Christmas Is All…

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It’s whatever you want it to be and make it out to be.  But if you sense the title is from a certain holiday movie, you’re exactly right.

And that’s exactly what I did with a friend this past Friday night.  We watched this great movie, we had some pizza, and had a nice glass of wine.

While all the holiday parties were going on, all the shenanigans, and all the commotion of the weekend leading into Christmas, somewhere my mind, my heart, and my spirit became drained, exhausted, and at times dispirited.

That’s how the holidays have been for me this year.  And it’s seemed to have mirrored other years.  But as I get another year older, another year (maybe wiser), and becoming more self aware of what I can and should be doing, taking it easy seems to more of a preference of mine as opposed to a break now and again.

One of my favorite things now is to hang out at a friend’s house, have some wine, some good food, watch a movie or not, and have a spirited discussion between a few friends or one on one.  It’s how you really get to know someone, and form bonds that otherwise would not be formed if perhaps in a more noisy, crowded, and rushed environment.   Even many of the holiday parties I attended were either scaled back, more low key, and more intimate than in previous years.  And that made for more time to get to know one another, meet some new people one otherwise wouldn’t, and to hear yourself and your peer talk.

Of course the constants of the food, booze, and Christmas Spirit remain.  Those things will always remain.

And it’s nothing like a gathering of two to celebrate the holidays.  My friend got the pizza, I got the wine.  I didn’t take any quality pictures of the pizza, so you can assume it awesome.  It was awesome.  And I also blame my own fatigue of still running around during the holidays as to why the pictures are minimal this week.   And in a way, I also need to scale back to keep it as simple as possible. Not just during the holidays but all year round.

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The wine is the 2015 Dogajolo Baby Super Tuscan from Carpineto Winery.

As burnt out as a I am (and it may show in this post), I still looked for a bottle that had a label, a feel, and an energy for this season.  I succeeded.

My friend is a fan of the wine and when she saw that’s what I brought, she was grateful.  I’m feeling grateful.

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You can find the notes here, and this wine has a lot of structure and has so much to offer, just as a simple evening in with a friend has so much to offer.  This wine goes anywhere  from $9-12 and that’s a great value, just a a night in with a friend is.

With 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet and other varietals, it almost feels like a mix of a light and full bodied wine.  Now why do I say that?  You get the best of everything.  It’s a fruity wine with dark cherries, vanilla, and spices while still tasting like a medium to full bodied wine that is easy to drink.  Yet it’s full of structure and balance that it pleases all palates and many different tastes.  It’s a wine for all occasions. So this works all year round with all kinds of food.

Or with nothing at all.

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For all that I can expound upon, the only thing that matters in the end is that my friend and I enjoyed this wine.  The movie felt like it went by in a flash, just like the night did, and just like this holiday season did.  So a few hours of peace is always welcome and has been a recurring theme throughout this blog and the stories that I write.

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The best stories of wine drinking (and many spiritual entities for that matter) are the ones shared with a few dear friends, over some good food, over some good anything, or sometimes nothing at all.

The holidays are a time to reflect, to review, renew, and yet rekindle relationships with family, friends, and most importantly yourself.  A genuine time with a great friend will check off all those boxes and more.  I’m happy to have been a part of something so simple and beautiful.

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Having a dog to hang out with never hurts either.

I look forward to the next time.

Ideen

 

 

A Divine Connection

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You know how you go to a certain establishment, whether it be a restaurant, a bar, a grocery store, a library, a church, a winery, or anything for that matter; sometimes you feel an energy that seems familiar.  You know it from somewhere but you can’t quite place it.   The joke might be that if you’ve been there before but just don’t remember, it might not feel so spiritually enlightening upon further investigation.

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But something about Red Red Wine Bar feels like it’s a place that I’ve been to not just last year, or a random visit when I’m in Annapolis.  But somewhere else.  Whether it’s a previous lifetime, or something bigger than any of us, I don’t know.  But there’s a vibe in there that I can’t put into words, I don’t need to put into words, but I’m going to to my best anyways.

