A Hasty Brunch

While we were in Las Vegas, my Favorite Daughter was making plans to come to Detroit to do some visiting and get some Rest and Relaxation.  She wanted to make sure that she still got the corporate rate here for her Bed and Breakfast.  She figured that dear old Dad could be wrapped around her pinky.  You just know that I was going to be a fierce hotelier.  Well, we had to start making some plans, of course, she had other things on her mind, and being with us for the entire time, was not part of her plans.  So, we decided to throw a brunch and invite a bunch of people over for her to see, and then she would still have her evening free.

I have to admit the house smelled great that morning.  The aroma of both Canadian bacon and a maple glazed brown sugar traditional bacon was just awesome.  She was making hash browns with onions and cheese.  My Bride was also making a couple of different types of quiche, one classic and one a bit more unique.   As good as everything looked and smelled, I was praying that we wouldn’t run out of food.

Of course, Brunch without wine would just be breakfast and what fun is that.  So, we had to have some Mimosas, which are probably the easiest drink to make and consume early in the day.  I also decided that I would use a couple of sparkling wines that were not Brut finish, so that more people would find it easier to drink.  One of the wines that we used for this drink was Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG NV. The Kirkland brand is from the Costco Company, and I believe that I have read that they are now the largest wine retailer in the United States and they have been selling an assortment of different wines with their own branding. Asolo Prosecco is one of the newest DOCG designations from the Veneto district of north-eastern Italy, as well as a Prosecco DOC designation. These new designations now allow only wines from this area to use the Prosecco varietal, and sparkling wines outside of this district must continue using the older, less known varietal of Glera.  The other wine was one of our favorites from Michigan, L. Mawby Vineyards is a serious winemaker, and one of the wineries that my Bride would never forgive me, if we didn’t go there on the trip to Suttons Bay, even though they now have the Ann Arbor Vin Bar. This winery only makes sparkling wine and notice that I did not say Champagne or even American Champagne, since there is almost a universal trade agreement that only allows Champagne from the Champagne district in France to be called it, though there are a few wineries that are “grandfathered” in that can still label their wine as “American Champagne.” Even though the winemaker is very serious, the winery is a fun place, and when we went to one of the tasting areas, our server/host for moment grabbed a hammer and hit a gong to announce that a tasting was going. They produce quite a bit of bubbly and the winery has two labels to differentiate the winemaking process that they use. The M. Lawrence line is division is made using the bulk process, also referred to a “cuvee close” or the “Charmat Process.” I will mention this group of wines from Brut to Demi-Sec, or the level of sweetness. The US label is a Brut wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Sandpiper is a Semi-Dry wine that is a proprietary blend and that is all I was told. These wines are made in small batches and fermented in the “cuvee close method” as indicated on the label. I prefer a little more sweetness myself in this type of wine, as I am always afraid that extra dry can have little nuance. I am happy to say that I could taste some fruit, and a little oak which made it more appealing.  To be truthful I would have enjoyed either of the wines without the orange juice, which I did, just to make sure that they would be up to snuff.  I am sure that my Favorite Daughter appreciated the fuss we did for her benefit.

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Two Theme Games

I almost forgot to mention that when we were out in Las Vegas, our son gave us some presents for Christmas. Most people say that I especially am hard to shop for, but I don’t know if that is true. I used to listen to my kids constantly tell me that I should have gone on the Jeopardy television show when they were growing up, because I would be in another room doing a project and I would announce the answer, before any of the contestants would. I guess my brain is filled with useless bits of knowledge, because the only phone number that I can remember was the one to our home in Detroit when I was a kid, and back then the phone numbers had exchanges like “Vinewood” instead of 84, for any of you that wonder why there are still letters under each digit on a phone keypad. My ability to recall these random bits of memory did make me very popular if I was on a team playing Trivial Pursuit when the game came out, but I was not that popular for the opposing team. All of this rambling brings me back to the subject of the gifts that I brought back.


The first gift was aimed at my Bride, because she is the culinary one among us, I like to eat, but she has a real talent for cooking. I may never starve, but she is the talented one. Her gift was a game called “Foodie Fight,” a trivia game for serious food lovers. I liked the quote from Mario Batali “play this fun game after your next dinner party. The losers have to wash the dishes.” This compact game comes with a board, game pieces and a die. It has six different categories including “celebrity chefs,” “food science” and “proper dining etiquette.” An example of the type of questions in this game is “Who was the host of America’s first TV cooking show ‘I Love to Eat,’ which debuted in 1946.” The answer is James Beard whose name is still hallowed across the country.


The other game was geared for me and it is “Wine Wars” a trivia game for wine geeks and wannabes. They have a quote from the author and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein “Whether you’re an aspiring Master Sommelier or a passionate enogeek, ‘Wine Wars’ is just the ticket to challenge your grape to glass savvy – striking an edutaining balance of bacchanalian trivia with those need to know factoids.” The game sounds daunting to me, considering that I have no formal training in wines. Like the first game, it has the same accoutrements and some of the categories are “Vine to Vino,” “Wine Cellar” and “Cork Culture.” One of the sample questions is “Which famous French wine is typically made  from a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle Grapes – Sauternes or Champagne?” OK, I know this answer and I would venture that most of you do too, as the answer is Sauternes. I guess I might have a chance with this game, now we just have to find some willing contestants.

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March Birthdays 2018

I got home a couple days earlier than my Bride and I started getting back in to a routine.  There was some writing to catch up on, my correspondence is still lagging, some domestic chores because we split up the duties and of course that four letter word – work.  As I look upon that I am reminded of one of my club members favorite quotes “work is the curse of the drinking class.”  The moment my Bride landed from her side excursion to see her girl friend there was a real flurry of activity, as she was preparing for the monthly dinner to celebrate the birthdays in the month of March.

She jumped right back into her catering mode, as if she had never been away.  I think that she revels in preparing big dinner parties, as opposed to just making dinner for the two of us.  She also keeps track of the likes and dislikes of the guests and tries to offer dishes that will appeal to the crowd.  She also tries to rotate the dishes so that there is a change of pace.  Rather than always making her acclaimed Caesar Salad from scratch, she will offer a tossed salad with assorted dressings, like she recently did.  This time around she made sautéed chicken and a pork tenderloin.  She will also change up the vegetables.  About the only thing that she doesn’t have any control over is the desserts, because that is usually what is brought by the guests.

It was kind of a white wine menu for the day and there were not any wine lovers in attendance, so we went more casual.  It was just the two of us that were drinking wine, so I decided not to raid the cellar and just grab from the everyday section.   I really think that my Bride must have her photo on the walls at Costco headquarters, because she is an avid fan of their Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay 2015.  This is just a good workhorse of a wine, one dimensional with no artistry or finesse, but infinitely better than a regional California jug wine.  I also opened up a bottle of Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Chardonnay 2015.  Ferrari-Carano has been around since 1985 and they are located in the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County.  They have nineteen estate vineyards in four appellations in the county.  The fruit for their basic wine comes from the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Carneros.  The juice was aged Sur Lie for a couple of months and then blended using French Oak, of which twenty-three percent were new, and then aged in the bottle for about six months prior to release.  The Ferrari-Carano is about twice the price of the Kirkland and from the same county, but it is a far superior wine for the money, in my opinion, though my Bride is still perfectly happy with her every day wine.

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Happy Easter

Just want to take a moment away from wine, not really, but I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter and a Good Passover, from our house to yours.

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Heller Estate Malbec

How can one not be excited when the third bottle of wine from my wine club is a Malbec?  There is just so much pleasure when I unpack my carton from “A Taste of Monterey” as I never know what is there.  They may be more expensive compared to the daily wines that we may have on a routine day, but that is the beauty of wine.   Some wines just scream out, that they need to be shared with friends or relatives that can appreciate them.  If I were rich, perhaps I would not be so excited, hell I might even become complacent, but since that will never happen, I guess that I shall revel in enjoyment about certain bottles of wine.

Heller Estate is a winery that we have visited a couple of times when we were staying in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but now they are known as Heller Estate Organic Vineyard.  The original vines were planted in 1968.  Heller Estate was one of the entities that pushed for the Carmel Valley AVA, which was granted in 1982.  The winery was not one to sit on their laurels but kept striving to better themselves.  The vineyards were certified organic in 1996 and then later the winery was certified in 2012.  There are plenty of rules and regulations to achieve this designation and it cannot be accomplished overnight.  The estate overlooks the Cachagua region of Carmel Valley and the term is considered of Indian derivation of the French “cacher” and the Spanish “agua” and combined they mean “hidden waters.”  The vine roots much reach down deep for their nourishment.  The vineyard grows nine different grapes from which they produce their wines.  The labels all depict the bronze sculpture that is on the grounds of “The Dancers” created by Toby Heller and the labels do not do the sculpture credit, after one has seen the actual work of art.  I am not sure which came first; the sculpture or the motto “Dances on Your Palate.”

The Heller Estate Malbec 2013 is the second year of a continuous drought that affected all of California, with Carmel Valley only seeing less than five inches of rain.  The yield at harvest was small, but the few grapes were concentrated.  The winery notes that this wine is fruit forward, medium body, soft tannins and a crisp fruity finish.  There were one-hundred-thirty-four cases of wine produced and their suggested aging potential is seven to eight years.  When this wine is opened, I will compare my notes to theirs.

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Stoke’s Ghost Petite Sirah

“Oh, ho the Wells Fargo wagon is a-coming” is a cheerful opening line for one of the many songs in The Music Man and it best describes the feeling I have when I am opening up the carton from my wine club “A Taste of Monterey.” I mean I always get excited when I am in a wine shop, but when I get home I already know what I have purchased.  The excitement of opening the carton from my club is that I never know what I will find.  It is like opening a treasure chest that has been lost forever.

In 1833, British sailor James Stokes jumped ship in Monterey with a booty of stolen medicine. He opened a downtown pharmacy and launched a thriving medical practice as “Dr. Stokes”. Despite a knack for killing his patients, he landed a commission as the personal physician to California Governor Jose Figueroa. Within a year, the governor was dead.  The phony physician was astonishingly successful for someone so poor at his job. He grew wealthy, married the widow of one of his patients, and served as mayor of Monterey. Eventually the gig was up. According to legend, Stokes’ sons confronted him of his devious deeds and he ingested poison, falling lifeless at their feet. His former home still stands and to this day, is haunted by the ghostly figure of a man dressed in 1800s garb. This, is the legend of Stokes’ Ghost for all its glory.

Stokes’ Ghost Wines is part of the Scheid Family Wines group.  Stokes’ Ghost Petite Sirah 2014 is the second vintage for this wine.  All of the fruit for this wine was from their estate vineyard in the Hames Valley in Monterey County.   The fruit was night harvested, crushed and fermented in small lots to get the full benefits of this varietal.  The wine was aged for fourteen months in a mix of American and Hungarian Oak barrels.  There were one-hundred-ninety-nine cases of this wine produced and the suggested aging potential is for seven to eight years.  The question is, can I wait that long before I open this bottle to enjoy the inky dark violet wine that is in there, with the guaranteed teeth staining liquid that I come to expect from Petite Sirah.

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Folktale Winery Pinot Noir

We got home from Las Vegas and almost immediately we received our latest shipment from our wine club “A Taste of Monterey.” We discovered this club during our first visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea when we made a side trip to the city of Monterey, because we were going to eat at the famed Sardine Factory at Cannery Row.  It really doesn’t take much for us to get side-tracked, especially when we are on holidays.  In fact, we also bought a piece of art that is hanging in our living room from that trip as well.  I guess not all the money was fated to be in a 401 account, but boy have we had fun.  We ended up joining the wine club that day and they offered two different club programs.  One was for two bottles to be shipped monthly and these were in the more popular price range.  We decided to go with the Private Reserve Club which entail three bottles of wine quarterly, but they were not in the popular price range.  This is what we wanted to really get a taste of the wines from the region.

Folktale Winery actual roots go back to 1982 when Bob and Patty Brower began Chateau Julien Wine Estate and slowly and surely began growing the estate and the property with the intent of making French style wines in California.  The winery was acquired by Gregory Ahn and renamed Folktale Winery and Vineyards in 2015.  The five-acre estate winery is 100% organic and then they also have three hundred acres in the Arroyo Seco AVA and they grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The lead winemaker of the team at Folktale Winery is David Baird, who began his own Le Mistral brand back in 1982 and was one of the original Rhone-style producers in the area.

This is the second wine that I have received from the winery, the first being a Chardonnay and the new wine is their Folktale Winery Pinot Noir 2015 from the Arroyo Seco AVA.  The fruit came from three different vineyards that are all rated for being farmed and harvested sustainably.  I couldn’t find any actual production notes on the wine other than the fact that they were aged in neutral French Oak, but there was time schedule of events.  There was a little over eleven-hundred cases produced and their estimate is for an aging potential of five to six years.  I know that we go through a lot of Pinot Noir wines here, so I am sure that it will be opened in that time frame.

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