Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why discount older vintages? Why ask why? Just buy!

Every year in the fall/winter, Schnucks (local grocery store) discounts certain wines by a hefty amount to make room for the next vintage. For example, I was there on Christmas Eve and saw a 2006 Gundlach Bunhschu Pinot Noir for just under $17- their regular price was in the high $30’s, so I picked up a bottle. I’d never had the Pinot, but have always liked Gundlach Bundshu wines, so I thought hey,it’s a great deal, might as well try it. (I will note, that sometimes their regular prices are a smidge marked up, so the discount may not be as great as it seems…but a quick search on their website reveals that they sell that wine for $34, so this really was half off)

It was amazing for the price….it reminded me of what I like about fuller bodied Pinots; rich, full dark berry flavors, a hint of smoke. Its was great, so I went back and got the last bottle they had, along with the Gun Bun Merlot, also discounted by 50% or more. They also had the 2006 Mount Veeder on sale for $21-a wine that normally sells for $35-45, and in fact is listed today on their website for $40.



In the overall wine drinking / aging plan, it doesn’t make any sense you’d discount your older vintage, particularly of a red, to make room for your newer vintage. I’m not sure why Schnucks does this, if its driven by the store or the distributors or what….but I sure do like it when I roll in and snag a great deal, so I won’t complain! So run, go to your nearest (nicest!) Schnucks and try to snag some great deals of your own today - I’ve already checked another Schnucks in Chesterfield for the same deal on the Gundlach Bundschu and they are already out, so hurry!!!

To everyone, have a safe and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'll take "Regular Decanters for $1000", Alex

OK Wine Enthusiast, I'm all for pretty decanters but I think this might be going too far.
A) It, uh, well, uh, is a rather phallic symbol, don't you think?
B) Really? I need an instruction video to use it? and
C) Wow, between the shape of the decanter and the description, I might need a cigarette.


This elegant Riedel Eve decanter is an artful masterpiece, as well as an extremely functional wine vessel. The Eve decanter features a generously tall silhouette of almost 20 inches, and the unique design is reminscent of an elegant upright cobra waiting to drink the wine you pour forth. The person serving from this decanter can create a dramatic presentation, as it is necessary to turn the vessel a specific way to pour. No worries, though. Beautifully packaged in Riedel's signature black and red box, the EVE decanter comes with an instructional DVD narrated by Maximilian Riedel, which explains the pouring technique and cleaning instructions. Delight your guests and serve them a lovely red wine in this visual masterpiece. Mouth-blown of 24% leaded crystal. Recommended to hand wash. The sensuous, serpentine curves of Riedel's new lead crystal, mouth blown Eve decanter are not only seductive, but functional. This design tour de force double decants your wine as it flows through the coiled shape. Serving wine becomes a performance as the decanter's twist and turns require the same movement by you - turning the decanter in a slow 360 degree rotation to 'charge' the decanter and allow the wine to pour. EVE is a decanter that also speaks - it emits a sound akin to the gurgle of the King Cobra as the wine makes its trip through the curvaceous swirl of glass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pros and Cons of small production

As you might remember, I’m a member of Gold Medal Wine Club. Now, we belong to two “tiers”….the Gold tier, which we get on a monthly basis and is mostly wines in the $15-30 range, that are smaller scale wineries and the Platinum tier, which we get on a quarterly basis and is mostly wines in the $35-55 range from often even smaller scale wineries. (of course, the actual price paid is a little less because of the club program, but still, that’s their values)

I’ll be honest, most of the Gold level wines we drink fairly soon after getting them; they are just in the right price range for drinking quickly. But, the Platinum wines are a bit more expensive so we don’t drink them right away. For example, we received 3 wines in the platinum shipment in late August and we had our first one over the weekend at a nice dinner out; the 2006 Phipps Family Cellars (PFC) Zinfandel. It was amazing; so much body and so well balanced (not too spicy) it was really almost cab like; it had a “Christmas” type nose to it (vanilla/cinnamon) and was just wonderful both by itself and with steak. Anyway, having the chance to try a great bottle of wine I wouldn’t have normally had is one reason I love belonging to a wine clubs like GMWC- total production was less than 400 cases! (not to mention I love the re-order discounts –they buy in bulk and pass savings on to you) The pro of small production is often wonderful quality that's a better deal. I'd rather have this wine than a lot of mass market more expensive cabs or meritage blends, that's for sure and I'm glad I got to try it.

But, the reason I don’t like it….they are already sold out of every single thing I got in my last shipment. I don’t want to hurry up and open everything I have; the point of getting these slightly nicer shipments on a quarterly basis is to slowly build a collection. (our plan is to on average buy one nice bottle of wine a month, one to drink in the next 6-12 months and one to try to save for 3+ yrs) But, now I’ve had it, LOVED it, and WANT MORE OF IT and they are sold out. Boo! (note, I can go directly to the wine maker, as I think they might have some, but if I just want 1-3 more bottles, I don’t want to have to pay $30 shipping….) So, this is the con of trying small production wines; chances are you get one shot at them; either buy a bunch right away or wait for the next gem to come along and fondly remember the great one you tried.

Mr. Lush and I talked about how although its frustrating that we’ve tried something wonderful we might never have again, at least we got to try it, right? And isn’t that what its all about – getting the chance to try something so wonderful you remember why you spend your hard earned money on grape juice? ;)

Monday, November 9, 2009

BAM! the holidays

Over the weekend we played a dice game, BAM!. Not many people have heard of it so I thought I’d share it with you for with the upcoming holidays and forced family time. Its easy to learn and, should you want to play with kids, its also a good addition exercise. (you can also modify the rules to include drinking with each “BAM” if you’re not playing with any kids.)

RULES OF BAM!
Each person puts in $1 in the “pot” to play.
Roll one die – high roll determines first player.
The object of the game is to be the first to 100*. (explain more later)
Each roll in your turn can be added together, and each of your total turn scores can be added together, but here’s some rules:
-if you roll a “1” on either of your dice, your turn is over and your score for that turn is zero.
-if you roll 2 “1”s (ie “snake eyes”) it is BAM! and your turn is over AND your cumulative score is zero AND you owe another $1 to the pot.
-if you roll doubles of anything, you must roll again. (which of course means you have a chance of getting a 1 or getting a BAM! but sometimes is the encouragement needed to keep going)
-Unless you roll doubles, you’re free to stop anytime you want and your score is taken and then added onto your next turn. (unless you get BAM! of course)

Once someone has reached 100 or more points, everyone else gets one turn to see if they can beat them. If someone beats them, then every person gets another turn to see if they can beat the new high score. (including the person who was just out-scored) So, this means you can be the first to 100, and not win, or it could be a battle of the top scorers where each time they outscore the other one and the “finale” keeps going for a few rounds. (of course, there is ALWAYS the chance of a BAM!)

The final winner takes the pot, of course.

