casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


Day 249 — In Preparation

Lapostolle Cuvee AlexandreAs parents, we’ve grown accustomed to doing things for our kids.  We’ve gotten used to the comings and goings of teenagers and young adults who absolutely HAVE to see their friends!  It’s actually pretty easy when you stop and think about it; we did the EXACT same things to our parents when we were their age.  Whether it was borrowing the car to go and meet someone at a restaurant, bar or bowling alley or having five or six other kids over for ‘dinner’, the reality is that times haven’t changed.  When kids come ‘home’ from school, they’re ready to continue the lives they’ve carved for themselves in school. Uhhhh–yeah, right!

The catch is that parents have different rules than their kids realize.  Rules that include specific times home at night; regular check-ins while out with the family car and no texting or drinking and driving.  While some of those are ‘no-brainers’, it’s a hard lesson for college kids who’ve enjoyed limitless opportunities while at school–and now to deal with the reality of being back in their parents home–NO WAY!  And so, the preparation begins for the arrival of both daughters.  One, who will have graduated from college, and the other, who will have completed two years of college. . .now descend upon us with two and four years of ‘independent living’ under their belts.  How does one ‘prepare’ for such an arrival?

What makes this kind of cool for us is that this will be the first time since they were both in high school that we’ve been together as a family.  Yes, there have been breaks, but Christmas and Spring Break…summer and Thanksgiving are all different than what’s about to take place.  It’s kind of like the calm before the storm…the reality of our kids–now young adults–coming back home to live for a period of time.  It’s exciting–it’s invigorating–it’s family!

With all of that in mind, we opened a well-respected bottle of Chilean wine tonight…a 2009 Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Syrah.  Priced at less than $20 a bottle, this wine has a nose to beat the band!  Hints of anise, cocoa, earthiness and tobacco are what we got out of our first sniff of this beautiful, dark purple wine.  It’s big and it’s bold, and the taste on the front of the palate was oh so pleasing. . .tastes of vanilla and black cherry consumed the taste buds leaving us with expectations of an amazing finish.  BUT, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water. . .(Name that movie) the finish was mediocre at best.  It kind of evaporated before you could taste anything.  The wine had all of the trappings of a major winner–good value for the money, good taste for the vintage and great lineage in the fields and in the winemaking. . .a winning combination from where we sit!  Given the price point and the beautiful color of this wine, if you’re looking to impress people with your knowledge and nose, then buy this wine and serve to family and friends; HOWEVER, if you’re looking to try out your wine-tasting prowess on unsuspecting vintages, then leave this one alone.  We’d even suggest decantering this wine for 30-45 minutes before serving. . .it may enhance the characteristics and taste of the wine.

Nothing is more exciting to parents than to have their kids from college coming home.  It’s certainly no different in our case. We can’t wait!  From home-cooked meals to visiting on the deck and EVERYTHING in between, we’re ready to take on the challenge of family living back at home!  It’s moments like this that confirm why we became parents and why we want our kids to be the best they WANT to be!  Please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly—maybe even share it with one of your adult children—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 203: Spring Is In The Air . . .

amavi syrahSpring breaks are over, and the REAL Spring time has begun.  Spring officially arrived earlier this week, but with this being the first official weekend of Spring and with Daylight Saving Time in full swing, we had to acknowledge that ‘Spring Is In The Air’!  Spring in these parts means cloudy mornings and sunny afternoons.  Throw in some drizzle and fog and you’ve got a true Texas spring morning.  Rain – the stuff that falls from the sky –  is once again at a premium in our part of the world.  While the Midwest and Northeast have been covered in snow and rain, the southwest has gone virtually untouched by significant rainfall.  Normally, December, January and to a lesser extent , February are wet months in our part of the world; however, for the third time in five years, we’ve seen WAY below average rainfall in our normally rainy period.  Not a good sign for Spring.

Another harbinger of Spring in Texas are the wildflowers.  Texas has been blessed with some of the most magnificent wildflowers . . . bluebonnets, mexican hats, wine cups, black-eyed susans, and many more dot the landscapes of the roads in our state.  The lack of rainfall affects the quantity and length of beauty of the wildflowers.  It’s a reality that is being played out too many times over the past decade . .  .too little rainfall equates to too few wildflowers.  Texas is one of the few states that rejoices in its wildflowers on the side of the road . . . especially our State Flower, the Bluebonnet.  It’s a majestic flower but it relies on a colder than normal winter and lots of cold, wet rainfall to help it become prolific in the Spring.  Other than a year ago, it  has been a challenge for our State Flower to continually show up and represent our great State because of the lack of moisture.

It’s kind of appropriate that tonight we open a wine from Walla Walla, Washington . . . a 2009 Amavi Syrah, and we have to tell you that this wine will win you over–quickly!  This is a BIG wine . . . the taste is pure jam and lots of dark  fruit (one of the fun things about enjoying good wine is recognizing the difference between the taste of light and dark fruit . . . yes, there is a difference!) — a hint of cigar . . .  kind of like a quick puff on a nice cuban cigar, tobacco and cedar — along with the prevailing oak . . . in our minds you can never have enough toasted oak because wine was fermented in French and American oak, the quality of  the barrels makes all the difference.  Wines like this aren’t always easy to find; like a superb Spring night, it’s availability is short-lived but fruitful!

