I Love Ellicott City


For as many years as I can remember Historic Ellicott City  has been a fun place for me to visit.  I’ve taken several trips with family, many with friends, and now the last few have been on my own.  It has been a breath of fresh air. It conveys the old town soul and feeling that’s fortunately close to home and just feels the same.

I’m not here enough.  Cozy and welcoming towns like this are where I was meant to hang out.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I suspect many feel the same.  I can’t turn back time but a set-up like this is where I would love to grow up.  Maybe in the next life.  Maybe in a previous life.

Over the summer I found myself here, and not by happenstance.  I don’t believe in that.   I believe in destiny.   A little sight seeing, a little food, a little shopping, but mostly becoming immersed and lost all at once in this quaint and welcoming community.   I didn’t formally know a single soul here, but I didn’t care.  I felt like I belonged. If I lived here, I assume I would make friends over time.  It just has that energy.

There were a few stops I wish I had made back in July, but maybe some cosmic force had other ideas.   I don’t know what to say.  But just three months later I found myself back here and making up for lost time.  Maybe this is all how it was meant to be.  I can’t predict these things.


For the life of me I have no idea why I had never been to Pure Wine Cafe.  I love wine.  I love approachable establishments.  And I loved the energy of this place.  Yes it took me all this time.  Maybe the summer and every other time I walked by led me to this moment.

Well it only took me five years.


I envisioned this place being spacious yet snug and homelike, and that’s exactly what happened.  Sometimes your visions match the results.  Think about that one.

Dan, who is one of the managers could not have been more friendly.  We had a spirited discussion about wine, the joys of wine drinking, and the rules of pairing.  He, like me, knows there are no rules to this thing.   It’s about going with your instincts, your feelings, and the mood you’re in.  And just maybe you go against all that, but not this time.

With this being pumpkin season and all, one item from the menu caught my eye.  The Roasted Heirloom Pumpkin was my small place of choice.  So what next, oh right, the wine…


I was secretly hoping for a white to go with this and that’s just what he suggested. Actually Dan suggested a couple but I leaned towards some grapes I’ve never had.    I don’t have white blends often.  I tend to take those for granted.  I’m sure plenty of reds will be poured and savored as the colder weather approaches but I was looking forward to something different. Different can end up being a part of a repertoire later.

I went with the 2014 A La Carte.  More on these wines can be found here,  and over here.  And here’s a place to order online.  At around $15 retail in stores, calling this a bargain would be a major understatement.


Those grapes you see in the synopsis (look at W12 – more on that momentarily) are none I’ve ever heard of nor will I pretend otherwise.  But I loved the combination.  This wine is a winner.  As Dan said, this is a perfect winter white.   And this was an affordable wine by the glass.


I love how they’ve broken the wines down by body, strength, and value. I’m sure I left some other fancy words out too that I could have used.

Even more importantly, here is their story and why they call themselves Pure.  It’s all about the wine and the food.  Oh and the little things too, which could also be the big things.


My roasted pumpkin never stood a chance.  The pumpkin seeds were toasted perfectly, and the paprika and tzatziki sauce added flavor that I never thought to put on pumpkin. Actually I don’t know the protocol of what does or doesn’t go on pumpkin but this belongs at the top of the list.

This was a perfect pairing. This was affordable.  And this was the perfect day.


A nice quiet afternoon in a wine bar is always something to look forward to or even better when it’s spontaneous.   Find any beautiful town like Ellicott City, we can only be so fortunate to have a place to visit like Pure Wine Cafe.


This place is worthy of all the praise in the world.   But don’t take my word for it.  This is the awards show part of the blog.  

If you’re interested in visiting, here is their contact and location information.


But most important of all, if you’re in the Maryland vicinity, definitely come back to visit Ellicott City.  This is a town that’s loyal to their community, their businesses, and most important of all, to each other.   it’s a community that’s got so much going for it.  Many businesses will be opening and re-opening in the next few weeks and months.  And they would greatly appreciate our business.


I know I will be back many times over, so the posts will keep on coming.   I support local business, I love local business, and I love Ellicott City.

I leave you with a bunch of photos of what’s happening now, the flourishing, and what’s still to come.







Dance Party!


No, not really.  Well, unless you incorporate laying around as much as possible as some form of interpretive dance.


I’ll cut right to the dance and step in where I can, this dance party was brought to us by our friends from Trader Joe’s.  The 2014 Cotillion Pinot Noir is an exclusive to TJ’s and I wouldn’t expect it any other way.


