Chalkboard Art: Problem Solving

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New York City streets are filled with a lot of things: people, dogs, trash, mysterious things you’re better off not knowing what they are…but my favorite things NYC sidewalks offer are Chalkboard Art.

Appropriate for Fleet Week, I think. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

beer and wine

Loosely Translated

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When I was in high school, I signed up to be a Rotary Exchange Student and ended up going to The Netherlands.  I say “ended up” because originally I was supposed to go to Italy.  Alas, that trip was cancelled 6 weeks before I was scheduled to leave (long story, but I would like to state for the record that it had NOTHING to do with me–Scouts honor….and before you ask, yes I was a Girl Scout, thankyouverymuch–for a whole year!).  In hindsight, it was probably for the best that I didn’t go to Italy, as I don’t think I would have moved back.  But that is just a huge sidebar that doesn’t actually have anything to do with this post other than to lament at how close I was to moving to Italy.

When I arrived in the Netherlands, I was sent to a two-week crash course Dutch camp where I lost my voice learning a lot of useful phrases like “ik weet het niet” (I don’t know), which is exceptionally useful when asked random questions like (on the first day of school) “Are you new here?”  As the year progressed, my Dutch became much more fluent and I picked up many colorful phrases and colloquialisms.  I think my favorite is “helaas, pindakaas” just because it’s just fun to say. Loosely translated, it means alas or c’est la vie (if you want to be fancy), but literally translated it means “oh well, peanut cheese” (although the Dutch would argue that pindakaas is peanut butter, but I SAY that if pinda=peanut and kaas=cheese, then pindakaas is peanut cheese).

I know what you’re thinking “why is she even telling me this?”  Well, thank you for asking.  It is because this month’s Wine Writing Challege (MWWC #32) is TRANSLATION, as selected by last month’s winner Nesli of Wi.Nes.  And to me, nothing says “translation” quite like fumbling through learning a language while living in another country for a year.


Which brings me wine…because doesn’t everything?!?  The world of wine easily has its own language and when you are new to wine, navigating it is a lot like fumbling through learning a language while living in another country.  This extends beyond just the varietals that are a mouthful to say [ahem, gewürztraminer].  There is also the methodology and just try saying oenology after a bottle or two!   But I think that it is the descriptors that can leave people a little lost in translation, if you will.

I believe this is mainly because taste is subjective and how I describe something may not be how you describe something.  For example, if you ask me to describe the 1997 Sister Creek Cabernet Blend, I would say that it was oaky, medium-to-full bodied, with a lingering cherry finish.  My BFF would say it was so dry it knitted her tongue a sweater.  Incidentally, I think this became her go-to descriptor to whether or not I would like a wine:  will it knit your tongue a sweater? Yes?  Then Sherry will love it!

Some descriptors are easy to translate: red. white. rosè. blush. fruity. sweet. vanilla. cherry.

Others might require a bit of translating/clarification, especially to those who are new to the language of wine, like the following (while I didn’t look them up, I’m sure my descriptions are fairly accurate):

  • Nose smell
  • Finish aftertaste
  • Vintner winemaker
  • Dry leaving your mouth feeling like you drank sandpaper
  • Oaky the taste of drinking tree bark
  • Tobacco tastes like smoking a cigarette, but without the gross chemicals–just the tasty wine ones!
  • Buttery as if a stick of butter was added.  Not the fake movie theatre butter, but the good stuff.  
  • Dirt drinking freshly tilled earth, but in a good way of course
  • Jammy lots of fruit flavor, like you just got smacked with a fruit pie….or jam. That’s probably a better analogy.
  • Full-bodied like a painting by Rubens
  • Earthy see Dirt.
  • Chewy you’ll need a knife and fork to drink these wines
  • Floral yes, like flowers
  • Spicy usually of the pepper variety–black pepper, bell pepper, and if you’re really want to sound snobby, white pepper (just kidding….sort of)

And then there are those extra fun descriptors that make some wine drinkers question if they actually want to drink the wine in their glass.  You know those descriptors that make you ask (hopefully to yourself and not out loud to the vintner): WTF did you put in this?!?!?!  Don’t worry, the alcohol kills all the germs! Again, I didn’t look up these exact definitions, but I’m sure they are close.

