…What Is Essential Is…

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There are times when I do this, that I wonder why I keep doing this.  I wonder if at some point I’ll become burnt out, or run out of fun wines to talk about.  The former is possible, the latter well..  There will never be enough time to try all the wine.  Hey!

After consecutive weeks of posts where all I did was review Whites and Rosé’s, it’s time to get back to what made me love wine in the first place, a simple, full bodied, and affordable red wine.

If it weren’t for dear friends of mine inviting me to dinner just hours ago, this may have been another white wine or Rosé post.  The dinner that we had could only be justified with something full, something powerful, yet something approachable.

My friend suggested an Australian Shiraz, and I agreed, with pleasure.  It didn’t take long to find something I liked. As a matter of fact, one jumped at me simply because of the label.

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The artwork and the beauty displayed from the 2014 Big Squeeze Shiraz by Evans & Tate will draw anyone in.  This depiction of animals, nature, and all the elements that are bright in the world sold immediately.

Its at this moment, that after $14 later, I so badly want this wine to taste amazing.   I already have a memory attached to it (its that dragonfly and butterfly, among all the other goodness), and I’ve yet to uncork (or in this case unscrew) this anticipatory bottle.

I’m so happy and grateful to report this wine was stellar upon opening, and got better with time.  And then it just kept getting better with time.  And this is all before dinner was served.

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So what is it about this wine, aside from the art?    It comprises everything I grew to love about reds.  First, I adore Shiraz.  Second, it’s the simple inclusion of plum, cherry, pepper, among the other easiest elements of the universe.    There’s lots of toasted oak too to almost make you think its a different season.  Almost.

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In short, this wine is approachable, medium bodied (in my tasters opinion) for a Shiraz that it almost tastes light, and is perfect for the Summer.   Yes you can have a red wine in the Summer and not feel bloated or regretful the next day.  It’s tremendous, it’s beautiful, and it’s what a red wine is supposed to taste like.

And my goodness this is pair perfectly dinner.  My friend was spot on with this call.  For a wine that with a beautiful label that represents goodness and the best parts of our planet, it only made sense that this meal (mostly comprised of local and organic elements would go with our wine.   Yes, our wine.   The expectations were so high that two bottles were actually purchased.

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Not only did the wine wow us all, but so did the food.  The meal which comprised of lamb sausage, pasta with homemade pesto and local basil, and local squash was a hearty yet the right kind of filling meal.  A fuller bodied Shiraz or any red may have undermined what were dining on.  It’s one of those things I realized while we were eating, and now as I write about this experience.

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And how could I forget the Caprese Salad?  Joyous emotions all around.   The tannin level on this wine leans towards the lower side, which in hindsight I appreciate even more.  As much as I love high levels of tannin, it wouldn’t work with this meal, at least in this instance.

I just found this to be so perfect.  It was so perfect, that the picture taking was limited. This was wine and meal I wanted to enjoy with my friends, and retain as many memories for myself and with my pals.

From when this wine was opened up until the conclusion of dinner was about an hour.  I can’t tell you how great the food was, and I can’t elaborate properly how this wine got so much better with each minute of breathing.   Some wines air out and then they settle into their intended taste for a while.  This one just kept getting better with each sip. But this wine is something special.

But everything factors into an awe-inspiring wine experience; the company, the weather, the food, your mood, and every other element the universe decides to present to us.

The conversation was great, it was necessary, and it was therapeutic.

Life is good but as much as I love wine on my own, great company is always a welcome thing.  And I’m grateful these folks are not only great company, but great friends.

And what wine is really that good if you can’t share it with good people.

Until today I’ve never seen this wine in my life.    To see if this wine is available near you, click here.  If not, you can also purchase this bottle online.    This wine is listed anywhere from $10-$14 and I feel it tastes closer to a $20+ bottle. That’s meant as a compliment.

There’s still plenty of time to write about all the other wines that identify with the Summer.  I sense this will resume next week.

So I’ll see you then.  Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

Preakness Special

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All of a sudden we arrive at Preakness Week.   It’s been two years since a Triple Crown winner was crowned and I still think about those amazing races.  I’ll watch clips of them, not just during this time of year, but at opportune times where I feel I need some inspiration and something to lift me up and make my day a little better.

I’ve sporadically written about wines related to horse racing season but not specifically for a wine created for this upcoming weekend’s race at Pimlico.

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The Racetrack Red from Fiore Winery & Distillery is just the right wine to celebrate the occasion, and before and after isn’t so bad either.

For my taste, it’s not the kind of wine I tend to go after regularly, but the semi sweetness works for the usually warm weather, the celebration, and I think many a wine drinker and even non-wine drinker will be able to appreciate what it has to offer.

