Weekend Winos

Enthusiasts in search of quality libations to enhance weekends.


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Stroll the Alameda: Exploring the New Neighborhood

Stroll15CardsWhat a great event to make new acquaintances with wine and beer lovers as well as local businesses! 

We convinced the group to join us for a local event Stroll the Alameda to explore the neighborhood, specifically The Alameda in San Jose, CA.  At first there was limited enthusiasm, but by the end of the afternoon, as we enjoyed some much-needed nourishment at Rosie’s New York Pizza, everyone agreed it was a lot of fun.

The event was well-organized with 20 wine/beer tasting locations to visit. We checked in to receive our wristbands and tickets which included 12 tastings, and then we were off. Most of us were not familiar with this area, and we struck gold at our very first stop Schurra’s, where we found delicious chocolates paired with Lightheart Cellars wines.  Other standouts for various reasons included Travieso Winery, Savory Kitchen, Seeker VineyardGreen Design and Wine Affairs.  A constant in this area is J. Lohr Vineyards with their tasting room right off The Alameda.

The libations providers and local merchants included:

Sarah’s Vineyard • 5 Color Cowboy; Stroll2015Travieso Winery • Metamorphic Tattoo; Various Wines • Tee Nee Thai; Lagunitas Brewing • Crossfit Silicon Valley; Fenestra Winery • Green Design; Santa Clara Valley Brewing • La Dolce Velo; Drake’s Brewing Co. • All-American; Stefania Winery • Mission Pipe; J. Lohr • Art Boutiki; Strike Brewery • Art Boutiki; Aimee June • The Arsenal; Guglielmo Winery • Alameda Artworks; Fortino Winery • Alameda Artworks; Lion Ranch • San Jose Made; Seeker Vineyard • Black Bird; Das Brew • Black & Brown; Lightheart Cellars • Schurra’s; Coterie Cellars • Savory Kitchens;Mission Creek Brewing • Whole Foods

This is an event that we will add to our regular list.  Already looking forward to the 2016 Stroll, and in the meantime we will be back to enjoy the new acquaintances we made.

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The Prosecco “Plus” Cocktail Challenge

Prosecco Cocktails At a recent weekend winos group gathering we feasted on everything Italian.  What a treat!

It was a sunny afternoon, and everyone had bubbles on their minds, so we quickly decided to kick off the celebration with some prosecco cocktails:

La Marca Prosecco Plus Limoncello

La Marca Prosecco Plus Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup

Other than color (and yes color does influence preference) the degree of sweetness was a key determining factor.

Appearance: The cocktail plus the hibiscus flower was a winner in overall look, it does look exotic and attractive.

Sweetness: While both the limoncello and hibiscus flower syrup are sweet, the overall IMG_3141_4perception was that the hibiscus flower syrup was too sweet. Even when no syrup was added (which some with a sweet tooth did), just the flower in the prosecco was enough to make it too sweet.

Refreshing: The cocktail plus the limoncello (stored in the freezer) was more refreshing.

Overall: The prosecco plus limoncello was the one that most everyone went back for seconds and in some cases more.

These cocktails, with the accompanying bruschetta, were a great start to a long evening of celebrating every Italian!


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The Common Folk Wine Descriptors List

wineIt is with great respect to sommeliers and wine experts around the world that our group took on the subject of creating the “common folk” list for describing wines.

Just Google “wine descriptors” and you find 393,000 results in 0.32 seconds, they include how to articles,  infographics, posters, charts, Wikipedia, descriptors for dummies, and obviously many, many more.  Just videos you find 50,600 and there are lots of photographs too.

On a Friday night, after a long work week, we each brought a bottle of wine ($10 to $60) an made notes of terms we would use to describe them.  At the end of the evening we each handed in our notes (some more legible than others, many with red wine stains) and agreed we would get back together to discuss.  Remember, we are just a group of common folk that enjoy getting together to learn about wine and other libations.

The Common Folk Wine Descriptors List  (in no particular order)

Red, White, Rosé, Bubbly (yes, we did have some champagne)

Buttery: creamy, oily, smooth

Robust: best with food, feels heavy

Smooth: a pleasant experience from beginning to end

Jammy: like jelly

Fruity: peaches, apples, citrus, you know it is some fruit but not really sure what

Light: refreshing (in this case applied to a white wine)

Bold: from the first sip, wham, it hits you hard

Complex: lots going on, can’t really pinpoint a unique quality

Elegant: simliar to smooth

Juicy: very light red wine, almost like grape juice

And of course: Like, Don’t Like

I must admit, our list does not appear to be very profound or sophisticated compared to the more official lists.  Well, we’ll just have to keep tasting and studying to become more proficient.  In the meantime, just knowing what we like is a good start.

 

 


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Box Wine – Tip It Maggie Style!

Box WineYes we did!  We all walk by the box wines at the grocery store, local pharmacy and corner stores.  We talk about them, in theory, and debate if they could be as good as wine in a bottle.  Well, we bought some and put them to the test.

First, Tip It! We drank a toast to Maggie Griffin, our favorite TV mom, and actually Kathleen’s (Kathy Griffin) mom. She almost single-handedly made box wine popular. We met her on the TV show: Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and at 90 years old she published her book Tip It! The World According to Maggie.  She says: “You know how a box of wine is never empty just because the spigot seems to have run dry (There’s always a little more if you just tip it!)”

