What Can I Say…

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…I’m an animal lover.

But that doesn’t equate to expert wine analysis, but that’s not the point of this post, or many of my stories.  The intent is to give a lighthearted perspective with a bit of knowledge thrown in here and there.

I’m always learning, and when it comes to wine, it’s an going journey with a destination that hopefully never ends.  There was a dopey cliche somewhere in there, but it’s true.

The sun is finally out, and it took a lot longer, but good things come to those… Yeah another cliche.  But good things come to those who deserve it or don’t think about it.  It just comes, and it comes to them.

So it came to us and with a vengeance in some ways…  We’ve been bad and I guess we’ve finally been good and been rewarded with sun, life, daylight, and all the good things that Spring traditionally brings.

With that bring us Rosé season.   I know for many, it’s their favorite.  Folks that don’t fully embrace wine will drink Rosé for it’s simplistic qualities, for the color, the symbolism of Spring (and what’s to come), and all the good things in life.

Some take Rosé a bit more seriously when it comes to wine drinking.  It’s treated just like any other, like a peer, and like any wine that can be paired with a good meal or savored alone, or with dear friends.

Ironically the Syrah Rosé from Spy Pig (I get a laugh just typing that out and saying it out loud) is a lot more serious than on first viewing and initial sipping.  This is a solid wine at a reasonable price.  You should be able to find this for $10 and under at a retailer near you.  Here’s where to buy,  and more on their wines.

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When a label is that endearing, you might think that it’s covering up deficiencies with the wine itself.  This isn’t the case here.   And for something so affordable, you know what you’re getting it and depending on your palate, it’s either a pleasant surprise or meets expectations.

I’m not even the biggest Rosé fan, and I found this enjoyable.   Life changing it’s not, but it’ll make your day for sure.  And that’s an important of life.

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On a warm day like today, the color even looks more lively, and with red berries on the nose, and on the palate, it’s a simple, welcoming, and heartwarming wine that will make anyone feel good.

After an extended winter that has truncated Spring, this has been long overdue.  But like I said good things come, good things come in all kinds of packages and labels, and any chance to symbolically appreciate our animal friends, no matter how eccentric or enigmatic it might be, I’m all for it.

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To say that my snacks (think you may recognize ’em) were subconsciously paired with my wine, could be an understatement.   In many instances, things just work out like that.

It’s those stories that might linger and feel memorable over time, as I look back and read memoirs from the past, or it could be a footnote.  I certainly doubt the latter.  Everything has a bigger meaning than just what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes what’s in front of you is all you have, and sometimes you don’t know what you have until after the fact.

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Where I’m going with this, I’m not quite sure.   This wine was simply fun, and I get the feeling this only the beginning with the Rosé wine discussion.

Only time will tell what’s next, and what will be discussed next week.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Count Those Blessings

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Because you can count them maybe more than the amount of anything else in your life.  There’s always much to be thankful for.

I know what’s going on.  I’m at a strange place in life, yet it’s so exciting.  In the many post I’ve made, I’ve changed as a person, yet remained the same.  Whether that’s or good bad is all in the universe’s hands.  Well maybe mine too.

But time keeps moving along, and my tastes in not just wine, but in food, in social situations, hobbies, and personal development have either evolved or I’ve had those existential questions, and moments of, what next?

As much as it’s important to be present, and live in the moment, there’s always a what next.  That can be a good thing or it could leave one in quite the predicament.

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Yet for now, we take it back to a great homemade pizza dinner, with great friends, and I decided to bring two bottles from Ninety Plus Cellars.

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Two wines, because I loved that unknown aspect of what pizzas were going to be made.  I mean I had some idea, so I’m being a bit dramatic, but it’s fun to take a chance, and see if the wines pair with the pies.  There is something to what grape goes with certain cheeses, sauces, and toppings.

And then again there is something to having however you want it.

The pizza was great, and you can read more about that here. But today I talk about the wine.

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I’ll get the weak out of the way first.   The 2016, Lot 116 Cabernet Sauvignon left a lot to be desired.  I’m so grateful we opened this bottle after dinner, because if we had this with pizza, or with anything, this dinner would tell a different story.

And don’t get me wrong, the best part of dinner is the socializing and the company.  So the better the food and the wine, that’s just a bonus.  But still, thank goodness we saved this for the end.  Even after giving it time to breathe, the Cabernet Sauvignon tasted like it was open for way too long.