  • Leather smells like you bought a really expensive handbag, but is much tastier
  • Smoky think campfire and that annoying smoke that blows in your face regardless of where you stand
  • Knit Your Mouth A Sweater see Dry and add “very, very, very” in front of it
  • Petrol yes, like gas–so no smoking and turn off your car engine before consuming
  • Pencil Shavings don’t panic…I’m quite sure no pencils were harmed in the making of these wines
  • Wet Dog just like in real life, this is never a good descriptor and should be dumped down the drain (the wine, not the dog).  DO NOT COOK with it (the wine–and, well, also the dog). No one wants “wet dog” food–except maybe the dog.
  • Forest Floor tastes just like you are hiking in the Pacific Northwest, but without hiking or the need to travel to the Pacific Northwest
  • Botrytis a mold that smells a bit dusty and like you’re about to spend a lot of money

Finally–my personal favorite descriptor–even though I try to avoid wines with this description because they always makes me simultaneously think “how do you know what that tastes like?” and “this is why I prefer reds!”

  • Cat Pee yeah, you read that correctly. usually associated with Sauvignon Blancs Tasting Note: try to refrain from asking the vintner if it was added–chances are you don’t really want to know.

Of course, the best way to learn is to drink taste a lot.  It definitely makes translating a lot more fun*.


Cheers!

PS–Thanks to my wino friends who offered up the descriptions they use most frequently. And if I didn’t text you for that information, it’s not that I don’t love you–it’s just that I don’t think you drink enough wine.

*this easily applies to both wine and languages.



MWWC #30: Obscure

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This month’s wine writing challenge was picked by…well, me!  As last month’s winner for my glass-shattering tales in my Winestory, I got the honor of picking this month’s theme: OBSCURE.

wine stain

For full disclosure, Jeff helped me pick OBSCURE–and he was right, it was the word I was looking for in my quest to hear about the often-forgotten grapes.  What I sent to Jeff was a long rambling email about how I was enjoying Lori and Mike of Draceana Wines posts about Cabernet Franc and their push for #CabFrancDay.  I love Cabernet Franc, from the moment that I tasted it!  But a lot of people have not heard of this delicious grape and even fewer know of other Cabernet grapes, like Ruby Cabernet.

Side note: Grape Creek makes a delicious blend of these three Cabernet grapes, Cabernet Trois, which I highly recommend if you’re in Texas and/or can get your hands on some!

This got me thinking: I wanted to hear from everyone that one varietal that they love that perhaps few outside the world of wine have experienced.  Everyone (wine drinker or not) has heard of Chardonnay, Shiraz, the main Pinots (note: any snarky comments about me lumping Noir and Grigio into one will be ignored!), Rieslings, Cabernet, Merlot, and even (shudder) White Zin, but there are thousands and thousands of varietals out there–what about them?

Btw, this was all pretty much in my nebulous (his word, not mine–ha!) email to him.  Thankfully, he recently moved to Texas and was able to decipher my ramblings and come up with a–in my humble opinion–great word.

So it is in that spirit that I wanted to tell you about my favorite OBSCURE wine, actually wines.  There are four in fact, because well, go big or go home.

Gewürztraminer, Viognier, French Colomabard, and Dry Riesling

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I know Rieslings are not obscure and were in my list above, but DRY Rieslings are a bit harder to find…that is my story and I’m sticking to it.

At the time I introduced to each of these wine I was working at the wineshop.  I was very leery of white wine because I lumped them all (I know, bad Shezza!) into two categories: Chardonnay (gag!) and exceptionally sweet Rieslings (not so much gag as too sweet to drink more than a ½ glass!).

