Baby Sister And Retirement – Take 3

Recently, our family has experienced two momentous events.

A few weeks ago we welcomed our fifth grandchild and first granddaughter!!!

Baby sister

To say that girls are scarce in our family would be an understatement. Baby sister is the first female to be born on either side of our family in almost 25 years.

She’s kind of a big deal. And she is beautiful.

Her twin older brothers, Chip and Dale, are quite besotted with her. The household is settling in nicely; that is to say, they will be once the wee darling gets a little better grasp on night vs. day.

To celebrate her arrival, we opened a bottle of 2009 Wallis Family Estate “Little Sister” Proprietary Red Wine from the Diamond Mountain District of Napa Valley.

2009 Wallis Family Estate Little Sister Proprietary Red

Perfect, right?

We discovered Wallis Family Estate at a Family Winemakers of California tasting event about 5 years ago. Pouring wine at their booth on that day were both Mr. Wallis and his younger daughter, AKA the Little Sister.

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Shortly after Baby Sister’s arrival, Peter started retirement.

For the third time.
Peter Begins Retirement

Retirement #1 never really happened even though the date was set and we completed the planned relocation.

You see, Peter is a team player. When the company came to him saying, “We’ve had a bit of a situation and we really, really, really need to have you stick around for another six months or so. Pretty please???”, he couldn’t say no.

Retirement #2 proceeded swimmingly for a grand total of three months.

During that time we packed in all sorts of fun activities like concerts and wine events.

I became quite accustomed to having Peter cook dinner, pairing it with the perfect wine, as I perused my People Magazine.

Well, that arrangement came to a screeching halt when Peter received a call asking if he could help out on a teeny, tiny project  – “should last no longer than a couple of months” – which turned into a big, big project consuming about fifteen months.

Now, finally, all is as it should be in Maison Lux. Peter is home and splitting his time, once again, between his two happy places: the kitchen and the wine cellar.

Wine Spectator magazine’s website has a series called “8 & $20” which features wonderful recipes (with suggested wine pairings) serving up to 8 people for $20 or less (not including wine, obviously).

One, in particular, caught Peter’s eye and he decided to give it a whirl.

Braised Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Sauce

Braised chicken thighs in mushroom sauce.

Now I was a little wary of this dish for two reasons: I don’t like dark meat chicken and I REALLY don’t like mushrooms. Other than that, it sounded great…

But, if Peter was doing the cooking I figured the least I could do was to be a good sport and try the dish without complaining. Besides, I knew it would be served with a great wine so not a total fail.

I may not have instantly become a dark meat/mushroom convert, but I will tell you that this combination was delicious! Check out the recipe here.

Peter paired this yummy gem with a 2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir.

2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir

Located in Santa Barbara County, Foxen makes a wide variety of wines including single-vineyard Pinot Noirs like this one, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and red blends.

The Foxen tasting room in Santa Maria is a simple and rustic but beautiful place and one I highly recommend to anyone visiting Santa Barbara County. Just a tiny bit down the road is their second tasting room, known as The Shack, where visitors can enjoy selections from Foxen 7200 which focuses on Italian style and Bordeaux wines.

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Now that Peter has more free time, I’m looking forward to many delicious meals, great adventures and lots of time to spend with the five grandchildren: Baby Sister, brothers Chip and Dale and cousins Andy and Harry.

Life is, indeed, good!

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Boston Fun And Pi Day

Hi, folks! Checking in to let you know what I’ve been up to and to wave my nerd flag proudly, wishing you a Happy Pi Day.

Recently, I spent several weeks in Boston for part one of my current granny nanny stint when our daughter, Annie, returned to work following her maternity leave.

I was in charge of the newest arrival, Harry

Baby Harry

(as you can see we are already turning him into an Irish fan)…

and his big brother, Andy (whom we are apparently turning into a fan of lifestyle magazines like the Real Simple he is about to peruse in this photo).

Andy 2017

There is a reason that babies are born to those who are young and energetic rather than those of us who are older and, let’s say, more sedentary. Still, I managed to hold my own with these two guys.

They made it pretty easy.

On-time feedings, attention to the nap and diaper changing schedules along with perpetual song singing and book reading were all they asked of me. In return, the boys accepted my non-stop smooching, cuddling and picture taking.

We got along splendidly.

Because both of our children and all of our grandchildren live only a couple of miles from each other (approximately 1,000 miles away from us but practically next door to one another), we get to spend time with all the little nuggets when we visit Boston.

Although my granny nanny duties kept me busy, we did manage to join Chip and Dale for play dates, trips to the trampoline park and playground and general fun.

Chip and DaleChip is still in his PJs here because he was a bit under the weather. Dale, having just returned from pre-school, was helping his twin brother pick out some “quiet time” books for Momo to read.