Have fun!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Salad Bar Potluck

I know that I should eat more salad. I really should. Even the most fattening salad is still less fattening than the average meal and usually a salad has some nutritional value. But its so much trouble to cut up stuff for a salad. (I mean, to have a good salad you need a decent amount of ingredients, right?) So I might make one salad but then blah….I end up not making another one and the ¾ cucumber and ½ tomato etc goes to waste. So, often if I eat salad I go to the grocery salad bar and end up spending $5 a pound.

Well, I came up with an idea to do with your co-workers….. a salad bar potluck. Everyone who participates brings an item to go on salad… like one person brings chicken, one brings lettuce, another brings cheese, croutons, etc. Everyone brings a community dressing. Then you get together and everybody makes their own salad. We had our first one at work yesterday and it was nice – we had cheese, croutons, chicken, ham, bacon, carrots, peas, with a mix of lettuce / spring greens and baby spinach.

I’ll have to say, it was a lot easier to prepare more of one item than little portions of 7 items so I think it’s a winner - we’re going to do it every other week! Its an easy way to mix in healthy eating with your co-workers; so go ahead, steal the idea. I won't tell.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blind recap

As you might have noticed, its now November and that measn the Blind Ambition Tour 2 is over. Mr. Lush and I are somewhat excited that we’re no longer in October and can now know what we’re drinking without having to guess first. It was fun, its just tiring after an entire month. But, for fun, I visited my first and last post during October last year to see how far I’d come. Last year I was just happy to say I was guessing with a reason, but I was still wrong a lot. A lot. The vast majority of the time.
This year….well, I was still wrong a lot, but not nearly as much. I didn’t keep official count, but I feel like I might have been right more often than I was wrong. Now, the caveat is most of the stuff we had was New World and I knew that, so it did eliminate a lot of options. But hey, baby steps. Next year I’ll try to focus more on Old World.
All in all, it was fun and does force you to concentrate on the flavor profiles of varietals and I was able to pick out a few nuances that even helped me guess where its from, so that’s progress, right?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Artsy Australian Riesling

Last week I shopped at the Straubs by my work (home of the beloved Kobe burger). I'm sad to report that the store is closing.....which makes me sad on many levels. However, to soften my sadness, everything was 20% off- including wine. Well, of course I had to pick some up and one was the Leeuwin Estate "Art Series" Riesling from AU. ($17 reg price)

Yes, before you ask, the primary reason I picked it up is for my Artist Series Quest....according to the website...."the "Art Series" represents Leeuwin's most opulent and age-worthy wines. They are identified with paintings commissioned from leading contemporary Australian Artists."


Ok, enough about the label....how's the WINE? Its good, actually. A bit fruity, with a nice round finish with some acid mineral in between, has some nice body. Honestly, it was one of the nicer and more complex Rieslings we've had in a long time. This might be because we often buy cheaper California Riesling to pair with a spicy shrimp pasta that is often on the Lush Dinner Menu, but nontheless it is significantly better than what we've had in quite sometime and reminded me of what good Riesling is like. Good with the pasta, but very enjoyable to drink by itself. If I see it again I'll purchase for sure.

And.....a nice addition to my Artist collection. (I know, when I get them up I'll post a pic)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Remodeling woes and whoa's!

We recently remodeled our (only!!) bathroom. After many many (MANY!)snafus, its pretty much done and I finally downloaded pics. (pro of having an 8gb memory card for your camera - can hold lots of pics, con is that you are in no hurry to download pics- our Europe trip is still on there! )

Anyway, here's some before pics:




Here's some in progress pics:










We decided to keep our tub and get it reglazed. Now, they also had to take the old glaze off - note the blue underneath. Now, please remember that we knew it was going to be reglazed so we were a big sloppy with the mortar and other things, so the "before" looks REALLY bad:


And here's the "after":



Yes, it really IS the same tub. Really. 7 1/2 hours of scraping (and more scraping) and finishing and spraying, it really looked like a brand new tub. Amazing and worth every single penny (yes, we paid someone to do this).

Here's the after pics- its a small bathroom, so its hard to get a good angle:





Trust me, we went from 1985 printed wall paneling and bronze fixtures to a 2009 look with a lot more storage. Dramatic improvement.

So now we have a recently remodeled bathroom and kitchen, and while both look really pretty good, both were really stressful (showering somewhere else other than your house for 2 weeks in a row really sucks, as does having a destruction zone for a house when you're both sick). Mr. Lush and I are not really very handy, so we have to give special thanks to my parents, his parents, and of course Mr. Luce for the quick mudding and custom shelves. (its just going to be light stuff up there, like toilet paper, no worries!)

Here's what we have learned in our remodeling (lessons for the novice):
1) Everything will cost more than what you think. Even with the good deals, the little stuff will add up and it will end up being more than you thought.
2) Everything will take longer than what you think. Really, especially if you're inexperienced and doing ANY of it yourself. Even pros take longer than they quote sometimes.
3) Ok, everything will take a LOT longer than what you think.
4) Read directions and measure. Then read directions and measure again. In a hurry? Reference #2 and #3.
5) Neither one of you is probably as good as you hope you are on anything. Try to capitalize on what you are good at but still take your time on every single thing you do. Hurrying = mistakes, I promise.
6) Recognize that you will be crabby when you slowly realize #1-5. Apologize to each other even if you think you're right; its a good chance you're both stressed out and tired and just want the god damn motherf***ing project to be done. It will be someday and there's no sense breaking up your relationship over it.
I'm not saying we can really do either of these projects again alone, but we have come a long way. At the very least, we've managed to stay together through 2 majorly stressful remodels and that's something......right?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rack of Lamb and Merlot

Last night I tried a new recipe for a roasted rack of lamb. It came out well so I thought I’d share it with you.

Mix ½ cup of breadcrumbs, a tsp of garlic powder, and 1 tbs rosemary (dried or fresh is fine – I used dried and crushed it with my magic bullet to blend it with the breadcrumbs). Set aside.

Mix 3 tbs of my new favorite marinade, Kraft Honey Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing and Marinade, 1 tsp dijon or deli mustard (I used Deli), a dash of cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Slice 1 frenched rack of lamb and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in ovenready skillet and quick sear the lamb. Brush with Dijon sauce and cover with bread crumb mixture. Arrange lamb bones up in the same pan you seared them in, so they leaning on each other. Cover bones with foil to prevent burning and bake in oven for 6-7 minutes at 450 for rare-med rare or longer for more done.

It was very yummy and went EXCELLENT with a birthday gift from a friend, a 1994 Canoe Ridge Merlot from Washington. (thanks Nat!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops and Petite Sirah

Last night I grilled some bourbon glazed pork chops while Mr. Lush worked late. The glaze, which is based on the old TGIFridays Jack Daniels sauce, has soy sauce, pineapple juice, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, a little bit of cayenne pepper, onion and garlic and some bourbon. (ok, a lot of bourbon – I quadruple the recipe amount but it reduces for 45 minutes so all the alcohol is cooked out)

Anyway, the glaze is fantastic – helps the pork chops stay moist (even the really thick ones, especially if you give them a quick high heat sear and move them to indirect heat), but I admit, I was a little lost on what to pair with it. I've only made it once since I really got into wine and I didn’t really want to go white; the glaze is pretty dark and strong. But, its also pork, and it has pineapple juice (and was served with grilled pineapple) so I didn’t want to go too heavy a red. I did a search on foodandwine.com for recipes containing pork and soy sauce and looked at their recs to pair. Wow, a big range – from a Pouilly Fuisse to Pinot Noir to a “tannic-rich” Bordeaux. In the end, I decided on the Peltier Station Petite Sirah. (I was going to pick a Syrah, but the only one we had was a $55 bottle and it just wasn’t a $55 Tuesday.) It went fairly well with it, not a perfect pair but a bit fruity to complement the pineapple and a bit rich to stand up to the soy/teriyaki sauce and bourbon based glaze. I would probably pick a nice full Pinot Noir next time or a fuller Syrah, because it was just a smidge “big” for it. Not much, but just enough to keep it from being a perfect pair.

Oh, and update on the Blind Ambition Tour…. I got a couple right in a row – a Cab and a Pinot and in fact, I even guessed the Pinot was from Monterey, but that it was probably a cheaper one because the mouth didn’t quite live up to the nose as well as the recent ones we had in the $35+ range. (and in fact, it was a $20 one – good, just not as good as the others) So, we’ll see, I think I’ve still gotten more wrong this month than I’ve gotten right, but at least I’m improving.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Loving Monterey Pinots

Ok, I’ve officially decided: I love Central California Pinot Noirs, specifically Monterey County Pinots. As you know, we belong to the Taste of Monterey Wine Private Reserve Wine Club and love it. We get quarterly shipments of 3 bottles of wine and often, if not every time, the shipments include a Pinot Noir. We have loved every single one we’ve gotten from them. They are so big and full, both fruity but with a hint of cedar/tobacco. They are so big, in fact, I didn’t even guess that one was a Pinot during a recent at home blind tasting.

In my defense, I wasn’t expecting he’d break out a $40 bottle so Pinot wasn’t even a thought in my mind. However, we both need to quit trying to cheat and figure out what our options are based on what we’re having, what wines we’ve had and what price point we’d likely break out. We end up talking ourselves into a small select amount of choices and picking from there, instead of doing what we should be doing in our blind tasting….which is deciding based on the wine characteristics.

That being said, I didn’t think the wine was a Pinot – it just seemed too full. But, when it was revealed it was a Monterey Country Pinot…well it made sense. They all have so much more body and layers than a lot of Napa Pinots I’ve had, and a lot more warm spice and dark fruit characteristics than the Oregon Pinots I have had. Honestly, they remind me a lot of the wines we had in Gevrey Chambertin.
Anyway, this particular wine was the Chateau Christina Black Mountain Pinot Noir, but others that we’ve had and loved are Pelerin St. Vincents, Michaud, La Rochelle Classic Clones, among others. If you’ve been disappointed by Napa Pinots in the past, pick up something from Monterey….you’ll like it, particularly if you get something in the $30-45 range.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mirassou pairing dinner

Last week I was invited to an event hosted by Mirassou winery, which has been around for 150+ years. The event was at Mia Rosa, a restaurant north of The Hill. They traveled around the country, visiting 5 different restaurants to come up with a wine pairing cookbook (some recipes posted online here) and invited various media/bloggers to the events. Evidently my blog and “association” with the St. Louis Wine Club made me a good candidate for an invite; luckily Mr. Lush was able to come as well. The attendance was smaller than I anticipated-only 8 plus the winemaker and marketing person. What else surprised me was that the other attendees were more “foodies” than “winos”. However, I was totally ok with this, because it allowed me to sit directly across from the winemaker, David Mirassou, and I pretty much had him all to myself to ask questions about the wine!

We started off with the Pinot Grigio. Normally I’m not a big fan of Pinot Grigio (or Sauv Blancs), but it wasn’t as acidic as others might be. Then we had the Sauv Blanc, paired with a garlic tomato flatbread. The Sauv Blanc was perfect with the flatbread, but I didn’t love it (or the Pinot Grigio) as much on their own. The wines were fine – although neither were the highly grassy acidic profile I expected, they just aren’t my preferred style of wine. Then we moved on to the Chardonnay with gorgonzola polenta fries. Oh, lovely Chard, it was so welcome after the other two! Now, for my non Chard lovers out there, only about 5-7% of the wine sees oak- the rest is all stainless steel fermented. This leaves a crisper, but still round in body Chardonnay. Its not a butter oak bomb, but it has a nice round mouthfeel. I didn’t love the polenta fries, nor did I love the pairing as much as the other, but I liked the wine a lot.

Then we had probably our favorite course of the evening – a smoked scallop Carpaccio drizzled with basil oil paired with the Pinot Noir. Oh….my…gosh. The dish was so good, the smoked fish went perfect with the Pinot.

We also had a warm beet spinach salad with goat cheese with a Merlot and veal madallions on garlic mash with the Cabernet, finishing off with a chocolate puff with the Reisling. It was a lot of food and a lot of wine!

I’ll leave it up to the “foodies” to really evaluate the food – almost everything paired wonderfully with the wine, but honestly other than the scallops I wasn’t crazy about anything I had and I won’t be rushing back to the restaurant. What about the wine you ask? Well, Mirassou makes their wine to be consistent year after year, so the grapes come from all over the state. The good news is that if you liked it last year, you can feel confident you’ll like this year’s vintage as well. The bad news is while there’s no bad year, there’s no great year either. But, in the spectrum of the wine world, I like to have some stable choices in addition to those stellar vintages, and its not like I have one winery I drink from exclusively, so I think that’s ok. I prefer a bit more oak and body in my Cabernets and Merlots, and the Mirassou ones are a bit soft – he uses almost exclusively not new oak. However, that’s just personal taste – once again the good news is you can buy it today and drink it tonight and not have to lay it down. Mr. Lush and I really liked the Chardonnay and liked the Pinot as well – we were lucky enough to each get a signed bottle of Pinot in our “media kits” and we’ll certainly have to have it with something smoky because it was pretty fruit forward. I also liked the Riesling, and will probably pick that up to pair with something spicy.

All in all, it was a great time and it was wonderful meeting the winemaker:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick rant

I’ve gotta rant about a few things…

1) Multiple magazine subscription renewal notices. Really? My subscription expires in February and I need an “urgent” renewal notice in September? I don’t think so. Send me one in December then another in January. I don’t need one before I even get finished reading my first magazine. Speaking of wasting paper….
2) Paperless bills. Yes, I know, bills use paper and cost you postage. But, no, I don’t WANT to remember my login to see my bill. If you sent my personal bill to my personal email in a PDF like you send my personal bill to my personal mailbox. I’d sign up for paperless billing. But I don’t need one more login to remember with my 2,000 other ones. I don’t care if its not “secure”….someone can walk up to my physical mailbox and take my mail, so that’s not that secure either, so get over. Or, at least give me the option to log in or have it attached when I sign up for it.
3) Restaurants/bars being fussy about modifying their specials. Don’t tell me that a dirty martini is on special but if we ask for no olive juice you’ll charge me full price. (I happen to like my martini extra dirty so this doesn’t apply to me, but still) Now, I understand if we want to add something or the special order in question costs more money. (if the special comes with fries and I was to sub a twice baked potato, then ok, charge me) But really, you having specials but then making it so I can’t take advantage of them when I’m there doesn’t accomplish your goal…now I REALLY don’t want to come back and pay full price.

Ok, off my soapbox. That’s it for now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bottleshock'd into starting blind tasting early

As you might remember from last October, I try to taste wine blindly all month and call it my Blind Ambition Tour. (its driven from the fact my wine club has a annual blind tasting in October) Last year, I did not fare too well. I stunk up the place on reds, hardly getting any right, but did better with the whites. Even with that dismal outcome I decided I’m going to do it again this October.

Well, I thought we were going to wait until October. This weekend we started watching Bottleshock, which is about the famed 1976 blind tasting which put California wine on the map. Well, it inspired Mr. Lush to begin the Blind Ambition Tour a bit early, he decided to hide a bottle from me and make me guess.

Really? Already? Dang it. Ok. It’s a white. Taste, smell, taste. Hmm. For sure it’s a Chardonnay (that’s an easy guess) and we only have 3 or so Chardonnays at the moment, I think. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a California chard – at least not one we had because it had a bit more acid and less creamy mouthfeel than the Cali Chards we have. So I guessed “a chardonnay not from California”. In truth, I pretty much knew which one it was, the only non-California chard we had was from Western Australia. So, I got it right, but it was a pretty easy softball for my first one, simply because our white selection is limited.

So then the next night he tried it again. Don’t recognize it, but that doesn’t mean anything –since it’s a red unless we have it regularly I probably won’t recognize it. Ok, it doesn’t smell or taste full bodied enough for a cab, and it isn’t spicy, so is it a Merlot? Yep, it was the Cameron Hughes St. Emilion (merlot based red blend). Woo hoo, look at me! We’ll see if the success continues when I don’t know the possible selection so well- I'm guessing no. ;)

Well, I had to get him back last night when we finished watching Bottleshock. I brought out our last bottle of the Ballentine Zinfandel, a 2002. He didn’t guess it correctly but it was because he second guessed himself….. it was a bit unfair, I suppose, because the 2002 has had so much time to age that it doesn’t exhibit many of the typical characters of a zin – its not peppery or hot. Its had enough time to mellow out completely. (He said he thought it might be a zin, but it was just too mellow.)

So, I guess the Blind Ambition Tour is already underway. Wish us luck and feel free to play along by having your significant other or friend put the wine in a bag one night and you do it the next night so you can take turns guessing, and when you go to a wine bar or restaurant, ask the server to bring a glass of something and let you guess. But, don’t be embarrassed if you fail…..I mean, really, people take TESTS for this stuff. I expect I’ll do a bit better this year overall than I did last year, but I totally expect to get a ton wrong again.

Oh well, quests are fun, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mumm's the word for sushi

Last night we had completed laying the tile for the bathroom. To celebrate the fact we now can get rid of a set of tools (and thus work on clearing out our toolshed of a living room) I got some sushi to go and we had a bottle of Mumm Napa Brut while we watched Monday's season premiere of House. (love that show....but he better resume jerk-ness soon!)

I digress....it was good, a little less yeasty than one of our normal standby’s, the Gloria Ferrer. It was fairly light, a bit fruity, and good with most of the sushi rolls we had. I don't recall ever having it before and was glad I picked it up, as we both preferred it to Gloria F because of its versatility with our variety of rolls- which we always get a spicy roll or two which usually has some sort of combo of crab or tuna or salmon, and some shrimp tempura oriented roll. Those are the standby's, and its nice to have a bubbly that goes with most everything.

We got it for a bit under $20 at Friar Tucks, a reasonable deal for a nice bottle of bubbly! Next time I see it I'll have to pick up a couple bottles to put in the regular sushi rotation!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marsala and wine gods....

Well, this weekend I had the Artiste Vanessa (white blend) mentioned in my last post with my Chicken Marsala. I thought it was pretty good with it….it had enough body to stand up to the creamy marsala sauce and to the alfredo sauce for the fettucine. I think I might mark the other bottle exclusively for Marsala use…..Lucy, what’d you think?

And, how sad I was that the 1999 Marsannay we had was bad...the one time the Luce's want to voluntarily drink Chardonnay and its turned! Darn you wine gods!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unique and noteworthy wines

We’ve had some note-worthy wines lately…..

At a recent wine club event I had my first red Pinot Meunier, by Domaine Chandon. (it’s the grape typically blended in sparkling wines with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) It was oh so good, in fact, Domaine Chandon describes it perfectly: its Pinot Noir’s soulful sister. It’s everything that’s great about Pinot Noir- delicate, a bit fruity, but with some subtle smoke added in to round it out, which is rare in a New World Pinot Noir. We bought it at Friar Tucks for $32 and it was a hit at the wine club event – unique treat!

Since Mr. Lush has been a bit under the weather, we’ve also tried to drink some value wines, where I can enjoy them to their fullest potential but not be sad that Mr. Lush’s palate is off by wasting an expensive bottle. One of which has been the Cameron Hughes Lot 150 Central Coast Meritage (blend of Cab, Cab Franc, and Merlot) – Sam’s Club bought all of it and is selling it for $6.22 a bottle. That’s right - $6.22!!! Now, my expectations for a $6 wine are pretty low, but honestly, it is really good and I’d totally stack this up against something 2-3 times the price. Its got some good fruit, a little bit of oak, overall pretty easy drinking. Note: it benefits from a little bit of decanting, although their website says it drinks great straight out of the bottle, but that’s ok. (We have 3 decanters so we don’t mind if we have to decant something 20 minutes before hand – particularly for an enjoyable bargain wine!!) We drank it with my parents who came to visit and help with the bathroom remodel and they enjoyed it as well, so I’ve been back twice to buy more and will probably pick up a few more bottles this weekend during my Sam’s Club trip. Its also a FANTASTIC choice for a holiday dinner wine - easy drinking for everyone, but priced low enough you don't care if your wine-swilling uncle chugs it like Nat Light.....


Another one is the Artiste Vanessa. (see label to the right) It was a special 3 bottle white purchase and I was a bit excited for the “Franco Italian” blend. 29% Malvasia Bianca, 28% Orange Muscat, 24% Gewurtztraminer, and 19% Chardonnay. I expected it to be fruity and a smidge sweet and hoped for a good pairing with spicy sushi. Not so much – its not overly fruity, its not sweet….its not acidic – the chard rounds it out but it doesn’t taste very chard-ish….its hard to classify, but I liked it, just not with the sushi. I think we might try it with Chicken Marsala tomorrow night and see how it goes- as you know from the Marsala Quest, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect Marsala friendly wine and who knows, this might be it. At the very least, as with all the Artiste wines, it fits nicely with my Artist Series Quest.
(can you tell I like wine-related quests??)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bathroom recap

How’s the bathroom progress going you ask? Well, we’re WAY behind schedule….first a little recap (those of you who know the story feel free to skip ahead) My parents came into town to help us over Labor Day Weekend…..as said in my earlier post, we’re doing tile instead of the tub surround. Well, after mudding and taping and more of it, we were hoping to make some progress tiling Friday night….but Mr. Lush fell asleep at 8:45. Why so early? Well, a week or so ago he had a bad sinus infection….took some antibiotics, but I guess the dust from the remodel built up in his sinuses and ears, because Friday and Saturday he was good for about 2 hours worth of work and Sunday he was dizzy and his ears hurt so he was totally useless.

Now, before you think I’m a cold hearted wife, I spent my day evenly between getting painting done, taking Layla to the dog park, getting Mr. Lush Afrin and Mucinex and making him put warm pads on his ears and sitting over steam, all in hopes of loosening up whatever was making him dizzy, in addition to starting to tile the shower myself. Of course, the paint didn’t seem like it was going to work – I decided to go with a slightly lighter green since our tile was so dark … and when I applied the first coat all we could think of was “hmm, I want some key lime pie”. Egad. However, a trip to Lowes and a swap to those “reveal” light bulbs and it softened it up a lot. It was a long, long day but I’m happy to report that the bathroom was painted (still a smidge of touch ups needed where the painters tape took off a bit of paint) and 4 rows of tile on two walls were up by the time I crawled into bed…he was no longer dizzy by yesterday morning.

Now, on to last night. I had hopes of getting 4 more rows of tile up, getting sink installed, mirror up, and sconce lights up. (My dad already made sure the lights were ready to connect a few wires and connect sconces to brackets) I know, a bit ambitious. The sink started to go smoothly but we needed an extender piece. Of course, can’t catch a break with anything…can’t do one day of project work without a trip to a home improvement store…..so Mr. Lush ran to the hardware store to get that and I started to mix the mortar outside so I get could to tiling. After I tiled 2 rows I got up to get something then looked outside ….to find Layla had ripped into the dry mortar bag.

Yep, it was all over the patio and all over her and in her mouth….so we had to clean that up, clean her up, and put the ripped mortar bag in a big trash bag so what was left could be salvaged. Mr. Lush picks up the big bag and sort of tosses it a foot or so to the side so its not smack dab in the door way….and it hits a trash can, which had somehow been knocked over and was smack dab in front of the basement window. I’m sure you’re guessing what happened next….the basement window broke.

Really? Not a single day of project work where things can go as planned?? Egad! Mr. Lush patched up the window while I made dinner and after dinner I pushed through and got up the 4 more rows of tile I had wanted to get up. So, the sink was installed, the mirror up and some more tile done…but Mr. Lush was still a bit tired and didn’t want to mess with the light.

So, we did ok, even with the snafus, although I would’ve rather have gotten the tiling done and had some wine with dinner and relaxed, rather than cleaning up mortar, eating dinner late and with milk, and finishing my tiling at 10:03.

Home remodeling sucks………

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flavored beer? Why yes, I will have one!

Last weekend I picked up a 12 pack Brewmaster’s sampler of Sam Adams, which included Sam Adams Light, Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, and Blackberry Witbier. Mr. Lush’s beers of choice are Guinness and Shalafly Pale Ale (local brewing company) but he also likes Sam Adams, so I thought he might like to try the Pale Ale and I was moderately curious about the Blackberry Witbier, although I’ve never liked fruity beers and find the fruit overpowering, I figured Sam Adams might make one I liked.

Well, it was a good choice… the blackberry is barely there. Now, a Witbier / Weissbier (which is my preferred beer style of choice - typically brewed in Belgium) is a bit more fruity than bitter anyway, with hints of orange, clove, coriander, and sometimes just a whisper of banana. (I wouldn't call Witbier a fruit beer…its not just bitter…) But the blackberry gives this beer just a smidge of fruit, just enough to keep it tasting like beer because of the full body of the beer, but not overpower it. I have now found the only flavored beer I like. (true, I can’t drink more than 1 or 2 without being fruit-beer’d out, but those 1 or 2 are really good)

The Hefe is also good, although not quite “witbier”. (note for Pale Ale lovers – Mr. Lush liked the Pale Ale, but still prefers the Shalafly….sorry Jim Koch)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An artist, a phantom, and a lamb walk into a bar....

Just kidding, its not really a joke…..last night the Luce’s came over to take pity on us and help mudd the bathroom. (by “help” I mean pretty much do it) I was in charge of dinner while the Mr’s mudded away. For dinner, we had an all-grill meal of thyme/terragon seasoned lamb chops, rosemary potatoes, and zucchini. The Luce’s brought the Bogle Phantom (a Petite Sirah/Zinfandel based blend) and we served the Artiste “Summer” (a Syrah blend). The Phantom is a Luce favorite and its availability in MO isn’t consistent so it was a nice treat. As you know, my Artist Series Label Quest is ongoing and of course, the Artiste series wines are a big part of that.

Well? Both were excellent with the lamb, but I will say the Phantom was a little bit bigger and went a smidge better with it, however the Summer was good as well and was awesome with the potatoes. Of course we followed up with the Lush Favorite Po' Boy Dessert…. ice cream sandwiches and port.

Nothing like a discount finish to a nice meal…right? Hey, this remodel costs money, had to cut back somewhere and it certainly wasn't going to be on the wine! ;)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mess and Stress of remodeling

Where have I been? Ah, busy...but mostly not at a computer with free time when a blogging topic hits me, or without the time to really write about the topic in my head. Which, I still don't have the time, but thought I'd let my cyberfan community (all, what, 1 or 3 of you?) know I'm alive.

As you might've guessed by my encoded post title ;) , we're remodeling our bathroom. Now, here's the kicker...its our ONLY bathroom. As in when we working on the toilet, the house has no toilet. Nor a shower. Luckily the toilet is installed, but the shower...eh....we ended up with the surprise additional task of tiling the tub/shower versus the ease of a tub surround. So, we hope to have a shower by, oh, Sunday, if all goes well. *sigh*

Because Mr. Lush and myself are remodeling retarded, my dad and stepmom came to help us this weekend. However, 3 days of 4 people eating/drinking, mixed with remodeling dust, sparatic water and electricity, has left the house, dishes, and laundry a mess. Luckily for me, I have a super boss (Hi, MB!) who is letting me work from home to get caught up on laundry at least. Which reminds me....guess I better get back to work.

Stay tuned for remodeling pics....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Layla update

Well, as you might remember we potty trained her with bells on teh door, which worked great. It was up to her to let us know when she needed out and she did. We've now weaned her off those and she just looks at us, or if we ignore her, she will whine at us.

Which left the crate training. We crated her at night and when we were gone. Its a lot on the weekends - particularly if we go out Friday night. I know, that's a lot of crate time but she had so much energy she would find things to get into - often paper-trash, so we would fine tissue, napkins etc all over if she was left out for a little bit unattended. (even during a nap sometimes) Mr. Lush has been requesting that we leave her out at night for 6 months now, I held firm that we wouldn't consider it until she was a year at least - she's now 15 months.
Last week was her first few nights out - they went ok. At first she was confused and pretty annoying - she didn't know it was sleeptime so she was up eating bones, bothering the cats, etc. Eventually she went back in her crate where she settled down for a good night's sleep. Not so successful.
Try #2 was after a 2 mile walk in the morning and a 4 hour playdate with another dog in the evening. This time I took her to her bed (in living room) and said lay down, stay, and "sleepytime" (which will probably be my "command" for going to bed.) She got up from her bed and followed us into the bedroom, but then went back and slept great. Whined to be let out about 2 am, but other than that, she was pretty good.
Try #3 was last night - no play dates to wear her out so we were nervous. Once again, took her to the bed, said "sleepytime" and then went to bed. She was good.

Now, during all these, trash was up on tables so she wouldn't get into it, but all in all, no mess, no disaster. We'll still probably ease into it before we do it every night, but we're well on our way.

She will still be crated during the day - but we'll both feel better that she's not crated so much on the weekends when we go out. Progress.....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

30 y.o. skin

Ok, this is my first “about 30” post. I turned 30 in June and its been pretty much the same as 29. I get carded sometimes, sometimes I don’t. Even though I’m not “in my 20’s” anymore, life hasn’t stopped. I’m pretty ok with where I am in life but not overly thrilled with my weight and fitness level – so changing that by 31 is a goal, in addition to finishing my thesis. Other than that, whatever.

However, the one thing I don’t like about being 30- for the first time in my life, I have to wear face makeup nearly every day (foundation, powder, etc). Of course, I’ve worn it before, but usually only on special occasions or when I had 2+ blemishes. It might have looked a little bit better than without, but it wasn’t needed. But, I noticed as the days crept closer to 30, that my skin wasn’t quite as nice as it used to be – my pores show, skin color isn’t as even, etc. Boo hiss! When I shared this with a friend, she was less than sympathetic so perhaps I’m being a baby. Its not a big deal to put it on – its an extra 2-3 minutes in my morning routine and I use mineral face makeup and its easy and looks good and isn’t heavy….it just “bums me out” that I have to wear it, that’s all.

Pppbblt.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Napa's Siren Song

Is Napa calling to me? Perhaps to say, hey, you don’t need no stinkin French wine….good stuff is here in your country and a lot easier to get?

Why do I think Napa is calling to me, you ask?

In the past few days I’ve been lightly researching Yosemite Park – next year is Mr. Lush’s vacation pick and he does like “outdoorsy” vacations, so I thought perhaps we might look at a week in California – a few days in Yosemite and you know, maybe, just maybe, since we’re RIGHT THERE, go to Napa or someplace else in Cali Wine Country. Some could say that I'm trying to take over "his" vacation by making it mine, but others could say that I'm trying to make it a vacation we'll both enjoy. (I couldn't handle a week of outdoorsy vacation!)Like I said, some light research, nothing big, since the earliest we would go would be March.

Well, last night I got a “save the date” / invite to my aunt’s reception over Labor Day Weekend in California. (a little backhistory - my aunt is only 4 years older than me, so much closer to a sister/cousin than a typical aunt/authority figure and we were very close in my pre-teens. She got married last year in a very small ceremony (just parents)) Anyway, the reception is in Davis, California.

The first thing Mr. Lush says is “is it close to Napa?”. I look it up, and why yes, yes it is. Its just outside Sacramento and is a short 45 miles from Napa.

What to do? What to do? I priced flights and they are about $500-550 total. I have some miles, but of course because its over a holiday weekend so in order to use them we’d have to stay a whole week (or somehow find a way to earn 70,000 miles in the next month) but that's a little too long - we may not have that much vacation time. But, certainly IF we go to the reception, we couldn’t just IGNORE that lovely wine country is calling to us – in September, no less! We just don't know what to do.

Napa, oh Napa, why are you such a siren?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vineyard pics

Ok, here's some vineyard pics. I purposely didn't post them in previous pics, so if you don't care about vineyard pics, feel free to skip this entire post, as its only vineyard pics!


















This one is probably my favorite....although its hard to say!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Cardinals and their ‘staches

Not sure if you have noticed, but many of my beloved Cardinals fans have had a growing shadow on their upper lip. Yep, they’ve been growing mustaches. Mr. Lush and I laughed about it last night, as the mustache growing-in phase isn’t always the most attractive. (and in truth, not sure if I'm crazy about Rick Ankiel in a 'stache either - too 1970's for me!)

Of course, being the curious dork I am, I looked it up. It appears its for fun to mix things up and, now for luck. Here’s some snippets from the local paper:

“The decision was made June 30, the day Chris Carpenter absorbed his roughest beating of the season in a 6-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. That day, third baseman Mark DeRosa left the game with a torn tendon sheath near his left wrist.

"It's just something to do, to make guys laugh and have some fun," said Piñeiro, the first to emerge with the new look. "It's something where you can make fun of each other."

Since Carpenter signed on the following day, the rotation carried a 2.06 ERA (10 ER, 43 2/3 innings) into Wednesday's game.

Wainwright surrendered one run in nine innings in a no-decision July 1. Wellemeyer followed with his best start of the season. Carpenter bounced back with a dominant performance in Sunday's 10-1 win in Cincinnati. Wainwright then came within two outs of his first career shutout Tuesday.
…….
Brad Thompson suffered the only hiccup during the run, allowing four earned runs in five innings Saturday. Thompson is also the only starter without facial hair.
"Look at me. Two swipes of the razor and I'm done shaving," pleaded the boyish, follicularly challenged Thompson.
……….

"I will grow a mustache bigger than Wyatt Earp's if we keep winning," insisted Wainwright.”

I hear that!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quit manhandling my microwaved food

Yesterday, I was warming up some lunch in the work microwave. I set it for 1 minute 45 and walked around the corner to tell the receptionist something. I was maybe 30-60 seconds “past the beep” and I walked back around the corner to see that someone had taken my food out and already tarted warming theirs up. (This person was not waiting in line or anything when I put mine in, BTW)

Now, I have a question. While I agree that leaving your food in there for an extended period of time, particularly during lunch, is pretty rude, what’s the time limit before you can start manhandling someone else’s food? 30 seconds? 1 minute? 5 minutes? Shorter or longer depending on the line situation and time? I personally think greater than 2-3 minutes during lunch is “rude” and if there is a line then anything past a minute is rude, although in NEITHER instance would I actually remove someone’s food. (I would just give a sideways dirty look ;)

Thoughts?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Boxers can't swim.....or can they???

Mr. Lush has always said that boxers can not swim- “their chests are too heavy….they will sink like a rock”.

Hogwash I’ve said.

A tidbit from Americanboxerclub.org, which I just read for the tongue-in-cheek benefit of the post….

“Precautions must be taken to ensure your dog's safety. Being deep-chested and tailless, our Boxers need plenty of instruction learning to turn and maneuver in the water.”

Hmm. Well, this last weekend we went to visit my parents at a lake. Someone suggested putting her in a life jacket. Which of course this is evidently not a new idea:

“Boxer's do not have the benefit of a rudder (tail) to help them steer, for example. Invest in a good quality canine life jacket.”

As you can see she didn’t like the life jacket much.

“Do not expect your dog to be a "natural". Starting to swim will require your patience and encouragement. It takes more than a few times in the pool or the lake before your Boxer starts to really enjoy himself.”

Hmm. Oh really???? Here she is with no instruction, no life jacket.....

video

It took her about 15 minutes of being locked off the boat with all of us in the water for her to swim on out to us. ALL ON HER OWN.

And here she is, sitting naturally in a floatie. Just like her mamma...well, minus the drink of course. ;) Yep. Boxers can't swim. Nope. Not at all.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Have a Meaty 4th of July for your bones


I like finding news that supports my lifestyle decisions. Lucy often finds reasons how drinking wine is good for you, and in honor of the 4th of July, the meat mecca of holidays, (I for one would never have a 4th of July weekend without grilling SOME meat of SOME kind) I just found an article saying meat eaters have better bone density. Woo hoo! Go meat!
Should you BBQ your meat, Lucy posted some BBQ friendly wines, however, I will caution that with spicy BBQ, such as ours, Zin may not be the perfect match. (although the Austrailian Shiraz's would likely go great and I will have to try that this month!)
Now I just need to find research that states eating buffalo wings and sitting on your bum most of the day is actually better for you than eating veggies and exercising. Hmm. Probably shouldn't hold my breath huh??? I guess in the meantime, I'll be happy for this tidbit.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Je ne parle pas français

(I do not speak French)

So one of the top questions we get asked about our trip was "did you have problems with the language barrier"? Yes and no. While I took some French in high school, I could read it better than speak or verbally comprehend it. We listened to some CDs in the car in French, but that's hardly real preparation, and it left Mr. Lush with zero ability to read. I was the best French resource of the Lush Travelling Duo, and I was really not that great.

My first question anywhere was "Parlez vous anglais?" (Do you speak English?) Often the answer was "yes" or "yes, a little". If he answer was yes, we got along fine with talking fairly slow and using the most literal words/translations we could think of. If the answer was "a little", we used the Lingo (electronic translator loaned to us by some good friends) a phrase book, and pointing to maps or menu items. It wasn't great, but it worked. As noted in my public transportation post we got around using public transportation, which most signs, instructions, announcements, etc are in French.

We put forth an effort when we could and were apologetic about not speaking the language which went a long way to keep things nice and civil and even to get people to go out of their way to help. We were polite and said hello, goodbye, thank you, just as you should. I will say, it was a LOT easier in Paris and Bordeaux/St. Emilion than in Burgundy. While "most" people spoke a decent amount of English in those areas, "most" spoke little to no English in Burgundy, even in Dijon and Beaune, somewhat larger towns in Burgundy.

So....would I say I have regrets about not speaking better French? Sure, because it would've made things easier. But is it required? Not really - but having some basic knowledge of what certain words mean does help - not only for public transportation, but to know if the check includes gratuity, for example. *Which, we always tipped extra anyway, just because we wanted to spread the word that "Hey, being nice to Americans pays". (literally) :)

I guess the bottom line is that the language barrier won't keep me away from a vacation, but I will probably spend a smidge more effort next time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson was my generation's (blank)

I, along with many of my generation, mourn (if even lightly) Michael Jackson's sudden death. As I drove to work today I started thinking about the impact he had on pop culture and music, across genres. True, much of influential work was pre-1995, but music changed a lot the 80's and 90's. Just like it did in the 50's and 60's....

So, I wonder, is Michael Jackson my generation's Elvis? I gave Mr. Lush a quick call, as he is an Elvis fan (but in the end he's a Beatles man, because you know you can only be one or the other) and asked him if Elvis was still recording when he died. (he said pretty much no, he was done) I tested the idea out on him; he seemed to think it was worth thinking about. (well, in truth he just didn't oppose the idea, but that's the same thing)

It doesn't have to be a musical influence, necessarily, it can just be an icon of some kind. Someone who shaped culture in general. Maybe Elvis isn't the best example and I also briefly thought about Princess Di - I remember everyone all over the globe was very upset when she died, however, I'm not sure if that's the best comparison either. Of course, we can't say he was our generation's Beatles....that's just sacrilege!! Anyway, you think about that, and if I see you this weekend, expect that I'll bring it up. No idea is right or wrong.... but it'll be fun talking about.

At 8am a Sirius station I listen to is going to have a MJ Tribute hour, and I'm sure I'll be listening to MJ songs on and off for the entire weekend, trying to remember which one was my favorite. I think I know then I hear another one and then I think I like that one more....I hope we all remember MJ for his music and not for what he was/how he looked at the end. (I know I saw too many freakish MJ photos on tabloids for my own good)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Irish beer humor

One of our stops in Ireland was a pub/brewery called The Porterhouse Brewing Company. They brew beers and serve other beers, but theirs is the only Irish beer they serve (aka NO GUINNESS). They have a very elaborate (and humorous) beer menu. I've included some snapshots. (funny part is at the end, but bear with me)

Cover page:



A few of their beers:


Here's some shots of their descriptions of other countries and other beers:





Very nice and informative, right??
Well, here's the description of the USA beers:


This Irish are funny ones, I tell ya. But really, in a country where everyone drinks Guinness like water (literally) can we blame them for making fun of American beer???

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More of Paris

Yes, we did see more than just the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We saw Notre Dame, which was huge and amazing, and made me miss my Grandma a bit, as she loved cathedrals and would've loved to see it. We were there during mass and as Mr. Lush noted, the choir was so beautiful it sounded like angels. (of course the choir should be amazing, but for some reason we were surprised...possibly because we don't frequent church services?) Either way, the architectural beauty was amazing:



We went to Pere Lechaise cemetery and saw Jim Morrison’s grave:
(not as impressive as I’d imagined – it was even sort of behind another one, and the bust was gone)

Another tip from Rick Steve’s book was to see the Rodin sculpture garden for 1 Euro instead of the Rodin Sculpture Museum (6 Euro). It was a good tip – there were actually many sculptures in the garden and the garden itself was lovely – many roses. We saw The Thinker, among others.




We did not see the Louvre. I know, I know! But, we just didn’t want to stand in that long of a line, so instead we went to the Musée de l'Orangerie, where Monet’s Waterlilies (Les Nympheas) are displayed. I had no idea they were so huge! They immerse you.



Honestly, Friday was such a beautiful day that we just did a lot of walking around and people watching in Paris, (versus Museum going) so we have a ton of random pictures of beautiful things, such as this statue in the Place de la Concorde, representing the city of Bordeaux. (it seemed fitting to take that picture, since we actually visited Bordeaux and were told it was a “mini Paris”.)

It was a great time. And yes, we took a ton more pics of the entire vacation - I just didn't want to overwhelm in the blog. But if you're a friend, watch out, you might get the "opportunity" to view a good 50 or 60 more!!!!! (just kidding, we try not to be "those people" who force you to look at each and every pic, but if you want to see more, we have them. I also plan on making a "Blurb book" of our entire trip.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sparkling Eiffel Tower

***WARNING: This entire post is about the Eiffel Tower. I know, I just had to do it. I couldn't help myself!****

Prior to our trip, I poured over travel books, travel websites, etc to find the "best kept secrets". Evidently the Montparnasse Tower is one of them. (details later) We went by the Eiffel Tower, hung out on the park area for a little bit and took some pictures.






By the way, should you go to the Eiffel Tower, I would recommend bringing a picnic with some snacks and wine, we wish we would have and that's evidently the Parisian thing to do. The Eiffel Tower is beautiful up close, but the lines were sooooo long. (around an hour, at least) Plus I wanted a city view picture WITH the Eiffel Tower. So, we had a drink at a little cafe and took the metro to the Montparnesse Tower, which is a 56 story (with 59 total stories to the top observation deck) skyscraper. Not so pretty on the outside (think Sears Tower in Chicago) but with evidently the best view of the city. We hope for the good view and less lines- no time to waste on the 2 day trip.

LESS LINES? That's a joke. There are NO LINES. ZERO. We walked up, bought a ticket, went up the elevator, wisked up 56 floors in 38 seconds, and were greeted by a woman who told us in one minute (10 pm) the Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes. Really? AWESOME! From entering the tower to being at the top it was less than 5 minutes and I get to see a sparkling Eiffel Tower? Evidently I missed this part in the books so it was a great surprise. You do have to walk the last 3 flights but the view....is totally worth it.



And to my surprise....it sparkles again at 11:00.





So my new camera takes pretty good pictures, but the video is grainy. Can't be perfect, right??(however, the 6 seconds gives you an idea of the sparkling)


video
I won't say DON'T go up in the Eiffel Tower, because I haven't been up there so I don't know. I will say however, a trip to the Montparnasse Tower should be on your to-do list. 10 Euros for a view like this? Its a no brainer.

Burgundy recap

A little recap of Burgundy:
We arrive via train and take the bus (of course!) to Gevrey Chambertin. Its Sunday night, so we decide to grab a pizza from a mobile pizza station (I guess?) that we happened to pass. So yes, our first official Burgundonian meal was a jambon (ham) pizza. (good thing we did as NOTHING is open on Sunday)


FYI-evidently with sparkling (whether it be champagne or Cremant de Bourgone (dry cheaper sparkling from the region of Burgundy - can't be called Champagne unless it comes from Champagne - pictured below) they serve peanuts. I guess it makes some sense, since they say anything that goes with beer goes with sparkling...but still. Odd.



Wendesday night I got brave and tried escargot.


I was nervous...more about the "slippery little suckers" ;) than the taste...however, our hostess/waitress/bartender (small town) spoke English and told me how to eat them. They were SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO goood. Oh. my. god. YUM.

Wait, what about wines we had??

We had a ton of barrel tastings. We had wine that had been aged in French Oak, European Oak, had undergone malolactic fermentation, hadn’t, grapes from this village, that village….tons of tastings. It got to the point that we actually hoped that we weren’t going to have another barrel tasting. I know, the HORROR of being taken by a winemaker to their cellar to taste their wines! While there could be much worse fates, we decided we prefer completely ready wine instead of “on-its-way-to-being-ready-wine”. All that being said, we learned a lot from the winemakers and their barrel tastings. We started off with a visit to Domaine Debray in Beaune - Michel was awesome. The wines were good and very reasonably priced. We got some information about their exporter to the US.


We went to Alex Gambal - an American who decided to move to France. It was ok. Unless you're dying for a clear English explanation of the process, I'd say skip it. Probably what turned us off the most is that I specifically said we came here to taste wines we couldn't get in the US. After the barrel tasting, he serves us 2 wines that he knows are distributed in Missouri. That's it. Nothing else, nothing special, just 2 low end wines we can get at home. Thanks.

On my birthday we went to Domaine Durouche...he was funny. Barrel tasting, not too much else (we got to pick one wine to taste) but it was fun and he gave me a bottle for my birthday. I do love presents. ;)


We had lunch at Domaine Drouhin Laroze. No barrel tastings, not really a tour, but they have a lovely enclosed patio overlooking a small vineyard and they serve lunch to a small select group of people per appointment (there was one other table) I don't really know what the food was, but one was a quiche with walnuts. Hmm. Walnuts just don't get a lot of action in the cooking department so I was thrown off. It was...different. Ok, but different.


We also had some sort of veggie app, cheese plate for after dinner (so much cheese!) and then a mousse/ice cream dessert. STUFFED. It was lovely and we got to compare some Gevrey Chambertins from different classifications so it was a great birthday treat.

One of the best wines we had was from a random stop by: Philip Leclerc. He is old school....stomps grapes by feet, hand applies labels.....and his wine is fantastic. FANTASTIC. Bigger than most Burgundies, and tasty. (Mr. Lush and I have a dispute if this person is the winemaker, as a younger person is on the website. (this guy didn't speak very good English) I personally think the younger person is the son, but whatever.)


In his shop was a cool looking metal artpiece - here's a close up of it....


Our little town (seriously 2 miles from one end to the other, not including vineyards):


Some other misc Burgundy pics:








We didn't even get a chance to taste stuff from the place we stayed at - he was never open. We learned a lot about Burgundy, mostly that while staying at a Chateau in Bordeaux was totally worth it, its not quite as cool in Burgundy - most winemakers have little plots of vines all over Burgundy so its not like you're sitting next to the vineyard that makes the wine you're drinking. Most are also negociants as well as have their own vineyards (they buy grapes as well as grow their own). So its really more about getting to know the winemakers, which you can do from any hotel / B&B.
We learned enough about Bugundy wine to know that I need a stinkin topography map to know anything about where the wine comes from and there is a huge difference between classifications and where the vineyard is located. Also, language was more of an issue in Burgundy in general than in Bordeaux. Most people we encountered spoke fairly good english in Bordeaux....not so much in Burgundy. A few spoke "OK English" but that's about it.
Good time, overall. Oh who am I kidding?? A GREAT time and it was fantastic to spend my birthday tasting wines I loved.