso Robles.  Castoro Cellars, home of “Dam Fine Wines”, delivered a little gem earlier this month – a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is simply delicious.  We love the deep, smoky smell that the wine evokes upon opening.  In fact, this is one of the few wines, that we hate to actually sip the wine – instead preferring to smell it.  The aroma of fruit is also very pronounced . . . black cherry is the most prevalent, but we also picked up hints of raspberries and black berries.  In addition, there is a certain leathery taste as well.  For a $15 bottle of wine, it’s a LOT of wine.

We know that you’re supposed to enjoy Thanksgiving turkey with a Pinot Noir . . . and we did enjoy some of that as well, but decided after eating that we needed something with a little more stamina.  Thus, the Cabernet.  It really drank well – better than expected and it went fast!  Of course, with our crew, the wine disappears quickly and so does the food!  We have been really pleased with ALL of the wines that we’ve received from Castoro Cellars, and have no problem recommending them if you can get your hands on a bottle or two.

As Thanksgiving winds down, we hope your day has been what you wanted it to be.  We have a lot to be thankful for this year – our girls, each other, our family and friends and those around us.  There is sometimes so much to be thankful for that we forget to say, ‘thank you’. Safe travels to those heading home tonight and tomorrow – we will miss you at the shrimp boil!

So as we wrap up tonight . . . try some really good Castoro wines and when you do, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 52 – Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Lose – the Elements Don’t Always Help . . .

Well, it happened .  .  . and NOT in a good way.

You knew we’d have to write about this regardless of the outcome, so let’s get it over with!  The Cards blew a three games to one lead in the NLCS to the hard-charging, good pitching San Francisco Giants.  Their comeback is the stuff that legends are made of – down to a ‘must win’ game or go home.  As fans of the game for the past 40 plus years, we’ve learned (though reluctantly) that good pitching typically stops good hitting.  And in the case of this series, it’s a fact.  When your pitcher can move the ball around the strike zone, change speeds and keep hitters off balance, the chances of the pitcher’s team winning goes way up.  What we’ve seen over the final three games of the NLCS has been nothing short of amazing.  Dominating pitching performances from three different pitchers–admittedly combined by three listless line-ups of hitters who lost their patience at the plate and seemed to be swinging at anything and everything thrown at them with dismal results.

Now, this blog isn’t going to be about baseball, but as the game was coming to an end, it was cool to see the rain begin to change the dimension on the game.  Weather has a way of doing that in sporting events .  .  . baseball, football, soccer – all of them are weather-dependent sports, so when the elements change, so do the results.  How many times have you watched an NFL game in late November or December and it’s snowing like crazy?  You think the passing game is going to be the same in a blizzard as it would be in sunny weather?  Not a chance.  You think the footing for a running back is going to be the same on artificial turf in snowy or rainy weather as it is in sunny weather? Nope.  The elements will always play havoc with you when you least expect them.  Kind of like driving home at rush hour when it starts to rain .  .  .  you think traffic is going to pick up speed when it starts raining and is starting to get dark?  We become very dependent on the weather and knowing whether or not the elements are going to be influencing our day – or our team.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 2006 Elements from Artesa Vineyards in Napa.  This is a blend from Napa and Sonoma that has been one of our favorites for a long time.  In fact, we first tried it after visiting with some friends in Kerrville and realized how delicious the wine was, and after finding it at Gabriel’s for less than $15 a bottle, we’ve enjoyed tasting this wine with friends and on the deck.  Amazingly, the wine has an awesome nose – lots of vanilla and black cherry.  As you taste it, you’ll find the fruit coming through loud and clear but the vanilla finish is a big winner.  It’s not a full-bodied wine – probably more medium bodied but full of flavor and a great finish that keeps going and going and going – making the ‘bunny’ seem slow in comparison.  Another thing about this wine is its’ value price .  .  . you can spend A LOT of money and not get a wine with this kind of taste or you can spend less than $15 and get something that you’d be glad to share with friends or family.  It’s your call, but we won’t steer you wrong – nor were we steered wrong by Ed and Lori who introduced us to this wine last January when we spent the night at their home – thanks again for a wonderful time!

And so, for those of us who love to follow Cardinal baseball another year has come to a close – no repeating as World Series Champions, but in a transition year, they proved their mettle and were not influenced by the elements (or the loss of a certain ego that now plays ball for a team in CA).  We sometimes sit back and marvel at the privileged world of professional sports until those days when it’s raining cats and dogs or snowing, windy and cold – then we realize that sometimes it’s better being a fan who watches from the “cheap seats” rather than having to deal with the elements.  Unlike professional sports, our wine tonight is a great way to enjoy the Elements.  We hope you’ll give this wine a try the next time you’re looking for something with structure but not so big that it overwhelms.  The 2006 Elements from Artesa is a great way to beat the weather at its’ own game!

Please remember to enjoy your wines responsibly and recycle whenever possible – and for what’s it’s worth . . . GO TIGERS!


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Day 49 – Friday Night Whites . . .

In this part of the world, Friday night means high school football – and LOTS of it.  From the time  you’re in school, it becomes a part of your life.  Oh, there are those who want nothing to do with it, instead saying that they don’t like football or don’t have a reason to follow football, but in reality, football is king.  Brian still remembers as a high school freshman (back in the ‘dark ages’) the early dismissals for pep rallies.  Being new to Texas, he thought it was a chance to get home early, only to find out that the bus didn’t leave until the pep rally was over!  By the time Junior and Senior years came around, it was get to the pep rally early to get the best seats!  Along the way to the gym, he still remembers seeing the freshman heading for the buses!  And, while Fridays mean football around here, so do Saturdays and Sundays.

