One Of The Better Pairings…

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A great wine paired with a great dinner is something that never gets old.  As a matter of fact it can always feel new, can feel fresh, and can feel inspired if you well, feel it.

Easy said and easy done…

It doesn’t get more authentic than a great pasta dish paired with a great Italian wine.  An added  bonus is when the wine is affordable yet so great for the price, that you almost might feel guilty.  Don’t.  It’s good to find the best deals in anything without having to look too hard.

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The 2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Masciarelli is one of those wines that you’re going to find in a lot of places, and hopefully you’ve had the good fortune of trying it.  Sadly for me, it’s one of those wines (like many others) that I always see and unintentionally would take for granted.  It’s not deliberate.  There’s just so many great wines to try that while we have all the time in the world, it’s important to make the most of it.  And that goes for everything.

You’re going to taste your berries, cherries, and various spices but for a wine like this, like many others, that’s just one part of the story.  What’s most important is this a wine you’re going to enjoy?  Both things, among others, are connected.  I can safely say the answer yes.  Yes this is a wine that’s accessible, approachable, and affordable.  Those are some great things that start with the letter ‘a’.

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It’s also your typical wine you’ll find served at Italian restaurants, which in turn means great Italian meals and dinners, and could easily be served at an all around amazing feast near you.  I can imagine that it’s being served at a dinner near you, near me, and all around the world, as I write this, and as you read this.  It’s that versatile and that awesome of a wine.  There’s another ‘a” for you!

As it gets colder, the medium and fuller bodied wines are going to take shape.  Thankfully this is right in the middle of what could also feel like a light wine, depending on the meal, your mood, and the season.   Those are the fun details that can make a good wine into a great wine, and a good meal into an exceptional one.  This is so fun.

I mentioned affordable.  I’ve seen this wine sold for anywhere from $9-$12, and that’s a steal.   This tastes like a $15+ wine to me.  It may be for the aura it carries, the aura I sense, or just my gut reaction to it.  Your gut will always be your guide and never steer you wrong.

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What a great pairing of wine and food this was.  My meal was just as beautiful as it looks.  This was comfort at it’s most comfortable and beautiful.

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As we head towards the holidays, these are the kind of meals you’re going to encounter more if you haven’t already.  These are the wines that go with them, and hopefully you surround yourself with the best company as well.

I’m grateful to have shared this with a friend, and look forward to many more exciting times to come, before, during, and after the holidays.  It’s still early November, so one glass, and one meal at a time…

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

Drawing A Blank Here…

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Well, yes and no.  Yesterday was a bit goofy for me.  This past week or so has been a bit goofy for me.  I can attribute that to anything.   But in the beginning and the end, we have control over how he handle experiences and situations that are thrown at us.  Life throws us a lot of things.  We adapt, persevere, and we sometimes say everything is going to be ok.

I keep telling myself that, but I have to feel it too.  Where did the summer go?  I’m already seeing pumpkin stuff slowly showing up, and that worries me, to the point I forget about all the things I said in the first paragraph.

This is still summer, and I’m going to be talking about these kinds of spiritually healing and fulfilling wines for as long as it feels right and it feels right.  Yes, I know what I just said.

So as to not be overwhelmed, I shared this bottle with good friends and with good food.  That’s a recurring theme of this, and of life.

And to be able to sit outside while the weather is still in our favor is a testament to the good in this universe.

When I spotted this beautiful label of an owl at one of my favorite wine shoppes, The Wine Source, at the sale price of $8, it would be a catastrophe if I didn’t grab one, at least.

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The Verdejo wine from Sabeo out of Rueda, Spain looked amazing on the surface, which can lead to all kinds of mixed results. But I had a sense about this.  The golden crisp color of the wine evoked positive energy, without ever even opening the bottle.  And whatever you think of owls, you can’t help but think this is one of the more artistic and stand out labels you’re going to see.

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But as we all know, a label is not going to tell you anything about how the wine tastes.  That’s too idealistic and too much of a beginner way of thinking.  However, in many ways this journey of my love for wine will always make me feel like a beginner.

Thankfully, everything I said earlier is true.  This is a marvel, and for how little I paid for it, I felt like I was stealing.  Regular price goes for about $10, yet I would pay more for this.

This can be savored alone, with great company, and with great food.  All the generalities in life do apply, but mainly the positive ones.

If memory serves me correctly, this is the first time I’ve ever had this grape.  I’m so happy this is how it begins for me, and I feel spoiled and blessed in many ways. There’s flavors of lemon, lime, and maybe a hint of melon in this wine that could make many non-wine drinkers even a fan.  It just has that aura yet welcoming feel about it.  It’s approachable, endearing, and it’s a heck of a wine.

