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

 

 

Doing It Big

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My final post (for now) pertaining to events at Wine in the Woods brings us to a new one for me.   And I’m going to safely presume for many others.  This is my sampling and festival debut of the charming and endearing, Big Cork Vineyards.

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Honestly, what initially drew me to them is they were a hidden gem.  And I mean literally hidden, within the multitude of popular wineries that have been attending for years. Those that have built followings and stalwarts at these events hopefully got a chance to visit theirs.

People are creatures of habit.  I’m all about breaking such habits and jumping out of those comfort zones that can hold ourselves back from trying something new, exhilarating, and invigorating.  Ok now I’m being dramatic.  It’s just wine sampling but on a micro level, the situation still applies.

I had no line when I stopped by which was already a plus for me.  And little did patrons know what they did miss.  The volunteers and staff I interacted with were class personified.

My personable volunteer, Linda, was kind of enough to give a brief synopsis of the winery and explain it’s only been in existence for five years.  That’s long enough that I should have at least experienced a wine somewhere by now.   Once again, maybe I have and it didn’t sink it due to inexperience or a lack of appreciation at the time.  Or maybe this is fate and destiny bringing me to try it for the first time.  Either way I feel blessed and like a winner.

Honestly, two of the whites they were pouring did not resonate with me.  And this once again, is not a stab at the wines themselves.   The 2014  Viognier and Vidal Blanc  respectively are wines people around me were digging.  But at this time they’re still not my glass of wine. The latter is something I should as its more full bodied but this is what makes these events fun.  We all don’t like the same wines.  Nor should be.  That would take the fun out of this. And it’s good to discuss and learn about our likes and dislikes.   And that leads me into what I adored.

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Their 2013 Traminette is not something I would have enjoyed before, but the grape itself is something I’ve becoming partial to the past couple of years. There’s personal and familial sentiment in my own life which may add to a bias, which I’m sure many of us have when it comes to particular grapes.  It’s semi-dry and being related to a Gewürztraminer may be part of the charm for me.  It’s a wine perfect for any time of year, but for me, especially around the holidays.

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But the winner for me goes reflects my personal preferences, and that’s the 2013 Syrah. This may have tasted lighter than most Syrah’s I’ve had but considering a festival vibe and the outdoor atmosphere, it only seemed right.  This was jammy and easy to sip from the get go.  I’m almost gulped it off the bat which I didn’t want to go.  The back-end gave me some a whole melange of spices that I couldn’t even begin to describe.  But it was awesome and it’s something I’d consider buying at $24.00.  Yes that may be pricey for some and that’s understandable.

Those labels are beautiful and they mirror the layout of the website masterfully don’t they?

What’s great about these festivals is many wineries don’t overload you with too many to choose from.  If they’re great, like these guys are, they’ll leave you wanting more.  And I want more.  And it makes folks like me explore their collection.   Most importantly for me, it makes me want to take a drive to see them for myself.  And that’s a win for them and a fulfilling one for me.

I could go on all day and I wouldn’t be able to put into adequate words how much fine I had with a brief sample size.  It’s left me wanting more.   If I get the opportunity this Summer to visit, another write-up is coming.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be in awe of their simple yet effective website and the positive energy I’m getting from it.  These links about their story, the vineyard itself, a FAQ, and finally the winemakers themselves should hopefully do the same for you.

Here is my recap from last week and from the week before at Wine In The Woods.

We’ll see ya this Summer.

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

 

I Love Labs

This is simply going to be an homage to my favorite breed of dog, the Labrador Retriever.   Oh yes.  My whole being glows when thinking about them or when one crosses my path.

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Dogs are what life’s all about.  They love you, want to be your companion, and will always stand up for what’s right.  Labs, like the majority of dogs, only want the simple things back; food, water, love, shelter, and a few related things in between.  They don’t ask for much.

At the heart of it most of us human beings don’t want much more than that either.

We like to enjoy a nice meal, good company, vacations and other outings, or maybe a journey to our favorite restaurant or watering hole.   So I found the most appropriate wine that symbolizes all of this.

I adore the happily titled Lab, from Casa Santos Lima Winery out of Portugal. What I am reviewing is the 2013 Label. The 2012 is what the site lists.

Aside from Syrah, the grapes are; Tinta Roriz which for us in the states we would know as Tempranillo.   35% is Castelao, which is a grape mainly found in Portugal.   Last but certainly not least is Touriga  Nacional, which is highly touted.

For such a simple pleasure it seems like a complicated wine and I didn’t meant to write this post as so.  If I drank this blindly I wouldn’t assume this was a bottle that goes  for under $10 just about anywhere.  It drinks like a $20+  bottle and maybe approaching $50.

This is all my opinion but this wine rocks. That’s a scientific term by the way.   I love this wine so much.  I want to cuddle with it like I do my favorite dog.   The label drew me in.  I mean how could it not?

It’s going to taste better simply because of the artwork.  If it doesn’t for you then I can’t help you there.

And the wine was marvelous anyways.  I got some black cherry, some unidentifiable spices, but most of all I got joy.  This is a winner.

Just like last week, I’ve been proclaiming what a softy I am when it comes to animals, and dogs in particular.  So this is only the beginning.

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And I mean that because as you see in this photo, and linked here, labs come in all shapes and sizes.  Did you see how I framed that?  I love ’em.

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We enjoyed our vino with one of those simple things, a good slice of pizza (or two).  And it may not be the ideal pairing for these grapes but we didn’t care.  It worked for us and that’s all that matters. If it works for you then that’s exactly what I’m saying.