If you’ve ever ordered wine at the bar, and it tasted skunk, then you know what I’m talking about.  It’s that least ordered, lesser popular tasting wine at the bar, that will be disposed of, if you ask politely.

That may sound harsh, but maybe it was a bad bottle.   Because no Cabernet can taste that bad.  Seriously.

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From that we go to a stellar bottle.   The 2016 Lot 23 Old Vine Malbec is an absolute treasure.  I wish I had brought two of these, at least.

This wine can go with so many different kinds of wine, or simply by itself.  This is just a matter of personal opinion.   Those dark fruits you know and love, such as plum, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries may their understated yet profound impression felt.  I say that this wine has so much going for it.  It has structure, depth, and endearing quality that will resonate with you long after finishing your glass, or in our case, the bottle.

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We had it with hummus, carrots, and the pizza!

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A medium amount of tannins are going to make your tongue feel so good.  It did for me.  Most of all, to me, when you have this smokey or oaky type of taste that lingers towards the end, you have my kind of wine. 

If a friend were to describe my kind of wine, this would be lighter version of it.  And I’m all for it.  This was fantastic.

But speaking of endearing, so was this whole evening…

What I also recall is one of our party really loving the Cabernet more so than the Malbec. That’s what makes this journey so fun.  We all like different things.

Both bottles are likely to be found for under $15.

But in the end, we all share a bottle, a meal, some laughs, and some great conversation.

We are one an we are the same.  That makes me feel good.

For more on Ninety Plus; here is their wine list, their story, their online ordering information, their contact information,  and where you can find their wines near you.

Counting my blessings…

Ideen

The Great Expedition

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The Expedition Merlot from Canoe Ridge Vineyard was a given to me nearly three months to the day, as a Christmas present.

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I wanted to find the perfect time to uncork it and enjoy it in all its glory, and in all its majesty.

Before even opening the wine, I was in awe of the label.  Yes I know it’s not all about the label.  But this one is such a strong selling point, I think it would be a huge injustice if I don’t profess how beautiful, yet understated this label is.  Because this was a gift, the sentiment and my love for this wine is at an even more spiritual and affectionate level.

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Wait, so how was the wine?  I’ll get to that I promise.

From one holiday to another, we have St. Patrick’s Day this Friday.  And I had in the back of my mind to pair a tradition Irish dish (or as close to it as possible), with a wine.  Because we all know that wine and St. Patrick’s Day go hand in hand.

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Corn beef and cabbage is a dish I enjoy but don’t have too often.  Maybe once or twice a year to be exact.  So when I thought about the proper wine to pair it with, I thought about a a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, among others,  but realized I hadn’t written about the former in quite some time.  Then the realization came to me that the Expedition was the ideal wine to complement this meal.  I was truly hoping this would work.  If not, then I would chalk it up to experience.

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This wine, let me tell you, oh my goodness.  This is my kind of wine.  This is my kind of Merlot.  And I’ve never truly loved Merlot, until now.  This is is just so over-the-top awesome that I’m not sure I will be able to do this justice.

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The aromas upon uncorking were heavy and they were powerful.  I assume there were cherries, maybe blackberries (which some reviews say blueberries, so maybe those as well), among who knows what else.  But it’s the tasting that matters.

I found something strangely familiar within the first few sips that I felt that a few minutes, if not more, of letting the wine air out, to let it breathe, and to let it open up was important.  Something about a wine this special needs a little more time.   Like any expedition hopefully there is plenty of time.

No timer was set or anything of the sort, but after several minutes I noticed more differences but again something was familiar.  At first I thought it was plums, or even prunes, but no. I was getting warmer.  Then it kind of it me.  If you like tea, and especially black tea, like I do then you’re familiar with blackcurrant.    I’m not going to pretend like I knew this right away.  I did some research of various descriptions of this wine which confirmed by beliefs.  I was thrilled to be onto something and happy to then see it verified elsewhere. That’s a great feeling.

What’s really a great feeling is how amazing this wine is.   And I’ve seen it mainly around the $15 range which is a deal and steal for what you’re getting.   Trust me, you’re getting a lot.

