MWWC 34: Memory

I have often said that the best part of wine is sharing it with someone.  As such, there are some wines and/or wineries that will always and forever remind me of a specific person, like Teresa & Grape Creek or Nerida & Chandon.  Or even Matthew & Silver Oak–ironically not because we’ve consumed copious amount of Silver Oak, but because we arrived at their tasting room 5 minutes after they closed and I might have had a momentary meltdown that ended 4 seconds later with Matthew flatly informing me to get back in the car or he was going back to San Jose without me.

In case you’re wondering what this has to do with Hawaii: nothing.  What it has to do with is that this month’s wine writing challenge (#34), as selected by last month’s winner Kent of Appetite for Wine, is MEMORY.

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I was trying to figure out which wine holds the most memories for me, however, I realized that was a bit like picking a favorite child.  Instead, I decided to pick a winery.

I’ve talked about the Chisholm Trail Winery before.  I mean, any winery that can get me to love their merlot is quite special indeed–and their 1994 Merlot did just that.  But their cabernets–spectacular: fruity, but dry with just a tiny bit of spice and oh-so-smooth.

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But the wines aren’t the reason that I picked this winery.

Perhaps you might think that it has to do with winemaker, Paula K. Williamson, who is charismatic, has an infectious laugh, and is almost never seen without her signature black Stetson.  But no, while Paula is fabulous and I adore her, she is not the reason either.

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You might even think that it’s because Christi & I spent one hot August day helping Paula & crew pick grapes in the vineyard and then watched the bottling process while sampling some of the winery favorites.  It was a long, fun-filled, exhausting day, but no.  That’s not it either.

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The reason Chisholm Trail Winery holds so many memories for me has nothing to do with wine at all.  It is because the land where the winery sits used to be owned by my family.  Specifically my great-great Uncle Hugo.  Hugo was my grandfather’s uncle and we spent a lot of time at Uncle Hugo’s because he had the best fishing hole in the county.  As a young girl I spent hours and hours at the creek behind the house, which now runs long the south side of the vineyards.  I spent hours running around the old, gigantic trees scattered around the now-winery picking flowers for Granny, who rarely came with us.

It’s been probably 35 years since I last went fishing with Uncle Hugo, but every time I open a bottle of Chisholm Trail wine, memories flood back.  I feel the sun on my face, the cool water tickling my feet, and can hear Uncle Hugo’s hearty laugh.  There are many reasons to love Chisholm Trail winery and their wines.  But for me, I love it because tastes like home.

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Cheers!

 

 

MWWC #33 Once Upon A Time

This month’s wine writing challenge (#33 if you’re keeping track or ignored the title of this post) is Once Upon A Time, which was selected by last month’s winner Wining with Mel.

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To most people, Once upon a time probably makes them think of a plethora of Grimm fairy tales or perhaps a certain tv show, but not me.  Once upon a time makes me think of college.  This is because at the time I was living with my BFF and whenever she couldn’t sleep, I would hear her yelling from down the hall: I can’t sleep, tell me a story.

All of my stories (at least that I can remember–it has been few years ago!)–started with: Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a beautiful princess named Christina.  If I were feeling loquacious, my stories would be rather long and involved, often based on my own travels.  If I didn’t, the story would be exceptionally short and sweet, like this*:

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a beautiful princess named Christina, who drank all the wine in her castle. Unfortunately, her sommelier could not get her more wine immediately, so she had him guillotined, and then cried herself to sleep.  The End.

*This story has been changed to fit the parameters of writing about wine.  It is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event (don’t panic people: no castle has been depleted of their wine stores nor any sommelier guillotined!).

Of course, because it is a wine writing challenge, I feel if I just left you with a horror story about a castle with no wine and a guillotined sommelier, I would be banned from further participation in future MWWCs.   Plus, I’m feeling a bit loquacious…so Sissy, this one is for you!

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a beautiful princess named Christina. Princess Christina lived in a big, beautiful castle overlooking a pool small and peaceful lake and sprawling lands.  One beautiful morning, Princess Christina went downstairs to find her cook distraught.  The wine cellar was empty!  The sommelier?  Gone!  Neither of these were through any fault of Princess Christina (despite a previously mentioned horror story).  However, Princess Christina decided that moving forward she would be personally checking all references on job applications.

But hiring a new sommelier was the least of her worries–SHE HAD AN EMPTY WINE CELLAR!  What is a princess to do? Not wanting to wait through the drudgery of finding another sommelier, Princess Christina did the only thing she could think of: she loaded up her carriage and set off immediately in search of great wine.

