What Women Enjoy

While we had the pleasure of Ms. Yoga’s company she was here on a business trip.  She also found some time to see her family and friends.  One of the days that she was able to blend everything together, she found some time to go shopping with her friends, and I think that is one of the most pleasurable pastimes that women enjoy.  I spent my entire career selling Men’s Couture, so the concept of shopping is beyond my realm of understanding as pleasure.  Most men from my era, do not shop, they go out and buy and it tends to be a singular pursuit, while women like to shop together; and they do it well.  Ms. Yoga and my Bride were going to meet another friend and go shopping one morning and they asked if I wanted to join them, which I politely declined, but they did invite me out for lunch when they were going to be finished and that I did agree upon.  You may have noticed by now, that I am quite partial to being fed, especially if the venue is decent, so that removes most popular priced chains.

We established a time to meet, that would enable the women to get some “quality” time shopping, as well as working up an appetite for lunch.  We also picked a suitable establishment that would be near where they were shopping, so I drove there separately and if I got there first, I would secure a table, since it was lunch time.  They decided upon one of the chains that I had not been to for awhile called J Alexander’s and surprisingly I did get there first and waited for the ladies to make their purchases, as at least they were out of the fitting rooms.  My Bride ordered the Carolina Crab Cakes, which were made from jumbo lump crab, chili mayonnaise and a mustard sauce with a side of fries.  I went with their Steak Burger, which was a blend of ground tenderloin and rib-eye, Tillamook Cheddar, grilled onions and Kiawah Island Dressing.

Since it was an unseasonably hot morning and I was waiting for the ladies to show up, I went with a manly drink and ordered a glass of Rosé, which even made me look even more questionable when the women ordered cocktails.  It is OK though, because I like a glass of Rosé and I had Chateau Val-Joanis Tradition Luberon 2017.  Luberon got its own designation in 1988 and to old guys like me, it was known as Cotes du Luberon and is located between the Rhone Valley and Provence but comes under the Rhone umbrella of districts.  This was a very easy and drinkable wine, that I will presume was done quickly in Stainless Steel due to the vintage, and it was Estate Bottled and a blend of Syrah and Grenache.  With my burger I went to a heavier red wine and California beckoned to me.  The Newton Vineyard Skyside Claret 2016 was from the North Coast.  The Skyside label is new, as they had originally called it the Red Label.  The Claret was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.  Newton Vineyard was established in 1977 and they were the first winery in Napa Valley to create an un-filtered Chardonnay, and they were so successful, that in 2001 they were bought by the luxury group LVMH.  Newton Vineyard owns six-hundred-forty acres of land in Napa and nearby, and the land has been formed into one-hundred-twelve parcels, and each parcel only grows one varietal.  They also vinify each parcel separately, so that they have plenty of blending opportunities as well as bottling single vineyard wines.  They only use French Oak for aging, and they tunneled and built a marble cave for aging in the side of a hill.  Pairing with the burger, it was an excellent choice, though I am sure that most of the time, people would order this wine with a steak.

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Dinner with Ms. Yoga

It was a wonderful relaxing Sunday afternoon, we had gone to the cinema and had started to enjoy some wine and appetizers.  When Ms. Yoga is in town, it tends to be an event, and of course she is instrumental in all of the planning.  While ostensibly in town to do business and make more business contacts, she also wants to see as many friends and family that she can squeeze in during a trip.  The Casa Raconteur is her home base on this trip and we were having as much fun as she was.  Her friends that she had invited for dinner finally showed up, and we enjoy their company immensely.

There was now six of us, sitting in the breakfast nook at the moment, and everyone was catching up since the last time we had gotten together.  The last couple also came with some wine and a big tray of jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, so we sat and munched some more.  I have to admit that I have been a fan of shrimp since I was a toddler, since it was always something that was at the house growing up.  My Bride had to maneuver herself away from the breakfast nook to begin making the dinner and it was my job to make sure that the wine in the glasses didn’t evaporate from a lack of interest.  My Bride was making filets for dinner and everyone seemed to agree on Medium Rare, so the cooking time was made a bit easier on her.  She was also making a roaster of sliced potatoes covered in Parmesan and she was at the sauté pan preparing fresh asparagus.  For dessert she was serving Angel Food Cake with sugared strawberries and whipped cream, which everyone knows is very low-cal.  For dinner we actually moved into the dining room, since it was already set up for the dinner earlier.

After having a couple of bottles of white wine, I guess it was time to have some red wine, especially with the filets.  We started of with some wine from Paoletti Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley.   Paoletti Winery has thirty-six acres in Calistoga and their first release was in 1994, so the wine we were enjoying was from their Twentieth Anniversary.  Their Piccolo Cru 2014 was all fruit from their own estate and it was a Bordeaux blend with half of the wine being Cabernet Sauvignon and then Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  The total time for the production of this wine was about sixteen months and it was delightful, with all the qualities that I expect from a Claret.  The second wine was from across the pond from Frecciarossa in the Lombardy region of Italy.  This winery has been in production since 1919 and they were one of the earliest wineries to ship to the United States after Prohibition, as their Export Permit is #19.  The Giorgio Odero Oltrepo Pavese DOC Pinot Noir 2010 was excellent.  The Oltrepo Pavese region borders on the Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna and Pinot Noir is considered the King of this region.  The wine begins with two weeks in Stainless Steel for the maceration process after being hand-harvested, then twelve months in once-used barrels, then an additional six months in Stainless Steel and finally twelve months in the bottle before being released.  This was a great bottle of wine and hopefully I can get some more.  On to next adventure with Ms. Yoga.

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A Chick Flick

Now I am not trying to be demeaning, but it today’s parlance a chick flick is for a film that the main audience is geared towards the woman.  There are times when we both agree on a film.  Then there are times when one or the other wants to see something and the other spouse goes along with anticipation of a latter quid pro quo.   Well the other day, I was outvoted, as Ms. Yoga and my Bride had already decided on seeing a film, and I was going along, but at least I had to hope that the caliber of the writing would be worthy of the stars of the film.  I mean there are some films that are totally sophomoric and I have no idea who the target audience is.  There are times when we can appreciate a film that is basically computer generated with the scenes, but the writing has to be aimed for adults with a capacity of thinking, otherwise that is what television is for.  To me television was called the Great Wasteland and I think it wears that title quite well, so for almost forty years I have not watched it, unless I have put a DVD movie on to play.  I know that I am old fashioned, but they stopped making Beta format tapes years ago.

As you may have surmised, we went to see the Book Club with a cast of actresses and actors that can no longer play ingénue roles.  We all went to see the film, even though one of the leads lost favor with my generation years ago, because we all lost friends to the Viet Nam war, and a plastic enhanced actress dismayed many of my era.  The film was cute, and the theater was completely sold out, so I guess the marketers did a good job.  I found it amusing that both my Bride and Ms. Yoga did not recognize Andy Garcia, and I chuckled to think that he was the romantic interest for the daughter in Godfather III, and here he was the romantic lead for the mother from that film in this film.  It was a feel-good movie and it was written for adults, even Ms. Yoga’s brother who went with us, had to admit that he enjoyed the film, but I guess it was a while since he went to the cinema, as he was more amazed at the prices that were demanded.

After the movie, we headed back to our house, as another couple were coming over to have dinner with the group, they couldn’t attend the film, as they had a prior commitment, but they did want to see Ms. Yoga.  While we were waiting for them to arrive, to start the dinner, my Bride set out a series of plates of just good appetizers to nosh on.  We even had some wine at this time and it was a chance to compare two different Chardonnay wines from California, both in the popular price realm.  The first wine, was one that surprised me, because it was from Costco, which is now America’s leading wine purveyor.  We had one of their house brands that I did not know that they were offering.  The Kirkland Signature Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2016 was a solid dependable wine.  I have had their California Chardonnay, and we always seem to have their Sonoma Chardonnay here, but this was the first time that I had seen the sub-region of Sonoma offered by Costco.  It was very easy and for the price, I thought it was delightful and I wouldn’t mind having again in the future.  The other wine was also new to me and was part of Wagner Family of Wine and was from there Mer Soleil Vineyard.  The Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay 2015 was in a silver gray “ceramic” finished bottle and carried the Monterey County AVA.  While I was doing some additional research, the vineyard is in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and several sources I checked list that as the AVA for the wine.  This wine is totally unoaked and was fermented in both Stainless Steel and Concrete tanks, hence the silver gray of the bottle.  The wine still had a lush full taste with distinct citrus, and I guess that is not surprising as the vineyard is surrounded by a Meyer Lemon orchard that the Wagner family also grows and I guess that has added something to the terroir of the soil over time.  We were just enjoying the food and munchies and waiting for the additional guests to arrive for dinner.

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Ms. Yoga is Returning

Ms. Yoga is one of my revolving cast of characters that appear on these pages.  If I were to liken her to a cinematic character it may be Rosalind Russel as Auntie Mame, someone bigger than life and hardly a shrinking violet.  While I have known her for years, she and my Bride go back even further and they could be Thelma and Louise or perhaps Lucy and Ethel.  She used to live here in Michigan and she has moved a couple of times, because of that vile four-letter word – work, but we have maintained a steady correspondence and we have visited her at her other realms.

Sometimes I bring her up, because of the text messages that I receive from her.  I think originally, she was like my Bride and only drank white wines and then they were usually a Chardonnay.  That all changed especially when we all went to Napa Valley for a holiday and I had booked plenty of wine tastings, not to mention restaurant reservations.  When we get together, one never knows exactly what we will be drinking, though there will still be a Chardonnay somewhere in the mix.  She also likes to find me an occasional unique looking wine and label, from the early days when I was decoupaging the door to my first wine cellar that predates our current address.  In fact, it was her that introduced me to Marilyn Merlot, just because of the label and I have had a love affair with that wine ever since.

During the course of her latest texting announcements that she would be coming to Detroit, she sent me not only a wine cartoon, but a photo of a wine bottle that she really enjoyed and thought that I should know about it.  She was in Florida on business and wrote that she had found a Key Lime Vodka that she was enjoying in some Key Lime Martinis.   While she was in the Tampa area, she also discovered a wine from one of the assorted collections produced by Oak Ridge Winery of Lodi, California.  Oak Ridge Winery began as a cooperative in 1934 and is the oldest winery in Lodi.  It was bought by the Maggio and Reynolds families in 2001 and then joined by the Dondero family in 2010.  They have over 500 acres and the winery is known for its unique tasting room, which is in a converted 50,000-gallon Redwood tank.  The wine she texted me about was their Silk Oak Chardonnay 2014, and as I have told you, she is still very partial to that grape.

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EL Ixsir White

I was getting a chance to taste a couple more wines from Ixsir Winery.   I was still feeling rather sheepish for getting my dates mixed up for the tasting and I was a week late at The Fine Wine Source in Livonia.  They must have thought that I was senile or just crazy and I had missed the chance to talk with their representative.  The wine shop was very generous though to let me try some of the wine that was left over from the actual tasting, and since they use the Coravin system, I can say whole-heartedly that the wines that they poured were still fresh and didn’t show any signs of being over the hill after being in the chiller for a week.

I can understand that they were out of the red wines for a tasting, and I would not expect them to open fresh bottles for me to try, since I was so late.  Ixsir Winery offers three collections of wines; Altitudes, Grande Reserve and EL.  The Altitude collections I did not try and there was a red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Caladoc and Tempranillo, a rosé which was a blend of Syrah, Caladoc and Cinsault and a white which was a blend of Obeidy, Muscat and Viognier.  While I had a chance to try the Grande Reserve White, I missed out on the Grande Reserve Red which was a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The EL collection is their supreme cuvee at Ixsir Winery and it best exemplifies the terroir of the estate in the Batroun.  It is a labor of love by the winemaker Gabriel Rivero and his close advisor Hubert de Bouard a co-owner of Chateau Angelus in Saint Emilion.  If you were aware of it, France and Lebanon had a long history in the Twentieth Century and Beirut was called the Paris of the Middle East.  The EL Red was a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Which leads us to the two wines that I had a chance to try.  The EL White was at blend of seventy percent Viognier and thirty percent Chardonnay.  The wine is aged for twelve months in French Oak, of which a third was new, a third was used once and a third was used twice.  I tried both the EL White 2012 and the EL White 2014.  It was really interesting to see, because I normally if I had a chance to buy the wine untasted I would have chosen the later vintage, because of my wariness of buying older white wines.  The 2012 vintage was pure bliss and a real eye opener to me, as the two wines were blended so well and mellowed that I would not have thought that it was such a large degree of Viognier.  I could have easily drunk a bottle of it with a dinner and be totally happy with its smoothness.  Going by the quality of the three white wines, I am sure that the red wines would be equally wonderful in the glass.