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But to me, this is more than an everyday wine.  This is a bottle that can be used for special occasions as as well as with winner.  And that dinner should be hearty and full of life, just like this wine is.  My meal was pretty good but the wine put it over-the-top.  You can’t ask for much more.  But this wine was fantastic in every possible away. It’s inspiring me to go on an expedition of my own, or maybe for now, try another of their massive list of wines, whichever comes first.  If it’s the latter I hope to be giving another stellar review.

For more information on the winery itself, click here.

Some of their Expedition Wines are available to purchase online, click here for more information.

Luckily for us, I’ve now seen this label in many a wine shoppe so I think it will be easy to find.  But at this point, at least for the Merlot, I’ve seen more of the 2015 Vintages than the one I just reviewed.  But I’m confident the quality is on the level of this most incredible wine I’ve shared with you today.

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For me, this will forever be the wine that put my appreciation, and now love for Merlot, over-the-top.  I’m so grateful my dear friends thought to get me such a wonderful gift.  I will always appreciate this.

I look forward to doing this again, whether it’s a expedition, vacation, or some other fascinating journey.  I hope it’s a good one.  And best wishes to you on your Expedition, whether it’s the wine or in a literal sense.

Maybe both.

Ideen

 

Wine & Pizza Party!

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When it comes to figuring out what wines go with what kind of pizzas, or any wine and food pairing for that matter, when doing research it can start to drive you crazy.  You hear a bunch of differing opinions and whatever you thought of initially, is not in agreement with what any ‘experts’ and sommeliers suggest.

It’s important to go with your intuition but it’s also comforting when other opinions match your own.  But your opinion is the one that counts the most.

Wine and pizza is one of those combinations that’s supposed to be enjoyable.

I think I got half of it right this time.

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Everything I just mentioned earlier was a bit of projection.   I ordered two pizzas from the awesome folks at Ceriello, and you can read about those pies here,  but the wines I purchased at their shoppe met with mix results.

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There was some angst and agonizing over which two wines to get with each respective pizza.  I was set on one red and one white.

I’ll start with the red.   This is where my instinct and experience came through.  I was leaning towards an Italian red that was affordable, approachable, and hopefully palate pleasing.   I was thinking a Chianti.  I don’t recall the last time I wrote about one, oh wait there it is.

Ceriello’s wine list is a good of mix of everything, but also small enough, that you won’t get too lost in searching for the perfect wine.

The irony is that this was all for just for me, and I guess the audience reading this.  So maybe there was a little pressure that shouldn’t have been there.

After scouring the rows I noticed the last bottle of the 2015 Piccini Chianti sitting all by its lonesome and I literally mean all by its lonesome.  It was the last bottle on the shelf.  I figured it was waiting for me and only me.  I like to believe things like that.  And at $10, that’s my kind of wine and that kind of price.

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A pizza with meatballs (or meats in general) and tomato sauce pairs so well with an Italian red.   It’s one of those things where the acidity of the wine works well with that sauce.  This is not meant to be an expert analysis.  It’s a light red that works and is adequate but it wasn’t anything to write home about.

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Something just felt off.  No, not about the pizza, but the wine.   I’ve had this wine in previous years with previous vintages and found it to be just fine.  I suppose some things never change.  There were some hints of fruits and spices but it didn’t click.

I had one glass and kind of just forgot about it.  It’s a good everyday wine and a good value that I would gladly try again under different circumstances, but it didn’t work, especially with this amazing pizza.

The Piccini Chianti is one of those standard label wines you can most likely find at your neighborhood wine store.  I’ve seen it multiple times in multiple places.

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The white I went with was an ambitious choice.  This is where I struggled and maybe tried too hard to find the perfect white to go with my second pie with fresh vegetables and prosciutto.

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The 2015 L’Isola de Profumi  from Alcesti with two grapes I had never heard of until last week, Catarrato and Grecanico.  I hope I spelled those correctly.   This wine didn’t work here or by itself.

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It’s a Sicilian White that is an acquired taste.  I’m just not sure when and if I would ever acquire it.   I read that there’s hints of Mediterranean fruits. What those fruits are I honestly couldn’t tell you.

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I will concede that this wine doesn’t seem to be meant to be paired with pizza.

This is where I will sound like a novice and in another attempt to sound inspiring, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong pairing.

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However, there are exceptions.  Some foods and some wines will clash and all those amazing flavors that may or many not exist may disappear.  At other times the cheapness of some foods and wines will be exposed.

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This wine at $8 was worth a shot and even though it didn’t work out, I look forward to trying some more of Ceriello’s wines from Italy and other parts of the world, in the future.