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Red Red Wine Bar once again made the transformation into the Jingle Bell Bar for another year, and from the outside to the interior, it looks spectacular.

And just like last year (post can be found here) there was another fantastic holiday event promoted in conjunction with Anne Arundel County County Appointed Special Advocates (CASA for short).

The non-profit is something I’ve been a supporter of now for a couple of years and I’m grateful to call the Executive Director a dear friend, and even more so, family.  And thankfully, I’m grateful to have made further friends involved with this great organization along the way.   All that feeling of love and friendship is heightened during the holidays, and this event symbolized that.  But like I was saying, so does this bar.  It’s the perfect match, of now just what is great about Annapolis, or the holidays, but this journey of life in and of itself.

And just like last year we had a guest bartender who took good care of us, along with the great staff.

Something else awesome happened on this night.  Just when I thought things couldn’t get more surreal, serendipitous, and spectacular (I did that on purpose, yes..) I checked out the wines that they had on tap, and saw they were serving Annapolis’ own Great Frogs Winery, and I am huge fan (evidence of that can be found here), and it just made this night all that more special.  It’s those little things, that are the big things to me.   How apropos to be having a hometown wine in a neighboring bar.  Beautiful.

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Great Frogs’ 2015 Capital Red Blend was the wine of choice, and since it wasn’t on tap, I can’t show you a picture of the bottle nor can I find it on their site.  But that’s ok, the notes tell you all you need to know.  And when there’s Cabernet Franc, that will usually make myself and many others quite happy.   Mixing Cab Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot can yield all types of results depending on the quality of the wine, your palate, and your mood.

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I was in a great mood, my palate loves all these grapes, and Great Frogs is no slouch.  They are well respected in Maryland and I’m willing to bed in many parts of the country as well.  That segues into their wines being able to be shipped in a plethora of states across the nation.

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This blend is perfect for the colder weather, the holidays, and maybe everything before and after that, if that makes any sense.  It’s fruit forward but not too sweet.  And when you have you tannins as smooth as this, with the Cab Franc, it’s going to be a winner.  And this is all on tap!  This was tremendous.  This is tremendous.

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For more on the pizza, click here.

The Capital Red Blend is not listed, which is a bummer, but I’m sure there’s a wine or two that might cater to ones liking.   The price points may be a tad higher for some, and I totally get that, and I would be lying if I’ve ever purchased a bottle of there’s myself.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t in time, for a special occasion or for any reason to share with friends.

And this is where we are, this was a night of friendship, love, goodwill, and helping out an incredible cause.   I was going to go into detail about the other two wines, but it doesn’t feel right.   This may have to happen another time.

Which leads me to another story.  I had intentions of visiting Great Frogs the day after Thanksgiving.   They held a festive event for the day after, which many places did, since people are off and many are out shopping that day.   Circumstances and life prevented me from attending, which tells me it wasn’t my time just yet.   And I know it will be soon.  Other than that, I know visits to Great Frogs are by reservation only.  It’s only a matter of time.

Several years ago, I actually was at a residence not realizing that the winery was footsteps away surrounded by the most incredible shrubbery.   The images you might be having in your head are as picturesque as being there in person.  Too bad I’ve only been in, around, and in the vicinity of the winery, and had the pleasure of tasting their wines at wine festivals in the area.

It’s only a matter of time…

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But what’s most important is to appreciate the present, and all the good things we’ve done this holiday season.  We’ve hopefully gone to some great parties, spent it with some fantastic people, of course eaten some delicious food, and embraced all the little quirks and joys that this holiday can bring.   And of course that music, some great, and some that can drive you crazy.  I think the staff at Red Red Wine Bar/Jingle Bell Bar can attest to that.

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But this is all the stuff (and so much more) that makes the holidays what they are.  And that’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

As I first said, I have a connection with this place, that’s within a town I love so much, and to spend it with people I love and adore so much, is something that will resonate with me forever.

