Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Valenzano Winery

Saturday afternoon Jonaid and I strolled into Valenzano Winery in Shamong, NJ. It was mostly by accident that we found it but it is the first hit on the 2010 NJ Wineries Passport. Taking the "scenic path" (alright- the cheap, toll free path- which turned out far better than the Parkway. 206 is such a a beautiful tour of NJ! And so many farm markets along the way, we couldn't pass them by without getting some corn and tomatoes) down route 206 toward Atlantic City led us right by the vineyards. It was a perfect day for a drive as there wasn't a cloud in the sky and we had nowhere to be. 90 degrees and sunny; can't beat it.

Shortly into our journey we came across the winery. "Grand Opening!" the sign read, attracting us into their new facility (they have two others and are well established in NJ). We agreed to stop by on our way back.

The winery itself is beautiful. It's tucked in the center of Jersey Fresh farms and has acres of grapes growing around it. Despite 206 being so close it feels very private.

We went inside and were both excited and surprised to find tastings are complimentary. Nineteen wines were on their list and you were free to pick and choose as many as you'd like. I love that freedom; I seem to have anxiety when I'm down to the last choice and I can't decide if I want the chambourcin or the reisling.

Jonaid's tastes almost solely include reds. I prefer reds on most occasions but do find whites that I enjoy. Both of us shy away from the sweet wines. With the chardonnay being sold out they only had one other dry white, so our tasting was pretty heavily weighted toward the blood red side.

The nineteen wines and the comments:

Dry Reds
Cabernet/Merlot - our first taste. I was very surprised at the flavor definition despite being a combination of four wines (cab, merlot, chambourcin, cab franc). Very aromatic; I debated buying a glass of this vs. the reserve (the reserve won).
Merlot - I was most disappointed in the Merlot. It was buttery, very smooth, but not memorable. It almost felt that this was a last minute decision by the wine artists and did not get the time it deserved.
Cab/merlot reserve - I got a glass of this at the end of it all. So much flavor here and I was immediately craving a steak dinner. Very aromatic; I wanted it in a candle.
Old Indian Mills Blend - Jonaid got a glass. To me, this was the harshest of the reds, albeit still very smooth. A combination of chambourcin and merlot, it would give my dad rosy cheeks while he's grilling dinner in January. Warms you down to the cockles, whatever those are.

Dry Whites
Vidal Blanc - With this I imagine my mother reading a book on the deck in July. Very refreshing but still maintaining flavor.
Chardonnay sold out

Specialty Wines Alla Y'all sweet wine lovers! This section is for you. I won't repeat myself- all of these (and the fruit wines) are sweeter than I like.
Shamong Red - did not try
Shamong White - The niagara grapes. These aren't grown on site but are purchased from a variety of locations, many upstate New York (information supplied by our host). It's like a summer day in Niagra Falls: a bit of a rush but still refreshing.
Pinelands Blush - Made with the concord grape. Although this kind of wine is not typically to my taste I must admit I enjoyed this more than I typically do for concord wines. Very grape-juicy but with a bit of spunk to it.
Labrusca - did not try
White Cabernet - a fabulous replacement to white zin, and at $8.99 a bottle you can't find one this tasty for the price. Bring one to the next family reunion.
Shamong Reserve - did not try
Jersey Devil Port - A wine enriched with brandy. Did not try; ports and I rarely end well.

Fruit Wines Typically I'm not a fan of fruit wines. Pennsylvania wineries make these in mass quantities and it's one reason I don't enjoy PA wineries as much. I can never finish a whole glass.
Cranberry Wine - Made from New Jersey cranberries! Fabulous if you're prone to UTIs but still want a buzz on (feeling sick, but social). Just kidding: this was juicy but with a kick. I can see this as a good wine for picnics.
White Cranberry Wine - Preferred this over the red cranberry. To me this had a less strong cranberry taste but was a bit sweeter; Jonaid enjoyed this.
Blueberry Wine - Surprisingly I loved this; Jonaid did not. Our host suggested it over ice cream and I agree completely. It would probably be good as a milkshake (that brings all the boys to the yard?)
Apple Cider Wine Sold Out, which I was interested in trying because of the PA winery that does it so well
R, W, &B Sangria did not try, but I regret missing out on this one.
Cranpagne did not try

I'm embarrassed to admit that halfway through writing the wines here I got up and opened a bottle of red. It's a Tuesday! A glass won't hurt me (thanks Dad for the bottle of 2005 Murrieta's Well Meritage); and I'll still get a workout in. My calendar reminded me I want to train for the AFB Mud Run... Didn't make it last year, not in enough shape this year, maybe next year! Back on topic, a few pictures from the venue:

I love the fireplace substituted with a wine fridge.

Tasting room.

Final review: The venue itself is in a great location, the staff is friendly and the prices for the wines are very reasonable. The only downfall is no outdoor seating (although we were told it is coming). I also have to give kudos to the employee that encouraged me to pick up the passport and try the NJ tour again- she started all of this nonsense! Plus Shamong is fun to say (both before and after three glasses of wine). Shamong. ShaMONG. SHAmong. SHamONG. SHAmong.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Tomato Fairy

I have been struck by the tomato fairy! Coming home from what was an epically disastrous day at work I found these mysterious buggers hanging from my door. They look homegrown and smell fantastic. My day perked up instantly when I saw them. Mmmmmm.

