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Day 332: Prayers for Luke . . .

Cigar ZinAs we go about our busy lives, we often times don’t stop and take enough time to appreciate what we have . . . each other, our daughters, our faith, our extended family, good friends and our health.  To be honest , most of these things we just take for granted and never give a second thought.  Tonight we want to stop and pause for a moment or two (or 400 words or less if you are a blogger!) and just count our lucky stars.

During our almost 54 years we have come across all kinds of people – some whom we relish and some we just tolerate because it’s the right thing to do.  But, we have to admit there is a young fella named Luke – who while we know a bit . . . mostly through his parents . . . we think is a shining example for all of us.  Luke was born premature and from what we know has faced more obstacles in his short 3+ years than most of us will face in a lifetime.  His medical issues have ranged from grandiose to not so grandiose – but challenges nonetheless.  Every, and we mean EVERY time we’ve come in contact with him, we have been gifted a shy smile and an eye twinkle that melts our hearts.  This young man is just contagious – not a water-walker mind you, but contagious in his joy of life . . . while most likely way too young to totally comprehend what he has faced – he lives life to the fullest.  With four older siblings to lead and guide him, this remarkable person named Luke has taken life by storm.

Tonight we dedicate this post to Luke as he prepares to undergo some very tough surgery on Wednesday.  Part of his health challenges include the need to do some major surgery on his skull . . . so, we ask that each of you take a moment or two on Wednesday morning and say a prayer for Luke to come through with flying colors.  Pray for his parents to be at peace during the surgery and place complete trust in the capable hands of the surgeons whom our Heavenly Father has placed on this earth to perform such medical procedures.  Pray for his brothers and sisters as they anxiously await word on their brother whom they love, dote on and care deeply about – finally, pray for all those who will provide before, during and aftercare for Luke – he will need their attention and skill.

Tonight, after a busy day for Jean helping D#1 move into her classroom and then search for a place to live in Austin and a busy day for Brian videotaping “San Marcos Shining Stars” for his upcoming Chamber business expo, we opened a little wine we found during our “work weekend” in Kerrville for less than $12.  We opened a 2011 Cigar Zin . . . their motto is “grab life by the bottle” – interesting theme . . . and interesting flavor.

In the glass – its’ color was medium body, a little thin on the ruby-red side but a pretty sight to behold.  On the nose, this little gem was classic Zin – peppery, spicy and lots of dark fruit.  On the palate, really . . . really fruity with less spice than on the nose, but a fruit bomb nonetheless.  It’s a blend of 90% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Syrah . . . WOW, what a combination!  This wine was also hand harvested at peak season to ensure quality and flavor, the fruit for Cigar Zin was sorted then fermented for 7 days then prepared the wine in French (50%) and American (50%) oak barrels for 11 months. No wonder its soooo good!  We will add this one to the Bondy Deck Wine list and am thinking it could make the Top Ten list (well, maybe the Top 20).

Thank you for being out there – thank you for reading our blog – and most importantly tonight, thank you for praying with us for Luke.  Have a great night and remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 327: Zen is it good to enjoy wine?

zen of zinThe name alone grabs your attention.  The price probably makes you want to forget it.  Depending on your level of wine ‘sophistication’, you’re either WAY past this wine or not in the same league!  Seriously, most people try zinfandels because they think that it’s the same as (oh my), white zinfandel.  Many times, when these troubadours make it home with their new-found selection, they’re disappointed to find a red wine and not a ‘pink’ wine. ‘YUCK!’

Anytime we see the word ‘Zen’, we immediately think of the book from high school, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  The book describes, in first person, a 17-day journey on his motorcycle from Minnesota to California by the author (though he is not identified in the book) and his son Chris, joined for the first nine days by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland.  The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas by the author, on topics including epistemology, ethical emotivism and the philosophy of science.  Not a real exciting piece of literature when you’re 17 years old, and you’d rather be ANYWHERE other than English class!  No offense, just sayin’!

When we saw this wine, we also thought about zen…you know, zen, it emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the Buddhist teachings.  As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through zazen (not to be confused with Zazu from The Lion King!) and interaction with an accomplished teacher. . .HUH?