I can’t fully explain into words but there’s certain stores you walk into, and you can just tell the food, the drink, or what have you is synonymous with that store.  If I saw this bottle somewhere at a friends house,  I would sense this can only come from one place. That’s a testament to the bottle and the energy of this store.

The fact that I’m expounding on this so long on this may come off as an indictment of the wine itself than a love for the label.  Well there is a love for the label.  How do you not like animals dancing the Cotillion.

My one issue is the price.  I think in general they’ve steadily raised their prices $1-$2 (and sometimes more) for most of their exclusive wines.  The same wines I used to see for $3-4, yes you read that right, are now in the $5-7+ range.


This wine goes for $10 and it’s ok for that price.  The tasting notes have been provided for you, and Trader Joe’s is so good with making that accessible and easy for anyone to understand.  The berries are easy to detect as with many California wines, but the vanilla spice is the stand out here. Maybe in colder temperatures I’ll appreciate this even more.

It screams fall and it screams a cozy situation where doing nothing as much as possible is ideal. That’s more projecting and a personal observation than anything else.

Since it’s a Pinot Noir, it can be paired with anything and nothing all at the same time. After a few minutes of letting it breathe, it improved in taste.  Initially I was weary.  But that’s why you know never judge a wine on first sip, immediately upon opening.  And you never judge a wine by its label, unless it’s as charming as this one.  In that case, judge away, as long as it’s positive. Animal friends always deserve to be happy.

And we should be happy with whatever wine we’re drinking.

I would be happier if this was a few dollars less.  And I may have been spoiled since I’ve had many great wines at $7.00 or less from Trader Joe’s.


As seasons change so does our eating habits.   Some dear friends supplied a wonderful spread of cheese, crackers, and finger foods to complement the vino.  It’s a team effort! For even more on this group collective, go here.

And the team at the Trader Joe’s in Alexandria, VA has always been accessible.    Since my first time visiting I’ve always had a good feeling about this store.  It’s been one of my go-to wine shoppes for the past few years.  And when I make my way to the vicinity I make it a priority to stop by.

Even though prices for certain vintages have gone up, there’s still bargains that are second-to-none, that you can’t find everywhere.  Being a national chain is part of why they can lower their prices.


Lower prices doesn’t always mean lower quality.  Just as a cheap bottle can lead to cheap wine. So have fun and do some research.   Before you know it the holidays will be here and if you live near a TJ’s that sells wine consider yourself fortunate and find some great deals.

Here’s a sampling of my Trader Joe’s posts from the past.


We’re just getting started and more sweet deals are hopefully to come.




Free Spirit


I love art, especially when it’s near my backyard.  Baltimore has plenty of galleries and museums at little to no cost to you, for your viewing pleasure.  How many of us take advantage of this?  I can say with most certainty,  I don’t give myself the opportunity to expose myself to more art and more culture than I really should.


The Alchemy of Art embodies what a passion and love for your craft is truly all about.  The owner, Sheridan Costa, has made this one of the places to be in Fells Point, and Baltimore for that matter.  Best of all, it’s free to attend.  What else is best?  Well there’s lots of arts, lots of crafts, and lots of gems that fit just about everyone’s budget.


And you know what else is cool?  They throw lots of charming parties and events.  And these are some of the most authentic and laid back parties I’ve attended in the city. There’s a great mix of people from all walks of life.  And when we’re under this roof, we’re all here for the same reason, to appreciate art and to appreciate one another’s company.

Good parties usually means good food.  And good food segues into good wine, and vice versa.

The longstanding sentiment for me with The Alchemy and anywhere that throws a soiree is to try to bring something.  Never come empty handed.  Luckily, there is a wine and spirits shop caddy-corner to the gallery.

It’s now become tradition for my friends and I to find affordable bottles of wine for purchase and take that short walk to gallery.  If we run out, it’s just seconds away. And the store has extended hours compared to most shoppes, so we have no excuses!

Last Thursday was special.  It was Alchemy’s third anniversary party.   Time is flying.  I don’t know how long I’ve been fortunate enough to visit.  It hasn’t been the entire three years, but it’s been a significant part.   And the gallery is getting better by the year, and better by each visit.

We were told there would be loads of cupcakes and foods.  So vino is necessary.  This time I was feeling sentimental (that tends to be every week) and wanted a wine with animals on the label.  For no reason, other than I love animals and animals on a wine label.  Yes, chickens!

