Mead (And Wine) & Merriment Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have a ye olde good time!

Ideen

 

 

Bless The Blue Marlin

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I’m going to admit a little something here.   I made a booboo.  I’m not sure if I just spelled the word ‘booboo’ correctly.   But I digress.  I  completely forgot the actual wine I was supposed to write about in this weeks post.  But as I’m realizing this, at least for this week, it doesn’t matter.

I also needed help with the photography for this post.  However it was done, but it doesn’t matter.  In the end it was done and I’m grateful for my friends and I’m grateful fo my experience at the Blue Marlin in Bradenton Beach, FL.

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This almost didn’t happen, because of my trip going at a frenetic place, but I’m so thankful it did.

My visit to the Gulf Coast of Florida only lasted five days but I got so much in that it felt like a lifetime.  The memories will surely last that long.  But it wasn’t the Blue Marlin itself that made this magical.

Good friends of mine have moved from the Baltimore area to many parts of Florida.  This was a first of several visits for me.  And while I’m sad my friends have left.  They’ve all moved on to something bigger, better, and the next adventure.  I’m more happy for them that they’ve found happiness.  It’s something we all deserve in this life, as much as possible.

The Blue Marlin was pure happiness.  But it was the outside bar that told the real story. For a few moments it felt like we were the only people in (or out) the bar.  And we were. But bigger than all of this, it also felt like we were the only people on Earth.  I honestly felt that for a few moments.  I may not have shared that with anyone at the time, but I just had this feeling of tranquility, peace, and harmony that should’t just happen on vacation, but as much as humanly possible.

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The charming bar outside is all we needed.  They had a perfectly simple list of cocktails, wines, and beer available at our disposal and within footsteps.  It’s a one-stop shop for everything.  And the live music set-up is about as picturesque as you’ll find.  The band was fantastic. Maybe it’s the serendipitous and unpredictability of how this day was going, but I felt so happy.  The environment is one where I’d like to think we’ve all been in from time to time, but maybe not enough.  At least for me, at least for this afternoon, I felt at home.

But just when you think I’ve seen it all, they had a just as equally stunning street food set-up, with just a few essential items.   However, for the sake of time I will focus on the sliders.   We tend to throw around greatest this and greatest that.   We might call certain meals, certain restaurants, and certain experiences life changing.  If we get to have so many of these then I’m all for it.  I like to be careful in what I apply ‘life changing’ to because if I say it so much, it loses it’s shine.  I think you know what I’m saying.

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This slider was life changing.  I’m just going to say it.  And my opinion is all my own, but I know I’m not alone.   Perhaps the perfection of this day made it taste that much better. Perhaps.   I think this was just art.   In terms of foodie culture and all that commotion, this is up there with the best burger I’ve ever eaten.   And I’m no expert on this.  But you or I don’t have to be.  This is world class cuisine.  I’m remembering now even more vividly how incredible this tasted.  You’ve got to be kidding me.   This was so great.

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Everything about this day was great.

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Once again I apologize for not discussing the wines.  We had Pinot Noit, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio.   Well I may not have had the Cab Sav, as it may have been too heavy for the season.  But nevertheless, everything was superb.  I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.

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For more on Blue Marlin, click here. Here is their menu, events list, and contact information.

I want to make one last thing clear.  All along had planned on writing this around mid September (I was here back in mid-June), and the timing could not be more appropriate.

I’m happy this beautiful area, nearby Anna Maria Island, and many other nearby places are overall still intact and will be opening for business soon.

More importantly, I’m grateful dear friends all across the coast are safe, secure, and will be able to get back to normal.   A great set of cities, towns, and resorts have been spared.

And I can’t wait to be back again…

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Take good care,

Ideen

Christmas Eve Comradery

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I’m glad I got to save one of my more enjoyable wine tasting experiences for the end of the year.  Well when it’s the holidays, and even more specifically Christmas Eve, it makes the occasion all the more merrier and the wine taste so much better.

What makes it all the more special is the wine I’m going to write about will go down as one of my favorite wines I’ve had, not only this year, but in a long while.

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The wine in question (well not in question, I just said that for dramatic effect) is The 2014 Lost Colony Wine from Virginia Dare Winery out of Geyserville, CA.