The touch of Muscato doesn’t necessarily wow me but I think folks are going to love it. I’m also not a fan of Muscato to begin with, so that’s a personal thing.

And it’s easy to drink.  Chambourcin is a grape synonymous with Maryland.  It can be used to make medium to fuller reds to the sweeter variety that we have today. Regardless, the cherry flavor is hard to ignore as well as the high level of tannins, acidity, and thick skin.  It’s a wine that’s not to be sipped quickly.  Certain ones actually may take thicker skin to finish.  That’s not a joke or a pun.

At only $12.99 this is a wine that is also inviting on the price.   But how about that label and the notes?  If this isn’t a Maryland, and more specifically, Baltimore type of wine, then I give up.  This is one where you buy, not only for the label as a keepsake and souvenir, but to celebrate what a beautiful week this is for the the city and the state.

If you’re having a Preakness Party or pre-party what better way to celebrate than with this approachable and accommodating varietal.  And it goes with simple foods like you may be eating at a party such as pizza.  And pizza is fun.

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No black-eyed Susans but I hope these flowers will do.

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Moving along I want to mention that Fiore has some of my favorite local wines period. I’ve been to their winery and I’m grateful that’s in a short drive from me.  Also by realizing I just said that, I don’t go there enough.  I’ve been to tastings and events at the venue and find it cozy like any good winery should.  The vibe and the energy feels like home.  Well it’s near home, but you know what I’m saying.

This is the first time I’ve written about Fiore and it won’t even be close to the last.  As I alluded to earlier, their Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon are two favorites of mine that I like to use for special times of celebration with friends, family, and other awesome people in my life.  And at around $20, the price is well worth splurging here and there when it feels right.

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To purchase the Racetrack Red or any of their wines click here.  The link to find a store carrying it near you is there as well.

Yet I have something even more exciting to talk about.  If that wasn’t enough, I have posted this link that I found per a conversation I had yesterday.   This is the wine and this is the grape that also is synonymous with the northeast, the southeast, Maryland, and home.   It may not be next week but I look forward to talking about this special wine soon.  I’ve yet to try it myself but if the verdict is unanimous than there’s got to be something special about it right?   I believe we’re all in for a treat.

Enjoy Preakness, Enoy this wine, and enjoy each other.

This is really an awesome week to be in Maryland and in Baltimore, so enjoy…

Ideen

Celebrating the Cherry Blossoms

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And honestly the celebration of the the actual cherry blossoms is the main positive I’m going to take from this.  Because the wine, the 2014 Cherry Blossom Pinot Noir is not much to celebrate.

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It pains me to say this.  At only $4, ($5 in Virginia where I purchased this) this wine exclusive to Trader Joe’s didn’t start off promising and never gained any ground or momentum.

I had purchased this wine for several obvious reasons.  First, the price was so cheap and that’s what I love about Trader Joe’s.    You can try new wines with little financial risk and the rewards can sometimes be phenomenal.   I’ve had wines from their that I’d pay $20 for that cost me less than $5.  This was not one of them.

Secondly, the label is so inviting and fits the mood of the time of year.  If this were in the winter or summer I may bypass this wine for others that would hopefully have been more enjoyable.

Finally, as I just stated, it’s Cherry Blossom season in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. And it may just be beginning or ending in your neck of the woods or your side of the world.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC is something I always looked forward to attend with family and friends when I lived closer to the area and when I was younger. For reasons due to large crowds, other priorities, or life in general I haven’t attended in quite some time but hope to do so again, either before this festival ends (this weekend as of this posting) or hopefully next year.

This wine was hopefully going to raise my enthusiasm level but it didn’t come close. Upon opening the nose gave an ominous sign of things to come.  It smelled rancid and turned for the worst.

My friends wanted to give it a few minutes to breathe and I was all for it.  We were already outside enjoying ourselves and another few minutes would go by quickly.   There wasn’t a rush.  A few minutes might have turned into 30.  I honestly don’t recall.  And at the time and in hindsight it didn’t matter.

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Not even the aerator could save this one.

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This synopsis by Trader Joe’s themselves is incorrect in my opinion.  I tasted no berries, no mocha, no toasted oak, or anything period.  I’m not even sure oak would have been able to save this thing.   That would be best used for a wine with robust flavors that would only be enhanced by oak.    This wasn’t fruit-forward by any means.  If I were to make a generic joke, I would actually call this fruit-backward.

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Even after a glass a piece, my friends and I had half the bottle left and we couldn’t do any more.  It was requested I take this back home with me but I didn’t.  Where that bottle is now I couldn’t tell you.

I’d keep the bottle just for the label but couldn’t drink that wine any longer or ever again.

Here is my written history of Trader Joe’s exclusive wines.

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As for the website listed, it redirects to something else.  Think of that what you will.

