German Monkey Wine

I was away at a quarterly business meeting for the last few days…  On the way home, I stopped by Cost Plus World Market to check things out.  I love a visit from time to time – candles, home decor, cute girly stuff, those awesome stuffed green olives.  And wine!  You know – necessities…

Unbeknownst to me, they had started their holiday wine sale!  What’s better than wine?  Wine on sale!!!  So I stocked up and bought a bunch of wines I haven’t tried before.

This one I bought purely based the the label.  Because well, it’s awesome.  I mean really, a gold embossed monkey wrapped around the bottle – when are you going to see that?!  Oh, and my friend told me I had to get it too.  That.

Without further ado, I bring you German Monkey Wine…

Affentaler Valley of the Monkey Pinot Noir

Otherwise known as Affentaler Valley of the Monkey Pinot Noir.  I will admit that when I first opened this wine, I was not impressed.  I was prepared to write it off as simply a cool bottle to turn into a holder for my tealight tree.  But after it had a chance to breathe for a bit, it got better.  It has flavors of dark cherry, earth and tobacco.

For $10.99 a bottle, it was a decent Pinot Noir.  At that price I would probably get it again…  If you do, remember to let it breathe for a little while…

The Bet…

The last couple of weeks have been difficult.  Work stuff, which escalated to a whole new level. Personal stuff too, which I’ll get to in a different post. Meanwhile, during some of the worst days, someone important to me made a commitment, and I questioned whether it would be kept…

I was chatting with a dear friend and mentioned the commitment, and how I was skeptical that the promise would be kept.  A bet was born.  My friend was more hopeful than I was that the commitment would be kept.  If the promise was honored, I lost the bet, and owed my friend a bottle of whisky.  If the commitment were to be broken, then I won a bottle of wine (while still sadly losing).  The specifications were either a French Champagne, or an Oregon Pinot Noir, chosen by my friend.  My favorites!

I won the bet, while sadly still losing, because the commitment was broken.  A few days later a bottle of St. Innocent 2014 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir arrived.  My friend chose the bottle based on the name of the winery, without knowing that this is a winery I have been wanting to try for years…

The Tasting Notes:

This is a complex wine that reflects the heat of the afternoon sun, the cool, windy evenings, and the rustic soils of the McMinnville hills while retaining the dark beauty of its intense, ripe fruit. It is aromatically complex with layers of blue and black fruit, Indian spices, coffee hints, and pepper. In the mouth the blue/black fruit flavors and eastern spice notes are layered with a “sauvage” sense of wildness. Texturally layered, its flavors vary in intensity and quality over your tongue and palate. Ample ripe tannins balance with its acidity.

The Technical Details:

Our Momtazi Vineyard grapes come from four blocks at the top of the vineyard on steep, exposed hillsides that become quite windblown. The de-stemmed grapes were fermented in small stainless steel and Burgundy oak fermenters. After gently pressing and settling the wine aged in French oak barrels, 28% which were new, for 16 months before bottling by gravity.

Crop Level: 2.4 tons/acre
Harvest: 9/27/14
Bottled: February 2016



I opened it last night, when the work stuff had settled a bit…  I opened it while chatting with my friend – a virtual toast from thousands of miles away.  This wine turned out to be everything a perfect Pinot Noir should be.  Delicate cherry, with lots of smoky, earth tones.  The light tannins balance out the acidity.  It is very smooth, and at 13% ABV, it packs a subtle kick that creeps up on you just a little…  I think it is my new favorite Pinot Noir.

The only disappointment?  I didn’t get to share it with my friend.

Cheers.  To dear friends and a clean slate…


2014 Argyle Pinot Noir

I was craving a Pinot Noir.  It has been raining, and somehow a white wine didn’t seem fitting.

According to the winemaker’s notes:

Argyle Pinot Noir is an honest representation of the Willamette Valley. Fermented entirely in small lots, and blended for purity, it toes the line between red and dark cherry, while offering spicy forest floor and hints of black tea. The palate is lively and graceful, building density and focus as the silky tannins build into the long, energetic finish.

All I know is that this is a great wine, I’m tired, and it hit the spot.  Happy Father’s Day everybody!


2013 Liberated Pinot Noir

I don’t typically pick a wine by the label, but sometimes I pick one by the screw cap!  I was traveling, and needed a bottle that could be opened without a corkscrew, because I didn’t happen to have one in my suitcase, and who wants to buy another cheap corkscrew to add to the collection at home?

So, anywhoo, the 2013 Liberated Pinot Noir from Monterey, California comes with three different choices of cool labels.  The store I purchased it at had two of the options, but I liked the Urban Dweller girl label better.  It’s so cool!

The wine itself is decent, with a medium body and flavors of ripe cherry, blackberry and a hint of tobacco.  The Liberated Wine Company clearly puts more stock in the curb appeal of the bottle, rather than the wine itself though, as their website merely has a whimsical description rather than information about the wine.

URBAN DWELLER – I’ve rarely met the company of a nook whose cranny wasn’t just as welcome! It’s the beauty of being a tourist in your own town, where there are hundreds of sights you’ve crossed a thousand times, and yet somehow, never seen before. Take nothing away from travel, but no one needs to leave the city limits to broaden their horizons. All it takes is a curious mind and a set of eyes—so open yours to the wonders of everyday life. Isn’t it about time we liberated our idea of what “local” means?”

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir - Monterey, CA

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir – Monterey, CA

At $13.50 for the bottle, when Pinot can often be much more expensive, it is certainly a bottle worth trying out!

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

With our cold snap continuing here, I went for a walk with a girlfriend this morning, stopped by the grocery store and then spent the rest of the bright, sunny, below-freezing day doing some early spring cleaning.  Rearranging, purging the old, deep cleaning, tossing old paperwork to be recycled or shredded, and hanging artwork that hasn’t seen the light of day in awhile.  It felt good to be motivated to get some more meaningful housework done.

I had some crockpot chili that I cooked up the other day, and felt like splurging a bit on a nice bottle of wine tonight.  I opened up the Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.  It has a nose and flavors of light smoke and earth, with dark cherries and overripe blackberries.  With heavier tannins than many Pinot Noirs, it held up to the strong flavors in the chili.  I loved this wonderfully robust Willamette Valley Pinot!

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

I got mine during Safeway’s 30% off all wines over $20 sale, that they run in November (and December?).  You get an extra 10% off if you buy 6 wines too (mix and match is fine).  Fortunately for me, my brother lives in Oregon, so I stopped by their local Safeway to see what they had before heading out to drive home last time I was there.  Unfortunately for me, this is the only bottle I got of this one…

Stoller doesn’t have it on their website, although they do have the 2014 vintage.  I assume that means that they already sold out.  If you can find it, grab it!  It is delicious!

Stay warm!

2012 Dark Earth Pinot Noir

Tonight, I am enjoying a California Pinot Noir. The Dark Earth Pinot from Buellton.

Red cherry and earthy flavors mingle with medium tannins, to create a nice weekday wine. It packs a punch too at 14.8 percent alcohol.

Delicious! Highly recommended if you come across it. Happy Saturday everybody!



Colorado 2015: Florissant Fossil Beds!

Day 7: August 7, 2015

Did you know that the Redwood tree, now native to only a small part of coastal California, once lived in Colorado?  We were about to go see some! But first, we were going to see the homestead of a very strong, independent woman.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Florissant, Colorado

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Florissant, Colorado

We got to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument just in time to catch a ranger led tour of the Hornbek Homestead. We were pretty lucky to get the tour of the homestead, because it was only open for an hour! Adeline Hornbek put in a homestead claim on land in the Florissant Valley in the 1870s.  Adeline was a single woman living on the prairie – certainly an unusual arrangement at the time. In fact, she had some difficulty getting her land deeded to her after homesteading it for the requisite number of years under the Homestead Act, due to the fact that she had no husband.

The Hornbek Cabin - larger and nicer than most during the period.

The Hornbek Cabin – larger and nicer than most during the period.

On the tour, we were able to go inside the two story cabin that Adeline Hornbek built for herself and her family.  The cabin was larger than was typical homestead cabin at the time – a two story, four bedroom home with over a dozen glass-paned windows.  The ranger also told us about Adeline’s life, which was pretty interesting.

The cooking stove inside the Hornbek Cabin

The cooking stove inside the Hornbek Cabin

She was married three times in her life – her first husband died in a flood, her second disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  It is still not known whether he walked away from the family or died.  After moving to the Florissant Valley and establishing her homestead, Adeline Hornbek married a third time, to a man who is thought to have been her employee.  The last husband outlived Adeline when she died of a suspected stroke.

