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Day 195 – There’s Always a Better Half

Eberle The Better HalfThere was a commercial–not too long ago–where a Mom with twin boys had just enough peanut butter left to make one sandwich.  And, the concept was that she gave one of the boys the responsibility of choosing where the knife cut on the sandwich went. . .(he, of course, was thinking that he would get ‘the better half’).  But, like good Mom’s do, she throws a curve ball and let’s the second twin choose which piece.  A classic piece of marketing and a small case study in fractions!

From the time we’re born and raised, the stakes have always been getting the bigger (better) half.  Whether it was a piece of birthday cake, a helping of mashed potatoes or something else, the premise was the same–getting the bigger slice, the more preferential treatment, the larger dollop of food.  It’s a competition.  Right?

It’s been a long Spring Break week.  While we’ve enjoyed ‘watching’ Daughter #1’s dog, we have to admit, puppies flat out wear us–and our older, lazier dogs–out!  We should have expected this. . .it’s really not that big of a surprise.  Puppies have more energy.  It’s like the cell phone commercial…which is better less or more?  Which is better high energy, bouncing off the wall or laying on the floor like a piece of carpet?  Puppies are much better at bouncing off the wall.  Not only are they good at it, but they are USED to it!  So, when Daughter #1 comes to retrieve her ‘prized possession’, we’ll be sad to see her go, BUT our dogs–the three of them–will be anything but SAD to see her go~

As Thursday winds down and the weekend is at the front doorstep, tonight we opened a bottle of Eberle “The Better Half” from 2010.  Recall that Eberle was one of the stops we made during our trip to Paso Robles last fall.  This wine is something to behold.  A perfect combination of 51% Zinfandel and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon!  It’s a match made in heaven—This is a little fruit explosion waiting to happen; complete with lots of crush; we couldn’t believe how delicious this wine was for such a young age.  Raspberries, blackberries, dewberries. . .all of them coming at us at one time!  An amazing picture of wine growing and harvesting excellence.

More and more Eberle Wines are finding their way to liquor and wine stores across the country.  They’re still family owned and operated, which gives them a leg up on their corporate competitors. The small, boutique winery is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  But, with Eberle, you still get world class wines without the huge volume of tasteless wine!  Their wine selections and pairings are things of beauty.

So, as your weekend unfolds, find yourself a bottle of Eberle Wines or select your favorite wine to enjoy.  Remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle your bottles and other items 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.


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Day 152: Adding it all up . . .

Cuatro PasosSo, here we are – 30 years of marriage + one day, and . . . yes, we are still together!

When we awoke this morning, we got to talking about all the “stuff” we had witnessed in our lifetime – in fact, we started a list in order to see what we had accomplished (or at least thought we had!).  Ready, Set, Go –

Since January 29, 1983 we have at minimum and in no particular order:

  • Seen albums come and go; cassettes come and go; compact discs come and go – along with pay phones, fax machines and typewriters

  • Watched the Redskins in Miami win Super Bowl #XVII  and see Mrs. Blake (Jean’s third grader teacher) at Walt Disney Florida during honeymoon

  • Experienced Hurricane Alicia

  • Watched the Challenger explode after liftoff & Columbia explode over Texas

  • Given birth to two beautiful daughters

  • Had two cats – Bob and Elliott

  • Seen five presidents elected to office

  • Been to the Baseball Hall of Fame twice

  • Brian has been to two World Series games in Texas – different years

  • Had five dogs (gone are Calvert and Hershey) – still have the three (Pepper, Andie and Jasmine)

  • Had 19 cars – three got wiped out along the way, thankfully no injuries

  • Lost seven immediate family members – many more on the extended side

  • Lost four dear friends

  • Had 17 employers

  • Lived in two states

  • Moved nine times

  • Owned five homes

  • Watched the Cardinals play in 3 World Series – won 2 of them (2006, 2011)

  • Been to five different zoos – but love the St. Louis Zoo the best!

  • Watched the Rams win the Super Bowl & lose the Super Bowl–Hmmm, Spygate???