The timing of my trip allowed me to attend a beautiful luncheon at the home of my dear pal and superstar blogger, Katie Clooney of Preppy Empty Nester.

Lunch prepared by The Mister

What a treat to spend time with this group of smart, interesting and hilarious gals. I’m eager to crash their next party join them for another get together soon!

Katie Clooney's lunch guests

Hostess Katie (with the help of her husband, the chef du jour) outdid herself. Her beautiful home, warm hospitality, and all-encompassing awesomeness made for a perfect afternoon!

Now back home I’m spending time with my folks as my mom recovers from a little something-something.

In honor of Pi Day, we enjoyed a ridiculously delicious chicken pot pie from the Centerville Pie Company in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Centerville Pie Company

My dear pal, Ellie, sent a couple of these pies as a “get well soon” treat. And what a treat it was!!

Half the pie is gone

We gobbled down half of the pie before I could snap a picture.

You are probably wondering what wine we paired with this extraordinary pie.

2008 Argyle Spirithouse Reserve Series Pinot Noir

This 2008 Argyle Reserve Series Spirithouse Pinot Noir came from our cellar but you can find Argyle Pinot Noir at your favorite wine (maybe even grocery) store. In addition to the single vineyard, reserve wines, Argyle produces quite a lovely, reliable, everyday wine.

Before too long I will head back to Boston for nanny granny part two and to wait for the arrival of our next grandchild – OUR FIRST GIRL!!!!!!  A shower of pink is coming our way!

So stay tuned for that excitement and, of course, more wine.

Happy Pi Day!

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Pairing Wine And Grilled Cheese

Mo Wine Please

Now that I have you all thinking about grilled cheese, I know what is next.

“Mo, what is the perfect pairing of wine and grilled cheese?”

The answer to this question is almost as varied as the number of grilled cheese combinations.

There is perhaps no better friend to wine than cheese. But what about all the other ingredients?

A sandwich made with provolone, pesto and arugala might call for a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. A cheddar, short rib and grilled onion sandwich would definitely stand up to a Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Wine Blend.

I guess the answer to the question you posed is that there is no right answer.

Experiment. Try the wines you like and see how each complements your favorite grilled cheese components.

Don’t know where to start? Fear not, I have you covered.

Let’s talk about a few options…

Chardonnay

The typical characteristics of a Chardonnay – buttery, creamy, toasty, pear, apple, etc. lend themselves well to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Chardonnay and a purist’s sandwich – made entirely of cheese – or one incorporating pears or apple would be a match made in heaven.

Something like the 2009 Winderlea Chardonnay.

2009 Winderlea Chardonnay

This fabulous Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon boasts flavors of pear and toasty brioche with a medium, creamy body. The Winderlea Chardonnay ($38) and an entire array of Winderlea Pinot Noirs are available on their website.

Pinot Noir

As I’ve said many times, Pinot Noir is the perfect “food” wine. It can be a bit of a chameleon, matching but never overpowering.

A Pinot Noir would work well with something as simple as a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich.

It would really shine with a sandwich reflecting the cherry/cranberry/strawberry flavors that are part of the Pinot Noir profile. Maybe a Monterey Jack, turkey and cranberry relish grilled cheese.

A couple of Pinots I’ve enjoyed lately…

2009 Waypoint Pinot Noir

The 2009 Waypoint Pinot Noir from the Brittan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley in Oregon ($50) brings cherry, pomegranate and cranberry notes which would pair well with an applewood bacon, cheddar and colby sandwich.

or…

2014 DeLoach Pinot Noir

The 2014 DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir from California ($12) is loaded with bing cherry and strawberry. This great bargin wine was rated 88 points by Wine Enthusiast.

I found it to be better on day two than on day one, but still a solid wine to pair with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Dry Riesling

I know, I know. You don’t care for Rieslings…too sweet.

I’m telling you, Dry Rieslings will rock your world.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Several years ago, Peter and I were strolling in the village of La Jolla, killing time before attending 5pm Mass. What does one do when one has some time to kill and finds themselves face to face with a wine tasting room with an ocean view?

We pre-gamed Mass. (Please don’t judge…).

Peter saw a Tatomer Dry Riesling on the menu and decided to give it a try.

Friends, if you ever, ever see a Tatomer Dry Riesling on a menu, in a store, in your neighbor’s wine cellar, TRY IT!

Not at all overly sweet, this wine brings the stone fruit notes of a Sauvignon Blanc (without the citrus acidity) and the honey of a Chardonnay (without the cloying butter).

It is light while still having body. It is magic.

The Tatomer wine sells at about $28 per bottle but I, for one, would pay twice the price. (Shhhhh, let’s keep that as our little secret and not share with the folks at Tatomer).

But I digress. Back to grilled cheese sandwiches.

A Dry Riesling would pair well with a sandwich including bacon or proscuitto and is the perfect foil for any sauce with a spicy kick.

The trick in pairing wine and grilled cheese is to pay attention to the tasting notes of a wine. Honey, pear, apple, lavendar, bell pepper, olive, mushrom, roasted meat, rosemary, thyme and berries of every flavor are terms used as wine descriptors.

Check the back of the wine bottle, the shelf tag at the store or the internet to find a wine whose tasting notes include the same flavors as your sandwich and you will be on the right track.

I love that so many of you shared your ideas on the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. What about the wine? Have you found a perfect pairing of wine and grilled cheese? Have you tried a Dry Riesling?

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What Is Your House Wine?

Hi folks! Today let’s talk about choosing your very own house wine.

How to choose your house wineA house wine is your “go to” bottle of choice: the wine that you know you enjoy drinking, is at a price point you are comfortable with and one you don’t mind sharing with others.

It’s the reliable wine you always have on hand and can pull out and serve without a second thought.

Consider these factors:

Price point

Determining a price range is a good place to start.

Some people choose “4 Buck Chuck” as their house wine.  They are delighted with the cost and happily stock up on cases of Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s.

On the other end of the spectrum super oenophiles, lovers of all things fine in the wine department, would rather pass (literally, as in they’d rather die) than drink “cheap” wine.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

In deciding what you are comfortable with, think about a price you would be willing to spend on a bottle of wine for a random Tuesday night dinner.

Your house wine should be your everyday wine, not necessarily your “special occasion/using the fancy china” wine.

Pick A Type

Pinot Noir is a great choice for a red house wine. It pairs really well with most foods from meat to fish. There are lots of Pinot Noirs out there at virtually every price point.

Many wineries make a red blend. They take several different types of grapes (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Malbec, Syrah, etc.) and combine them in one way or another to create something new.

Red blends go by all sorts of names. You might see Proprietary Red, some clever signature name chosen by the winery or simply Red Blend.

Choosing a red blend as your house wine might be the perfect way to please all and to expand your wine repertoire.

If you are going with white wine, you might choose a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. Both quite popular; they are wines that people know and understand.

Pinot Grigio is light and easy to drink. Many people think of it as a summer wine to be consumed ice cold on a hot day. That’s an excellent plan but Pinot Grigio can also be a great year-round option for those looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous Chardonnay.

I used to think I didn’t like Chardonnay. But I started forcing myself (it’s a tough job, right?) to try selections from different wineries and different countries and found I have a preference for certain styles and flavor profiles.

I prefer French Chardonnay

How about other white wine options?

What about a Viognier as your house wine? Viognier is like the white wine version of Pinot Noir in that it pairs very well with a variety of foods and drinks well on its own.

Many wineries also make a white blend. The same rules apply – an infinite variety of combinations make for an infinite variety in flavors. If you like the idea of a Chardonnay and a Viognier, look for a blend that combines the two.

Of course you could have both a house white and a house red. Something to think about…

Choose A Crowd Pleaser

Your house wine should definitely be something that you love but should also be kind of mainstream.  You may LOVE a big, juicy cabernet but it may be way too much for the every day palate.

Remember, the idea of a house wine is to have something that is easy for everyone to drink.

Storing Your House Wine

Once you choose a house wine, you will want to stock up. But don’t go crazy.

Plan ahead. Make sure you don’t buy more wine than you have storage space.

A wine refrigerator is ideal but, in a pinch, your wine can be stored, on its side, in a cool, dark place (closet, basement, kitchen cupboard away from the oven).

Wine can be stored for short periods of time in a kitchen refrigerator. But Dr. Vinny at Wine Spectator explains why it’s not a good idea for the long term health of your wine.

The short story is that your food refrigerator is too cold and too dry for wine. Read Dr. Vinny’s complete analysis here.

Making The Selection

Once you have decided on your budget and narrowed down some idea of your preferences, it is time for research.

Of course the best way to research wine is to taste it.

Make a trip to your grocery store, wine & liquor shop or warehouse store and start experimenting!

Wine at the Grocery Store

Seek advice from the staff. Even grocery stores and places like Costco have wine department managers who are quite knowledgeable about the wines they stock.

Tell the wine department expert that you are looking for a house wine. Describe your general wine preferences, mention a few of your favorite wines and let them know your budget.

Be adventurous and try new things!

The research process will lead you to find your “house wine” and might introduce you to some new, special, favorites.

One last thing to consider when deciding on a house wine is its availability.

You wouldn’t want to have your heart set on a particular brand and not have a ready supply of that specific wine. With the help of the wine department staff, choose something that is likely to always be on the shelf when you need to replenish your supply.

Variety is the spice of life.  But it’s also wonderful to have a wine you know you can always count on.

Your very own “House Wine”.

Do you have a house wine? How did you choose the wine? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas!

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