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The pizza was phenomenal, I just wish I found the perfect wines to pair it with.  Actually this is maybe what I did wrong. I was overthinking a bit and looking for signs outside of myself that didn’t exist this time around.

Ceriello does a Friday pizza and wine night, and has a set of wines on display that they suggest work well with the certain pizzas.   This wasn’t about me going rogue or being different, well maybe the different part.   But one of these Friday feasts will be something I will take part in and learn from this most recent experience.

And maybe I will learn a little more about myself and meet some great people in the process.

Sometimes wine is meant to be enjoyed alone, sometimes in groups, and just sometimes there’s going to be rough patches that are educational experiences.

They’re all educational, they’re all experiences, and I look forward to many more enjoyable experiences soon.

To read more about these fantastic pizzas go here.

Here’s more on Piccini and here’re more on Alcesti.

Thanks so much.

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

An Organic Experience

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Leave it to near where I live to have a wining and dining excursion that wasn’t just authentic but felt as spontaneous as any night out I’ve had in some time.  Based on that picture above, I would say that’s quite the understatement.

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One Eleven Main Street, in well, Main Street, Bel Air, MD has been open for several months.  I’m slightly embarrassed to have not this restaurant even existed.  I live minutes away from historic Main Street and had passed through recently.  I guess I just never noticed it.  Shame on me but this is why you have good friends to steer you in the right direction.

In terms of unplanned, I had a peaceful night of doing nothing at home.  Sometimes we need that.  I had zero intention of going out.  I was at peace with watching a cinema, eating some processed food, and calling it a night.

But you know, when you’re at peace with yourself and your plans for the evening, that’s when your friends want to hang out.  And this is from one the more unlikely folks.  It made my night.

I have a few friends who live near me, and when I do get a chance to hang out with them, I take full advantage.  I initially met them at a one locale and thought this was perfect.  It was a beautiful and brief encounter of dear friends I don’t see enough.  I thought a good hour was just right.  They had started earlier and looked like they were ready go to home.

This was organic in its own right.   So many of our plans are constructed via invites and messaging feeds that this was a rarity that I missed.  I was at peace.  Fortunately, they wanted more and I was along for the ride.  One Eleven Main was an inspired choice.

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I just figured a glass of wine and small plate would do the job.  So much for that.  We got a little carried away.  But it was a celebration of sorts.  My dear friends’ were celebrating a wedding anniversary all week and I’m grateful to have been able to be a part of that.

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After trying one or two wines, there was some hesitation on where to go.  We all were in the mood for something medium bodied, and I noticed the Don David Reserve Malbec 2015.

Over a year ago, I reviewed the 2013 version and loved it.

After a bit of deliberation and sampling that’s what we went with.  But as you can see, that’s not all that we went with.

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The cheese and charcuterie board looked like it was good for six people.  It took three of us to finish it.  But we took our time.  We savored this thing.  Aside from taking few pictures, we enjoyed this moment for what it was, an organic experience.

In this instance, like many others, it doesn’t matter what was in the mind.  You may get your darker fruits and earthy undertones, but none of this mattered.  To me it tasted like a full on Malbec, and a full on great wine.   For under $30 this was fantastic, but you can’t put a dollar amount on a great adventure.

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I was blown away.  This is a restaurant I may have not encountered for a long time, if it wasn’t for my friends.  It’s good to have good friends. But it’s not about me.  It was about all of us.  It was an experience that will resonate with me for a long time.

And the staff was incredible.  The cozy atmosphere lends itself to a sense of community, a sense of love, and a sense of friendship.

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We were the only three people at the front bar.  For a few moments it felt like we were the only people on Earth.  I’m not exaggerating at all, but that’s the feeling I got at times. That’s when you know everything is going right and nothing can bring down this natural high.

For more on Don David, click here.    I wish I could find a list of stores that carry the wine, but perhaps online ordering may work as well.  Here’s one link where the price is listed at $17, which is a solid value, or maybe this link at $15, even better.

If you’re in the area or planning on travelling to the Harford County and Bel Air, MD area, here is One Eleven Main Street’s location and menus.

I will be back  but this evening will be hard to top.  You know when you have a great meal and vino that you’ll be talking about for a long time?  Yeah this is that.  I’ve had a few of those and I’m thrilled to have this join the list.  I could talk about this forever but you know, some parts of an amazing memory should be kept internal.

