Traders’ Trios


It’s been a little while since I wrote up on a Trader Joe’s food and wine pairing.   How thrilling that is turned out that our entire meal was based in items from one of our favorite stores.

It wasn’t planned that way or was it?  Cue mysterious music.

There are wines sitting my stash that have been cozy and snuggled in hiding for more than a year.  And some for a couple of years.    The 2011 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot 27 Napa Valley Meritage is one of those I’ve had for a while.

If memory serves me correct I purchased this in mid-to-late 2014 and I sadly put it off to the side. Perhaps it was being set aside for a special occasion.   Not all wines are created equal, even though many table wines should be.  This I would put up just a notch higher as I purchased it for around $13.00.   For a TJ’s wine that is a bit higher.

I have no idea what this Meritage included.   Nothing on the bottle would tell you any different. But I will say it was surprisingly good and got better with each sip.  It was breathing for a while and definitely improved as time went on.


I did detect some oak, spices (including cinnamon or vanilla?) and most likely some black cherries.  A wide assortment of berries could be another component, and you could take your pick as to what they might be.  I just thought it was a solid wine that exceeded my expectations.

Why exceed?  Because sometimes cheap doesn’t always mean good.   I love Trader Joe’s and my go to for wine is their store near Old Town Alexandria, VA.  I’ve wrote about them before.

Maybe it was the first time, feeling like a kid at a new toy store or discovering something brand new.  It felt fresh and inviting.  And there were so many bottles between $5-$8, that you could get in trouble.   Maybe the good kind of trouble. That feeling hasn’t been back as much.  Is it because I have expectations?  Well the last few bottles have been a bit disappointing, and those cheap prices have slowly gone up.

So I went with one just a little bit higher and we’ve been rewarded.   If you see this in your local Trader Joe’s, I would give it a shot.  It’s not going to be the best wine you’ve ever had but that isn’t the intention.  It can go with anything you please.  My hunch tells me a sweeter meal woks more effectively here.

Luckily for us, we paired it with some Korean-Inspired Pork Shoulder sliders and Sweet Potato Frites, all brought to us by our aforementioned pals.

This was the different kind of sweet treat than we’re used to having.  But sweet nonetheless.

Hopefully more love to Trader Joe’s to come.








I Love Labs

This is simply going to be an homage to my favorite breed of dog, the Labrador Retriever.   Oh yes.  My whole being glows when thinking about them or when one crosses my path.


Dogs are what life’s all about.  They love you, want to be your companion, and will always stand up for what’s right.  Labs, like the majority of dogs, only want the simple things back; food, water, love, shelter, and a few related things in between.  They don’t ask for much.

At the heart of it most of us human beings don’t want much more than that either.

We like to enjoy a nice meal, good company, vacations and other outings, or maybe a journey to our favorite restaurant or watering hole.   So I found the most appropriate wine that symbolizes all of this.

I adore the happily titled Lab, from Casa Santos Lima Winery out of Portugal. What I am reviewing is the 2013 Label. The 2012 is what the site lists.

Aside from Syrah, the grapes are; Tinta Roriz which for us in the states we would know as Tempranillo.   35% is Castelao, which is a grape mainly found in Portugal.   Last but certainly not least is Touriga  Nacional, which is highly touted.

For such a simple pleasure it seems like a complicated wine and I didn’t meant to write this post as so.  If I drank this blindly I wouldn’t assume this was a bottle that goes  for under $10 just about anywhere.  It drinks like a $20+  bottle and maybe approaching $50.

This is all my opinion but this wine rocks. That’s a scientific term by the way.   I love this wine so much.  I want to cuddle with it like I do my favorite dog.   The label drew me in.  I mean how could it not?

It’s going to taste better simply because of the artwork.  If it doesn’t for you then I can’t help you there.

And the wine was marvelous anyways.  I got some black cherry, some unidentifiable spices, but most of all I got joy.  This is a winner.

Just like last week, I’ve been proclaiming what a softy I am when it comes to animals, and dogs in particular.  So this is only the beginning.


And I mean that because as you see in this photo, and linked here, labs come in all shapes and sizes.  Did you see how I framed that?  I love ’em.


We enjoyed our vino with one of those simple things, a good slice of pizza (or two).  And it may not be the ideal pairing for these grapes but we didn’t care.  It worked for us and that’s all that matters. If it works for you then that’s exactly what I’m saying.

For our friends in Baltimore and Maryland, their wines can be found at Cranbrook Liquors and roots market, respectively.   For elsewhere, they can be contacted here.

More Lab wine reviews will be forthcoming.  This is just the beginning of an amazing journey.

On a not-so-final note, I’ve never had a dog of my own.   If there ever was a sign…

I Love Lab(s),


Little Rascal


It’s a newbie or novice move but I purchased the Rascal Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from the Great Oregon Wine Company, simply because of the label.  I’m an animal lover and especially a sucker for dogs.   That rascal is a golden retriever! A reasonable price of around $10.00 doesn’t hurt either.

There’s an air of intrigue with the website.  All it lists is a bunch of Point-Of-Sale materials and nothing that makes it feel like its a homepage to draw you in.  I’m probably putting more thought into this than I should.

I keep digging.  I also catch a link for Stone Wolf Vineyards which doesn’t shed much more light. The mystique is growing.   I found an article that sheds more like on the winery or wineries if you will.

There is a difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, which is a reminder that wine education is a life-long process.

So enough crack research and onto the wines.   I don’t drink a lot of Pinot Gris and this bottle didn’t help matters.  I’m sure there’s plenty that are lights out in abundance.  This didn’t do it for me.


