casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


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Day 360 – Welcome Back…

DiMajo Norante SangioveseOkay. . .up front, we’re dating ourselves.  BUT, there was a sitcom back in the 70’s that starred Gabe Kaplan and a little known actor whose character name was Vinnie Barbarino. . .and the actor was?  John Travolta!  Yep, before Saturday Night Fever or Urban Cowboy–before Pulp Fiction or Face Off. . .there was Welcome Back Kotter.  Imagine going back to teach in the high school that you graduated from only a few short years before. . .well, that was the premise of the show.  The catch, of course, was that the names had changed but the game was still the same.

In the realm of public schools, today–in Texas–was the first day back to school.  And Brian had a terrific opportunity to watch kids and parents arriving at a local elementary school, we can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are GLAD that the girls are where they are today!  Parents have changed.  Schools have changed.  Teachers have changed.  BUT, one thing has remained the same. . .kids will always be kids.  AND, no matter how much you prep them, guide them, cajole them or force them—a certain number of kids can’t wait to get into the building.  AND, a certain number of kids are petrified of going into the building!

Parents, on the other hand, well, they look like deer in headlights. . .especially first time parents dropping their child off for pre-K programs.  Uh, they NEVER taught us this in ‘Lamaze’ classes!  Nope. . .and guess what, kids DON’T come with owners manuals!  After watching the proceedings today at one of the schools, we were glad that a the girls were way passed this age and that they were fairly ‘low maintenance’ when it came to school starting!  And the more we greeted parents and kids, the better it felt knowing that in our world, those days were long gone.

So we needed a wine that would be a nice combination of old and new.  And thanks to our friends at World Market, we found the perfect choice.  Our 2009 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese is the essence of what this blog is about.  A terrific red wine with lots of cherries, blueberries, tobacco and cedar just waiting to be opened and enjoyed.  Even as good as this wine tasted, it’s got the potential to be even better–yep, this wine has ‘moxy’ and we think it’s got the ‘legs’ to go the distance.  Italian wines have an earthiness to them that can’t be measured by our standards.  No, not every bottle of wine produced there is a hit, but as good as the wine that we’ve tasted from Italy has tasted, we know that the BEST stuff never leaves the country!  Robert Parker rates this wine at 87 points–which for a $10 bottle of wine is pretty awesome!  They said, “this Sangiovese exhibits fresh aromas of violets, woodland berries, sweet spice and leather. Deliciously smooth, plush and juicy on the palate with loads of ripe fruit, Di Majo Sangiovese is recommended with meaty pastas or pizzas, chorizo and granular cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or aged Gouda.”  We enjoyed it with buffalo chicken tenders in hot and bbq sauce along with fresh steamed carrots and it was the perfect way to “put out the fire!”

We know that there are a lot of parents breathing a sigh of relief tonight.  The first day of school is in the books and the daily routine has just begun.  We remember those days and being welcomed back.  It’s a special time in the kids lives, your lives and their teacher’s lives. . .savor the moments.  Life comes at you way too fast and when you blink your eyes, they’re grown.  We hope that as your kids go back to school that you’ll stop and enjoy the moment, and if that means sipping on a glass of your favorite wine, we hope you’ll do so responsibly and always remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 352: In the Wheelhouse . . .

 

WheelhouseSo here we are, winding down yet another busy weekend and Sunday.  Feel a little bit like Carol Burnet’s Theme Song – “I’m so glad we had this time together . . . seems we just get started and before you know it . . . it’s time to say so long” – yessiree Bob, that about sums up the roller coaster we’ve been on for the last three months.  Now, do not (“I say, I say  . . . Do Not” – name the cartoon character….) get us wrong – we have had the best blessing that parents could ask for — time with our children.

As we all know. Time is truly a ‘Dog Eat Dog’ competition (Who’s wearing milkbone underwear?) and before you know . .. BAM, they grow up, go to school, graduate, go to college, graduate, move back home, move out … and start their own career!  It just doesn’t get any better than that!  NOW, we know how our parents felt–some 30+ years ago–it wasn’t JUST the financial reward of a child graduating, but it was the emotional “paycheck” of knowing that you’d done your part to make a difference in our world.  AND, if what we’ve seen over the past three weeks is ANY indication—wooooooo, watch out second graders–you’re going to be in for an AMAZING ride!!!