But as I worked my way down the tasting bar, my tastebuds discovered there was actually a wide variety in flavors and sweetness levels of white wines–far more than I ever imagined!  Along the way I found four wines that not only stood out, but that I would actually consider drinking–a HUGE feat at the time because, honestly, if it wasn’t red or bubbles, I did not drink it!

ONE MORE SIDE NOTE: I pulled the first three pictures from each winery’s website, as 20 years ago I never dreamed I needed pictures!

Bell Mountain Dry Riesling  /  Fredericksburg, Texas

bell-mountainWait?  There is such a thing as Dry Riesling?  Growing up in a German town, I was exposed to Riesling very early in life.  Not that I was drinking it, but it was the very first wine varietal that I knew existed (not that I even knew what “wine varietal” meant at that time!).  My first tastes of Riesling were Spätlese and Auslese, so I was delightful surprised when I tried the local Dry Rieling from Bell Mountain (exceptionally local, as the vineyard butts up to the part of the ranch!).  What surprised me was the fruitiness of the wine without the sweetness.  This wine, like many grown in the area, has very peachy overtones–both in the bouquet and the finish, which is dry and crisp.  It pairs well with lighter foods and soft cheeses, but can be enjoyed all by itself.

For the trivia files:  Being the star of German wines, there are many different ways to classify Rieslings based on region and sweetness at the time of harvest.  Wine Folly does a great job of explaining it, if one was interested in jumping into the deep end of the Riesling pool!

Llano Estacado Gewürztraminer  /  Lubbock, Texas

lew-gewurztraminer-webAs you may or may not know, gewurz means spice in German and this wine is perfect for spicy foods or heavy cheeses.  It has a very floral bouquet, with a medium mouthfeel, and tastes of honeysuckle with a bit of warm spice on the finish (allspice, perhaps?).  Personally speaking, I think it is delicious but is on the sweeter side, even for a Gewürztraminer, and best paired with food.

For the trivia files:  Gewürztraminer grapes are actually pink to red in color not white!

 

 

 

Becker Vineyards Viognier  /  Stonewall, Texas

becker-viognierI think it took me three glasses of Viognier to be able to properly and without hesitation say Viognier (as opposed to my German heritage which allowed me to say Gewürztraminer without any issues the very first time!).  What I found in this Viognier was a dry wine that I could truly enjoy without all the oaky/buttery flavors that are synonymous with Chardonnay.  While you would expect to find peach, this Viognier smells of apricot and honeydew.  It is full bodied, with a honeysuckle and apricot finish.  I think this a perfect wine for red wine drinkers who hate Chardonnay but are looking for an occasional white wine to enjoy.  Honestly, I can’t say what food this pairs well with because I usually just pair it with a glass 😉

For the trivia files: Viognier is genetically related to Nebbiolo and was nearing extinction in 1965 when only 8 acres were planted in the Rhône.

Dry Comal Creek French Colombard  /  New Braunfels, Texas

IMG_0993-1Like Viognier, French Colombard was a wine I had never even heard of prior to tasting it.  I was actually introduced to Dry Comal Creek’s French Colombard several years after I started working at the wine shop, but given its obscurity in the wine world except as a blending grape, I thought it worth a mention.  Dry Comal Creek make two versions of this, although I believe the Bone-Dry isn’t always available.  What I enjoy about the French Colombard is the long lingering flavors of tropical fruit.  It is medium-to-full bodied and has a touch of sweetness while drinking.  However, the sweetness does not linger–just the fruitiness (which probably doesn’t make any sense until you try this wine).  The Bone-Dry version is just that: less sweetness while drinking and a much drier finish with less fruity lingering.  Both versions are very mild and easy to drink.  I think they both pair well with light snacks, appetizers, fish/seafood (especially the Bone Dry) and just drinking on the back porch.