There are big games on tap for college football including Texas A & M against Louisiana State (Bring home a winner Scott and Kathryn); South Carolina at Florida; Arizona at UCLA; Texas State at San Jose State and a myriad of others.  And of course, Sundays bring the pros to the forefront where the Rams (the only game on in this house) host the Green Bay Packers .  .  .  and many others.  It’s a special time of the year when the sun goes down a little earlier and the time is ideal for enjoying another great pastime – baseball.  Now, you know we’ve blogged about the St. Louis Cardinals before, but when we get to October, baseball becomes a totally different game.  Who would have thought that the Detroit Tigers would sweep the weak-hitting New York Yankees in four games for the American League Championship?  At the same time, no one expected the Cardinals to even make the postseason let alone a three games to one lead in the National League Championship Series.  It’s part of what makes baseball such an amazing game–you really don’t know what’s going to happen.

So tonight we’re enjoying a 2010 Toad Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay (a white in your honor Kathryn) from Mendocino County, California.  This inexpensive wine is a perfect way to wrap up the week and sit back to watch some championship baseball.  It’s nose is fruity with a tropical flare – lending some apricots and papaya notes.  On the taste, there is a juicy, lemon and grapefruit combination and the finish is crisp and clean.  Amazingly, we’ve enjoyed this white wine on a number of occasions and really enjoy the taste .  .  . as we aren’t your traditional Chardonnay lovers.  We’d prefer to skip the buttery madness of most Chards and go right to the fruit – typically fermented in stainless steel instead of oak barrels.  This wine will run for less than $12 a bottle and is on sale for $9-$11 depending on your favorite wine shop.

As you settle in for your Friday night white, you’ll want to try this unoaked (meaning it was aged in stainless barrels, not oak)  Chardonnay.  As we settle into our Friday night white, we’ll enjoy it watching the Cardinals battle the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of the NLCS and unabashedly, we are hoping to see the Cardinals head back to the World Series for the second year in a row .  .  . (update–) but unfortunately we’ll be waiting until Game 6 on Sunday night from San Francisco.

Have a great evening and day tomorrow, and remember to enjoy your Friday night white (and reds) responsibly and please recycle whenever possible.


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Day 48 — The Morning After . . .

This isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone – going back to work after a vacation is NOT an easy thing to do.  Going back to work on a Thursday after a vacation makes it more palatable but it’s still NOT any easy thing to do.  When the alarm went off this morning, we were pretty sure that something was wrong with the alarm clock.  You see, after spending a week on the West Coast, our bodies had gotten used to the time difference.  So, when we hit the bed last night at 11, our bodies thought it was nine and when the alarm went off at six, our bodies thought it was four -if you’ve done any traveling between where you’re at and the coast, you know it takes a while for your body to catch up.  However, we got up – not because of the alarm but because of our four-legged family that doesn’t know about, doesn’t care about and has one thing on their minds at that hour of the morning.

Jean got the first round of going out to ‘take care of business’ but she was off and getting ready for work, so the second round of  ‘taking care of business’ fell on Brian’s shoulders.  In our dog’s minds, we could be gone for a month, two months, six months, and the minute we get back home, they fall immediately back into their routine.  They are amazingly faithful, if not true to their owners, kinds of dogs.  They typical morning, and today was no different, starts with a growl from the youngest, Jasmine.  This is usually followed by ‘bed pacing’ from the middle dog, Andie.  For those of you not familiar with ‘bed pacing’, let us explain – bed pacing occurs when one or both humans IN the bed show any signs of being awake during the pre-dawn morning hours.  This can include, but is not limited to, snorting, snoring, scratching an itch, moving your hand, slightly opening your eyes, rolling over in bed or simply breathing.  When ANY of these occur at that particular moment, an amazing genetic trait comes to the surface of the middle dog, Andie.  She begins the pace from one side of the bed to the other.  Sometimes, the pacing is accompanied by yawning and stretching with strange noises, and sometimes the pacing is accompanied by a long, cold, wet snoot either in one of our faces or under a hand that has conveniently dropped out of the covers.  Dogs are opportunists that always look for the easy attention opportunity.

This all leads us to tonight’s wine from South Africa, a 2007 Faithful Hound from the vineyards of Mulderbosch.  This is an interesting blend comprised mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, but with added amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  From it’s opening, we weren’t sure if it was wine we had opened or a bag of salad greens because the green pepper on the nose was very prominent as was the toasted almonds and a certain earthiness.  The first sip was, well, it was interesting.  Not good and not bad – just interesting.  It had almost no finish when the bottle was first opened, but at the same time it had a certain smoothness that we both really enjoyed.   A later tasting confirmed that the green pepper was there to stay but the finish opened up to a nice smoky, silky after taste.  Not a bad way to salute our first day back to work after a vacation.  A dinner of grilled salmon, roasted potatoes and sauteed asparagus, helped give the wine a much-needed boost in taste.  Clearly, this wine is going to be better with food than just sitting around having a glass.

Through all of the sniffing, tasting and dining this evening, the ‘girls’ were right there at our feet or should we say under our feet wanting to get their fair share of attention.  They really are ‘Faithful Hounds’ when you get right down to it and so as this first day AFTER vacation comes to a close, we invite you to try Faithful Hound wine from South Africa; at less than $12 for a bottle, it’s not going to break the bank but it won’t exactly make you king of your castle either.  One thing to look forward to is that tomorrow is Friday – a two-day work week is one good reason to go back to work on Thursday.

Thanks for reading and please, always remember to enjoy your wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible. (Go Cards!)