We Love to … and it Shows

Well, I love to travel, and it shows. You can see my loads of pictures, hear my stories, look at my passport when it’s international (though it’s not stamped as much as many of my friends). And, sometimes see my wine rack (and the blog).

A lot of travel requires flying. Things happen. I don’t really have anything to say about what has happened in the flight world the past several weeks. When I have traveled recently a friend gave me drink coupons to receive free vino on my flights with the airline associated with the recent media…score! On my flight outbound, I had mentioned something to the flight attendant about wine and she said ‘I don’t want your drink ticket. Why should I take it, we both love wine?’ Don’t have to say that to me twice. She also gave the guy across the aisle a free beer because he had helped with something. Cool.

On my way back I asked what the premium wines were. The flight attendant said Malbec. And the premiums are twice as much as the ‘normal,’ so didn’t know if I would need to provide two tickets. He just handed me this split of wine, a nice plastic cup and pushed that cart on its merry way. And, note, the price might be twice as much but you also get twice the volume (a split vs a one-glass size).

I might be the lucky one, I don’t know if an airline is working hard to repair something. I have a friend who works for this company and don’t know how that person is doing. But, right then and there, I was loving enjoying my Malbec and it showed (don’t take that in some crazy inappropriate way) thanks to the service. Cheers!

Side note, as a bonus, the person I met for a getaway weekend was flying home to a different destination. We saw that at a gate next to mine there was a flight leaving to her destination two hours earlier than the flight she was slated to be on. I told her to go ask if she could get on that flight. Success with zero change fee! Simple things.

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Oh My Clydesdale!

As I’m traveling across the country, there was a stop in St. Louis. That meant a visit to the Anheuser-Busch brewery was due.

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But, the only thing I truly wanted to see was the horses. I have done much work for A-B and I told them I never needed money (I say that as though I was the one truly getting the pay, I know my employer wouldn’t be thrilled with this thought), all I wanted was to do was come see the Clydesdales and play with the Dalmatians and Labs. What more could one ask???

So, we arrived at the brewery and did indeed enjoy a cold brew first. I’m not a huge fan of macrobrews (and will say I’m disappointed in how InBev/A-B, and some other names are trying to take over the beer industry), so I did not have a Budweiser. I opted for Shock Top, the good ol’ original one. They had the seasonal (pumpkin) one on tap (which I’ve had in the past and it’s pretty good), as well as the apple brew. They also had the good non-Bud brews available, including Bass, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Kirin, Stella, Beck’s, Goose Island, which they now own.

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We were able to get a horse-tour only pass to go check out the great Bud icons.

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Off we went to get a history of the horses and what they do. There was one outside and the rest were in there rough digs inside. They have quite the life.

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We were also told about the farm where many more of the horses live, Warm Springs Ranch, and stopped by it the next day. Acres and acres of land where several hundreds of these majestic guys live. It was closed when were arrived (and tough to get a tour, anyway) but I was able to snap a couple pics.

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So, I got most of what I wanted to see. Now I just want to see the dogs, both the Dalmatians and Labs, and my A-B goal will be complete!

SA Winery Visit #4 — Muratie

We were very fortunate on our winery tour because there were only 3 people in the group (vs up to 16).  Our guide was also amazing.  Based on the great blend of people, the guide made sure that we fit 4 wineries into the day and finished the outing with an amazing vineyard.  The close the tour, we visited Muratie in the Stellenbosch.

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It’s one of the oldest estates in South Africa and that is evidenced by the amazing wine, stories and other things you see.

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At Muratie we were once again able to choose which wines we would like to sample, and shared amongst each other.

I started with the Melck’s Rose, which was made with Cab Franc.  Nice, crisp and refreshing.  And a steal at R45.

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Next I went to their Laurens Campher (Blended White).  It’s 46% Chenin Blanc, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 19% Verdolho, 10% Viognier.  Buttery was my take on it. R95.

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Then I had a quick sip of their Lady Alice Methode Cap Classique.  Was this beer?  The reason I say that is that it tasty yeasty.  R120.

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Ok, red time!!!  Started with the Melck’s Red, a 50/50 Shiraz/Cab blend.  Just a nice, easy dinner wine.  R50.

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Moving down the line, next came the George Paul Canitz Pinot Noir.  It had a black pepper nose and for the taste — a bit of green pepper, chocolate and some berries.  Quite unique.  R165.

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Then came Shiraz time, Ronnie Melck Shiraz to be exact, from the family selection.  NICE!!!!!!  Normally it’s not available for tasting but we lucked out.  Smoke, tobacco, smooth…very similar to a pinotage.  Very worthy of the price of R350.

