Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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Napa Valley Beckons

Today I am taking advantage of a cool summer night to catch up on some Napa news. We have had fantastic weather here in New Jersey so far this summer. Except for a couple of weeks when temperatures were more like midsummer Napa Valley temps with over 100 degree days on two occasions, we even broke a long standing record. Anyway, back to the point of my writing. We are in the early stages of planning for an October return to the valley. I guess you could say we are getting a little greedy, returning within a seven month period. I am sure I have mentioned before that I would be living in Napa year round if possible so returning so soon is not surprising.  We are looking at the third week in October when harvest season should be winding down and the valley will be less busy. Our last trip in March included our usual trip partners and four good friends. We had a fantastic time visiting some of the more known tasting rooms in the valley, several of which are every year favorites. This trip it will just be the wife and I, the plan is to return to some less well known, smaller, off the beaten path boutique wineries we have yet to visit. These next few weeks will require some researching to put together a good itinerary of locations to visit as well as leaving room for impromptu stops. Of course we will be staying at our favorite place, The Wine Country Inn in St Helena. This will be our first visit in early fall so that will be kind of exciting, we have visited in spring and summer, but never fall.  It will be great to visit and experience the valley after harvest.  I don’t think we will ever plan a winter trip as they say it is always rainy, but you never know….rain doesn’t make the wine taste bad!  I can assure you one of our stops will be my favorite Silver Oak.

Silver Oak

Stay tuned for upcoming plans for the trip.

wine country

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Jazz It Up Wine & Food Festival 2010

September 4th and 5th - The Garden State Wine Growers Association will host the third wine festival of their five festival season. Jazz It Up Wine & Food Festival. The organization claims 34 winery members across the state that produce award winning New Jersey wines. Hundreds of these wines will be poured, along with an array of great food. Artisan venders and crafters will be selling their hand made products, wine related items and other goods. Activities for the kids will also be available, along with music for everyone.

Dates: Saturday September 4th and Sunday September 5th 12 noon until 5:00pm

 Monday September 6th (Rain Date)

Location: Historic Allaire Village Farmingdale New Jersey

Admission is $20.00 with a $5.00 parking charge. Admission price includes a wine glass and wrist band which allows you to sample each wine offered at the festival.

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Outdoor Wine Glasses

Entertaining in the summer months can be fun as well as challenging; especially for wine lovers.  We all know about sniffing and swirling our wine to bring out the wines full potential when it comes to smell and flavor.  It is part of the overall experience of drinking wine, thus the reason for white wine glasses, red wine glasses and so on.  Well what happens when you want to serve wine on the patio or other cement area, such as around a pool?  That is where the challenge comes in as you have lots of barefoot people running around in the summer that could create a dangerous situation if you have broken wine glasses underfoot.  Although we all do our best to hang on to our wine glasses, accidents do happen; rather frequently at my house, but that is whole other story.  Not sure if you have been in the market for plastic wine glasses lately, but there are some really great options out there.  I am somewhat of a collector you could say with everything from brightly colored to clear with embossed palm trees. A new set I received as a gift that look exactly like some of my best Bordeaux style red wine glasses; perfect for outdoor swirling of my favorite red wines!  Words of caution though, when selecting your outdoor plastic wine glasses make sure to look for quality.  A higher quality will ensure that there are no plastic smells or flavors imparted into your wine.  A quality plastic wine glass should provide virtually the same wine experience as using your standard glassware.  If you haven’t looked for any, start shopping today…you will be amazed at the variety.  It will be fun to plan your next outdoor party!

Check out the link below for a set of plastic wine glasses:

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Wine and Summer Heat

This may be similar to a past write up, although well worth repeating as a costly mistake could be made. Summer 2010 has arrived and with a vengeance in some areas of the USA. Here on the East coast we have experienced several triple digit days which is highly unusual, even breaking a long standing record of 103 degrees on one occasion. While lakes, beaches and water parks love this weather it does not bold well for wine not properly stored. There are plenty of scientific and technical articles out there to research which are certainly valuable; but here we will try to keep it simple.

Wine is a living organism and all living things age, wine aged properly can be a beautiful thing. Heat stressed wine on the other hand is subjected to rapid maturation rather than slow even aging and will rapidly deteriorate. With summer being a time of vacation and travel many of us wine lovers visit tasting rooms and make purchases. A sun baked car can be the death of your wine. Just as an example; a closed car in 78 degree temperatures can reach into the 90 degree range in five minutes and well over 100 degrees in 25 minutes. After a few hours at those temperatures your wine may be undrinkable. Wine that has been exposed 2-3 hours at these temps may still be salvageable if immediately brought to a storage temp of 58-60 degrees. I would strongly recommend drinking this wine soon rather than storing for a long period though as the aging process has already been jump started. As for home storage, wine should be stored in cool dark places with controlled humidity, not everyone has that kind of storage though. This is when you have to decide to either lower inventory of wine stored during summer months or drink faster. There are some simple and inexpensive fixes for all of these problems. Let’s begin with storage in a car; we have traveled to Napa Valley seven times, most of which have been during summer months. When arriving in the valley we always find a place to purchase a cheap Styrofoam cooler and a few ice packs, problem solved. Just make sure what you purchase will fit the size of your cooler.