Box Wine

Box Wine

This was a first for all of us! We focused on 3 different brands of Cabernet Sauvignon, all 2013 vintage (I think). Overall, the Tetra Pack® box seemed to be a standard.  Boxes are convenient, earth-friendly, they look  good and the functionality is as you’d expect, they all open and reseal easily and tight. And yes, they are all very affordable around $4 for the 500 ml box. In all cases we aerated them, for some we should have hyperdecanted them.

Liberty Creek: From Modesto, CA, a good table wine.

Vendange: From Acampo, CA (near Stockton), a bit lighter than the other two in color, body and taste.

Black Box: From Madera, CA, the grapes they use for the cabernet are from Valle Central Chile.  This was our favorite! An excellent price/quality ratio.  A full-bodied, yet very smooth cabernet.

I guess it is no surprise that like all wines, everyone has their personal preference and some wines just taste better than others. I know that I will try other box wines, especiallyBlack Box, to see if my first try was beginner’s luck or if they are just very good wine, especially for the price.

 

 


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The Sazerac Bar

The Sazerac BarA few of us recently met up in New Orleans – do I need to say more?   Yes!

The whole trip was great, but the time we spent at The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel was fantastic!

Truth be told,  we did not specifically plan on going to this bar, but a few of the weekend winos were staying at The Roosevelt Hotel.  We did want to taste the Sazerac drink, a traditional New Orleans cocktail, and this place made it a great experience.

BarThe whole ritual of the two chilled old-fashioned glasses, cognac or rye, bitters, absinthe and the muddled sugar cube is great to watch, and even better to consume.  It is a strong drink and pricey, but worth every penny of it.

The bar is dark and soothing, with comfortable leather couches (we were there at an off-time, so we could sit back and relax). An old-school kind of bar with dark wood,  definitely first-class atmosphere.  You can’t help but feel like you are transported back to a different era.  The service is impeccable and  the mixologists really know their craft.  There is a lot of history here and the servers take pride in making it more than a drink at the hotel bar.

menu

The Official Sazerac Cocktail Recipe (courtesy of The Sazerac Company

1 cube sugar

1½ ounces (35ml) Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon

¼ ounce Herbsaint

3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Lemon peel

Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube.  Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.


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Amarone della Valpolicella – A New Find!

Amarone

Amarone

At a recent group dinner, we discovered Amarone.  What a treat!

A couple of weekendwinos had just returned from Italy and were delighted to find that the restaurant we selected offered a great selection of Amarone wines and they were eager to have the group share what they had experienced on their trip.

The wines full name is Amarone della Valpolicella, it is made in the Valpolicella region north of Verona in northern Italy.They use the same blend of grapes as Valpolicella but the grapes for Amarone are laid to rest and partially dried for 3 to 4 months. This approach, called appassimento, results in grapes of an intense flavor and high sugar content,making Amarone a very rich and complex wine with 15% or more alcohol.

IMG_1694The word Amarone translated to English means bitter, this was intentional to differentiate this robust wine from the extremely sweet Recioto also produced in the Veneto wine region.

We were fortunate to enjoy two very good bottles, the Amarone Classico was smoother and of higher quality, but both were perfect with our Italian dinner and embellished many of the stories from recent rips to Italy.


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Lake Tahoe 29th Annual Autumn Food and Wine Festival

WoodworkI don’t know if it is the altitude, good friends, wine, beer, sake, cooking demonstrations or the art but….this event is fantastic! We try to get to The Village at Northstar for the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival every year.  Although we are tempted by many of the events from Friday to Sunday, we always default to The Village Wine & Brew Walk on Saturday from noon to 4 pm. And that’s what we did this year!

With more than 35 wineries, breweries and distilleries participating, we had a full schedule. Luckily the Truckee Sourdough Company and Fab Delights Chocolate Truffles were also participating. Their bread and chocolates are “oh so delicious” and a perfect intermezzo for the libations.  Wine merchants can not sell their wines at the event, this creates a more relaxed and enjoyable experience — the type of experience you’d expect in beautiful North Lake Tahoe.

SilkwoodOnce again, we uncovered some wines that we had not tried before, some that stood out included:

Silkwood Petite Sirah: In its third reincarnation, this small Modesto, CA winery had some very smooth rich wines.  They are proud to point out that they sell their wines in 21 states, Japan and HongKong.  In fact Japan Airlines selected their Syrah as the only American Red Wine to be served in First Class.

LucchesiLucchesi Zinfandel: From their “View Forever Vineyard” in the Sierra Foothills, Mario and Linda Clough produce some delicious wines.  We all agreed to make Grass Valley a destination trip to experience the View Forever Vineyard first hand and relax as we learn more about their collection of wines, their Italian heritage and their family escapades in South America.

Schug

Schug Pinot Noir: A family affair with German roots, the winery is located in the Sonoma portion of the Carneros Appelation. What a great family story and the wines are fantastic.  On our list for our next Sonoma adventure – a self-guided tour after learning more about the wines, buy a few bottles of wine, enjoy their picnic tables and the views.

No doubt the 29th annual Lake Tahoe Wine and Food Festival was an adventure we will always remember and now the countdown begins to the 30th annual event.  We’ll be there!