My Best of the Year


You can throw in all the superlatives you want. This is going to be a very nostaglic and overly-sentimental post.  Well maybe not.  The fact that I had to say it may end that exaggeration now.

In June of this year I made my first ever visit to the beautiful city of New Orleans.   I had done a little research on a few places to visit but never had a set plan.  I’ve never had a set plan.

Maybe I’d like like to have a tentative place to go or something lined up, but I’m great with audibles and new situations presenting themselves.  I actually prefer that.  Life is all about randomness and sometimes going with the flow is all that can be asked of anyone.

The Wine Institute of New Orleans or w.i.n.o for short was on the short list of places I really wanted to check out.   I wasn’t in town long so how I ended up hear was not an accident.

I actually felt that in my four days in town I got so much in that I was at peace with missing a few things, and w.i.n.o. actually escaped my thoughts.  It was no longer on my radar.

After a meeting up with a dear friend I haven’t seen in a while, she asked me where I wanted to go next on my final night.   I said I have no idea, just drive me to the heart of the city and I’ll find somewhere enjoyable to go.  I kid you not, a few minutes later we stopped right in front of, you guessed it.  My day, my night, and my vacation felt like it was coming full circle.   I needed a minute.   I’m freaking myself out of the visual of this.  I remember it so well like it was yesterday.

I loved my experience here.   When reading about them I thought the place would be so much bigger and intimidating.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It was very quaint and cozy.

I got a seat at the bar in the front which also serves as the check-in area.   The check-in area you say?  Well they do the microchip card gimmick where you pay for the wine as you go. Some places would have you pay in advance, but I prefer this option.   However, it can get dangerous if you’re not paying attention or had a few too many sips. Whoops!  Not me, never!

You can get one, two, and four ounce pours and the prices vary.   I couldn’t count how many of the 120 wines I had.  No, I didn’t reach triple digits, that would be absurd.  It would be quite the monumental task though.

And instead of reviewing a bunch, I will post photos of some of my favorites at the times with descriptions.    Knowing me, they were mostly reds.  Maybe a white wine was thrown in for good measure.  I don’t discriminate.

They rotate their wines so I doubt many would still be here but I’d love to find some of these at my local retailer.   I sincerely hope you can too.

If I were to write about each wine you would lose interest in reading very quickly.  I believe the pictures will do is justice.

My experience was inspiring.  The staff was so nice.  I sad thee for a good few hours pacing myself.  I was away on holiday but I felt like I was a local. I think just being here and not within the chaos of Bourbon Street speaks to looking for more quality over touristy.   And I did the latter as well.  But give me great wine, great eats, and a great atmosphere, and I’ll be happy anywhere.

I ordered a nice cheese, olives, pate, and spinach artichoke dip.  Who knows what else I got.  I was in the zone.  I was an elated guy.

I was happy just being where I was.  I chatted with a few regulars but was happy being alone as well.   This place felt like home.  This city felt like it.

I can’t wait to come back.   I miss it so much. This made my 2015 and I still had another six months to go.

I love you New Orleans and I can’t wait to come back.

Happy New Year.






Santa! I Know Him!


Christmas is only two days away and I’m sad it’s heading into the final hours.  Every season has a different feel for me, and this one has been no different.   Starting this blog over a year ago has allowed me to expand my palate and my wine choices.  That’s one of many things I’m thankful for this holiday season.

With it being Christmas week, I had to find a label or a creative bottle that fit that mold and enhanced my spirit of the holidays.

I found myself at my Wine World and simply asked if there were any bottle that depicted the true spirit or just showed that cheerful jolly guy on the cover.   I am thrilled to say that the Christmas Wine from Duplin Winery proudly showcases all of that.

I wish I could say the same about the taste of the wine itself.  It’s an acquired sip that may take a while to obtain.  Muscadine is not a grape I’m familiar with.  And when the staff member told me that, I thought for sure he said Moscato.

Both are sweet but the former is domestic to the United States, specifically the southeast part. The latter if from that obscure country called Italy.  I think a small sample of folks have had their wines but it’s an exclusive club, but I digress.  😉

I wanted to like it.  I want to like everything connected with the season, but this just didn’t pan out like I had hoped.  I think I have had this at a wine festival or outdoors in a proper setting, I may think differently.   I’m certain many people will love it.  If you’re not a wine drinker or prefer sweeter choices, this is going to work perfectly.


At a small holiday gathering with pals, no one else was interested in even a quick sample.  That will happen after drinking heavier reds and eating a hearty meal.  My aim was for a good counterbalance after dinner with some sweet treats.

We even broke out the reindeer glasses but it wasn’t enough.