For the trivia files:  It was traditionally grown in France to distill into Cognac and Armagnac and because of its natural sweetness is used to sweeten baby food (presumably before it’s distilled…)

So that’s my tale of venturing into the world of the more obscure grapes, and in so doing, I even learned how to enjoy white wine.

Cheers y’all!

 

60 Questions.

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Happy New Year!  Okay, okay I know I’m a taaaad bit late, but…it’s still January, so I’m not that late, right?!?!?

gym

In an effort to not scream down the house or throw things at the television during today’s Cowboy game, I thought during halftime I might share one of those “getting to know you” quizzes circulating around the inter webs.

And because I know that 98.76% of the population hates filling these out, I won’t tag anyone…but I love reading your answers, so if you’re in 1.24% who also loves them, feel free to share 🙂

The original quiz is 100 Getting To Know You Questions (but I thought I’d spare you all 100 questions!  okay, okay, I just got tired of answering all of them…halftime is only so long, after all)

60 Questions About Me:

  1. If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Italy or Hawaii or a beach somewhere (not that they’re mutually exclusive, so perhaps a beach in Italy or Hawaii!) 
  2. What is your biggest fear? Disappointing those I love
  3. What is your favorite family vacation? Going to visit Family & Friends and Going Somewhere I’ve Never Been
  4. What would you change about yourself if you could? I would ban the nagging, negative voice in my head
  5. What really makes you angry? ignorance, injustice, and hypocrisy 
  6. What is your favorite book to read? I don’t think I could even narrow it down to 10, but here are a few The Jungle Books, Children of Men, I Know This Much is True, Harry Potter (all of them, of course), To Kill A Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Parasol Protectorate Series., The Spellman Files Series..
  7. What makes you laugh the most? My friends
  8. What did you want to be when you were small? Pediatric Surgeon (yes, I was that specific).
  9. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Road Trip!
  10. What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play? Football, of the American variety.
  11. Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car? It depends how far I’m going, as I enjoy all three of those modes of transportation
  12. What would you sing at Karaoke night?  Nobody wants to hear that…and I’d like to issue a blanket apology for all those who have
  13. Which would you rather do: wash dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or vacuum the house? It’s a draw between wash the dishes and mow the lawn.
  14. If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work? Cleaning and de-Addy-hairing my life (if you have a labrador, you understand)
  15. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? TACOS!
  16. Have you ever had a nickname? What is it? A nickname?  Try many nicknames: Shez, Shezza, Fezza, Sheshie, Sherbear, Sherrybelle, Sher, Hey you
  17. Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not? I do because I think it takes a lot of work to pull off a surprise and I’m always appreciative of that
  18. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?  Hawaii.  No diss on Alaska, it’s beautiful and I enjoyed visiting, but I looooooooooove Hawaii!
  19. If money was no object, what would you do all day? Travel the world, eat, write, and pet my dog.
  20. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to? I don’t know about a specific year, but I think the 1920s would be fun
  21. How would your friends describe you? You’ll have to ask them, perhaps crazy (in a good way), adventurous, loyal, and secretive 
  22. What are your hobbies? Traveling, reading, scrapbooking, not killing people
  23. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without? As long as coffee is considered a necessity, I’m good
  24. List two pet peeves. People who don’t pick up their dog’s poop and people who hold the train doors open
  25. How many pairs of shoes do you own?  about 20 pairs of shoes and perhaps 30 pairs of flip flops.  That might be a slight exaggeration….on the shoes.