  • Witnessed first-hand the McGwire / Sammy Sosa slugfest . . . still can’t stand Barry Bonds

  • Watched Kurt Warner in two Super Bowls with two different teams–which team does he wear going into the Hall of Fame?

  • Caught and eaten well over 100 redfish and trout

  • Each caught one sailfish on the SAME trip

  • Been to CA wine country three times

  • Been to Mexico twice

  • Been to Canada five times

  • Been on two cruises

  • Been to at least ten baptisms

  • Been to at least 20 weddings

  • Been to at least 15 high school graduations

  • Been to at least five college graduations

  • Been to more than a few high school reunions

  • Flown over 100,000 miles

  • Driven over 900,000 miles – must be why we’ve had 19 cars !

Whew – makes us tired just thinking about it – can’t even begin to count the number of wines we’ve tried.  So, tonight in honor of “numbers”, we decided to open Cuatro Pasos 2008 from Spain.  Cuatro Pasos means 4 steps. It is made 100% from Mencia and brought to us by Bodegas Martin Codax in Cacabelos (Leon) and is part of the Bierzo DO (denomination of origin) in Northwestern Spain.  Calling it ‘old vines’ would not be an exaggeration since the grapes come from 80-year-old stock.

When we poured it into a glass – it was deep, dark red with a hint of violet . . . but mostly ruby-red.  On the nose it was so-so, nothing to write home about, but you got the whiff of cherry and fruits with a dash of toasty cedar – again not a nose bomb, but enough to peak your interest.  Taking a sip took you down a path of rich fruit – not overpowering, but fruity and flavorful – smooth and balance, but again not overpowering.  The finish was also smooth – went very well with Brian’s Kung Pao Chicken – spicy, but not overly so and the wine really balanced everything out.

Jean picked this wine up during a midday stop at HEB in Austin for under $12 – haven’t seen it here in San Marcos, but if we do find it – would definitely purchase again.  Seems to go well with food (and Thin Mints courtesy of the local G.S.’s).  We could see this as a great deck wine – wishing it wasn’t so dry here so we could even put a fire in the pit.

So, as we take one final look at our “list” – we do realize that it “adds up” to a wonderful life thus far – we have many more years together ahead of us – but up to this point, it’s been pretty darn spectacular.

Please remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible . . .


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Day 111: Sometimes, We Just Don’t Get It . . .

Bere Toscana 2009Do you remember when you were younger and someone would tell you a joke, and they got to the punchline and you just kind of stood there . . . expressionless?  You’re supposed to be laughing, but you just don’t get it.  Then they explain the joke to you, and . . . you start laugh – albeit reluctantly since you still don’t get it.  Or how about this – you’re sitting in class and the teacher/professor is going on and on about a subject and everyone around you is nodding their heads, and you kind of look off into space because- . . . you just don’t get it.  This type of class is usually followed by a visit to the said teacher’s office for a more ‘detailed’ explanation, but you walk out of the office and – you just don’t get it.  Or some half crazed lunatic with a plethora of guns breaks into an elementary school and shoots as many as possible before taking the easy way out and shooting himself – we just don’t get it.

Maybe it’s age . . . maybe it’s education . . . maybe it’s environment, or a combination of all of them or none of them but in our ‘new and improved’ electronic communications era, we’re seeing more and more things that we just don’t get.  Why do we have to get a phone with 4G today, when yesterday the most important thing on the market was 3G?  Why do some places require you to have a PERMIT to have a garage sale?  Really?  A permit?  To sell your junk?  Oh, and of course no dissertation on ‘not getting it’ would be complete without what some neighborhoods call, “The Lawn Police”- – yep, your blades of grass get too long and you get a gentle reminder that it’s time to trim those little beauties.  Ignore that and the warning becomes a little more stern and focused on consequences.  Ignore that and get a citation . . . look we know that we need to maintain our landscapes but a ticket?  We just don’t get it.

