Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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Memorial Day Celebration

This past weekend included Memorial Day; a national holiday here in the United States designated to commemorate U. S. men and women who gave their lives for our freedom while in the military service. Many people observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Volunteers will often place an American flag on each grave site at National Cemeteries, as well as the graves of serviceman in cemeteries around the country. In addition to a day to remember, it is also used as a day for parades, family picnics, barbeques and gatherings. The weekend of Memorial Day has also become for many the unofficial start of summer. I know my wife and I feel it begins our summer and we usually celebrate on the first day of the weekend which for us began on Thursday with an extra day off on Friday. Thursday evening we sat by our outdoor fireplace with some snacks and a bottle of Chateau Montelena 2000 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. This was an excellent and specific choice to start our summer as we will soon visit Napa Valley again in July. The wine was big and bold with a deep garnet color, a nose of raspberry, and cassis and a hint of cedar and pepper. I found the wine to have a long smooth finish of berries with a supple tannin structure and a hint of oak. We both enjoyed our beginning of summer wine choice as our thoughts slipped forward to our 2009 Napa trip. We also raised a glass to those who lost their lives making days like this possible. Wish I could say the rest of the weekend went as well, but that is another story.

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Napa Valley Events

The Napa Valley Symphony closes out it’s 76th season, the 2008-2009 season was dedicated to the memory of Robert Mondavi. The last event of the season features cellist Lynn Harrel on May 29, 2009 at 8:00pm. As are all concerts for the Symphony, this event will be held at the Lincoln Theater on the grounds of the California Veterans Home in Yountville. For tickets call 707-226-8742.

The Robert Mondavi Summer Music Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a little something for everyone from the B-52s, to Grammy Award-winning vocalist Natalie Cole with the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra; from Los Angeles culture mashers Ozomatli to Motown king Smokey Robinson; from Miami’s disco darlings, KC and the Sunshine Band, to the pride of New Orleans, Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Tickets went on sale today and can be ordered at, by calling the festival box office at 226-7372 or by mailing a check to Robert Mondavi Summer Festival Box Office, c/o Napa Valley Opera House, 1000 Main St., Napa 94559.

The Robert Mondavi Summer Music Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a little something for everyone from the B-52s, to Grammy Award-winning vocalist Natalie Cole with the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra; from Los Angeles culture mashers Ozomatli to Motown king Smokey Robinson; from Miami’s disco darlings, KC and the Sunshine Band, to the pride of New Orleans, Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Tickets went on sale today and can be ordered at, by calling the festival box office at 226-7372 or by mailing a check to Robert Mondavi Summer Festival Box Office, c/o Napa Valley Opera House, 1000 Main St., Napa 94559.

Summer Dates:
June 27- the B-52’s
July 4- Preservation Hall Jazz Band
July 11- Ozomatli
July 18- Natalie Cole with the Napa Valley Symphony
July 25- KC & the Sunshine Band
Aug 1- Smokey Robinson

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Grilled Potatoes

Now that it is time for summer grilling, yes get those barbeques fired up. I start thinking about the many things I have made on the grill and what new ideas I’d like to try. Grilled Potatoes was always a favorite for company as the mess can be cleaned up long before the guests and these tasty potatoes are always a big hit. Partially cook a potato in the oven until you can nicely slice them, but not too soft. Make slices in the potato ¾ of the way through leaving the bottom in tact. Once sliced stuff with practically anything you find tasty. My originals were thin slices of celery, onion, a dab of butter, salt and pepper all neatly stuffed into each slit. Wrap the potato in foil and grill, this melts the butter and allows the flavors to cook into the potato. Once done you have a tasty seasoned side dish. Plate them or place all on a platter and allow guests to cut a portion of them. As they are already sliced almost through, they are very easy for guests to eat. The possibilities of what to stuff them with are endless and the potato really takes on the flavors when grilled!

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Strawberry Chardonnay Gelee

Looking for a fun, light, healthy dessert while entertaining friends in the upcoming warmer weather? I found this fantastic sounding recipe on Made with Chardonnay wine it truly is entertaining with wine right in the food. Follow the recipe below, your guests will all love it whether or not they like wine!

3 cups thinly sliced hulled strawberries, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Chardonnay
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1. Set aside 3/4 cup sliced strawberries. Stir together the remaining berries and sugar in a medium bowl.
2. Place Chardonnay in a microwave-safe cup and microwave on High until hot but not boiling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour over the strawberry-sugar mixture. Mash the berries with a potato masher to break them down and help release the juices. Let stand for 2 hours to infuse the wine with the berry juice.
3. Transfer the mashed berries to a fine sieve set over a large measuring cup or bowl;
press on the solids to extract any remaining juice. Add enough water to the berry juice to make 2 cups total.
4. Stir together lemon juice and gelatin in a small heatproof cup or bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the gelatin has completely dissolved but the liquid is not boiling, 20 to 30 seconds. (Alternatively, bring 1/2 inch water to a gentle simmer in a small skillet. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture in the simmering water until the gelatin has dissolved completely.) Stir the mixture, then whisk into the berry juice.
5. Set the glee in the freezer. Stir every 5 minutes until thick but not completely set, 20 to 30 minutes total. Divide among four 8-ounce bowls or wineglasses. Top each glee with an equal portion of the reserved strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set, about 4 hours or overnight.

