Monday, November 29, 2010

Scroogedrivers & Backwards Handicapped Only

Friday, 345am. That awful
alarm of mine went off. Jonaid excitedly pulled me awake. "The TVs! The TVs!" he exclaimed. I threw on some clothes and off we went. Twenty minutes later, I found myself at Best Buy, rather luckily under the Wine & Spirits awning and with a free cup of coffee courtesy of ComCast cleverly disguised as xfinity.

xfinity also handed out sweet bags (now used for my groceries) and chocolates (devoured by Jonaid). It was raining, so the coffee was much appreciated and the chocolate made the grouchy boyfriend less grouchy. Jonaid munched and checked into his foursquare. He unlocked the "school night" badge, checking in to a location after 3am on a school night.

Suddenly a girl came walking down. She'd been camped out at Best Buy since 4pm, she said. They gave her vouchers. Did anyone want to buy any? She really was scalping them. Somewhat brilliant because she definitely had a few takers. Still, despite us being about 50th in line, we still got the voucher we came for

although eventually Jonaid decided he didn't want to buy it after all. Anyway, as we were in line the news started filming. My aunt texted me, "I see you on the TV!" and I laughed. Then the girl in front of me tripped and fell as the camera was filming. 

For most of the day I didn't buy anything. Jonaid got a fancypants new watch; I got a free coffee and I was happy. Mostly I just like kicking off the holiday season with the chaos. It just feels right. 

Later in the day we headed to get Sushi. Unfortunately no one fit their parking qualifications as it is "Parking for Those Who Ride Toboggans Backwards Only".

Holiday spirit time! At least spirits as in wine & spirits. Merry merry. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Good Morning, Mr. Turkey.

The holiday excitement is so epic, Alex spills goldfishes all over the floor.

Meanwhile, back at call of duty: black ops epic gaming set-up... Who is thankful for FiOS?

Adult table, not to be confused with the VIP (kids) table.

Cupcake Wine, although not tried today. Will get to this later in the weekend hopefully.

I was on Turkey Basting Committee. It's very important.

Dad's wine kit & wine fridge No.1. Several decanters and a strange metallic one that may double as a torture device. Two wines on tap today for me, the first being Silver Decoy's Chambourcin.

The second Thanksgiving wine was Brook Hollow Winery's Proprietor's Red that I have impatiently been waiting... and waiting... to drink. It tortured me as it glared at me on my countertop in NJ for the past two weeks. By a long shot it is my favorite wine so far on the NJ Wine Passport Tour.

Post-wine serious confusion about holidays.

All in all, very delicious and very thankful. Now, bedtime before the black Friday rush. See you at 4am.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eggplant Stuffing

Barson came up with this week's hypothet sit. What do you cook as a main course for vegetarian Thanksgiving?

Mark's answer was probably the best, or at least the most detailed:
Butternut squash casserole in a soycream mushroom and garlic confit topped with olive oil and bread crumb carrot celery onion stuffing. Hot baked roles with roasted red peppers and crock roasted garlic pureed into a spread. Mashed potatoes finished with olive oil wheat germ and soy milk topped with olive oil sauteed stoplight peppers and onions seasoned with assorted red spices. Assorted green veggie medley including broccoli, cauliflower, water chestnuts, and carrots served with a warm wine vinegrette. Table wine to include a grassy New Zealand sauv blanc, a zesty mediterranean indigenous grape blend, and an unoaked California chard. For desert, fresh blueberry and raspberry medley in a sugar glaze sauce served with soy yogurt complemented with a glass of noble Sauterne. Anybody hungry yet.
I believe he's at the age where the food network trumps all other networks. Regardless, enjoy the week of being thankful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

GTL: Gravy-Turkey-Lethargy

So you're in the Macy's Day Parade with the giant balloons. What balloon do you accompany? It can be one that already exists (i.e., Snoopy) or one that you would like to exist (i.e., one of yourself, or a can of peanut butter, etc).
This week's hypothetical situation in prep for Nomfest 2010. 

Excited to get the GTL on next week. 
actual depiction of 2010 turkey.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brook Hollow Winery

The fruits lined the walkway of the barn. Crafts were on both sides; one woman sat at a cash register.

"Don't -" Click-Flash "-use a camera in here!" She said, remarkably patiently. I spawned a guilty grimace. "He doesn't like it. The flash. Ever since he was born, lightning storms, flashes from the TV, sets him off." She pointed to a sleeping dog on the other side of the room. "I don't think he saw it, so you're alright."

I apologized and promised to keep the indoor photos to a minimum. Jonaid and I continued back to the tasting room of Brook Hollow Winery.

"We'd like to do a tasting," I said to the man standing over the table of Christmas stockings. Since the main bar was occupied by a group, he cleared the stockings and set us up there. A woman who was arranging them noted she could never start too early preparing for Christmas. 

Soon I learned the man's name was Paul and he was the winemaker. He did not own the farm but leased the land for the grapes. The winery has been in business for only a few years. "We don't do festivals, so the only place you'll find us is right here," he explained. 
"What got you started on this?" I asked.
He laughed. "I drink a lot."
"At some point I guess it just becomes economical to open your own shop," I countered. 

We began the tasting. For $3 you try all the wines and keep the glass. All grapes are grown on site unless otherwise noted.

White Wines - all aged in stainless steel
Cayuga White - Very dry, but too acidic for me.
Arctic Spirit - A blend of Cayuga and Chardonnay. The chardonnay definitely reduced the acidity to make it more smooth, so I enjoyed this more but it still wasn't to my taste.The sales of both this and the red Howling Timbers supports the Lakota Wolf Preserve. When I asked why, Paul explained it is a good cause for remarkable animals.
Sweet Gewurztraminer - The grapes from this are from California. The sweet flavor was noticeable, but Paul explained it may falsely taste excessively sweet because the prior two pours were so dry. 

At this point another Paul, hereby noted Paul^2, took over the show. Even though he became our pourer the room was still filled with Paul, Paul's daughter, and another woman. The conversation was back and forth about football, cameras, yard sales, and much more. More chat about the Steelers, some Blahblah about the Jets... Paul^2 got a SLR digital camera body for $10 at a yard sale... Me seething in jealousy over that... The usual.

Red Wines
Howling Timbers - Supports the Lakota Wolf Preserve. This blend of Chancellor and Chambourcin has a unique flavor that is both peppery and buttery.
Brook Hollow Red - A cab & merlot blend that is very tannic and smooth. Similar to the last winery these were aged in stainless steel with oak chips added.
Merlot - Lately I've been revising the reputation merlot has with me. The flavor was unexpectedly smoky and heavy. 
Proprietors Red RSV - What an incredible bottle of wine. The uniquely hybrid Baco Noir-Buffalo grape (which Paul explained had been tried to be commonly named multiple times but copyright laws keep this hyphenated) ages in French oak. The dominant flavors were dill, olives, and surprisingly, tobacco. Jonaid bought a bottle of this for Thanksgiving. It's been sitting on my countertop and boy have I been tempted... But I've behaved...
Chancellor - While this is very unique it wasn't to my taste. Also aged in French oak.
Chambourcin Reserve - Another French Oak. The first sip was on its own and the second was with a few morsels of chocolate. Paul^2 explained this goes nicely in a rich chocolate cake, something I've never thought of but I bet is tasty.

Fruit Wines
Cranberry - Cranberries purchased from South Jersey; this is quite tart and tastes just like cranberry juice. "Be careful - it's 13.5% ABV," Paul^2 said. I nearly spit my drink everywhere. 13.5%?!? I was incredulous. You can't taste a drop of alcohol in that ripe treat.

Paul explained there is a "wine of the week" discount chosen by Facebook users. "We make a status requesting someone name the wine of the week. The first response gets it, and we discount that wine." Pretty cool.

Despite the internet being useful for wine-of-the-week communication, I must comment the website is kind of creepy. I think it's the white base around the vines that resemble old school video game impaling spikes. Ok, that's it for the rant. 

"Did you eat your ice cream last night?" Paul's daughter, who was wearing a VA Tech shirt, asked him. "You were pretty passed out on that chair."
"Yeah... Around 1am when I stumbled awake."
"I'd thought you'd forgotten."
Paul scoffed. "Forgotten? One never forgets ice cream."
And on that note, I'll pour a bit of chambourcin over my vanilla, and pour a bit in a glass for me too. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chinese Spritzers: A Midweek Wine Experiment

When I was in college my native New Jersey room mate, Glorianne, would drink White Zin on the rocks. Moving into the garden state I found at many bars many people doing the same thing. Very odd to me but nothing close to what I learned this evening.

Tonight Diane Sawyer introduced the Chinese method of wining: to pour a bit of Coca-Cola in a dry red wine. Sawyer explained the soda makes the taste more sugary, which seems to be preferable to the Chinese palate. Why not just get a sweet wine? Regardless, for the sake of science, I'll roll with it. I don't have any Coke, so I made do with what I had.

