An Exceptional Occasion

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This past Saturday was one of those great events that makes me pinch myself, and I thank all my lucky stars, the constellations, and all the other great stuff in the universe.

Sometimes life is good to you, and you meet some exceptional people that introduce you to other folks that are amazing.  And if you’re a good person, you end up being surrounded by good people, and in turn you will attract more wonderful people into your life.

This past Saturday was a night I look forward to each day of the year, and I mark it on my calendar and make arrangements quite early for the CASAblanca Gala presented by the briliant folks of Anne Arundel County, CASA.

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It’s become more than a night.  It’s become a weekend to celebrate what’s good about this organization, what’s good about the Annapolis area, and a great weekend celebrating with family and friends.  And I’m honored to call people close to the organization, family.

My dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director (and acted as Conductor, more on this shortly…) who works tirelessly to put together not just this event, but so many others I’ve been honored to be a part of.

Yes this is a wine blog, and I will incorporate wine into this.

Before the event begun itself, I met up earlier in the afternoon with friends who were staying at the Westin Hotel, where the event was being held, and a pre event beverage seemed appropriate, and also has become tradition.  I love a good tradition.

I bought a bottle, not necessarily with the intent that I was going to write about it,  but just one to share.  And as I noticed the label, I thought how perfect.  The wine is the 2012 Conductor from The Whitman Express.

We enjoyed our wine with some cheese, crackers, and all the essentials that my pals were so generous and thoughtful enough to bring.  So bringing a bottle is the least I could do.

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There’s a lot going on with this red blend.  And it wouldn’t be right to list them all (Merlot, Zinfandel, Barbera among others), because at the time, my friends and I were just enjoying the moment for what it us.  We were drinking a red table wine in a hotel room, sharing an experience that we only do ever so often.

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That in itself made this wine that much better.  The anticipation and the buildup of the amazing night that was to come.  Yes I’ve done it three times now, so I kind of know what to expect, but the joy in hanging out with good people for a beautiful cause, and hanging out in a divine location, will always be something to look forward to and something I’m so honored to be a part of.   I can’t ever show enough appreciation.

And speaking of thoughtful, this organization is loaded with some of the kindest and most thoughtful people imaginable.

Funny that I grab a wine called the Conductor.

The event itself was a symphony of love, happiness, hope, healing, and all the other good stuff in the world.

I prefer to let your mind visualize all the good stories, speeches, and stories of joy that were shared throughout this night.  Yes there was plenty of amazing food, drinks and enjoying time with friends, old and new.  And in this instance I consider several of the folks involved and in attendance as family.

I mean what else need to be said?  Five hours goes by in a flash.  The whole weekend goes by in flash.   Thankfully I have memories through this blog, through pictures, and through the domino effect of making some amazing connections.  Yes some of these guys you only see once a year but that’s what makes this so beautiful.  You see them, then you don’t, they come back into your life, and you pick up right where you left off.

And then there’s others you start seeing more often because you share the same interests, the same support for an amazing cause, and are connected by some of the same amazing people.

A beautiful symphony indeed.

Here is a post related to CASA I made nearly a year ago.   And my preview of this exceptional event from last week.

For more on this wine, the site is user friendly to find all the information you need.

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But most importantly, for more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is their About Us section, information on volunteering, other ways to get involved, and their donation page.

This is the event that gets me excited for the holidays and it’s placement in the first Saturday of November makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

See you at their next event, and of course I look forward to next year.

Happy Holidays and Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Mead (And Wine) & Merriment Part 2

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After a year off, my pals and I made our triumphant return to the Maryland Renaissance Festival a couple of weeks back.   Here is my inaugural post from October of 2015.

The event has gotten so big that if you don’t get there early, or by your tickets in advance, you’re going to be shut out.    Nevertheless, social media and all kinds of media have made this event so big.  But more importantly, this event is just that great.  If you’ve been I don’t need to explain why.

And even if you’ve been a multitude of times before, it never gets old and never gets tiring.  Well a lot of walking and that merriment (booze!) can get you tired fast.  It’s a big day drinking, unhealthy food noshing, and celebration of all that is and was awesome from yesteryear, and today.

