Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's In A Name

Do you shop with name brands in mind or are you into budget knockoffs? Eric Asimov recently wrote that "Napa cabernets are like the Manhattan apartment market: You are going to pay, even at the lowest end, for the privilege of living there."

To appraise the real estate of lower-end Napa cabernets he tasted 25 bottles, $50 and under, from the 2004 vintage. The wines he liked best had complex spicy and herbal flavors.

Here are his tasting notes:

W. H. Smith Piedra Hill Vineyard Howell Mountain Purple Label-$44

Full-bodied and rich yet balanced; attractive, lingering aromas and flavors of cranberry, mint and eucalyptus.

Rombauer Napa Valley 2004-$30

Nicely textured and well balanced with spicy cranberry and mint aromas and flavors.

Gott 4 Sarah’s Métier Napa Valley 2004-$35

Plush, plummy and almost seamless with deep, dark fruit flavors.

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley 2004-$25

Spicy, brambly fruit flavors; well balanced with pronounced tannins.

John Anthony Napa Valley 2004-$49

Soft and a tad sweet with flavors of ripe, jammy fruit and licorice.

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley 2004-$27

Smooth and lush with blueberry, cassis and eucalyptus flavors.

Larkmead Napa Valley 2004-$50

Lush and plush with smooth tannins and fruit and chocolate flavors.

Hess Mount Veeder 2004-$50

Soft, smooth and well balanced with flavors of ripe berries augmented by anise and herbs.

Turnbull Napa Valley 2004-$40

Jammy, inky fruit bomb with some tannins and earthiness for balance.

Steltzner Stag’s Leap District 2004-$35

Big and ripe with jammy fruit and oak flavors.

Buying a Napa cabernet in these price ranges makes you market savy. Remember the motto: Location, location, location.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gotta Go-Go

All I ever wanted
Had to get away...

There are a few places that are universally considered to be the all time best winter vacation spots. In no particular order, these include; The Bahamas, Antigua, Riviera Maya, Florida, Barbados, and the islands of Hawaii.

Where are you going this winter? Has the economy impacted your budget? This weekend take a trip to Florida, via a bottle of muscadine wine.

Muscadines have been used for making commercial fine wines and port dating back to the 16th Century in and around St. Augustine, Florida. Today, vineyards throughout the Southeast produce muscadine wines of various qualities. The typical muscadine wine is sweet and is considered a dessert wine although some drier varieties exist. The term scuppernong refers to a large bronze type of muscadine originally grown in North Carolina; it is also used in making wine.

While not one of the most widely marketed varietals produced, the visibility of muscadine wine has benefited from the discovery that it appears to provide greater amounts of antioxidants than many better-known red wines. In particular, Muscadine wines (both red and white) contain over five times more resveratrol than ordinary red wines. I am not a fan of sweet wine but this recipe sounded good.

Roast Carrot Salad with Muscadine Vinaigrette

1 cup muscadine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 pounds baby carrots, green tops trimmed to 1/2 inch
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups packed arugula or dandelion greens
2 bunches of watercress, large stems trimmed

Make the vinaigrette: In a small saucepan, boil the wine over moderate heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 9 minutes; let cool. Stir in the mustard, salt, pepper and lemon juice, then whisk in the vegetable oil.

Make the salad: Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the carrots with the olive oil and spread them on a large, heavy baking sheet. Roast the carrots for about 20 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned; let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the arugula or dandelion greens and watercress with half of the dressing. Mound the greens on the plate. Toss the carrots in the remaining dressing and arrange them on the greens.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

No Photo Available

I finally decided to list my real name on this blog, but don't look for my picture anytime soon.

Ever since I can remember, when a camera comes out, I either hide or run. Which brings me to the subject of what constitutes beauty.

The topic of beauty has elicited debate from an amazing array of thinkers, where the sensory, psychological, historical, theoretical, philosophical, political and ethical all find a place. But how do we know beauty? Sometimes it is precisely that which escapes you.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, the Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote: ‘Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.’

Perceiving beauty is intrinsically enjoyable. Like kindness or goodness in a person, it inspires love and admiration.

So, although there is no photo available, think of me as a person trying to be good and kind, who finds enjoyment in nature and the fruits of the vine.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Great Grape, Charlie Brown!

Although seldom seen outside the northern Italian region of Trentino, Teroldego is known for producing wines of considerable character and quality. One unique microclimate is the Campo Rotaliano. It's a small, relatively flat glacial vale around the confluence of the Adigo and Noce rivers. With a terroir providing weather protection and soils composed of silt and gravel, this sensitive varietal has ideal conditions in which to grow.