  26. What would you do if you won the lottery? Pay off my bills, buy a house, make large donations to charity, travel the world, have an awesomely stocked wine cellar/beer cooler/pantry, and help family & friends
  27. What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.) call me crazy, but I love taking the ferry (and seeing the Statue of Liberty twice a day is an added bonus!)
  28. What’s your favorite zoo animal? tigers, elephants, and giraffes (oh c’mon, surely you didn’t expect just ONE answer??)
  29. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be? Not to sound hokey, but I don’t think I’d go back and change anything.  I’d be too scared that if I did, I might miss out on meeting some of the most amazing people ever.
  30. How many pillows do you sleep with? 3…although in total fairness, the cat usually sleeps on one.
  31. What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top in? uhhhh….I think the Empire State Building
  32. What’s your favorite holiday? It used to be Halloween, however, now it’s Thanksgiving
  33. What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Packed up everything and moved to another country….twice.  Oh and I have walked over hot coals.
  34. What was the last book you read? Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni
  35. What’s your favorite type of foreign food? Sushi
  36. Are you a clean or messy person? I’m a clean, but clutter person…aka I like things to be clean and look orderly, but don’t open the closet or you risk dying under a deluge of random objects I didn’t feel like organizing
  37. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? Actual getting ready time, about 20-30 minutes, but I need a good hour to sit on the couch and drink coffee before that process can begin or it gets ugly…very ugly.
  38. What kitchen appliance do you use every day? Coffee maker.  duh.
  39. What’s your favorite fast food chain? Sonic, Whataburger, and Taco Villa
  40. What’s your favorite family recipe? Ome’s Peach Cobbler
  41. Do you love or hate rollercoasters? I’m terrified, but I ride them (and usually enjoy it)
  42. What’s your favorite family tradition? Driving around on Christmas Eve, looking at Christmas Lights…of course, this has morphed into going to see the Tree at Rockefeller Center
  43. What’s your favorite movie? The Sound of Music, Steele Magnolias, Miracle on 34th Street (original) and of course, there’s always Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter (and no, you don’t need to comment the last three are series)
  44. How old were you when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you find out? Wait, what?!?!  Santa’s not real?!?!?!?
  45. Is your glass half full or half empty? If this is an analogy for life, half full.  If it’s an actual glass of wine or beer (or mug of coffee), then half empty
  46. What was your favorite subject in school? Biology
  47. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Chocolate covered worms (and no, I don’t mean gummy worms!)
  48. Do you collect anything? Hilarious travel stories
  49. Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion?  Jeans that aren’t skinny
  50. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Extrovert, who likes a lot of alone time
  51. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest? Taste
  52. Have you ever had a surprise party? (that was an actual surprise) Yes…I was very discombobulated for the first few minutes
  53. What do you do to keep fit? hahahahahahahahaha….ahem.  what was the question?  oh yeah, uh…..well, I live in NYC and do a lot of walking, especially up and down subway stairs as well as yoga about twice a year
  54. Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken? The Supreme Commander is always right.  You’re welcome, Auntie K! 😉
  55. If you had a warning label, what would yours say? Do Not Approach Without Coffee…or Wine…or Beer…or Tacos
  56. What song would you say best sums you up? I’ve Always Been Crazy, Waylon Jennings
  57. On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are? 9.125
  58. What was your first job? A frozen yogurt & sandwich shop….long before FOYO was cool.
  59. How many languages do you speak? Fluently?  One  but I dabble in about 4 more…
  60. What is one thing you will never do again? Due to the gag order, I cannot legally answer this question.

