Waterbrook Mélange Blanc 2010

It’s that time of year where I tend to drink more white wine than I do the red stuff. Although, my real passion for drinking wine is in the deep garnet coloring of the delectable juice we know as “Wine”. The Waterbrook Mélange Columbia Valley 2010 vintage from Walla Walla, Washington is a surprising, wonderful concoction of 39% Riesling, 18% Pinot Gris, 14% Gewürztraminer, 10% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Viognier with an ABV of 11.8%. Don’t let the mere ABV percentage fool you, as this was packed with a variety of aromas and flavors.

Have you ever picked fresh peaches where you still have the twig and one leaf still attached to the peach? That kind of fresh peach aroma as you put it in the basket with a handful of other picked peaches is the kind of aroma that first hits you when you drop the “ol snozzola” into the opening of the wine glass. At first I thought “Is that it?” – well let that aroma savor for a bit. Then repeat the process of letting the aromas open in the wine glass, and uh, I would recommend using a Riedel or similar type wine vessel to open all the possible smells.

After you get the peach orchard smell, I found melon, honey, apricots, floral notes, fresh cut hay and lemongrass as additional aromas to the already present peach. The fresh cut hay and lemongrass were subtle yet letting you know its presence was real.  The flavors were a delightful blend of pear, apricot, peach and melon with sweet notes of honey. This clean, crisp white wine found the back palate with slight sweet vanilla notes. Although I wished this lingered longer than it did.

We served this well chilled with a baby spinach salad with bacon bits (from the fry pan, not from a jar – so pick your poison), thin apple slices (we used a Fuji apple but whatever suits your fancy & palate will suffice) topped with a mildly sweet salad dressing (recipe follows) and topped with chopped walnuts. For a meat protein topping, we used pan fried skinless chicken breasts sliced about an 1/8″ by 3″ (approx.) in a sage & onion infused olive oil (about a Tbsp) until cooked thoroughly. Just a note: the first glass of wine went down way too quickly but was an excellent complement to the meal. The second glass of wine sans the meal didn’t go as quickly but fear the bottle will not last through the evening hours on the deck. Not bad for a $13.99 bottle of wine. I don’t like spending a lot of money on white wines (there are a few though) and this was well worth the price we paid.

Salad Dressing:

3 Tbsp cider vinegar

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

1/4 cup shallots, minced

2 small garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and pour over the baby spinach, 1/4″ sliced bacon pieces, apples, strawberries (although the recipe didn’t call for this, we decided to add them) & walnuts. One thing of note – the above recipe is very vinegary, so my wife added more honey to sweeten it and that was more flavorful, so you’ll have to experiment a bit before pouring over the salad.



Connecticut Wine Festival – 2012

The CT Wine Festival was on the last weekend of July. The witless wine troupe (ah, that would be me & the missus and my sister- and brother-in-laws) started off the morning drive to the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen, CT under a partly cloudy sky but soon realized that it was not if it would rain, but when. We were hoping the inevitable dilemma of transparent moist daggers from the heavens would hold off long enough for us to enjoy the 4th annual CT Wine Festival.

The parking lot was as empty as could be, given that the wine festival would not open for another 30 minutes.

We arrived a half hour earlier than expected and you can see that we were among the brave and loyal wine enthusiasts to get a front row parking spot.

This is advantageous strategy on the part of us wine purveyors. You see, we didn’t need to worry about parking in the doldrums of the cheap seats, way back in swamp land, wondering if we would ever find the wine mobile without utilizing the panic button on the key fob.

Umbrella in hand, we marched on to the starting gate (see featured photo) to enter the world of fine wines.  You can see the line forming in anticipation of finding the best wines of the festival. Much to our surprise they opened the gates about 10 minutes before the announced starting times.

Fortunately we arrived early but so did many of the other wine enthusiasts as well but it was not yet to the point where you were four or five deep. So, the process of getting wine samples was still relatively easy to obtain. Here are just a few of the brave wine tasters waiting for samples or those purchasing wine.

Many of you have heard about our Fancy Schmancy Initials Club so, can you spot Sparing Sharon and Cousin Carl?

Once we sampled the wines and made our purchases we found ourselves outside the tasting barns and out in the open where the skies threatened numerous droplets of rain but we were determined to visit the vendors of other products than wine before the wet stuff began. I’m particularly fond of the vendors selling oils and vinegars.

Once we had visited the outside vendors we got back to the car – oh, look at the parking lot now.

So, if you want to park in the front row, get to the wine festival early. Now, the only thing left to do now was stop at Apricot’s restaurant in Farmington to top off a perfect afternoon wine tasting. But outside under the tent the rains finally poured down upon us (sorry no pictures of the rain as the camera was in the car). I have to remember that I have a phone with a camera in it.

If you’re looking for a fun day and want to taste wine from many of the state’s wineries, you’ll surely enjoy this outing. So, put a reminder on your calendar for July 2013 to visit the Connecticut Wine Festival

Chamard Vineyards – 2012

Nestled just past the Clinton Outlets and down to the left a bit is the entrance to Chamard Vineyards – you have to look for it though unless you’re using GPS then you should have no problem finding the winery. As I entered the short gravel road from the road I stopped to get a few pictures of the grapes pondering the obvious that soon I would see them again if only in liquid form began to warm my heat and soul and I was excited about another tasting.

After parking the wine mobile (a vintage Austin Martin two- seater, actually it’s a ’98 Buick Century, but that’s why dreams were invented) I mulled around the grounds a bit before venturing in for my tasting adventure and noticed quite a lot of activity going on. I believe they were getting ready for an evening event, of which I would not be partaking as I would be long gone before the festivities began. But I did peruse the back and just enjoyed the water fountain before going in.

Here’s the view from just outside the entrance of the tasting room.

As I entered the tasting room there were 4 or 5 tasters mulling about the wine bar and I went to the far end to begin the tasting ritual. However, there was only one person tending the wine bar and seeing as she was the phone taker person too, it was a good 14 minutes before I was asked if I wanted to taste some wine. Then another 6 minutes passed as she had to answer the phone again. Plus she stamped the wrong page on my Passport but that was easily fixed. It must have been a tough day for the wine bar staff. I didn’t complain though as I could see she was having a rough go at it.

Once they paid attention to me they said I could taste five wines for $10 with the small wine glass. I don’t know about you but it’s real tough for me to put my schnozzola in that wine glass. In my opinion this glass is only good for having a few ounces of dessert wine at the end of an evening meal – not for tasting wines. Or for $15 I could receive a Riedel white or red wine glass. Now we’re talking serious wine tasting as everything tastes better in a Riedel wine glass. So, I opted for the Riedel.

The first wine I tasted was the Stone Cold White ($14.99) made with Chardonnay grapes from California. Pear, fresh cut grass, and hayfield on the nose and on the palate I found pear and apple flavors with some decent acidity.

Next I tried the Gewürztraminer ($14.99) and this was produced with grapes imported from the Finger Lakes region of New York. Made in the Alsace tradition made this a bit drier than the German style Gewürztraminer. Apple, honeydew melon, and some pear on the nose all blending quite nicely. On the palate I found grapefruit and papaya. This was my favorite at this winery.

Next was their 2006 Estate Chardonnay ($19.99) which is estate grown grapes and fermented for 60% in oak and 40% in stainless steel. A golden color with hayloft (but not musty, more like fresh cut hay that was just stored in the hayloft) with some earthy notes too. Honeysuckle was the predominate flavor (or at least this was all that I could get from the wine), oh and a hint of lime on the finish.

The next wine was their Rosé ($14.99) and I was mildly pleased with the final product. The grapes are imported from Chile and made with 50% Malbec and 50% Merlot. I found herbal and veggie notes on the nose with some mushroom. Then on the palate were spice and cherry flavors.

The last wine on the tasting menu was the Merlot ($16.99) which was a blend of 80% Merlot, and a 20% blend of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot done in the Bordeaux style. Pepper, spice, and red cherry aromas wafted from the rim of the glass to give the taster a prelude of what to expect from the flavor. On the palate were cherry hard candy and pepper flavors.

They also have many songwriter/singer music venues as well. I might just try one this summer. See their website for dates/times as they’re usually held on the weekends.

Next week – Stonington Vineyards

Priam Vineyards – 2012

Priam Vineyards was the last winery visit of this wine trip and as it turned out it was a real good visit.  Not only did I talk with the wine staff, I also had several conversations with other tasters who happened to stop by . When I first walked in, Caroline, one of the wine staff wanted to know if this was my first visit (which was “No”, but first visit of the 2012 wine season) and she also asked if I wanted to do a tasting (and yes, I wanted to do a tasting).

Let’s back up just a frame or two…here is the entrance to the tasting room. And next to the cork wreath is their hours of operation.

Caroline explained they had two tastings to choose from. The first was $7 and included five wines and the other was $14 for eight wines with a larger signature glass for you to keep. I opted for the second tasting but I also indulged in the two Reserve and two Dessert wines on the menu as well. Each wine was an additional $2 each. What I didn’t expect was the barrel tasting Gary brought up from the cellar on the Salmon River Red which was quite a treat. Anytime you get to enjoy a barrel tasting please do so as you get a chance to taste future wine now.

So, Priam has two wine bars in which to serve the wines but seeing as there were only a half dozen tasters while I was there the first of the two wine bars was being utilized.

The first wine on the menu was their Chardonnay ($19.00) and it opened with apple and honeydew melon on the nose and followed with flavors of Peach Melba dessert and lemongrass on the palate. I’ll mention here that they stored this in stainless steel instead of oak and this is a first for Priam as they usually use oak barrels.

The second wine I tried was the Blackledge Rosé ($17.50) had summer fruits of fresh raspberries and strawberries on the nose. Although I prefer a hearty red I am warming up to drinking a Rosé from time to time. Pomegranate and plum on the palate with hints of white pepper. Another good thing about this wine is 15% of the purchase of this wine is donated to the Backus Hospital Breast Cancer Survivors Fund. It’s a good thing when local wineries give back to the community – this is why I like to support local wines.

Next up was the Riesling ($19.00) which is an Alsatian style Riesling, so it’s drier than some of the sweeter German Rieslings. I really am getting to like this type of wine a lot more than I ever have. It’s a very versatile wine and goes with a number of different cuisines. This had a fresh pear aroma with crisp, clean citrus flavors. On the finish I detected a bit of minerality that finished this tasting quite nicely.

The Jeremy River White ($16.50) opened with floral notes with a pleasing honeysuckle aroma. This semi sweet Riesling blend had peachy-pear and honeydew melon on  the palate with fresh fruit bowl on the finish. Very crisp with good acidity.

Late Harvest Riesling ($35.00) was the next wine I tried and as expected with many late harvest wines this was sweeter with a nice pear aroma and flavor. A pretty good after dinner wine to sip on out on the patio.

Caroline let me try the 2009 Westchester Red ($19.50) at room temperature which is a blend of six varietals (a well kept secret though) and opened with bing cherry and black cherry aromas. Sweet cherry and mocha flavors followed and had good tannins with a long semi-sweet chocolate finish. Then I tried this chilled (you know me with red wines – I like them room temperature and I actually cringe when someone tells me they put ice cubes in their red wine. But then again, that’s what’s so nice about wine – it’s all about personal taste.

Anyway, back to the chilled Westchester Red, now I found Cherries Jubilee as the aroma and Red Velvet cake with cherry sauce flavor on the palate. This was the best I had tasted here of this wine. I think I’m warming up to the idea of slightly chilled red wine. Why I’ll never know, but who knows what will happen next.

The Salmon River Red ($19.50) had red and black raspberries, blackberry, mulberry, some fig, tobacco, and leather on the nose. Blackberry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors with a long raspberry finish.

One of Priam’s reserve wines is the Salmon River Red PV ($32.00) had fig and pepper aromas with black cherry and chocolate on the back palate and it had a long, lingering finish.

Next up was the St. Croix ($22.50) and opened with cherry but not overpowering, a very subtle aroma with hints of oak. Cherry and raspberry followed on the palate. After this wine I tasted the Essence of St. Croix ($26.50) and found tobacco, leather, and earth notes on the nose. What followed was pure joy with sweet raspberry with hints of plum jam.

Then I had a real treat as Gary brought up a glass (not a sample mind you) of the Salmon River Red from the barrel in the back room. This had wild black raspberry and mulberry with chocolate and vanilla notes on the nose. Black cherry, bing cherry, and sweet ripe plum flavors with a smooth finish. Then I tried the same wine after having a Moser Roth chocolate which was 70% cocoa and definitely of European origin (my favorite). The flavor now became a Black Forest cake with cherries. It’s amazing how a wine changes complexity by the temperature it is served at or with certain foods it will take on a whole new identity.

Lastly, I tried the Late Harvest Gëwurztraminer ($35.00) and on the nose were floral notes with hints of peach, nectarine and apricot. As you would expect from a dessert wine the finish found sweet peach and pear on the palate.

Oh BTW, don’t forget to check out Priam’s unWINEd concert series. Every Friday from July through September from 6:00-8:30 pm you can enjoy a number of music venues. I went to one last year and plan on getting in a few in this year too.

Next week – Bishop’s Orchards Winery.

Coastal Vineyards

I didn’t think I had the right place as I drove up and there was only one car in the driveway and it didn’t look open. So instead of just wandering off into the sunset I decided to call them to inquire if I was in the right place. Ah, indeed I was as Joyce, the sommelier came out of the back of the house and directed me to the tasting room.

As you can see the wine bar can accommodate about three tasters at a time. When I arrived I was the only one there and half way through my tasting another couple showed up and the bar was at full capacity. Don’t let the small bar area fool you though as the wines were quite good. They only had five wines available during my visit and it was worth the visit, I’m glad I called. I can’t remember what the tasting fee was as I do not have this in my notes, I’m presuming it was minimal, however I do not see a signature wine glass in my wine glass collection so I’ll presume they did not give one out. On to the wines I tasted.

Pinot Gris: Pear, peach, and nectarine aromas with crispness and good acidity on the palate. The flavors were much the same as on the nose. This was chilled just right.

White Wine: A blend of the Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer grapes provided a floral bouquet that ended with ripe pear on the palate.

Gewurztraminer: Floral and fruit bowl aromas on the nose led into tropical fruits, pear, and apple flavors with a clean, crisp acidic finish. Very nice.

Vidal Blanc: Floral notes on the nose with apple and pear on the palate and the sweetness balanced quite well with the acidic finish.

Seaside Red: A blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Chambourcin. It had a light garnet color with a light berry aroma. Candied red apple and cherry on the palate with subtle hints of mocha and vanilla. A very decent New England red wine that I was quite pleased with.

Their vineyards are 95% planted on 8 acres of land with the other 5% of the grapes coming from local wineries truly encompasses the ideal of being a local winery, not that world wide wines aren’t good but local wines in New England are starting to get some recognition.

So, when you get a chance, stop by their tasting room and experience their wines as they only produce around 600-700 cases per year. They also bottle exclusively with screw tops, but with an average of 3% spoilage from tainted corks I can fully understand the need to incorporate this into the wine bottling process. You all know how I feel about corks but I would rather open the wine with the knowledge that what’s inside will be fresh and delectable.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

The Magnificent Wine Co. 2008 House Wine White

Okay, I’ve been neglecting my white wine drinking oenophiles for awhile now so I bought this on a whim as I liked the simplicity of the label with the stick house and figured I’d give it a try. Well, this was anything but simple as this straw yellow colored wine from Washington State in the Columbia Valley produced floral, pear, honeysuckle, and peach aromas that took its time traveling through my schnozzola and I enjoyed every second of it. I almost didn’t want it to end. Alas, it must come to end at some point.

On the palate I found numerous flavors of pineapple, pear, apple, peach, tangerine, and lemon that was crisp and clean. I wasn’t surprised to get so many aromas and flavors as this white wine is a delectable blend of Chardonnay 78%, Riesling 11%, Muscat 5%, Gerwurztraminer 5%, and Pinot Gris 1% – gee, ya think? Make sure you serve this chilled as it goes quite well with seafood dinners, creamy chicken dishes, and spicy Asian food. I’ve decided to make this 13.5% ABV a staple in my wine cellar and priced at $10.99 is a very good buy.

Sakonnet Vineyards

The ride from home to the coastal region of Rhode Island began with a beautiful gorgeous day that was sure to thrill me mile to mile on my trek of New England wineries. First up on my Rhode Island tour and Coastal Vineyards Passport series is Sakonnet Vineyards.

On the back roads of Rhode Island I reached the Little Compton winery via a scenic route indicative of the New England coast. Driving down the long dirt road (yes, we continue to go down long dirt roads) the winery is in the tradition of New England style coastal homes with plenty of room for outdoor seating in a multitude of areas: by the pond, by the vineyard, outside the vineyard tasting room entrance, outside the tasting room under a covered patio. There is a lot of room to sit if you want to spend a bit of time here. The grounds were manicured exquisitely without a tree limb out of place, but of course that was before tropical storm Irene hit so I’m sure they came under some high winds and plenty of rain.

Once inside the small boutique shop, there were many wine items to buy at reasonable prices. You also paid for your wine tasting here which cost $10 for six wines of your choosing plus you get to keep their signature wine glass. Entering the tasting room you immediately realized it was quite large with room for a couple of dozen tasters at a time and along the walls were racks of their wine ready for the taking. Once inside the room, I walked right to the wine bar and patiently waited to begin my wine experience.

Here are the wines I tried:

Vidal Blanc: This wine opened with grapefruit and orange zest on the nose with a nectarine flavor with hints of lemon-lime on the finish. Quite a nice tasting wine that I would tempt to pair with a cedar plank salmon, roasted red potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. And yes, sourdough bread would be nice too.

Gerwurztraminer: The Estate grown, French style dry Gewurztraminer would go well with spicy Asian cuisine as it opened with spice notes on the nose with a lemongrass flavor and nice acidity.

Chardonnay: Steel fermented this opened with apple on the nose with a slight hint of pear. The apple continued to the palate but the pear was missing so this wine didn’t do it for me.

Rhode Island Red: Their most popular selling wine found black cherry on the nose and the flavor as well with a slight peppery finish.  I had a bottle of their 1999 vintage about  eight or nine years ago and it was much better than their current release, hopefully with cellaring it will be just as good.

Cabernet Franc: One of my favorite wines (well, I guess most wines are my favorites) the medium ruby colored wine found bell pepper and the aroma was almost like standing in a back yard garden. Plus there was a lingering fig aroma too. It was actually quite pleasing. This medium bodied wine found red cherry and pepper flavors complementing the aromas quite well.

Claret NV – 35th Anniversary: Blackberry aroma with fig nuances on the nose with a hint of bacon just starting to cook. Cassis and black currant on the palate. A slight pepper finish most likely white pepper. A nice stand alone wine as well as pairing it with a grilled steak, corn on the cob, and a garden salad with balsamic vinegar dressing.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

Jonathan Edwards Winery

Driving through the country roads in North Stonington on a warm summer day you get to see everything in bloom providing you’re in the right season that is. One thing to mention here is I didn’t have to drive down a long rock road. Instead when you reach the winery you immediately park right off the road.

Once you parked and got out of the car, you are impressed with the beautiful vineyards and the manicured lawns. The enormous white building just in front of you reminds me a lot like Napa Valley with a New England flair. While walking up the stone steps, the iron railing is what caught my eye with intricate designs including the proverbial grapes on a vine.

Jonathan Edwards’ lawn is huge and off to the right of the tasting room is where they place a large tent for their wine festival. If you haven’t been to their wine festival or music venues then you have missed out on the fun.

Once inside the tasting room the area is quite large and the tasting bar will easily accommodate 12-15 tasters. Out on the back porch you can sit and look at the view of the North Stonington hills as well as enjoying a glass of your favorite JE wine. The tasting fee was $12 for eight wines plus a signature glass or $6 for four wines without the signature glass. I was interested in tasting their Connecticut wines so I opted for the $6 wine tasting as I have a few of their signature wine glasses at home.

Here are the wines I tasted:

2010 Estate Connecticut Pinot Gris: Fresh cut grass and pear on the nose with a honeydew melon flavor. A very nice wine which would pair well with fish or spicy foods.

2010 Estate Connecticut Gewurztraminer: This was a really good tasting wine with fruit, mostly peach, on the nose. Fruit flavors on the palate, nice acidity, and a slight spicy finish. I really liked this one.

2009 Estate Connecticut Chardonnay: This Chardonnay opened with pear and lemongrass on the nose. Pear was the dominant flavor although I did detect a hint of lemon and vanilla. This sizes up well to their Napa Valley Chardonnay quite well.

2008 Napa Valley Syrah: The aromas consisted of earth and cedar while the flavors were of chocolate and red raspberries with a hint of spice on the finish. This would go well with most grilled foods.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

What Was Your First Car?

The first car I ever owned was a Midnight Blue Pontiac Tempest with the slant six which had a lot of power and was priced much cheaper than my most sought after car – the GTO. However I learned to drive on a 1954 Chevy Bel Air with a three speed on the column. It didn’t take me long to drive it right into a tree stump ending an aspiring race around the tobacco field. Geez and I was leading all the way too. Back to the Tempest. This car was in pristine shape until one night my father woke me up from a sound sleep (you know, the way teenagers are supposed to sleep – don’t wake me till noon). Well a little after midnight, more like after 2 am during the Christmas holidays I can feel someone shaking me right out of my dream and I visioned that my father was hovering over me like I had been in a deep coma (did we snore as teenagers? It’s been so long I forget). Anyway, I manage to open my eyes and realize I wasn’t dreaming at all and my father really was hovering over me. He said “Get up, someone just smashed into your car”. Of course as a teenager you never believed your parents about anything, after all they were old weren’t they? It took several minutes for me to realize my dad was telling me the truth and I got dressed and found the guy who smashed into it was right in our living room drunk out of his mind. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have been so mad if at least I had wrapped it around a tree stump (see earlier note about tree stumps). Come to find out after reviewing the wreckage the drunk guy couldn’t move away from my car (which he tried to do by the way) as his right front fender was wrapped around my left rear bumper hampering his alleged and proposed get-away. As a result of this I received a minor settlement (which wasn’t much) and I went out and bought a cheap ’62 Chevy Bel Air which didn’t even have a key (bought it for $50 which was a lot of money back in the ’60’s) so I had to leave the car in the on position. To start the run down heap I would take a screwdriver and open the hood and hit the starter to get it going. I swear I put more oil in the junk than I did gas. What was it 4G’s said? “oh, the humanity” So, what did I learn from all this? Well, for one don’t park your car on the street, don’t lose any sleep over it, and don’t buy any junk cars.

Well, can you remember what your first car was? Any good or not so good memories?

If you fall into any of the above categories here are a couple of wines to make things a bit better – but don’t drive after you had the wine.

Line 39 2009 North Coast Petite Sirah. Tobacco, clove, and black cherry aromas lead into plum, black cherry, and cassis flavors on the palate. A really nice black berry finish with a hint of mocha (I’m beginning to think this might be dessert). $9.99, 84 rating. This was served with corned beef, cabbage, and carrots.

Chateau St. Jean 2003 Sonoma County Gewurztraminer. Peach, grapefruit, and floral notes on the nose with peach and mango flavors with a smooth honey finish. $16.99, 85 rating. Paired this with angel hair pesto pasta with chicken, red and yellow bell peppers, broccoli, and yellow squash.

Esser 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Black cherry, clove, smoked bacon, and pepper aromas awakened the palate to subtle cherry and pepper flavors. $8.99, 83 rating. This wine was consumed as a stand alone wine, but would surmise this to go well with steaks, lamb, grilled burgers, and the like.