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In my previous recap of this celebration of coolness, I spoke about the actual mead was being served.  It’s not an easy one to drink, and like I stated, it’s an acquired taste, it’s a grower (or not), and it’s not for everyone.

This year, while my friends enjoyed a few lagers, brewskis, cold ones, spirits, or whatever you fancy yourself to calling the, I discovered a gem of wines.

I don’t particularly seek out beer myself, but I actually was all set to have some, until mixed in with all the beers and all the taps, was the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Ravage Wines.

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If you look at the label, it’s one that belongs at an event such as this.  That horse, that darkness, that imagery is fitting of everything that was going on around us.  And maybe I’m just reading too much into this, and perhaps the demand for wine has led them to supply more vino along with all the other libations.  No matter the reason, it’s my kind of wine.

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And I’m so grateful to my friends who have said that this is the kind of wine I like.  One of my dearest friends had a sip, and even mentioned it to me there.  She said to me, that it’s ‘your kind of wine’, that made me feel good.

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So what is exactly a ‘me’, kind of wine?  Well it’s also one you might enjoy too.  The synopsis says it all, with dark berries, dark fruits, vanilla, mocha, and toasted in French Oak.  With your fuller bodied reds, the right kind of oak can make all the difference between a great wine and one you rather forget.  But I’m going to be aware if vanilla and mocha are a common theme in some of my favorite wines going forward.  Dark cherries and berries have always been synonymous with the wines I love.  And this wine is no exception.  This is exactly what I needed and what I’ve been missing for a while.

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While the weather has been warm, a wine like this might only work with a healthy dinner indoors.    In the hotter climates it may be a chore to sip, and might take you away from all the great whites, rosés, and lighter reds that work perfectly in the Summer months.

We’re into October and it might have even been too soon to have this wine, but the heck with it.  This is a world class bottle, that tastes like a $20+ wine, that is around the $11-$13 mark.  Another reason to adore this bottle and seek it out if you get the opportunity.

The notes mention having a lot of structure and depth. That might sound like fluff to many, but think about it, (or not haha), this Cabernet Sauvignon embodies all that’s good about vino.   Wines with lots of structure, character, that challenge your palate, and are on a level like this is why I adore wine.  My goodness do I adore this wine.

What makes this all the more amazing is my first experience having this was at the Renaissance Festival.  This makes me so happy, more than I even realized at the time, and I’m not quite sure I can convey into words.  Well I’m writing about it here so I’m doing alright…

And it’s pretty much available at every bar there with a cheesy name.  Aren’t they all cheesy?  That’s what makes it so great…

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I upgraded my goblet, chalice, mug, or whatever you call it to one that fits more with the festival.  It made this experience all the more merrier.  Having good friends (and some sugary mixed nuts helps too) to share this experience makes it that much more special.

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My pals and I have been doing this for a number of years.  It’s a tradition I’m grateful to be a part of.  I’m grateful for my friends, the beautiful weather, this incredible yearly gathering, and now this wine.

Each year tells a different story.  I love that I got to share this one with you.

To find Ravage Wines near you click here,  for more about them click here,  here’s info on the Dark Red Blend (which I would love to try as well), and their contact info.

As of this post, the final weekend of the Renaissance Festival of Maryland (10/21-1022) is approaching.  And it’s always the most festive, exciting, bittersweet, and so many other emotions.

If you plan on going, advanced tickets are highly recommended, and here is all the other information you need.

I’m so happy that this happened.  I don’t know what else there it to say.  I loved everything about this day, and if you go this weekend I hope you get to say the same.

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Have a ye olde good time!

Ideen

 

 

More Bang For Your Buck

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I went back to see the last time I did a post exclusively to Vinho Verde.   How funny that is one year ago today (or tomorrow depending on where we are) that this happened.

I’m grateful that I did or I would be kicking myself for not supporting and promoting this fantastic wine, that should never be taken for granted.  In the context of summer wines this is one that may get lost in the shuffle to some.  But I will attempt to not let that happen again.

All you need to know about Vinho Verde is in this link right here, to see how easy it is to drink, understand, and appreciate in many different settings.

Since the wines are traditionally lower in alcohol content, that means they’re much easier to drink, more accessible to people who don’t love wine but are willing to try, and can be complemented with a plethora of meals, snacks, or with nothing at all.

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This most simple and peaceful of experiences takes me back to June, and a return to V-NO Wine Bar in the historic Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore.    Surprisingly to me, I’ve made only one post in regards to this beautiful space, and that can be found here.

That day I was with friends.  I’ve been here many times with friends.  On this visit, this was for me.

After taking a peaceful stroll around the beautiful rowhomes and remembering how much I need to appreciate these cobblestone streets, I made my way to V-NO on this most gorgeous of Saturday afternoons.

I think I got there as soon as it opened, so there was some level of enthusiasm on top of the spontaneity.

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I was welcomed by Jane, who I wish I had thanked sooner.  She could not have been more accommodating.   I told he about my blog, and she was happy to help.  I took a lot of pictures but also helped her out in setting a few things up, since they just opened. Reciprocation is one of the joys of life, and makes us who we are.

Where is all this going?  Well I wanted a wine, and in fact I got to try two.  But for this weeks post I will focus on the Vinho Verde from Broadbent Selections.

Under the most peculiar of circumstances I think I would enjoy this wine.  It’s so simple, so refreshing, and in many ways irresistible.   

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I was outside, alone, yet the entire world around me was moving along at the most endearing of paces.  There were walkers, joggers, bicyclists, folks on the nearby pirate cruise, and my favorite friends on four legs (leashed of course) were in abundance.

For a while I forgot where I was. It felt like a utopia. It was a good hour or so of just being.  Yes I did take a few pictures but then I put the phone away and just chose to be. That’s not the easiest thing to do in the world we live in, but I think I pulled it off without even trying.

This is what I think… As enjoyable and simplistic as this wine was, it resonates with me much deeper than I or anyone else can explain.  Yes it was a simple glass of wine but to me something else was going on here.  And that part is just for me eyes and ears.  I know you know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all been there.

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There’s something about this wine, and not that just that beautiful label that drew me in. And I’ve had this one several times before but not like this.  In the past it just was a wine I had and then I moved on and did something else.  This could have been any wine in this session but it was this one for a reason.  It tasted better than ever.

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Now I may have this again and it just goes back to being a good wine with fruits of summer and that clear color is nice to look at, and then that’s it.  But at least for this day, this hour, this place in time it will mean more than even I’ll ever know.

And this wine can be found just about anywhere.  I’ve seen at so many stores for under $10.  Just another reason to love this.

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Thanks to Jane for being so awesome, the universe for looking out for me, and to Broadbent for presenting to me on this most picturesque of days.

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More for on V-NO click here.

For more on Broadbent, here is their story, their massive list of wines, and their contact information.

We’ve still got a lot of Summer left and I hopefully have more wines to discuss that fit the season.

And Part 2 might be next week.

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Thanks so much.

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

Can Every Wine Taste Like This?

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No that’s not possible and it would take the fun out of it.   However, the 2014 Domaine Bethet-Rayne Cotes Du Rhone Rouge (yeah that’s a mouthful) is one of those bottles that takes me back to why I got into red wines in the first place.

I have no concrete explanation or inspiring reason other than the dark fruits and the stronger tannins makes this a wine you can drink nearly all year round.  I say nearly because as it gets hotter, this wine, along with most medium-to-full bodies reds, would be better served indoors.

But for the purposes of this event, this is a continuation of last weeks’ marathon, which never intended to be, at the great restaurant, Mezze, in historic Fells Point, Baltimore, MD.

What meant to be just one or two glasses of wine, turned into two bottles between some friends.  And there was everything right with this.  And then everything right some more. After we enjoyed that thrilling white the transition into a red felt like the organic and proper transition at the time.

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So per our servers’ suggestion and a mutual agreement we went with this Rhone.  It’s a bottle I’ve never recalled seeing in my local wine or spirits shoppe.  And have yet to see since.

Maybe Mezze is onto something.   Our two bottles were not necessarily the most obscure, but, they almost seem exclusive to them.  That’s quite the draw.  And you either need to be unique or be ignored.

Often times we see many restaurants carry a mix of standard labels and a few unique wines to stand out from the crowd.  Others’ only carry the bottles that are readily available in stores for half the price, if not more.  And there’s no right or wrong to any of this.  But when I find a gem like this and can’t find it anywhere else, it will make me want to come back the source.  Maybe this is a unique scenario but this is smart business.

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This wine is the essence of Spring and early Summer.  Look at that color?  It has a little fruitier and dare I use a wine term, jammier, look to it.  It shines brighter than many reds and Rhones you will have.  Which makes me pleasantly surprised how close to full bodied it is.

I’m going to steal part of the synopsis here but it does read supple tannic structure, and that is spot on.  Without reading that, you would pick up on this and be amazed but how well put together this wine is.   I just wish I could find it in a store near me so I could have this as part of my regular rotation.

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As a first time though I’m thrilled I got to share it with friends in a beautiful outdoor setting.  30 minutes became an hour, an hour became longer, and you know how the rest goes.   The olives that paired with this and our white I wrote about last week really hit the spot.  Lighter fare on a warmer day is always going to pay dividends to your spirit, your body, and overall well-being after the fact.

This is a wine to savor, appreciate, and enjoy with every sip.  That’s how a good wine should be.  That’s how a good life should be.

For those interested in find out more, here is a link to the wineries’ site.

I don’t remember what we paid for the wine here (and in many ways it’s priceless), but websites listed it between $15-20 and that’s more than fair and more than reasonable.

What may be of more assistance is the local distributor is Elite Wine Imports based out of Northern Virginia.

And finally for more on Mezze click here.  They’ve always done my friends and I a great service when it comes to food, vino, and top of the line service.

 

Lets do it again sometime, shall we?

Ideen

 

Dragonfly In

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I’d like to think I’m in tune with much of the universe, my surroundings, nature, animals, people, and everything in between.  Not even close. But if that were truly the case than I think the point and purpose of my life, your life, or anyone’s would be lost.

We’re not supposed to know everything.  Why would we want to either?

This is not so much a post about wine, but more about the symbolism and meaning in the things we do, how we live our lives, and how everything affects us.

I wasn’t aware of the dragonfly’s significance and meaning until events starting happening to close people in my life.   These events usually tend to lean towards sadness and hardship.  It’s our proclivity to seek meaning and information in times of difficulty, confusion, and heartache.  I do it too and know this far too well.

Something has happened again where events and energies are affecting me deeply.   But I can’t be egocentric or self-serving.  The world does not revolve around me, or you, or anyone in particular.  Actually in a positive sense it does revolve around me, you, and everyone else.  We are all one.  And events in our life, our dear friends and family’s life, and maybe with people we have yet to meet all affect us.   Whether we realize it or not.

The fact that I know this might mean I’m a bit ahead of the curve, but again what do I really know?

What does this have to do with wine?  I’ll get to that I promise.

As advanced as we are humans, we continue to feel things that on the surface may feel uncomfortable forever, but it’s all temporary.  Even if that temporary negative feeling lasts much longer than a temporary joyous one, it’s all short-term.   We want to feel good, in harmony, in touch with everyone ad everything.  We want to feel that everything will go right for us.  And it most instances it does.  But when it hurts.  It truly hurts.  And those feelings of sadness can feel like an abyss, like an eternity, with little to no end in sight. But it’s still temporary.

Animals, whether they’re dragonfly’s, dogs, cats, and all our other amazing friends have feelings to.  But they’re either mostly all loving, all knowing, and know what’s important in life to survive.  They know they don’t need much.  But a feeling of zen and/or love is the common theme.  Actually a feeling of peace, acceptance, appreciation of life, and knowing there’s something bigger than us is the main message.

The dragonfly is now something I like to research about whenever I can.   As the weather is improving they may across our paths a lot more frequently than we will acknowledge.

I noticed that when I was more aware and self-aware of my surroundings they were showing up in the most unlikely of all places (or was there something more).  They were telling me something.   They tell us all something whether we see them or not.  Whether we realize they’re there or just ignore them, they are sending us messages.