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Versatility is important in life, and definitely helps with pairing wine and food.  This wine has it all.  It complemented this amazing meal of chicken & vegetable kabobs cooked over the grill, along with homemade Tzatziki that it brought back memories of childhood, family, and happiness that transcend any headaches and complaints I referenced earlier.

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And a larger-than-life firepit always helps….

These are memories that will be ongoing, as new ones are created and nostalgia sets in immediately.  Living in the moment yet appreciating everything that’s going on makes anything, including a wonderful dinner, that much more of a notable place and time.

I’ve spent many dinners with my friends (and written about many, not all…) and I’m so grateful that the stories keep growing, evolving, yet the constant of joy, happiness, and harmony remain.

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Sometimes drawing then filling in the blanks is just fine..

To many more.

Salud.

Ideen

The Source of All Things…

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I’m feeling abundant, and you want to know why?  Because what make me happy, what makes me feel good, and what currently brings me the most joy is the most simplest of things.

Some time ago I’ve come to terms and at peace with many things.  While many things remain unresolved, what I’ve become most comfortable and at peace with are the most simple and peaceful of gatherings.   I still can find enjoyment in big parties with lots of commotion, lots of people, and lots of stimulation.

But a simple meal, a simple glass (or bottle) of vino, and a little conversation, where we can hear one another talk and listen intently, is what I’m all for.  It’s what I yearn for and prefer.  And when not looking for it, the opportunities tend to be presented to me with regularity.

I was grateful to be awarded another opportunity last week with a friend I don’t see enough.  It tends to go that way.  There’s those friends you talk to constantly yet don’t see as much as you would like.  My friend would fit that category.

What also makes me happy is getting together with friends for no reason whatsoever.  You know, someone is always having a birthday, a sports gathering, a milestone in life, and who knows what else.  But sometimes the rest reasons to hang out are no reasons at all.  If you love your friends and family, you never need a specific reason.

Well it helps when my friends have pets.  That’s a bonus.   I could relax with a cat, dog, or other animal friend all day, but I digress once again.

This planned yet impromptu gathering got all that more unpredictable, when my friend, who was all set to good, realized there were enough leftovers to be shared.   The cooking can be left for another day.  I’ve been spoiled and feeling grateful that I have such quality friends who like to cook, and invite their friends over to share in their love of food and wine.  I’m eternally grateful to be surrounded with great people.

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The food was wonderful, and the wine (which I’ll talk about shortly) paired serendipitously with some delicious chicken parmesan and pasta.  Oh my goodness this was great.

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The wine is the 2015 Mas Donis Old Vines, which is a red blend of Grenache, Merlot, and Syrah.  And with such a medium to full bodied wine to go with such a hearty and hefty meal, it’s a match that was meant to be and the universe came together on this night to make all the elements of food, wine, and simplicity work out magically.   That makes me feel good.

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I’ll freely admit that the label had much to do with the purchase. But something about this wine grabbed me.  At one of my local wine shoppes I was drawn to it immediately.  I grabbed it, held onto it, and with no resistance whatsoever, I knew this was the wine I was meant to buy, and share with you my thoughts today.  It was the first and only bottle I saw. Sounds about right.

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There’s so much to this wine. It’s got your standard berries and cherries.  But what might taste earthy to you at me, might be herbs and spices to someone else.  What stands out is how this wine ends.  You may have heard the term lingering finish before.  This wine epitomizes that.  What lingers is the flavors and the tannins after each sip.   Yet there’s so much structure and life to this wine, that you don’t need to put into words.  A little oak always helps too, but I think you know what I’m saying.  This is a wine that warms my heart, and may do the same for you.

And at a price tag of $10-$15, it’ll warm your pocketbook too.   Do people still have pocketbooks?  For more on this wine, and the distributor click here.

I think the elements of the the evening also made this wine that much better.  I think my friend enjoyed it a little more than me.  I think I had a glass and a half at most, which is fine by me.  That means more to share with good people.

I’ll also add that not every conversation is meant to be deep and meaningful.  It might drive you crazy.  It gets me cuckoo at times.

A good friendship also means a little surface level, a little nothing, and sometimes a little silence goes a long way.

Let’s do this again sometime.

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

Pairs Well With Ice Cream Cones

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The hosts get all the credit for the title.  Yes there were ice cream cones, but no pictures of those sweet treats were taken.   So I could easily be lying, but there’s no fun in that.