Sweet treats were had in the form of some ginger spice cookies, but the wine wasn’t cutting it.   I wish I coud say otherwise.

In perusing their site, they do have other holiday varietals that sometime I would like to give a shot.  I’m all about expanding my horizons.  And those labels are adorable.

If you’re interested in purchasing any of their wines, you can click here. And a store locator is here. Hopefully it’s available at a provider near you.

Next time I’m passing through or visiting the great state of North Carolina, I would love to visit and check out all the sights and sounds of what they have to offer.  I love random visits and wine tours, and whenever I see a sign for one driving down a highway I get excited, just like a kid on Christmas morning.

Speaking of Christmas, I wish all of you a beautiful one.  I hope you get to spend it with the ones you care for.  I will be doing so.  And I look forward to enjoying some great vino and food pairing with some many of those awesome people as well.

Stay healthy and take good care.




Sentimental Saturdays


I was grateful to be invited to the 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party hosted by a dear friend of mine. I’m not sure how official this event is but the 2nd anniversary it is!

Yes this took place on a Saturday, hence the cheesy title.

This one, even more so, is truly about the experience.  This crew is fun.  So you know good food and hopefully good wine is going to be incorporated.

The wine purchased was a 2014 Cotes du Rhone Rouge Acantalys, from Chesapeake Wine Company in Baltimore, MD.  A thanks to them for the suggestion.

I had never seen that bottle before and I can’t find anything on it, except a link in the UK to purchase.   For this occasion, it didn’t matter…

I really liked it.  The label looked like some red wrapping paper so that helped.  I specifically asked the owner if they had had any holiday themed bottles or labels for this party.   They did not, so I simply asked if they had a decently priced wine with some pepper or spices.   And voila.

This is exactly what I was looking for.   It had elements of pepper, spice, and barbecue smoke.  This was an enjoyable bottle for only $12.

But more importantly, this was shared by all of us as we slowly adorned the tree with ornaments.  This is a special time of year and some of can get overly sentimental.

Some of us need an event like this to finally get us over the hump and into the spirit.  I’m somewhere all over the place.   I can never involve myself in enough things with the intent of feeling good.  This was needed by everybody.


A friend brought homemade cupcakes which paired well with the spicy wine. I’d say the dichotomy of the flavors really made the wine and the cupcake a unique but successful duo.


You know when there’s a party, pizza has to be involved.  And my friend ordered a buffalo chicken pie to be shared.  It was annihilated within minutes.  Here’s my one slice.

Nothing could have messed this up. Even if the food or wine wasn’t up-to-par, we would have figured something out.  Luckily, everything tasted great.   I suspect the festive occasion made everything taste and feel better regardless.

With a heightened sense of spirit, our palates and our energy may have been altered a bit, for the best.  And I say that with all positive intent.

It’s events like these that make me feel such joy and love.   I wish the feeling could hit me everyday.  Actually it can. The holidays are a special part of the calendar year that would lose it’s uniqueness if celebrate too long.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t feel good all the time.  Small gathering like this remind me that I can and I intend to.

Good wine and good food will only increase those good times.   Good friends and family to share it with, not only enhances that but also gives us a feeling of comfort and love.

We are well into the holidays and want to take every second to savor it I can. This is why these blog posts exist.

And speaking of savoring, Chesapeake Wine Company has apparently been sold.  What will come of it?  I don’t know.  But this place has been so good to me, especially on Sundays.  As one of the few places with a seven-day liquor license, it has been a go-to for so many. So keep that in mind if you’re in the area and doing shopping over the weekend.

In the meantime I’m going to appreciate the work we did on the tree. Before and after pictures have been included.

Enjoy the holidays and enjoy them with people you care about!




What Pairs With Eggnog?

V-NO Pinot

I must be joking right?  Well not entirely.  Fells Point Main Street held their 12th annual Old Thyme Christmas event this past Saturday.  And it was a rousing success!

Part of the festivities including an eggnog contest with various bars, restaurants, and retail shoppes participating.   All it required was a small donation and a little stamina to drink something so dense and so thick.

My pals and I nearly hit all of them.  And that’s an unofficial count of 20. I feel bloated as I elaborate on it.

A lot of water to cleanse the palate and the soul was necessary.  But as always, wine serves that same purpose.

Tradition dictates that we head to V-NO.  I’ve been coming here for a numbers of years now and have always had pleasant service, a treasured experience, and lots of great vino.  This was no exception.

V-No Menu

Unless we wanted to be ushered out on a forklift, a lighter varietal was in order.   So without hesitation and in unison we went with the 2014 Domaine Brunet Pinot Noir.  Good choice.

After intaking lots of dairy it may have been a challenge to appreciate the simplicity of a solid and peaceful glass of anything.    And any flavors that we could have detected might have been marginalized but I still think it turned out fine.