Diet Dr. Pepper + Viansa Sempre Avanti [from Sonoma County] = Dr. Avanti

The caffeine-alcohol combo is slightly remnant of the recently outlawed Four Lokos. Hyper, but with a buzz.

Sparkling Red Wine
Dr. Avanti - the aroma here is reminiscent of a cough drop. Sipping it, the carbonation is an unusual encounter in a heavier red wine. The cherry of the soda really overshadowed the flavors of the grapes; to be honest they combined to form a painful licorice flavor that vamped up my gag reflex. Swirled again, whiffed again, and just seemed like a nasty mix I would invent in college because I was broke with three different kinds of booze, a bottle of cream soda, and was painfully sober. In short, never again.  Down the drain you go, far away from the hatch.

In other news, "Ugly Americans" just stole my pick up line. Five dollar footlong...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Four Sisters Winery at Matarazzo Farms

It was Sunday morning. 10 o'clock rolled around. I woke Jonaid up with my usual vigor, "Goood MORNING!" to which he mumbled something about getting breakfast.

As I ate a cinnamon scone I suggested we continue the wine tour this weekend. He hesitated, but I insisted it technically is still a birthday celebration, and he gave in. When you're on the seventeenth winery, sometimes all you want is a beer.

The stunning sixty degree day made our drive to Four Sisters Winery pleasant. Making one wrong turn we ended up at a sign threatening wayward game hunters and barbed wire... Not sure what that was all about but we high tailed out of that driveway quickly. Pulling in at the actual winery, every employee we encountered greeted us. The back room of the small tasting structure was the tasting room hosted by Betsy. "I guess I'll serve you, despite your Steelers jersey," she commented. Our taste was free.

White Wines
Seyval Reserve - Betsy's favorite. The flavor lingers here; tasty and light.
Seyval Blanc - did not try
Vidal Blanc - I didn't enjoy this as much. Has a lemon flavor this was quite tart. Perhaps in the summer this would be a good thirst quencher.
Cayuga - did not try, but it seems many wineries in NJ are growing or purchasing this NY grape.
Warren Hills White - did not try
Cedar Hill White - did not try
Niagara - did not try
Filomena - did not try

Any wine that is a reserve here has the oak added, meaning oak chips are added to the wines during fermenting. The wines are fermented in fiberglass tanks. Nothing is aged in a barrel. Betsy explained the fiberglass is a European method not common yet in America which makes sense as this is the first winery I've heard of that practices this. It is done to produce a crisp flavor. The Leon Millot Reserve and Chambourcin Reserve are the only ones that are from start to finish grown and produced on site. The rest of the wines in some way shape or form may be grown or made offsite.

Rose Wines
Merrill Blush - not available; sold out
Cedar Hill Rose - A sweet treat rose; pretty standard

The winery is named for the owner's four daughters. It initially was an investment aimed to generate revenue for college funds. Now each girl has at least a masters and the eldest (I think) is working on a PhD.

Red Wines
Leon Millot Reserve - Heavy but enjoyable.
Leon Millot - not available; sold out
Chambourcin Reserve - Jonaid tried this and all I got from him was a "mmm".
Chambourcin - Despite a bizarre aftertaste that was almost salty this was good.
Papa's Red - "Smooth with a kickback aftertaste," Jonaid said. I didn't try it, but I hope a kickback aftertaste isn't heartburn.
Warren Hills Red - Imagine this: a grape fruit roll-up without the sugar. That's exactly what this tastes like. Jonaid looked at me strangely when I said that, but upon his sip he agreed completely. "Slight tanginess to it," he added. We bought a glass of it for $4 to enjoy at the end.
Beaver Creek Red - did not try
Holiday Seasoned - can be served warm, room temp, or cold; all good. With the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg this smelled like a holiday ham.

Fruit Wines - There are multiple fruit wines but at least one named for each of the daughters.
Sadie's Apple - did not try, but this is the only "daughter" wine available now.
Spicy Sisters - did not try
We also did not try the sparkling Maggie's Magic or the two ports, Pop's and Matty's Apple.

The bottles of wine had very unique labels, many custom made celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. The wall of the winery posted events such as a recent murder mystery. "We usually sell more sweet wines than dry," Betsy explained. "That seems to be a general rule; there are a lot of 'beginner' wine drinkers with sweeter tastes on the market." I was surprised to hear that fact. I wonder if it is true nationally, or just NJ, or just at Four Sisters.

Heading outside we sat on the deck that had almost all of the furniture removed. With the remaining seats we overlooked the grapes and hills that are likely stunning in snow, spring, and fall.