But before dessert, there was plenty of greasy comfort food to be shared on a freezing yet glorious and inspired Sunday evening.   All of this came together rather suddenly which is how my most favorite of things and events usually turn out.  MenageLabel1

With all this did come some wine, in the form of Ménage à Trois.  Maybe you’ve heard of them

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The bottle we shared was the 2014 California Red Wine which is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

To be honest, at the time of drinking this I didn’t think or care what was in this wine.  All I cared about was sharing a bottle in impromptu fashion, and eat some carry out food till my heart and stomach couldn’t take it anymore.  Actually that’s an exaggeration.  Remember there was also ice cream later.

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I’m just grateful to be in the company of good friends that I don’t see enough, in a different setting outside of the norm.  And when I mean outside of the norm, the house and location is spectacular.   It was so calming and peaceful at a time where many of us need that calm and peace.  There can never be enough.

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The conversation was all over the place.  There was catching up to do, serious business to attend do (maybe or not really), and those deep conversations I’ve been known to partake in from time to time.  I’m not good with this whole small talk thing.

When it comes to the wine, I may have tasted the blackberries and raspberries in the notes, but I wasn’t seeking out anything like that.  I was seeking out peace and great company of friends, and some peace within myself.   A standard label wine such as this is just what everyone can use.

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Complex, bold, and loads of structure have its place.  But when you’re pairing this wine with crab dip, chicken cheesteak, and chicken nachos with all kinds of stuff thrown on top, do you really need fancy and pricey?

You can find their wines quite likely at a store near you. It’s one of those most accessible labels there is.  I know people that don’t like wine that will purchase these bottles as gifts or to try if they’ve never had wine in general, but feel compelled to every once in a while.

What’s funny is that while I’ve had many a glass and bottle, I’ve rarely actually had Ménage à Trois.  It could be because my palate has expanded that I know what I want, yet willing to try anything unique and unfamiliar.

What it also could be is that I may take the fact that Ménage à Trois is everywhere for granted.  And I don’t meant to over-analyze but that’s something I would like to cut out of my life, the over-analyzing and the taking things for granted.  Could be easier done than said.  Yes I did just say that in reverse, deliberately.

There’s nothing truly mind blowing about this wine, nor does it need to be.  It’s a wine that’s simple, easy to drink, enjoyable, and does its job.  What more do you need?

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And on an evening like this nothing was taken for granted.  I’m grateful to be invited into a home of dear friend’s and the warm and cozy feeling remained throughout the course of the night.  It’ll be a wonderful memory I now attach to Ménage à Trois, and I couldn’t be more thrilled, and yes, grateful.

To find their wines near you, click here; for their story, click here; their food & wine pairing suggestions can be found here; some things to love, and their contact info.

I would like to revisit a wine from Ménage à Trois much sooner than later.  Timing and the universe will present a situation where this will come together effortlessly.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll share some more ice cream cones.

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Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

Home Away From Home

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This is more than just about a wine.  And honestly most of these stories are more than just about the wine.  It’s also about the journeys we go on, the people we share it with, and of course any life changing tidbits along the way.  Not everything is going to be memorable or resonate.

Sometimes it’s not the wine but it’s the wonderful company you shared it with, or maybe you had a moment of peace and solitude.  And you may have said to yourself that life is pretty good, and at least for even a few surrealistic seconds, it was as pretty close to complete peace that there is.

You ever get that feeling?  I bet it happens more than you and I realize.

I’ve had that happen to me multiple times recently.  Maybe the universe is telling me to appreciate life all I can, because those moment are everywhere if you let them.

Well this happened to me twice in the same weekend at nearly the same place.  Now how I ended up in Northern Virginia twice in three days is something I hadn’t planned out.  It just worked out that way.  And I’m grateful it did because it brought me back to visit an old familiar friend, Balducci’s.

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Now we’ve all been to markets with their selections of natural foods, organic foods, salad bars, hot food bars, delis, cheese markets, and everything else you can come up with. But Balducci’s has been doing this for over 100 years.

Now with locations exclusively to Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Virginia, it’s not going to be readily accessible to everyone.  And in a way these locations are mostly in pricier parts of their respective cities, which means higher end food and higher end prices.  That also means higher quality, yet you can still find deals.

I’ll make this part brief. my first and many visits after was to the Bethesda location near where i grew up.  Now that area is not quite my cup of tea but going back to my younger days when it was under a different name, I do have fond memories, maybe simply because it was a simpler time, and there were less things to worry about.

Even if the prices seemed out of reach at the time, what did stand out is how I hadn’t seen a store like this, of its kind, maybe ever.  And even with changes, the heart of the store remains the same.  And now they’ve added wine.