Her first stop was to find a buttery chardonnay, so she headed west to California.  While chardonnays today aren’t quite as buttery as in the days of yore, she knew she could still find something delicious at the La Crema Winery.

la cremaShe was definitely not disappointed. The 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, while not buttery per se (for definitions, click here!), is still very creamy and complex with oak and melon flavors.  It is hearty enough to pair with a meal, like Thanksgiving dinner, but is smooth enough to enjoy with a cheese course or simply paired with a good book while sitting by the pool small and peaceful lake.

As much as Princess Christina wanted to spend the day at La Crema, her empty cellar kept her on task.  With a few cases of this classic chardonnay loaded in her carriage, Princess Christina set off for Italy (she has a special flying carriage, don’t question–this is a fairy tale!).  Home of Italians, Chianti, Prosecco, Mount Vesuvius, and a delicious little thing called Montepulciano.

 

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The Tralcetto Montepulciano from Catina Zaccagnini is a great addition to the wine cellar as an Italian alternative to the traditional Chianti.  This Montepulciano is quite bold and fruity–although not as much as a zinfandel–but has a dry finish.  It is flavorful without being overbearing and because it is aged in steel then oak it is very balanced.  It drinks well with a wide variety of pastas (as any good Italian wine should!), especially venison ragù.  And in terms of pure novelty/coolness points, each bottle has a small twig of the vine tied around the neck of the bottle.

Princess Christina was very excited to add this to her carriage and as much as it pained her to leave, she still had to make at least one more stop before heading back to her castle.  There was some inner dialogue as to where her final stop would be, but she soon realized that there was only one real choice: Champagne.

IMG_2740Of course within Champagne, the possibilities were endless.  So–being ever the diplomat–Princess Christina decided to randomly pick and ended up at a quaint little house called Perrier-Jouët.  With a plethora of champagnes from which to choose, Princess Christina tried them all several times and perhaps she came home with at least a case of each.  It was hard not to do so, after all it is champagne and one can never have too much champagne on hand!  Like the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut.  It has floral and citrus notes with a nutty, crisp finish that makes it very easy to drink.

Laden down with a carriage full of wine, Princess Christina decided that she had a very good start to restocking her wine cellar and the best thing for her to do is go back home where she could sit by the pool small and peaceful lake with a glass of wine.  Her only worry now was which wine to drink first.  And as she sat and enjoyed her glass of wine and the tranquility of the pool small and peaceful lake, she reminisced on the fun of her wine buying trip .  While she still wanted to hire a new sommelier, perhaps she needn’t hire one just yet.

THE END.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have Wine? Will Travel!

This month’s wine writing challenge is TRAVEL, as selected by last month’s winner: the hilarious and enlightening Loie of Cheap Wine Curious.

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Of course, my first thought was to write about Napa, the first place I traveled for wine–but then I remembered I’ve already written about my trip and since I haven’t had the chance to go back, there’s nothing new to report.

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Then I thought about allllllll the places in France and Italy I passed through many, many moons (aka decades) ago that I’d love to go back and visit now that I have a true appreciation for the beauty and intricacies of champagnes and burgundies and amarones (ohmy!)–but then I realized that this post may never end.

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So then I thought about all the amazing Texas Hill Country wineries around where I grew up, which seemed apropos since I’m traveling (see what I did there?) down there at the end of the week–but then I realized that I should wait and do a bit of exploring of all the new wineries that have popped up since the last time I visited.

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Then I thought about cleverly describing how going to the wine store is like traveling around the world–but about the same moment that idea popped into my head, so did another:

Hawaiian Mead.

I know, I know you’re probably thinking “no, no…go back to writing about the wine store/traveling the world idea!”  But nope!  Hang on to your hats, we’re traveling to Hawaii!

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If you know me in real life or follow me on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook (shameless plug!), you will know that last September I went to Hawaii with some amazing friends.  While on the stunningly picturesque island of Kauai, we stumbled across the Koloa Rum Company.  By stumble, I mean April quickly learned she was traveling with lushes people who enjoyed sampling local adult beverages and she was trying to keep us appeased.

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But of course, this writing challenge is about wine, not rum (although THAT would be awesome!).  Having had a great time at Koloa, we (aka April, who was quicker with her google-searching fingers since she was giving away her rum samples) looked for other local places that made adult beverages.

While on the Big Island we visited the Kona Brewing Company, and so despite having not seen a grape growing anywhere in Hawaii’s lush and volcanic landscape, we were hopeful that we could find a winery.

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Alas, no grape winery…but BINGO! we found Nani Moon Meadery!  Now I will confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of mead, however, when in Rome…

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Nani Moon is in the back of a shopping center in Kapa’a.  We pull up, walk in, and, well, started tasting!  It seemed pointless not to try the full line-up, so we did.

