I Like Chance Meetings…

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Hampden evokes feeling of community, and that grows in volume as we approach the holidays.  Oh yes, the holidays.  I felt like I was just talking about that a few days ago.  And I don’t mean another holiday.  I mean the holidays.  Here we are…

I like it quiet, cozy, and peaceful.  I like conversation.  I like meaningful conversation.  Sometimes that might be too much for you or I.  But I can’t speak for you, so I won’t nor should I.  Small talk just hasn’t worked for me in a while.  I have done it, but I can only do it for so long before I’m exposed in away.   I have yet to grasp the concept of faking it till I make it.  Not yet…

But what is very real is great wine (and crappy wine, but not today…)and a great wine bar to boot.  So this brings us back to 13.5% Wine Bar (which I wrote about a few months back) and an awesome wine that’s not even on the menu!

Their happy hour red is the 2016 La Ferla Nero d’Avola and I’m grateful they were serving after those hours because this is the perfect wine to have with anything or nothing at all.  I tend to say that a lot, and it may come off robotic, but it’s a feeling I have about some wines.

It’s light enough to drink any time of year but has depth and character that will fill your senses, warm your heart, and perfect the mood that you’re in.  Hopefully it’s a good one.

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Filled with pepper, spices, and a little bit of the unknown, this just felt right for early November.  And at $4 a glass I’m getting a bargain.   The average price for this wine is around $10, and that’s exactly what it tasted like.  That’s a compliment above all else.

You know when wines just feel right and you want them right now.  This is for right now…

My friends and I had quite a few small plates and not at any time did the cheapness of wine come out when paired with spiced nuts, brussels sprouts, and frites.  Everything complemented the other.  What can also be said was that the company was great, the ambiance is always off the charts, and the positive energy is in abundance.  That’s going to make any wine, any food, and anything just be better.

I love this place, and sometimes experiences are so good that they shouldn’t always be shared.

Sometimes I get this visceral feeling as to what I should share, should document, should photograph, and what I shouldn’t.  It’s great to keep a log, a blog, a journal, a history of experiences, and to share them.  I just know there’s an intellect with this that is bigger than the food, the wine, or anything.  That it’s ok to put into words.

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When it comes to pictures, I sense a more polarizing opinion.  I think it’s good to take a few here and there, but I’ve never been one to constantly do it.  So when looking back at my posts I get a kick out of seeing photos I know I left out, because those are for me and for me only.  Same for certain stories that I will never share, or I am not ready to.  In a lot of ways that has more of a reaction than what is put out there.

With that being said, I don’t know what the holidays will bring but then I do.  But it’ll all be from my heart and with the best intentions.  Then there will be those stories that may or may not see the light of day.   That’s one of the many joys I get from this.

But for now, Happy Early Thanksgiving and…

Take good care…

Love,

Ideen

On The Mend

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There’s something about the Remington neighborhood in Baltimore that is so charming to me.   And I may not even be talking about the whole neighborhood, but a tiny block or even half a block area has become another in a line of safe places to be that are away from everyone, yet in plain sight of those same everyone’s.

What strikes me is how just a couple of years ago, this was a neighborhood that had all the telltale signs of expansion but looked fine in before pictures, and looks similar in after, with a few masterful additions.

While one place has become a source of necessary health and healing, another is more of the same on a different level.  R. House (I wrote about it once before) has been a source of new food, new experiences, and just a place for rebirth, rejuvenation, and welcome solitude.

On several occasions I’ve been here with friends, but recently it’s always been me and just me.  And this is a place where it’s ok to be just you.  Actually most places can fit that fold if you see fit and makes you feel good if that resonates within your heart and soul.  But something about R. House just feels so comforting, so familiar, and so divine.   It’s as if I’ve been here before in a previous life, but can’t connect all the dots just yet.  Not that I’m supposed to nor ever will, but it’s fun to romanticize.

And this place is worthy of all the romanticizing.   There’s a dozen or so food choices that didn’t exist just a few years ago.  And it just has this welcoming aura from the outside and from the open you open those double doors.  Yes it’s those simple things that really get me, move me, and fill my spirit whole.