With a retail price point at $21-$24 a bottle, we were fortunate to get this wine on sale at less than $15 a bottle.  While others watch, Amavi grows and becomes more bold.  This wine is consistently rated between 88-90 points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.   Wines as big and bold as they Syrah normally aren’t coming from Washington, do it creates a whole new market for these ‘cool weather’ wines.  When we make our trek to Walla Walla – this vineyard is one we will make a point to seek out – oh, and hang out with S/S who now live in the area.

We hope that you’ll enjoy this or any other wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible!

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Day 150: Life Around The Drip Line . . .

landmark steel plowThere’s something special about a wine that comes with a built-in drip stain.  It’s sheer genius marketing.  You look at it, and it’s got this beautiful dark purple line right down the middle of the label.  We thought. . .no way, they could come up with such a cool idea.  If ever there was a way to market a product and add that enticing look of “you really want to know what’s inside, don’t you?”  The folks at Landmark are amazing.

Now, we know there are savvy wine drinkers out there who’ll see the drip label and think that the wine is cooked and the cork has leaked.  Uh yeah, but what happens when you pull the foil off and there isn’t a bit of red anywhere to be found.  Could it be the finest marketing minds in the viticulture world have created the ultimate ploy to create desire?  After opening this beautiful gem of a wine that Jean picked up on sale at Twin Liquor this evening, we were stunned.  So beautiful. . .so dark berry and cherry skin scents, along with cracked pepper and black olive. . .all there–all pronounced.  A tip of the bottle and the gorgeous color of the wine falling into the glass was a sight to behold.  We really love looking at that deep, dark purple color as it envelopes the glass, and with a little swirling the air helps open the wine to bring out its fullest potential.  This 2007 Landmark Steel Plow Syrah from Sonoma County is no slouch in the wine world.  It’s got serious pedigree and years of healthy reviews, so we knew that it was going to be something worth trying.  What we didn’t count on was the amazing taste of this wine. . .deep and sweet on the palate, with chewy dark fruity flavors, firm tannins and a late note of tobacco that was surprisingly sweet.  Another favorite of ours. . .the long finish was superb.

As we did some research on this wine, we learned that International Wine Seller rated this at 91 points and previous vintages rated as high as 94 points.  Wines like this typically don’t sell for less than $25 a bottle, but with the sale at Twin, it was more than worth the effort.  Steel Plow is a great name for a wine–no doubt referencing the heritage of harvesting, but we just think it is a great name for a wine–especially with a cool label!  And, one of the things that makes writing wine blogs so much fun is reading and posting what others say about the wine.  We found this little ditty from, “A slight lychee aroma with a hint of blue fruit, carried a generally very cool climate type of characteristics. Some eucalyptus aroma here too. The wine has a very pleasant taste with cool flavors such as lychee, blueberry and cool blue mint. A very tasty and juicy wine.”  Now that takes the description to a new level!!

But it does reinforce that this wine is one to sit back and relax with on a beautiful Saturday afternoon on the deck or a warm evening at home with a plate of delicious pasta.  Either way you can’t lose–except that label!  Okay, we’ll come clean. . .Brian opened the bottle and poured the first glass and didn’t bother to check for drips; by the time we caught it, too late, the stain had set and dried.  (But, you probably knew this was coming.)  However, we still think it’s kind of cool that the drip line goes right down the middle–like it’s supposed to be there–like it was designed by the marketing department.  Hmmm, maybe we’ve started something.  Their next wine could be called ‘Drip Line’!!!

Alright, that’s enough for tonight, please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 125: Old Man Winter . . .

treana redIn most parts of the country, January usually means winter . . . you know, snow, ice, wind chills and cloudy skies.  Living in Texas affords us the opportunity to avoid most, if not all, of the maladies of winter.  In January of 1973, that was the year Brian moved from the suburbs of Chicago to northwest Houston.  Yep . . . giving up snow, wind chills and shovels for palm trees, sunny skies and sitting on the patio.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature about the move.  To this day, he isn’t sure if it was a cruel trick or it really happened, but in early January of that year–the exact day that the movers arrived to move them into their home, it snowed.  Yeah, like the first time in 14 years type of snow.  The kind of snow that in Chicago or Detroit or Cleveland, you’d laugh at as you drove home; in Houston, they put sand on the overpasses — not salt.  In Houston, they stopped on the freeway to take pictures . . . and they didn’t slow down, so imagine the fun and games the authorities had sorting out the traffic accidents.  Brian’s Dad had to find a convenience store to buy a box of rock salt (for making ice cream) to put on the moving truck ramp because it was icing up!  Houston. . .we have a problem.

