Margarita Monday, Part Cuatro

I wasn’t actually planning on Margarita Monday to be a regular thing, but I figured what the heck–who doesn’t like margaritas?!?!?  Also, if you’d like a picture of your tasty margarita to appear here for Margarita Mondays, please tweet it to me @epicurioustexan!

In honor of today’s Big Birthday: Not 40, Just Fabulous, I thought it appropriate to honor this Margarita Monday with my cranberry margarita from Chevy’s during my Birthday Trip #2 (because when you’re turning Not 40, Just Fabulous, you get multiple birthday trips!).

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Go Texan.

This Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#12) theme is LOCAL.  And I’m so thankful to The Drunken Cyclist for issuing a reminder, or rather letting everyone know that it’s not too late….because honestly, I thought it was too late!

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As I might have mentioned a time or thirty, I used to work at a wine shop and tasting room specializing in Texas wines.

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When I started, it was a summer job and there 33 Texas wineries.  Now a few (and by a few I mean 20) years later there over 275 Texas wineries.  So here are some fun facts about Texas wines (thanks to Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association):

The first vineyard was was planted near El Paso in 1662 by Franciscan Monks–making it one of the oldest in the United States.

Texas ranks fifth in wine production in the United States and has 4,400 acres of family owned vineyards.

Texas has eight recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVA).

  1. Texas High Plains: Located west of Lubbock in the Panhandle at an elevation of 3000-4000 feet, the climate of this appellation is very dry. While the AVA encompasses over 8 million acres, there were approximately 3500 acres dedicated to grape growing in 2005.
  2. Escondido Valley: This appellation established in 1992 covers 50 square miles in Pecos County in far West Texas, located near Fort Stockton
  3. Texas Hill Country: Located west of Austin and San Antonio, this appellation, like Texas, is large. It is the second largest AVA in the USA, containing more than 9 million acres. Two smaller appellations, listed below, have been designated within the Texas Hill Country due to the unique microclimates they embody. Many wineries are located in this scenic area.
  4. Bell Mountain (within Texas Hill Country): Designated in 1986, it is the first established AVA in Texas, covering five square acres about 15 miles north of Fredericksburg.
  5. Fredericksburg (within Texas Hill Country): This viticultural area covers about 110 acres with approximately 60 under vine.
  6. Mesilla Valley: Located at the far western tip of the Texas border north and west of El Paso, this area is hot and dry with a long growing season and approximately 40 acres of cultivated grapes.
  7. Texas Davis Mountains: With about 50 acres planted with vines, this west Texas appellation is cool and wet at an elevation ranging from 4,500 to 8,300 feet.
  8. Texoma: Located in north-central Texas, this area contains approximately 3,650 square miles along the Texas-Oklahoma line.

Texas produces about 3.0 million gallons of wine yearly.

The Texas Wine industry has an economic impact of nearly $2 billion annually (yeah, that billion with a B!).

The oldest continuously running winery is Val Verde, which was started in 1883 by Frank Qualia–and is still owned by the Qualia family today.  Btw, their Don Luis Tawny Port is amazing (I mean, you could disagree with me, but you’d be wrong!).

How does this relate to me?  Well, see AVAs #2, 3, and 4?  That’s my home and I will happily tout the wineries therein.  Every time I am home, I will go back to my wine shop and see what’s new in the area and, of course, try some of my favorites that I have been drinking over the last 20 years, such as Becker, Grape Creek, Texas Hills, Sister Creek, Dry Comal Creek, and Fall Creek.

Of course, there are many more.  But these guys were around when I started working at the wine shop and they will always be my go-to wineries when recommending wineries where one can get a great tour and the opportunity to taste some of the best wine that Texas has to offer.  

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Great wine can be found all over the state–but since this post is about local and local to me means home, I’m sticking with the Hill Country wineries.

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There are two others that I would be terribly remiss in not mentioning: Bell Mountain and Chisholm Trail–to me, they are more than just wineries, they truly are home.  You see, right next door to the ranch sits Bob & Evelyn’s beloved Bell Mountain Winery.  In fact, the hill where our house sat?  It’s on their poster.  I mean, you can’t get more local than that.  Unless, of course, you’re talking about Paula at Chisholm Trail, who purchased the land for her vineyard from my great, great uncle Hugo.  It was her 1994 Merlot that actually made me give non-blended merlots a chance.  While, they are still not my favorite grape by any stretch of the imagination, I will drink, and even (gasp!) purchase them from time to time–and that’s all thanks to Paula!

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When I moved to NYC, I moved with the bare necessities: the pupcicle, my books, 3 cases of Shiner Bock, 5 cases of Texas wine, and a bit of furniture and clothing.  After my brother closed the door of the U-Haul, he hugged me and whispered “drive carefully because if you get pulled over, you’ll be arrested for bootlegging.”

Thanks Bubba, but I have NO INTENTIONS WHAT-SO-EVER of selling any (or even sharing!) anything in those 8 cases!!  I don’t think I have ever driven more carefully in my life!  Because, of course, I had Momma and the pupcicle with me, but also because I had no intentions of having my precious cargo confiscated!

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Cooking with Wine (Thirsty Thursday #6)

I cook with wine…sometimes I even add it to the food. ~W.C. Fields

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This French Chardonnay-Sauvignon blend was a delicious pairing for my Mushroom & Corn Risotto (and a bargain–Cheap Wine Curious, I know you’d be so proud!). It had a light, crisp mouthfeel with a big apple taste and a delicate grapefruit finish–perfect alongside the creamy richness of the risotto. Add roasted chicken and asparagus, and I was a happy, happy girl!

Margarita Monday, Part Dos

I wasn’t actually planning on Margarita Monday to be a thing, but last week’s post was rather popular.  I figured what the heck, let’s try this again.  NOTE: Don’t get too excited, because (oddly enough), I don’t have many pictures of margaritas (although I am happy to start a “Send Your Margarita Pictures” photo drive, if you’d like!).

I drink them, I promise–sometimes in copious amounts and therein might be the problem.  They’re just so darn tasty and easy to drink, like this one–which is a prickly pear margarita from Bejas in Fredericksburg, Texas (hometown, for all you newbies out there!)–that they tend to be gone before I even think to snap a pic!  Although this one’s bright red color made it impossible to ignore–and the perfect balance of sweet and citrus made it deeeee-licious! Salud!

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Home Sweet Home

Slight error in judgement.  I know, I know…it rarely happens 😉  so when it does, it is the job of the BFF to, of course, call me on it.

Remember yesterday’s post about the ABCs of Shez?  Well, if you read it and then all the comments you would have seen my egregious error, which is that T is always for Texas (that is a direct quote from the niece).  Now, I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that T is always for Texas, so I thought it okay to list something else for T–silly, silly Shez.  Obviously too much beer (or perhaps not enough beer?).  Regardless, my other family (aka BFF’s family) decided to help “remind” me of my roots and the error of my ways and came up with their own ABCs–all about TEXAS!  It is just too fabulous to leave in the comment section where you may or may not ever see it.

So grab your beer and enjoy 🙂

Girl, let me be the first to tell you Texas IS what makes you interesting! So because we love you and see that you have lost your way Dad, Becca, Chelle, Lizzie, & I came up with a little something to help you back on the path home to TEXAS.

THE ABC’s of TEXAS:
A = ALAMO because that is where it all began. AUSTIN the capital of the greatest state in our nation. AMARILLO well because that’s where your other family lives. ARMADILLO.

B = BBQ; BLUEBONNETS; BUFFS(aloes) BOOTS and lets not forget BLUE BELL ICE CREAM

C = COWBOYS the ranching kind, the western bar kind, & the ones in Dallas with a big blue star! CADILLAC RANCH; COWS; & COUNTRY MUSIC.

D = DALLAS, it’s called the big D for a reason; DEER; DANCING; DONT MESS WITH TEXAS; DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS; DESERT; (& Becca & Chelle remind you of the DEAD cow hit with their truck)

E = out in the west Texas town of EL PASO…; The EYES OF TEXAS ARE UPON YOU

F = FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Yes folks it’s real; FOOTBALL; FREDERICKSBURG; FORT WORTH (because George asked if it crossed your mind); FRIENDLY

G = GIANT because everything’s bigger in Texas; & GUITARS as in the only two things in life that make it worth living…; GILLEY’S; GALVESTON; & GIG ‘EM

H = HOME SWEET TEXAS; HILL COUNTRY; HOUSTON; HORNEY TOADS; & HOOK ‘EM

I = INDEPENDENCE

J = JOHNSON as in Lady Bird; & our LBJ; & JACKRABBIT

K = KINGS RANCH

L = LONE STAR STATE; LONGHORNS; LADY BIRD; & LUCKENBACH (because Everybody’s Somebody)

M = MARGARITA; MUSIC; MOCKING BIRD; MEXICAN FOOD

N = NIGHT SKIES (as in The Stars at Night are Big & Bright…); & NASA

O = OIL (as in black gold Texas T) OUTLAWS (the originals)

P = PECAN TREES; PECAN PIE; mmmm; PICK UP TRUCK; PLAINS; & PALO DURO CANYON

Q = QUANAH PARKER; QUARRIES;

R = RIO GRANDE; RODEO; RAILROAD; RANCHES; RANGERS (baseball & lawmen) & RATTLESNAKES

S = SAN ANTONIO; SPURS; SHINER; SIX FLAGS; SCHLITTERBAHN!!!

T = TEXAS (T is always for TEXAS) (Lizzie said “it’s what you should have put in the first place!!!)

U = UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

V = VILLA (as in Taco Villa); VENISON

W = WILLIE (you got this one but mistakenly put it under N, to those of us in the know it’s just WILLIE). WIND, WILDFLOWERS

X = XIT RANCH

Y = YELLOW ROSE; Y’ALL;

Z = ZZ TOP; & a ZILLION REASONS TO LOVE TEXAS!!!!

 

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Easy as ABC…

Now that you have The Jackson Five playing background music in your head, I have a confession.  You know those silly/annoying emails that circulate every couple of years in which you answer questions about yourself?  Yeah, I’m one of those annoying people who not only fills them out, but sends them to nearly everyone in my email address book.  I’m a details kinda girl and I love collecting tidbits of information about people.  Who knows what you might learn about your friend that you’ve had since the 2nd grade or some great blackmail information on the annoying coworker 4 desks down?

A couple of months ago I saw a getting to know you post in the format below.  It’s been a long time since I filled one out (probably because everyone on my email list has a secret pact with each other to NEVER EVER send me another!).  Aaaaand it is different than any other that I’ve seen, so I thought I’d give it a go!

How is it different?  Why, thank you for asking: rather than answer questions, you simply list (although WARNING: I never list–I always have to explain!) 26 interesting things about you, each item starting with a letter in the alphabet.  While I’m horrible at explaining, I know that you’re brilliant and by the time you get to “A,” you’ll have it figured out!

One last thing before I begin: individuals did not make this list.  So if you are just reading this in search of your name stop right now and go back to work, uh, I meant lunch.  Don’t pout–invariably I’d leave someone out and then I have to endure years of guilt trips.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  And honestly, how am I supposed to pick between Bubba and beer?  Although, actually that’s rather easy because I’m 250% sure that Bubba (aka my brother) would agree it should be beer.

Now, back to the task at hand.

The ABCs of Shez:

A is for Addy, my darling pupcicle (you know, in case you weren’t aware that I had a darling pupcicle whom I adore!)…and before you call me out on it, yes, I broke the “No Individuals” rule, but it’s the ONLY time I promise.

B is for Beer…mmmmmm….beer (I hope you heard that in a Homer Simpson voice!).  I don’t think that needs further explanation.  Plus you should have seen it coming.

C is for coffee.  Again, no further explanation is needed, especially those who have had the “pleasure” of seeing me in the morning before coffee–it ain’t purty!

D is for dogs.  Pupcicles are special because they bring so much love and joy into our lives–in so many ways.  Of course, it ain’t all sunshine and roses, particularly when you live in NYC and have to pick up poop for a very large dog.  But they make our lives whole with their amusing antics and unconditional love.  PS–if you’re wondering how much I love dogs, I picked them over dessert!  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!

E is for Eso se que es, which literally translated is confusing so I like to go with the loose translation of “it is what it is” and whenever I say it, people look at me like “did you just say socks in the middle of my rant?”  No, but yes.  Anyway, it is a reminder that life is bigger than all of us and that any time you think everything is perfectly mapped out, the Fates will take the opportunity to intervene so they can laugh at you.  Thus to keep sane, I like to remind myself of three things: eso se que es, que sera sera, and Lord give me coffee to help me change the things I can, and wine to help accept the things I can’t.

F is for FOOTBALL!

G is for Grace.  By that, I don’t mean elegance or beauty or charm.  Did I mention I was clumsy?  Well, I am.  I come by it honestly (right Auntie K??).  As such, my Ome would always call me Miss Grace (as in, I am anything but).  To this day whenever I hear the word grace, I think of my Ome.

H is for Hamburgers.  Preferably ones with cheese and bacon and avocado and served with onion rings….but any ol’ burger with cheese will do! 😉

I is for Ice cream.  And anyone who doesn’t think it should be on EVERYONE’S list is just wrong.

J is for Jigsaw puzzles.  I love to put them together–although I haven’t put one together in a long time.  Why?  Well, whenever I find one that I love and makes me want to set up a card table and put it together, I remember that I live in a house with Princess Adelaide Grace, who is so named because like me, she is anything BUT graceful…

K is for Kaas (Dutch for cheese).  I couldn’t leave cheese off the list, thankfully the Dutch helped me out a bit.  And before you accuse me of using Google Translate to find a language where cheese started with a different letter than C, I will have you know that I was a Rotary Exchange Student to The Netherlands.  How does this relate to cheese?  I used to live about 6 miles from Gouda and would go on Thursdays to the cheese market…because…how can you go wrong with a cheese market???

L is for Laughter, because it truly is the best medicine–unless you have TB or malaria or something like that, then I would highly recommend medication.

M is for Molasses cookies, my favoritest cookies in the world!

N is for Nelson, as in Willie (and Waylon and the boys).