In my own way, I wish I wasn’t always aware of all this.  It can drive a person (i.e. me) crazy to know that in a way we’re being watched, warned, or being served messages on a regular basis from these highly advanced creatures.  Yes they’re smarter than us.

They might be sending us signals of love, hope, peace or maybe a warning of something that is to come.  Maybe it’s just a message to relax and appreciate what we have.  Because so many things we love will not be around forever.  And as we get older, grow up, and experience happiness and tragedies, we will ultimately know what’s important.  I would like to think I’m getting there.  I would like to think we’re all getting there.

I would like to think that many of us put things into perspective and to appreciate life when things are going great, not just when times are difficult and the patches are rough.

We’re all so vulnerable aren’t we?

Some of us might be stronger than teflon and carry ourselves like nothing can stop us. More power to you if that’s working out for you.

But for the rest of the world (at least in mine), something has been going on that I can’t describe.  It’s like a domino effect of events affecting so many people close to me, close to us, and I would like it to calm down.

Again, it’s temporary, it will resolve itself.  But I root for my friends, my family, and most of all our individual selves to become stronger because of this.  We will. It may take longer for some things to resolve over others.  But they will.  We have to believe that.

Our dragonfly friends are giving us signals of that.

After all that, again what does this have to do with wine?

I take it all the back back to last September and the Maryland Wine Festival.

There was a stranger energy in the air than previous festivals.  Again, we all see it differently, but this is how I saw it.

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From one booth to another, it just felt like something was more off than usual.  Than my initial visit to the Far Eastern Shore Winery tent felt a bit eerie.  For my first of what I would assume would be repeat visits to this and other booths, this one had an aura about it.   And I’ve sampled their wines before, at many an event or tasting.

Maybe it was the plants and flowers on display, maybe it was their famous swans on the labels, or maybe it was something bigger.  But this initial visit was all about a minute.  The lines were long all over the venue.

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After several hours of wandering, I didn’t realize it until after the fact, that my last visit of the day was back at their tent.  How about them dragonflies?

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And I only tried one  of their wines.  I only needed to try one.  It was this one pictured above.  I know right?

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It may not mean much but everything is a sign, everything is energy, everything is everything.  To say I’m freaking out in remembrance of this and writing about it now would be an understatement.  I’m slightly shaking.  That’s an energy bigger than me saying this.

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To complete this I will say that this wine does not fit my palate.  But it doesn’t matter.  In this or all instances it doesn’t really matter does it?  It’s a blush wine with a white Shiraz base that many will adore.  It contains raspberries and yummy dragonfruit (yes!), that works perfectly in the warm weather months.  And actually it can work whenever you want it too.

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It’s not a wine I would truly seek out but it now has huge meaning to me that I feel I need to have it stored at home in a safe (the fridge of course ha) place to remind me of things, to remind me of energies, messages, and all that is here and all that might be coming.

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I’m not a clairvoyant but I sense something bigger is going on in our universes that has always existed but is finally scratching the surface, and we will be up to the challenge.  Yes this is about all of us.

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But for those interested in contacting the winery (and I am one of them) to learn more, click here.   Info on their tasting room is here.

And here is where you can find their wine locally in Maryland and where you purchase it across the country.

I hope to chat with the winemakers about this remarkable experience I’ve had, because if it wasn’t for them I wasn’t sure how I would be able to share this with you.  There’s a huge meaning right there.

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There’s a deeper meaning in everything.  I believe that.  Many people close to me believe that.  There’s something bigger than us but our energies are also so big, full of life, full of potential, and full of amazing life experiences to come.

Thank you dragonflies.

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

 

Wonderful, Incredible

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I adore Vin 909.  I was in love with it before I even set foot into the building.  For the past couple of years I would take the drive past Downtown Annapolis into Eastport, and would always stare in awe of the building the wine cafe is housed in.  It was one of those things that I romanticized without ever getting out of the car and having a glass of wine myself.

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Well one time last Summer I actually got out and was all set to walk in.  You know what happened though?  It was in between the hours of lunch and dinner.  Of course it was closed.  Of course it wasn’t supposed to happen then.   Was it ever going to happen?  You know I could just plan ahead, make reservations, and make all the proper arrangements to walk in.  But isn’t it more exciting for the spontaneous?

So I kept on making a few more drive sand remained enamored with the restaurant.  And I’ll be honest many of those times was when business was opened.  I just wanted to amuse myself, but also build anticipation for there would be day I walk in and hopefully it lived up to the immense sense of hype I’ve given this place.

Over two years later and the goofy build-up later all finally ended last Thursday.

And it was done in style.

This was a momentous occasion to be shared so thankfully I did have company.  I was forewarned that it’s best to make reservations or otherwise the wait will be 30 minutes or more.

That’s about the amount of time we waited but no big deal.  It gave time to peruse the menu. admire the bar, the two dining rooms, and the waiting area.  It’s a sight to behold for sure.  I didn’t picture the place be as big as it was either.  Absolutely beautiful.

This is a wine blog first and foremost.  There was wine had, as well as a nuts, olives, an incredible salad, and a world class pizza.  More on the pizza later.

How was the vino?    We went with a bottle based on name.  We didn’t see a label but the name Incredible Red by Peachy Canyon was enough to win us over.   This was without even reading over the grape.  It’s a Zinfandel by the way.  I haven’t written about many so this was a great opportunity to discover.

Traditionally this has not been one of my favorite grapes.  The Zin’s I’ve had have been met with mixed reviews.   Not this one…

The 2014 Incredible Red from Peachy Canyon is a break from that mold.  Oh it tastes like a Zin alright.  But the scents of blackberry and black cherry were immediate upon uncorking.  I’m not that much of an expert to detect nutmeg and vanilla.  Actually vanilla makes sense based on the theme of the day.  (For more on that click here) The synopsis mentions a smoky aroma taking over.  I did taste smoke.  It was earthy to me as well.  But that also could be the taste of pepper on the palate.  There’s so much to this wine that if I have it again it’ll taste differently.

But the olives and nuts that were paired with this wine brought about new flavors, and also showed me that this wine was anything but a disappointing Zin.  This was a grower.

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The salad that paired with the wine isn’t listed on the online menu but it was incredible. Are you detecting a theme?  The title of this one says it all.  The wine, the nuts, the olives, the salad, and that pizza were all shall you say, wonderful and incredible.

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I will get to more on that pizza later.

I neglected to mention there was tea and dessert.  To read more about that part of the journey, click here.

When the food is this extraordinary, when the company is great, and the whole vibe of the evening is off-the-charts, this wine goes to a whole new level of awesome.

I haven’t seen this wine on my radar anywhere.  If it’s been at sitting at a local wine shoppe it completely went overlooked.

That’s a topic for another day.  There’s a plethora of wine that many of us walk right past not knowing,  We don’t even think about it.  We have our favorites, are willing to try new ones, but so many go unnoticed,  or this is all part of the journey.  Not every wine is going to be had but many wines are meant to be tried.

And at only $15 retail, this is as a good a deal as any.  At Vin 909 it was only $28.  To be less than twice the bottle price at any restaurant is a heck of a deal.  Leave in it to Vin 909 to do it right.

For their seasonally changing food menu click here, for their beer and wine list click here, contact info, and more about them.

This is hopefully the first of many visits.  Since this is wintertime and our dinner was at night, the outdoor dining area was unavailable.  I intend for my next review and recap to take place during the warmer weather months.  The romance continues.

And any place that supports a close friends’ organization, which is Anne Arundel County CASA, is deserving of all the praise and all the business.

For more on Peachy Canyon, click here, here is their wine list with options to purchase online,   and a map and tracker on where to buy.

More to come on Friday.

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Thanks so much,

Ideen

Best of Both…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the Old World.

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

90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot seems simple enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ideen

 

 

 

 

Basement Party

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This was supposed to be the  calm before all of the holiday themed posts.  We’re way past the point of no return.  And I’m glad.  We got nearly two months of this and it’ll fly by.  So this is all about embracing community, the ones you love, whether it be your friends, family, your pets, or all of the above.  And we’re going to get all of the above and so much more.