As for home storage yes, you can drop your inventory during warm months or you can purchase a wine cooler. Wine coolers today come in many shapes and sizes with various options that can all dictate prices.  There is dual zone store which is neat, if you want your whites a tad cooler than your reds.  The units also come disguised as nice pieces of furniture with cherry or oak finish wood.  Just about any serious wine lover can find a storage unit suitable to their décor if they choose to display in a common area room and want the unit to blend in. A wine cellar is the best investment if you plan to store wine long term, or in large quantities.  If all else fails and you just can’t feasibly purchase any type of wine storage unit, be sure to keep your wine in a cool basement or lower level closet away from the sun and heat; just do not plan to store these wines long term. Wine purchasing and collecting can be lots of fun, just be sure to head the warning regarding high temps!

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Dog Days of Summer…

The dog days of summer are officially upon us.  Graduations have come and gone, Memorial Day weekend parades and the fireworks of the 4th are a distant memory.  Now the hot humid weather settles upon us for at least the next two months.  The time has arrived for vacations, staycations, and daycations or whatever else they call time off these days.  I always feel that the month of June goes by in a flash, it seems like every weekend something is going on and they fly by in no time. Before you know it, July is here.  As I had written in the Wisconsin posting, this summer I will be spending most of my time close to home.  We have a few daytrips… I apologize, daycations, planned and maybe an overnight here or there.  But no major trips until San Diego in September. 

 With the lack of travel planning required for this summer, I have begun to focus on our September trip.  I am excited to get back out to San Diego; it’s a beautiful city and one of my favorite places to visit.  Our trip includes a 4 night stay at the Hyatt in the Gaslight district and then a two night stay at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island in San Diego bay.  Being the winos that we are, we have already begun to research the local wineries.  I have never had an opportunity to visit a winery in San Diego County, so this will be a first. 

After doing some research I came across http://www.sandiegowineries.org/ which has provided a wealth of information about local wineries in San Diego County.  We have used the site to begin to compile a list of wineries we would like to visit on our trip.  Many are located to the north and west of the downtown district, but not too far for a daytrip…I guess it would be a daytrip as opposed to a daycation, because we would already be on a vacation…

I know that soon enough it will be time to head off on our trip, but I don’t want to rush it too much. The summer goes too quickly as it is.  So while I still have plenty of time, I am going to sit back with a bottle of wine and enjoy these lazy, hazy days of summer. Until next time salude!

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Twomey Cellars buys Monument Tree Vineyards

welcome-to-Twomey

Twomey Cellars announced on June 22 2010 the purchase of the acclaimed 17 acre Monument Tree Vineyard located in Anderson Valley California. The vineyard is one of Anderson Valley’s most sought after Pinot Noir vineyards. The 17 acre vineyard is named for a lightning struck redwood tree that stands guard over the hillside vineyard. Monument Tree vineyard is the main source of Pinot Noir grapes for Twomey Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir along with several other critically acclaimed Pinot Noir producers.

Twomey Cellars was founded in 1999 by the Duncan Family well known as owners of Silver Oak Cellars. Winemaker Ben Crane who focuses exclusively on Twomey Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc said “Monument Tree Vineyard is the kind of site you dream about when you love Pinot Noir.” For more information about Twomey Cellars and the sale visit their website at: http://www.twomeycellars.com/news/list_news

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Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2010

Sonoma Wine Weekend

The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend will once again be held Labor Day weekend September 3rd-5th. The three day event will feature 200 wineries and chefs providing participants with an unforgettable weekend of the regions world class wines and food! Wineries throughout Sonoma will participate in winemaker lunches, dinners and specialty dinners. The 31st annual Taste of Sonoma will be held Saturday 11:00am-4:00pm at the MacMurray Ranch. Finishing off a great weekend with the 18th annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction on Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm. Wine and food sampling, seminars, demonstrations vineyard experiences, and top chef competitions will all be a part of this great weekend! Produced by the Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation, the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend donates proceeds to local charities

For more event schedules, information and ticket purchases visit:

http://sonomawinecountryweekend.com

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Summer Garden Recipe

Green Beans and Zucchini With Sauce Verte 

Looking to use some of your fresh herbs you are growing in the garden this summer?  I just came across a great recipe in June 2010 issue of Bon Appétit; actually if you grow vegetables as well you can practically grow this whole side dish.  The recipe is Green Beans and Zucchini with sauce Verte (French meaning green sauce).  The recipe also provides a tip saying any extra sauce can be stirred into rice, couscous, or used as a fish or meat sauce if desired.