Grabbing my magnifying glass and renting a mystery machine, I'm off to solve this puzzle.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Grape Expectations

---> update: mission accomplished! Go here to see my list of all of the wineries and their awards. (carinne, 03May11) <---

There are thirty-four wineries in the NJ Wineries Passport list and I am determined to conquer them all by the end of 2010. There's a complimentary gift and a grand prize drawing for a trip to Italy if you make it to all of the wineries and send in your completely stamped passport. Winning the trip would be pretty epic, but even if I don't, simply experiencing NJ is enough for me. Also the complimentary gift is sure not to disappoint (I can always use another glass... or bottle opener... Or engraved NJ Passport... Whatever it may be I'll be excited).

Early last year I had picked up a 2009 passport. Although I kept going to wineries it didn't even cross my mind to bring the NJ Passport. It sat alone and neglected in my junk drawer. For my birthday even, the girls came out and we did a tour of the local wineries (and later that evening, a tour de Franzia) and it did not join me.

As a wine lover I'm now making it a goal to test and write a post about every winery I go to in NJ. I'll offer my pick of their wines and a tour of the venue... Or I'll do neither and just play a post by ear. Regardless, this blog will now include a review of my NJ wine drinking escapades.

A bit of 2010 out of state wine- earlier this year I encountered not only NJ wineries but also PA and VA. In both 2009 and 2010 I went to the Taste of PA Wine&Music Festival in York, PA, and I'm sure I'll be back for 2011. There, they handed out a list of wineries in PA, which I immediately defined as the bucket list. Visiting Alex in Virginia we hit up Hartwood Winery, Roger's Ford, and Potomac Point (in that order). So far 2010 has been a good year. I look forward to the rest of the adventures and hold Grape Expectations (ba dum psh) for the upcoming months.

Friends & Family- feel free to come out and join for a tasting!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jogger blogger

As a warm up lap for today's workout I decided to bring the crackberry as a tagalong and snag some shots of my jogging routine. I must admit that right now I have become the distasteful workout+text girl that I always despise. Everyone has different relaxation techniques, but a workout is the time for me to step away from my day, away from the texts, emails, and I am left alone to my ipod.

So on this gorgeous, no humidity, east coast day, where the clouds look like the opening to the show The Simpsons,

I tied up my sneaks and headed to the park.

Promptly a gaggle of geese attacked me. Either I look like dinner or my car looks like mama goose. These buggers are scary in multitude.

Do you see them in attack mode?!?! One is taking flight, ready to kamikazi me. Luckily, I am still faster than the geese.

Then I hit the trail. The "birthday" ipod playlist is what I use to jog these days, but I tuned in to some Incubus.

Anyway signing off to get a real workout in. Training for a 5k... Or just myself.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Soul Seasoning

I came across this item at my local market. To think the cure to a bad day has been right next door all along! Looks like in the near future I'll be making stone soup with a side of soul or jive chicken and putting it in storage for a bad day.
I have failed at Jersey Appreciation Week. Not because there's only Monday-Wednesday worth of Jersey to discuss, but because of time. I'm heading to a wedding this weekend (congrats Jackie&Rambo) and had to buy a dress, a gift, pack, etc (yes- I can hear you now- rule#76, no excuses, play like a champion). Leaving tonight for some drinks with the Hanover Parks and onward to the wedding! Catch you all (but not the bouquet) at the wedding! Will continue to express my mad love for New Jersey soon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There's no place like Jersey, there's no place like Jersey... (Mostly just showing off my new kicks).

Here's a sweet treat I sometimes jog to. The roads here a mainly flat, so jogging is a breeze compared to the steel city. When I head to the shore to jog time flies just because it's so relaxing.

This is a sculpture park in North Jersey. There are a number of random sculptures around the state, some of them very cool, some really creepy. The one below I like. One in central Jersey is of a giant tooth, and below it is a statue of two people looking at it, puzzled. I'll try to snag a picture of that for later.

When I'd go to this bar I'd always sit on the side of the bar facing opposite the sign. One day I sat on the other side, and to my immense surprise and joy I found this fine masterpiece:

Lastly, but certainly not least, I had no idea MSG was an additive to a food. I thought it was something that was just in the way food was cooked and the type of food. At my farm supermarket spice aisle, I was appalled to learn of the giant cases they sell it in. I guess I shouldn't judge Snooki, who didn't know what Tuna was.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When I first moved to my new apartment this May I was very impressed when one of the local gas stations offered me a "welcome to the neighborhood" package. It included coupons for free bowling, pizza, and an oil change. This morning I woke up to the hustle and bustle of a car shop as I cashed in on the lube job. Now, as I wait, I watch the ab enhancing infomercials and try to decide if I should GTL today.