How appropriate that we’d talk about this tonight after opening a 2009 Fattoria Viticcio Bere.  It’s from Italy, but you’ve probably already guessed that, and we were a little concerned when we pulled the foil off the top and the cork is synthetic.  It’s not a BAD thing, but when we think of Italian wines, we think long traditions of winemaking, bottling and corking . . . so a synthetic cork seems out of place.  Anyway, after an initial jolt on the nose, the wine actually opens up quickly.  Pouring into the glass, you’ll see a beautiful, full-bodied wine.  A swirl of the glass followed by the first sniff – and – and – “Houston, we’ve got a problem!”  Not sure what it was, but this wine didn’t smell right and when we tasted it and most definitely, it didn’t taste right.  Sour – bitter with little to no fruit and no finish – other than sour!  So, we looked up the wine online and here’s what the professionals said, “Boasting dark cherry and berry aromas and flavors, this polished red is vibrant and harmonious. Lingers on the finish, with a tight, fruit- and spice-filled aftertaste. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Best from 2013.”

Wow, we just don’t get it.  Wine Spectator gives this wine 90 points.  We’d give it less than 10.  Robert Parker gives this wine 88 points.  We’d give it less than 8.  Now, it could have been the bottle we bought – yet another deal at Central Market where the regular price was $13.99 but because of the sale, we paid $11.89.  So we were left scratching our heads and doing something we rarely (if ever) do.  We dumped the wine.  Yep, we just didn’t get it and so BECAUSE we didn’t get it, there was no reason to try.  Since the price point is excellent, we glad to have someone buy, taste and review this wine, but if not, no big deal!

Do you have 4g?  Did you absolutely HAVE to  have it?  Of course, it’s WAY faster than 3G–even though most of the world is still on 3G–but like this wine, you’ll want to be careful before you try it, and when you do – enjoy it responsibly and remember to 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 75: Tying the Knot – NOT

Last night we raved about a blend from Artesa and couldn’t say enough good things about that wine.  Well, tonight we’re heading in  the other direction – south.  First of all, we  have had our share of excellent wines from Australia.  As a rule, they’re bigger, bolder and fruitier than many American wines.  So, when looking for another value priced wine when we visited our local Sam’s Club, we happened upon this wine from the McLaren Vale (pronounced valley) a place from where we’ve enjoyed some delicious wines – called Red Knot.

The first thing we noted – right off the bat – it’s a young wine.  A 2011 vintage means that it’s probably going to be much more fruity with less structure.  Very mild tannins with virtually no finish is kind of what we expected.  However, because of where it came from, we felt like we were heading down the right path for a good find and priced under $11 a bottle.  How often can you come across a sweet deal that includes a good price from a good ‘home’?

We should have known when we opened the bottle – and we have to borrow this phrase from our good friend Patrick Wilt at Grape Juice in Kerrville – he says, “At the end of the day, it’s all grape juice!”  Well, that’s EXACTLY what we smelled upon opening .  .  . it had the aroma (the smell?) of Welch’s Grape Juice.  Actually, it could have been ANY brand of store bought grape juice and we were not excited.  A pour into a glass and a swirl didn’t change a thing .  .  . a sip – a little aeration – nothing.  The wine had NO taste.  It was like drinking a glass of store bought grape juice.  We pulled out the receipt to confirm that we hadn’t spent too much on it, but in all fairness, this one was overpriced even as a value wine.

What makes our comments almost hysterical are the comments we read from Australia – Here are a couple of them: “Shingleback’s cheapy is a youthful beauty. Cabernet really belongs in the Vale and these guys are doing it very well.” or  how about this one: “That the discounters frequently trim the price of Red Knot is a sure sign of popularity. And popularity, in this instance, proves that Australia’s savvy palates know a bargain when they see one.” We’re sorry – are they CRAZY?  Trim the price because of popularity?? Savvy Palates?  Really?  Retail 101 – if it DOESN’T sell, mark it down and someone will buy it.  Continue marking it down UNTIL someone buys it!  Savvy palates know a bargain – or, as we translated, we were thirsty enough to drink the first bottle we came across!!