The wines are full-bodied, rich with black cherry, blackberry, plum and spice flavors and an earthy tar aroma. Low in tannins yet high in acidity, these wines are best consumed young, but when yields are low and production values high they can take several years of bottle aging. There is a fascinating interplay of yin/yang on the palate making this wine extremely unique and complex.

We enjoyed a 2003 estate-bottled Teroldego Rotaliano with a ground pheasant italian sausage, onion, green pepper, diced tomato and whole wheat penne skillet.

Monday, January 21, 2008


While downloading songs into our combined Christmas gift, an iPod nano, Glenn and I took a trip down memory lane. We met in college during the fall of 1977 and spent the early 1980's in Helena, MT. Young and in love, we worked, socialized with friends, hiked, fished and camped in the mountains.

Our apartment was at the edge of town, right across from Reeder's Alley. Now, the alley is a location for businesses and a restaurant, but in the 1870s, it was the site of a short-lived gold rush. After a nugget worth $3.10 was discovered, it was filled with prospectors looking for gold. Unfortunately, no more was found.

One of my jobs was at a law firm right on the historic Last Chance Gulch across from the Atlas Building. Helena's Main Street is home to many shops and businesses interspersed with plenty of history. Along this outdoor mall, one can find an old trolley car that was used until 1928, a sculpture of the Four Georgians, who were the first to discover gold on the Gulch, and a large number of historic buildings.

We spent many nights and weekends playing Frisbee golf with friends and our dog Mariah, in Mount Helena City Park. This 628 acre city park offers great views of the Helena valley from its 5,468 foot summit. Our engagement photo was taken there. Gosh, we look like babies!

Canyon Ferry Lake is about 25 miles east of Helena and was great for swimming. Mariah and I would hop around the rocky bank keeping up with Glenn as he caught trout.

The 17 mile guided Gates of the Mountains boat tour goes through the spectacular Missouri River Canyon, which was the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was christened the "Gates of the Mountains" for the cliffs that appear to "open and close" the passage on the river. If you go to Helena for a vacation, make sure to take this trip.

Sapphire mining was also big during the gold rush. Two mines are still available for digging, The Spokane Bar Mine, the Eldorado Mine. The latter of these is where the sapphires came that are in my wedding ring.

Cue the 80's music honey and open some wine. This reminiscing has made me thirsty.

Here is a link to a Seeley Lake, MT winery. http://www.trailcreekwinery.com/

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Seeing Red

San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes, are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world. They come from a small town of the same name near Naples, Italy. Grown in the volcanic soil from Mount Vesuvius, believed to act as a filter for water impurities, the flesh is much thicker, with fewer seeds, and the taste is much stronger, less sweet and less acidic.

A grape variety known as Malvasia Nera is also grown in this soil. We recently enjoyed a bottle of 2004 Feudi di San Marzano Puglia IGT Malvasia Nera "Sud", with a simple spaghetti pie topped with pepperoni. The producer is from Apulia and stumbled upon the vineyard at Cantina Sociale di San Marzano, with its deep tradition in wine making, and immediately saw potential. Here his wines express the characteristics of a full- bodied, ruby red wine with notes of cherry and cloves that has a complex yet fresh finish. Serve with roasted red meat,rich sauces and mature cheese.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Squeeky Clean

Our bodies are continually overloaded with toxins from pollution, second-hand cigarette smoke, pesticides, poor eating habits, food additives, alcohol and caffeine. As these toxins build up in our system, a number of health problems can occur, including weight gain, headaches, dull skin, bloating, fatigue, lowered immunity, and a general lack of well being.

The process of detoxing helps to remove these toxins from the body with results like weight loss, feeling healthier and less niggling health problems.

There are pros and con written about cleansing, but detox diets do encourage some good habits. Most promote eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking more water and cutting down on junk and processed foods. Plus they suggest taking a break from caffeine and alcohol.

My hubby and I are taking charge of our health this weekend by thinking about what we are eating. We are cooking with lean proteins and high fiber using low fat cooking techniques and have eliminated sugars, caffeine and alcohol.

Three days will not be a hardship and they might lessen any mindless eating or cravings and will certainly make us appreciate that first glass of wine.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

¡Viva! España y México

This weekend's winter destinations are both Spanish speaking countries, the first uses Castilian Spanish and in the second, your high school or college language skills will suffice.

Spain is known for quality reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, reds and whites from Penedés, fine whites from Rueda, "sherries" from Jerez, and a fine sparkling wine known as cava.

