Be Yourself Or Be…

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Yeah I don’t know… Well after reading the notes for the 2015 Josh Merlot from Josh Cellars, this easily could have been a Father’s Day Special.  That either means I’ll be revisiting this in several weeks, or something else is to come.  Maybe both.   I love how I’m already talking about Summer when we’ve barely got teases of Spring.  I know right?

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Josh is one of those wines that my friends I have seen, shared on and off, and appreciated for the better part of the last 10 years.   It’s affordable (average price around $13), approachable, and has an aura about it that doesn’t need much of an explanation.

For more on Josh Cellars, here is their story, their contact info, and where you can find their wines near you.

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Maybe its in the name itself.   Josh just sounds right, everything about it seems right, and here we are.

In this instance, a Merlot was the perfect choice.  The rain was coming down yesterday.  It’s coming down as I write this.   Merlot, to me, that has an energy about it, that it should be drank during grayer skies, murkier weather, and under perhaps conflicting conditions.

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That’s not to say Merlot should only be had under these circumstances.   No no, there’s a time and a place for any grape, at any time, and at your leisure.   There’s always exceptions to rules, and it’s wine, you follow your path, do your thing, and well, be yourself.

However, this Merlot, with its darker violet color and taste that it’s indescribable, yet I’m going to try anyways, is a hit.  It’s fantastic.  And for the mood and setting I was in, this wine found me, and I found them.  Even though my pals and I discovered Josh nearly a decade ago.  It felt like new times even though it’s a familiar face, or a familiar friend if you will.

Plums, cherries, and blackberries are part of the flavors you’ll find on the palate, and a soft tannin finish that is once again, approachable, and will draw you back in for more.  I had a couple glasses myself, and it got better by the minute.  This is one you’re going to definitely want to let breathe for a while.

The finish is what counts.  I can get all dopey on you and say, ‘it’s not how you start but how you’.., or some facsimile, but no thanks.   But how something ends will make everything leading up to it all that more vital in hindsight.

The understated levels of toasted oak are another complement to this wine that’s worthy of all the compliments.   You know its there but its not overpowering anything else.  I love oak, and for me, there can never be enough, but this is wondrous.

The 2015 Josh Merlot is a reminder of why I started loving wine in the first place, and confirms my love for the simple things in life, and further proof that great wine doesn’t have to be expensive, overpriced, or pretentious.   This is as down-to-earth and genuine as it gets.

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Speaking of the Earth, you can see my glass was shared with Mother Nature itself.  The rain on my glass is perhaps symbolic of a cleansing that was necessary.   We’re starting to see more green, more flowers blooming, and the bright colors finally emanating, and bringing us signs of joy, hope, optimism, and all the other reasons to feel happy about being alive.

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Planting season is here and that segues into more time to be outdoors, doing all the great activities the universe wants us to do.

Josh Cellars has given us wines that the universe wants us to share, in any setting that makes you feel good.

Why it took me so long to write about them is just another of those questions.  All I can say is  more to come….

And be yourself, or be….

Love,

Ideen

 

 

Pairs Well With Ice Cream Cones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

Halloween Special

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I don’t expect to find many wines made exclusively for Halloween.  It’s just not a holiday I associate with lots of wine drinking and finding a nice meal to pair it with.

But a so much has changed.  Any excuse to incorporate alcohol and food into a holiday, celebration, event, festival, you name it, will involve those aforementioned entities.  And that usually is a good thing, as long as it’s done responsibility and with civility.   Well, Halloween is not often associated with civility, but with more people enjoying wine and all its nuances, it’s to be expected that winemakers are going to jump on board anything that makes them stand out and be noticed.  Be unique or be ignored.

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Fat Bastard Wines did everything to stand out and not make people want to see what their Bloody Red Blend is all about.   And they made it look effortless.   While I did have something planned to write about for tonight, those plans changed when I walked into my local wine shoppe and saw a Halloween display in the front of the store, with several wines with Halloween themes and charming labels.

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The Bloody Red Blend is not even featured on their website, unless you go into the tech sheets (and you can find that here), because for timing reasons, it’s limited edition, and I can see this disappearing rather quickly, as in November.

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Until today (as of this writing) I had no idea this wine existed, and I’m so grateful to have found it.  One of the main reasons I love wine, is for those winemakers that don’t take themselves too seriously.  With a company named Fat Bastard, and their ever so charming labels, and affordable prices (I always see their wines at $10 or less at retailers), and accessible information, it’s what makes you want to come back more and stay away from the pretentious.  And their wines taste like they’re under $10, so they’re taking ownership in all areas.

The Bloody Red Blend is a mix Grenache, Syrah, and Merlot.  And when you think French wines, you think lots of Grenache.  And that’s what you taste here.  But if you’re looking for any serious information after that, you need to look elsewhere.  Their synopsis on the winemaking process is one of the most hilariously brilliant things I’ve read on the back of a wine label (and in these notes).  This is art and I’m in love with this wine before I even twist off the cap.

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I’ve had plenty of their wines for all different types of occasions. It’s a everyday wine for everyday things.  You want it with nothing, with food, with friends, with nobody,  then these are just the wines you want.