Don’t get us wrong; it doesn’t have to be  high priced to be good and there really are plenty of value-laden wines on the market – several of which we’ve already written about!  Unfortunately, we’re going to find the occasion ‘dud’ – just like in Monday’s blog about ‘Mystery Date’ – we rolled the dice and landed on a ‘DUD’, but you get to be the beneficiaries of our sacrifice – so you’re only homework is to decide for yourself if we’re right about our review of the wine or take it at face value and protect our wine’s identity.

For $10 we learned a lesson – not all wines from Australia’s McLaren Vale are going to be home runs.  We knew that sooner or later we’d run into one of these, and tonight, that is exactly what we did.  What made matters worse was the fact that this wine has won six Bronze medals this year in wine competitions and a Gold medal.  We can’t help but wonder how good it would have been had there been seven Gold medals and one Bronze!  Not to be the case today.

Regardless as to whether you enjoy your red wine or your white wine, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 63 – Taking Time to Remember . . .

In our faith, we celebrate two special days this time of year, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  While many think these two days are one in the same, they are not.  While both commemorate those who have passed from this world into the next, there is a difference between the days.  Rather than go into great depths and try to explain the two days, we’ve chosen today to stop and remember those that have left the confines of this world and moved to the next.  Ok, so by now you’re thinking this might be a bit too heavy for a wine blog – but sit tight as we just take a minute to say howdy to some pretty wonderful people that have been part of our lives.

Margaret, Hugh, Pat, John Joseph, Spud, Bernard, Ernie, Betty, Virgina, Dorothy, Lawrence, Sid, John N., Bucky, Joe, Annette, Greg, Homer, Sister Mercia, Carr, Peter, Chris, John K., Mark S., Hozie, Ray, and so many others, some we knew well – some not well at all – we are thankful for the time we had with you, albeit too short.  You touched our lives, made us better people and for that we are thankful.  You made us laugh, made us cry, gave us life, gave a reason to be – in short, you left a thumbprint on our hearts that will remain forever.  Thank you for being you and a part of us.

In honor of these special people, we broke out a very special wine.  From Rutherford, California, we opened 2004 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was a gift of thanks from a close friend – what better wine to give thanks to those we love and miss.  This is a wine that has been known to put others to shame.  And, while we’ve been pretty free with the word ‘big’ in describing our wines thus far, BIG is an understatement tonight.  This wine was meant to be sipped and not gulped – which we did, reluctantly!  The nose was all oak .  .  . medium toast – just guessing.  When you get a wine like this, well, you know you’re in for a bottle full of life.  It’s WHY we chose this specific wine – if we’re going to celebrate the lives of people who have been important to us, then we needed to celebrate with one of the best.  The fruit on the front of the palate is magnificent, like tree ripened fruit at the peak of sweetness but made subtle by the hints of spice, nutmeg and pepper.  The mid-palate for us was flavorful, fruitful and inspiring.  And, the finish – like so many full-bodied wines we’ve had in the past, this one finished for a long, long time.  The finish is like throwing a rock into the water and watching the rings grow out from where the rock went in .  .  . they just keep going and going and going – just like this wine.  Tonight’s wine isn’t in the pricing category of what we normally like to write about, but because it’s a special wine in remembrance of special people, we felt like it was a good time to enjoy great memories of people who meant a lot to us.

In less than three weeks, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and then just a few short weeks after that Christmas followed by New Years, so before things got going at a crazy speed, we thought that tonight we’d share our personal thoughts along with a terrific wine that means a lot to us.  We hope you’ll indulge us by stopping for a moment and thinking about the special people in your lives who have come and gone all too quickly, but their impact on your life remains true to this day.  This is what will make your next glass of wine that much better because you’re celebrating those people who helped get you where you are today .  .  . and in our book, that’s a cause for celebration!!

When you do open that special bottle of wine – whether it’s a 2004 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon or not – please enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.  One last request – next Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day.  Who you vote for is your choice, but voting gives us ALL a voice.  Please take time to vote.  Until tomorrow, CHEERS!