But two recent visits to the older part of McLean, VA brought me to another one of Balducci’s location.  And this location has more of a presence and easier to find than its Bethesda counterpart, simply because the McLean location is almost in an island unto itself, with little to no competition or hardly any neighbors to speak of.

Before I continue to digress, I’ll just say that what makes Virginia even stand out more is wine is easily accessible in grocery, convenient, and drug stores, while in Mayland you need a special permit, which the Bethesda location has.  But it makes coming to Virginia to buy one that much easier.

Yet I wasn’t looking for it.  But in McLean I felt so happy.  It was near where I was born, near things that made me happy (what those things are I’m really not quite sure, but I felt warm and fuzz), and overall had a welcoming energy I hadn’t always felt from its Bethesda counterpart.  If it sounds like I’m sort of picking on Bethesda, I don’t mean to.

There’s a lot to appreciate because in addition to everything that’s cool, their main headquarters is in Maryland.

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With all that said, I perused the wine section and noticed how so many bottles were in the $20-$30+ range.  That wasn’t a priority for me and it hardly ever is.  Thankfully, Balducci’s does have their own label of wines that were mostly under $15.00.  One in particular, the Chenin Blanc was only $10.  Without hesitation I decided this is what I was going to get, and this is what I’m going to write about.

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I was introduced to Chenin Blanc last summer, and enjoyed it for its simplicity yet somewhat sweet but still dry flavors, that make it a white that fans of mostly red wines can also enjoy.  If you were willing to give it a shot.  I did and I’ve had a few I’ve truly sipped again.

This 2016 Balducci’s Chenin Blanc tasted like a wine that is worth $10, nothing more, maybe less.  And with the understanding now it was one of the few bottles at $10 or less at Balducci’s, I get that quality is much higher here, and a lot of Chenin Blanc was produced.  More than what they know what to do with.  That’s just an observation and speculation.

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I tasted some fruits, and while it was semi sweet and dry, it was missing that wow factor. It felt like an everyday wine and I don’t think you should expect much more.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it.   It was a decent wine for the price.

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And it pairs well with spicy foods, salads (among so much more) or nothing at all.  I had mine with some Asian style chicken and vegetables.  And it was simple complement of wine and food.   That’s sometimes all you want and/or need.

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Here is a link to the importer of their wines, Kysela Pere et Fils if you’re curious to know more.

Maybe I had lofty goals because the Balducci’s of McLean had a positive energy and vibe that I can’t fully explain.  Maybe the grass is always greener, maybe it’s because I was born not too far away (that is a huge part of it),  or maybe I don’t come around enough to grasp what’s fully going on.   No need to over-analyze too much.

However, I do know this is just the beginning.  There’s more of this location and I’d like to explore and definitely a visit to the place where I was born in Alexandria, VA.

Yes so this will be done again sooner rather than later, and definitely before the year is out.   It’ll be a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.  I hope you’ll be able to join me.

For more on Balducci’s, click here.   And many of their items such as coffee, sweets and snacks,  spices, and many other giftsgifts are available for purchase online.

Here’s their list of locations again, which also includes one for my local friends in Baltimore.

And finally, here is their contact information.

Thank you so much and look forward to doing this all again soon.

Ideen

Winner Winner

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It’s already February.  How did this happen?   The holiday season is way in the rear view mirror.  And what we have now is the transitional period of waiting for winter to slowly end before the festivities of Spring begin.

Now that sounds negative.  A transition period seems to have a negative connotation if interpreted that way.  But thankfully for those of us in Maryland it’s been a bit milder than usual.   What this means is instead of hibernating and disappearing which tends to happen around this time, we now have more people wanting to hang out and host beautiful dinner parties with beautiful friends, who have even more beautiful souls.

I’ve been honored to attend these several of these convocations throughout my time on this earth, and lately the amount if escalating.  Maybe it’s destiny, as it gives me more ideas and inspiration to share.

This dinner was more of the low-key variety.  To be more specific, it was a quiet one for two.  I have the honor of knowing lots of great people in Baltimore, and to be invited into someone’s house is a treat I never take for granted and fully appreciate.

As always, with dinner, I never come empty handed.  And I don’t remember the last time I didn’t bring wine.

I was told ahead of time by my friend that a chicken stir fry type of dish would be on the menu.  And when it comes to that kind of specificity, I want to bring something to complement the dinner and the theme.

Leave it to one of my new go-to’s at Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits to come through once again.

