Thursday, May 29, 2008

Black Mountain Pinot Noir and Muenster

The other day I received the Black Mountain Pinot Noir as a gift. Having heard nothing about it, but the giver saying its good, I decided to try it with my good friends Mr. and Mrs. Luce. I looked up what cheese pairs well with Pinot in search of something grocery store worthy and was surprised to see Munster. So, I picked it up and was on my way, hoping both the wine and the pairing fared well. Luckily, Mr. and Mrs. Luce are good friends so even if it didn’t all would be ok- but still, who wants to bring over bad wine? Certainly not this winelush.

And…it was good. Really, the pinot was yummy and the cheese went very well with it. Both are fairly mild, so its not like either one really “set the other off”- but they complimented each other very well. I would completely recommend the pairing, particularly if you’re looking for a mild cheese that has mass appeal.

But this Black Mountain wine from Cali intrigued me. How can I have never heard of it? I mean really, as the HeadWino of a wine club and a lush, one would think I had heard something about most California wines. I decided, of course, to look it up. What I found, surprised me. Black Mountain Wine is owned by Bronco Wine Company, the #4 wine producer in the country, Bronco makes wines under a vast number of labels. Many, like Charles Shaw, were acquired by Franzia from distressed companies. The brands include “Two buck chuck” Charles Shaw wines that Trader Joes carries, ForestVille Vineyard, Montpellier Vineyard, Hacienda Wine Cellars, Napa Ridge, Forest Glen, Estrella, Napa Ridge, Sea Ridge, Coastal Ridge, Silver Ridge and on-premise brands like Salmon Creek and Domaine Napa, and a new super-value wine for independent grocers, Crane Lake. Hmm. Who knew?

The funny thing is the owner’s name is Fred Franzia. Who, despite the name and the connection to cheap wine, has nothing to do with Franzia wines, but he is the nephew of EJ Gallo Wines. (so he didn't fall far from the cheap wine tree)

So, basically I found that I would normally have never ever purchased this wine knowing it came from such cheap roots. Snobby? Maybe, but I’m glad I got it and my misconceptions were wrong. I’m fairly sure it’s a reasonable price, although surely higher than Charles Shaw, but we’ll see next time I find it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sony 580i phone-yes, you can make ringtones

Public service announcement to all Sony 580i owners:

I searched high and low and could not find this information, so I feel I must share it somehow, in hopes others will find it.

You CAN make your own ringtones. The secret is to first make a file less than 100K. (usually about 20 seconds) Save it on your computer. Open Sony PC Suite, connect in phone mode, then drag it into the ringtones file and the phone recognizes it as a ringtone. (which it won’t do if you just put a song in there)

I personally use Motorola Phone Tools to make my ringtones anyway-it lets you pick which portion of the song you want. I don’t like being stuck with having my ringtones be the first 20 seconds of the song.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

2005 Taria ‘Cuvée 384’

Man, I love the Gold Medal Wine Club. They really have great stuff in their monthly selections. This, for example, was really good and I think showed potential to age. A smidge oaky with a hint, just a hint of smoke/tobacco. I don't like cigar box wines, so it certainly wasn't that, but it wasn't bam in your face fruit either. We drank it by itself and while it was very good I think it would be GREAT with some meat- beef, lamb, something that walks. And reasonably priced- I think if we order a half case its $17/bottle.

"The Taria 2005 Central Coast ‘Cuvée 384’ is a Bordeaux style blend representative of the Central Coast region and the 2005 vintage, and named for the restaurant in which it’s been exclusively offered. Older Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from vineyards in the heart of the Paso Robles appellation were joined with cool climate Monterey County Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon to produce this well cultivated blend. The vineyards were chosen because while they produce consistently high quality fruit, they also have excellent soil structure and uniformity, allowing all the grapes to ripen at the same time. The end result is a wine as fruity as any California Cabernet, but also as refined as any wine from Bordeaux. A Gold Medal Wine Club Exclusive, the Taria ‘Cuvée 384’ expresses ripe stone fruit, spice, tobacco, and soft vanilla aromas with a rich, balanced mouthfeel and smooth tannins. Pair the Cuvée with hearty steaks, filet mignons, and roasted lamb. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Malbec. Enjoy now until 2015."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

McDonalds-the newest geriatric vacation destination

I was recently at McDonalds. Yes, I know, tsk tsk, after I worked so hard to lose all that weight! But, I have to get back on the wagon at some very soon point, so I decided to have that “last meal” at McD’s. Anyway, I work close to one of the busiest McDonalds I’ve ever seen. (If I had a million dollars, I would open another one exactly one mile away because I really do believe the market could handle it- its busier than an In-n-out)

So I’m inside, and notice really, there are a lot of kids, of course, but also a lot of old people here. By old, I mean old- walkers, can’t hear, that kind of old. I wonder has McDonalds become a diaper-only establishment? Either babies or old people, no one in between? But then I saw a bunch of construction workers come in and whew! I am still allowed.

As I waited in the longest line ever (keep in mind there are ALSO a ton of old people ordering) I notice even MORE old people. Wow. “Is there like a tour bus outside or something?” I joke to myself but really just write it off to some Senior Cheeseburger Day I don’t know about or something.

Anyway, I finally order and sit down by a window and notice…..a bus from an old folks home. LOL. It really is a “destination”!! I imagined these little old ladies doing their hair getting ready for the big trip to McDonalds and it amused me for a bit.

Then, since I’m alone, I got a bit bored and read my water cup. (I figured if I got water in totally cancels out the fries, right?? No? Hmm. No fun!!) Did you know that “I’m lovin’ it” is not only translated to a bunch of different languages but that it is actually trademarked in English, Spanish, German, Canadian French, Portuguese, Chinese, Turkish, and Ukrainian??

Wow, those McDonalds people are pretty smart. Maybe it really IS worth visiting when all there is to do is play bridge and nap. I look forward to the day.


Hi. My name is WineLush and I’m a sushiholic. (group says “Hi Wine Lush”)

I’m not sure when I crossed into the sushi world. Its not a huge leap from how I like my steaks cooked. (super duper rare- purple, almost.) But still, its expensive and usually involves some sort of veggies, which I’m typically pretty anti veggies. (or at least I used to be). Luckily, not only does Mr. Lush like it, I have lots of sushi loving friends so there’s never a week that goes by that I don’t have a chance to have it. Aren't I blessed? Really, its almost a curse.

Anyway, well, here’s how my week was supposed to play out. Monday I have lunch with my boss. We frequently talk about grabbing sushi, so that’s where she decided to go. Now, I didn’t object, even though I have tentative sushi dinner plans for Tuesday with my good friend Mrs. Luce. (as Mr. Luce is out of town) Although Mrs. Luce was feeling under the weather and thus our plans were up in the air, I had to assume she would pull through and I would indeed go again.

The sushi lunch with my boss was good. I got to teach her how to use chopsticks and I still looked forward to eating sushi again the next day. Plus, it was on the company dollar and I do adore free sushi.

Then I come home and ask Mr. Lush what he wants for dinner. And guess what he said? “Sushi”. Hmm. Here’s my quandary. Monday night is his only night off all week. How could I tell him no, “I just had sushi and so we can’t have it”? I’m presuming he also had forgotten about my plans with Mrs. Luce so, I keep my mouth shut, act enthused and we head to Wasabi downtown. I suggested ordering things we don’t normally get. Which was a good strategy, as it didn’t really feel like the stuff I just had for lunch that day. It was ok. I think I determined Wasabi has fantastic $12 rolls, but the others are pretty skimpy.

So….then comes this morning. While I really enjoyed both sushi meals, am I really ready for another one? Really now-what do I do? I feel almost ashamed-like I cheated on all my sushi friends with each other. How could I eat sushi with someone else when it could potentially put me not in the mood for other sushi? Gasp! Oh no, what kind of friend / wife am I? What to do? I frantically ponder suggesting Red Lobster or some other fish type place Mrs. Luce never gets to go, in hopes she goes for it. A last ditch hail mary type pass to get me out of 3 sushi meals in two days. But, I determine keeping my mouth shut and sucking it up if necessary is the best way to go.

Wow, I really am in the closet aren’t I???

It turns out that Mrs. Luce is feeling better, but not great enough to eat sushi. Whew. While I feel sad that she’s sick, I’m secretly relieved she doesn’t want to go. But then I can tell she feels bad about cancelling and I’m overwhelmed with my sushi cheating guilt and have to come clean with her. Finally, the roller coaster is over. For now.

Oh sushi, you vixen. Quit tempting me with your sunset roll.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Honorary Degrees

This honorary degree business puzzles me. At Mr. Lush’s graduation, a Doctorate of Human Letters was given to some lady. He said it carries all the rights etc that one is entitled to with that degree. This upcoming weekend either SLU or Wash U is giving an honorary degree to some woman who evidently spoke out against women going to work and people are in an uproar. Oh my god, how could they???

So it got me thinking? Do people really take those seriously? I mean, heck, Kermit received his from South Hampton College. How serious can an honorary degree be? Didn’t GW receive an honorary degree from Yale? Pulleeze. I mean, I wouldn’t put an honorary degree on an application-it wouldn’t get verified, would it??

So, being the inquisitive person I am, I looked it up. Evidently yes, in some situations, honorary degrees are treated with respect, but that’s rare and only if the person is HIGHLY recognized in their field. Which, enters this “doctorate of human letters” business. Its not even a real degree. As in, a student can’t go to school to receive that degree. Its basically a way for the school to give a degree that doesn’t mean anything to someone that doesn’t mean anything and for everyone to be aware that it’s a fake. If that’s the case, who cares?? Why even do it? Do other countries do it? I couldn't find anything that says its such a common practice as it is here.

Of course a lot of schools get money from these people, but what about the other times? Like this lady at Mr. Lush’s graduation works in education, as in lower education. I don’t think she donated a ton of money to the school. So why did they give it to her? Really, just to recognize her good work? I mean, hey, I’m sure she deserves the recognition and that’s not what this is about. You can't have it be about money sometimes and about recognition other times.

I’m just wondering what’s the point of the degree if it doesn’t mean anything? Isn’t it really just the equivalent of a “Certificate of Recognition” that you got in 6th grade for good attendance??

Monday, May 12, 2008

Artist Series Label Quest

Last year, after our kitchen remodel, I bought a print of wine bottle labels to hang on the wall. (as you might have guessed, the Lush eat-in kitchen motif is wine-inspired.) Meanwhile, we had kept a few bottles of wine we had drank that either was fantastic/special occasion quality, or had art as labels. Now, I don’t mean pretty labels. I mean actual art printed on the label.

Now, a year plus later, we have quite a few, although many of them are the Imagery Wines shared with us by Mr. and Mrs. Luce. The Imagery labels are original works of commissioned art. Another notable artist series is the Kenwood Artist Series, which are reprints of art, notably the Naked Lady. (interesting story) While the Kenwood and Imagery are good bottles of wine with art on it, the J. Garcia wine is… well, a bottle of wine with art on it. But, Mr. Lush was a DeadHead in his former long haired hippy life, so I indulge him with an occasional Jam Band concert, purchase him a J. Garcia tie now and then, and even let Jerry into our wine collection for a brief, brief moment.

Yes, yes, back to the point. I want to make my own piece of art from label-art, so we are on a quest to try more artist series labels. Thus, a quest to try more wine. It’s a rough job, but someone’s gotta do it, we say.

Recently we tried Cycles Gladiator 2006 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. Its like $9 at a grocery store, although only carried in more affluent areas. Well, typically, I don’t like $9 cabs but its an artist series label…so we tried it. And…we were pleasantly surprised. It didn’t even need to be decanted that long, maybe 30 minutes and it was very drinkable. Its got a couple layers, nothing fantastic, an average finish. But, once again, lets review the price point- a DECENT BOTTLE OF CABERNET for NINE DOLLARS??? I really expected to end up pouring it down the drain, like the J. Garcia wine, but nope, we even picked up another bottle.

Leave it to the Lush’s to find another reason to try many, many bottles of wine. How fun!! Luckily, Mr. and Mrs. Luce just got back from California, where I added to their already insanely packed agenda the task of finding us some new artist series wines. Lets hope they were successful!

The newest addition to the Lush Family

No, don’t fear fellow readers. Your WineLush is not expecting. Rather we got a new wine chiller. Previously we had two Avanti wine fridges, one for white, one for red. Pros: cheap, quiet, no vibration. Cons: since they don’t use standard refrigeration, they don’t get as cold. In the winter, its not a big deal, but in the dead heat of the summer, when the house is warmer, the coldest temp they can get to might be 60. Still within storing temps, but you certainly can’t pull a bottle of white out and drink it, and frankly, that’s what you want in the dead heat of the summer. Oh, and one more con-one of them broke. Rather large con, eh?

So, here we are, one fridge down, deciding what to do. After doing that first round of initial internet shopping, we took a break for the Zoo play day. While at the wine shop, we noticed they were selling a 2-3 yr old commercial grade wine chiller for $300 (retail over $1000). Great deal, but there’s two facts to keep in mind. 1) we just became Mr. and Mrs. Wine Lush, thus still have wedding expenses to pay off and 2) more money on wine fridge = less money to spend on wine. Hmm. So we think about it. Less than 2 days later we call, wine fridge is sold. We are saddened but are confident we will get past it. Many more wine fridges that need our love.

Then….she calls and said the person who was supposed to buy it didn’t show up and do we want it. I tell her I’ll get back to her soon. Excitement builds, but Mr. Lush is at work and I can’t get ahold of him. What to do? Being recently married, we haven’t quite worked out the rules of acceptable independent spending. Yes, we should talk about spending $300. But, we did already, right, last week when we decided to get it? But a week later- does that still count? Argghh. Then she calls again and says that someone else wants it and we need to make a decision pronto. Oh no. What to do!!!

Don’t fret- we did indeed end up getting the fridge and are still married, so it’s a happy ending.

About the fridge- LOVE IT. Its 100 bottle, dual temp, digital. One small con-I don’t care for the way the bottles set-its bottom of bottle towards the door. So, I not only have no use for all my cute wine tags, but its also hard to see what’s what.

But, it works, so it’s the best wine chiller ever.

El Pair-o del Spano Dinner-o

For those of you who know me, you might recognize that language from a story…. El washo el car-o. Hahaha.

Over the weekend Mr. Lush and I attended a Spanish pairing dinner. It was actually very good and informative. I learned how to make the easiest, most decadent appetizer… I had these wonderful stuffed dates at Modesto. They were wrapped in bacon and that’s about all I knew at the time. They were salty, sweet, fruity….really, very good. Low and behold, I needed a Spanish appetizer for the party- entering from stage left was stuffed dates.
Pit dates. Stuff a smidge of bleu cheese in date. Wrap 1/3 slice bacon around date, secure with toothpick. Cook however you feel like. They can piggy back with another dish in the oven, they can be grilled, or pan-grilled. Just cook until bacon is as done as you like it. Viola. Instant fun, easy, delicious dessert.
As far as the wine, we were a bit in the air with this, but eventually chose cava as the winner. (other contenders were 2 Riojas, a Temparinillo / Garnacha blend and an Albarino)
Another fun thing we tried was trying 2 different Riojas with the sauces. We had a 1998 Gran Reserva Rioja and a 2004 Rioja. Very different wines. We determined the best pairing with the 1998 was a steak topped with a Cabrales Brandy sauce. (cabrales is Spanish bleu cheese) However, the 2004 tasted best with a chimichurri sauce, which was very zesty and had a bit of cilantro in it. 2 very different sauces.
Then, we ended the evening with Flan. I found a fabulous recipe titled “The Perfect Flan”. I shared it with another guest who had never made flan before. They made it and it was fabulous- really very wonderful. I'm excited because my good friend LucyinStLou loves flan and wants there to be more Flan-friendly occasions in life. I actually think finding a great flan recipie might make the Sparkling Occasions list??
We then tried 2 sherries and 3 cognacs. I’ll be honest - I don’t exactly remember which was best with the flan. I think although it wasn't my favorite cognac, the Markow VSOP was the best with the flan. I know, what kind of lush am I? A very happy lush, who had a great meal with good friends and also managed to learn a little something.

Not too shabby, right???

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Crab People

No, I’m not talking about the South Park episode where the Queer Eye guys are really crab people trying to pussify the men of South Park so they can take over the town, although that is a funny one.

I’m talking about people who love crab legs. Now, I really like crab legs but I don’t LOVE them. Do you know the difference? People who LOVE crab legs will order them at all sorts of restaurants and work and crack to get every, single, last morsel out of the legs. People who LIKE crab legs, like myself, only eat them at buffets and give each piece 2 seconds to work out. I crack, split, and eat what’s there. If its stuck down there and I need a fork to get it out, forgettaboutit. Toss it and get another- don't you love buying into our country's wasteful attitude??? My dedication is not that strong. In fact, I don’t even try with that second part of the leg-I go for the big pieces and that’s it. No scrawny bits for me.

But, that’s why I only eat crab legs at buffets-I guess I'm just not a crab person.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Play days, Buds, and napping tigers

Yesterday Mr. Lush and I had a play day. We went to the Zoo and saw lots of napping animals (good thing it’s a free zoo) and then went to a restaurant for a late lunch and had a margarita then to a wine shop, where we had a bottle of Lyeth Meritage. It was $17 (retail) and it was ok. Its really fruity, and had an almost cranberry juice type long finish. It did get better, but unless I had something that specifically called for a really fruity wine, I probably wouldn’t get it again. The winery website says it goes well with game but there’s enough wines in the $15-20 range that I like more.

After the wine shop, we went on a tour of the Anheuser Busch Brewery and found out something new….you don’t have to go on the whole tour to get to the hospitality room. (where you get the free beer) After the Clydesdales, about 10 minutes into the tour, they said “for those of you who don’t want to take the entire tour can go with John to the hospitality room.” WHAT? Since when did this happen? We ask, and they say its always been like that, they just don’t usually say it outloud. Hmm. Even though we took the tour anyway, it’s a neat tidbit to know. Then of course, after the tour we had the best Budweiser one could ever drink. There is no Bud like a “fresh at the brewery Bud”. I also had a Shock Top, which is a hefeweizen type beer. I don’t much care for it, because it tastes like it already has a lemon in it, and I don’t like lemon at all, much less in my hefe. Yes, I am an equal opportunity drinker. I don't discriminate against beer just because I like wine.

It was a fun day. Playing is so much more fun if its on the weekday. There’s something decadent about doing things on a weekday-it makes it seem more special.