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Now I know what you might be thinking.  It’s The Lost Colony, it’s Virginia Dare Winery, and isn’t the state of Virginia one of the original 13 colonies?  My first reaction is this winery is a reasonable drive away.  Well just a few more hours have been added than originally presumed.  I’ll let you read the synopsis since I’m not the best at history. Instead I’ll stick with the wine and the spirit of Christmas.  Yay Christmas!

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So what inspired me to bring this wine to a dear friends’ Christmas Eve gathering?  Well the kind folks who were hosting prepared a pork crown roast.  And when you get invited to an event with a carefully prepared main course, the wine has to at the very least complement this meal that took days to prepare with love and care.

In advance of this gathering of loved ones and friends, but more so family, I did my research on the proper wines to pair with this dish. Syrah came up a lot and that was more or less in lines what I was thinking.  There were other suggested pairings but I was set on Syrah. And my local wine shoppe came through once again with a massive selection of bottles to choose from.

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Within seconds I spotted The Lost Colony and was in awe of this label.   I mean I was in love.  I had to take pictures.  Well I always take pictures.  But in this situation how could you not admire this work of art?  I’m sounding like a novice that only picks wines based on the label, but that’s a huge part of the fun.  It’s what draws you in.  And no, never judge anything by its cover, but when it looks this good, how can you not be the least bit fascinated?

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To be factually correct, this wine is a Red Blend (45% Syrah), and the fact sheet can be found here.

And when I saw the price listed at only $16 (more on this shortly), I was thinking it’s the holidays, it’s my dear friends’ Christmas Eve Party, and its this portrait and this wine that I want to bring to this assembly of awesomeness.  After all the build-up, this wine better be good.

Thankfully, I can safely say this wine was stupendous, tremendous, and I’m so grateful to have shared it with a few friends at the party.   Was I thinking of keeping it all to myself? Well…

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I was clutching this bottle like it was my baby.  Even the host of the party told me I should bring a cheaper wine out of the cellar, and to save this for later.  He had a point.  So I got a more standard label out and popped it open, and was done with it.

But I really wanted to open my wine.   So even after opening up the el cheapo, I went ahead and opened my Last Colony wine way ahead of dinner time.

This was a fruit forward gem that didn’t need any time to air out or open up, as it was amazing immediately.

The aura of this wine was something.  Lots of friend, old and new, were asking about this wine.  They were also intrigued by the label.  I felt proud that I brought such a wine that led to such a discussion.  It became an ice breaker which I didn’t expect at all.  Well it’s Christmas and the magic of the holidays shined through again.

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I poured cups for folks who were interested and was happy to do so.  And yes, dinner was nowhere close to being served.  But it paired well with the mammoth amount of appetizers and treats sprawled all across the kitchen counter.

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I did save a little wine for the crown roast.  And to say the pairing was amazing only tells a small percentage of the story.  I believe half the bottle was still there when I departed.  I hope my friends got to enjoy it.  The reviews I heard were strong across-the-board. It was so easy to drink.  It tasted more light bodied than I anticipated.   This may also due to the fact that the incredible amount of holiday parties leading to this one has made everything taste differently.  I’ve been feeling full most of the time so this wine may have had the opposite effect than if this were a more relaxed time of year.   And I still loved it.  Perhaps the Malbec in the blend gives is a lighter on the tannins feel.

Remember how I said I purchased this wine for $16?  It just had this feeling of tasting more than that.  But as you can see on the link to their own site, the price is $28.  How can this be?  I feel like I committed winery robbery.  And even though we spend like crazy on Christmas, I fully appreciated the savings in hindsight.   Even on reseller sites I see the prices listed in the $22-$25 range.  So is this an anomaly?  I may need to buy a few more of these bottles for future consumption.

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What’s funny is that if this bottle was over $20 I likely would not have purchased it.  It goes against my purchasing habits.  But here it is.  I was meant to buy this wine on this day, and I’m glad I did.  I’m happy to share this wine with dear friends and family a like.

And everyone at the party did the same.

That’s a testament to all of us.  We all came together to share in this wonderful couple’s home.  They wanted to share the holidays with us.  And we gave back in all the ways we could.  We all brought something to the party, whether it was a side dish, appetizer, sweet treat, liquor, and of course wine.  And that’s not only important during the holidays but all year round.   This group knows the meaning of sharing and caring throughout the year.

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And the hosts of this party go above and beyond in ways I have never seen.  It’s a blessing to know our party hosts, who are more than just hosts, they are family.  This whole group is a family.  And there’s nothing more important than family.  It’s amplified during the holidays and with this crew, the whole year through.