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Wine review for Hogue Reserve Merlot 2003

As you know I am a huge fan of California wines and have no problem shelling out a few bucks for a good bottle of wine, but I also look for quality wine at a reasonable price. That thought of quality wine at a reasonable price is what brought me to this next selection. While craving a really nice wine while shopping last weekend, but also saying to myself I will be in Napa Valley in a little over a month spending more than my normal wine budget, I decided to explore some other options. As I mentioned normally a California wine lover, I happened upon a bottle of Hogue Reserve Merlot from Washington that caught my eye.
The descriptors mentioned age worthy, elegant, fruity which are all things I like in a wine, so why not?
Well, if I tell you that the Hogue website describes the wine to a T, it can’t get any more exact. To quote Hogue website “This Reserve Merlot epitomizes Washington State Merlot: earth, spice, leather and black olive aromas complemented by soft oak and ripe berry. Flavors are of dark chocolate and cream, intense raspberry fruit and herbal mint spice. It has great structure and mature tannins, with the fruit concentration necessary to age elegantly.” I could not have described the wine more accurately and found myself with a new admiration for Washington wines. I enjoyed it so much and found it so smooth, that I went back the next day to purchase 4 more bottles. Although the store I purchased it at, did not have the Reserve Cabernet, I look forward to tasting that wine as well. I purchased the Reserve Merlot on sale just under $20. Hogue offers a reserve Chardonnay as well as two other lines of wine; a non reserve Hogue and a Genesis line with each offering both reds and whites to choose from. I hope this wine review inspires you to purchase a bottle of Hogue Reserve Merlot, you will not be dissapointed.

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Alba Vineyards Father’s Day festival

Celebrate Father’s Day and treat Dad to a great afternoon at Alba Vineyards. Enjoy wine, food, entertainment, crafters and children’s activities. The Jeff Bellfy Band will entertain with their style of classic rock, country and pop including many popular hits from the 70′s to today. Kids will enjoy face painting, sand art, pony rides and moon bounce. For those looking for more adventure, enjoy tethered hot air ballon rides (weather permiting), and horse drawn carridge rides through the vineyards. There will be something for the entire family. Parking and admission is free. Wine tastings will be available throughout the day for a charge of 5.00 per person. Tastings include samples of Alba’s award winning wines and an etched Alba glass yours to keep. Food will be available to purchase, yet you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch. No pets please. The Father’s Day Festival begins at noon and ends at 5:00pm. By law only Alba Vineyard’s wines can be consumed on the property.

For more information visit:
Alba Vineyard & Winery
269 Route 627
Village of Finesville
Milford, New Jersey 08848
Phone: 908-995-7800

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Napa in seven weeks

Our Napa trip plans are starting to come together with a little help from a day off work. Last Friday after attending a fund raiser golf outing, my brother in-law and I had some time to ourselves as the ladies were taking one for the team by attending my niece’s school play. We agreed to start planning the annual trip and so we did. After pouring ourselves some good wine we pretty much decided on the restaurants for each night of the trip, which included the Martini House, Cooks, Cindy’s Back Street, Go Fish, and The Silverado Brew Pub. We actually made a reservation at the Martini House that evening for the fourth of July and the best part is I got a gift certificate for my birthday! The Silverado Brew Pub will be our first stop on the night we arrive as it is a real casual place we can walk to from the Wine Country Inn that offers a great meal. Our flight will arrive in California early this year since we chose the first flight out from New Jersey leaving at 7:00 am. We planned the earlier flight to hopefully beat some of the traffic out of San Francisco to wine country on July 4th weekend. With a little luck Continental Air Lines will be on time or even early as they were last year. We also planned some of our winery visits and even called a couple of places to inquire. No reservations have been made yet, so I will write about them as we confirm. As I have said previously we will take a day trip up to Lake County. I can’t share details on that day as our own beer guy on wine will be handling that plan. We also plan to head over to Sonoma for a half day stopping at a few specific locations to pick up wine or simply revisit. I am starting to feel a twinge of excitement, after all we are just shy of seven more weeks and off we go.