For our friends in Baltimore and Maryland, their wines can be found at Cranbrook Liquors and roots market, respectively.   For elsewhere, they can be contacted here.

More Lab wine reviews will be forthcoming.  This is just the beginning of an amazing journey.

On a not-so-final note, I’ve never had a dog of my own.   If there ever was a sign…

I Love Lab(s),

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

Dinner Party Pals

Sometimes you just need a great dinner with friends to get the week going.  And when that means a good steak, of course you need to pair with it something stellar.

Considering the dinner party host, I knew the food was going to be good.  So my hope was to find a bottle that would complement a hearty meat and vegetable dish.

My search led me back to Wine World and its massive collection of everything.   The staff here is tremendous.  They know right away when anyone as a question, and is always quick to give a great suggestion or two, or more!

The question about a selecting a wine with a hearty meat, has been going on forever.  And while I have a few grapes in mind, I love hearing other people’s opinions.    They pointed out some new ones to me the ranged from $16 to upwards of $40.   Now like most folks, the preference is to go the lower end of the spectrum.

I got assistance from one more team member, and they suggested a brand I forgot about, Casillero del Diablo, distributed to the United States from Excelsior Wines.  I surmise that many of us have had a bottle of two of theirs without realizing it. It’s a standard label that is sold in even the most simplest of wine shops.  And this is no way discounting them.  Of the few I’ve had, it’s a great value for under $10.  And more times than not, it’s all we need for a simple dinner or to drink on its own.

But what was suggested was a new one to me.  Right next to the collection of del Diablos, I was introduced to the Devil’s Collection Red, which is a trio of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Syrah.   It’s like they read my mind.

Before I even walked in these three grapes, along with Petit Sirah are what were on my mind.  So to get a bottle, and a new one for that matter, that contains a few of what I was seeking, only triples the fun and enhances my wine buying experience, along with hopefully making this meal fun.

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So how did everything turn out?  Well the meal was amazing and the wine was really good.  My friend had a beautiful decanter to add to the atmosphere of our friendly feast.  And the color on this wine really shines here.

The synopsis mentions flavors of plum and black cherry.  Through the power of suggestion, the latter did seem noticeable. A small hint of chocolate?  I was hoping to taste it and as my palate expands will hope to catch it next time.

This is a very good bottle at the price of $12.99.  And with a mix of medium-to-full bodied wines mixed together, it tasted refreshingly lighter than what I was expecting.  I’ll definitely give it a go again.

if you’re interested in reading more about these wines, you can go here, here, and here!  Yes I know that’s a lot! 🙂

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I will leave with a couple of fun pictures from our meal.  I want to give a huge thank you to the host.  The steak, with acorn squash, and peppers was a hit.   The vegetables, especially, tasted organic, natural, and most importantly healthy.  Well maybe I just used three all-too-similar synonyms to over-emphasize how great this was!

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Money Ink

A dear friend of mine recently had a celebration of all sorts.  We were honoring his birthday, his pending divorce, an end of an era, and the start of a new one.

The party was one for the record books.  The food and libations were in abundance.  The site was a beautiful house in a secluded area of Baltimore County.  It was the perfect setting for a day of emotion, revelry, and merriment.   The congregation was at epic levels.

An in-ground pool, a slip n’ slide course, and a gaming lounge on the inside was provided.  The gaming lounge included table tennis, beer pong, card games, and any other drinking game an attendee was motivated to get folks involved in. There was to be an Olympic like obstacle course inspired by the program, Wipeout, but the weather postponed the event and emotional opening ceremonies for a later date.

Nevertheless, this was still a part for the ages.  Many good pals and friends came out to support our friend in his present and future endeavors.  And I was one of those people who almost no showed because of the torrential downpours.   I would have regretted that decision if I chose to stay home.  A great majority of invited guests still made their appearance and everyone seemed happy they did.

The eats were plentiful. We had burgers, hot dogs, chips of all kinds, hummus, pasta salads, and all kinds of various dips.   Those were devoured before any pictures were taken.

As for the alcohol, there was a beer keg, and plenty of various liquors for mixers.   However, I chose to mainly stick with wine, as did a few other folks.

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In honor of the ink being nearly dry on my friends divorce proceedings, I arrived with a bottle of Black Ink.   I didn’t realize at the time how apropos this choice was.

Bear in mind, I could have brought anything.  But in tradition of never coming empty-handed to a party, I grabbed a wine that looked fun and stood out from the crowd.  The guest of honor is a huge fan of Red Blends, so that factored into the decision.

The wine itself was just fine.   It’s as mysterious as the website itself, which explains nothing and has no links to click on.   Their parent company, sheds a little more light on it.  And here’s even more information.   I wouldn’t say it was my favorite, but it was a good bottle for the low price of $9.99.   There’s an image of a squid under the cap that I wish I had taken a photo of.

This is a melange of Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, and, Zinfandel. The smokiness was present, and some hints of spices and obscure flavors.   But as to what I don’t know.  It was a nice drinking wine by itself or with the food that was decimated throughout the party.   More photos would have been taken but I wanted to keep the mystery of the event just like the wine, at the right decibel.

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No fancy wine glasses for this one.  I was happy drinking from a cup.

For those that stayed longer, just when we thought the party was winding down, we kept going.   It was great to make new friends, reconnect with past ones we’ve lost touch with, and a celebration of life, enjoying the Summer, and feeling good.

Some of what transpired is too good for words and pictures.  It’s memories that we get to keep for ourselves and share with our loved ones that were there.

And just like the wine, the ink will soon be dry.

Best,

Ideen