Monday, January 31, 2011

Sharrott Winery

Jonaid and I walked up the mud-ridden driveway that led to Sharrott Winery. The 40 degree day had the snow glaciers melting, causing a huge mess. The heat wave had me sweating in my jacket.

We walked inside the plain building. "Did you see what they did to my car?" one of the wine hosts was saying. She looked at me. "I paid $40 for someone to clean off my car and now there are scratches on it." She showed me the picture on her phone.

"I would let them know about it," I said, examining the deep marks in her paint.

"Those snow shovelers make a lot of money. For as good of a workout it is, I am about to start shoveling snow in my neighborhood to make some extra cash," another wine host stated.

"And come summertime when you can't throw one back properly because you threw out your drinking arm snow shoveling, you'll be sorry," the original wine host retorted.

"Can't throw my drinks back? I could do a strongman competition with my drinking arm."

A head popped out of the back room, with an older gentlemen. "She's stopping at dunkin donuts before coming in- does anyone want anything?" Responses were a 'no', 'strawberry glazed donut', and then the man looked at us. "Do you want anything?" he inquired to Jonaid and I. We laughed and said no.

And that was only the introductions. It was "bring your own glass" night, to which we brought the "I'm dreaming of a white chardonnay" and the "flip flop glass". Apparently Facebook will display all of the glasses to vote for the best.

Typically tastings are $5-7 but if you BYOG last weekend it was free.

Dry White
Vidal Blanc - Jonaid described this as very light.
Dry Riesling - Crisp; very grape juicy. Jonaid preferred this over the vidal blanc.
Reserve Chardonnay - Buttery like popcorn. So THIS is why I've been craving popcorn all day. I saw my notes on this and remembered.

Dry Red
Merlot - Very smooth, easy going down.
Cab Franc - Absolutely delicious.
Trio - both Jonaid and I tried this. It was a bit too much for me; so many flavors that I was in overload.
Cab Sauv - "This is very easy going down," Jonaid said.
Chambourcin - Sold out

Semi Sweet Wines
Vignoles - Did not try
Riesling - To me this tasted carbonated, but it wasn't. The wine host explained the acidity could mimic carbonation.

Sweet Wines
Crimson Sky - Just like a bottle of juice, goes down dangerously. This would make a fantastic sangria. Jonaid bought it as a donation to the next sorority girls night out (thanks babe!).
Raspberry - With a big whiff Jonaid said it smelled like dead coral. I sniffed, and it smelled pleasant to me, but Jonaid insisted. It was sweet but not sickeningly so. I liked it.

Jonaid's glass wasn't clear so his pours were a bit larger than usual, which made him singsongy on the ride home. The personalities here were so welcoming, plus with the unique glass competition it was such a fun atmosphere. Cheers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Amalthea Cellars

The first NJ Wine Weekend of 2011 was kicked off with a snowy bang. Jonaid and I traveled the finally plowed roads to southern NJ. We crossed two more wineries off of our list (and ladies+gents, we are down to the FINAL NINE on the wine tour!!!). To keep us all on the same page, we learned that the passport is actually due by the end of April 2011, so we're not in any peril.

Back to the snowy weekend in January. Jonaid and I pulled into the quiet Amalthea Cellars. The artistic building was shaded with icicles and a snow backdrop that couldn't have been more stunning if it were designed to always look like that.

We headed inside to meet Debbie, our wine host. The tasting is free and we seemingly had no limits on the number of wines we could try.

Dry White Wines
Elara - A chardonnay, reisling, and rayon d'our mix. "Rayon d'our is a very unknown grape," Debbie explained. The chardonnay in this blend was most noticeable.
Green Dragon Chardonnay - We tried this twice, once fresh out of the fridge and once after it had sat out. "Both whites and reds are actually supposed to be just below room temperature," Debbie explained. "Americans do it all wrong; our whites are too cold and our reds are too warm. This wine is better after it sits out, in my opinion." The first time I tried this, it was extremely crisp with remnants of champagne. The licorice flavor was very bizarre but noticeable. The second time we tried it, after it had been sitting out and after we had done all of the reds, the flavor was much milder. I didn't taste the licorice this time, but the aroma was evident.
Chardonnay Sur lie - Sur lie meaning 'on mud', which is how this wine is made. The sediment is a huge part of this wine's aging process. The floral flavors came on strong here but its creamy texture had me buying a bottle to bring home.
Chardonnay Reserve - not available for tasting
Viognier - Higher acidity but is very buttery.
Rkatsiteli - Pronounced "rah-kat-sit-elli" which Debbie explained was an Eastern European/Russian Grape that I'd never heard of. Aged in French Oak (which, bytheway, I had no idea was $1200 a barrel). This flavor is only very mild.