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I do have another positive.  This is the first time the silicon wine glasses were broken out. These were a gift from me to my friends, and they were happy to use them on this day. And the day was gorgeous.  The glasses themselves made for a beautiful visual even though our wine was unsatisfactory.

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These glasses will be broken out again and as a matter of fact they were.  But I will save that post for down the line.

This was not the inspiring wine I was hoping for.  When it comes to honoring and celebrating the cherry blossoms, no motivation is really necessary, other than to get out of the house.   I was hoping this wine would add a little boost to that, but that didn’t happen.

I hope you all have been having an amazing Spring and if you’ve been to see the Cherry Blossoms I envy you, and I hope to do the same soon.  If you haven’t gotten the chance, at least in Washington, DC, this weekend might be it.

That’s the fun of the the beautiful weather months.  All kinds of awesome festivals and events will be happening and I hope to celebrate some of those with an equally awesome wine to commemorate those special days.

I look forward to it.

Ideen

 

What Pairs With Eggnog?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Best,

Ideen

 

 

Swizzling in NOLA

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I wish I had written about this entry sooner.

I made my first ever visit to New Orleans back in June of this year.  And I got to experience so much in such little time, that I almost freaked myself out.  There was so much to see, so much to eat, and yes so much wine to enjoy.  I wanted to space out these posts so I can try to appreciate these moments even more.

For my previous NOLA wine post, you can click here.

On my final night I met up with a friend and per their suggestion we met up at Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar, which is located inside the luxurious Loews Hotel.

I was grateful that I got to see a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years but our time was limited.  No food was ordered but wine was on the mind.   And I perused the menu and saw quite an extensive list.    Seriously, this list is nuts!  I kept scrolling and scrolling!  This is a wine lovers dream.  I would add to my knowledge base if I hung out here regularly.

No bottles on this day but I did settle on the 2012 LIOCO “Indica”, Old Vine Carignan/Petite Sirah.   Only by mistake (or maybe not) they poured me the 2013.  That’s not even a quibble, but only an observation.  And at the time I was so oblivious to the fact that it doesn’t really matter.  I only recall this when going through my notes.

Speaking of which, sometimes notes are helpful in referencing flavors and the like, but overall I don’t it can come close to telling the whole story.   This wine could have tasted pitiful and I wouldn’t have cared.  Honestly, I was in a wonderful city that I had always wanted to visit.  And perception is key.  I was in such a happy place that nothing was going to bring me down.   I was on vacation and I’m going to find the positives in everything.

The positives for this wine were easy.  This was not the aforementioned Carignan/Petite Sirah from 2012.  But we move ahead one year.  And I can’t pretend otherwise.  I’d never heard of Carignan until that day.  The bartender was helpful in explaining the details of that grape, that have since escaped my memory.  There was no Petite Sirah with this on for 2013. Now I wish I had those notes.

It’s perhaps never been in a wine I had before or had since, but in this instance (or many others) does it really matter?

I’ve never noticed this or any of their bottles sold in stores near me or when I visit, but if you’re interested in purchasing any, here is the link.

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The wine tasted light.  I seem to recall some cherries and it did have that jammy connotation.  There’s a term that has been thrown around many a time but does apply here.   It had some oak, tannins, and all the stuff that makes me love wine.   And how about that color?  We have a purplish and violet look here.  I find that delightful.

But most importantly I love wine because of how it makes me feel and the company I get to share it with.   And I got to enjoy it in one of my favorite cities in the world.

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The staff was great and the bartender was awesome enough to let me take a picture of the bottle in case I ever got to this point!  And yes!

I included a few photos from this fantastic night.  How short and sweet it was.

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I can’t wait to come back to this bar and this city.

Best,

Ideen

Wine Ice Cream Social

It’s time to switch it up and pay another homage to this beautiful season we call Summer!

I’ve come across various wine ice creams, slushies, and other frozen concoctions in the past couple of years and never thought to try them, let alone write about them. There’s no time like the present.

In serendipitous fashion, I discovered Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream at one of my favorite local wine shops near me!

With the assistance of the friendly team members at Wine World of Abingdon, MD, I got 3 pints for me and my pals.

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You can’t judge a book by its cover, but how beautiful do these look?

Now if you were just getting regular, old-fashioned, and delicious ice cream, $6.99 a pint might seem a bit steep.  But we’re talking vino, we’re talking emotion, and we’re talking new experiences.

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Most importantly though, how did they turn out?

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Strawberry

Exhibit #1 : The Strawberry Sparkling. This was my favorite.  You could really taste the alcohol content right away.   And mixed in with the ice cream this was a match made to perfection.  The strawberry pieces really added a lot to this.  This is one of my favorite fruits in frozen form or to be cherished alone.  This was fantastic.