But our charter flight is headed to Mexico. You may think they just produce beer and tequila, but in 1542 it was decreed that all land owners plant one thousand vines per hundred workers. This measure resulted in 5,000 grape vines, which formed the basis of South America's first wine production.

In the State of Baja California, the growing of vine followed their installation of the missioners. They transformed the local deserts in agricultural zones and vineyards. The second generation of fathers went to California. Their leader, brother Junipero Serra established 21 missions from San Diego to Sonoma, where they grew "mission grapes" or the variety known as criolla.

The wine that was produced was often mixed with fruits and honey. Remember all that leftover fruit from making the aroma kits? Our club will enjoy the following wine-based beverage with chips and seven layer dip.

Traditional Sangria
1 1/2 cups rum
1/2 cup white sugar
1 thinly sliced orange
1 thinly sliced lemon
1 thinly sliced lime
1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Mix together the rum and sugar in a large glass pitcher until the sugar dissolved. Add the sliced fruit. Let sit for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours in the refrigerator. Right before serving, add the red wine and orange juice. Stir well and serve chilled.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, Meat, Flowers, Coffee and Chocolate

Is this my grocery list? A menu for a special event? Guess again....

These are just some of the aromas associated with wine. If you are an official vanyiac and watch WLTV, Gary will have introduced you to some others. (Skittles, wet blue stones or sweaty socks)


Apple (Green Or Golden?)
Peach (under-ripe, ripe, over-ripe?)

Floral(Rose, Jasmine or Iris)
Herbs (Mint, Tarragon, Thyme & Rosemary
Spices: (Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cloves, Cinnamon, Black or White Pepper)
"Cut Grass"


Black Cherry
Red Cherry
Dried Cherry

Tar (Asphalt)
Roast Meat
Raw Burger
Wet Dog
Rubber (Burned)
Gun flint
Veggies-Asparagus, Bell Peppers

Our wine club is meeting next month to make our own aroma kits. There will be many of these ingredients steeping in some neutral red and white wine. With the leftovers, we are going to Spain and Mexico. (hint)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dinner In 5 Minutes

Looking for a fast and fantastic wine and food pairing? Think shrimp scampi with wine, garlic and parsley with a California Sauvignon Blanc. We chose a 2005 from Karly Wines. The vineyards are located in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley and were first planted by Lawrence (Buck) Cobb and wife Karly in 1981.

Karly’s location on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains yields wines different in character from California’s coastal valleys. In the summer afternoons, Karly’s rolling, 110 acre woodland & canyon-side terrain catches the cool southwesterly breezes from distant San Francisco Bay via the Sacramento River delta. In late winter and spring, the canyons drain frosty morning air. This hot-cold treatment preserve the acidity while the grape sugars are developing.

The soils eroded by glacial streams from the great Sierra granite monolith are mineral rich dominated by iron, manganese and occasional minute flecks of gold. (The Gold Rush started here in 1848.) The soil texture is silt to rocky gravel peppered with stones varying from cobbles to boulders, making water drainage excellent.

All these unique factors combine to impart berry, spice and earthy flavors in the red wines, and citrus, pear and tropical fruit flavors in the white wines .

This vintage was filtered, heat stabilized, cold stabilized, and dry with a small carbon dioxide spritz. It was grassy enough to tell that it is a Sauvignon Blanc, but not like those from Marlborough, NZ. It was crisp,tart and loaded with ripe, red Grapefruit juiciness.

In the Karly vineyards, Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Grenache, Orange Muscat and Petite Sirah are dry-farmed, head-trained and spur-pruned to yield about four tons to the acre. Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah are scheduled to be converted to a four-wire "Wye" divided cordon trellis, which will improve the quality through canopy light exposure and these varieties are drip irrigated.

So, buy that cooked shrimp, peel some garlic, set the table and get lots of water boiling because dinner will be ready in 5 minutes. Has anyone seen my wine glass?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Last One In The Water Is A Rotten Egg

My brother sent this to me the other day. I remember seeing it printed elsewhere and with Presidents Day soon upon us, I thought it would be appropriate.

As Ben Franklin said, in wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.

In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink one liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than one kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli), the bacteria found in feces.

In other words, we are consuming one kilo of poop. However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine and beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey, or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

Remember: Water equals poop, and wine equals health.

Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of shit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blow Your Cork

Robin Garr recently wrote that there is some serious talk of expanding the boundaries of the Champagne region to increase production. He reminds us that true Champagne, is made from grapes grown in the rolling, forested region around the cities of Reims and Epernay, just northeast of Paris. Historically, all the region's sparkling wine has been produced by about 75 "houses" - major companies like Moet et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Bollinger and Taittinger and other large firms that boast histories of 200 years or more.

But in recent years, a growing number of the more than 15,000 individual growers who traditionally sold their grapes to the major houses have begun using their estate-grown fruit to make their own limited-production Champagnes, grown, made and bottled on the premises. U.S. importer Terry Theise, previously best known for German wines, has made a name for himself with a portfolio of exceptional "farmer fizz," as he calls grower Champagne.

Carefully look at the tiny print on the bottom of the label for a "matriculation number," a unique code assigned to every grower by the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the Champagne trade association. If this number begins with the initials "RM" ("récoltant-manipulant" or, literally, "harvester-handler"), you've got your hands on a grower Champagne. "NM" ("négociant-manipulant" ("trader-handler") signifies the larger houses, and "CM" ("cooperative de manipulation") indicates a cooperative.

Give a good grower Champagne a try, when the occasion calls for a popping cork.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shock and Awe

Not Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or the mean streets of the U.S.A. I am saying make love not war. I am also talking about divine intervention or "an extraordinary event manifested by God intervening in human affairs".

For all of you who are reading this who might be scared of the "G" word, think of it as a higher power, karma, etc..

In Finding Your Path, by John Halderman, he states:

What you try or attempt is the process of finding your path.

You must follow your deep yearnings, desires and curiosities. This is how you discover your path and your purpose.

By ignoring those inner feelings and merely making decisions based on your current condition is to stifle what you could become. If you do that you will just experience more of what you already are.

The inner urges, drives and curiosities you feel is evidence that your self is trying to express through you. In order to discover what you can evolve into you must allow yourself to be open to inner guidance with faith and trust.

Start by following what intuitive messages you now notice, and go from there. You will learn to be more receptive to this as you honor and accept what you are aware of now.

You will likely not have the whole path mapped out. As you go in the direction of the indications you have with openness and faith, you will find that you become more and more receptive to additional detail.

It will be revealed to you as you change and awaken to what is really possible to you. Only by moving forward, taking action can you fully discover your next possible opportunity.

Without forward movement, your whole mental capacity will remain static. You will be stuck requesting and receiving more of the same.

So again you ask, what does this have to do with wine? It is the liquid that will be in my glass that I raise in a toast to my friend as she will to me, to celebrate our new jobs.

Yesterday, I interviewed for two part-time jobs that were incredibly different. At only one of the interviews did I smile both outwardly and inwardly. For just 5 or so hours a week, starting with training next week, I will teach, learn, socialize and exercise with two water aerobics classes. All will be food for my soul.

The other interview was at an office for more hours but less pay per hour. That vibe was just not right for me and I felt it right away. I even went so far as to recommend a friend who has been out of work since before Christmas. I was not sure what her feelings would be but thought it wouldn't hurt to approach her.

She had worked without complaining, for nearly 2 years, at a part-time position. They made a decision that she would need to work full time and take on additional duties without additional pay. When she expressed her desire to remain in her current position, she was dismissed.

Enter divine intervention. The office job sounded worth trying and she starts Monday. So, tomorrow we will raise a glass of wine, to new experiences, friendships and a higher power that lives inside each of us. We just need to be quiet and listen to what it is telling us.

Monday, January 7, 2008

De-Clutter - De-Stress = Delightful

After a morning of helping a relative box up some household items for donation, I was pleased that she felt more light-hearted.

Things are just that, things. Unless items are useful and used regularly or mementos/heirlooms that are lovingly displayed, clutter can be overwhelming and even stressful.

What does this have to do with wine? It can serve as a reminder that wine and it's enjoyment with family or friends create memories. These never need dusting, donating or disposal.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


The liver is the largest solid organ in the body and has many complex functions.

-Manufacture (synthesize) proteins, including albumin (to help maintain the volume of blood) and blood clotting factors
-Synthesize, store, and metabolize fats, including fatty acids (used for energy) and cholesterol
-Metabolize and store carbohydrates, which are used as the source for the sugar (glucose) in blood that red blood cells and the brain use
-Form and secrete bile that contains bile acids to aid in the intestinal absorption (taking in) of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
-Eliminate, by metabolizing and/or secreting, the potentially harmful biochemical products produced by the body, such as bilirubin from the breakdown of old red blood cells and ammonia from the breakdown of proteins
-Detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins

Use moderation in your consumption and be a little timid. Life is short and you don't want to make it shorter.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Keep Searching

Searching the internet can be both exhilarating and exhausting. After an hour of trying to customize a google search bar for this blog to help my readers find subjects I have already covered, I was frustrated with the new search's execution.