The Hornbek Homestead

The Hornbek Homestead

We weren’t allowed to go into the root cellar and one of the original cabins (now used as a barn) because they have dirt floors, and Hanta virus is present there. Hanta virus is a respiratory disease caused by exposure to mouse urine and/or feces, and actually has a decently high fatality rate, so that was just fine with me. We also heard that around the time we were in Colorado, they had two deaths from the bubonic plague, probably contracted through exposure to prairie dogs. All the more reason to let wild animals be wild!

The root cellar at the Hornbek Homestead - you can't go inside due to the risk of Hanta virus

The root cellar at the Hornbek Homestead – you can’t go inside due to the risk of Hanta virus

I was also excited to get some great photos of some Wyoming Ground Squirrels (I didn’t touch or feed them!) and a Female Mountain Bluebird.

A female Mountain Bluebird at the Hornbek Homestead

A female Mountain Bluebird at the Hornbek Homestead


Two adorable Wyoming Ground Squirrels at the Hornbek Homestead.

Two adorable Wyoming Ground Squirrels at the Hornbek Homestead.

After the Hornbek homestead, we visited the Visitor’s Center and the fossil site and walked the 1 mile Petrified Forest Trail.

The site has several Redwood trees that were fossilized after they were killed during a volcanic eruption and its subsequent lahar, a mud flow that quickly buried everything in its path. It is fascinating to think that there were once Redwood trees in the plains states, now known only in a small area on the California Coast.

We saw several of the giant Redwood stump fossils that were so prominent here. Unfortunately, during the late 19th century, fossil hunters carted off many of the fossils at Florissant, both for research and for personal collections. One tree stump fossil even has two metal saws embedded in the stump, where fossil collectors were trying to cut the stump into more manageable pieces.

One of the petrified Redwoods at Florissant

One of the petrified Redwoods at Florissant

A petrified Redwood stump, with two saws embedded in it.

A petrified Redwood stump, with two saws embedded in it.

Other fossils of interest at Florissant include a small three toed horse, a tse tse fly (which currently only lives in Africa) and many types of plant and insect fossils. Some of these fossils can be seen in the Visitor’s Center – they keep the fossils out on the site covered to protect them.

A petrified trio of Redwoods - these three trees were clones of each other.

A petrified trio of Redwoods – these three trees were clones of each other.

The trail also showed the sites of two competing tourist lodges; one was removed by the Park Service after the monument was designated on August 20, 1969. Apparently the owners of the lodges had a passionate rivalry; there are stories of spike strips to flatten guests’ tires and at one point the two owners were shooting at each other!

It was beautiful! And a great walk to cap off our day.

We also made a quick visit to the Florissant School, a historic schoolhouse built in 1887.  The building is now used as the local Grange.  Our last task was to finish the drive to Colorado Springs – about an hour from Florissant; we stayed at the La Quinta Inn there.

The historic Florissant School, in Florissant, Colorado

The historic Florissant School, in Florissant, Colorado

For dinner we went across the parking lot to the Caspian Café. Jon and I split an avocado, orange and almond salad, and a Caspian Kebab Platter. It had both beef and chicken kebabs with broiled tomatoes, grilled pitas, greek yogurt, onions, sumac, and parsley over basmati rice with saffron butter and lemon. It was delicious! My mouth is watering again just thinking about it now…

Our Avocado, Orange and Almond Salad - Yummy!

Our Avocado, Orange and Almond Salad – Yummy!

To drink, I had the Kunde Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc (delicious!) and Jon had a California Pinot Noir.  My mother-in-law Linda got the tzatziki and shared it with all of us, and the same salad that Jon and I had. Robby had a Mediterranean salad – they were all great meals.

Our Caspian Kebab Platter - it was so delicious!

Our Caspian Kebab Platter – it was so delicious!

The entertainment for the evening was a belly dancer, and she was quite good. She balanced swords everywhere during her performance, including her head, shoulders, hips and belly. I only dream of having that kind of talent – she was a very beautiful dancer.

And with that we turned in for the evening; and Jon and I quietly watched a thunder and lightning storm in the distance from the hotel balcony outside our room, before settling down to sleep.

Total driving distance on Day 7: 134 miles – Leadville– Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Colorado Springs

Hotel for the night: La Quinta, Colorado Springs South AP, Leadville – The hotel was nice, but a bit of a maze with all the rooms opening to the outside in their “courtyard configuration.”  The rooms were great though!  Breakfast was really crowded, and they were out of caffeinated tea.