And the Bloody Red Blend continues that tradition.  If you’re going to be celebrating Halloween this weekend and next week, this is a welcome addition to any party.  Just for the randomness and uniqueness about it is going to draw eyes to this bottle.  It tastes like a blend, and it’s easy to sip.  And as we begin to talk about the holidays more and more, these are the wines you’re going to want.  These are not the best wines you will ever drink, nor do the claim to me, and I would sense they don’t need to be.

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This is a fun wine in the tradition of how Fat Bastard presents itself.  I get a kick out of typing that out by the way…

Some of the suggest food pairings are burgers, fried chicken, and pumpkin pie.  I wish I paired this with pumpkin pie, but something tells me we’re just being made fun of.  And I like it this way.

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I paired with what turned out to be a much spookier looking meal than I intended.  Perhaps it’s fitting, but I had some chunks of sauteed pork with every vegetable known to man.   I purposely got this meal because after Halloween I suspect the meals will start to get heartier and much more unhealthy.  As much as I love the name, I don’t want to be a fat bastard myself.

But if you’re into something humorous and doesn’t take itself too seriously, the Bloody Red Blend just might be what you’re looking for…

My wine glass adds some more charm just when you couldn’t think get any more.

Fat Bastard is one of the more standard labels which are easy to find all over the place, so it shouldn’t be hard.   Here is the link to find their wines are a store near you.

Here is their lovely list of wines and story, and their contact info.

I wish you a safe and Happy Halloween.

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

 

Sweet Solomons

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When I first started drinking wine I was all about the sweet stuff.  I didn’t think it would get to the point I’d love the dryer reds and full bodied wines that now please my palate. Little did I know that these sweeter and fruitier wines would only be the catalyst for where I am today and will continue to go.

This week I continue my recap from the Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival from Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, MD.  And this one is a pleasant surprise.

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I’ve been meaning to try Solomons Island wines for the longest time and while I’ve likely sampled them here and there, at various festivals, it never stuck out as anything noteworthy.   They have their premium wines and their Island Mist selections, which is what they’re more known for and the bulk of what they’ll be sampling at most events. The latter is what I would usually avoid, deliberately.

But at  Wine In The Woods last month I noticed a sign for a premium tasting, which means an extra dollar or two for this pour, with a lovely tulip on the bottle.  I’m making excuses but I didn’t have dollar nor was any battery left on my phone to take pictures.   I promised the winery and more importantly, myself, that I would by at Great Grapes and sample this wine.

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The friendly folks who volunteered at Wine In The Woods at their booth would likely not be there again, and neither was anyone else I could recognize from last month. Nevertheless, I tried the Tulip along with the Orange Crush Merlot to mixed results.

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The Tulip is a joy.   It continues this sentimental feeling for me.  I love things that symbolize and embody summer; hope, healing, love, joy, and any other superlative you want to throw out there. That lavender color won me over before even sipping.  But that taste of fresh lavender, honey, peach is a masterful concoction.

This embodies Summer. This a wine that reminds me of why I started loving vino in the first place.   It always comes back full circle.

This is not something I should be liking but it’s the positive side of a confirmation bias.  Because I found something that hits home to me, I wanted to love it that much more, and it met my expectations. They may have even surpassed them.   The entire presentation of this is a win.  And yes it was worth the $1 pour and then some.  $20 a bottle may seem steep for some and I completely understand.  Personally, I’d take the plunge.

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The Orange Crush Merlot may sound familiar.  If you’ve ever had the privilege of having the soft drink of the same name, then this may work for you.  Not for me.  And again, everyone has their preferences.  Even for the miniature amount I was given, it was hard to drink.  Like I’ve stated before, we’re all not gonna love the same wines, and the same anything for that matter.  That would make these events and gatherings unexciting. Groupthink shouldn’t apply to harmonious and feel-good events like this.

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I’ve said it before in previous postings, but I would love to take a drive and visit Solomons Island, along with other wineries in the state of Maryland.  The journeys to scenic countrysides which include going through and small towns, is just as exciting as the destination.   I know right!

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If you’re interested in purchasing their wines, folks in the Maryland can go here, and here is a link for the rest of the world.

Finally, here is a history lesson and a laundry list of events there’ll be visible at for the rest of the year.

Their website is under construction, but hopefully it’ll still be easy to navigate through.

Looks like I’ll have one more from Great Grapes next week and see where I go from here.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

 

Feeling Happy at Hunters Valley

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I’m so grateful to live in Maryland.   I have access to drive to so many wineries and attractions in many neighboring states.  This leads to adventures, excitement, and something fresh.  That’s what life is all about.  This is a never-ending journey, and why would I want it any other way.

A road trip to Central Pennsylvania can me a lot of things.  I’m all about the unexpected, unplanned, and unseen.  But what I discovered is more joy than I could ever imagined.

I had only heard of the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail in passing.   And didn’t realize until I made a visit to The Winery at Hunters Valley, that I’m about to embark on something special.

I made the 15 minute detour off the interstate to visit this charming vineyard.    Thank goodness I did.  I almost just kept on going to get closer to my destination.  What that destination is doesn’t matter, because I’m not even sure what that is.

You’re going to see a lot of pictures and I’ll let that do most of the talking.  I want to thank Megan, who was conducting the tasting, for allowing me to take all the pictures I wanted. She was very accommodating and went above-and-beyond in making my visit as efficient, yet peaceful as possible.  The only caveat is that I give the winery and their wines a positive review.  That’s not going to be a problem.

It helps when you’re the only one there at the time.  So chances are the conversation is going to be a lot more laid back and informal as opposed to a larger group.  It also lends itself to being more of yourself versus having to play chameleon.  That can be enjoyable too, but I hope you know what I mean.

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What’s refreshing is the wine tasting was free.   I feel like I’m already in the money at this point.  I had up to five to choose from but Megan let me try six.  I hope I don’t get her in trouble.    The five err.. six I tasted are checked off by yours truly.     Notice how reasonably priced they are.

An analysis of every wine tried is not necessary.  I’ll try to keep it brief.  But I’ll tell you, I liked some more over others.  That may not be the expertise you’re looking for but it’s a simple way of saying a couple really won my heart.

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The Merlot was the bonus I tried and it was probably my second favorite.  This grape has really grown on me as my palate has changed.   I’ve made mention of this over the life of this blog.

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The Niagara is just like it says.   I really felt like I was eating a grape and savoring the juices.  Oh this one really got to me.  I almost bought this.  I’m still contemplating my decision as to why I didn’t.

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I went with the Heart of the Valley.   I gave away my purchase at the beginning of this post is you look above.   One of the main reasons is I think I’ve never written about a Chianti and that’s quite a shame.   Chambourcin is one of those grapes that’s on my short list of my favorite grapes but this didn’t taste like the grape I’ve grown accustomed too.  That’s just fine by me. They’re all not meant to taste the same.

The main reason I bought it (other than I feel a courtesy to buy a wine at a tasting) is I think this bottle is going to get amazing with time.  It’s one of the easiest wines I’ve sipped and I  feel that the wine will age well.  That’s not just a cliche you hear about.   It’s so easy to sip now that it can only grow to be more awesome.

But speaking of awesome, the views outside are so inspiring.   My cell phone photography is not going to do enough justice.  But this is as majestic as it gets.    I wish I could have stayed longer and appreciated the serenity around me.  I hope I get the opportunity to come back.

This is going to be split up into three parts.  I was fortunate enough to stop at three wineries on this trail.  I had no idea they’d all be connected.  But I guess it was meant to be.

I can’t say this enough.  I love wineries.  The whole concept of a vineyard is one of those gifts from the universe, or whatever you may believe in.   Whenever I get an opportunity, I’ll literally go the extra miles to make a visit.  This one was special.   I just hope the next visit is on par with this one.  Only time and the stories will tell.

For more on Hunters Valley, here is their contact information. And to order many of their awesome wines, go here.

Thanks so much!  I had a great time writing about this one!   More to come next week!

Best,

Ideen

 

 

Fresh Air

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If I’m correct, this is the first time I’ll be writing about a Carmenere since starting this blog.  What took me so long?  Well there’s so many amazing wines to talk about.  I will never get to them all.  And why would I want to?  That’s what makes this journey brilliant. There will never be enough time to try them all.  Fortunately there is time to try an assortment.

Carmenere was one of the original six grapes in France, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.    It faded into obscurity until the early 90’s and now found its proper home (as the national grape) in Chile.    If this story sound familiar, the same thing happened with Malbec.  And now that’s the most popular grape of Argentina.

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So this brings me to the 2011 Car Men Air distributed by Bronco Wine Company.    I purchased this for under $10 at my favorite Trade Joe’s in Alexandria, VA.

The play on words funny yet nothing about this wine is.  It’s a straight-forward and no-thrills bottle.  It’s got just the right amount of oak and spiciness that it doesn’t taste like a rock-bottom priced vino.  But not much more than that.   If I’m to assume correctly, black cherry, smoke, spices, and the aforementioned oak are all easily detectable.  Anything else is not as discernible.  But hey, that’s just my opinion.  It did have a darker tint than many wines we’re accustomed to.

I brought this bottle over to a friends house to relax, sip, and crack some jokes.  Not about the wine but in general.  The weather is warming up and spirits are doing the same.  It’s about time.   As long as this wine was somewhat acceptable, then it’s going to taste that much better with good company and a good energy.  If this or any wine were appalling then we’d be hard pressed to enjoy ourselves. Then again we might move on and find a suitable replacement.

I’m sounding like I’m down on this wine.  Not at all.  I think I’m just excited and all over the place with this sudden heat wave that’s hitting the east coast.   I’m salivating at the thought of all the outdoor activities and all the great wines that I’ll be having during some of those fun events.   I hope you’re getting amped up too.

After perusing their list, I’ve noticed many I’ve had in the past.  This will be revisited at a later date.

If you’re interested in finding this or other wines, click here.

Lastly, here is my most recent post on a great wine from Trader Joe’s.  And here’s one that wasn’t as golden.

Winter time is winding down but some of these impeccable wines I’ll try will not. We’re just getting started.

Best,

Ideen