If you’re still reading, you rock!!  Now, back to yelling at the game…

Happy New Year–here’s to a great 2017!

 

 

 

MWWC #29: My Winestory

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In this month’s wine writing challenge, John of Pairs With: Life challenged us to tell our Winestory, aka what lead us down the path of awesomeness that is wine writing.  Technically, I just dabble in the wine writing while drinking a lot, but here goes:

wine stain

Picture it: Fredericksburg, Texas 1994.  I was home from college for Thanksgiving break and a job opportunity presented itself.  My cousin had been offered a job at a local wine tasting room and declined because she was working at a winery (Grape Creek Vineyards) at the time.  She told me to go apply.  Having fell in love with red wine from the Riojas just the year before (read all about it here!), I marched (okay, drove….around the block 4 times looking for a parking spot) down to said wine tasting room and asked about the job.  My interview went something like this:  have you ever worked in a winery or wine tasting room before?  No, but I like to drink wine and honestly, isn’t that half the battle?  Can you wash dishes?  Of course, who says no to that in an interview?! Great! You’re hired!  (okay, it was slightly more in depth than that, but not much).

My first job?  Try all the wine on the bar available for tasting.  After all, how you could describe a wine you’ve never tasted before?  So I tasted and tasted and tasted some more.  Nearly every Texas winery was represented.  Right now, my inner wine-geek wants to name them all, but my inner OCD is afraid I’d miss someone and it would drive me nuts.

IMG_3008

Job 2?  Washing a lot of glasses.  TONS and TONS of glasses!  I only mention this because Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest weekend in the store and there were a lot of people in the tasting room that weekend.

Job 3?  Cleaning up an entire rack of dropped glasses.  The truly sad part was that I just hand washed and hand dried them all (sigh).

So, for the first few days that’s all I did: taste wine, wash glasses, and clean up (although thankfully the breaking of the glasses significantly decreased!).  But….I also listened.  I listened to my coworkers describe wine.  I saw how customers reacted to their descriptions and I noticed that whatever each worker liked best is what sold best on that day because they got excited about it and could get the customer excited as well.

I was determined to channel that excitement, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked.  First of all, I preferred (and still do) dry, spicy full bodied reds.  But I quickly discovered that wasn’t actually a popular choice amongst the majority of our customers.  They were looking for something fun.  Something easy to drink.  Something to walk down the street with while shopping (oh yeah, you can do that in Fredericksburg!).

Thus, I had to change tactics.  And instead of trying to get people excited about the wine that I liked, I tried to get them excited to find that special bottle of wine in the store that was going to make them love wine.  I started listening and asking them a lot of questions .  After awhile I realized I was good at something other than just washing and breaking glasses:  I was good at wine pairing.  Not just pairing wine with food, but with people:  finding that one  bottle that was going to make a them a wine lover.  Being a fellow beer-lover as well, I couldn’t fault the non-converts who just wanted to stick to beer.  But for everyone else, I tried to focus on creating an ambience where it wasn’t just about the wine, but was about having fun and allowing customers to go on their own journey to be able to proclaim “I love wine!”

Sometimes it was a challenge, especially when snobby wine people came in insisting that they only like [insert trendy wine region here] and they’d never like any that came from Texas.  They were the most fun to convert.  Did it always happen?  No! I was a wine peddler, not a miracle worker!

The other thing I really loved was getting to know the winemakers.  They are truly an amazing group of people.  We often had special tastings on the weekends and would invite the winemakers to join us to tell our customers about what makes their wine so special.  It was like getting a sneak peek behind the curtain!

But you’re here to hear how I got into wine writing–so let’s fast forward a few (or more) years when I decided that I needed a change and moved to New York City (with 7 cases of Texas wine, 3 cases of Shiner Bock, and a warning from my brother not to get pulled over for speeding otherwise I’d be arrested for bootlegging!).

I have to admit, it was nice to be able to walk into a wine store and just browse, but after some time, I started missing the wine-speak: the geeking out over a great $10 bottle or splurging on the bottle of bubbles.  I missed talking about wine. And then one day serendipity struck and I was followed by The Drunken Cyclist.  Of course, I immediately followed him back because I knew that anyone with the slogan: I have three passions: wine, cycling, travel, family, and math. had to be amazing–and I’m not just saying that for the vote!!.

A few weeks later, I noticed that he put up a Wine Writing Challenge (#10, I believe) and I thought why not?  I didn’t really consider myself a “wine writer,” but I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to do what I love most with wine: share it.

The rest, as they say, is history.

So that’s my WINESTORY…and I’m sticking to it.

🙂 Shez

PS–Okay, I can’t let it go, so I’m going to apologize if I missed anyone and maybe check back regularly to see if I’ve added more…or feel free to comment if you know of any that need to be added!