The roller coaster always goes up, down, side to side — and that’s the way life goes too.  We never know what turn is coming up. . .we don’t know when there is going to be a drop that we didn’t expect, and who would have thought that all of a sudden we’d be heading up, up and away?  When professional athletes ascend to the next level, they call it getting into the zone.  When we get to the next level, we call it ‘being focused’.  Whether it’s getting ready to teach second graders, getting ready to take courses for our Junior year in college, helping another school reach their admission numbers or selling out a networking golf tournament, we ALL find a way to navigate through the turns, dips and inclines of life’s roller coaster. . .we call it–being in the wheelhouse of life.

Funny that we’d call it that!  Tonight we opened a 2010 Wheelhouse Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.  And, for all the fancy wines that come out of Napa, who would have thought that we’d find this little beauty for less than $15 at World Market?  We didn’t see it coming, but that’s probably because we were too busy looking at the wine racks on display for $10 – yes, we bought one . . . heck, for $10 it was a deal and potential could hold 144 bottles of wine . . . Yeah, the World Market in North Austin next to Dave & Buster’s was clearing out their wooden wine racks and–you know–it’s REALLY hard to pass up a deal–so now, although it’s NOT a BRWC–it IS a major wine rack that will store MANY of our POST-BLOG wines!

This 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine of structure and finesse, with blackberry and cassis fruit aromas and flavors, backed by subtle notes of chocolate and anise.  Its suppleness lends it to drinking now, but it will age gracefully over the upcoming decade.  The wine lends itself to classic Cabernet fare: Filet Mignon with Wild Mushrooms or a simple grilled New York strip steak. . . BUT since we didn’t have such fancy fare, we opted instead for stir fried chicken with roasted veggies and steamed white rice.  It was a nice combination to go with the wine!

For a wine at less than $15 a bottle, it’s got all of the things you want in a big wine–dark fruit, smooth taste and finish and a lot of flavor.  We were impressed enough to buy multiple bottles of the wine and still can’t believe that it’s available for such a low price. Hmmmmm, the list is narrowing for the Top Ten Bondy Deck Wine List.

Wines like this don’t come along every day, and whether you care to buy this wine or enjoy your favorite wine, please do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.

 

 


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Day 351 – Saving One for The Girls

3 GirlsSo much coming and going.  Up early in the morning; many times, home late.  New people and other things in the house.  When you’re a dog, we think that life is built around routine.  For our girls, the routine is up around 6 every morning to take care of business. . .followed by breakfast. . .followed by taking care of business. . .followed by their infamous, early morning nap!  By any human account, it’s a schedule made in heaven.  Food, sleep and relief and it’s all repeated in the evening.

Over the past three months, the routine has been somewhat skewed.  As D#1 has settled in with her dog, the routine became–well, less routine, and more like a circus.  Consider that for the past 90 days, we have gotten up at our usual time to try and be as ‘routine’ as possible; however, her dog has begun to adopt our dogs’ routine hours.  So, guess who gets up at the same time?  Yeah. . .the only problem with this is that the puppy wants to play and our brood wants to go back to sleep.  In the evening, the energy level of the puppy was so great that Jean figured out that they could have a certain amount of play time together followed by alone time.  Once this plan was hatched and started, routine started becoming a reality in our house–again!

Now, that D#1 and the puppy have moved to their own digs, we’re left with the 3 girls.  They know something is different and are pretty sure it has to do with that DOG that had been here, but they’re not quite sure.  We know that it will take a few days for them to ‘let their guard down’, but until then we’ll be watching to see if they start to get back into their routine–come to think of it, we’ll probably be up around 6 tomorrow, so we guess that all is right in the dog world!

To mark the moment of returning to the three dogs, we found at World Market a 2011 3 Girls Cabernet Sauvigon from Lodi, California.  It’s from a familiar place in our wine blogs, Oak Ridge Winery.  This wine isn’t going to set the world on fire.  It’s your basic cab–medium body, dark ruby color; earthy, tart cassis, tart plum nose; tart currant, earthy palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points—in case you missed it, it’s tart–but good.  It actually rates higher than we would have thought because it’s so young.  And a mass-produced wine like this typically isn’t one that you’ll cellar for 10-15 years, so buy it and try it. . .available exclusively at World Market, here’s what they say about this wine, “Ripe, dark fruit, smoke and vanilla notes add to the full-bodied sweet fruit and creamy texture of 3 Girls Cabernet Sauvignon. Sourced from Lodi, California, which is ideally situated between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay, the climate features warm days and cool evening breezes. An instant customer favorite, try it with burgers, meat-lovers pizza or simply on its own.”  Priced below $10 a bottle, it’s probably worth at least a try because there are a lot of more expensive options that may not offer the taste of this wine.

Our girls are exhausted. . .after their early morning nap, they had to take a mid-to-late morning nap followed  closely by an afternoon nap.  That was interrupted by a potty break outside and then a late afternoon/early evening nap. . .fortunately, we rescued them from the routine and they enjoyed a full dinner with chew sticks for dessert!  It just doesn’t get much better than this—if you’re a dog!  For us, after a day of shopping at the Outlets in San Marcos, a stop at Target, a run for some furniture shopping, stopping at D#1’s apartment and unpacking — followed by dinner at Dave & Busters—which brought back some serious memories from when the kids were growing up–for us, it’s time for “lights out”.

Enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 240 – Radio Days

radio boca

There is no doubt that times change.  We’ve admitted on several occasions that we’re a little biased towards things in the past.  Now, please understand that even as we ‘age’ we still understand that the future is always going to be about change.  It’s the natural order of things.  However, when it comes to the medium of radio, we’ve seen a LOT of changes over the years.  Consider that in the 1960’s, AM radio was the ONLY radio.  Your choices were AM Radio, 45 rpm singles and 33 1/3 rpm albums…some still remember 78 rpm albums as well.  Reel to reel tape decks were only for the wealthiest of music enthusiasts.  AM Radio. . .when DJ’s ruled the airwaves and a singer or group could make it or break it depending on a DJ’s decision.  Many were the artists that camped out at radio station studios for the ‘chance’ to get on the air.  Depending on where you lived, you could pick up an AM station from miles away. . .say, living in the Chicago area and picking up KMOX out of St. Louis–and those Cardinals broadcasts!  How many can remember listening for the chance to call in to win tickets to this concert or that. . .a chance to go back stage or be picked up and chauffeured to the show?

The 70’s brought about the advent of ‘album rock’ and on the FM side of the dial, there was more music with fewer interruptions–mainly because so few people had FM radios–and less ‘personality’ than their AM brethren.  Some of the most remembered music of that generation was played on FM–Steely Dan, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones. . .and so many others that had followings found their fan base growing because of repetitive play on FM.  Added to the mix during this time was the wildly popular–but short-lived–eight track tapes followed closely by cassette tapes.  As FM grew in popularity, AM’s stronghold on the listening audience waned–significantly.  FM Radio would go on to dominate listener appeal. . .until Compact Discs arrived.  Suddenly, that crisp, studio quality sound was available in home and automotive audio.  Something that was originally reserved for only the wealthiest of listening affecionados was now available to anyone that wanted it.  An amazing transformation that has continued to evolve to this day.

Tonight we opened a 2011 Radio Boca Tempranillo from Valencia Spain.  This is a young fruity wine; it’s a medium-body but has nice color and a wonderful nose upon opening.  Priced at less than $11 a bottle, we were surprised by the taste, the structure and complexity of the wine.  As fans of tempranillo, we thought that as young as it is, we probably weren’t going to get a lot of the fruitiness, but instead were extremely impressed with what we tasted.  There is an earthiness to the wine as well, it’s something you’d expect from a well vinted Spanish wine.  Clearly, this wine isn’t going to wind up in cellars for the next 50 years, but it is going to make a great Sunday afternoon even better!  We served ours with grilled Portobello mushrooms and sautéed vegetables, and it was a great combination.  We picked this little wine up at World Market in Bryan – while a light wine – we’d more than likely pick up another bottle at the sale price of under $10 . . . probably wouldn’t pay much more than that.

With iPods, iPads, iPhones, Smartphones, MP3 players, Sirius/XM Satellite radio and SO MANY other choices available for music, we harken back to the days of AM Radio and the beginnings of FM Radio.  Sometimes, you can have too many choices. . .leaving you without a clear preference . . .and the choices may not be what you really want.  We remember–going to SFA in Nacogdoches–Nocturne 92.1 FM–the mellow sound in a college town!!  Wow, that’s WAY too much information!

Here’s to a new week – Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 235: The Long & Winding Road . . .