Tobacco Road

One of the best jobs I’ve ever had was when I was a teenager working on the tobacco farms in northern Connecticut. Back in those days many of the tobacco farms were owned by individual small farmers and you got the sense the owners cared for their employees and the community. The majority of the tobacco grown in Connecticut were either broad leaf or shade tobacco and was used as the outer wrapper for cigars. I’m not going to get into the morality or health issues of what smoking does to you nor am I going to lecture anyone. I’ve seen it first hand and it isn’t pretty. Enough said.

Back to the fun part of working on tobacco which reminds me of the camaraderie you gain from working with others your own age and others that were over the age of thirty and part of that group you didn’t trust as a teenager. Overall, I finally came to realize the over thirty crowd were pretty neat people.

I was able to work just about every aspect of tobacco from hoeing, to suckering the young plants (a dirty, nasty job) to picking ripe leaves, to laying irrigation pipes, preparing the hoses and lanterns for firing up sheds, to picking up the tobacco baskets and loading them on the rigs for transport to the sewing sheds. This was the best part – the tobacco sheds. This is where all the teenage girls worked (ooh, I hope my wife isn’t reading this post). But this was the gathering place for us guys to talk about anything as long as we could steal a few looks at girls of our age and let our minds wander. Well, while our minds are wandering we forget some very basic fundamentals like setting the parking brake on the tobacco rigs we used for hauling around the green stuff. That is, if we didn’t take the turns in the dirt road too fast and have a bunch (you remember my definition of bunch?) of the tobacco baskets jump off the rig without telling us. We usually found out when the owners would come to the tobacco sheds and explain the finer points of driving in the tobacco fields.

Anyway, one day us guys were chatting and waiting for the shed crew to unload our rigs so we could get back to Nascar tobacco racing whilst we were checking out all the teenage girls sewing the tobacco. One of our compadres forgot to set the parking brake on his rig. Lo and behold, when it was his turn to drive the rig up the the shed to have it unloaded he hinted that one of us took his truck and “where was it now!”. Well, did I tell you there was an irrigation pond just down the slope from the tobacco shed? Maybe I should mention that here. You wouldn’t believe the site as the entire back side of the rig was immersed in the irrigation pond and this episode of Tobacco Road was known as truckey in the lakey as we had a lot of non-English speaking people working on the farm and I’m sure something got lost in the translation, but hilarious nonetheless. These are stories you won’t forget and some of us wish it were forgotten altogether. Well, I hope you remember what I said about memories.

What was your favorite job? Okay, on with the wine reviews.

Raymond 2008 R Collection Lot # 7 Field Blend. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel. Notes of cherry, white pepper with hints of smoked bacon aroused the snozzola leading into red and black raspberries with a hint of clove flavors on the palate. Great tannins with a velvety blueberry finish. $9.99, 91 rating. You can bring this to any party you are invited to and you’ll be the topic of discussion when it comes to picking the right wine. You’ll be an instant hit with the host and hostess. Especially if you’re at a cookout in the summer or cooking this in the winter over the gas stove, as I paired this with a black Angus beef burger with red onion, lettuce and tomato on a whole grain white hamburger bun. Nothing else, no fries, no baked potato, no coleslaw, no potato salad, no nothin’. You can add cheese if you want. Really, I can’t believe the good fortune I’m having lately with wines that fit into Cousin Carl’s low priced reds category. Buy this, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Next time I get back to the wine merchant I’ll probably get half a case of this to keep on hand.

Trimbach 2007 Gewurztraminer. This white wine opens with floral aromas with rose and ginger being the more dominant aromas. The palate found citrus flavors with nectarine and grapefruit nuances. A nice pleasing finish. $14.99, 87 rating. Pair this wine with spicy, Cajun, Thai, or Indian dishes.

Concha Y Toro 2009 Frontera Carmenere. Plum, vanilla, and toast aromas preceded a red raspberry flavor with a bit of a coffee and mocha finish. I did not find this wine to be as intense as some of the other Carmeneres I’ve tried in the past although it is a decent wine for the price. $7.99 for a 1.5 liter bottle, 77 rating. This goes well with stir-fry, vegetable or meat, using teriyaki sauce.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…