A month later — we’re talking February now–Brian’s grandparents from Ontario, Canada came south for a visit — looking for palm trees, sunny skies and sitting on the patio.  Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature about the visit. Yeah, the exact day that they arrived, it snowed–AGAIN!  This time, people talked about how this had NEVER happened before!  The grandparents were less than impressed with their initial visit to south Texas!  However, just to put an exclamation point on their first 90 days in the Lone Star State, it snowed again at the beginning of March.

Do you remember the joke about tying a snow shovel to the back of your car and the first place you stop and someone asks you what that is–you know you’ve arrived?  Well, that’s what they thought was going to happen upon arriving in Texas. So, tonight, we’re under a Winter Weather Advisory . . . the Hill Country is expecting 1-3″ of snow and for our area, just a wintery mix.  But, the point is that we don’t really care for winter weather, and when we add in that Daughter #1 is heading back to school on Friday–well, it gets a bit unnerving.

Faced with such a fate, we decided to open a really nice bottle of wine from our recent trip to Paso Robles.  When we stopped at Hope Family Vineyards, there were so many good wines to taste and choose, but we settled on this 2009 Treana Red.  What our friends their told us was that, “The goal of Treana Red is to deliver, vintage after vintage, the best Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine in Paso Robles. Blended with Syrah for a complete, mouth-filling experience, our Treana Red is crafted to keep company with any wine from any region at any price point on the world stage.”  From our standpoint, it’s a juicy red wine with a really nice deep purple color and a sneaky nose that gets better and better the longer it sits in your glass.  A real fruit-forward wine, but you think that you’re enjoying something much bigger than a blend.  Our only concern–is that it’s priced too high for those of us in middle America.  Yes, it’s a fine  quality wine, but there are lots of fine quality wines from all over the world that are priced better than Treana.  It’s not a criticism, just an observation.  Regardless, you’ll enjoy this wine if you decide to treat yourself, and if not, from the same family, try Austin Hope’s Troublemaker–it’s half the price and has all of the full bodied taste you’ll love!

We’re settling in for a long winter’s nap, or at least until the alarm goes off tomorrow morning.  While it’s exciting to think about snow in this part of the world, as we get a little bit older, the real thought of it does NOTHING for us.  That said, we’ll deal with whatever is dealt our way in the morning.

Enjoy your wine this evening–enjoy it responsibly because it makes sense to do it that way and please remember to recycle whenever possible.

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Day 118 – Que Syrah, Syrah. . .

Castoro SyrahWhat ever will be, will be.  And, as we begin the countdown to the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, we take a moment to recognize and thank the men and women who have volunteered their time to give back to their country.  Yep, we’re talking about the thousands upon thousands of men and women who are a part of the United States Military.  From the Army to the Navy, and from the Air Force to the Marines and Coast Guard–and everything in between, we appreciate your sacrifices for the country.  We pray that your family also appreciates your sacrifices–especially when you get home!

With Daughter #1 safely nestled in Kerrville and Daughter #2 still here in San Marcos, we pray that you’ll have a terrific Christmas season.  We know that there are LOTS of wines to choose from and lots of places to buy that wine.  We hope that you’ll consider this wine and the others that we blog about as opportunities to try something new and delicious while at the same time being ready to start the new year off on the right foot.

One of our favorite vineyards from the trip to California back in October was to Castoro Cellars. . .the home of ‘Damn Fine Wine.’  We couldn’t agree more!  Tonight’s selection is a 2009 Castoro Blind Faith Syrah–this is some serious wine.  This particular wine is special for a number of reasons.  First, it’s from their ‘Blind Faith’ vineyards, and the grapes that source out of this area tend to make sensational wines–we hope the trend continues.  Secondly, the year–2009, was a stellar year for grape growers in that part of the state.  We’ve noticed the trend on a number of wines we tasted.

This wine exhibits all of the characteristics you’d expect from a big syrah.  It has a beautiful dark purple, inky color and swirling it in the glass you get the feeling it’s ‘thicker’ than normal wine.  On the nose is subtle hints of anise and plum combined with a smokiness from the oak, it leaves one salivating for a taste…which we did!  The flavors are full, and the finish is long and delicious.  We noticed that the wine had just a hint of chocolate flavor with it which is a nice touch as wine with dessert–especially a chocolate dessert!  What you DON’T get from this wine is a lot of ‘lost potential’–you know, a wine that has all of the makings of something special, but when you actually get to the wine, it leaves you wanting more!  Not this Castoro gem. . .it’s made for pure enjoyment–we sampled it with a spicy kung pao chicken tonight, and it was a winner from start to finish.

As your holidays continue, we encourage you to stretch the limits of your tastings.  There truly are some incredible wines from California, Australia, Spain and other parts of the world that are just waiting to be tasted and enjoyed.  While not every wine you’ll taste is going to send you to the ‘stratosphere’ of good wines. . .you have to try them before you can ‘like’ them!  We really ‘like’ this 2009 Castoro Syrah.

As the weekend is upon us, take some time to enjoy your favorite wine with friends, family or just as a treat for yourself, but no matter how you care to sample your favorite, please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.