My hope, dear readers, is that you will use the blank white space at the top left of this page and just hit "Search Blog" for any past posts on topics that might interest you.

Ah, to be a little more of a tech geek!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Tight Budgets

After the holidays, gloomy winter days can make Minnesotans stir crazy with “cabin fever”. There are warm destination vacations, but what if you don’t have the money to spare? Consider taking a trip to the southern hemisphere via a bottle of wine. In Australia it is 79 degrees. Just thinking about that makes me feel warmer.

In 1822 Australian wine was first imported. By 1830 vineyards were established in the Hunter Valley. Then a Shiraz from Victoria competed in the 1878 Paris Exhibition where the French judges noted similarities to the famed Château Margaux. That was all before the destructive effects on the industry of the phylloxera epidemic.

In the late 1980s, governments sponsored growers to pull out their vines to overcome a glut of wine grapes. Low grape prices in 2005 and 2006 have led to calls for another sponsored vine pull. Major grape varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Riesling. The country has no native grapes.

The largest volume of wine is produced from grapes grown in the warm climate Murray-Darling Basin zones of Lower Murray, North Western Victoria and Big Rivers. In general, the higher-value premium wines are made from smaller and cooler-climate regions. Global warming has impacted wine production as Australia is experiencing world-record droughts. Expect to see changes in varietal characteristics in future vintages.

Australia's most famous wine is Penfolds Grange. The 1998 vintage was rated 99 points out of a possible 100 by Wine Spectator magazine. Other red wines to garner international attention include Henschke Hill of Grace, Clarendon Hills Astralis, D’Arenberg Dead Arm, Torbreck Run Rig and other high-end Penfolds wines such as St Henri Shiraz.

So what type of food would you eat on this vacation? Grub, a.k.a. tucker, is an integral part of Oz. Australia has little common native foods. Due to Australia's youthful history, all "Aussie" foods have traceable links to other countries, mainly England. Things like roast beef, meat pies and Yorkshire pudding are originally English, as are scones. There are a small minority of wholly Australian foods, such as damper (a traditional bread once baked over open coals) and Vegemite (very salty yeast and Vitamin B spread), which the rest of the world detests.

How about having a shepherd’s pie made with ground lamb and a fruit-topped pavlova, an egg white dessert invented in 1935 by a chef in Perth to celebrate a visit from the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

In the last two hundred years these eating habits have gradually changed. In 1851, adventurers and speculators came from all over the world, among them thousands of Chinese who began successful market gardens, shops and restaurants, thus introducing new tastes. Chefs now use the plentiful seafood, fresh produce and herbs and even kangaroo for their dishes.

Enjoy your mini-vacation this weekend.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Battle of The Bulge

Right after the holidays, the ads start running for diet plans and pills, exercise equipment and gym memberships. Lots of factors contribute to weight gain but the high caloric value of alcohol can result in the body storing an excessive amount of unburned fat calories. This is often referred to as a "beer belly".

Despite the small quantity of liquid, a single shot of liquor (1.5 oz) can contain 115-200 calories. In comparison, a 3.5 oz glass of wine has between 73-80 calories.

The calories really add up with mixed drinks that range from 280 calories for a gin and tonic to over 800 calories for some of the frozen, creamy drinks.

A commonly held misconception is that light beer is calorie and fat free. Although light beer does have fewer calories than regular, the average light beer still contains 100 or more calories per 12 oz can, and regular beers are approximately 140-200 calories.

So, battle the bulge with moderation in your consumption, healthy foods with reasonable portions and daily exercise.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Looking Back

At the end of each year, the media reviews the previous year's highlights. We hear the top news stories, the most frequently played songs, the loss of notable newsmakers and even the year's best wine values. One reviewer, Robin Garr, posted his yearly article at the following link:


Although unable to find many of the wines listed in my rural liquor stores, he does link each to www.wine-searcher.com.

What I appreciate about Robin's approach to wine is his rating criteria. The wine should be balanced, food-friendly, with true varietal characteristics and a degree of complexity. He believes that low price does not excuse a wine that's poorly made, or wine that's boring.

Did you keep track of the wines you enjoyed last year that you felt had a good QPR? (Quality to Price Ratio) Now is the time to start keeping a journal or even removing labels and jotting your tasting notes on the back.