Strondin Bistro & Bar, Vik, Iceland

Was in Vik for two nights and had the choice of pretty much two restaurants. Might as well cover the territory. So the 2nd night checked out Strondin Bistro & Bar.

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A good amount to pick from on the menu but soup was something I really wanted because by Day 3 of the trip I felt like we’d have about a week of rain. Lamb is not a meat I truly have a taste for but that was the only thing I could pick from because the other soup/stew was diary based. So I went for the:

Heimalöguð íslensk kjötsúpa – Homemade Iceland traditional meat soup with lamb and root vegetables. 2,300kr.

It was quite good. The taste in the lamb was very subtle. And the rest of the ingredients were potatoes, onions, carrots that were very nice. The warmth brought it all together.

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Also needed some veggies. Iceland does not have an abundance of these things. But this Strondin place had a Miðjarðarhafssalt: salat m/sólÞurrkuðum tómötum, ólifum, fetaosti, tomötum, agurku og paprika – Mediterranean: salad with sundried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. 1,750 kr.

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That had to be one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ignoring the lack of veggies the prior few days, the unique combo of sun-dried and ‘regular’ tomatoes in the salad and the dressing it had; SO good!

They also had some delicious bread with some kind of herbs in it to make all this even better, that was just brought to the table.

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Finally, was enjoying all this with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Maronde Pionero from Chile, 1,250 kr. Wine was pricey as usual, but at least since I live in the DC-area, it wasn’t total sticker-shock.

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What also makes a dinner amazing is the staff. A bit shout out to Antonio, Jan and Lammi. They provided great service, making this dinner even better. Thanks!! So, when you’re in Vik, check this place out.

Also, this yellow object started coming out in the sky when we walked out of the restaurant, it was tough to identify. But it provided us this scenery.

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Hogue Cellars (reserve)

When checking out Yakima Valley awhile back, in the Prosser Region, we visited a relatively well known (I assume, because I see it fairly often) winery/wine maker — Hogue Cellars.

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Now jumping ahead a bit, I like splitting tastings because when you hit several wineries a day you’re going to taste a lot and drink a lot. You’re going to lose your taste and obviously have some alcohol… And somebody has to drive. But then, you start talking to these people. It’s a quiet day and they talk and talk, understand your love of wine and say ‘Oh, but you have to try this. And oh, but then…’ You don’t end up splitting a tasting.

We arrived, fairly quiet and opted to split the Reserve Tasting, for $5. You chose 5 of 9 wines you want to sip. These aren’t the wines you see on the store shelves with the label in the logo as noted above. They hold these labels:

We opted for:

2015 Terroir Viognier, Wahluke Slope — Our Viognier opens with fresh flora and exotic fruits aromas. Peach cobbler, citrus and a touch of pineapple intertwined with tropical mango and starfruit. It features a mouthfeel that is clean and crisp with soft acidity. $20 — Very nice nose, a bit sweet, definite starfruit taste (because you know, we know this off the bat because we eat it everyday).

2014 Terroir GSM Lonesome Springs Vineyard — 21% Grenache/40% Syrah/39% Mouverdre.  In the glass, the wine is young purple in color with a tint of red on the rim. Lively aromas of black raspberry, black pepper and spice with touches of vanilla cream. $28 — A bit oakey, chocolatey.

2013 Reserve Merlot Columbia Valley — This wine opens with aromas of wild strawberry, cherry, blueberry and dark meaty plum. Rich and weighty on the pallet with great structure and integrated oak. Flavors of black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg linger with a lasting finish. $30 —  NICE!!!! Bought a bottle for later. Fruit on the nose. Very fresh and fruity on the tongue. I have always avoided this varietal because of the movie Bottleshock and I wish I didn’t have that in my mind. This grape can be good.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain — Our Cabernet Sauvignon has amazing color and depth, along with some unique and exciting fruit flavors. Dried cherry, cocoa, fig and nutmeg balance the huge earthy, minerality Red Mountain wine. $32 — Nice and light for a cab.

2013 Terroir Petit Verdot Horse Heaven Hills — The inky Petit Verdot has a pleasantly massive richness and vibrant acidity. This wine starts out with black fruit, plum and cassis. Gamey undertones, bacon, black pepper and spice round out the mid-pallet along with flavors of dark chocolate and creamy coffee. Silky tannins with a chewy finish. $32 100% Petit Verdot. This is an ooohhhh so smooth wine. Very creamy. I didn’t find that it had a very chewy finish. You tasted this wine from start to finish. Very nice.

These were the first 5 and then I didn’t scribble down notes on the balance of them. We were poured at least 3 or 4 more. In the end, my friend ended up joining the Wine Club, option for the 3 bottle option. With that you get 3 bottles of wine from the exclusive Terroir and Reserve tiers on a quarterly basis. Cheers to that. We also got our $5 tasting fee refunded. Cheers!

Take me to the wine section

Have been meaning to write about many wines over many months.  Finally getting to it.  So, here is a compilation. Hopefully you’ll head to the wine section to grab some.

A friend had this one open last week, Rosa de Arrocal, a nice Spanish wine. Such a deep red rose.  It’s made with tempranillo.  Some nice fruit notes, a tiny bit of rose (the flower) and then I could taste the tiniest, tiniest amount of bubble gum? That’s all I could place it as.  It was a phenomenal wine.  About $12.  I just love the color!

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Next, Peach Canyon (Increbible Red) Zinfandel, from Paso Robles, CA. Side note on that.  I was working a wine tasting the other day and was pouring a Zin. A guy had to ask if it was Red Zin. All Zin that is wine is red. White Zin is not a wine.  If you put the word red in front of the word Zinfandel we have a problem/I do not want to associate with you.

On this label they are just noting that this is an incredible red wine.  So, very nice Zin that pairs well with many foods.  Not too heavy, some nice berry notes and a tiny bit of smoke (one of my favorites in wine).  You can usually find it for between $12-$15.

Also in this shot is one of my favorite inexpensive whites, New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  Has those nice citrusy notes that NZ SBs are known for.  Also the great easy-access (as I like to call it) screw tops that NZ uses.  Fairly dry and a bit acidic in a good way.  Prices range from $7-$10 normally.

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Next…Shoofly Shiraz from South Australia.  A nice versatile Shiraz that can be enjoyed solo or with any food, really.  Lots or berries and spices on there.  Cost is around $12-$15.

Then the Silver Palm Chardonnay. This picture is from a couple months back and they have changed the look of their bottle recently.  I noticed that last weekend in the wine shop.  I’m not a big Chard fan, but did enjoy this one because it’s done in steel not oak. It’s crisp with some lemon and a bit of peach.  Price is around $15, give or take a few dollars.

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Next is Gavi Masera.  This nice Italian vino was enjoyed at my friend’s place pre-dinner, or shall I better say while her husband was preparing (an amazing-to-be dinner). A very light, fruity wine, perfect for a hot summer day.  All tastes in the wine were very light and the color of the wine, almost water-like. Price is mid-teens.

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Another new one was Rawson’s Retreat (yes that link does go to an Australian store, it’s like the US Total Wine). This was a Shiraz Cabernet, oddly enjoyed while eating Ethiopian food. This one is from Australia. Based on what varietals it is from, it had some nice berry notes to it and subtle spice.  It has been hard to find around DC.  I found it at a random grocery store I had been meaning to go into – Snider’s Super Foods – didn’t expect a grocery store in MD to sell wine!  Regardless, price is around $8-$10.

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Now, Smith & Hook.  Enjoyed this after a friend told me to pick the wine for dinner from the wine rack. This one is a Cabernet Sauvignon.  I got some nice fruit and a chocolaty ending.  Bring it on!  The cost…looks like it can be $15-$18.

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Such a kind answer from this wine.  A friend brought this to a party, the Denada Cellars Red Blend. She bought it at Trader Joe’s.  That means I need to cross the line into DC or VA.  Darn MD laws!  She said is was under $10. I give it fruit and leather.  Bring it on!

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Had some friends over and one brought a Vina Eguia Rioja.  Normally I don’t reach out to riojas but this one is now definitely on my list. There are so many notes and flavors bouncing around your mouth when you sip it that you just need to get some to try it out.  Price range is $14-$18 (it’s so funny seeing the differences online).

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Attended at Wine Wednesday at Whole Foods in Georgetown/Glover Park.  If you live in DC and you don’t know about this, tune in, as they don’t advertise it.  Every Wednesday from around 5-7pm, for $5 you get 5 wines and 5 food stations.  It is awesome!