Leese - FitchWe are constantly amazed at the wines available today that are priced well under $15 a bottle and absolutely catch us off guard.  After 234 days, we’re pretty sure that we’ve tried almost 200 new, different wines that wouldn’t have been given a second thought before this year.  Don’t get us wrong. . .not everything that we have sampled has been a home run.  Come to think of it, we’ve had a lot of singles, doubles and triples–a few home runs, but we’ve also had our fair share of strike outs, pop outs and failures to play!  What it tells us as wine consumers, there are so many labels, so many wineries, so many varietals, so many regions, so many appellations. . .so, if that’s the case, the try something different.  Yes, we know ALL about buying our favorites–we were in World Market in College Station, Texas a few weeks ago and they were ‘closing out’ one of our all time favorites (Thank You, Patrick at Grape Juice)…Tait’s Ball Buster.  An almost $20 bottle of wine for $9.47 a bottle?  Are you serious?  Yes, we managed to get our fair share.  BUT, we also found a huge number of wines that have found their way into this blog.  Why?  Because we are staying true to our goal of not only trying and writing about a different wine every night for a year, but we’re also very focused on finding wines that those of us without deep pockets can enjoy without breaking the bank.  Even as we get further into the year, the call for finding wines with a good flavor, good nose, good palate range and finish — in combination with a good price tag is getting more and more difficult.  Jean has commented that each time we go to a store to find the next set of wines to taste and write about, it’s a case of done it, done it, done it, done it…too expensive, done it…etc.  The challenge continued this evening…

Following a Leadership San Marcos event that saw Brian and nine other team members graduate through the program, we were faced with trying something new!  The story on the label is certainly impressive. . .(sorry, you’ll need to find it or buy it, we won’t tell you that story) but the wine in the bottle, that IS the question.  As we’ve grown to enjoy delicious Cabernet Sauvignons, when we come upon new, young wines, we get a little nervous.  But, we shouldn’t have worried, deep purple in color, the 2010 Leese – Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon blend jumps from the glass with aromas of juicy blackberries, ripe blueberries, dark chocolate, and toasted walnuts. A lot of great Cab flavor in the mouth; currants, blackberries, dark cherry, milk chocolate, espresso, clove, vanilla and oak tastes.  The finish is truly lingering with a lot of dark fruit notes as well as some great structure and integrated French and American oak flavors.  Oh yeah, this one is going to catch you off guard. . .AND, with a price tag around $13 a bottle, you may want to keep some to drink now and save some to drink in a couple of years.  Even though it’s labeled as a Cab…the actual concentration is a blend…79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Alicante Bouchet, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 4% Sirah, 1% Carignane and 1% Petite Sirah…talk about a wine-lover’s blend!  WOW!

Instead of taking ‘the road more often traveled’–trying wines that were well known or had pedigree; we’ve opted to take the ‘road less traveled’ or as our title suggests, ‘the long and winding road’ of new and different wines. . .these Leese – Fitch wines fit the bill to a tee and are priced right, taste right and ready for enjoying now!

Whether or not you try this wine is up to you, but just remember to enjoy it responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 113 – It’s In The Mail

Dead Letter OfficeOne of the staples of Christmas’s past, and to a certain extent present is the Christmas Card.  Time was when millions upon millions of cards flooded the bags of mail carriers between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Growing up, we can both remember THE basket that held the treasured cards.  They were acknowledgments from friends, family, former neighbors, former buddies, teachers, preachers, pastors, and so many others.  Some contained letters detailing the entire year’s activities for a certain family, and others had family pictures as the card.  It was fun to see how people changed from one year to the next–and it DID happen!  We can both remember getting 5, 7, 10 cards a day in the mail.  And, this was all before there was any real package mailing going on, so the main thing going through the post office was CARDS.

Today, the internet has completely changed the world of card giving.  As more and more people send electronic cards, electronic invitations and electronic pictures, the need for Christmas Cards becomes less and less.  Yet another ‘holiday institution’ going by the wayside.  Come to think of it, writing letters or any other handwritten correspondence is going by the wayside as well.  Admittedly, sitting down and signing, addressing, stamping and mailing 100 or more cards is, well, time-consuming.  However, with a database of email addresses, with one ‘click’ your message hits everyone on your list with the same generic greeting. . .not unlike a Christmas Card.  Maybe it’s because the personal part of sending the note is gone.  You know, when you signed the card–or someone you knew signed the card and sent it to you, they took the time to write to YOU!  Electronically-speaking, one simple, repetitive message can be sent to as many people as you have email addresses for.  But, it’s the thought that counts!