Texas Wineries when I started working at the wine shop, Texas Wines, Etc., in no particular order and as best I can remember after over 2 decades of consuming copious amounts of wine (but that’s a story for another time!):

  1.  Grape Creek Vineyards
  2. Bell Mountain Vineyards
  3. Becker Vineyards
  4. Sister Creek Winery
  5. Texas Hills Vineyards
  6. Dry Comal Creek Vineyards
  7. Fall Creek Vineyards
  8. Val Verde Winery
  9. Messina Hof Winery
  10. Llano Estacado Winery
  11. Cap*Rock Winery
  12. McReynold’s Winery
  13. St. Genevive Winery
  14. Spicewood Winery
  15. Wimberley Valley Wines
  16. Piney Woods Country Wines
  17. Homestead Winery
  18. La Buena Vida Winery
  19. Inwood Estate Vineyards

Thanksgiving Prep.

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Just an important reminder for your Thanksgiving Prep…

tday-wine

Sunday Comics #58: Halloween Candy

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Just a bit of sage advice…and don’t forget the wine to keep your spirits up while handing out candy!

halloween-candy-eat-funny-ecard-gqu

MWWC #26: Solitude

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This month’s wine writing challenge is SOLITUDE, as selected by last month’s winner Beth of Traveling Wine Chick.  Honestly, I’ve been feeling a bit at a loss with this topic, as I’ve spent quite a few previous MWWCs talking about how wine is best paired with great friends.  But even the most extroverted extrovert needs to reset sometimes, so with George Thorogood playing in my head–click on his name if you need background music!–here goes:

wine stain

I think one of the best things about summer is sitting outside and drinking wine.  Sure it’s a lot of fun with others, but it is equally enjoyable by oneself–sitting on the porch reading a book or lounging on the beach listening to the breaking of the waves.   It gives you time to relax, to enjoy, and to appreciate everything around you, like the delightful syrah-viognier blend you randomly picked out a few weeks back.

The thing I enjoy most about drinking in solitude is that it is very decadent. Opening a bottle of wine simply because you love it–not having to think about catering to anyone else’s palette or worrying that the food pairing is not quite right.  Taking your time to really get to know the wine.  Trying new styles and tastes you might not dream of trying in front of others (I mean, I know very well that my friends drink merlot when I’m not around!).

Plus you get the whole bottle to yourself.  Not that I’m telling you to drink the whole bottle (for legal disclaimer purposes).  I’m sure you can look up on Pinterest 846 things to do with leftover wine.  Personally, I always thought “leftover wine” was a myth or a horror story told to oenophiles…but if it is really a thing feel free to share your “friend’s” leftover wine horror stories suggestions.

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If the thought of a bottle is too daunting, find a great little restaurant with a spectacular view and start with a glass.  Take your time to enjoy all the sensations of tasting the wine without expectations or boundaries and just allow yourself to enjoy.  Order food.  Enjoy it more.

Several years ago, I found myself with a free afternoon in Sydney.  In need of a bit of respite, I happened across a little cafe near the Opera House with a fantastic view of the Harbour Bridge.  Fresh oysters were the special and I just couldn’t resist (I never can!).  The waiter recommended a New Zealand sauvignon blanc and while I’m not a big fan of the ol’ sauv blanc, I decided to give it a go.  BEST. DECISION. EVER. (or at least at that moment in time).  The crisp apple finish of the wine enhanced the creaminess of the oysters; the lapping of the waves and the cool breeze coming off of the water provided the perfect setting for allowing myself to just relax and indulge.  While I don’t remember the name of the aforementioned New Zealand sauvignon blanc (I know, epic fail!),  I vividly remember wishing I could bend time and make that moment last forever.

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That is the beauty of drinking in solitude: making an experience and enjoying the moment…of you.  I think in this day and age of technology we expect–no, we demand–to be entertained 24/7, when in reality what we need is more unplugging and appreciating not only what is around you, but what is you.

