Archive | April 2014

Happy Birthday Biz!

27 years ago today the world was blessed with a gangly bay foal, who grew up into a gangly, bay horse.  My Biz.  You have offered me joy, laughter, sadness and tears for more than 24 years.  You have given me enough memories to treasure for a thousand lifetimes.  You have been often foolish, occasionally smart, and usually lucky all these years.  You have comforted me in times of trouble, and I have comforted you.

Although you are now old and going gray, and I know that I can’t possibly wish for another 27 years, I hope I get as many as I can.  Life with you has never been dull, and has taught me an enormous amount about love.  My cup runneth over.

Happy Birthday Biz!


Biz and Me, Back in May

Biz and Me, Back in May

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

We have had several days of rain this week, and it is raining tonight.  So perhaps a picture of Oscar and Coraline lying in the sunspot will coax the sun out again.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

Oscar (left) and Coraline (right) taking in some rays

Oscar (left) and Coraline (right) taking in some rays


The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Jon and I took some time on Saturday to make a trip down to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  If you are from this area, you either love it or you hate it – or some of both.  Because although the flowers are beautiful, and make for some excellent photo opportunities, they also produce some of the worst traffic jams north of Seattle.

Jon and I got there before lunchtime, and while we did experience some traffic back up as we made our way out to the fields, it was ten times worse for the poor folks that we saw heading out on our way back.  A line of cars several miles long.

We visited RoozenGaarde, a family farm that was founded by Dutch immigrants William and Helen Roozen in 1955.  It has grown from a 5 acre farm to over 2,000 acres in the Skagit Valley, with about 1,000 acres dedicated to the production of tulips, daffodils, and irises.  Fun fact: Even though the Skagit Valley is famous for its tulips, there are actually more daffodils grown there!

The RoozenGaarde display garden is 3.5 acres, and each year it is planted with an incredible 1/4 million bulbs – tulips, daffodils and muscari.  ONE QUARTER MILLION!  It makes my back hurt just thinking about it!

I would love to have a garden full of tulips, but unfortunately the resident deer that do the rounds of my yard each day would be thanking me for the appetizers long before any tulip blooms appeared.  Sigh…  So, I will just have to enjoy the flowers in the display garden.  I hope you enjoy them too!

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Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône

Tonight I’m drinking Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône.  Jon picked it up somewhere and brought it home, and I got the last glass to go with my dinner.  It is a French Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre blend made with grapes sourced both from the company’s own vineyards as well as purchased grapes.  Grenache is the primary grape in the blend, making up about 50% of the wine.

Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône

Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône

The wine has flavors of tart pie cherry, light tannins and smoke.  It is a fruit-forward, pleasant wine that tastes young, but is a great everyday weeknight wine.  The only thing I didn’t love was a weird flavor of pencil eraser on the finish – it was very brief though!  And no, I can’t explain how I know the taste is pencil eraser…

Overall, this wine is a good wine, and it was well worth the $7.99 price tag.

A Cabernet Guessing Game

Jon had the day off today, and went to visit his parents – on his way home he stopped by the grocery store for a few staples.  Caffeine, cereal, wine…

I haven’t had much wine for the last couple of weeks, because I have been battling a horrible cold.  Early last week I was feeling better, but then a few days later, I started to feel much worse again.  After being awake most of the night coughing on Thursday night, and seeing the vivid colors Friday morning (sorry if you prefer a little less information…), I made my way in to the doctor, who told me this cold had settled into my lungs in the form of bronchitis.  Ugh.

Today, with the help of a ZPak and some codeine laced cough syrup, I’m feeling a lot better – not great mind you, but way better than I was, so I am sipping a glass of Jon’s mystery Cabernet from the Horse Heaven Hills.  I know nothing more than that at this point, so I’m planning to describe the wine, guess what it is and see how well I do.

On the nose:  Stewed plums.  Tobacco.

On the palate:  The acidity comes through on the very first taste.  Not much in the way of tannins.  Raspberry, tobacco, earth – kind of grassy.  More acidity on the finish.

Not a complex wine – better with food, but certainly drinkable.

My guess:  Columbia Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012.

It was actually:  The Expedition, Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 – Canoe Ridge Vineyard.  Their description: Spiced floral aromas lead to layered, juicy flavors of red currant and smoky plum, with a deep, velvety finish.

How do you think I did?


Winter Day in Woodinville: Dusted Valley

A few weekends ago it was another rainy, windy weekend, so Jon and I decided to spend the day tasting down in Woodinville, WA.  It had been awhile since we were there, and we didn’t have anything else going on, so we piled in the car and hit the road.

Ninety minutes later we had reached our destination, and after a stop at Panera Bread for lunch, we were ready to taste.  We decided to try some wineries that we had never been to before, and we ended up near the historic Schoolhouse building.  On the other side of the roundabout are several tasting rooms in a retail development that has only been there a few years.

We started our day at Dusted Valley.  The Dusted Valley winery facility is located in Walla Walla, but they have a tasting room in Woodinville as well.  We were greeted warmly by the server, and started off on the 2010 Cinsaut.  It is a light blend of 80% Cinsaut and 20% Syrah, from the Stoney Vine Estate in the Walla Walla Valley.  It is a excellent light, acidic wine, perfect for drinking now.

Next we had the 2011 Rachis Syrah, a wine containing 98% Syrah with 2% Petite Sirah blended in.  The grapes are sourced from the Stone Tree Vineyard in the Red Heaven area of the Columbia Valley.  After that we tried the 2011 Cabernet Franc – a Columbia Valley wine with 91% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot.  It is a big, smooth red wine.

The 2011 V.R. Special Cabernet Sauvignon was next – it is a 99% Cabernet Sauvignon with just 1% of Petit Verdot blended in.  It is named for the V.R. Special Chocolate Chip Cookie created by the winemaker’s grandfather Vernon Rhodes in the Midwest.  The 2011 Petite Sirah contained 95% Petite Sirah and 5% Syrah.  It is a dark, inky red color with strong balanced tannins.

And we finished off the tasting with the 2009 Late Harvest Syrah.  It is not a fortified wine, but is a heavy, syrupy wine with a strong alcohol content.  Jon really liked this wine.

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

All of the wines were excellent – there weren’t any that I didn’t like.  That said, my favorites were the Cinsaut and the Petite Syrah.

Dusted Valley also produces a second, value label – Boomtown.  They don’t taste or sell it at the tasting room, but I purchased a bottle later in the day that I found at Cost Plus World Market – given how much I liked the Dusted Valley wines that we tried, I am looking forward to tasting the Boomtown wine we bought.

Our next stop was Trust Cellars – I’ll blog about that next!

Have you tried Dusted Valley wines?  What did you think?


Book Review: Wine and War

I just finished Wine & War:  The French, The Nazis & the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure.  Written by Don and Petie Kladstrup, it tells the story of the German invasion of France in 1940 and the toll that the subsequent occupation took on the wine industry.


The book begins with French soldiers trying to blast their way into Hitler’s cave at the Eagle’s Nest above Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s heavily fortified retreat in the Bavarian Alps.  What they found in that cave would amaze everyone – millions of bottles of intact French wine that had been “purchased” at ridiculous prices set by the Germans, or even flat out stolen from French winemakers and restaurants during the war.

After the introduction, the book tells the story of German occupation, with the German wineführers installed in different wine regions to negotiate with the winemakers for the purchase of their wine.  Of course, in reality it was a sham because the French were only permitted to sell to the Germans, and at prices that Germans set.

It tells the story of the lengths the French went to to hide their best stock, and to try to pass off inferior wines as high quality ones.  Although a lot of the wine was consumed by troops who probably didn’t know the difference between a great French wine and a marginal one, it was still a huge risk.

And of course, the wine industry fueled a lot of participation in the Resistance, with wine families participating or assisting others in acts of sabotage or intelligence gathering.  The vast French cellars were not only used to hide wine, but to hide members of the Resistance, Jews and even winemakers who had not supported the German cause enthusiastically enough to remain below the radar.

The authors reviewed many historical documents in their research and interviewed members of several prominent wine families who survived the war.  Some did not want to share information; they found it too painful to relieve the experience.  Yet others opened their family’s archives and told family stories about the humorous and the difficult experience of making it through.

The book is told through a different perspective; by and large these people were not soldiers, and the authors give great detail on the impact that war has on everyday people.  People who had to be incredibly brave and clever to survive, and to ensure that future generations still have the gift of good French wine.  It is certainly worth a read.

Have you read Wine and War?  What did you think?

Biz Gives Darwin a Run for His Money

This year is the 22nd anniversary of the day my life changed forever. I never would have thought that day that I would ever be close to celebrating his 27th Birthday. Biz, you have a certain spirit that is beyond compare!

Wine and History Visited

So this post is a little different than my typical posts on wine and travel. I’ll warn you now – this post is full of gore and tragedy, so if you have a weak stomach, don’t read on.

Today is April Fool’s Day, which ever since 1992 has been a different type of anniversary for me. On April 1, 1992, my beloved 4 year old quarter horse gelding Biz, tried to run through or jump the electric wire fence in his field – I will never really know what happened. Upon finding him standing in shock in a pool of blood, I stumbled back to the barn to get help. Friends later told me they thought I was playing a practical joke, until they saw that all the blood had drained out of my face. The vet was called, and he received a police escort to the farm when a…

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