For those of you out there who are unaware, mead is wine (although it can also be beer) made from honey instead of grapes.  It’s been around since…forever (and I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate timeframe!).  Much more sustainable, when you’re smack dab in the middle of the Pacific ocean and you have access to local apiaries.

As Stephanie (the owner) took us through each wine, she paired it with an appropriate snack and talked about where she sourced the honey (they weren’t all the same!).  I think my favorite was the Laka’s Nectar, which was the driest and most crisp of the wines.  While a little too sweet for me, the Cacao Moon was a big hit–understandable, given its chocolate undertones and velvety chocolate finish.  Stephanie definitely got bonus points for her Deviant Beehavior, which packs a kick as it is not only made from honey, but also chili!

We finished the tasting with some of the local honeys that she used, which was great–not only because they were delicious, but because you could really taste how much the nuances in the honey affected the taste of the wine.

If you’re interested in learning more, visiting, or throwing caution to the wind and just buying a bottle, contact Stephanie and tell her what you like.  I’m quite confident she will find you something you’ll truly enjoy and give you suggestions on pairings to help you enjoy it more!  She even has a cocktail section that encourages you to “bee inspired and mix it up!”

It was a great way to spend a couple of hours–and I think that if you find yourself smack dab in the middle of the Pacific on a tiny island named Kauai, you should go visit Stephanie and try her meads.  I’m not going to say that meads are now my favorite type of wine, but I did walk away with a better appreciation for just how versatile a wine made from honey can be.  And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Aloha!

Breaking In The New [Unbreakable] Glasses

Last month, I won a contest by OkieWineGirl for a set of Govino Wine glasses.

SIDENOTE: Follow her blog!  Seriously, she didn’t even pay me to say that.  If you like wine and/or learning about wine, check it out!  We’re not even going to hold it against her that she’s a Sooner fan…except you know, during the Red River Rivalry (Hook’em Horns!).

Anyway…part of her contest was to say where we would love to use our new wine glasses.  I picked while visiting The Rockefeller Tree and was all set to complete my mission when this happened:


That’s right, champagne.  Let me tell you that Moet Rose is an amazing way to break in these glasses.  It’s delicious and crisp with just a bit of fruitiness on the finish…and well, IT’S CHAMPAGNE!

The problem, however, is that it was entirely too drinkable and I didn’t save any for the tree.  Oops.  Also, I’m quite sure it’s illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public places–aside from the Staten Island Ferry–in New York City.  Not that I wasn’t going to try–I made a promise after all, but surreptitiously, of course, because I have a pupcicle to support! I mean: I’d like to issue a disclaimer to not drink illegally….


As for the glasses, they are fabulous!  They are lightweight, yet sturdy and I love the side notch for ensuring you can properly grip them!  Additionally, they are recyclable and even have a line that are dishwasher safe! I also love that they look like glass, which means that I should probably also mention–in case you hadn’t guessed–they are shatterproof.  Therefore are perfect for the poolside, picnics, tailgating, or perhaps New Year’s Eve parties where you can prevent losing–in one fell swoop–3 Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige glasses (OUCH! that was tragic).

Of course, one shouldn’t give up hope of a Govino & Rockefeller Tree shot, after all there’s always this year…and I did notice that Govino has some champagne flutes that I think I need to invest in, you know, just in case champagne is once again on the menu (because isn’t it always?!?). 😉

Thanks, Allison for the great gift–they (and you!) rock!

Family Tradition

This month’s wine writing challenge is Traditions, and I can’t think of a better way to honor tradition than to tell you how I got into drinking wine. Really drinking wine, that is–not the sneaking sips out of everyone’s glass when nobody was looking drinking wine…

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Picture it: Holland 1994 (and before you write in correcting me that it should be The Netherlands, please know that I lived in the province of Zuid-Holland, so…Holland).  I was a Rotary International exchange student. Even though “no drinking” was one of the five major rules of being an exchange student, I had the great fortune of having host families who took that to mean no excessive drinking when they were not around. Nearly every evening meal included libations of some sort (beer was an equally popular choice). My counselor’s family preferred beer and sweet sherry. My first host family loved white wines, especially white Burgundies.  My second host family prided itself on serving the appropriate drink for whatever dish or course, such as the occasion required. For the record, I never appreciated this until our 12-course Christmas dinner, with–oh yes!–12 different wines and apperifs! But it was my third family who taught me about wine and thus, my third host family is why we’re here today.

When it came to wine, my third host family only drank two kinds: Champagne and wine from the Rioja. My first night in the house, my host father took me to the wine cellar and asked me to pick something to drink with dinner.

I was at a loss. First of all, I am from a family of beer and whiskey drinkers. The wine drinkers (at least when I was growing up), leaned heavily towards the sweet stuff and I certainly didn’t see anything that looked like it was sweet. Secondly, I was wracking my brain to remember everything my second host mother lectured me about in terms of pairing wine with food, but I COMPLETELY forgot to ask what was for dinner. However, both of those were trumped by my awe of staring at the most wine I’d ever seen in my life outside of a wine or liquor store.

Uhhhhhh……

Uhhhhhh……

Uhhhhhh…..

Finally, I grabbed the nearest bottle to me and held it up for inspection. Hmmm…it was red and from Spain and I was quite sure I wouldn’t like it, but I was committed to my choice.

I held it high, like a trophy I had proudly won!

My host father asked why I picked that one.

I hung my head and lowered the bottle.

Ik weet het niet.

I don’t know. I shrugged, he chuckled, and we went back upstairs with my prize bottle, where he made me open it so it could decanteren.  What?  So it could…what?  More chuckling.

Breathe!  It needs to breathe!

At this moment, I was starting to panic that I selected a $300 bottle of wine.  My host mother sensing my panic, assured me that I made a good choice, as it was the house favorite and not to worry, she was sure they still had 5 or 6 cases left.

I’m sorry, 5 or 6 what?  Yes, yes, I knew what a case was, but the thought that anyone would have multiple cases of wine at one time and then have numerous cases of THE SAME WINE…and then to think to that they had a particular amount left, but not even be sure?!?

I was stunned.  I was flabbergasted.  I.WAS.SPEECHLESS!

My host father decided that he would take me under his wine wing and teach me all there was to know about wine.  He and my host mother patiently answered a plethora of questions about wines and grapes and buying and collecting and serving and tasting and on and on until finally I asked about their wine room and how they kept it so well stocked.

Oh you know, we make a trip to Spain every year.

He said it with such aplomb and nonchalance that I was picturing all of Europe flocking to the south to stock on on wine. I was–at that very moment–planning my move to the continent!

So you just drive the car to Spain, load up, and drive back?

Well, we stop in Champagne on the way back as well.

I’m sorry.  You drive the car to Spain, load up on wine, swing by Champagne buy a bit more and then come back?

HA HA HA HA…of course not.  We take a trailer, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it.  That’s why we have the big BMW.

So let me get this straight.  You hook a trailer up to the car, drive to Spain, load up on wine.  Drive to Champagne, get more wine and then drive back?

More or less, yes.  We love Spanish wine–and well, who doesn’t love champagne?

You are certainly right about that [champagne].  Wait, wait, wait.  Start from the beginning, alstublieft.

Well, it started over 30 years ago–on our honeymoon.  We drove to Spain and just fell in love with the wines from Rioja.  On that trip we came back with a couple of cases of tempranillo, and since it was our honeymoon, we stopped in Champagne on our way back and got a few bottles of champagne as well.  We loved that trip so much, we decided it would make a great yearly trip.  So, every spring on our anniversary we would get in the car and head to Rioja for wine.  Soon it became our little tradition.  Every year , however, we came back with more and more wine.  Finally, we just stopped pretending and stressing about getting it to fit in the car and bought a trailer.  Of course then we needed a bigger car to be able to pull it back through the mountains.  Now there’s no stress, a lot of room and we are able to purchase enough delicious reds, whites, and bubbly for the whole year, and in the process, get a vacation.  Beautiful country, beautiful wife, beautiful wine–life doesn’t get any better than that.

No…no, it certainly does not.

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La Bella Vita

Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays have been wonderful and bright and all that jazz.

I recently have been playing host to 4 friends from very different parts of the globe.  Now that they have all gone, stillness has quietly crept back into my house (aside from the yelling at the &%*I$(#^&^%$^ football game), which has allowed for some inner reflection of the craziness that was 2014.  I had some pretty spectacular moments; unfortunately they were not all happy spectacular moments, but a few gut-wrenching ones as well.

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be a sappy-Shez-has-had-too-much-champers-and-going-to-make-everyone-cry post.  First of all, I don’t do sappy very well and secondly, I need to get a move on because it’s halftime and I definitely don’t want to be writing/editing when the game comes on again, lest my laptop be accidentally thrown in a fit of screaming “my granny could run faster than that!”

Where was I?  Oh yes: I just wanted to say thank you.  Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who support me and challenge me and make me laugh.  And an even bigger THANK YOU to my amazing family and friends for, well, everything.