Walking around many fall items were still for sale.

And some more decorative cabbage! Jonaid wonders if it is edible.

Opposite of the gourds Jonaid picked up on a familiar scent. Looking downward, he commented, "Is that mint?"

Sniffing it, I said yes. Wine and fresh breath - what more could you want!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mashed Potato Bar & Hypotheticals

Hypothetical Situation of the Week (went into archives for this one): You're walking down a deserted road in the wee hours of the morning. A pay phone next to you starts ringing. Do you answer it? 100% of responses were yes.

[Wedding No. 8]! Quite elegant with the nosh. Pre-cocktail hour martinis,

Cocktail hour with tables of food including stations of Asian, Italian, Tacos, Seafood, Mashed Potato Bar, Wings... You name it, they had it.

The cake.

The chocolate fountain dessert in addition to cake, ice cream bar, waffle/pancake bar, cheesecake bar, and more types of cake than I can count.

Many congrats to the newlyweds!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Heritage Winery & Vineyards

The theme of wine tasting this weekend was "Kentucky Derby" although only Alex, MM, and I participated. Jonaid felt my black dress and black hat looked as if I were going to a funeral rather than out for a jovial day of drinking. Still, I thought my ensemble was quite pleasant.

The last stop of the day puts me exactly halfway through the NJ Wine Passport (don't tell my boyfriend he still has sixteen wineries to test). The caravan of winers finished up at Heritage Winery & Vineyards, in Mullica Hill, NJ.

A fruit pathway lead into the winery and inside was a market of pastries and treats. Jonaid stuffed his face with some apple donuts while MM bought popcorn and the spicy cheese dip that I'm currently enjoying as I type.

We filled one side of the bar as we each picked our five complimentary samples. Andrea hosted AL, MM, Dr. Ali, Jonaid, Barson, Greggy and I while another gentlemen (who turned out to be from Pittsburgh!) focused on Ma, Pa, Sandy & Chris.

Chardonnay - Aged in oak; Jonaid's preference of the two chardonnays.
Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay - Very buttery and oaky; Dad, Ali and I all preferred this over the other.

Merlot - Andrea informed us this was served at a congressional dinner. Ali explained this is "very warm, like I want to be by a fireplace" to which Jonaid replied, "Fire in the disco!" Sandy enjoyed this quite a bit and I agreed as this is one of my favorite merlots in NJ so far.
Cuvee - Very smooth with muted spices. MM would drink a whole glass of this and she's not a red person. Ali loved this; I bought her a bottle for her birthday which is exactly one month earlier or exactly eleven months later than mine, depending on how you look at it.
Syrah - This doesn't have a strong flavor and seems to be more of a compliment to a food than a standalone. Very smooth.

Andrea commented she liked my ring. I thanked her, but Dr. Ali noted she liked her ring, which was a stunning engagement piece. Ma came over at this point and noted she has loved every single wine at this vineyard. Dad nodded in agreement.

Limited Production
Cabernet Franc - Andrea's Favorite. Jonaid said this is slightly darker than the other wines so far - smoky, but so good. Ali said this has a cheesy taste.
Chambourcin - This landed on Jonaid's tongue as mild and smooth.
Sparkling Apple - The carbonation hits you in the face. I disliked it due to the strong resemblance to champagne. Aunt Lynne remarked it was "very good, like a party in your mouth," and Ali enjoyed it.

Jersey White - I believe Greggy said, quote, "I Heart This". Alex said it was too sweet for her, resembling grape juice.

Apple Wine - Very sweet.
Peach - No notes on this! I am certain someone tried it, though.
Blueberry Wine - Alex explained it was very sweet but tasty.

Tastings here were passed around as we each shared our five. Dad, Sandy and Chris were all very impressed with all of the wines. For me, our fabulous host Andrea really made the experience enjoyable as she joked around with us.

Sitting outside at a rounded table in the sunshine, we braced the wind and relied on the heavy wines to warm us up along with the entertaining farm animals and scenery.

Halfway through us relaxing outside, to everyone's great surprise, pulled up my Uncle Michael and Aunt Tracy from central PA. Ma, Jonaid and I laughed it off as we were the only ones who knew they planned to surprise everyone by coming late in the day. "We can't make it," they kept insisting, all the while planning a surprise trip. Grabbing some wine inside, they joined our shenanigans.

All in all, a great day at the vineyards. Glad to have so many friends and family make it to NJ for the venture. Veni, vidi, vino! If that makes any sense.