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

 

Traders’ Trios

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It’s been a little while since I wrote up on a Trader Joe’s food and wine pairing.   How thrilling that is turned out that our entire meal was based in items from one of our favorite stores.

It wasn’t planned that way or was it?  Cue mysterious music.

There are wines sitting my stash that have been cozy and snuggled in hiding for more than a year.  And some for a couple of years.    The 2011 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot 27 Napa Valley Meritage is one of those I’ve had for a while.

If memory serves me correct I purchased this in mid-to-late 2014 and I sadly put it off to the side. Perhaps it was being set aside for a special occasion.   Not all wines are created equal, even though many table wines should be.  This I would put up just a notch higher as I purchased it for around $13.00.   For a TJ’s wine that is a bit higher.

I have no idea what this Meritage included.   Nothing on the bottle would tell you any different. But I will say it was surprisingly good and got better with each sip.  It was breathing for a while and definitely improved as time went on.

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I did detect some oak, spices (including cinnamon or vanilla?) and most likely some black cherries.  A wide assortment of berries could be another component, and you could take your pick as to what they might be.  I just thought it was a solid wine that exceeded my expectations.

Why exceed?  Because sometimes cheap doesn’t always mean good.   I love Trader Joe’s and my go to for wine is their store near Old Town Alexandria, VA.  I’ve wrote about them before.

Maybe it was the first time, feeling like a kid at a new toy store or discovering something brand new.  It felt fresh and inviting.  And there were so many bottles between $5-$8, that you could get in trouble.   Maybe the good kind of trouble. That feeling hasn’t been back as much.  Is it because I have expectations?  Well the last few bottles have been a bit disappointing, and those cheap prices have slowly gone up.

So I went with one just a little bit higher and we’ve been rewarded.   If you see this in your local Trader Joe’s, I would give it a shot.  It’s not going to be the best wine you’ve ever had but that isn’t the intention.  It can go with anything you please.  My hunch tells me a sweeter meal woks more effectively here.

Luckily for us, we paired it with some Korean-Inspired Pork Shoulder sliders and Sweet Potato Frites, all brought to us by our aforementioned pals.

This was the different kind of sweet treat than we’re used to having.  But sweet nonetheless.

Hopefully more love to Trader Joe’s to come.

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

Maryland Has Some Great Ones

This is part two of my recap of the events at the Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival. For all the fun of part one you can click on this link.

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Whenever I come to a Maryland Wine event, Bordelau, is one of the first wineries I immediately look for.   They have always been the most approachable, prolific, and endearing wineries at these events.

I was first introduced to them three years ago, at this exact event.  When I was inquiring about something very smokey, very be full, and very dry.  And I was introduced to their Chambourcin.  This was the Lot 5 from 2006, which is exactly what I was looking for.  Even on a hot day, it went down easy.  Because of the climate, it felt fuller than it probably was.  But that doesn’t diminish how amazing this bottle was.

From that point forward, I’ve been hooked. I’m disappointed that I had not heard of them or this grape before.  But this is the lifelong journey of a wine lover.

I’ve had different variations.  And that’s what so great about it.  It can be used to make all kinds of great tasting gems. Many have been dry, but also the sweet and rose variations of it.   It’s a relatively new grape at barely over 50 years.  What I love the most about it, is that it’s prolific in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast parts of the United States.   And I’ve had some great ones from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

My favorite and in my opinion, the standard-bearer still this one.     So how did this years tasting turn out?

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The Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 6 tasted like any good Cab should.  It was medium to full and it was the bottle I almost bought. But since I had the 2007 still at home, I was looking to purchase something else this time.

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The Malbec was perfect for this event.  It tasted lighter than what I was expecting. But for this weather, it was perfect.  The finish was so clean and if not too tannic. For an outdoor event, it wasn’t necessary. I got a whole bottle to share with friends but now wish I took one home for a future celebratory occasion.

The Petit Verdot was not as memorable.  It was good but it didn’t linger with me.  Now its a wine that seems that could get better with time.  But that could be said for all of their selections.

Getting better with time is exactly right for the final two that we sampled.

The much-anticipated Chambourcin Lot 6 and Meritage, tasted very clean and went down as easy as anything I’ve had.  But that means they both need time to marinate, flourish, and become the amazing tasting wines they’ve been known for.

I’m a massive fan of the Meritage blends as well.  A future post on that grape is forthcoming.  The Merlot was sold out at the time.  And I really wanted to try that too.  My love for them has grown exponentially.

We never got a chance to taste the whites. This just means that a visit is long overdue. And I’ve been saying this to myself for a couple of years now.  A visit needs to happen.  I love their wines and the folks behind it have been nothing but friendly.

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For more on all their wines, and for purchasing click here and here.

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We enjoyed our Malbec rather quickly with some salty snacks.  We enjoyed ourselves. The pictures above are a tribute to an alma mater.

Lastly, I’ve included some more photos from the sites of the festival.   The third and final post from this event comes next week!

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Have a great one.

Best,

Ideen

Anything But

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In nearly all instances, it’s better to focus on the positives.   I’ll try to do so here. However, it saddens me that a wine such a powerful name, could be so disappointing.

I love throwing around powerful words, such as inspiration and emotion.  It feels good just writing about it. So when I stumble upon a wine entitled, Inspired, I take notice.  And I was making, what I thought at time time, was an impassioned and life altering purchase.  This should have been my destiny.  I could not be more wrong.

I was all set to write a, dare I say, inspired post.   I was all jazzed up to bring forth some positive energy, that would make you look in the mirror and say, I am awesome and I am here to inspire!   No.  Not this post.  This wine did not live up to these unrealistic expectations.   See how I built this up all for nothing?

I was sending friends pictures of this bottle and they all knew, this was a wine hand crafted for me, and it was going to be delicious.  A wine for the ages.  Absolutely not.

Now it’s not terrible.  It’s just not very good.  I had a hard time finishing my glass.   I’ve had much worse wines but this was a touch below mediocre.  I am a fan of Meritage wines and red blends, but this was a bogey.    Perhaps their combination of Merlot, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot doesn’t mesh well.   And because I hyped it up so much in my head, it’s plausible that it tastes worse than it really is.   This is all a matter of taste and in my mind, but it makes me sad it didn’t live up to my (unrealistic?) expectations.

I had tunnel vision. I saw the label.  I saw the word ‘Inspired’, and was sold.   If a wine has a cool label, like this one does, I will be extra curious.  But just like a book, don’t judge a wine by it’s label.   Some of my favorite bottles have the most basic labels.  But a pretty one is hard to resist.  And the nerd in me really wanted to like this wine.

Looking through the incomplete website, you see spine chilling images, of folks doing  and quotes that get cut off across the homepage.   Just another line in a comedy of errors.

Believe me, I really wanted to like this wine.  I wanted to crown it as an achievement in my tasting experience, but that won’t be happening.

As always, just because I wasn’t happy with it, doesn’t mean that you’ll yield the same results.   We all have different palates.  Our preferences evolve as we evolve. Maybe a few years ago, Inspired, would have done just that.  The raw emotion will have to wait another day, or the next uplifting moment could be just a post away.

Stay inspired.

Best,

Ideen