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Ixsir Grand Reserve White

I guess that I am becoming one of those “seniors” who lose track of time, but then numbers have always been my bane for remembering.  I was blocking some time to go to my latest favorite wine shop The Fine Wine Source, because I had an email promotion from them about tasting some wines from Lebanon.  My knowledge of this area of the world for wines is very limited and I was looking forward to discussing wines with the representative.  I walked into the wine shop, where they know me and asked how the tasting was going for these wines.  They laughed and said it was a great turnout and very successful, but that I was a week late.  Talk about being embarrassed.  Though they told me that they have some wines available still for tasting, due to the wonders of the Coravin system.  I tried to save face and agreed to try what was available.

Ixsir Winery was founded in 2009 in the northern part of Lebanon in Batroun which is a coastal area.  They are a mountain winery, and one of the highest in elevation for the Northern Hemisphere.  The name Ixsir derives from the Arabic word “Iksir” the original Arabic word for “elixir.” History has recorded that man has searched for the perfect elixir for eternal youth and for love.  The winery is very progressive and has been named one of the greenest buildings in the world.  The winery owns one-hundred-twenty hectares in the Batroun with several different vineyards capitalizing on the terroir.  The winery grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Caladoc, Cinsault, Merlot, Obeidy, Viognier, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.  Quite impressive for a young company, as far as I am concerned.

The first wine that was opened for me, was totally impressive and thankfully they had some bottles, so that I could take some home to share with my Bride.  The Ixsir Grand Reserve White 2015 captivated me immediately, as soon as I came into contact with the nose of the wine.   I enjoy Viognier and the heady, perfumed fragrance hit me immediately, and I knew that my Bride also enjoys this grape, I guess I have learned a bit about her over the years.  The wine was a blend of sixty percent Viognier, twenty-five percent Sauvignon Blanc and fifteen percent Chardonnay.  The wine was aged in French Oak, of which half were new, for a period of five months.   It was a nice crisp wine with just enough oak, so as not to be cloying.  So far, I have kept the wine under wraps at home, until the right moment to surprise her with it.

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The Caller Retired

We recently had the opportunity to have dinner with The Caller and his wife at Gravity Bar & Grill in Milford, Michigan.  The Caller is one of my beloved cast of characters that I rely on for an occasional article or two.  If we thought trying to arrange a dinner with them was tough when they were working, it is twice as tough now that they both retired.   When I grow up, I want to be like him, just joking, but they are still as busy as they have always been.  We chose Milford as the best location as it is located rather centrally for both of us, and we have met there on several occasions.  We have met often at Gravity, both for the food and for the bar, yes, we do like to amuse ourselves with adult beverages from time to time.  We left almost an hour and a half early to get there, because of rush hour traffic and we ended up taking the back road in, that I didn’t think anyone used, because the freeway looked like a parking lot.  They kept themselves amused while we were late, by enjoying some appetizers before we got there.

We needed a cocktail when we got there, to try to catch up with our guests, who were enjoying a Gin and cucumber drink.  My Bride had a Dirty Martini and I went with my simple Vermouth Cocktail, which always requires my reciting the recipe; I guess that I am just high maintenance.  Since they had already had appetizers waiting for us, we went directly for ordering our dinners.  They and my Bride all ordered Caesar Salads, while I went with the House Salad.  The Caller and his wife had a special version of the Filet Mignon for the evening.  My Bride had the Jumbo Lump Crab and Shrimp Cakes, which were pan-seared and served with a Creamy Lime Risotto, Tomato Cilantro Relish and Beurre Blanc.  I went with the special Grilled Sea Bass with Red Pepper Coulis and Pesto Gnocchi.  I might add that we were all members of the “Clean Plate Club” after dinner, as every dish was perfect.  Crème Brulee and coffee finished off the meal.

It was quite a decision trying to select a wine with the dishes.  The Caller said that he would have a white wine with his dinner, but I felt that a red wine would have been better for the filets, and I selected a red wine, even though it was a bit bold for our dinners, but it wasn’t the first or the last time that I would enjoy a big red with a lighter meal.  We went with a wonderful bottle from Trivento Bodegas y Vinedos, their Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2015 from the Lujan de Cuyo which is a well-respected sub-region of Mendoza in Argentina.  Malbec is the King of Mendoza and especially in the Lujan de Cuyo.  This wine started with cold maceration in Stainless Steel and then spent twelve months aging in French Oak, and since it was their Reserve, the wine spent an additional twelve months in the bottle prior to being released.  It was a big wine with beautiful color and really chewy, it may have overpowered our dishes, but it was worth it, as the structure was firm and with a couple of years in the cellar this wine would really shine, which is high praise, as it was quite affordable even in a restaurant setting.  We are looking forward to seeing them again, as they settle into retirement.

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