Highlandtown is a a part of Baltimore that is near and dear to me.  In a previous life I actually did leave here.  But at the time it was just on the verge into becoming the flourishing and thriving neighborhood it has become today.  And it seems like they’ve only just scratched the surface.

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I’ve been a sucker and lover for festivals, community events, and neighborhood block parties for as long as I can remember.  So it comes to my surprise that it took me this long to fully partake in their annual Basement Bar Tour.  And what a beautiful congregation of people it has become.

In previous incarnations I only was able to make it to the tail end and only make a couple of the houses and the post party celebration at DiPasquales.  Oh how I love DiPasquales.  I wrote about them once.  You can read that here.

But before I go on any more tangents, lets focus on the topic at hand.  The basement tour was genuine and loaded with soul.

We all put down a relatively cheap $20 to participate in the tour and all the houses (not so much basements anymore) welcomed us with open arms.

Many had snacks, comfort food, beer, mixed drinks, and of course wine.   Yes I need to talk about wine. That’s important to this post and to the integrity of this blog.    Most important of all, there were friendly faces and friendly conversations with everyone.

I got to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in a while.  I got to bond with friends in a way that I ordinarily wouldn’t if we were at a crowded bar or party.  Not that either is right or wrong.  But there is something that much more authentic about a neighborhood of friends all gathering for the same reason.   What it led to me is what is symbolic of what the holidays and what the true meaning of life is all about.  I don’t know the exact words as to what life is all about.  But the terms good, community, friendship, and family come to mind.

I’ll leave most of the houses to your imagination.  Many of my experiences on this day are for my and my friends’ internal memories.   But of course one house did that stand out that’s worth sharing…

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It’s never too soon for Mulled wine.  Well it may taste funnier in the normal months but I think you catch my drift.  But if not than that’s cool too.

This was house number, (hmm.. I forgot) on the tour.   My friends and I were already in a good place based on the last few residencies.  I kept wondering what surprises each house would bring next.   At this house we got macaroni and cheese, chili, and pulled chicken.

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all we get  fresh baked cookies and that mulled wine. Oh my goodness.  The host kept having to refill because it was going so fast.

He went over the recipe as he was replenishing the wine, but it has completely escaped my memory.  That’s my fault and I take full responsibility for not being able to share that with you.   I even saw the gentleman later on and thanked him for making such an awesome concoction.  And of course I once again forgot to ask him what it contained.

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It’s safe to assume the Bota Box wine was used, since you can see it in some of these photos.  And it was neighbors to that amazing contraption making the mull.  I’m savoring some right now.

Which leads me to say I want to make some mulled wine.   And I fully believe the possibilities on how to make it are endless.  It’s to your discretion.  The wine is readily available to you.  All we have to do is throw in some fruit, spices, and anything else palpable till your hearts content.

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This made my day and we were only around the halfway point.  Four hours plus flew by. And with any fun event time doesn’t stand still.  It accelerates at a scorching pace.  And I fully intend to do my best to slow some of it down and appreciate all the moments.  Not everything will be captured in my blogs but I’ll do my best to share some of the best.  The Basement Bar Tour is some of that best.

In the spirit of community I’d like to promote some of the local businesses in the neighborhood.  Some I’m proud to say are great friends of mine.  Some I’m proud to say I support on at least a semi-regular basis.  If you’re in and around the area, definitely check them out before the holidays and the year is out.  And this will be edited to add more over time, so my humblest of apologies if I leave anyone out.  That is not my intent.

Links will be listed where available :

Peak Performance Training

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RoofTop Hot – Urban Farm & Sustainability Services

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Highlandtown Gallery/Magnolia Designs/Night Owl Gallery

Rust-N-Shine

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Y:Art

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DiPasquales

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A huge thanks to all the houses that welcomed us in and seemed genuine happy to be a part of this.  And to DiPasquale’s for an amazing celebration by the fire, at the end.  And of course the Highlandtown Community Association.

I’m ready for the holidays.  Oh wait, they’re already here!

More cheer to come,

Ideen