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Non Stop Wine Education

As wine lovers and website writers there is always a lot to know about the ever changing world of wine. I feel like a broken record saying “there is so much to know about wine” but there really is. There are appellations, regions, states, countries, you name it. There are varietals, there are reds, there are whites, there are blended wines. Then you have sparkling wines, dry wines and so on. Besides all that there are the descriptors of wine, the ways to sniff it, the ways to swirl it, all of which could be very overwhelming. It still amazes me how many wines there are I have yet to try and how much knowledge I still have yet to absorb, it could take me a lifetime. I guess that is why those that are so passionate make it their profession. Heck, who wouldn’t love to have a job similar to that of Robert Parker? I recall on a trip to Napa one year a gentleman that poured for us at one of the wineries we visited recounted how he had been a club member and grew so fond of the wine, he applied for a job at the winery. I would have to believe if you spoke to tasting room employees, you would find quite a few similar stories of folks that found their way into a wine profession the same way.
Along the lines of how much there is to know, I read an article the other day that again fascinated me on a topic I had never considered. I don’t recall where I read the article or even the particulars , but it mentioned how the importer of a wine (especially in the case of foreign wines) is sometimes just as important , if not more, than knowing about the wine itself that you are purchasing. I guess that could be very true with foreign wine as I know I struggle to understand how to select a foreign wine. I thought to myself, I have enough trouble remembering what I do know about wines and now I need consider who imported it? That seemed a bit crazy to me considering all of the other aspects that we keep in check such as winery, winemaker, varietal, vintage and so on. But a funny thing happened, I recalled reading the name Polaner Selections in the article and the other evening while enjoying a bottle of wine with dinner, I saw Polaner Selections on the back of the bottle and it rang a bell. Go figure, I really can absorb another factor regarding wine into my brain!

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Up coming wine dates

Frank Family Vineyards Winemaker Dinner
New Orleans Food & Wine Experience Tom Fitzmorris Eat Club Dinner is being held on Wednesday May 20th, 2009 at 7:00 pm. The cost is $75.00 per person. The event will be held at Annadele’s Plantation, 71518 Chestnut Street, Covington, LA 70433. Featuring a gourmet five course meal complete with everything from salad, stuffed fish, crusted beef tenderloin, all paired with Frank Family’s best wines. Wines poured that evening will be the 2007 Chardonnay, 2006 Carneros Chardonnay, 2006 Red Zinfandel, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the grand finale 1997 the Frank Family Vineyards Signature Champagne. For reservations call (985) 809-7669.

Check out V . Sattui Winery Upcoming Events
Festa Italiana July 25, 2009 – details coming soon. Harvest Ball September 19, 2009 – tickets on sale now! Crush Party 2009 Saturday October 10, 2009 – save the date. Check back for updates and details or visit

Silver Oak Cellars Event
Silver Oak Cellars will host a benefit concert featuring Grammy Award winning Taj Mahal Trio on June 11, 2009 with the proceeds being donated to the Rex Foundation. The Rex Foundation was founded by the Grateful Dead to support numerous smaller, grassroots non-profits that might otherwise not be recognized. A wine reception will be held prior to the concert and will feature Silver Oak and Twomey wines. Afterwards a gourmet picnic with be served and the rare live performance will be given. There are platinum and VIP Silver packages available, visit for details and to purchase tickets.

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How to save for wine purchases

We all know the economy and wine enjoyment are directly related today. The economy is in shambles, they say it has hit bottom, but to me that remains to be seen. With that in mind my purchasing power has dropped in the last year. I am presently furloughed (or whatever you call it) every other Friday, in effect, a 10% salary cut, and my wife’s salary was also frozen. All while living expenses increase. My retirement account has diminished at a rapid rate and my high yield savings account has gone from 6.3% interest to about 1.5%. Are you wondering what this has to do with wine? Just humor me, I will get to it. In an effort to trim costs in our everyday life I reviewed all of our monthly expenses. Naturally our wine expenditures needed some attention, yet one of the big stand outs was our home and auto insurance policies. I am not one to jump from one company to another to save a few bucks, but what bothered me is that we never had a claim, and the policy kept increasing each year. I requested a few quotes to lower our cost and was pleased to find the same coverage for around $700 dollars a year savings with a reputable company. You can buy a lot of wine with that money, I said to myself. The switch did require a home inspection, but we were not too concerned. Well, long story short a new roof that we did know was in the near future along with a few other minor issues and we will see our monthly savings in about 10 years! I did increase the value of my home, but I feel it backfired on me somehow-the story of my life! Another idea I had after reading an article about making money in a volatile stock market was to open an online trading account and try my luck at that. I have to make back that wine money somewhere, right? We have seen some success and made far more than the high yield savings account would have, and that helped to cut some of the insurance loss in the process. Good news, right? Today I was watching one of our stocks closely as it was climbing. I called my wife who was home and walked her through the sale of that stock and were both excited with the profit of the sale. That is until I came home and tried to verify my sale and found my very smart wife was having one of her moments when she was not so smart and did not complete the sale. My wife had never hit the place order box, as she said she did not want to place an order, just make a sale. Hmmm! Somehow when I have a moment, it is not usually good luck, my wife has a moment she gets lucky. The stock continued to rise throughout the day to an even greater profit, so I placed a limit order on it and we should sell tomorrow at a much higher rate. More wine money thanks to my smart wife!?