O is for Oven–I love baking and roasting and I can go without a lot of things, but an oven ain’t one of them!

P is for Peckish.  For most people, it means slight hungry.  But I’m never slightly hungry, so when you hear me say peckish know that it means “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the rider, but I don’t want you to think me gluttonous, so I’m going to just pretend that I’m kinda hungry and then either eat all of the snacks you foolishly set out or go back for seconds and thirds when we do eat.”

Q is for quixotic, which is just fun to say…quixotic, quixotic, quixotic!

R is for reading and don’t ask me to pick a favorite book.  I’m still trying to narrow my list down to 10 so I can post it on FB (and we’ll just pretend I wasn’t tagged to do it a month ago…sorry Becca!)

S is for Shiner…and failing that, Stella (and don’t tell me it’s cheating because I’ve already listed beer…it’s MY list!)

T is for Tolkien.  You thought it would be TEXAS! didn’t you?  I just wanted to share a line in a poem in Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, which completely sums up my life:  All those who wander are not lost.  I do hope, though, that you appreciate that I was still able to work TEXAS! into the T slot 😉

U is for umbrellas.  I totally have Mary Poppins to thank for my love of umbrellas.  Ironically, I hate using them in NYC.  People here are oblivious when using them and tend to poke other people in the head, repeatedly until I feel an urge to grab the umbrella out of their hands and give them a good smack with it.  I refrain, of course, but I know that I’m one huge rainstorm away from needing bail money.

V is for vino.  What?  It’s a word.  It is in my house….and that’s all that matters.

W is for wanderlust.  The reason wine is called vino in this list.  Traveling is truly my passion.  Even more so than eating and drinking.  Luckily, I consider imbibing in the local food and drink an integral part of traveling!  I was bit by the wanderlust bug when I went to The Netherlands (see K is for Kaas) right after high school–and I have no plans to stop any time soon and “I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list.”

X is for Xi, which is one of my favorite words to play in Words with Friends.

Y is for Yoga, something I’ve recently started doing.  Who knew stretching and finding on your inner zen could be so draining?  Please don’t write in and tell me yoga is more than stretching and finding your inner zen.  I know it is, but when you’re watching others it looks so relaxing and graceful.  I’m here to tell you for me it is neither relaxing nor graceful, but I do enjoy blundering through class–even if I look like a bull in a china shop.

Z is for zazzy.  And yes, you have to say it like Sheldon.  And if you need further explanation, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore (if you’re worried about it, I can totally be bought with wine, beer, and cheese….but not crappy cheese–if you’re trying to bribe me, it had better be aaaaaaa-mazing cheese!).

And that’s me in a nutshell!

For the record, this was a lot more tedious than I thought it would be, so not as easy as the Jackson Five would have you believe!

Thanks for indulging me!

hey mom are you done with the stupid laptop yet?

hey momma are you done with the stupid laptop yet?

 

A Peep at My Sweet Tooth

One of the earliest memories I have is going with Granny to the nursing home to visit her father, Pa.  We never stayed long, just a few minutes (probably because she had a little rugrat in tow!)–just long enough to say hi, ask how Pa was doing and hand over a bag of candy.

My great-grandfather, you see, had a sweet tooth–and not just one either!  He could easily eat a large bag of candy in one sitting.  In order to make the candy last longer than 2 hours, Granny would give the bag of candy to the nurses and asked them to ration it out so the bag would last all week.  Of course, Pa was having none of that: once his daily ration was consumed, he would then start raiding candy stashes of everyone in the nursing home.  Apparently, Pa was quite the candy thief.

It is, therefore, little surprise that his great-granddaughter inherited his sweet tooth.  I’m not a big candy fan–I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like candy and will happily indulge–but I much rather prefer cake and ice cream and pudding and pie and cheesecake and cream puffs and…well, you get the picture: things made with love–not in a production line (although, yes, I will concede everything I listed can be made in a production line).

EXCEPT one thing.  It’s completely irrational and totally disgusting and why, why, why I love them I’ll never know, but I do.

Peeps.

Yes, marshmallows dipped in sugar.  I’m not proud, but there you go.  Take a minute to make that face.  Yes, that face–you know that scrunched-up-I-can’t-believe-I’m-actually-hearing-this face you make it whenever you come across the rare individual that actually admits to liking Peeps.  You know, the same one you make when you hear that someone likes Vegemite. The BFF tries her best to indulge my predilection for Peeps (she will NOT under any circumstances acknowledge my voracity for Vegemite, except to say that I’m gross!).  She tries to get me Peeps for every holiday where they make an appearance (which, anymore is ALL OF THEM), such as for example:

HALLOWEEN!

HALLOWEEN!

And in case you’re wondering, NO, I did not eat the entire package in one sitting, much to Pa’s dismay.