After a cup of water our palates were reset.   Wine is a forever learning process and while there are flavors present, our interpretations and our minds are going to process a lot of different things.  That’s the fun of this. Fortunately when you can detect black cherry off the bat then it’s going to be an easier uphill battle when nailing other components.

The one link I posted above and again here mentions notes of vanilla and then another review discovers dark chocolate, so who knows who’s entirely right.  Maybe they both are.

V-No Reverse

The back of the label mentions blueberry notes and another one will say blackberry.  Who is right?   If you’re just having fun then no need to analyze every detail like I am now.  But it’s fun to think about and discuss.

It’s just a great wine that doesn’t always need to be scrutinized or dissected just to get a few fruits and tastes right.

If I could find this wine in a store I would gladly buy it again.  I have never seen or noticed it in my shopping experiences but I will surely be on the lookout now.  Fortunately the friendly folks at V-No sell a multitude of wines to go, including the one we delighted in.

For our friends in Baltimore and in the Fells Point neighborhood there’s no need to sell you on how charming this place is.  We already know.

There’s an intimate bar on the inside and plenty of outdoor dining outside.  Yes it’s December and the weather was still conducive to relaxing on the patio.  It doesn’t get any better.   Not very Christmas-like but no one’s complaining on this end.


I’ve had plenty of inspiring meats, cheese, and other joyous treats in previous visits.

The bottle (with corking fee) came to a little over $20 and it was well worth it.  The estimated price of this bottle in shoppes will be a little over $10 and that’s nothing for what you will be getting.

During the holidays we’re going to over-indulge, even when we go with the lighter stuff.   A glass of this, or anything light for that matter, is a good way to step back and relax for a second.

It’s easy to get carried away these next few weeks, but there’s more than a place to take it easy and simply relax.    If we allow it, it’s going to be a hectic time for all of us or we can take it easy and appreciate all the things that make this holiday great.  Life is meant to be great.  An experience like this, that we had at V-NO, is a reminder of such.

Not to mention that awesome 80’s music that was blasting.  That doesn’t hurt.

Happy Holidays.





Hope Yours Was Great Too

We’re so fixated and caught up on Thanksgiving that I don’t think Thanksgiving ever gets the love and credit it truly deserves.

I will do a brief review of my family’s gathering and of course talk about the wine that was drank. There was a lot of that but I barely got to have any myself.


The 2013 El Libre Malbec from Revolution Wine Company was my contribution to this 15+ gathering of family and friends.  I would say it was a hit since I had all of one glass.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Revolution itself as it’s a very good and affordable wine in its own right.  I’ve seen it was low at $7 at certain retailers (and it’s likely at one near you) and the price tag alone is worth buying it for. But it’s a really good and affordable selection to any collection.  I drink this semi-regularly myself.

The El Libre is another one you can find at many wine shoppes all over the place.  That and the Revolution are approachable standard labels that can complement many a party, gathering, feast, or enjoyed in solitude.

This Malbec tastes lighter than most and had a very strawberry-jam like taste at times.   It was noticeably different at our feast than when I’ve enjoyed under different circumstances.

The food and the heavy eating that can bring about different flavors and scents in many bottles. We enjoyed quite a few appetizers beforehand so that plays a factor.

Not as much French Oak or any oak for that matter but that’s just fine. There’s enough cherry to make this bottle endearing and simplistic for any get-together.  And isn’t that the point of all this?   You betcha.


The wine was so good it lasted all of 5 minutes within our party. Thankfully, other bottles were there to be consumed and reveled in.  The acidity was just right that even a non-wine drinker may like this.  And that may have happened here.

And speaking of thanks, my cousins are always creative in how they want us to give appreciation and gratitude ourselves.  This year it was a tree were we could write a couple of notes ourselves. I did and will leave that up to the universe and my own internalization to see that message is delivered.

I included some photos of the food, which includes sweet potatoes, salmon with rice, and some butternut squash with pesto lasagna.  We had the standards.  The turkey, cranberry, salad, and rolls.  However, there would be no photos allowed at the actual dinner, so imagination is key here.

My favorite part was the evolution of the table-setting which I did my best to capture here.

Our gathering went over four hours and I cherish every moment of it.  I cannot stress enough how important feeling good and spending it with the ones you love is.  I’m overstating the obvious but it still needs to be said.   I  told my family I wish I saw them more than a handful of times a year.

The holidays are a reminder that we shouldn’t just do this once or twice because a calendar tells us too.  We should do this organically, naturally, and perpetually.

I look forward to spending as much time with dear family and friends, not just throughout the rest of this year, but beyond.

I hope the same for you.