Ultimately we have a wine from the folks at Ravenswood.  Not a bad name when it comes to producing quality zinfandel wines at reasonable prices.  According to several sources, “and this wine is Ravenswood at its’ quirky best. A blend of old vine Zinfandel from great sources throughout California, expertly married by Joel Peterson to make this vibrant, fruity, in your face Zinfandel. Perfect with just about anything, hey that’s the Zen part, but really good with anything fresh from the grill.”  Unlike lesser zinfandels, Zen of Zin is not a fruit bomb — it has real tannins, and a dry finish.  It’s not complex or superb, but there’s almost nothing wrong with it.  Nothing sticking out here.  Nothing poking your taste buds there.  It’s opulent and affordable, but there’s something missing.  While it’s label is highly unattractive, the wine itself takes the entire time the bottle has been opened to air out.  For a $9-$10 bottle of wine, we’ve tried a lot of others that deliver the taste, the complexity and the importance to get the job done, but this one doesn’t fit the bill!

Even after 327 days, we’re finding wines that may not be worth the investment.  We’ve definitely found some new ones that will make return appearances in the months ahead, but we are still looking for those value-priced wines with the killer tastes!  We know that within the next 43 days (or however many) that we’ll find some additional bottles that knock our socks off. . .this on didn’t.

Whether you’re looking for Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Zen as a form of relaxation, you won’t find either of them in the 2011 Zen of Zin from Ravenswood.  Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 315: We’re Just Not That Into It . . .

into zinFriday nights are great nights for kicking back, firing up the grill and relaxing after a long week.  Part of the challenge with that ‘process’ this time of year is that it’s still 100 degrees plus at 8 o’clock at night . .  not exactly the kind of weather that’s conducive to deck time on a Friday night.  The grill part, on the other hand, is always a good option and after finding some steaks on sale at our local H-E-B, we decided that tonight would be a good reason to cook them up.  We like to fix roasted potatoes when we grill steak . . . using some nice red potatoes well cut them into bite-size pieces and cut up some red onion and we like adding red, yellow or orange sweet peppers.  Mixing all three together in a bowl with some olive oil and seasoning, put them into a 9 x 12 baking dish – – or if you’ve got stoneware, like is offered from Pampered Chef, use that – a great tool for cooking, and finally into the oven at 375 degrees for–initially–20 minutes.  After the first 20 minutes, stir them up, turn the dish around and put another 25 minutes on the timer.  In the meantime, we’ve picked up some beautiful, fresh green beans…long, great color and they have a great snap – – after cleaning them and soaking them in some water, we like to add just a hint of bacon grease or two or three slices of bacon to the pan with some water just covering the top of the beans.  After bringing them to a boil, we’ll simmer them on medium to low for 15 minutes at which time, we’ll pour in a third of a bottle of Italian salad dressing.  Put the lid back on, turn down the heat to low and let cook for another 20-25 minutes.

These two vegetables combined with the steak made for a nice way to wrap up the week – along with daughter #1 and Bruce Wayne(who is in for a weekend visit) –  but it wouldn’t be complete without some wine, and tonight we opened at 2011 Into Zin Zinfandel from Oak Ridge Winery…the same folks that make one of our favorite everyday Zins, OZV and Maggio!  They’re located in Lodi, California…a superb part of the state for growing zinfandel grapes.  While this Zin isn’t going to set any records for awards or get rated by Parker, it did earn a gold medal at the 2012 Alameda County Fair…not sure if that means anything, but even as a value-priced entry, it’s not bad.  But, it’s probably not going to make us go out and scoop up mass quantities of it either…the nose is certainly typical zin…peppery, dark fruit, a little leathery.  The taste was –well, just a little too tart for us.  We like a zin to have that warm, spicy taste and a finish that allows you to taste the fruit and other characteristics of the wine.  Even as the wine had some time open up, it didn’t deliver anything that made us jump for joy.  So, while some of the Oak Ridge products are among our favorite everyday-type wines, this one won’t be joining them.