So the great one there was Lolea Sparkling Red/Sangria.  They have it in ‘normal’ bottles but also in pocket size.  It was about $7 for the pocket size and was perfect to enjoy with food (after nibbling).  Tons of great fruit flavors and would have been even better on ice.

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Now onto ‘real’ sparkling red.  This one is Italian and very dry — Piria Paltrinieri. Minerally and acidic.  Unique, worth trying, but not your traditional sparkling red.  Around $20.

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And another…Bench Cab Sauv. Overall great taste.  Some cocoa, long finish.  So smooth.  Price is $25, per the bottle.

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Hope some of these caught your attention and you head to your wine store/wine section to pick them up.

SA Winery Visit #2 — Franschhoek Cellar

To get to our 2nd winery, we only had to ride about 5K from the first.  Not too shabby.  Still very scenic!

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This next winery we visited was Franschhoek Cellar.

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For the tasting, we got to pick six to sample from the entire menu (versus being given specific wines).  That was great because between the entire three of us on the tour, we were able to taste almost everything!  And off we went.

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Statue de Femme Sauvignon Blanc — In the top 10 last year.  Light and crisp.  Another typical SA bargain at R50.

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La Cotte Mill Chenin Blanc — Tropical, pineapple taste.  R40!  Really, $4 for a bottle.  Love this place.  Note on the dates on the back labels, they write day/month, versus how we do month/day.

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Club Hose Rose – a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz and Cab.  The best way I can describe it would be powdery rose petals.  GREAT!!!!  R40.

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The Old Museum Merlot — Very berry-y.  NICE, for a Merlot.  There seemed to be quite a difference in SA Merlots.  I don’t normally like them but down there they are quite unique!  R50.

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Stone Bridge Pinotage — Nice, light and smoky, oh yes.  R50.

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The Churchyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Thick, chocolate, tobacco are the best notes to describe this one. R50.

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Last but not least was a limited release.  The Franschhoek Vineyards Shiraz, cellar door exclusive, no info about it anywhere except on the tasting sheet.  “The Shiraz grapes for this wine are from one of the highest most rugged vineyard sites in Franschhoek with singular personality and expression that compelled our winemaker Richard Duckitt to go to great lengths to preserve the tremendous concentration and purity of fruit in this exemplary Franschhoek wine.” — ‘sweet’, thick and smooth. R100.

Mid-way through this tasting after everything was poured, lunch was served and we were able to take our glasses outside to enjoy some great food and drink in the amazing weather.

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Non-Domestic Flights/Airline = Free (Amazing) Wine

I have been MIA from blogging for a bit because I spent the last two weeks in South Africa (with a couple days at the end in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls).  Amazing!  From scenery to culture…to food and wine (and some beer).  I was already expecting an amazing trip but it got even better on the first flight (of 8 over the course of the vacation) with the wine.  As many of us are used to paying for anything other than maybe water on flights (apparently some airlines charge for soda now), it was nice to have the hope of freedom when preparing for a long flight.  So as the flight attendant came around and asked what I’d like, there were various selections, all from South Africa (darn!) and I opted for one of the reds, a Merlot.  I don’t normally lean towards that grape, but why not, it’s free!  So, out came the bottle.  Oh, and before she moved on, she threw another one out there.  Most people were handed several bottles of wine on round 1.  Go South African Airways.  The Merlot was from Stormhoek.  WOW, that did not taste like a Merlot.  Unreal.  I wish I had scribbled some notes down but it just had some unique characteristics.  Their website doesn’t have a ton of info on where we could attempt to find this stuff here.  Darn!

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All alcoholic beverages had messages on the container, which of course are for safety reasons (took pics of most of them).  But this one is the best, and for good reason.  It was on this bottle of Merlot.

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Yes!  Because it tastes SO GOOD!

Another wine sampled just labeled what the trip and the country brought/bring — JOY.  It was a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  Amazing, amazing.  14.5% alcohol — few SA wines go low on alcohol content.  The winery works with a social upliftment project in a local town to improve the lives of residents (see label below).  Can’t find any information on the web about the vintner.  If you happen to come across something, please let me know!

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As the flights progressed, you find out you also get free wine on domestic flights…ahh.  So nice.  So, while going from safari to Cape Town, it was mid-day and I opted for a white and received a Chenin Blanc, Flutterby.  Nice and crisp, fruity.

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Other mid-day flights brought the perfect time to sample some Chardonnay, Liberty Chardonnay to be precise.  It was a traditional Chard, oaked, buttery.  Tough to track down the exact site for this one, too.