Semi Dry Wine
Vilalrd Blanc, Metis, Callisto Rouge - all did not try

Dessert Wine
Late Harvest Villard (2007 & 2008) - did not try

At this point the cat, Juicy, decided to join us. She sniffed around and then was taken back upstairs. "All wines except for the Green Dragon Chardonnay are from NJ," Debbie explained. The Green Dragon was from Napa.

Dry Red Wine
Cabernet Franc - As this was a new release, Debbie had never had this before. As Jonaid and I attempted to decipher the flavors and aromas, Debbie had to pour herself a taste. The very unique tannic flavor was that of currants.
Cab Franc Reserve - Not available for tasting
Cab Franc Limited Edition - Did not try
Syrah - Not Available for tasting
Merlot - "This is only 9 months old, so it is reaching its wine puberty," Debbie noted. The plum flavor here is only a slight undertone. It is aged in American Oak (which is only $600 a barrel) and to me was quite harsh.
Merlot Reserve - Not available for tasting
Cab Sauv Reserve - Not available for tasting

Legends Edition
2008 Europa III - A blend of Cab Sav, Merlot, and Cab Franc, this was a sensory overload. I definitely wish I would have tried this with a meat dish to get a better review.
Europa II-IV, VII (various years) - Not available for tasting

As we headed out of the tasting room Debbie offered to show us the barrels. The chilly room housed the entire wine making scheme.

As usual Jonaid and I entered the winery with the expectation to veer toward the reds but were amazed at how remarkable the whites were. We left feeling happily surprised with the wine kickoff of 2k11 and with a sweet new bag that can hold six bottles of wine at one time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hypothetical & Wine Slushie

Quick Hypothetical: Celeb Deathmatch. Betty Crocker v. Aunt Jemima. Salivate it out.

Friday Wine Experiment: When you have 18" of fresh snow, on top of whatever old snow you had before that, what the heck do you do with it? Here's one idea. Wine slushies.

Although it's nowhere near as good as the Penn State Winery's official wine slurpee, this is a very inexpensive impromptu alternative.

First, grab a glass. Second, toss the stink bug.

Do those guys ever go away? Second, put that glass in the sink and get a new one. (Yes, even if it is your favorite glass. If you're desperate, wash it.)

After that, head outside. Don't lock yourself out. Double check that you have snow.

You have snow? Great. Get a big 'ol scoop.

Go back inside, lock the door behind you. Shiver because yes, it's that cold outside.  Then, pour the wine on top. I recommend a sweet red, but really you could use whatever.

Stir and enjoy. I didn't have a drink stirrer so I used a chopstick; it's all the same. Unfortunately the snow quickly  coagulated and formed cubes. Still, it was tasty and fun. Cheerys!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

18" This Time

The alarm goes off on a snowy Thursday. The kid inside me still is excited to wake up (do we have a delay? Is school canceled?). Armed with a cup of coffee I flip on the news to see the damage. 18". Respectable. Work got 15". Should I attempt to go in? Or just start playing beer pong with my snowman? 

Eventually I work up the determination to make use of the shovel. Something about being outside with the snow in the early morning is very peaceful. My neighbors slowly wake up, greeting one another with the required awe. "What do you think of all of this?" They say, each admiring their own mountain. "That was quite a storm," one will say. "Not worse than last year," another will say. And we'll do it all over again next year.

A driveway is not measured by how many cars fit in it but rather how long it takes to shovel. It is a slow, painstaking process where you feel muscles you didn't know you had. Thank goodness this workout fell on GTL Jerzday. A lot of time passes with time to think- hmm, is it uncanny that Steve Jobs takes a leave from Apple just as the search for a Regis Philbin replacement begins? Thoughts run through the cold air as three people tackled my driveway in an hour and a half. I was by far the weakest link.

This probably isn't even half of the driveway.

Anyway, bring it on snow. This is what winter is all about. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Sets Us Apart as a Nation

One example is the ability to express ourselves. So thank-you, paint, for today's expression of Popcorn Island. Also, the diet has officially started. So when I do get to Popcorn Island, I'm one hot kernel.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

DJ Mullet: I should've picked up the penny.

Hypothetical: So you’re having an epically bad week. Everything seems to be going wrong. You’re standing in a skanky, grossnasty bathroom. You see a penny, face up on the floor. Do you pick it up?

Dad explained if you deny a penny once you lose all future good luck penny opportunities. Aunt Jul stated that may be the one penny that kept her from becoming a gazillionare. Dr. Ali said no way. And especially after the week I had, that penny was crucial.

In other news, Jonaid told me he'd give me $5 if I went up to the DJ and touched his mullet. Of course, mission accomplished. The DJ was exceptionally friendly and his mullet was super soft.

A fundraiser event we attended this weekend had little games called 'jars', which I've also heard called BINGO. Basically you buy a random strip of numbers for $1. If any of your numbers end in '13' (such as, 813, 713, etc) you keep it and you are entered into a drawing. Well, UM played, but didn't win. So I wrote 'WIN' on one of his strips as a consolation prize. He picked up all of the strips, probably fifty of them, tossed them in the air like confetti, and one landed in his beer below.

Of course, it was the WIN one. What luck.

Cheers to another good weekend!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oak Spring Winery & Brookmere Winery

Two weeks ago when I went to the Super Sweet 30th Birthday I used my persuasive methods on Allie. With the charm of a springtime sauvignon, I talked her into pregaming at local wineries. Allie enjoys wine too, so it didn't take much convincing (just don't tell her personal trainer).

The first winery we went to was Oak Spring. We arrived at the snow covered driveway and into the tasting room. There's not much scenery here; the vineyard itself is a few miles away and isn't open to the public.

The tasting room was empty and the carpet was simply dreadful. We pulled up to the tasting bench, met our wine host/winemaker John, and started tasting.

There is no fee for the tastes and seemingly no limits on quantities. All of the wines are fermented in stainless steel; only the Cab Sauv gets oak chips. I believe only one of the grapes is grown at the vineyard (the vidal blanc reserve I believe), the rest are bought in Erie.

We tried the cab, chambourcin, merlot, gewurztraminer, white cin, riesling, steuben, bluesberry, and the cherry/chocolate (their bestseller!). And that was only 39% of their available wines.

To be honest I judged a book by its cover and was about to disregard this winery. No grapes, an unimpressive tasting room, and a website that is sorely outdated. Boy was I wrong. These award winning wines were incredibly flavorful and unique. Bluesberry? Watch out, Garden State. White Cin? A chambourcin blush that is incredibly refreshing. The chambourcin? Sour with hints of dill so unique that I brought a bottle home with me for only ten greenbacks. (Although John said he is clueless why people pick this bottle up over the Cab. I'll admit- the cab was awesome, but this was half the price.)

Allie and I left the 25-year old winery to head to the tasting room of Brookmere Winery. I'd passed this vineyard on my way to town, but they had a local tasting room that we opted for instead. Driving by the winery is simply stunning. There is a backdrop of gorgeous hills; it is so peaceful. I didn't get a picture but I will definitely go back for a summertime tasting.

The local room is very small but very welcoming. Similar to Oak Ridge, you can try as many as you'd like at no charge.

All of the wines are served cold, even the reds. We tried the Alexander Red, Cab Franc, Railroad, Chambourcin, and the Sangria. The wines were vastly different; the Alexander red was heavy, the Railroad tasted like cough syrup, and the sangria was heavenly. "I could drink this by the bucketful," I commented, and Allie agreed.

My only regret is neither place sold wines by the glass. Definitely something to revisit in the summer, though! Cheers!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thirsty Thursday = Juiced Jerzday

"Jersey girls were ridiculously easy. They might as well walk around with mattresses strapped to their backs." - Snooki Monster's new book

Speaking of which--- I got an autographed copy of that last Jerzday--

More of 'A Shore Thing' book review to come, with a bonus dissertation of why The Fonz was The Situation of the 70s.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hypothets, Don't Drink and Text, Thai in the Eye

Hypothet: You get to name the new star sign (the 13th one just added). What do you name it?

Saturday night I was happily stumbling around a New York City bar, beer in hand with Sweet Caroline on in the background. Suddenly, someone bumps into me, spilling my beer all over my camera and phone. I panicked. 