Sauce- 1/3 cup of packed fresh basil leaves, 1 green onion; coarsely chopped, 2 tablespoons of packed fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons of drained capers, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice,  2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove; peeled, 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.

To make the sauce blend the first 7 ingredients in processor until finely chopped.  With machine still running gradually add olive oil. Process until coarse puree forms.  Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  Can be made 1 day ahead, cover and refrigerate.

Vegetables- 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 pound of green beans; stem end trimmed, 12 ounce zucchini; halved lengthwise with each half cut lengthwise into 1/3 inch wide strips, 3 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley for garnish.

To prepare the vegetables, heat oil in heavy large non stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add vegetables and stir until coated with oil.  Sprinkle with salt and 3 tablespoons water. Cover; cook vegetables until almost crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.  Uncover, cook vegetables until just tender, approximately 2 additional minutes.  Stir in enough sauce verte to coat vegetables generously.  Season with salt and pepper, transfer to serving bowl and garnish with parsley.

For more great summer recipes, visit www.bonappetit.com, a great website and magazine for recipes to pair with your favorite wines.

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Robert Craig 2007 Affinity Cabernet

Robert Craig Affinity

While walking through the Cabernet section of my local liquor store this weekend, I spotted a familiar name; Robert Craig.  I say familiar as I recognize it based solely on the fact that I have treated myself in the past to some Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet and fell in love.  The Howell Mountain Cabernet sparked enough interest that I quickly purchased a few more bottles to store in the cellar as well as one as a gift for my sister’s wine cellar, but I still did not do my normal research to find out more about the winery.  I have no problem paying for quality wine, but I do reserve any wines over $50 for special occasions, so when I happened upon a 2007 Robert Craig Affinity Cabernet under that price mark, I became quite excited.  I was sure Robert Craig could not possibly make a bad wine based on my prior experience.  Well, once I looked past the label and saw the advertising tag on the shelf, apparently Robert Parker does not think Robert Craig can make a bad wine either. Parker gave this new Napa Valley Cabernet a very generous 96 points.  As I sit here swirling and sniffing and tasting, I realize I need to designate an area of my wine cellar for more Robert Craig wines…this Affinity is outstanding!  This Cabernet is a real treat still within a range that fits into the tighter budgets of 2010 while the economy is still trying to recover.  Not to say any of the Mt Veeder or Howell Mountain Cabs should be overlooked, just saying if you are watching your budget these days you can indulge in a fantastic Napa Valley Cabernet without guilt. Composed of 79% Cabernet, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec.  Aged 16 months in French oak, the wine offers lots of ripe berries and oak on the nose, with luscious fruit flavors mixed with cocoa and a very full, yet polished finish.  In my opinion worth every bit of the accolades the wine has been given.  In looking over the offerings from Robert Craig, I see there is also a Cuvee and a Zinfandel that I would love to try. I think my next trip to the Valley has to include a visit to Robert Craig.

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July 4th Celebrations

american flag

As I sit here on my patio relaxing I am kicked back in my outdoor recliner, which by the way is the best outdoor addition you could ever purchase, I reflect back on a weekend that in my mind will go down as one of the best July 4th holidays in all of my 55 years. Yes, Independence Day the start of our new country, free and independent, the USA! I am sure at times we here in the United States take for granted what this holiday means. We forget how many don’t have our rights and freedoms and that July 4th is a time not only to celebrate but also to remember how truly lucky we are. Granted our great country is going through some times of trials and tribulations, yet I firmly believe we will persevere! Now back to why I feel this July 4th was  one of my favorites. Let’s start with the weather; four days of some of the best weather we have had for the 4th since I can remember. Complete with days without a cloud in the sky, very warm temperatures and nice evenings. The great weekend began with a birthday dinner for my daughter in law.  Next up was a day of swimming and yard work, then a party honoring the high school graduation for the daughter of a good friend. After the party it was then home to family and more friends who joined us for an evening pool party complete with some fantastic food and special wine selections from our cellar. We started with some crisp Sauvignon Blanc, then a Cuvasion ATS Chardonnay, we rounded the corner to red wine with a magnum of  Titus Cabernet Sauvignon…A great night it was! We finished the weekend off with a day spent around the pool with my son and his wife enjoying some nice cold Rutherford Hill Sauvignon Blanc to cool down in the 90 degree temperature. Tomorrow it will be back to work with another fond memory of good times, good friends and family and a greater appreciation of the freedoms we enjoy here in our United States. I wish to thank everyone who was a part of making my July 4th weekend a fantastic one!