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For more on Red Red Wine Bar, everything you need can be found here.

Information on Great Frogs, including their story, wine list, and contact information can be found here.

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For more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, how to volunteer, ways to get involed, and donation information.

This was fun, and this year was just as delightful as last.  Every year, every event, every situation can tell a different and compelling story.  This is one that has a great beginning, middle, and end, yet it’s still to be continued…

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Peace Be With You…

Ideen

 

Pagoda Party

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There are moments in time and in life where everything just feels right.  No forced plans or arbitrary feelings of having to show up take place. You want to be with people, you want to do something fun, and you want to do something that’s real.

This is what happened with the Pagoda Lighting a couple of Sundays ago, (December 3rd to be exact) in Patterson Park, a part of Baltimore I adore.

A conversation with some friends to meet up for it happened the night before.  And you know how that goes, sometimes you get inspired when talking about future plans, and when you’re in the moment, it feels amazing, feels like a guarantee, and feels like nothing else matters in the world.  It’s a natural high that sounds preposterous as I write this out, but it just feels so real and so good in that moment.

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It’s great to have things to look forward to, and that’s amplified during the holidays.  No one wants to be alone on the holidays.  Sometimes it’s a choice, sometimes things just can’t be helped.

Thankfully the two friends I was to meet up with (based on the aforementioned conversation two paragraphs ago) came  to fruition, and life was good.  Life is good, and this event was amazing.

With a tree (or in this instance an actual pagoda) lighting, that means plenty of festivities beforehand.  There were free treats, snacks, hot cocoa, among other things that were available for enjoyment.   Of course the food trucks you’re likely now accustomed to were in attendance, but folks got to eat!

And folks go to drink wine!  But we were smart.  We brought our own wine, our own cheese, meats, crackers, and all of that good stuff.   Our cost to us was minimal but the experience was invaluable, and you can’t put a price tag on memories.

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The wine I brought to our charming picnic was the 2015 Boatman from Brack Mountain Wine Company.

Tech notes can be found here.

I’ll be honest, and one of my friends concurred, this wine was nothing special.    It was about $13 at one of my local wine shoppes, so it wasn’t a major splurge, but it wasn’t a major anything.

One thing that does stand out is how purple this wine is in comparison to other red wines you would have.  It’s a red blend (46% Alicante Bouschet  and 54% Malbec) so anything can happen.  Alicante Bouschet is a new one for me, as far as I know.  I’ll have to explore this some more.

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There’s lots of dark fruits, and cherries, but the notes mention violets and charcuterie, that’s interesting.   Rhubarb, blackberry, and crushed peppercorns on the nose?  I’m fascinated.  I got none of this, but this is not an expert analysis on wine.    It’s not the crowd pleaser I had hoped.  It wasn’t the easy to drink wine you want at an event like this, or when you want something that agrees with everyone’s palate.

Quite simply, did I enjoy this wine?  No, but it was fine enough to drink, and when it comes to most, if not all situations, that’s all that matters.  It wasn’t a chore or a struggle, and when you’re with good people it’s never a struggle.

When the energy is good, everything still tastes better.  The conversations are heightened, the air tends to feel fresher, and ones overall state of being is going to rub off on everyone else.  That’s what I got from this night out.

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I’m grateful I took a before and after picture of the Pagoda itself.  It captures how beautiful this event, this lighting, and how amazing Christmas and the  holidays can truly be.  And when you spend celebrations with kind-hearted and genuine people, that’s a recipe for a winning holiday season.  It’s a recipe for any season and anything period.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about another one of Brack Mountain’s Wines, and it was fantastic.  You can click on this entire paragraph to read it.  And I bet the setting had much to do with that as well.

The wine may not have been the best, but it really doesn’t matter.  They’re not all going to be winners, but this night was a winner for sure.

I’ve done this all three years and it’s a tradition I hope to be a part of for many to come.

Happy Holidays and May Peace Be Always With You.