We’re not saying it’s bad…on the contrary, it’s pretty cool to think that you can send a message and reach a huge number of people with a single click.  But, tonight’s wine–from Australia–details a different part of hand-addressed mail.  Sometimes, the mail is undeliverable–incorrect address; incorrect return address; no return address; no address–there a huge number of reasons why some mail can’t be delivered, and in Australia, the Dead Letter Office is the place such mail comes to. . .for only here can a postal employee actually open a piece of mail with the sole purpose being to find a clue as to where it is supposed to be delivered.  Obviously, opening someone else’s mail is a federal offense, but in Australia, they’ve got it figured out.  So, we salute those folks who have to translate our ‘chicken scratch’ of handwriting in order to find where the piece should be delivered.

This 2008 Dead Letter Office Shiraz from Henry’s Drive is so big, bold and beefy, we wished we’d have taken it with us for dinner.  This is a widely-recognized wine with most of the better wine reviewers rating this between 89-92 points.  The nose is beautiful–you get a nice aroma of oak with lots and lots of fruit–mainly black cherry, currants and a slight hint of almond.  Swirling this wine in the glass only helped open it more and what an amazing scent there is.  The taste is so silky smooth, you forget that you’re drinking wine.  It’s finish is very long and fruitful. . .this wine is a terrific way to celebrate the holidays!  We only wish we had gotten more!  It’s available at World Market and is under $23 a bottle, but with their sale going on right now, we were in the $18 range. . .well worth the money for a big, tasty wine like this, but you’d better hurry because they’ll close early on Christmas Eve and then you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy it!

We noted that we’ve received fewer Christmas cards this year; probably because we’ve sent out fewer and fewer as the years have gone on.  Christmas Cards is one of those traditions that is great to remember from the past, but it’s doubtful that it will survive the future.  But, if it does survive, it’s good to know that people in the Dead Letter Office will be there to make sure as many of the poorly addressed cards get to their destination as is possible.

As for you, enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 79 – We Like Having Options

Since most of our area seemed to be heading north today to enjoy some F1 racing – and Jean having experienced the traffic back ups first hand on Thursday and Friday – on a whim, we decided to head south and meet up with friends at Max’s in SA for a little brunch, wine tasting and walking through the brand new Trader Joe’s .  .  . even managing a stop at World Market near Selma.  As we get closer to Thanksgiving, we’re looking for wines to enjoy and wines to share with friends and family.  We debated buying a case of “Two Buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s, but just couldn’t pull the trigger – sorry family, you’ll have to drink some good stuff on Thursday.  Today’s stops gave us opportunities to fulfill both!

As this blog continues to unfold, we have tried and are trying wines that we’d never have given a second thought about in the past.  On the one hand, it’s pretty exciting to think that we can come up with 365 different choices to taste and write about, but on the other hand, it’s kind of intimidating to think about the unbelievable number of wines out on the market.   Clearly, some days are better than others – not only in terms of the wine we chose but how it smelled, tasted etc.  We know that we prefer red wines over white wines, but we’ve had a couple of killer white wines already and we know that there are several more in the queue.  So, when days like today afford themselves to us, we keep looking for other options.  Almost all of the wines that we have sampled and reviewed have been acceptable.  Some not nearly as much, trust us, many have ended up down the drain.  Even liking some of the wines, it’s kind of difficult to keep wine fresh for long periods of time.

Tonight’s wine is a 2009 A by Acacia – which is a blend from Acacia Vineyards of Napa, California.  Of course, it’s a blend!  85% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 2% Grenache, 2% Petite Syrah and 1% Zinfandel – makes for a tasty wine.  From the nose, we got hints of fruit, earth and spice, while on the palate, we discovered both bright fruit and a certain acidity.  It had hints of strawberry, raspberry and dark cherry that really came to the forefront in the finish. The texture was soft, supple and, to a certain extent inviting.  It was the kind of wine you’d want to break out over the holiday season.  Even though the dominant grape is the Syrah, the others work well to balance the overall make up of the wine.  We enjoyed it so much, we are thinking about bringing a bottle with us for Thanksgiving festivities.  You can get a hold of this wine for under $15 a bottle .  .  . even less if you can find it on sale!  So, it’s a nice blend at a good value – which, this time of year, is a good combination to find!

It’s always cool to visit with good friends; enjoy good food; sample good wine and enjoy a beautiful day – and stay away from traffic nightmares.  Today we accomplished them all, and as we head towards the holidays, it reminds us to stop and enjoy the moment.  Whether it’s spending time with friends or family or both, it’s a realization for us, once again, life is too short (to drink bad wine, as one dear friend would say).  We enjoyed our trip to Trader Joe’s and our stop at World Market, and hopefully, we’ve identified one or two future blog wines with the stops we’ve made today.

As the evening unfolds, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.