I will always remember this holiday season for a lot of things.  This party will be one of the highlights.

For more on Virginia Dare Winery click here.  They have charming music playing on the main page so beware if you’re looking at the workplace.

To purchase directly from the website, go here.

Here’s a behind the wines and then a history lesson.

If you live near the Baltimore area, I’ve seen this wine at the great Wine World in Abingdon, MD.  I’ve not seen it anywhere else but if I do, I will update it here.

This was fun and I can’t believe another year is in the books.  I can’t wait to see what comes next.  I may revert back to some old posts I never got around too and of course take some unexpected twists and turns throughout the duration.  I look forward to you joining me.

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But for now I will savor what’s left of the holidays and appreciate the fact that I got to be a part of this gathering, and that I got to share this with you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Ideen

 

 

 

Free Spirit

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I love art, especially when it’s near my backyard.  Baltimore has plenty of galleries and museums at little to no cost to you, for your viewing pleasure.  How many of us take advantage of this?  I can say with most certainty,  I don’t give myself the opportunity to expose myself to more art and more culture than I really should.

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The Alchemy of Art embodies what a passion and love for your craft is truly all about.  The owner, Sheridan Costa, has made this one of the places to be in Fells Point, and Baltimore for that matter.  Best of all, it’s free to attend.  What else is best?  Well there’s lots of arts, lots of crafts, and lots of gems that fit just about everyone’s budget.

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And you know what else is cool?  They throw lots of charming parties and events.  And these are some of the most authentic and laid back parties I’ve attended in the city. There’s a great mix of people from all walks of life.  And when we’re under this roof, we’re all here for the same reason, to appreciate art and to appreciate one another’s company.

Good parties usually means good food.  And good food segues into good wine, and vice versa.

The longstanding sentiment for me with The Alchemy and anywhere that throws a soiree is to try to bring something.  Never come empty handed.  Luckily, there is a wine and spirits shop caddy-corner to the gallery.

It’s now become tradition for my friends and I to find affordable bottles of wine for purchase and take that short walk to gallery.  If we run out, it’s just seconds away. And the store has extended hours compared to most shoppes, so we have no excuses!

Last Thursday was special.  It was Alchemy’s third anniversary party.   Time is flying.  I don’t know how long I’ve been fortunate enough to visit.  It hasn’t been the entire three years, but it’s been a significant part.   And the gallery is getting better by the year, and better by each visit.

We were told there would be loads of cupcakes and foods.  So vino is necessary.  This time I was feeling sentimental (that tends to be every week) and wanted a wine with animals on the label.  For no reason, other than I love animals and animals on a wine label.  Yes, chickens!

The 2015 Vintage from La Vieille Ferme Rouge fits the bill as am everyday wine, for so many reasons.   First of all, the price I was able to find it at was $9.00.  That’s a no-brainer.  You see a bottle like this at this rate, you grab it, you bring it to a party and everyone will love you.  Actually if you were invited someone must love you anyways to some extent, so the wine will be an added bonus.

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This Rhone Blend has some spice and some kick to it. There’s something dark about it. It’s almost akin to eating a piece of dark chocolate.  Well in that similar vein, there were plenty of cupcakes at this party, so hopefully someone got to sip this wine with a chocolate or another enticing cupcake.   My wine never had a chance.  It was decimated in minutes.

Even though I didn’t harvest the grapes, or be involved in the fermentation or bottling process, it feels good when other friends and folks finish what you brought to a party.  A little piece of me feels alright.

This wine will resonate.  It has this distinct taste that separates itself from similar red and Rhone blends you would find at bargain prices.  It’s a bitter taste but it’s a good one. There’s nothing extraordinary or life changing about this wine, but it brings much to the table, aside from the price.

And I’ve seen this wine everywhere.   And as low as $7.00.   So if any of you are interested, it’s a standard label that might be at your neighborhood store.

Here are the tasting notes.  And even some more over here.

I look forward to their next party.   There’s a good vibe, with good people, and plenty of awesome things on display and for purchase.  I’ve included pictures throughout this post.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Alchemy of Art’s contact info can be found here.

They throw a good party near the holidays, so hopefully this will be revisited. And they deserve multiple visits.

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Support art and support local.  Yes!

Ideen