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Do yourself a favor and try it–you might like it.  I’m not asking you to make it nightly habit (for legal disclaimer purposes), but as a treat for yourself.  If you want to be even more decadent and celebratory, pop the bubbly (trust me you won’t be disappointed!)!

Still not convinced that drinking in solitude is for you?  Before I go open that blanc de blancs chilling in the fridge for a special occasion (you know, like Monday night), I leave you with this final thought:

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Cheers!

Have Wine? Will Travel!

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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!

MWWC #23 New Favorites

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It’s that time of the month again: The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.  This month’s theme–as chosen by as month’s winner, Chad of (Un)Common Grape–is NEW.  Of course, I’m getting this in just under the deadline–there’s certainly nothing new about that!

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In light of that new theme, I thought I would write about the one of the scariest things in the world of wine: buying a new* bottle of wine.

*by new, I don’t mean replacing your favorite bottles of wine that you repeatedly drink with the same stuff, I mean a  new-never-been-tasted-but-you’re-hoping-and -praying-all-the-way-from-the-store-to-the-glass-that-this-is-going-to-be-worth-it new.

While working at a wine bar/tasting room, I was quite adventurous with wine.  With reckless abandon I would try new wines and would be open to randomly picking out something I’d never tasted before and running with it.  Of course, it helped that I got a discount and had some amazing wine reps that would bring samples of things they knew that I would adore.

Fast forward to leaving my cushy wine job and moving to New York City, where I was/am on a very tight wine budget.  Suddenly trying something new seemed too great a risk to take.  Better to stick with what I knew would be tasty and worth not only full retail price, but the added expense of buying it in New York City.

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Every time I would go to the wine store, I would go in with weak promises to myself that I would try something new.  But every time push came to shove and the wallet was opened I found myself sticking to my old favorites.

Oh sure, I’d politely listen to the wine shop workers’ suggestions and reasons, but I often wondered if they truly enjoyed whichever wine they were trying to foist upon me or was it just a spiel?  In typical me-fashion, I would start talking to them, asking both specific and general questions and working their full knowledge of wine because, well, having switched professions, I missed talking about wine.  We’d compare tasting notes, likes and dislikes of wine regions, I’d take up way to much of their time, but in the end it was a very rare event that I would leave with something new.

I just wasn’t willing to take the risk. I know, I know…I was being crazy.  After all, it’s wine–the likelihood of it not being drinkable was exceptionally low.  But it’s not about drinking wine–it’s about enjoying wine.

Over time two things changed this:

The first was wandering into the  Trader Joe’s wine shop.  It is a bit of a trek from work or home, so it took some time to actually motivate myself to get there. Additionally, the only thing I had heard about Trader Joe’s wine was Two-Buck Chuck–so I must confess to being a bit skeptical as to what I might find.  Once I did, though, it was like Christmas had come early!  I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting (perhaps all Two-Buck Chuck?) but what I saw when I went in was a delightful surprise–a wide variety of wine at very un-New York City prices.  Although, if you’re looking for Two-Buck Chuck in NYC, I must warn you it’s $3!  With much lower prices than anywhere in the city and a staff that seems knowledgeable, it makes it a lot more justifiable to my brain–and wallet!–to venture outside of my wine safe box and try new things.  I’ve even found a couple of varietals of Charles Shaw (aka Two Three-Buck Chuck) that I rather enjoy!

The second thing was finding the fabulous website Cheap Wine Curious.  If you are unfamiliar, CWC is authored by the lovely Loie, who uses her sharp wit and extensive palate to help you navigate your way through less expensive (aka cheap–her word, not mine) wines.  Whether you prefer reds, whites, rosés, or sparkling, Loie has diligently tasted and dutifully reported a wide variety of inexpensive wines to add to your wine cellar without sacrificing taste or budget.

I’m not going to pretend that current trips to the wine shop are only for new bottles of wine, but at least now I can say that it is a generous mix of both old favorites and new wines that have the potential to achieve old favorite status.

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