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These guys also make a fun sparkling wine.  It has a screw top, which makes it easy to open on the plane!

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On my last flight, back to the US, I had an amazing blend from Spier 1692.  It was Classic Red with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Amazing all around.

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Great way to taste a wide variety of local wine while not on the ground.  Love what South Africa has to offer!

Living (the) Social (Life)

Last weekend in DC, LivingSocial had a deal that looked good, almost too good.  Per the email, for $39 you could get a luxurious 1.5 hour Wine & Chocolate Tasting AND 4 bottles of wine to take home?  The tasting part included 6 tastings and nicely paired chocolates.  Then 4 FULL SIZE bottles to take home.  I figured even if they were roughly $10 bottles you break beyond even.  Only Two (or Three) Buck Chuck would make it a bad deal if you’re that picky.

So, a few friends and I took the plunge and checked it out.  It was nice!  Gorgeous set up, you check in, get a nice tasting glass (plastic, ergonomic with finger ‘area’ and stemless — SMART!) and wine tickets.  You travel from stations 1-6 and get a rundown on the wine and the taste, of course, and unique chocolate paired with it.  The whole place was not too loud and very laid back.

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The wines we tasted were 3 whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscato) and 3 reds (blend, Malbec, Merlot):

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Before we left, we each turned in our last tickets and were handed a box of 4 random bottles of wine.  They weren’t necessarily ones we tasted that night.  Between my friends and I, each of us had at least one of the bottles we sampled.  After some research, I found that the average cost of the bottles was about $9.  Not bad considering the price of the event.  Would love to see more of these come to town!

Aussie Wine Tasting

Last night there was a call from Down Under to taste their wine.  One must answer!  How can you go wrong?  It was taking place at Bin 201 in Annapolis, MD.  For $10 you taste(d) 8 wines and then you could apply those 10 bucks towards the purchase of a bottle.  And, if more than one person goes, you can combine your ‘credits.’  The two of us who went walked out with a ‘free’ bottle of wine.  Score!  They also serve cheese and crackers at the tasting.

So the night began:

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#1:  Pewsey Vale Riesling.  That was originally to be the 2nd in the tasting but turned out to be best as first as some previous tasters decided the notes made it best to go first.  Nice and dry.  You’re not drinking sugar.  The nose was flowery, the taste was lime.

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#2:  Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc.  Hand me the green peppers.  Or, if your recipe calls for some and you’re out, you could easily sip some of this instead.  Wow, very poignant, yet nice, nose and taste of them.  Also had some grapefruit notes.

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#3:  Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir.  Yes, it’s from New Zealand but they are pretty close together, yet so far away from here.  There was a light note of cranberries in the nose.   For taste, I found some ash and bit of cranberry.

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#4:  Misfit Brujeria.  I felt it was ‘thick and chewy’ and couldn’t pick up a flavor.  If I had to put something to it, the most I could say is chocolate, but that’s me.

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#5:  Tournon Mathilda.  Light wine with some eucalyptus on the nose.  Also carried the eucalyptus in the taste with a hint of jam.

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#6:  Tir Na N’og ‘Old Vines’ Grenache.   What a nose — chocolate and molasses.  Then it was like drinking molasses cookies with a hint of black licorice.

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#7:  Yalumba “The Scribbler” Shiraz/Cabernet.  I love their Shiraz/Viognier blend so was excited about this.  I could not pick up a taste from it though, unfortunately.

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#8:  Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon.  The most I can give is mint!

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And the entire menu/notes from Bin 201 were interesting.  I always try to sniff and taste before reading these to avoid the ‘brainwash.’  The Aussie tasting was great and can’t wait to see/taste what’s next.

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New All Around

Had some friends over for dinner the other night and there were new tastes all around the table, from cheese to salad to wine.

For pre-dinner, my friend was kind enough to bring non-cow milk cheese to make the lactose intolerant person happy.  One of them was a Honey Goat Gouda from Trader Joe’s.  I normally can’t stand goat cheese but love gouda.  This was totally on the good side.  I highly recommend it!  The other was a manchego from TJ’s that I’ve had before that is equally as delicious!  Great way to kick off the night.

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We had three wines throughout the evening, kicking off with a Virginia white.  The first was Rappahannock Cellar’s Viognier.  It was a nice local grape, pairing nicely with the appetizers.

