I’m Glad I Waited…

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The amount of times I had planned to write about my visit to Great Frogs back in January, is almost embarrassing to talk about.

I’ve written about them previously in different settings (you can read about that here) with the hope that one day I would get to visit their winery.    And it finally happened.

Good things come to those who wait, and before I discuss this exquisite visit, here is their FAQ, more about this wonderful winery, visitor information, info on purchasing their wines/shipping info, and where you can find their wines near you.

If you don’t live or aren’t planning to visiting the Annapolis area, your only chance is to have their wines shipped to you.   These wines are on the pricier side, and are outside of my price range.  But every once in a while, I feel it’s right to treat myself.  It’s right to treat yourself, as much as you want, for as much as you want.

It’s my life, it’s your life, and we only get one of those, as who we are in this lifetime.

A few years back when I first about this winery, I had these images of exclusivity, and this place being a secret club that only the highest of society are welcome or dare try to visit.  There’s this thing about assuming that you shouldn’t always do.

However, on a random day I had dropped someone off not realizing their house was literally on the other side of this immaculate looking green and shrubbery, which was Great Frogs.  I was in awe.  I put this place on even more of a pedestal.  Sometimes assuming or presuming adds to the excitement and adds to the mystique.

Needless to say, the winery wasn’t open that day and I thought maybe someday.

After attending wine festivals and having a glass at various restaurants around town, I was enamored.  Maybe it’s an Annapolis thing (my increasing list of my affinity for Annapolis can be found here) but I love their wine and I love everything about this place.

Tastings are by reservation only, and on a limited time frame Fridays and Saturdays only.  At $35 a person that may put some people off.  You can get three bottles in most places for that much.  But this is not that kind of place.  I love this place.

When I drove up, I noticed the amazing vines, the greens, the farmland, and then the barn which hosts the tastings,  I was looking for the adorable pups (Scout & Bruno) who protect the crops and vines from the outside world (wildlife), but not on this day.  That just means I’ll have to be back.  And that’s a given.

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I won’t talk about every wine that was tried.  I don’t want to bore you.  This is not what this blog is about.  It’s about enjoying the wines, enjoying the company your worth, and enjoying your surroundings.

This was well worth the investment.  And in hindsight $35 is not that much for an experience that’s more than just a tasting.  You get 6 wines, you get snacks (which they will replenish for you), and the most incredible ambiance I can ever recall at a winery.  Being away from Downtown Annapolis and being in your own universe a few miles away added another element of wonder and fascination to this visit.  Man I loved all of this.

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I neglected to mention this tasting also includes a glass of your choice upon completion.  Does it get any better?  This tasting room decor is incredible.   I want to thank Ben who helped with the tasting, and could not have been friendlier.

This is family affair as I also got to meet the owners, Nathathanael & Andrea, who could not have been friendlier.

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The wines that stood out to me were the 2015 Estate Meritage, the 2015 Cold Blooded (their newest release at the time), and the Chardonnay.    I went with the former as my glass mainly because the spices, the cedar taste, the berries, and the chocolate made this perfect for the winter time.   Full bodied wines are what’s going to work here, and this worked alright.    This is a $50 bottle, and if you’re feeling ambitious, go for it.   This is a tremendous wine, as most of their wines are.

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The Cold Blooded is a blend with every grape under the sun, and at $55, this was heavily pushed for a celebration they had the day after Thanksgiving, that was originally to be my first visit.  That didn’t happen for reasons I can’t remember, other than it wasn’t meant to be.

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This visit was meant to be.   This was more than a wine tasting, this was art.  It’s Great Frogs, it’s Annapolis, it’s happiness, this is living.

I can’t wait to do it again.

Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

Goodness, Gracious, Great Bears Of…

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…or something like that.

I’m a sucker, I’m a nerd, and then I’m a sucker again.  Whenever I see an animal on a wine label, I’m automatically drawn to it.  And if the price is reasonable enough, say in the under $20 range (and hopefully under $10-$15), I’m likely going to purchase it.

This one I bought for $13, but you can easily find it (along with their other wines) for $10 or less.  And that is how much you should pay for it.