The 2015 Vintage from La Vieille Ferme Rouge fits the bill as am everyday wine, for so many reasons.   First of all, the price I was able to find it at was $9.00.  That’s a no-brainer.  You see a bottle like this at this rate, you grab it, you bring it to a party and everyone will love you.  Actually if you were invited someone must love you anyways to some extent, so the wine will be an added bonus.


This Rhone Blend has some spice and some kick to it. There’s something dark about it. It’s almost akin to eating a piece of dark chocolate.  Well in that similar vein, there were plenty of cupcakes at this party, so hopefully someone got to sip this wine with a chocolate or another enticing cupcake.   My wine never had a chance.  It was decimated in minutes.

Even though I didn’t harvest the grapes, or be involved in the fermentation or bottling process, it feels good when other friends and folks finish what you brought to a party.  A little piece of me feels alright.

This wine will resonate.  It has this distinct taste that separates itself from similar red and Rhone blends you would find at bargain prices.  It’s a bitter taste but it’s a good one. There’s nothing extraordinary or life changing about this wine, but it brings much to the table, aside from the price.

And I’ve seen this wine everywhere.   And as low as $7.00.   So if any of you are interested, it’s a standard label that might be at your neighborhood store.

Here are the tasting notes.  And even some more over here.

I look forward to their next party.   There’s a good vibe, with good people, and plenty of awesome things on display and for purchase.  I’ve included pictures throughout this post.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Alchemy of Art’s contact info can be found here.

They throw a good party near the holidays, so hopefully this will be revisited. And they deserve multiple visits.


Support art and support local.  Yes!


Rolling in the Deep


I thought long and hard about what to write this week. I’m serious.   The Maryland Wine Festival gave me enough options to fill out the rest of the year.  But like I said last week, this will likely not be done with a consecutive weeks stream of posts and then I move onto the next thing.   It will be spaced out.  That could happen starting next week for a few weeks from now.  Only time will tell.

The fun of festivals is sampling so many wines from local vineyards, without having to make the drive to the winery itself.  Does this sound like cheating?  No, I wouldn’t say so. This might be like the Cliffs Notes version of things.  But it’s the perfect introduction to wines we otherwise may have never heard of. They come to us, like so many good things do.  We pay a small cover charge ($25-$30) to enter and the world is our oyster (or our vineyard).


One such vineyard is Deep Creek Cellars.  You know in all my time on this Earth, I’ve never been to Deep Creek itself.  Maybe I drove past it once or twice, but never have actually hung out or spent a weekend there.  Dating back to high school up to the present, different groups of friends go all the time.  I’ve never had the opportunity.  More on that later.


It wasn’t until reading about the winery itself, that they are not your traditional wine provider.  They’re a purveyor of ‘natural wine’, and are environmentally conscious without it impeding on the tradition of enjoying wine with a delicious meal.

So it makes it harder to find the negatives on the wine, but our tastes are all different.

Like many other wineries at the festival, they brought a condensed version of the winery on the road.   Which likely meant sweet and approachable wines that most attendees would be likely to buy.


Of the four, I only had two, the 2014 Great Crossings and the 2013 Watershed. The 2014 Watershed and 2014 Pinot Noir were an extra $1 and with me usually not carrying cash, I chose to pass.  In hindsight, I wish I brought singles or stopped at an ATM.   That just means a visit is on the horizon, to try the rest.  A visit is meant to happen anyways.

The ’14 Great Crossings was the one I preferred over the two. The blend of Vidal Blanc and Pinot Gris was light and easy to drink.  I didn’t taste any almond.  I wasn’t trying too hard to find it but it never came to me.  Well maybe I did.  I don’t know.  And citrus flavors are usually a standard in these blends.  This wasn’t a wine I would actively seek, but it’s a perfect everyday wine.  I sense they left the best stuff at the vineyard.


The ’13 Watershed with its Black Cherry and Cab Blend doesn’t work for me.  However, I noticed this was a big seller.  As most folks attending this event love their sweet wine, this fits many of those boxes you’re looking to check.  This was just a bit too sweet for my palate.


As was the case throughout the day, the gentleman volunteering was easy to talk to and had plenty of knowledge of what he was pouring.  It’s not required but always a bonus.

Big picture wise, I must visit Deep Creek Cellars and Deep Creek itself.  There’s a lot of wines on their list I want to try, including many more of the grapes I prefer.

Contacting them is easy.  I’m liking these guys more and more.  They keep their social media presence limited, which is part of the mentality.  I appreciate that.

I see a road trip this fall or winter.  Who’s in?

Hey look, they got honey too!