It was too sweet.  The tasting notes mentioned apples, peaches, and a touch of citrus.   If that’s what was there, then they seemed too jumbled together.  I tasted a disappointing white wine with some undetectable fruits.  Maybe it was the bottle itself.


I brought this to a dinner party and even letting it chill a bit more didn’t help.  This was barely open an hour and seemed to get with time.   It didn’t work with the food yet the meal itself was magnificent.  My friends prepared a pasta dish of spirals with meatballs, yummy sauce, brussels sprouts, and asparagus.

Alternate wines were on hand as was some water to cleanse the palate. Even with one mediocre wine that I brought, the night was still a success.


A night with good pals, food, wine is simplistic yet so stimulating.


Which leads us to the Pinot Noir.  This is a winner.   It started off slow but a few minutes of breathing time and this came together like a great wine should.  I tasted strawberry preserves which made my mouth and heart melt.  The notes mention a few similar characteristics such as cherry, earth, and light toast.  So I’m happy to be in a similar vicinity.


Ground turkey tacos were the perfect accompaniment for this second dinner party.   Yet this wine could be had with most delightful meals or enjoyed by itself.

This is one of the sweeter Pinot Noir’s I’ve had and would love to have again. And again.  A funny thing is I recall having this same wine a couple of years back and not appreciating it as much.  I’m glad my tastes have changed, and I’m happy for the dog too.

For our friends in the Baltimore area, there is a strong likelihood you can find this at your local wine shoppe.  I found mine at Bo Brooks Lighthouse Liquors.  So I’m hoping on a national level you will be able to find the same, if this piques your curiosity.

The Pinot Noir is now on the running list of whenever I need a straight-forward, no gimmicks, and no pretensions wine.    That’s how every experience should be.

I find the ritual of looking for the right wine to fit the mood so exciting.  And it doesn’t have to cost you too much.  This is meant to be fun.  And I had a lot of fun with this one.  I hope you did too.

All the best,






Downtown Abbey


For those who loved the Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill, then you will either love this post or be perplexed.    This is not all of a sudden going to turn into a burgers n’ beer board but, the Fells Point location is bringing some excitement barely two weeks into opening.


Now the original location has gained a following and reputation by many as having the best burgers in Baltimore.    I am not an aficionado in that respect.  I do like ’em but never been a fan of the buns themselves. Fortunately, there’s plenty of alternatives.  And that’s a major positive. Not every establishment is that accommodating.

So what does this have to do with wine?   The original destination sells bottles for $28 and glasses for $8.50, which is the appropriate mark up of 2-3+ times retail price of what you would find in stores.   However, the Fells Point locale is doing bottles for $15.00.  Yes, you read that correct, $15.   If you just wanted a glass that would b $7.50.  So you actual benefit from getting it all for yourself or sharing a bottle with someone you care about, or loathe if that’s what you’re into.


But this list is legit.  I’ve seen many of these labels anywhere from $8-$12+ in my local shoppes.

I had a couple of ideas for what to write about today but this one found me over the weekend.  Our awesome server Lindsey took great care of my friends and I this past Saturday.

The vibe inside was fantastic.  It’s cozy enough that on non sports you’ll find peace and an comfy seat at the bar or a table off to the side.

Our visit over the weekend saw a packed house for college basketball and the college bowl games.  We had a little bit of a wait time but nothing to get impatient over.

Alright I’m beating around the bush.  Which wine did I get?  By accident or not, the Pinot Noir I requested was already sold out.   So I’ll have to write about that another time.  Lindsey suggested the same grape from Root 1 which  I sadly must have missed, because I’ve been a fan of them and their wines for quite some time.

I’ve had their Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere before, and loved them both.  The labels are anything but an eyesore.  One of the better ones I’ve had the privilege of looking at.

It was the first time I had the Pinot and it was a winner.  This was a medium-bodied wine with a very cherry and jammy flavor that was so easy to drink.  Traditionally it may not be the perfect pairing with our burgers, chips, fries, and tots but I didn’t care.  No one else seemed to either.


I enjoyed my bison burger and as a first timer here, I wanted to get a brioche bun mainly because it looks good on camera.  The meat was great, the bread was fine too but for what I was able to eat.    My peers enjoyed a portobello mushroom and lamb burgers respectively.

The meals were great, the company was the same, and so was the energy of the place.  That’s what matters.


Like any new locale, there will be loose ends that will be fixed.  We had ordered crab dip tots for the table and only got regular.  These things happen and nothing to hold anyone against.   And a few of the other wines were sold out too.  That might be a product of a $15 steal gaining popularity so quickly.  We all want the best deals in town so this didn’t come as a shock.

I didn’t because I’ve already been back since and will continue to do so.   Eric was providing the drinks and food for round 2.He was cordial and pleasant.    The photos of their wines are shown below.  I guess I just have to write about them all eventually and in perpetuity.


The Fells location, from what I’ve been told, wants to have a separate identity from the original location, yet also remain the same.  I can understand that.  The Federal Hill spot has a hardcore following for the Arsenal football club.  Many of those guys are dear friends of mine.


I could go on and on but the word count is starting to grow.   The Abbey is a winner.  I look forward to visiting their Ocean City location sometime down the line.

And Root 1 is great.  They’re a brand of wines I need to sip more of.   And I intend to.

If you can’t make it to the Abbey, there’s a likelihood that you can find them at your local retailer.  I’ve seen them all over Maryland and in various other wine stores.

All The Best,