Then nestled right in the middle is the r.bar…

I’ve always love the r.bar from afar, yet I was right there.  In all previous visits it only consisted of getting food to go or dining in. And to me dining in some ways has been a life changing experience.  Sometimes a couple hours sitting in complete and utter nothingness have gone by, without realizing.   To call it cathartic would be a statement.  And it would be the right one…

The r. bar is just the same.  I don’t know anyone that regularly hangs out here.  There’s friends that have their places to go, just like I do. Some are not always my favorite, but they’re safe, cozy, familiar, and there’s the path of least resistance factor.

Keep in mind, it’s only a bar but it symbolizes a lot.  Sometimes going to different places means going at it alone.  I’ve been going at it alone for 39 years and change, that I’m used to it in many ways by now.

Luckily, there’s a familiar face behind the bar who’ll make you feel good and welcome.  I always feel welcome here even if I don’t know where the love is coming from, or it’s not actually ‘there’.

So coming from one place of healing to another means simply a glass of wine, nothing more nothing less.   To me I don’t sense this is a place for rowdiness, it’s a place of peace, a place for folks to work, conduct business, enjoy a few friends, and in my case, enjoy solitude.

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With that, the mutual recommendation was the 2015 Carménère from Falernia Winery  (contact information here) was poured to perfection.

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It’s getting colder out there, and while it may not be full bodied wine season, it was on this day.  And I took my time sipping this thing, because I appreciated everything around me, which was a little noise, great ambiance, my friend behind the bar, but then it was just me.  I take my few pictures and then that’s that.

This is a wine that will be a crowd pleaser at any party, whether it’s one that you’ll be attending in a couple of months or next week.  I want to be careful with my language because to me it’s way too early to think about all the festivities in the next month or so, as fall is a season for letting go, grieving, and healing  And to me, and I’m sure many others, it’s more important now than ever before.

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Yes the tannins are big and bold, as a wine like this would be.  The synopsis mentions there’s chocolate and vanilla on the nose, which I actually didn’t notice.  But in hindsight I get it.  It fits a wine like this.  But most importantly, is it a wine you want?  I loved it and I think in this instance almost anything would have worked.  But I’m glad I had it at this moment in time, and nowhere else.  Life is great like that.

I love R. House as the home away from home that it’s become for me.  It’s convenient but there’s something much bigger going on here, and words don’t always need to apply or can apply.  It’s just larger-than-life.  That’s all I got right now.

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It’s a glorious place that is meant to be shared with and embraced by everyone.

How it is in this incarnation is a masterpiece, and I can’t wait to see how it expands and evolves, even if doesn’t really need to.

Hopefully this will be revisited before the year is out.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Keep That Momentum..

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I can count the times on one, maybe two hands that I’ve been to 13.5% Wine Bar in the always enjoyable Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore.

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That number just went up and is going to continue to go up if each visit is like the last one.   Every time I’ve been here I’ve always felt comfortable sitting at the bar outside, whether it’s with people or by myself.  The first time I visited was over six years ago, and I came here purposely alone.  I loved everything about it, and while company is great, so can be solitude.

This time I had a friend join me, but not before our bartender Mackenzie (big thanks to her for her hospitality and kindness) had me try three wines on the spot.  An impromptu tasting will always make me happy.  Maybe I made a wish to the universe and three bottles magically showed up.

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Here are the three : The 2017 Pato Frio “Cashmere” Rosé; the 2016 Chalk Hill “Wits End” Vermentino, which is a new varietal and grape for me out of Australia, and my favorite the 2016 Three Brooms Riesling.

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They’re all good to great with the Riesling having the most character, boldness, and structure.  To me it tastes more like a Sauvignon Blanc, and the tasting notes would say the same.  I don’t usually appreciate Riesling’s, but this was so good that a few 3 oz. pours would say I truly loved this wine.

Yes, 3 oz. pours make it easier to try multiple wines at even more reasonable prices.   I stuck with my Riesling, and kept that momentum going.  Even per other recommendations, I wanted to stick with what made me happy.

I haven’t seen these wines sold anywhere near me, so this seems to be the place to have them, for now…

I appreciate the honesty and transparency of what these wines would cost at retail.  I don’t recall if I’ve seen menus like this anywhere else.  It’s welcome to see.  This is new to me, but it’s a detail that’ll keep me coming back.

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My friend and I had a good time catching up, talking about important things, talking about absurd things, and then nothing at all.  The small plates were great, and in a way symbolizes that the little things are the big things, and that’s what matters.