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Yes, regardless of the grape, the varietal, and without any research whatsoever, I’m going to buy it.  Because if someone had the wherewithal and the foresight to post a positive depiction of our animal friends, you have to believe there’s a heart and a soul behind the operation. Whether or not the wine is good is another story.

That’s a segue if there ever was one.

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The 2015 Chardonnay from Toasted Head is the perfect example of why purchasing just based on the label.  And you know, I didn’t even notice my new friend breathing fire until after uncorking.  I thought it was bear standing peacefully in solitude.  How nerdy o of me.

Until last year, I had an aversion to white wines that were fermented in oak barrels.  To me it just didn’t taste right and undermined all the flavors and aromas that the wine would have to offer.

That changed recently.

I’ve been to many tastings this year where the oaky whites were a pleasant and welcoming surprise.  But maybe that was based on how I was feeling, how many wines I’ve already sampled, and the company that was with me.   I mean I was in good company upon uncorking this wine, but based on my reaction, I don’t think anyone else wanted to share in my dismay.

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The butterscotch or buttery aroma is what stands out the most.  And it didn’t work for me.  And upon reading the notes, I see the flavors of creamy toast peachy caramelized custard.  I’ll take that at face value and yet proceed with caution.  That awkward taste for me might have been that custard they referenced.  It also could be a lot of things.  But I think that oak wasn’t the main culprit.

I like Chardonnay.  It was never a wine I sought out, but lately it’s been a refreshing white wine as we’re celebrating these gorgeous and glorious sunny days of Summer.  I just wish this bottle would join the list of the many wines I’ve tried because of this blog of mine.   They’re not all going to be winners.  I was just taken aback by how rough it was and how difficult it was to finish.

I left the bottle for my friends hoping for some feedback.  So far (as of this writing) I’ve heard nothing.   Take that for what it’s worth.   Yet I think some people are going to love it.   That’s what makes this so fun.  We all aren’t going to like the same things, the same wines, the same grapes, and the same anything.  It would be boring if we did.

However, there’s always positives.  Even with a wine you don’t enjoy, there’s always silver linings and the glass being half full.

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I’m grateful just to have the opportunity to be invited to a friends house and be in a position to bring this bottle of wine to share.  I’m grateful for the fantastic pizza that paired with this wine, and I’m grateful to share my story with you.  There’s a lot to be grateful and thankful for, even if not everything was like I hoped.

There will always be another wine to try, another meal to pair it with, and hopefully some great company to share the experience with,

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I’m grateful to share this experience with you.

For more on Toasted Head, click here for their story, their wines (in which I would love to try another grape), and finally where to find their wines.

If the opportunity presents itself, I would love to try another.

I’ll be looking to write about a Chardonnay made in stainless steel, and expecting harmonious results. Maybe as soon as next week.

Thanks so much.

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

 

Doing It Big

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My final post (for now) pertaining to events at Wine in the Woods brings us to a new one for me.   And I’m going to safely presume for many others.  This is my sampling and festival debut of the charming and endearing, Big Cork Vineyards.

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Honestly, what initially drew me to them is they were a hidden gem.  And I mean literally hidden, within the multitude of popular wineries that have been attending for years. Those that have built followings and stalwarts at these events hopefully got a chance to visit theirs.

People are creatures of habit.  I’m all about breaking such habits and jumping out of those comfort zones that can hold ourselves back from trying something new, exhilarating, and invigorating.  Ok now I’m being dramatic.  It’s just wine sampling but on a micro level, the situation still applies.

I had no line when I stopped by which was already a plus for me.  And little did patrons know what they did miss.  The volunteers and staff I interacted with were class personified.

My personable volunteer, Linda, was kind of enough to give a brief synopsis of the winery and explain it’s only been in existence for five years.  That’s long enough that I should have at least experienced a wine somewhere by now.   Once again, maybe I have and it didn’t sink it due to inexperience or a lack of appreciation at the time.  Or maybe this is fate and destiny bringing me to try it for the first time.  Either way I feel blessed and like a winner.