I’ve had some very surreal moments this year.  Snorkeling with jelly fish, for example, or watching the Times Square ball drop and being covered in confetti or sitting on a deck in Minnesota, staring at a beautiful sunset looking out over Canada or standing next to my cousin while she solidified her life with a really great guy (although NO ONE tell him that because we’ll never hear the end of it!).

Not too long ago, I was having coffee with my friend Des, who remarked that her favorite thing about me was that it didn’t matter what crazy place she wanted to go or what crazy thing she wanted to do, I had a story about why it would be a great idea.

I realized at that very moment that I had been blessed with a very unique outlook on life that made it unpredictable, but oh-so-beautiful.  It was nothing like I ever imagined it would be when I was growing up smack dab in the middle of Texas and it certainly isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I think–no, I know–that I have spent a lot of time in the past few years obsessing about the negatives and everything that has gone wrong, and so my goal for this year is to focus more on the positives and figure out a way to create even more beauty in my life….starting with reminding the Cowboys they are actually playing today and figuring out how to get them show up and win (what? surely you didn’t expect me to end on a sappy note?!?!).

Best wishes for a happy, prosperous, and beautiful 2015!

xoxo,

Shez and the darling princess pupcicle

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Jazucci Wine

Drink what you like.

I’ve said it so many times in my wine career, I’ve lost count.  Well into the millions, if not billions.  I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t inwardly cringe a bit whenever a customer just loooooooved their $5 bottle of cloyingly sweet because 500lbs of sugar were dumped into the barrel red wine.  Do you have something else?  Just like it, but in white or blush?  A nice crisp sparkling muscato hinting of peaches and apples?  A beautiful rosato bursting with so much fruitiness that you don’t realize no sugar has been added?  Nope.  They were all about the $5 bottle of sweet red.   They liked the taste and they loved the price point.

And red wine is good for my heart, right?  Well, maybe not that red.  It has too much added sugar.  Let me introduce you to something my cousin likes to call jacuzzi wine.

Jacuzzi wine? They were hooked simply on the moniker.  Something fun.  Absolutely no trace of snobbery that the wine world has projected as it’s façade for decades.  Plus it wasn’t White Zin.  They didn’t know a lot, but they knew to stay away from white zinfandel–at least in a fancy wine shop.  White zinfandel was for purchasing at the grocery store where you could hide it in the bottom of your cart and drink it at home without judgmental eyes watching.  No this was a much more sophisticated choice in wine: it was a Cabernet Blanc. Granted, it too was sweet, but not quite so cloying.  However, it had something that the sweet red didn’t: it was light and delicate and offered flavors other than “sweet”–like peaches.  It was light and fun and peachy and wha–$16 a bottle?

Silence.  Of course, you can always buy a glass of it for $5–walk down the street, do some shopping.  Think about it for awhile.  Buy a glass and then buy a bottle of sweet red to take back to your hotel.

You see, what I learned very early in my wine career is that wine can be scary and it can quickly get expensive–and thus those in the wine world quickly learn what their wine values are.  Are they a $300 bottle of Dom?  Or a bottle of 2 Buck Chuck?  The truth is, they’re both.  To my palette, it’s definitely a bottle of good quality French champagne, but I don’t need Dom Perignon–Bollinger or Krug will do nicely thankyouverymuch!  Or a bottle of Artemis.  Or an elusive cabernet franc or petite verdot.  But to those just starting out, $5 bottle of sweet red is everything to them.  I know.  I’ve seen their faces alight with glee as they walked out of the wine shop.  They want so badly to like wine but big-buttery California chardonnays and spicy-in-your-face Australian shirazes and dry-despite-saying-semi-dry French champagnes don’t taste good.  And they’re expensive and why throw $20, $50, $100+ down the drain when it tastes disgusting?

They want to like wine…and they don’t want to spend $100 a bottle.

A fair assessment. I love wine and I don’t want to spend $100 on a bottle. I mean, I will splurge from time to time, but not often–not when you can spend much less and still get a great bottle. So to me, values in the great big world of wine come down to two things: do you like it and can you afford to drink it whenever you like?

Everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinion and that is blatantly obvious when dealing with wine. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many varietals or styles of wine available. But the one consistent is that we are all seeking that holy grail of wine that is the perfect combination of delicious and affordable. So you when you find yourself introducing people to wine, you suggest Muscato and Riesling and Gewürztraminer and then fall back to Jacuzzi wine and sweet red.  And when you set aside your values and focus on their values, they leave happy.  Sometimes it was with a case of Jacuzzi wine; other times with a glass of reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. But they were happy. They fell in love. They found their wine values and victory was oh-so-sweet…or spicy…or buttery…but always delicious.