Fortunately, good food is just that…good food and we enjoyed the meal immensely, but the wine, while disappointing, is a great way to enjoy good food.  We hope you have a terrific weekend and as you enjoy your favorite wine, we hope that you’ll do so responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 299 — Everyone Is Equal…But Some Are MORE Equal Than Others…

Reds-Wine for the peopleDid you ever read the book, ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell?  “The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders, but also the ways wickedness, indifference, ignorance, greed, and myopia corrupt the revolution. It portrays corrupt leadership as the flaw in revolution, rather than the act of revolution itself. It also shows how potential ignorance and indifference to problems within a revolution could allow horrors to happen if a smooth transition to a people’s government is not achieved,” according to Wikipedia.  Perhaps the most telling line in the book was, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.  As a historical nod to post World War II Europe and Russia, Orwell was disgusted by the alliance between Britain, the US and the new Soviet Union.  Even worse, was his dislike for Stalin, whose power only grew stronger as a result of the successes in the War.  A commentary on socialism/communism, Orwell’s allegorical novel clearly paints a picture of mistrust, misuse of power and lack of leadership in a post-Lenin world.

If you’ve never read the book, it’s a true classic in American literature.  Orwell actually wrote the book during World War II–from November 1943 through February 1944.  It’s not a particularly long book, but it’s packed with innuendos, suggestions, thought provoking idealisms and down right attacks on a post World War II society.  NOW, why on the face of a beautiful earth, would we bring up such an ‘ancient’ piece of literature?  It seems that regardless of what side of the aisle you prefer, there are leaders who are trumpeting that everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.  Take for example health care. . .Congress passed the mammoth bill–over 1200 pages–but opts out for itself and governmental employees.  How convenient–but we are all equal.  Of course, the other key component in any society based on equality is that laws are passed for the people but not for government.  Agencies in government run unchecked, uninhibited and completely funded to do what ever they wish to whomever they wish…but government is immune to such ‘oversight’.

So it seems that art imitates life or was it life imitating art?  Hmmm, well, at least we found a nice wine to discuss matters of literature this evening.  Among our finds recently at Central Market South in Austin is this 2011 Reds a blended red wine that promotes itself as being “For The People”! With a name like ‘Reds’ and a tag line like you’ve just read, there must be some substance to this wine. . .Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah from pioneer vineyards in the heartland of California.  We noticed a lot of dark fruit on the nose and front palate.  There were hints of pepper, coriander and spice that came through on the finish after it had been opened for about 45 minutes.  This is a young wine but full of flavor and well worth the $11 a bottle price.  Here, once again, is a great example of wine with a great body, taste and structure for a price that leaves you speechless.  Good wines at prices that won’t break the bank are becoming the rage–threatening higher priced lower quality wines–but only a few have jumped on the bandwagon.

Depending on where you live, Animal Farm may be happening before your very eyes. . .state, county, local. . .all jurisdictions that tax and collect to fund their operations but without much oversight.  Over time, they may come to be viewed as Snowball and Napoleon–who felt the need to prepare for the revolution–but ultimately use their power to secure more power for themselves and less for the people. (pigs.)  We hope you’ll try Reds. . .the 2011 version is ready to enjoy today.  Thanks for reading and remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 221: ‘Trust The Twins’. . .

langetwins zinBack in the summer of 2012 – late August to be exact – we started ‘collecting’ wines for this blog by attending the 75th Anniversary of Twin Liquors.  They had some tremendous deals on everyday wines and superb collectible vintages.  Several of the bottles purchased at that time are still sitting in our wine fridge.  Since that time, we have scoured, not only Twin Liquors, but also, The Main Liquor, Grape Juice and Grape & Grain in Kerrville, H-E-B in multiple locations around Central Texas, Central Market in Austin, Specs Liquor & Finer Foods, Gabriels Outlet in San Marcos and World Market.  Who would have thought that there would be so many choices from so many different retailers.  It’s clear to us that there are thousands of wine labels out there – many of them just waiting to be tasted, talked about and remembered.

Here we are at Day 221, and after a recent visit to Twin Liquor in Austin at one of their West Austin stores, we came upon a wine on special for $11.99, yes – that caught our attention.  A 2010 Zinfandel from Lodi, California – one of the GREAT Zin growing appellations in California – named LangeTwins.  Okay, a new name to us . . . so let’s do some research.  Hmmm, for five generations their family has been growing sustainable wine grapes in the Lodi Appellation and in 2006 they opened a winery to showcase their passion for growing wine grapes – because, as wine lovers and bloggers, we continue to learn everyday, great wine starts in the vineyard.  And, since opening in 2006, they have continued to expand their state-of-the-art winery to keep up with the demand for their LangeTwins wines as well as private labels.

And we also learned tonight that they’ll be participating in the 2013 Austin Wine & Food Festival on April 26th and 27th as they introduce ‘Caricature’ at the H-E-B booth and offer signed bottles!  It’s always cool to come upon something relatively new in the market – or relatively new for us – to taste and talk about.  We opened our 2010 Lodi Zin and immediately fell in love with the nose . . . oh, wow, such peppery-goodness and fruity deliciousness . . . it’s a ‘zin-lovers’ delight!  Raspberry, blackberry and even black cherry consume this jammy zin with a sneaky black pepper finish.  MMMMM, GOOD!  A truly luscious wine and a Silver Medal winner at the 2012 California State Fair.  All we know is that the stop we made at Twin Liquors was yet another reason why we ‘Trust The Twins’!  Considering that this winery will be represented at the Austin Food & Wine Festival later this month – and in the Dallas/Fort Worth (Deb and Mark – can we book a room?) area as well, if you’re in Texas, you’ll want to get your hands on some of this wine . . . we predict that it will sell FAST!

One of the really amazing aspects about 221 days of wine is that we are continuously finding new labels and vintages that amaze us.  Without the benefit of this ‘labor of love’, we’d probably still be trying the same 10-15 labels we’ve always loved.  Instead, we’ve uncovered some real gems from creative wine makers and clever marketers!  And, we’ve found some duds in the mix as well.  There are still way, way, way too many wines to try in the days we have left, but our goal remains the same–good wines at affordable prices for wine lovers of all shapes and sizes.  Pass the word on about LangeTwins – it’s a wine worth noting now and in the future . . . hey, they’ve been growing wine grapes for FIVE generations – you think they know a thing or two about quality fruit?  Enjoy your bottle of LangeTwins . . . we sure did!

Quick shout out on the NCAA Women’s game – we were pulling for the Cardinals to “twin up” with their male counterparts, but ya gotta give the Huskies a high five for a job well done.  Hate to see Pat Summit’s record for victories matched, but credit given where credit due.

Until tomorrow, remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.


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Day 206: Smooth as Silk . . .

silk oak zinWhoa!  Something happened between yesterday and today. . .and we could feel it!  It was an even more noticeable difference between Saturday and today.  Just when you think that the Spring weather is here to stay and that all that cold weather is moving north, Mother Nature finds a way to have the ‘last laugh’. . .Okay, so 40 degrees isn’t freezing, but at the end of March in this part of the world, it might as well be!  Factor in a north wind and you’ve got wind chills in the upper 20’s to low 30’s.  For our readers in the northern tier, we understand the laughter coming from you. . .having spent 13 years in the St. Louis are, we GET cold weather.  It’s a big part of the reason we’re ‘down south’.  But, it’s still a wake up call when the wind blows from the northwest and the temps drop into the 40’s. . .or below.  It’s yet another reminder that we aren’t in charge and that winter hits the road on ITS’ terms not ours!  No matter how many “named” storms the Weather Channel comes up with for winter, they’ll quit coming when nature is ready for the spring time.

Speaking of named storms, now we have to wonder if they’ll name the spring storms. . .will each tornado get its’ own name?  Will there be Super Spring Storms?  And who–who is the person naming those storms and WHY?  And, what ever happened to Storm Stories?  You know, people who get in their cars to hit the road in search of “The Perfect Storm”. . .oh, wait, we’ve already had two of those!

Tonight, even though it’s Monday, we started off the week with a Zinfandel that caught us completely off guard.  An H-E-B gem that until yesterday, we had no idea it even existed.  From the Zinfandel wine growing region of Lodi in California comes this 2009 Silk Oak Zinfandel from Oak Ridge Winery–the same folks that make, OZV Zinfandel.  This wine is a killer.  The nose–man, the nose is pure zinfandel. . .lots of pepper and spice as well as dark fruit. . .it’s so amazing and yet hard to believe.  The taste is still classic zin, but–aerate the wine. . .give is some time. . .swirl it around and you get a finish that isn’t expected.  Normally, when we taste Zins. . .they finish with a classic, peppery taste, but this Silk Oak threw us for a loop. . it was vanilla.  As plain as day. . .a vanilla finish.  Subtle at first and then much more pronounced!  As the wine opened, the vanilla came through more and more . . we were blown away.  This was delicious, surprising, affordable and one that could be bought in quantity and saved for a great deck wine.  Priced at less than $15 a bottle, you won’t pay more for less–instead, you’ll pay LESS for MORE!  Yeah, it’s that good.  Now, we aren’t talking — lay this vintage down for 15 years — then drink it. . .we’re saying, for a ‘here and now’ wine, this Zin is a clear winner.