The sequence of events following is hard to reconstruct. At the time, I dried in between the keys of my phone and continuously got liquid. My camera wheel didn't appear to be working. The accuracy of both of these events is unclear due to intoxication.

This morning, I inspected my beloved Canon (not the new SLR- so don't freak out parents!) and it seems to be fine. The wheel works perfectly so I wonder if it was an operator error. It doesn't smell like beer and there is no residue. The phone on the other hand, is excessively sticky. I took the cover off and the back was drenched and reeking. I took the whole thing apart. The water damage sticker hasn't changed colors (so that's a good thing) but everything has moisture on it. 

Ugh. What a nightmare. But otherwise, it was a very fun night in NYC. An open bar for Glor's 25th birthday, plus Thai food (that got in my eye.... What a horrendous blaze that is), and various shenanigans until 4am. Typical.

East River from the Upper East Side

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Facebook Profile Art

If Facebook is going to force the new profile, then fine. My response is to make the first five pictures a story. As Jonaid tells me, 'You think you're soooo funny.' Haha- well it entertained me during the snowstorm, anyway.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Super Sweet 30th Birthday

A little over a month ago Allie texted me. "Want to be my date to a 30th birthday party?" she keyed. "It's an open bar."

[the lights on the wall at the party]

It was midnight and I had already downed three beers when I received the message. I wasn't sure I was reading straight. An open bar 30th birthday? What kind of party is this? Of course I wanted to go.

So on a sub-twenty degree January day, I trekked to Western PA in white heels and a black dress as per the invite's dress code. Allie and I arrived shivering at the party hall, an old bank that is now used for wedding receptions, banquets, and super sweet 30th birthdays.

The whole scene was filled with black and white except for the bride birthday girl, who wore a pink dress, sparkly heels, and carried a martini glass so big that an entire bottle of champagne filled it. She sipped it as she waltzed around the room, greeting all of the 100+ guests.

The tables were adorned with black and white linens with pink drink centerpieces. The back of the hall held a buffet of pulled pork, chicken, potatoes, vegetables, cheese, buffalo chicken dip.... The bar held potent punches, kegs, wines.... and so much more.

The cake, equal in splendor to the decor, was three cakes, each with ten candles on it. I snagged a slice of pumpkin, but you also could have chosen banana or chocolate.

As the DJ had games for the crowd and lots of dancing, Allie and I found our way to the elevator to go to the bathroom. We accidentally hit the third floor- which opened up to a cobweb-y room with stacked chairs that was quite eerie. Quickly we pressed the button to the women's bathroom, which turned out to be just as strange. A wooden door (of course I opened it) showed a working dumbwaiter filled with toiletries. A lone chair sat in the bathroom, which Allie termed the 'observation chair'. "I think it's a law in PA that a chair must be in the women's bathroom," she commented. Upon research, I think it's in place for breastfeeding.

Back downstairs we went to enjoy the rest of the celebration. I wished I knew the birthday girl a little better; I had fun not knowing many people so I can only imagine if I'd been familiar with everyone. A very unique and enjoyable night. Quite a way to ring in the 30th birthday!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hypothetical & Do Not Press This Button

Spotted at the Super Sweet 30th Birthday (more to come on that later):

And we accidentally went to the unmarked 3rd floor, which is beyond creepy. Heaven forbid we use that button.

Hypothetical Situation of the Week (brought to you by Barson): You have the opportunity to star in a movie. What movie and who is your costar?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

maryland crab wine soup

One of the things I miss most about college is the Maryland Crab Soup. Long gone are the days of p-chem all nighters, dollar natural light pounders, and a good old crock o' crab. Shortly after graduation, I reminisced my old bay glory days and developed my own homemade version.

After an extra two hours at work I came home with the idea to relax with a glass of wine and to treat myself to the old favorite.  As the broth simmered, I uncorked a bottle.

Blech! I nearly spat the red venom into the pot. What to do when the wine poured makes you gag? Dumping wine down the drain is a serious crime; that's alcohol abuse. Not even Mad Dog 20/20 ever got that fate.

Suddenly, I stared at the crabs.

The crabs cockeyed back at me.

I raised an eyebrow. A little Barbera for the crabs... And voila. No abusive behavior and quite a twist to the old classic. I'll have to use the rest of the bottle on a red marinara.

Monday, January 03, 2011