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Trader Joe’s Reserve North Coast Brut Rosé

Sparkling wines are some of my favorite things.  Anytime – even any ordinary Monday…  I love this one – but I had a long day, so I’m going to poach the description from the Trader’s Joe’s flyer.  I went with the sparkling rosé, for a pinker, more berryful Brut, as they say.

Trader Joe’s Reserve North Coast Brut is a classic Brut. Which is to say, it’s dry in style—having had a smaller amount of sugar added during the dosage (doe-SAZJ) stage of the wine making process. It’s an excellent addition to your holiday wine list, a wine that so well exemplifies the characteristics of its origins, we were compelled to bestow upon it our Reserve designation. The grapes – Chardonnay from the banks of the Russian River in southern Mendocino County, and Pinot Noir from Carneros in Sonoma County – deliver green apple and pink grapefruit aromas, with crisp, clean flavors of Granny Smiths and raspberries. The fruit flavors arrive with a creamy mouth-feel, resulting from 12 months of aging “on the lees” in the bottle. (Lees are the remnants of the yeast added at bottling to activate a second fermentation.) Incidentally, this in-bottle fermentation is also what creates the sparkle. Trader Joe’s Reserve North Coast Brut Sparkling Wine is ready to exhibit its dry, ebullient sparkle at your next holiday gathering. Its sibling, Rosé, is also available for those desiring a pinker, more berryful Brut. 750ml bottles of each are $9.99*

 

Happy Monday – 4 days to go.

 

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Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Annapolis

Day 1, Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Last fall, I decided I needed to take some time away, so I booked a long weekend to the East Coast.  Flying cross country is always tough; for this trip I had to be on my airport shuttle at 4:10 am, which means getting my taxi at 3:40 am!  I never get to bed before about 10 pm on nights when I am flying out the next morning, so you can imagine the sleep deprivation.  It is so worth it when I get to board that plane though!

My flight was direct – and absolutely uneventful.  I got my car, and made my way to Annapolis; it was only about a 25-minute drive there from the airport.  I stayed at the State House Inn, a historic hotel that was originally a house.  There are only 7 rooms, so it is really more an inn than a hotel – without breakfast though.  They do have an agreement for room service from the Italian restaurant below.  The State House Inn is over 200 years old, and perhaps as old as 300 years; however, there aren’t existing records that show when the house was built.

The State House Inn

The upper stories are home/inn, and the first floor is commercial space (this floor is only visible from the back side of the house).  It has undergone a variety of restorations, with the the most recent addition to the building in 1900. You can see the bones of the original building from Chancery Lane, which they say is the most photographed site in Annapolis because of the view of the illuminated dome of Maryland’s State House (you know I had to see that for myself).  The alley was supposedly used by George Washington returning to Mount Vernon on December 23, 1783, after resigning his commission in the State House (there are stairs, so he must not have gotten on his horse yet).

MD State House, from Chancery Lane

Their website indicates that it is owned and operated by Naval Academy graduate Lieutenant Commander Marc Lucas, but I talked with the manager during my stay and she had indicated that there were new owners, so it is likely that the website is outdated.

For dinner, I headed across the street to the Red Red Wine Bar for a flight of wine and a charcuterie plate.  The wine flights and meats and cheeses were delicious!  They have a huge selection of  wines by the glass and the bottle, and also have an extensive selection of whiskys, for my whisky drinker readers.  The atmosphere was very nice, and the server was excellent, explaining all the flavors on the cheeses and meats so I could choose what I wanted.  After my light dinner, I spent a little time wandering the quiet streets of Annapolis, looking in the shop windows, before heading back to the Inn for bed.  Overall, it was a quiet evening, considering that most of the day was spent traveling.  I was excited to see the sights the next day!

I chose an international red wine flight

 

My flight, with wine details

La Granja 360 – Cava Brut

A quick shop at Trader Joe’s revealed this sparkling wine in the chilled section – it was almost dinner time so chilled won me over.  Plus that label, with the flustered goose!

Light delicate bubbles and a light yellow color, this wine has creamy flavors of yeast and pear.  I picked up a floral nose, but that largely went away after the first glass.  The bubbles were mostly gone on the second day, but the flavor was still solid.

La Granja 360 Cava Brut

The price point – $6.99 is perfect for no-fuss, everyday drinking.  I paired it with the scent of green grass on my clothes after mowing the lawn…  It is a wine I would certainly buy again!

2018 Wine Walk

My life isn’t all vacations and rainbows – believe it or not, mostly it isn’t.  As such, even though it doesn’t always appear in the pages of this blog, I spend a fair bit of time around home.  Work, yard work, chores, and of course, planning and saving for the next vacation.

I missed the Wine Walk last year because I was in Hawaii (yea, yea, I know you don’t feel bad for me…) – so I was excited to go this year!

Me – Pre-Walk

The event is put on by our Downtown Partnership, who coordinate all the participating shops and wineries – they do a fantastic job.  I met Shelley downtown and we had a blast!  You get your little tasting cup and tickets, and wander all over downtown for wine and snacks at the various participating shops.  There were several other friends wandering around, so we stopped to chat here and there when we ran into people we knew.

Shelley and me with the town flag

(Note: Yes, our town has its own flag.  I think it is a hippie thing.  Or is it a hipster thing?  Either way – it seems weird, but why not do flag selfies!?)

Several Washington wineries participate and get big exposure in a few short hours!  Our local co-op grocery store did an awesome spread of healthy snacks, including veggies with hummus, Greek olives and dolmathes.  As it turned out, Shelley had never had dolmathes.  I said, “Just put it in your mouth.  Trust me – you won’t regret it.”  She didn’t regret it!

All the little shops had their pretties for sale, but I was good and didn’t buy anything, except one bottle of white wine.  I was tempted, but I am trying to save money…  We stopped in at the Cajun restaurant for a late snack, before heading home.

My favorite wine was the Rosé by Eternal Wines in Walla Walla – it was so delicious and perfect for summer!  So, even at home, I try to have some fun!

 

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: On the Water

Day 12-14, Friday, August 4-6, 2017

I headed out from Portland towards home on Friday morning.  Along the way, I stopped off at the Tacoma Marina to meet my friend David, who had a boat moored there.  We had talked about just meeting for lunch, but the timing turned out well, as my only commitment was getting back to work the next Monday.  The weather was spectacular, so we ended up taking the boat out for a couple of days of relaxation and decompressing.

On our way

 

Our getaway

The good thing about a boat on the water is that you are a captive to the concept of relaxing.  We anchored off of Vashon Island and had almost no interruptions, except for the occasional boat going by.  For two days, I read my book, napped on the bow of the boat, sunned myself, fished and crabbed (both rather unsuccessfully, as an octopus kept stealing the bait from the crab pots), ate, drank red wine (Redhead Red blend – yummy!), and swam in the Sound.  It was glorious!  We ate well, with shish-ka bobs, strawberries, peaches, plums, assorted snacks, and Greek yogurt for breakfast.  Corn on the cob and roasted potatoes were salted with sea water and cooked on the BBQ.

We jumped in the water whenever we got too hot, and bobbed on pool noodles and watched the jellyfish float by, drinking canned beer until we got too cold.  Well, let’s get real, I always got too cold first.  I learned that full beer cans float – I have no idea how I made it into my 40s while living right next door to the ocean without knowing this.  The weekend cycle – get hot, jump in, bob, drink beer, climb out, warm up on the bow, repeat.

Jellyfish floating by

David knows I hate Modest Mouse – so every time Modest Mouse came on the Spotify station, he would skip over the song, even if it meant getting up to do it.  Bless his sweet heart.  We talked about life; all those deep conversations that happen with close quarters, people you cherish, and wine after dark.

The sunset from the water

These were some of the most peaceful, enjoyable days I have experienced in a long time, and the perfect end to a great vacation.

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: World Center for Birds of Prey

Day 2, Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We woke up in Farewell Bend State Park on a cooler, but still hot, and still breezy morning.  I took a shower – the water took a long time to warm up so most of it was cold… Then we had omelettes and chocolate muffins for breakfast.  We live such a rough camping life! Tear down and packing the car took a bit of time, as it was our first attempt at re-Tetrising on the road.  I had my stuff packed and ready to go long before the kids, so I helped their parents try to wrangle them and we got on the road at 9:30.

Our next stop was at the World Center for Birds of Prey.  I had been there once before, in 2013 and loved it! The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center. They are a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry.  Peregrines have been used in falconry for over 3,000 years, and the group wanted to save them for the sport.  Peregrines are the fastest animal on earth, diving at speeds more than 200 mph while hunting.

Peregrine Falcon

Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells.  The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.  They are doing so well now that the Center no longer breeds them for release into the wild; they are focusing their efforts on other, still endangered, species.

While we were there, we saw a demonstration on a Lanner Falcon, which is native to the Mediterranean area.  He was beautiful, and we all loved seeing him up close.  We learned about the malar stripes, which reduce glare on the bird’s eyes as they hunt.  It’s where football players got the idea.

Lanner Falcon

We watched the movie on the work of the center, and I also loved seeing the success story of the Peregrine Falcon (removed from the endangered species list in 1999), as well as the California Condor, which in great part is due to the efforts of the World Center for Birds of Prey has gone from only 22 individuals remaining in the world to 446 in captivity and in the wild as of the end of 2016.  We also checked out the birds on display inside.

When we went back outside after touring the indoor exhibits, we split up and I was lucky enough to find two bird handlers with a male and female American Kestrel.  They look so different from each other – it was very cool to see them up close!  They are very small falcons, and the females are larger than the males, which is common among birds of prey.  Also very interesting is that Kestrels can hover, in order to ambush and swoop down on their prey!

American Kestrel Male

 

American Kestrel Female

The center also has several birds on exhibit outdoors, including a Bald Eagle, a Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine and my favorites, the Bataleur Eagles.  These eagles were 45 and 47 years old when I visited in 2013, so now they are 50 and 52 years old!  They were hatched in 1966 and 1968.  The birds here are not able to be released in the wild, either due to the fact that they were imprinted on humans when they were young or due to an injury they suffered previously.  The Center uses them as education birds, teaching students and community members about the species and their conservation efforts.

 

I was sure they wouldn’t be interested, but after we told them about it, the kids really wanted to do the tour of the archive.  The archive, of course has books and information on the history of falconry, but it also has exhibits and artifacts related to falconry.  There are falconry hoods and perches, radio and early GPS tracking systems, and artwork related to falconry.  There is also a 20 x 12 foot traditional goat-hair hunting tent from Syria.  The archive was made possible in large part from a donation from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, son of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding President of the United Arab Emirates and a falconer himself.  I guess it goes to show that it pays to know people…  I was surprised to see how much the kids enjoyed seeing it, especially the hunting tent, and they listened attentively to the guide during the tour.

 

After the archive, we had a snack and got on the road again.  Our plan had been to head over to Craters of the Moon National Monument, not thinking we were going to be at the World Center for Birds of Prey for so long.  What an issue to have!  So sadly, by the time we got to Craters, there weren’t any campsites available – they are first-come first-served.  After a bit of discussion, we decided that we would do Craters on the way home.  So that evening we really just breezed through…

At this point, it was getting late and starting to get dark and we still didn’t have a campsite…  A call to a KOA RV Park in Arco, Idaho and we had a site!  We got checked in and my brother took the kids over to the pool while Susanna and I got tents up and dinners started.  Cooking dinner over a camp stove in the dark with a headlamp is always interesting!  We had noodle pasta with hamburger and salad.  Not gourmet, but it hit the spot!  We had picked up a bottle of wine on our travels that day, and Susanna and I enjoyed some wine while cooking and during dinner too.

After dinner, and after booting the kids to bed, Michael, Susanna and I stayed up talking and enjoying our bevvies – wine for the girls and a bit of whisky for my brother, before turning in for the night.  Another great day…

 

Distance for the Day: 4 hours, 58 minutes; 282 miles
World Center for Birds of Prey: $10.00 adults, $8 seniors, $5  youth ages 4 to 16. 
Craters of the Moon KOA, Arco, Idaho: $30 for a tent site (if I remember correctly)

 

2015 Sleight of Hand The Magician Riesling

Yesterday, a day after getting home from a fabulous spring break road trip down to California on Sunday, I pulled a bottle out of the wine fridge.  It felt like summer in California, even if it doesn’t feel like summer here at home, so I wanted a summer sweet Riesling!

My friends and I visited Sleight of Hand Cellars when we were in Walla Walla last Memorial Day.  It was a great visit, and they had wonderful wines!

The 2015 The Magician Riesling is sourced from Evergreen Vineyard, which located high on the cliffs above the Columbia River in Central Washington. 2015 was a warm year in Washington for wines, but Evergreen Vineyard is a cooler site, which allowed for extra hang time for the grapes.  It has a delicious balanced acidity, with green apple and pear flavors, crisp minerality, and plenty of citrus.

2015 Sleight of Hand Riesling

It is sold out at the winery, but I think it cost about $18.  If you have tried it, let me know what you thought!