Honestly, two of the whites they were pouring did not resonate with me.  And this once again, is not a stab at the wines themselves.   The 2014  Viognier and Vidal Blanc  respectively are wines people around me were digging.  But at this time they’re still not my glass of wine. The latter is something I should as its more full bodied but this is what makes these events fun.  We all don’t like the same wines.  Nor should be.  That would take the fun out of this. And it’s good to discuss and learn about our likes and dislikes.   And that leads me into what I adored.

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Their 2013 Traminette is not something I would have enjoyed before, but the grape itself is something I’ve becoming partial to the past couple of years. There’s personal and familial sentiment in my own life which may add to a bias, which I’m sure many of us have when it comes to particular grapes.  It’s semi-dry and being related to a Gewürztraminer may be part of the charm for me.  It’s a wine perfect for any time of year, but for me, especially around the holidays.

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But the winner for me goes reflects my personal preferences, and that’s the 2013 Syrah. This may have tasted lighter than most Syrah’s I’ve had but considering a festival vibe and the outdoor atmosphere, it only seemed right.  This was jammy and easy to sip from the get go.  I’m almost gulped it off the bat which I didn’t want to go.  The back-end gave me some a whole melange of spices that I couldn’t even begin to describe.  But it was awesome and it’s something I’d consider buying at $24.00.  Yes that may be pricey for some and that’s understandable.

Those labels are beautiful and they mirror the layout of the website masterfully don’t they?

What’s great about these festivals is many wineries don’t overload you with too many to choose from.  If they’re great, like these guys are, they’ll leave you wanting more.  And I want more.  And it makes folks like me explore their collection.   Most importantly for me, it makes me want to take a drive to see them for myself.  And that’s a win for them and a fulfilling one for me.

I could go on all day and I wouldn’t be able to put into adequate words how much fine I had with a brief sample size.  It’s left me wanting more.   If I get the opportunity this Summer to visit, another write-up is coming.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be in awe of their simple yet effective website and the positive energy I’m getting from it.  These links about their story, the vineyard itself, a FAQ, and finally the winemakers themselves should hopefully do the same for you.

Here is my recap from last week and from the week before at Wine In The Woods.

We’ll see ya this Summer.

Best,

Ideen

Frog Splash

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The Maryland Wine Festival took place this past weekend and there was no way I was missing this.   I have months worth of material to write about and I will attempt to space it out accordingly.   It’s also possible I’ll just give you a half-dozen posts in a row of the best and worst that Maryland Wineries have to offer!  This post will be about the former.

The site was the visually stunning Carroll County Farm Museum.  And for many this is the one time a year they visit Westminster.

In addition, this is the one time a year I get to meet up with certain friends, either because our schedules are conflicting, friends are busy raising a new family, or the near distance of an hour is too much for some.  I love the drive and find myself in the area at least several times a year.

I got to the festival at opening time so I can could beat some of the crowd and get all the tasting and note-taking in that I could.Fortunately, it was never a struggle to do a tasting any time of the day and the weather was dazzling and awe-inspiring.

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I got in, grabbed my tasting glass, and if I’m going to attempt to go by chronological order, got to my first winery, Great Frogs of Annapolis, MD.

I’ll give a brief back story on this place.  A little over a year ago, I dropped someone off in a remote and beautiful part of our state capital.   I didn’t know these homes and this area existed but, the houses looked like they were in the millions and right next door to where I sat, was Great Frogs Winery with perfectly cut grass and bushes.  I had never heard or seen of them until this day.  It looked so intimidating.  I almost felt like I didn’t belong in the area and that someone would ask me to leave momentarily.

The signs read that the visits were by appointment only.  I was intimidated but that was all my creation.   If i had only known now what I had known the, there would be pictures and I could show you what a thing of beauty this was, from the outside looking in.

I had been hoping that one day I would get to try their wines, as the enigma I created intrigued me.

And the universe looked out for me.

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The staff and volunteers pouring the wine were all so friendly and were happy to ask any questions I may have had. They also loved that I was taking so many photos.  I think I explained to a few wineries that I write about this beautiful subject.