I had done my research.  A lighter wine made sense with a likely spicy stir fry dish.  Pinot Noir and Beaujolais seemed like the obvious.  But it’s not always about the obvious.  We can’t always follow the suggested, how accurate they may be.   It’s good to go with an instinct or in this instance, a little help from beyond.  Let me not so be dramatic.  There’s a great staff at this shoppe.  And one in particular steered me to try the 2014 Mas Carlot Tradition Rouge.   At only $12, I felt like I had nothing to lose and everything to win, and learn from regardless.

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This wine was a grower.  I’ll explain shortly.

I got to my friends place and literally got to experience the entire crafting of the dinner until the end.  There was a slow build in the conversation which tends to be a lot of my doing, or maybe for other people too.  But I like it that way.  It’s a nourishing kind of discussion.  I may start off a bit awkward, but after a little wine and a few appetizers, and maybe just a little more libations, my senses are calmed and heightened.

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The conversation grows organically as it was always destined to be.  And just like our discussion is breathing and evolving, so was the wine.  This whole process took on a life of its own  I’m not sure how much time went by, from when this bottle was opened until completion.

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This medium bodied wine got better after a few sips and enough time to breathe.   Some folks or experts would say it had opened up nicely.  That’s exactly what happened whatever semantics you want to use.

Grenache and Syrah carry most of the weight.  And carries it well.  And a little Mourvedre goes a long way.

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There were definitely some kind of spices along with those darker fruits that tend to embody wines from the Rhone Valley.   I see there were notes of strawberries.  How perfect that strawberries were the dessert.  I know I’m skipping around the order but it needed to be mentioned.  And I’m not always about proper order.

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It worked so well with the shrimp we had beforehand.  It was going to work with everything.  Enjoying yourself, the company we keep, and everything that goes with it makes just about any wine that much better.

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The dinner was marvelous.  The simple time are always the best.  I feel like this was the best wine under this circumstance.  We were meant to have this in that moment. I don’t know if this a wine I will ever have again.  And if that’s the case I’m fine with that.

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I only say that because it’s a label I’ve never seen before and wouldn’t stick out right away in most instances. For more on this wine, here is the official site which you can translate.   A little for more can be found here.

Once again, if it’s the only time I ever have this wine, it will be fitting.  It will remind me of this enjoyable evening I had and nothing else.

And nothing else needs to be said.

Ideen

A Lovely Feast

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A dear friend of mine went to Jamaica recently.  And has been on their food kick, since coming back.   We’re fortunate enough to have many International restaurants near us in the area.   And that includes delicious foods from the land of ‘Out of Many, One People’.

And what a perfect opportunity to try some new foods and of course, a bottle, to pair with these dishes!

In doing my in-depth research, I found that the spicier foods (such as what we were about to eat), should be counterbalanced or complemented with some sweeter whites.    We don’t want a full-bodied red or lots of oak, to detract from the food we’re enjoying.  We want the our meal to be enjoyable, and we want the wine to enhance that.  With a lighter selection, more flavors can come out from our dish.  We also want a wine that’s low on tannins.   This is nowhere near as complicated as it sounds.

I am a huge fan of medium to full reds.  But having one of those would completely undermine our meal and our wine.  In some instances, it’s brought out  the cheapness of the food and the wine.   I found this site very useful in my quest.

With the knowledge presented to me, I wanted to get a Gewürztraminer.   It’s a wine I wish I had more of.   We’ve enjoyed this grape a few times over a Thanksgiving meal.  And I’m happy to the opportunity has been presented itself to enjoy once again!

I want to thank Friendship Wine & Liquor of Abingdon, MD, for helping me pick out a bottle.

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I chose the 2013 from Chateau Ste. Michelle.  And this is a winner!

It was very easy to drink and didn’t feel as if it were too sugary or acidity for my liking.  I didn’t detect any clove spice as the synopsis says.   But I could sense some fruit.  Which fruits there were, I don’t know!  But I was loving this choice.  And and under $10, I feel this was a steal and a half!

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We enjoyed our bottle with a wonderful Brown Stew Chicken, Goat Curry, Plantains, and a Meat Pie.  Everything about our meal, from the food to the wine, was wonderful.    This can pair with many spicy foods, not just Jamaican.  It’s all about personal preference.   Most important of all is to try what you like.   And that you are enjoying the wine and food together.

And I am grateful to have been introduced to another great winery, whose wines will be seeking out on a regular basis now. That’s one of the fun parts of this!  Now I have so many new ones I want to try.

The winery itself looks beautiful from pictures.   And it makes me want to visit them in Washington State.  I suppose I will!

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen