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

 

Dogs Are The Best

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There’s no other way to put it.  Dogs are one of the greatest entities this universe has ever created. The fact that they’re on this planet and they want to love us for the sake of just wanting to love us is a remarkable gift.

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And when you can combine the love of dogs, create beautiful labels, and place them on wine bottles, well that’s just icing on the top.  Little Ashby of Easton, MD has merged both into one of the most memorable tasting experiences I’ve ever had.

The setting is back at The Maryland Wine Festival and this was one of the wineries I was looking forward to visit the most. I’ve never had the privilege of sampling their bottles until now.  I’ve been to a multitude of festivals and events, and either never got a chance or they were not in attendance. This was well worth the wait.

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Because the visuals of happy dogs are all ubiquitous, I was hoping these wines would taste better than usual. At worst, I was hoping they would at least taste good. They succeeded and then some.

For me, at least, when I’m in a happy place, beverages tend to go down smoother and food tastes that much better.  This was arguably the happiest I was at the festival. So how were the wines?

In short but sweet fashion, I got to taste 4. And with all the commotion of the festival, it’s plausible that was the perfect amount for any of the visiting wineries.

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I’ll go in order of the descriptions.

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The 2013 Chardonnay was so easy to drink. It was very light and deceptively going down to quickly.  I had to be careful as this event was a marathon, not a sprint. It was a beautiful day so drinking this was even that much smoother. And at $15, that’s a more than reasonable price for this bottle.  I wouldn’t actively seek it out, but then again look at that label!

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The 2011 Ashby Red was something special.  I have sung the praises of Cab Franc.  And I’ll continue to do so until the end of the time.  You merge that with Merlot and you have something very special.  The synopsis describes this was earthy.   That actually does apply here.  For me, earthy has usually tasted like pine trees or green grass.  I did get some of that here.

Maybe I let my imagination run wild.  It’s a flavor many don’t care for but I love it.  A fantastic finish to a fantastic wine.

I would pay $22 for this. Licorice?  Didn’t catch that. Oh and how about that adorable looking pup on the front? Yay!

Merlot is becoming more and more apart of my regular wine tastings and at home.  A year or so ago I would avoid this grape like the plague.  Now I appreciate it and it’s grown on me.  This one definitely had the scents and flavors of berries and chocolate.

This will be perfect for the fall and as we approach those holidays that are too soon to talk about.  $20 seems justified for this selection.

This 2011 bottle and the Ashby Red are definitely special occasion wines.  And the label had a labrador retriever on it.  How can you go wrong with that? They’re my favorite breed of dog!

I went crazy and spent an extra $1 for the Super Talbot.   This is a homegrown Maryland special.  This one had some power to it, for a medium-bodied wine.

I tend to overreact when I find a wine I love. I make this cheesy look  and I tend to sway. I may fall forward too. But I also get this grin on my face, feeling my day has been made. I could say that about this wine, along with the Merlot and Ashby Red.

Maybe it’s the sentimentality of seeing mans best bud on the front.  How can you go wrong?

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They’re the first licensed winery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and production began in the year 2000. So they’re relatively new but doing everything right.

The staff was so nice and so attentive.  The only thing left is to make a visit, which is by appointment only.

I was in Easton around December of last year and completely snoozed on visiting them.  This is just extra motivation.

They don’t have a website or any way to be contacted via social media, which is actually adding to the intrigue and mystique.  I like it.

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More from the MD Wine Festival is coming, but this visit along with last weeks post are going to be hard to top.

For more awesome dogs click here.  And for more on Eastern Shore wines, you can check this link out.

More 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

Beautiful Doves

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the positive vibe of a winery.   There’s something usually so welcoming and approachable about the whole experience.  From the usual remote location, to its endearing road signs to steer you in the right direction, makes the journey as wonderful as the destination.

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This brings me to one of the most pleasurable tasting experiences I’ve had in quite some time.   If you haven’t been to Dove Valley in Rising Sun, MD, I strongly recommend to make the journey.  Even if you’re a few hours away, it’s highly work making the trip for.

And that leads to me.  I only live about 30 minutes south and it’s taken me nearly seven years to finally make a visit.  I’ve been living in the area for about that long.   Why it’s taken me so long has no explanation.  I’ve taken drives up to the Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York areas going up 95 North and always saw the signs for Dove.  I always said to myself I need to go. Well it finally happened and maybe it was meant to happen on this day.

Additionally,  I’ve rarely seen their wines at various nearby festivals, if at all, the more I think about it.  Maybe the universe was telling me something.  That I need to come to them.   I’m grateful I did.

As I parked my car, the area seemed eerily quiet.  In many instances I would take this as a sign to drive off and delay this visit once again.  But the little voice inside me said no, get out of the car, and see what’s going on.

A nice lady came out and greeted me.  She directed me to the tasting room where someone would be joining me momentarily.

Fortunately, there were a couple of dogs running around, so I felt at peace and was in no rush to get this tasting going.

Janel, who is such a wonderful person, came in a few minutes later and made me feel at home.    One thing I’ve noticed about wines, when the person pouring it for you is approachable, caring, and sincere, the wine is almost always going to taste better.  It’s just one of those amazing parts of life.   My head and my heart is in a happy place and everything around me is the same.  It’s so powerful.

Now there were wines I liked more than others, but some I was pleasantly surprised by.   I did not find a single wine to be bad, that could also be the environment I was in, that I alluded to before.  But this was so fun.  And wine drinking is supposed to be one of those most fun and inspiring experiences.

I won’t write about them all but the Cabernet Franc, which is usually a favorite wherever I go, was very good, but my favorite was the Pinot Noir.  It didn’t taste as light as usual Pinot’s but this one hit me and made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside.  I have no other explanation for it.  It really struck a chord with me.

The Merlot and Red Zin were also very good, that can complement just about any meal at any time of year.   The Rose and Dove Valley Red, which is their own special blend which full-bodied and full of fruitiness, also were stand-outs.  The latter is not something I would usually drink, but as the weather is still magnificent, I would drink this now or through most of the year.   I found it tasty and actually dangerously easy to drink.  🙂

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But the two I purchased were the aforementioned Pinot and my other favorite of the day, the Vignoles.   To me, these two wines are the red and white equivalent of the other.  That was the glorious feeling I got when I was sipping them and decided to purchase both.  The latter also had a full body and fruity taste, similar to the Dove Valley Red, but this one just hit me more.  Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve walked out with about a half-dozen bottles if I wasn’t careful.

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Janel also provided a masterful cheese and crackers plate for me to sample along with the wines and to cleanse the palate when necessary.  The tasting glass is so pleasing to the eye, that it will be a welcome addition to my collection.

The most important thing I want to mention is she was so accommodating and helpful in regards to any questions I might have had.  This was not a rushed experience.  She took her time and made sure my visit was a great one.  It was more than that.  It was a memorable one.  So memorable, that this is one of the longest write-ups I’ve ever done!

I also wanted to mention that she didn’t charge me for the tasting or the Vignoles.  She had no reason to do so.  I was so flattered and insisted that she didn’t have to.  It was above-and-beyond any winery visit I’ve had before.  This is their family business, I felt bad not paying, but she insisted.     This is class personified.  I wish I could use every superlative in the word for this one, but that would go on endlessly.

I splurged on the Pinot Noir.  The bottle was $25 and that is extremely rare for me to do.  I usually like my wines under $20, usually under $10-$15 if at all possible.  This is the whole point of Wine Is Fun.  We’re here to celebrate that great wine is fun to drink, to talk about, and be very affordable.  In this instance, I still feel that $25 for this bottle was a bargain.  And to have the tasting and Vignoles as part of the package, I felt like I was stealing.

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This only means I will be back soon and many times over.  Speaking of which, they have many fun events coming up, including live bands, and events such as Paint & Wet Your Palette, which is akin to many of the wine and paint nights that have become commonplace.  I have yet to do one myself.  I hope I get the opportunity.

They also have a Murder Mystery next month, which I always thought was the coolest thing when reading about them or seeing it depicted on television.   To have it be so close is an event I don’t think I can miss.

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And their big event coming up in October is Winestock, in which they will team up with several other wineries in the area for a day of wining, eating, and live music.  If the wording is correct this is a hippie fest that is right up my alley, that I hope not to miss. All the events can be found here.   And since you want to come here, here are the directions!

Here is a list of there you can find their wines in Maryland.

I could go on till eternity, but I’ll save some for a future post.  Enjoy the photos.  I think you will see the encapsulate how the brilliance of this place.

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I was only here for under an hour but the visit will resonate me for a lifetime.  This is how wine is done.  There’s not enough gratitude to express how extravagant and spectacular this experience was.

Friends

Dove Valley thank you so much!

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Best,

Ideen