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To wrap up the tasting there was the fortified wine, Ben Prins Cape Vintage.  With 19.5% alcohol, it was a bit chewy with notes of chocolate and blackberry.  R170.

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This winery was great to just look around and see fun parts of.

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Amazing winery to wrap up an amazing day!  It’s tough to get these/their wine in the States but I am going to keep working on it to continue enjoying amazing vino.  Cheers!

SA Winery Visit #3 — Solms Delta

After the 2nd winery, we put the bikes away and took a long enough drive (as in too far to ride) to Solms Delta.

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Here we started with their Vastrap, a white which is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Semillon.  It was a dry white, nothing to write home about.  R50.

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Next we went to the Amalie, which is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache.  Smells like chard, has some oak flavors, but I would characterize it as a ‘light’ chard.  R110.

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Third one presented was the Lekkerwijn, which means ‘nice’ or ‘yummy’ wine.  It’s a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache Noir and Viognier and is a Rose.  It was sweet and not great.  R55.

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Reds, finally reds!!!  Langarm, pronounced Long-arm, a blend of four varietals — Pinotage, Touriga Nacional, Shiraz and Mourvedre.  The nose had tobacco and was sweet.  The taste was light and peppery.  R55.

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Next red was one I look for a lot and can be hard to find — sparkling Shiraz.  This one is their Cape Jazz Shiraz.  Subtle, fruity, per them. Light, refreshing, 9.9% alcohol.  Yes, oh yes.  I left with a bottle.  R580.

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We then hit a fortified wine, the Gemoedsrus, made with a Shiraz grape.  The style ‘An entirely new concept in port-style wine; Shiraz desiccated on the vine, then fortified with Shiraz grappa.’  18.5% alcohol, NICE and SMOOTH.  R150.

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Finally we sampled an experimental wine, Perry, a lightly sparkling pear fermented beverage, 6% ABV.  Crisp and refreshing.  The problem here is that you could not taste any alcohol so you could easily just be sitting outside enjoying this on a beautiful summer day and that bottle would be gone quickly…and you would be too…without realizing it.  R50.

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Three down, and since we had such a small group, our guide made sure we hit one more winery before the day was done!

 

SA Winery Visit #2 — Franschhoek Cellar

To get to our 2nd winery, we only had to ride about 5K from the first.  Not too shabby.  Still very scenic!

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This next winery we visited was Franschhoek Cellar.

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For the tasting, we got to pick six to sample from the entire menu (versus being given specific wines).  That was great because between the entire three of us on the tour, we were able to taste almost everything!  And off we went.

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Statue de Femme Sauvignon Blanc — In the top 10 last year.  Light and crisp.  Another typical SA bargain at R50.

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La Cotte Mill Chenin Blanc — Tropical, pineapple taste.  R40!  Really, $4 for a bottle.  Love this place.  Note on the dates on the back labels, they write day/month, versus how we do month/day.

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Club Hose Rose – a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz and Cab.  The best way I can describe it would be powdery rose petals.  GREAT!!!!  R40.

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The Old Museum Merlot — Very berry-y.  NICE, for a Merlot.  There seemed to be quite a difference in SA Merlots.  I don’t normally like them but down there they are quite unique!  R50.

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Stone Bridge Pinotage — Nice, light and smoky, oh yes.  R50.

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The Churchyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Thick, chocolate, tobacco are the best notes to describe this one. R50.

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Last but not least was a limited release.  The Franschhoek Vineyards Shiraz, cellar door exclusive, no info about it anywhere except on the tasting sheet.  “The Shiraz grapes for this wine are from one of the highest most rugged vineyard sites in Franschhoek with singular personality and expression that compelled our winemaker Richard Duckitt to go to great lengths to preserve the tremendous concentration and purity of fruit in this exemplary Franschhoek wine.” — ‘sweet’, thick and smooth. R100.

Mid-way through this tasting after everything was poured, lunch was served and we were able to take our glasses outside to enjoy some great food and drink in the amazing weather.

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SA Winery Visit #1 — Moreson

While in South Africa, one of the days was dedicated to a cycling winery tour.  Sunny, 70s, paved and dirt roads, many grapes, heaven on earth!

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Our first winery of the day was Moreson.   To get there, we had about a 12K ride from our starting point.  Wine was in order!  It was a beautiful outdoor setting with fountains, ponds, little rivers and just a great atmosphere.

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To start the tasting, we enjoyed some bubbly, their One Chardonnay Pinot Noir, which I would describe as a perfect balance between Champagne and Prosecco.  Amazing!  And of course you can only buy it in South Africa (for a rough R126 — about $12!)

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We were given a second round of bubbly, this time Solitaire Blanc de Blancs.  I would describe this as green apples, sharp and crisp, NICE!  Another steal at R110.

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We then progressed from bubbles to the regular stuff.  Our first one was a white, the Dr. Reason Why Unwooded Chardonnay.  Love the name!  Though unoaked, there was a bit of light cream taste.  R89.

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Round 4 of the tasting brought about another Chard, this time the Mercator Premium Chardonnay.  The nose had notes of lemon, lime and toast.  The taste — NICE!  It had a light toast taste but not like a ‘true’ chard (to me — saying this as not a big chard fan).  R168.

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Last but not least is what I love about South Africa the most — Pinotage.  The sinful, powerful, delicious, perfect cross of Pinot Noir and Hermitage.  Have your ever wondered how it came about?  Here’s the quick history lesson on Pinotage.  Thanks Wikipedia!  This brought out all the characteristics of the varietal I expected — smoky and smooth…ahh, what a pour!  R168.

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This was a great start to the winery tour.  Once done, we hopped back on our bikes to the next one…about 5K away.

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And the beer goes on…

Had to continue enjoying the local brews while in Ft. Collins.  One must take in as much as possible when not at home.  So I took one for the team…

Brewery 5:  Odell Brewing Company.  Sample — $4!  For 6 tastes!  This is another one with the whole (unfortunate) issue of 5 oz pours, 6 beers, 5,000 ft elevation…  This was my first stop of the day.  Hey, I was fresh right.  I had to be so careful and drink responsibly in the sense that there was more to come.  My total favorite was Levity with several close runner ups.

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Brewery 6:  Fort Collins Brewery.  Good name considering where I was.  I found another chili beer here.  After sampling a few I ended with this amazing smoky beer, that was that chili one — Mesquite Chili Lime Ale, part of their Out of the Ashes Smoke Beer Series.  Not describable in words.  Go to the store to find it, or better yet, just head out there to have some (limited edition though, so hurry)!

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Brewery 7:  New Belgium Brewing Company.  This is one of my favorites!  Went on the brewery several years ago and the twirly slide at the end if priceless!  This time I just went to sample.  So many options, so little time.  Many new Lips of Faith to try, other random stuff to sample.  It was packed that it was tough to even move.  I just had sips of some new stuff then finished with my favorite Fat Tire.  Oh happy day.

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All good things must come to an end.  I eventually had to get on a plane and come back east.  I do have a brewery tour scheduled at Flying Dog soon.  Looking forward to that!

I’m in a Colorado State of Beer

I had Billy’s Joel New York State of Mind rolling through my head so couldn’t think of a better title for the post.  So, after visiting wine country in Oregon, I headed a time zone east and a couple states south to check out Ft. Collins, Colorado.  I had my fix of wine so hit the breweries this time.

The problem when you go to breweries (proper) is that there are too many choices.  Sometimes overwhelming.  I tried to do samplers at most of them when possible.  The other problem with beer?  *NOTE — I am not dismissing beer, turning it down, or crossing it off my list at all!  Just making travel notes for future reference. Unlike wine where you can spit, that’s not really an option with beer.  Proceed with caution.  And jumping three days forward, my hosts mentioned that when they moved to Colorado they noticed the beer hit them much more quickly (than when at sea level) for awhile.  Thanks!  You couldn’t have told me that when I got here?  I wasn’t going to say anything…

Anyway….

Brewery 1:  Black Bottle Brewery.  Too many, way too many, beers to pick from.  I honestly can’t remember which one I finally opted for to enjoy over dinner, but it was good!  Some of the beer names are great, Social Insecurity being my favorite.

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Brewery 2:  Cooper Smith’s Pub & Brewing.  Great place to both enjoy some great food and beer.  I had a sip of several before deciding what to have.  I do remember one that had the name ‘chili’ in it.  You could taste that green chili in there — it wasn’t necessarily hot but you knew it was there.

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Brewery 3:  Pateros Creek Brewing Company.  It’s a little bit hidden, so you have to know where to find it.  They apparently have great social events in the evening, FYI, if you’re a local.  It’s a small place, but nice brews.  I happened to get there right before a downpour so spent a little bit of time there chatting with the beermaster.  Aside from that conversation, I think I  found that CO, or at least Ft. Collins, has a like of chilis, because they also had a beer with some kick.  Hmmm…  They also make gluten free beer.  I have several friends who would be thrilled.

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Brewery 4:  Equinox Brewing Company.  Sampling flight = 6 beers in 5 oz. pours at 5,000 ft. elevation.  That’s where that whole idea/thought of no spitting/dump bucket REALLY came into play.  I loved the (light) IPA.   I say light as in I didn’t feel like I was bouncing off the walls, on a trampoline or on those OLD SCHOOL pogo sticks.  Just a nice amount of hops.  There was a red on there, too.  Dang!  The weekend I was there, the Great American Beer Festival happened to be in town (Denver, close enough) and many brewers were near the bar so I shared my sampler with them and it was very interesting getting their feedback/comment/sipping notes on the beer.

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More to come…

Travel = Great Food!

When I was in Oregon it meant I had to eat out.  Darn!  My friends and I explored several places, I only remembered to get pictures at a few.

Day 1:  Dinner at McMenamins – Zeus Cafe.  Quite the variety.  One person has chickpea fries, one went with mussels for appetizers.  For dinner, I had a great thin crust pizza with grilled chicken, arugula, tomatoes and something else…I can’t remember what because it was so good!

Day 2:  Lunch at Yara Lebanese Cuisine.  Any place that makes Baba Ghanouj without dairy to put a ‘lactard’ on cloud nine is unreal (at least in my book).  So, we had a mixed plate/yara platter appetizer then I had a house salad, and friends had kababs.

Dinner at Pok Pok.  Yes, I had to use the bathroom and what did I find when I was in there?  Oh, that they were elected for The James Beard Foundation Awards.  This has happened for many, many years.

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Anyway, other cool stuff on this place.  You go put you name in line/on the list.  They give you your buzzer and mention there is a bar across the street where you can wait.  They are connected to these guys so you can tell the other bar what your buzzer number is and they’ll take care of it.  They let you know when your table is ready.  Nicely connected!

When we got our table, jumping ahead a bit, great food!  I tried the Yam Tuna — thai style tuna salad with ginger, garlic, thai chilies, green onions, lemongrass, tomatoes and Oregon (oh, yes, local!) Albacore in spicy lime and fish sauce dressing.  Some of it had some kick!  I can see why this place is well known and recognized.

Day 3:  Lunch in wine country!!!!!!!!!!  Received several recommendations to try Red Hills Market.  People told me it was sort of like a Dean & Deluca on a nice local level.   You walk up to the counter, order and then they bring it to your table.  I enjoyed a nice salami and arugula sandwich and a delicious bean soup.  It was a sort of cloudy day so fit the weather perfectly.

Dinner was based on a recommendation from one of the wineries.  You can never go wrong with Mexican!  So, my friend and I checked out Verde Cocina.  Fresh, delicious, perfect!

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For me, the three staples at a mexican restaurant are a margarita, salsa and guacamole.  Check!

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Here, they serve you nice warm corn tortillas instead of chips with your goods.  Deadly…

For dinner, they had ceviche…SOLD!  I love the stuff.

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Day 4:  Dinner at Petisco.  Little, local restaurant in the neighborhood where I was staying.   I was so thrilled because I was able to have French Onion soup for the first time in ages because they use olive oil (vs butter) in the base and the cheese on top…manchego.  What more could one ask?  Great way to end my trip in Oregon!

 

Wine from A to Z, literally and figuratively

To wrap up my winery visits in Oregon, I spent some time with the CEO of one of my favorites vineyards, and found out more about it.  I went to what I thought was only A to Z.  Well, there is so much more to it!  They also produce Rex Hill wines, which is actually the primary one at the tasting room, and a few people who work there produce their own wines in small quantities.

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William (Bill) Hatcher gave me a tour of the cellars and I got to taste wines that were still ‘grape juice’ — as in had no alcohol content yet — to slowly working up to perfection.  The ones I sampled went from 1-7 days ‘old’ (there is a much more technical name for this) and it was interesting getting a ‘feel’ for what the process entails.  There is also a labeling system for each wine as they are being produced, then I got info on bottling, corking, distribution and more.

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After that I tasted many of their amazing offerings, from whites to reds, Chards to Pinots.  I don’t love Chards but wow!  Bring…it…on.  I spent more time talking to Bill about the history of the company, what has brought them to where they are and what/where they hope to go in the future.  This is yet another location where I wanted to load up on tons of bottles but I did have to travel across the country to get home so it wouldn’t be the easiest thing to do.  I somehow left with only three, knowing that would give me reason to go back.  The William Hatcher bottle in the middle is Bill’s own and was quite amazing!

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