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Something about 13.5 has always brought joy to me.  It’s a getaway within a city.  If I want to be around people I don’t know, or don’t always see it’s perfect.  I like the anonymity and a different part of the city that while I do explore, I don’t explore enough.

The weather was perfect and ideal for sitting outside, but then the chances of a tasting and who knows what else may not have happened.  It’s all about location and timing, and I think, no I know, the decisions were made right.

You can’t force these things.  You can’t force good times and you can’t force your hand.  Being in the right place, at the right time, with a little divine faith is all you need.  And the universe will do the rest.

The universe looked out for us here.  This was tremendous in all areas.

Rosé and whites have slowly been done, with so many more to try.  There’s still the reds. There’s still plenty of time to try them all, but that journey will be done slowly, surely, and effortlessly.  Well maybe not too slow.

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This is to be continued, as we keep that momentum…

Salud.

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

 

Best of Both…

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Happy New Year everyone.  There’s so many posts that I let linger too long that they no longer become relevant. It could be because seasons have changed, too much time has passed, or the time of year would become compromised.

If I let the wines I tried from Red Red Wine Bar of Annapolis, MD remain uncorked and without the proper review, then I would ruin Christmas and the holidays forever.  That was a joke by the way.

I was of course going to write about my experience a few weeks back, in conjunction with the fabulous pizzas we had, but all of the holiday everything took over.  That might be me making excuses but it also gave me time to reflect a little more on this experience, and see if these wines I tasted resonated with me into the new year.  And has it aged well with me.

A great wine ages well but so does an organically awesome experience.

And I always attempt to write about wine in a way that is approachable, relatable, and accessible to everyone.

Little did I know that I would get such a valuable lesson in New World Vs. Old World.

It’s one of those things we often taken for granted.  When we sip wine we usually just want it to taste a certain way, and for us to feel good about what we’re drinking.  How often do we think about where the wine is coming from?

For me I’d like to know the source.  Knowledge is power.  But knowledge when it comes to wine is even more invaluable.  It opens so many doors and steers conversations in regards to food and beverage into magical places.  I’ve found myself in riveting discussions because of what I’ve learned about wine and even more what my peers have taught me, whether directly or by happenstance.

So without getting any more long-winded I’m happy to write about a new world and an old world varietal.

The 2015 Penya Viognier is a treasure.  And as much as it paired great with the pizza we had, I can only imagine how great this would be in the summer.   With its inclusion of summer fruits like mango, pineapple, and peach this is perfect all year round.  But when it’s warmer in climate I can only imagine how joyous this is with a less hearty meal.

And the novice in me also thinks of New World (which is what this wine is) is the addition of fruits, more oak, and more creativity than it’s Old World counterparts.  I also think many New World wines want to please many people at once.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Wine is intended to make as many people happy as possible.

For more on this wine, which is distributed by Regal Wine, click here.

Now for the Old World.

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The 2012 Villa Puccini Toscana is what old world is all about.   It’s a medium bodied wine that is easy to drink and easy to drink now.  I found it just as light if not lighter than the Viognier.  But that could be because of the heavy holiday eating going on at the time.  And what else screams Old World more than Italy.

90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot seems simple enough.

However, I’ve had the Villa Puccini countless times in the past.  It’s just one of those wines that I tend to see everywhere. I’ve had it at restaurants, seen it at parties, and swear I’ve seen it sold in many a wine shoppe.  And it has always been reasonably priced and easy to drink, and to pair with everything.   If that isn’t old world then I don’t know what is.

But what’s old world and new world to me may be different for you, and different or everyone else.  And that’s the joy in wine drinking.

And more for on this wine which is distributed by HeyDay Corporation, click here.

I want to once again thank Bethany at Red Red Wine Bar for a world class experience that will forever stick with me as a great memory for this past holiday season.

I’ve seen both wines priced in stores anywhere from $9-$12.  Both are bargains for what you’re getting.

This is only the beginning. Their wine list is loaded with goodness and an inspired collection of wines that I won’t be able to ever do in its entirety.  But I can try a few.  And I hope to revisit this within the next month or so.

One wine I forgot to mention was their Chardonnay on tap.  I may have actually enjoyed it more than the others.  Not for the fact that it was on tap (well maybe).  But for the simple flavor.  It’s my fault I didn’t investigate further.  But it was wonderful.  Just another in the many reasons I will be back.

To be continued.  And this is likely the last holiday post for a while.

But for old times sake, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

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Ideen