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The wines itself and the labels are very charming.   They range in price from $15 to $40 so some of these can get a bit pricey and not within many people’s budget. That’s the fun of these festivals and tastings. We can at least get to try some new wines and even if we’re not in a position to buy today.  We now have a lasting memory and can always purchase at a later time.

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My favorites were the 2012 Watermen and the 2012 Meritage.  Yes, off the top I went with the dry reds and they were the perfect start to a warm and beautiful Summer event.  The descriptions are listed in the links above but to me they both represent the greatness of Maryland wines.

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The former contains Cabernet Franc, along with Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Cab Franc is really what makes this awesome.  Call it local sentimentality or just what I like.  But this was fantastic, albeit a little pricey for me now.  I would love to grab this and hold onto it for a very special event or party down the line.   Lots of oak and different fruits were detected to make this my kind of wine.  There was a summer into fall feel to this one.

The Meritage is Half-Merlot and Half-Cab Sauv and just as awesome.  I could taste a mix of chocolate, vanilla, and some more oak. Once again, not at my price point, just yet, but still wonderful nevertheless.

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The Lollipop Red was a huge favorite to many, but that wasn’t for me on this day.  I thought it was ok, but I wasn’t in the mood for anything too sweet.

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I also got to try 2013 Chardonnay and White Squall. These were both a joy and so easy to drink.  I could enjoy either with a meal or with nothing.    One marvelous detail to both of these is that they were both 100% grown on the estate.  So you’re getting the full local experience at the palm of your hands.

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I didn’t get the opportunity to try the $1.00 premium samples.  All the more reason to make a visit!

I’m pretty sure I tried others but there were so many throughout the day to get into all. I’ll try to be as concise and approachable as I could with these experiences, and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead.

And speaking of approachable, this is exactly what this winery was on this day.   I am so compelled to make a visit.  And any reason to get back to Annapolis is a great one!

They have a dog here too! Yes!  For more on the winemakers you can click here.  And here’s their FAQ.  Their online store can be found here.  And for our pals local to the area, here are stores that carry it and restaurants that serve it.

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Finally, a little more on the vineyard itself.

I cannot wait to make a visit!

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Alison Road

This is the third and final installment of my recap at this years Great Grapes event.  For my previous two write ups on the goings on at Oregon Ridge, you can click here or even here.

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This weeks wine is the 2014 Alison’s Watermelon Wine from Layton’s Chance.

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It was suggested by friends to mention a less than lavish or popular grape, and show a lighter side.  In this case, it’s also a sweeter side.  Wine festivals are not always designed for the wine aficionado or connoisseur.

I’ve been to so many of these things, that it’s whatever you want these events to be. I’ve had great wines, some disgusting ones, and everything in between.  If you want high-end bottles, you will find them.  If you want the lighter and sweeter types, you will find those too. If you’re just looking to have a good time and get drunk while doing so, well you’re in luck.

At this point of the event, we were all getting into a pretty sedated state.  So any and all expert analysis – what the nose was, what fruits, herbs, and spices could be tasted, or any other terms are out the window at this point.

I said there would be no evaluation of this wine, but one thing should be mentioned. The nose or smell was horrific.  It reeked of barley and some other vileness.  I’ve smelled worse, but this was painful.

However, on a warm Sunday afternoon, it tasted so refreshingly good.  The scentl was so deceiving.  This was an enjoyable drink that we passed around with friends that we were with and ones we ran into.

That’s what this event is all about.  We were having fun and enjoying one another’s company.  It was a beautiful day.  We had good wine, good food, and good music.

And when it came to food, we had anything and everything with this wine.

This is a wine I will definitely try again in any setting.  And I would love to try some of their others when I get the good fortune to do so.   And I find great joy in visiting wineries, and I would love to make the drive to the Eastern Shore to visit this one.

For more on this winery you can click on any of the links in this sentence.   Where to buy or how to get in touch can be found here.

I’ll leave with you a couple more photos from the experience.

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See you at the next festival!

Best,

Ideen