Strawberries and champagne will usually always be a winning combination.  And they nailed this one.  If I wasn’t careful I would’ve eaten the whole thing and been unable to write this post.

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Exhibit #2 : Peach White Zinfandel.  I liked this one too, but I didn’t taste much in the way of alcohol.  I love peach and the fruit pieces were also delectable and very much appreciated.   I haven’t had much experience with Blush Wines like this one, so I didn’t have the highest of expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, peach is a wonderful fruit and is one of the joys to be had during these beautiful months, but I just felt like I was tasting peach ice cream.  On its own that would be great, but my taste buds didn’t get much of the wine.

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And finally, exhibit #3 : Cherry Merlot.   This one hit a little more.  I love cherry and the cherry pieces looked magnificent. Merlot is a grape that I’ve gradually enjoyed a little more each time I have it.

Of the three helpings, this is the least summery but the one that seemed the most powerful.  The color also stands out.   This is one I’d think I’d have to be careful with or I may be taking an extended nap or two.

There was an abundance of flavors, so if time allows, I will be reviewing some more!

If you’re interested in purchasing some, the only location in the Baltimore area that carries them is Wine World.  And here’s a location guide for anyone else interested!

I would definitely recommend these creams for any outdoor events and parties. We have a lot of Summer left!

Enjoy!

Best,

Ideen

Only The Horses

I have been waiting for over a month to write about this wine.  And the time has arrived.  The time is now. I shouldn’t be so melodramatic.  But I’m having fun here.

Over the course of this blog I’ve really tried to hit home my love for blends.  The triumvirate of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah for both wines I’m going to review are pieced together so well.

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby takes place this Saturday, May 2nd, 2015. And on one fateful day in the end of March, I found one of the most beautiful bottles I have ever seen.   I’m sometimes dazzled by the things I attract into my life.

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The 2012 Kentucky Derby Red Blend from 14 Hands is brilliant.  After I saw the label and built such anticipation for it, I wanted to like this wine badly.  And thank goodness I do.   There is so much good about it, aside from the pretty horses. And they sure are pretty.

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There’s a lot to love about this.  When I opened the bottled and poured my first glass, I detected some chocolate aromas from the nose.  It smelled like a full-bodied wine and the oak was permeating.  I was really looking forward to drinking it. But I let it breathe for a few minutes.

It tasted more like a medium, which was just fine by me.  It was a pleasant surprise. I could taste a little chocolate or cocoa, as the synopsis described.    There is mention of loganberries.  I have no idea what those are.  I attached a link for your edification and mine.  I like a winemaker that gets creative with the flavor hints and aromas.

But I still have no idea what loganberries are!  That’s me being humorous.  But really… I didn’t detect any plums or white pepper.  But once again, it’s all perspective and interpretation.  I’m always sensing berries and cherries in most of the reds I drink.  So that’s always been a starting point for me.  This is a fantastic wine.  I agree that it goes with more easygoing foods like pizza and burgers.

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An hour before, I had a glass of the 2012 Hot To Trot Red Blend.  This is a bottle I have had several times before, and is a seminal favorite of mine.   This is the first bottle of theirs I purchased,  and I’ve been a fan ever since.  For that alone, this will always be my favorite of theirs.   And because there’s hints of cinnamon and spices, it really complements this blend very well.  This is a well put together wine.  It’s not that it’s any better than the Kentucky Derby Blend.  It just has another aura of sentimentality, that the Derby one will also give me, if it hasn’t already.

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I enjoyed both with some grapes and walnuts.  But as the fact sheet suggests, pork, mushrooms, or other heartier dishes can work as well.  I’d say it’s a little more than a party bottle as opposed to the Derby.  So I understand their foodie recommendations.

I’ll tell you something.  These PDF’s I have linked in this post, are so user friendly and approachable.  I’ve learned so much just by reading these details.  This is so well done.

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One final note on the Kentucky Derby Blend.  You may have noticed that they are Out Of Stock though their website.  I bought this back in late March at Cranbrook Liquors of Cockeysville, MD, at their Dollar Days.  They had cases of them at the time.   I’d seen them in many shops all over the Baltimore area as of a week ago.  So you may be able to find them at your local wine store, wherever you may live.

I definitely recommend both bottles for this Saturday’s celebrations.  They may both be Red Blends, there are noticeable differences and are definitely pleasing to many palates.   The Hot To Trot can be drank all year round.   And just because the race ends Saturday, I see no reason why the Derby wine would be rendered obsolete.  It’s a great bottle as well.

I’ve had several more of their Varietals as well.   I look forward to writing about those in a future message.

Enjoy the week, enjoy the weekend, and of course, enjoy the Derby.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen