Friday, May 25, 2012

Talya Chooses Wine

Judging a Wine by the Label

First impressions are formed within the bat of an eyelash. I always judge books by the cover. There are certain book covers I am drawn to like June bugs to a porch light. I'm not a fan of big heavy hardback books with glossy covers, especially those where the book title and author’s name are in the same size huge font. They look dull and boring. I like pliable paperbacks that can be crammed in my bag or hardbacks with interesting artwork on the cover.  

I judge wine labels too. I know that's not what the wine aficionados do, but since I'm not one, I can get away with it. I like a wine label that tells a story like a book.
Monkey Juice? 
If it's got a weird label with animals on it, I'm not interested. Who wants to drink monkey juice? Or wine with a monkey?

Rooster Wine!
This free-range rooster wine is advertised as a red wine "uncaged adventure". Again, animals + wine = just say no. Reminds me a bit of Animal House.

Understated & Peaceful!!
I prefer this simple understated Pine Ridge label with a sketch of a winery. Peaceful. It looks refreshing on a 110 hot humid Dallas day. I could enjoy it by the pool and be swept away to a peaceful island in the Pacific where I am perfectly relaxed, sipping wine and reading a fabulous book selected by the interesting cover. With a handsome beck-and-call cabana boy, of course.

Dracula John!!!
Perfect for Halloween!
A deep dark bottle with a gnarly tree or old English lettering would be the perfect selection for our annual Halloween party. Those bottles deserve to be poured by Dracula John. The label conjures images of haunted houses and vampires and blood. I would never buy it for 4th of July. Not even to serve with ribs.

Alternative to Grape Wine?
WHO would buy this Sweet Pea Apple Wine? One of the Stepford Wives? I suspect this may be a fitting substitute for my beloved Boone's Farm Kountry Kwencher, but no experimental young wine drinker in 2012 would be caught dead with this. Although not visible in the picture, the entire neck of the bottle is covered in the same print as the woman's dress.  This wine is advertised as a "fun new alternative to grape wine." Grape wine? Meaning wine made with grapes? Isn't that what officially makes it wine?
Very Serious...Migraines!!
This Chianti looks very serious and I'm pretty sure it would give me a migraine.  The label includes a sketch of the Head of Leda drawn by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 1500s, so it must be enjoyed at a very expensive Italian dinner with a serious, romantic, look-deep-into-my-eyes conversation. With tiramisu for dessert. And of course there is a drippy candle on the red-checkered table for added effect...

Very Zen-ish!!!
I like this label with the stacked rocks. It seems very zen-ish. Stacked rocks, or cairns, often denote a path on a hiking trail. So maybe this label is the path to a good merlot? 

Godfather Party Wine!
Pick up a few bottles of this Francis Coppola merlot for your next Godfather party. All men LOVE The Godfather. When else would anyone buy this? A poker party? Does Steven Spielberg have his own wine? He is always overlooked.

Men's Cologne or Wine?
This odd wine bottle would look more appropriate in the men's cologne section at Dillard’s next to Christian Dior Eau Noire. Or maybe in the olive oil or fancy water section at Whole Foods. Or perhaps it's really filled with mouthwash. Worst design ever in my book.  Maybe I should just stick to books and let Dracula John continue to select the wine? I can pick books much better.


Musical Pairings:

Billy Joel, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
K. D. Lang, "A Bottle of Wine and Patsy Cline"

If you enjoyed the above post be sure to join and follow Talya’s very entertaining blog, grace grits and gardening, which is a wonderful read about life and growing up in a small town. Cheers! Harold    


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Friday, May 18, 2012

Mendocino County...And It's Two Personalities

One County, Two Personalities and a Mountain!

Touring The Vineyards In Mendocino!
Mendocino County is above Sonoma and when driving there you have to decide which way to turn. There's a fork in the road and whichever way you take, you'll still be in Mendocino, but that's the only thing the two sides have in common. Well that's not true; they both have great wine...just different types of wine.

You see the county has a split personality, which can be expected from a place whose primary cash crop is marijuana!

Over Looking The East Side Of Mendocino!
Just before you leave Sonoma you can take the right or left fork. We always go right, which should surprise no one. By staying on Highway 101 you will be on the East side of the county and headed towards Hopland, Ukiah and Calpella with wineries along that drive and beyond.

The East side of Mendocino is like Sonoma in culture and wines. In fact, if you like the laid back attitude of Sonoma you'll love the east side of Mendocino, where they take laid back to a whole new level. They have the same types of wines as Sonoma and they're excellent, which makes this a perfect wine country trip! 


Barra's Wine Maker Gave Us A Tour! 
While we stayed in Ukiah, most wineries are around Hopland or above Calpella.  Barra of Mendocino, close to Calpella, is one of my favorites. Not only do I like their wines, but their wine maker also gave us a two hour tour of the winery. Unfortunately the majority of the wineries around Calpella are open by appointment only, so you will have to call them to make the arrangements. But take the time, you'll like their wines. 

Parducci Wine Cellars! 
There are few wineries between Calpella and Ukiah, but a visit to the Parducci Wine Cellers tasting room is well worth the trip. They make Mike Ditka's wine for his Chicago Restaurant and their chocolate "Zinful Shooters" are fun. 

Nelson Family Vineyards & Dog!!
Make sure to visit the Milano Winery and Nelson Family Winery. We joined Nelson’s wine club and have enjoyed their wines. And while you're there, make sure to pet their winery dog! 

If you go left coming out of Sonoma you're on highway 128 which takes you through the Anderson Valley. This coastal side of Mendocino is prettier than the east side and in a lot of ways it's Napa's little sister. And like Napa, it's much more uptight and expensive. And that’s why the county has a split personality!

But if you're a Pinot and Champagne lover, this is the place for you! They’re the vast majority of wines being produced in the Anderson Valley. The weather is a little cooler, which makes it perfect for the grapes used in those wines. 

Tasting Wine At Breggo Cellars!
The Breggo Cellars was great fun. The wine maker invited us back to the winery where his assistant was testing the wine. She had the wine in a large pitcher and handed it to us to pass around and...taste! This hopefully somewhat explains the picture of me drinking wine out of a pitcher. 

Wine From The Barrel At Toulouse!
We loved the Toulouse Vineyards. They’re by appointment only, but we were quickly invited to the winery. It's owned by a retired fire department captain, who poured the wines at his makeshift tasting bar! And we tried wine out of the barrel which made our visit complete! 

Esterlina's Deck Overlooking The Valley!
One of our favorite was the Esterlina Vineyards. Their wines are really nice, but what made the tasting fun is that it takes place on a raised deck overlooking the valley, which added a WOW factor to the experience! It's also by appointment, but well worth the effort.

On The Lawn At Goldeneye!!
For champagne fans Scharffenberger Cellars and Roederer Estate should more than meet your needs. And if you’re into some snob appeal, venture over to the Goldeneye Winery. Their tasting is a little more expensive, but it’s pared with food and you can sit out on the lawn while enjoying their wines! 

And now for that mountain!!!

We were in Ukiah and decided to go to the coastal side for some tastings and to have dinner along the coast. That was the plan until we drove over the mountain. I've been on mountain roads but highway 253 with its sharp curves, sheer drop offs, blind corners and steep inclines was one of the scariest. And it didn’t help that brother-in-law/ designated driver Joe likes to sightsee as he drives.

Celebrating Crossing The Mountain!!
Joe wanted to have a few at dinner and who could blame him after a day of driving three fun loving wine tasters. And there was no way we were driving that road at night after Joe had anything to drink! So we tasted some wines and then crossed the mountain again and had dinner on the laid back side.

Go to Mendocino, it’s a great wine trip. But remember its basically two different wine areas with a split personality. And beware of the mountain!    
Robert's First Wine Tasting!  


The Neighborhood Wine Porch Party!!

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Talya's Recipe--Roasted Chicken with White Wine and Rosemary

I  asked Tayla Boerner, our great neighbor, friend and regular contributor to our wine blog to periodically write about some of her favorite recipes that include wine. Talya is a great cook and she loves to use wine in her cooking, so this should be a really fun addition to our wine blog! And it meets the requests I have had from many of our readers that we include recipes. So have fun cooking with wine and feel free to send us your cooking with wine recipes and we will include them in a future blog


Just Add Wine!!

Usually when thinking of food and wine, most people are only worried about which wine pairs best with a particular meal. But I like to cook with wine. Wine can enhance your dish if you follow a few simple guidelines. Unless you can't cook at all, and then it might just be a waste of good wine....

Use A Good Wine!!
The most important rule is: If it's not good enough to drink, it's not good enough to cook with. In an attempt to be frugal, don't pour the dregs of a leftover soured wine into your delicious dish. If the wine has turned to cough syrup while you were out of town, why would it taste any better in your bordelaise sauce pray tell? You could ruin the entire recipe. It's best to just open a new fresh bottle for your dish. You didn't chop and dice and sauté for an hour to pour in a bitter or flat vino.

There is a section in the grocery store with vinegar and spices and "cooking wine" for sale. Do not use this "cooking wine". This is really for little old church ladies who pretend not to drink but sip a thimble full now and again while cooking meatloaf for supper. It's full of salt and once the alcohol cooks off, your dish will be salty like the ocean.

A general rule of thumb - most of the alcohol will evaporate and your dish will be flavored with the wine. If you are like me and don't know that much about wine, read the information on the back of the bottle. There is usually a description of the underlying wine tones such as apples, pears, vanilla, smokey, chocolaty, fruity, etc. If it was just about the alcohol, every bottle would taste exactly the same. Climate, growing season, and type of grape all affect the flavor of the wine as well as your food.

Wine Jello Shots!
Chardonnays work well for deglazing and making sauces. They have a somewhat buttery flavor which will enhance a buttery sauce.  Sweet wines with hints of fruit work well roasting chicken or turkey or for dessert sauces.  Bolder reds enhance meat dishes such as pot roast, chili or spaghetti. My friend Marcia makes homemade champagne marshmallows that are amazing. I made watermelon white wine jello shots for my friend's 50th birthday party. They were a big hit! Of course we were the Arkansas girls who first loved Le Boone's Farm....

My favorite roasted chicken recipe...

Roasted Chicken with White Wine and Rosemary

1 Whole Chicken
Olive Oil
White Wine
Sea Salt
Small Orange
Small Potato
Small Yellow Onion

Wash and pat dry the chicken. Place in a roasting pan. Fill the cavity of the chicken with slices of orange, lemon, chunks of potato and onion, rosemary stems and whole garlic cloves. Don't be shy - stick your hand up in there and stuff it full of these goodies. Rub the bird with olive oil, salt and pepper. Be generous with the salt and pepper. Pour about a half cup of wine in the pan and over the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and roast at 350 for about an hour.  It will depend on the size of the chicken so keep a watch on it. Baste it with the wine occasionally. Uncover and roast an additional 20 minutes or so at 425 for extra brown crisp skin. Discard the fruit and veggies in the cavity.  That was just for flavor. Deglaze the drippings with more white wine for a delicious sauce. 

Rosemary Beside Our Porch !!
If anyone in Dallas needs rosemary, feel free to cut some from our enormous rosemary bushes. If anyone needs wine, talk to Harold. He knows all the best deals around.


Musical Pairings:

Beach Boys, "Gettin Hungry"

If you enjoyed the above post be sure to join and follow Talya’s very entertaining blog, grace grits and gardening, which is a wonderful read about life and growing up in a small town.
 Cheers! Harold    

Please Add Your Comments Below & Join Our Blog on the Top Right Side of This Page. And You Don’t Have to Live in Munger Place to Join, So Please Join if You’re Enjoying Our Wine Blog!!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Napa and Sonoma the King and Queen of Wine

The Rich Snob and the Laid Back Bohemian!!! 

Fun Book!!

In his book A Tale of Two Valleys, Alan Deutschman describes Napa as an “exclusive club” for the super-rich and Sonoma as “colorful free spirits,” a “bohemia,” and while much has changed since he wrote the book in 2003, much has also stayed the same. Through our wine trips, Napa to me has become the expensive wine snob, while Sonoma symbolizes a laid back region where wine is enjoyed with friends. So realize when I write about the two areas that I have a built in prejudice that was formed over our 10 years of traveling to wine country. With that in mind, here's my quick take on going to the two premier wine areas in the US.   


Napa The Wine Country King!
Napa is the reigning King of the US wine regions. It’s where everyone thinks they should go for wine tasting. And make no mistake, their wine is excellent, probably some of the best in the world. It’s also very expensive compared to most of the other wine areas.

At most wineries in Napa, the minimum price for one of the wines being tasted is around $30.00. And unlike most of the other areas, if they say they’re tasting four wines, then that's all they're tasting. In the other wine regions, wineries will often pull out more wines for you to taste if they realize you know wine and you’re really going to purchase some on your visit.

Monticello Was Very Snobby!! 
 Also be prepared: many of Napa's wineries are more uptight, formal...just plan snobby! In fact we once left a winery because they were just too hard to take for our small group of Texans.

Auberage deSoleil Restaurant!!!
But if you must go, and I guess everyone should go once, then understand that you need to take the road less traveled! The Silverado Trail is a hilly road going the length of Napa that’s lined with smaller wineries and vineyards all across its hills. And I have to admit, it’s probably one of the coolest wine roads to drive in all of California.

The Silverado Trail is also a much prettier and more relaxing drive than Napa’s other road, highway 29. In fact, stay off 29 if at all possible. But if you must venture onto the wine highway from hell, to see a favorite winery, than make sure you plan your entrance and escape routes, otherwise you'll be stuck in its bumper to bumper traffic for hours.

Laid Back & A Little Quirky!
If Napa is the King, than Sonoma is the Queen of the wine regions. A bohemian queen but a queen never the less. And it may be our favorite because we always seem to end up back there every few years. And I really do like its more laid back feel. Unfortunately that has changed some through the years, especially since more and more wineries are no longer family owned. But still the feel of Sonoma is friendly and quirky enough to make it a must go to wine region, and their wines are every bit as good as Napa’s. But they’re not as pricy as the wines of Napa, which is a very good thing!

Touring The Benziger Vineyards!! 
Sonoma is also more spread out than Napa with different wine areas throughout the county. They all have their own special types of wines and varying landscapes. So the best way to see Sonoma is really breaking it up into different trips if possible.   

If you look at a wine map of Sonoma you’ll realize that the wineries are clustered close to two cities, Sonoma and Healdsburg. We have never stayed in Sonoma, but a lot of my favorite wineries are around the Sonoma, Glen Ellen and Kenwood area. More than enough for one trip...I promise!

Our Favorite Restaurant!!!
Santa Rosa is the largest city in the county and fairly central and  close to areas like the Russian River Valley. And there are a lot of great wineries between Sonoma and Santa Rosa. Make sure to take highway 12, the Sonoma Highway, between the two cities because parts of it rival the Silverado Trail. And our favorite restaurant, Café Citti, is on that great road in Kenwood!   

Healdsburg and nearby Windsor are both cities where we've stayed. They’re surrounded by wineries and are also easy drives to the wineries around Geyserville. And there are some nice wineries between Healdsburg and Geyserville. In fact this year we are staying on the grounds of a winery just outside of Geyserville, and I am looking forward to grilling out and drinking wines on the patio surrounded by the vineyard.



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