For dinner I made a recipe I had been wanting to try for awhile — Citrus-Avocado Salad.  It was AMAZING!  For the tamari almonds it calls for, a friend gave me the great idea of making them vs. buying them to save money.  All you need to do is toss the almonds in some soy sauce, a couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and a pinch of sugar.  You bake them at 250 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Done!  For the blood oranges, sometimes they are tough to find.  I came across red oranges at one grocery store.  Otherwise I was going to use grapefruit or just regular oranges.

With this salad I served some pan seared (vs grilled because I live in an apartment and can’t have a BBQ) chicken breasts and quinoa.

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The wines we enjoyed with this included two reds.  One from Virgina — First Colony Cab from a winery in Monticello — very nice.  Again, I’m finding Cabs I like — something is happening to me.  The second red is one I discovered/was introduced to a few years back — Eleven.  It’s from Washington and the specific varietal was the 2008 La Ronde.

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Recap:  Great dinner.  Rave reviews around the table.  Now I just keep thinking about what the next meal will bring.  Cheers.

Fly Away With More MD Wines

And the fun continued with more Maryland wines.  This time I was fortunate to have them be only a block away with a tasting at Vino Volo (that’s where part of the title came from).  The mostly airport-known wine chain is expanding and Bethesda, MD (suburb of Washington, DC) was the first town to be fortunate enough to not require a boarding pass, standing in endless lines (unless they are super packed), taking your shoes off, putting your bags in plastic bins, having everything scanned and walking through the security gates.  So much better — you just get to enjoy wine right away!  You don’t drink away the pain.  You enjoy it just to enjoy it.

Every week they have a tasting, from well known vintners (tears were rolling down my cheeks in a good way when Silver Oak was there…) to medium size ones to local ones that are working to make a name for themselves.  After visiting MD wineries last weekend, I was able to taste wines from another one that is less than an hour north of here — Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard.  They sampled four varietals and all of them blew me away, white and red.

The first one sampled was the Pinot Grigio.  Had some nice fruity notes — pineapple, grapefruit.

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Next was a Viognier — crisp, sharp.  I can’t put a finger on the flavor, I just liked overall how powerful, yet subtle, it was for a white.  Another sip, please.IMG_1414

Now, on to the big business, reds!  That is my favorite color.  I didn’t know there was good reason for this when I was under 21.  The first was a blend…AMAZING.  Yes, bring me my wine!  This was the best wine of the night…Comus.  Five varietals packed a huge punch to give amazing flavors and tastes that surround your nose and mouth with endless wine happiness.

At this point as I write this, the great Tim McGraw song “Fly Away” comes into my mind because of how good wine is, those non-country lovers, just fly away with Vino Volo, and all of us, just love our wine!  Go pour yourself a glass if you don’t have one, or at least picture yourself with one.  Ok, back to grapes…

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Last but not least was one of my least favorite varietals that I will say, is totally growing on me.  Good things come with age, right?  Both wine and intelligence, perhaps?  Anyway, it was a Cab(ernet Sauvignon).  Very deep and complex.  The couple next to me was torn between this and the prior as to which was their favorite, but opted for the Cab.  Many people were split.  But as mentioned, when I find a Cab I enjoy, I love it and I could have had much more of this, so I was thrilled, Cab and MD?  Dang!!!

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So to wrap up, Maryland, you are setting a name for yourself!  Two weekends in a row, I am beyond impressed.  I am not a national reviewer or commentator but I haven’t normally been a fan of this area.  This is not a political comment in any way, shape of form, but I might start leaning a bit right…geographically, when I drink my wine.

Visit to the West Coast

I was quite surprised at my wine tasting last night (that I was preparing the food for).  I thought it would be all Oregon Pinots.  Well, not quite.

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Cab2As soon as I get there, I am served a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington.  My hosts are 90% Pinot drinkers and they said they were blown away by this wine.  I had a sip…smooth, velvety perfection.  Feather is the name, 2009 vintage.

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Next, we moved moved down a state to where I expected us to be — Oregon!  We had an amazing Pinot Noir.  Penner-Ash is from Willamette Valley and we enjoyed the 2011 vintage.  Nothing can describe this wine unless you drink it.  Nothing.

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Last but not least we took a trip to the most southern state on the West Coast.  We sucked it up and visited Cakebread.  Darn.  We sipped the 2010 Pinot Noir.  Life is good.