Ideen

 

 

I Love This Holiday Tradition So Much

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What makes this season so magical is the events you know to look forward to.  Now not every tradition will go on.  Not every tradition is going to last forever.  Things end, but things also begin.  Most importantly the new traditions that just came together effortlessly are the ones you look forward to the most.

With that being said, this is the fourth year of our dear friends’ tree decorating party.

Here’s the previous two years’ decorating parties (here and then over here).

It has gone from a spontaneous event to one that I look forward to every December.  And it’s gone from one house to a new location, yet the principle folks remained en tact.  While the group was smaller, it was still the perfect set of people to celebrate this spectacular time of year with equally spectacular company.

I brought two bottles to share, and I chose to splurge just a little more.  It’s part of what life and the holidays are all about.  And when i mean splurging, I mean around $14-$15 for these two wines.

One was for the dinner, the other was for everything else.  And actually both bottles were meant for the snacks, the meal, the decorating, and then the admiring.

With that being said, both bottles deliberately had fancy red labels to commemorate this wonderful time of year.

First was the 2015 Red Knot Shiraz from Shingleback Wine.

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The purpose of this was for the main course.  But you know how that goes.  Around this time of year, or even many other situations, wine just starts getting opened and before we even let it breathe for a few minutes, it’s almost done.

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The snack display was more than enough to help complement this bottle and please even the most discriminate of palates.  Fortunately, this group is pretty laid back that the wine snob factor is kept at bay, or in this instance, kept at umm.. Well I had something clever to say but I forgot, so I’ll just leave that one on hold.

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This wine is fairly dark and what else would you expect from a Shiraz?  It’s full bodies and loaded with dark fruits and maybe some cloves to add a little stimulation to our holiday feast.  Honestly, this wine was solid but it didn’t really wow me in any way.  Thankfully, it was shared, devoured, and decimated before I could get to having even a second glass.

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But it paired perfectly with this incredible dinner.  The plate of fish, potatoes, and other various vegetables was stellar enough that any halfway decent wine was going to work here.  Everyone was enjoying themselves.   Our hosts broke out the fancier plates so you know we were a part of something special.

Then came the tree decorating.  Actually we were intermittently decorating, snacking, eating, drinking, and singing along to our favorite Christmas Carols.  At times it seemed like we were making fun of some of these songs we’ve heard so many times.  But that’s how you know you’re having a good time.  The same joke, the same song, or the same anything can still resonate and give you a positive feeling and association after all this time.   This is where I really started to feel it.  But I felt it before I even got there.  More on that near the end.

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The 2014 Three Rivers Red from Three Rivers Winery was more along the lines of what I like to drink.  One of the descriptions I read noted Strawberry Pie.  That along with the color is what drew me to it.  I wish I tasted some of that strawberry, but I did taste a lot of berries, cherries, and what I assume may have been hints of black currant.  In some descriptions I’ve read cedar and tea.  Could it be?

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But this was the after dinner wine, which fits the any time of wine that this red blend perfectly represents.  I hope my friends finished off the rest as half the bottle was still there.

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Both wines are likely available in retailers near you.   Here’s Shingleback’s contact info and likewise here is Three Rivers’.

Three and a half hours of celebrating, decorating, and enjoying each others company felt like five minutes.  It went by so quickly, that I almost feel it wasn’t enough.  Maybe it was just right.  Our lives are getting busier, life goes on, things pile up, and our schedules continue to spread and stretch us too thin.  But I’m so grateful this party continues.

Not one year versus another is my favorite.  They’re all my favorites.  A different story is told each year and the joy of how we celebrate is the constant that keeps us coming back.

There’s a few traditions I’ve already attended that I wasn’t feeling as in previous years, and didn’t feel the inspiration to write about.  This one was a no brainer.  A small gathering of some of the best people is going to make this easier to write about, and all the other little details (which to me are the most important) are easier to remember.

I will always remember and cherish this event.    It’s so much fun when Christmas comes to town.

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Peace Be With You.

Ideen