How do I top this?   No need to top it.   More awesome experiences to come.

 

Ideen

 

I Love Thursdays

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As a kid, and now as an adult, I’ve always looked forward to Thanksgiving.  The fourth Thursday is one many of us mark on the calendar as a day of eating, celebrating with people you care about, drinking, eating, and more eating.

But in what has now become a preview of things to come, the third Thursday, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, has almost become the launching pad of the holiday season, at least here in the states.  And of course for others, the holidays started right after Halloween, if not before.   Nevertheless, I’m happy to have found two unique bottles versus last year, and thankfully two gatherings to bring them to.

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I love Friendsgiving, or Friends Thanksgiving.  I love how we all embrace each other a little more during this time of year.  There’s a natural energy and progression that hits us for a couple of months.  It’s the height of love.  I want to believe it permeates throughout the year.  Some would say it would talk away some of the shine and uniqueness of this time of year.   I would venture to say that being good to each other should be exclusive to the entire year.  And it can be.  With that being said…

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The 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau from Bouchard Aîné & Fils was my favorite of this season thus far. This was brought to a Friendsgiving this past Sunday. So yes, I cheated.  I broke the tradition of only having this on that faithful Third Thursday, but good wine is meant to be drank.  And it was still at the store, so it was meant to be bought, meant to be savored, and meant to be appreciated, all year round.  Ok that was a bit dramatic.

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But this wine had a sweetness about it.   I should have figured out that besides blackberry and cherry, which is synonymous with these wines, was some white peach.  This made the wine alone.  The synopsis which is listed also mentions flavors or smoke.  You would think smoke would undermine the sweet and fruity principles that these wines bring forth.  This was not the case.

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I loved it and was happy that my friends enjoyed it too.  The bottle barely made it through dinner.  You know when you bring a bottle and no one drinks it, feelings may be hurt.  It’s happened to the best of us.  So I’m happy other people enjoyed it and are now fans.  I’m a huge fan.

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I was a huge fan of the feast.  Everyone made or brought some awesome foods.  Pictures are all over this writing, and I don’t need to explain everything on my plate.  Hopefully the pictures do them justice.  But everything was wonderful.  The hosts are great people who I consider close friends, it was nice to reconnect with friends I don’t always see, and I’m happy to have met some new ones.  This is the point of the holidays, and the point of this thing of course called life.

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Can you spot the green eggs and ham?  Haha.

So that was dinner.  And after dinner comes sweet tooth time.

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Bottle #2 is the Beaujolais Noveau from Joseph Drouhin tasted a bit more standard and more of the wines that are in line with this event.  That’s not to say it was bad.  The dark fruits, blackberries, and cherries made this wine a little more fuller than I expected.  I didn’t love it at first, but it was a grower.  A few of sips were better than others. And that could entirely be based on the pastries that were paired with.  The sweetness may shown itself when it otherwise wouldn’t.

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This was a smaller gathering with good friends.  I feel like such a grown up going to another party for dessert and vino.

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These wines are meant to be paired with heavy meats and cheeses.  But there are never any rules to this thing.  Well there might be one.  These wines are meant to be drank now. I have bottles from a couple of years ago that are probably lost causes.   They were meant to be brought to various holiday parties and events.  I won’t make that same mistake by letting them collect dust.

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We got a long season and that means these youthful wines are meant to be had immediately.  And most go for under $15.  And some under $10.  Those are my kind of price points.

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The holidays are about getting carried away, indulging yourself like there’s no tomorrow (or until the next party), and spending time with the people you care about the most.

I would strongly recommend the Bouchard Aîné & Fils, and I think many others will love the Joseph Drouhin.

As an aside, I did taste the Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, and it left so much to be desired. It’s the weakest I can recall in sometime.  I would say it lacked the fire and enthusiasm of previous years.

So you might be asking where you can find these bottles?  The respective websites are not the best of help in that regard. All I know is that in Baltimore, you can find them at the fine folks of Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits.  I’ve always had a great experience there. Online sites may list this at various prices.  If I can track down where else they can be found, I will update this list.

Here is my Beaujolais Nouveau post from one year ago.

Happy Third Thursday to you and Happy Thanksgiving Eve!   And if you read this after that, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, and Happy Wine Drinking!

I Love Beaujolais Nouveau!

Best to you and yours,

Ideen