And, whether your weather is clear and sunny or you still have snow on the ground, in order to hit the ground running this spring, you need a good Zin to make everything right.  Silk Oak is the answer to that calling.  And, if you’ve been dealing with cold, nasty weather, we understand, empathize and hope that yours turns warm and sunny.

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


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Day 200: So Much to Look Forward to . . .

St Francis ZinWell, well, well . . .isn’t that SPECIAL!!!  Who could POSSIBLY have chosen THIS wine on THIS day?

Could it be  . . . ???

You remember the ‘Church Lady’ on Saturday Night Live?  Dana Carvey was amazing . . . his timing, facial expressions, voice inflection – ALL were perfect!  Finding humor in things seems to be a lost art.  We’ve listened to and watched the likes of Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld and yet we still can’t laugh about life around us.  It’s gotten to the point where PC doesn’t even come close to politically correct – or even personal computer . . . NO, instead it’s come to symbolize “Past Caring”.  Yeah, kind of sad . . . there’s a large and GROWING population that is fed up with media, fed up with politics and fed up with excuses.  There is a coming generation – our kids included – that are so disconnected from what’s going on in the world that it’s kind of scary.

Imagine – millions upon millions of voting age adults opting to stay home instead of going to the polls to cast a ballot.  Imagine – millions upon millions of voting age adults being turned off, tuned out and turned off by what’s happening in society.  Imagine?  It’s already happening . . .

So, today–Jean set the alarm for 3 a.m. to be sure and watched the initial Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.  Unfortunately, Brian was more like a bump on a log and didn’t make it out of the sack, but Jean was there through it all.  And, as the Mass unfolded, perhaps the most telling and important comments came from Pope Francis himself – reminding that we need to take care of the poor as well as our own environment.

As we’ve mentioned previously, we were both in college when JPII was ordained and his reign/tenure as leader of the Church coincided with our life together – how awestruck we were when, in 1999 while living in St. Louis, JPII came to our home city in JANUARY!!  OK, in case you haven’t watched the Weather Channel lately, January in St. Louis is not exactly a ‘Carnival Cruise’!  Actually, WINTER would be better than a CARNIVAL cruise!!!  That year–and we’re serious – for the two days that he was in the city, the temperatures were in the 50’s and  the sun was shining . . .  Shortly after the visit, bitter cold, freezing rain and lots of wind – coincidence?  We think NOT . . . just sayin’!

No coincidence that tonight we’d open a 2009 St. Francis Zinfandel from Sonoma County in California.  Two things come to mind – first, isn’t it cool that we’re enjoying a wine from ‘St. Francis’ on the day that Pope Francis is installed as Pope . . . and secondly, how coincidental is it that our wine would end up with the same name as the new Pontiff – ok, must admit . . . planned.  When at Twin a conscious decision was made to purchase this wine just for this day!

A classic old vines Zinfandel that pays tribute to its heritage, this wine offered up a great nose . . . so spicy and truly pepper – a bit of cigar box, pepper and spice!  The flavors on the front of the palate are cherry, vanilla, and tobacco. . the finish is a bit “puckery” but still full of flavor.  Imagine this wine in a decanter to 1-2 hours?  Yes, it’s got that kind of potential!  For the price of $16 it is so very worth it!!!  We decided this wine is much like our new Pope – calm looking on the outside – but once opened is full of spice, smooth and cordial, and full of a Bamn on the finish.  Will be buying lot’s of this wine in the future.

We know that not everyone is interested in or pays attention to things going on in the World.  The Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis started around 3:30 a.m. today – our guess is that moost of America was asleep “at the wheel”, but there were a number of Americans that stayed up, got up or were awakened to watch History this morning.  The Pope’s message is clear and simple  – take care of those in need.  This is something we can all get our arms around regardless of of faith.

So, needless to say it was a historical day – a new leader of the Catholic Church installed – and we finished Day 200 – only 165 to go!!!!  Please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible!