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Where wine is on the table everyday

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Day 303: Time for a Trip to Washington . . .

snoqualmieWe love Sundays.  We especially love Sundays when it rains.  We especially love Sundays when it rains in the morning.  Today. . .was one of those Sundays. You know. . .you wake up and it’s just getting light.  You figure–hey, I’ve still got at least an hour or two before I have to get up!  So, like anyone, you fall back asleep, but wake up 45 minutes later, and it’s darker than when you woke up the first time!  Hmmm, not exactly sure what’s going on here, but just to be on the safe side you check your clock–and, yes, the time IS later than previously noted.  A little lightening. . .a little thunder. . .and a little wind gust tells us it’s about to open up.  Add to the mix three dogs who would rather NOT deal with bad weather and you have the makings of a Central Texas early morning thundershower.  A perfect way to start the day. . .oh, and eventually ending up watching a classic movie like Rudy on AMC! (Come on now – who doesn’t blubber like a baby at the end of Rudy?)

After yesterday’s 108 degrees, we figured that the rain could only help keep a lid on the high temperatures–and thankfully, the forecasters were calling for ONLY a high of 97 degrees…oooooo….break out the sweaters!  Yeah, kind of funny when you stop to think about it–an eleven degree drop in most places would cause folks to be a little concerned.  You know if you go from 92 degrees to 81…there’s a pretty good weather event about to take place. And, if you go from 70 degrees to 59–well, that cold front has made it through.  BUT, when it goes from 108 to 97–we’re sorry, you CAN’T tell the difference!  Hot is hot no matter how you slice it.

And because of the unbelievable heat, we decided to take a trip to the Great Northwest. . .to the lands of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. . .Washington state.  Recently, Jean’s sister, Sara sent us a 2013 Washington State Wine Guide, and one of the coolest parts of the book was a wine time line.  It seems that in the 1970’s, there were less than 50 wineries and growers in the state of Washington.  Today, there are more than 750 and growing!  An industry that had pretty much set up shop and cornered the market in California had now made its’ way north into Washington. . .and Oregon for that matter.  Literally, some of the BEST wines in America are coming out of Washington.  There are some amazing wine makers and growers who are changing the face of wine making in our country–and for the BETTER!  Since Jean is Sara’s favorite sister, we’ve been planning a trip to get together.

Tonight we went down a familiar road to enjoy a different variety from a previously blogged wine maker. . .Snoqualmie.  We thought the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was good earlier this year?  Well, with all due respect, it had NOTHING on the 2009 Syrah we enjoyed tonight.  Admittedly, when we opened the bottle, it had a beautiful aroma of black berries and oak, but the first taste was, well, less than enticing.  However, after about 30 minutes of air time, we noticed that the wine not only opened up but was becoming full-bodied and with loads of structure.  It was becoming a complete wine.  Rich blackberry and blueberry fruit aromas with subtle smoky impressions, same followed on the pallet with soft tannins and sweet oak flavors.  Another part of the wine making that we’ve come to appreciate is the process. . .under the leadership of Joy Andersen, winemaker since 1991, Snoqualmie has become a leader in sustainable and organic winemaking in Washington.  Great wines and attention to the environment . . . a winning combination.

With a price point under $10 a bottle, we think that Snoqualmie may be one of the best hidden secrets of Washington wine.  Yes, we know that there are 749 other vineyards out there that  are competing for attention, but as of right now, we are sold on Snoqualmie!  We hope that you’ll agree when you try this wine.  If not, remember to  enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and 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 127: A River Runs Through It . . .

Three RiversOne of the most beautiful parts about living in San Marcos, Texas is the San Marcos River.  Historians have pegged life along its’ banks back 10,000-12,000 years ago.  It’s natural waters flowing out of the ground at a constant 72 degrees and it’s some of the clearest water you’ll ever see.  A famous tourist attraction from San Marcos’ past, Aquarena Springs, used to avidly promote rides in their glass bottom boats.  The attraction has long since gone away–now part of Texas State University–but the glass bottom boats remain and for those who care enough to see natural springs bubbling up from the floor below, amazing turtles, fish, wild plants and a look at an eco-system that works, then you owe it to yourself to take a look.

Beautiful rivers like the San Marcos are a rapidly dwindling commodity in our country.  The ability (or inability) to balance recreation, consumption, commerce and protection is what can define a healthy river or a sick one.  As water pours out of the headwaters, we quickly realize fresh water is one of the benchmarks of a healthy civilization.  The San Marcos River is a terrific place to go floating in a tube or just sitting on the banks watching the water go by. . .it’s the sound of water moving slowly by that is mesmerizing.  However, the same river can be mean and nasty and impossible to contain when nature puts forth heavy rainfalls.  A river is a true study in ebbs and flows. . .some days its running wild and others it’s just flowing by.

Tonight we travel to the Columbia Valley of Washington State for a red blend that we found at Gabriel’s.  Priced under $15, this Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah blend is a 2005 Three Rivers Winery River’s Red.  It kind of sneaks up on you. . .a medium body wine, it’s tannins were soft and the fruit was almost hidden.  The wine got better as it opened up, but we were a little concerned initially because the nose was ‘missing’ and the initial taste was bland.  However, as time wore on, the wine definitely began to show its’ strength with an earthy–almost herb and spice kind of taste and the fruit–mainly black cherry–really came through.  The color was a dense maroon. . .almost bordering on coppery, but the cork was soft, supple and had held the wine nicely.  We paired it with a veggie pizza loaded with extra cheese and garlic. . .the wine went very well with it!  At the end of the bottle, we both liked it, but wouldn’t go so far as to say we loved it.  Chances are, we’d opt for a different bottle in the future, but worth a try at the price.  Clearly, Washington has some amazing wines at very attractive prices, but we’ll probably keep on sipping past this one.

The beauty of the river is tough to beat.  When we lived in Kerrville, the Guadalupe River ran through the middle of town as well. . .it was a beautiful river when flowing normally, but we’ve also seen how mean and nasty is can be when rainfall is heavy.  Floating the Frio River in the southwestern part of the state, you learn immediately: A) It’s very clear and B) It’s very cold. . .they don’t call it the “frio” for nothing (translated: cold in Spanish).  They are a key part of what keeps us going; their fresh water provides many of us drinking, bathing and washing water.  It’s something that we can’t take for granted.

On a separate note, tomorrow (Sunday) will be Jean’s Dad’s (Bill) birthday–there’s something special about being able to celebrate a parent’s birthday– especially as we get older and our children become adults themselves.  Be sure to cherish your parents’ birthdays. . .you’ll miss them when they aren’t there to celebrate any longer.  Happy Birthday, Bill!!

As we settle into the first weekend in 2013, please enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle and reduce trash whenever possible.