This is the second summer in a row where I have had epic car woes. Last year I was stranded on the PA turnpike (and then at the notorious bar) as my engine died, and later that summer I also held funerals for the radiator and catalytic converter.

In June 2010 I kicked off my summer by running out of gas on my way to the shore one night. I signed up for AAA right then and there but soon learned of a free NJ roadside assistance service that patrols the highway. They offer tows, gas, and other services that are already paid for in taxes. A very kind man named John pulled behind me helped me out that day.

P215 216 94t - that's my tire size. Two weekends ago I got a flat tire at 2am. Turns out that AAA signup in June was meant to happen as they were lifesavers last night. At this point I found a fantastic tire shop 6 miles from me- I still need to write a thank-you.

Did you know car inspection in NJ is free? And it is illegal to pump your own gas? Some perks over here to offset the immense traffic.
Anyway this has been my first mo-blog (mobile blogging, blogging from the phone). Cheers and Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Parking: $40
Beach Passes: $8/person
Lunch for three: $35
Definitely, okay maybe, actually not at all seeing Pauly D: Priceless

As the Hanover Parks (UM, T, Lexy) found out this weekend, the Jersey shore can be pretty expensive. The cashflow tallies up pretty quickly for a relaxing day.

On Sunday afternoon at Point Pleasant beach I came across one of the most unique fees at the shore. If you have a beach pass, you can use the bathroom. If you don't have a beach pass, you pay to use the restroom. Even if you do have a beach pass, you have to pay to use the showers or changing rooms, as demonstrated below:

If you are unfortunate enough to need to put on your swimsuit in the restroom, you will realize your future may quickly be in peril. You may be headed toward financial ruin ($200) or 90 days of jailtime with the likes if LiLo. And while changing in public is also prohibited, the jailtime for that offense would not exceed 90 days (although may reach a $1,000 fine). Something to consider, anyway.

Despite the bank account hit, the bars at the shore are unbeatable and the atmosphere is what you go for. Half of the time people watching at the shore is similar to people watching at Walmart. The food is incredibly tasty (why is ice cream always better there?) and I'll be honest - a beer on the water is ten times more refreshing than a beer on your couch. I've never gone to the shore and been disappointed. So if anyone is ever up for a vacation, grab your bump-it and give me a call...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Jersey Appreciation Week Day One

You can attribute this conceited view to either to the unquestionable arrogance of the Jersey Swagger, or possibly something in the pharmaceutically enhanced tap water- but it seems there has been a lot of recent attention toward the state of New Jersey. This weekend alone over 22 people, for separate purposes and causes, crossed the border and entered into the Garden State. Carrying Jager receipts as proof of identification, many sought refuge in the relaxing shore and the social acceptability of too much hair gel.

My mother admits her obsession with the Real Housewives of New Jersey; my father will not own up to it however is no less enthralled. My friends and I gush over Pauly D and Vinny however only within the privacy of our text messages. Those from other states cringe at the cocky attitude but never ignore a Guido/Guidette headline if they see it. Love it or hate it, New Jersey is here to stay. Due to this outburst of recent attention, with the power vested in me I now pronounce this New Jersey Appreciation Week.

To celebrate I'll entertain the Joisey ways, customs, and mostly the story of the last five days via a daily photoblog. I cannot think of a better way to kick off the week of than with the swimming pool of our friends the Grimms and the inclusion of a lovely beverage waiting for me at the end of the diving board. Til next time, all of you grenades, land mines, and shorties...

xoxo the paris hilton of trenton

Saturday, August 07, 2010

This blog is circa May 2004. I wrote every day for almost six months. My mum was my biggest fan, along with some of her coworkers, and a few close high school friends.

Here's roughly what it looked like.

The title was simply "live with kinky carinne" and it was in cursive, but I guess my Mac doesn't support that font anymore so it's not reflected here. I was so proud of how it looked because I had taught myself HTML and did all of the coding myself.

Slowly the posts dwindled. Summer 2006 I got more motivation, reworked the HTML again and came up with the layout that is still here. I deleted all of the posts from pre-college and freshman year (but I think each post is saved on a disk, somewhere. I hope anyway. I'll search) and posted even more sporadically. I think I deleted somewhere around 100 posts from 2004-May 2005.

In 2010 one of my friends from high school started up her blog*. Randomly enough, my old blog came up in an entirely separate conversation later on with someone else. Another friend started a blog. It reminded me of mine, and I got lonely.

So I came back to this. Re-vamped it a bit, updated some of the links, deleted some of the posts from 2005-present but kept some of the ones I liked. What you see back there is by no means all of them.

So - we'll see how it goes - but I'll give it a shot again. I may not post after this. No promises. But it certainly can't hurt.

*Read Angela's blog. It's really incredible.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Cuppa Joe Monday Morning

After a lovely historical weekend in Fredericksburg, VA, I came back to my lonely cubicle and realized I had neglected my cup. Thankfully I have loyal coworkers who constantly have my best interest at heart.

I then realized there have been a few other things I've abandoned that I have intended to reunite with. Let's see what happens.