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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Wine Gift – It’s All In The Name

My youngest grandson was born on his paternal grandfather’s birthday. His first grandchild born on his 60th birthday. The best gift ever.

Peter and I shopped for a special wine to commemorate the double special occasion and found the perfect bottle.

Legacy Wine

This got me to thinking about other wines which could be given as gifts based on the name of the wine.

For example,

Let’s say you are looking for a wine gift to say “bon voyage” to a friend. How about a bottle from En Route, makers of wonderful Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California?

Or, you could wrap up a bottle of Sojourn Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, also from Sonoma, California.

Sojourn wine

Even the image on the bottle suggests a vacation!

Retirement? I recommend Ayoub Memoirs Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Do you know someone who is starting a new endeavor? How about a bottle of Pursuit Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir or Red Blend. These wines are produced by the wonderful folks at Bounty Hunter in Napa.

Need a gift for a law school graduate or to celebrate passing the bar exam? Bounty Hunter also makes Jurisprudence Red Blend.

Jurisprudence Red Wine

There are many, many wines named after members of the winemaker’s family. Perhaps one of these would fit the bill for a birthday or new baby gift:

Domaine Drouhin “Arthur” Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Foxen “Julia’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley area of Santa Barbara County.

Rudd “Samantha’s” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville area of Napa Valley.

Lewis Cellars “Ethan’s” Syrah, “Mason’s” Cabernet Sauvignon or “Alec’s” Red Wine Blend – just a few of the fabulous wines made in Napa and Sonoma by former Formula One race car driver, Randy Lewis.

Lewis Cellars Mason's

Hall “Ellie’s” Cabernet Sauvignon, “Jack’s Masterpiece” Cabernet Sauvignon or “Craig’s Cuvee” Red Wine Blend from Napa Valley.

Hall Jack's Masterpiece

Walt Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Walt is owned by Hall Wines and produces wines from several spots along the Pacific Coast from California to Oregon.

Walt Wines

Hartford Court “Jennifer’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.

Hartford Court Jennifer's Vineyard

Or maybe something a little different…

Eighty Four Wines Malbec or Syrah from Napa Valley.

Nickel & Nickel (Single Vineyard) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay from Napa for someone celebrating their 55th birthday. Nickel & Nickel, get it?

Nickel & Nickel

Martinelli “Three Sisters Vineyard” Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from Sonoma.

Wallis Family Estate “Little Sister” Proprietary Red Blend from Napa.

Wallis Little Sister

Maybe you are looking for a “just because” wine gift.

Just because…

…your friend has great memories of times in New Orleans (or is a fan of Davy Crockett): Fess Parker “The Big Easy” Red Blend from Santa Barbara.

…your friend is facing a big challenge: Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

…you want to celebrate the resolution of “a situation”: Poetic Justice Red Wine, another great wine from Bounty Hunter.

Poetic Justice

…you know someone with a soft spot in their heart for “Old Blue Eyes”: Sinatra Family “Come Fly With Me” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

…you want to show your love: Hall “Coeur” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Hall Coeur

These are just a few ideas based on wines we have in our cellar. All or most of these are available for purchase online directly from the winery.

Do you have more ideas to add to the list? Something you have seen in your local wine store or given as a gift yourself?

By the way, just a hint for my family and friends…

Shotbox wine bottle photo


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If Santa Were A Wine Drinker

I know you’ve missed my wine posts. So, today’s ornament on the Partners in a Pair Tree will make you feel better.

I was thinking…

Do you suppose that Santa is a wine drinker?

Santa as a wine drinker

Even though we all know that the reindeer do the navigating on Christmas Eve, Santa seems like a responsible guy who would not drink and drive. But once he gets home after delivering toys to all the good little girls and boys, maybe he celebrates with a little vino?

And what about all those other cold nights at the North Pole? Don’t you think that Santa and Mrs. Claus might enjoy a nice glass of a hearty red wine now and again?

Assuming that the answer is “yes” I bet I know what they drink.

I bet that Santa’s “house wine” is from Chimney Rock Winery.

Chimney Rock is located in Napa Valley. They make delicious wines including some of the best cabernet sauvignon that you can imagine.

Chimney Rock Wine


The 2009 Chimney Rock Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon ($72) brings notes of “raspberry jam, sweet herbs and spices”. This very special wine achieved a score of 93 from Robert Parker.

Or perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Claus would prefer a nice red blend like the 2009 Chimney Rock Elevage ($76). Made from a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. This lovely wine was awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Don’t you think either of these gems would be worthy selections for the guy who spreads happiness all over the world?

So then this got me to thinking, what about some of the other celebrities of the season? What might they enjoy?

How about a wine from Conundrum for the Grinch?

A conundrum, of course, is a difficult problem or question. This word perfectly describes the Grinch’s situation when he has the sleigh full of toys teetering on the edge of the cliff. Should he destroy the toys or return them to the Whos down in Whoville?

I would argue that what he really should do is relax with a nice glass of the 2011 Conundrum white wine blend ($18). This wine is described as having aromas of green apple, tangerine and honeysuckle blossoms and tastes of peach, green melon, pear and spicy vanilla.

Conundrum wine

What wines make up the Conundrum blend, you ask? Conundrum is known for the fact that they won’t tell. The winemaker thinks it would take all the fun out of it if they disclosed this information.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that the wine is fantastic.

Perhaps George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life” would celebrate the kind donations from his neighbors by opening a few bottles from Nickel & Nickel.

Nickel & Nickel is a Napa winery (affiliated with Far Niente) that produces a stunning array of single vineyard wines. Although focused mostly on Cabernet Sauvignon, Nickel & Nickel also makes a small selection of single vineyard Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel.

The 2012 Nickel & Nickel Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay ($53) from the Carneros region of Napa Valley would be a lovely choice. With some of the iconic Chardonnay tastes of pear, apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and toasty oak, this wine would be a big hit among his white wine drinking pals.

Hmmmm… Who’s next?

Oh, how about Cindy Lou Who?

When “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” first aired in 1966, Cindy Lou was described as being “no more than two”. By my calculation, that makes her 49 years old today – the perfect age to appreciate a glass of the 2010 Wallis Family Estate Little Sister Red Blend ($45).

Wallis Estates Little Sister


Little Sister is a blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot and was given a score of 91 by The Wine Enthusiast. This yummy wine would surely get Cindy Lou in the mood to sing a chorus of “Fah Who Foraze, Dah Who Doraze” – guaranteed!

I’ve got one more for you: Ebenezer Scrooge.  How about a wine from Ghost Pines or Ghost Block for the crabby turned generous guy. Perfect, right?

Perhaps he would like the 2012 Ghost Block Sauvignon Blanc ($24) with aromas of stone fruits and tastes of pear, peach, melon and orange peel.

Or the 2012 Ghost Pines Red Blend ($20) – a Robert Parker 90 point wine – with aromas of blueberry, licorice and cracked pepper and tastes of black cherry, blackberry and brown spice. Very nice!

What wine do you think Santa would drink? Did I miss any other obvious character/winery combinations?

As I add today’s ornament on our tree, I invite you to head over to Kelly’s site tomorrow to read about the Heritage Home Tours.

Partners In A Pair Tree Day 16

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Choosing A Wine Based On The Name

Mo Wine Please

 What’s In A Name?

Do you ever choose a wine just because of the name?

Maybe it’s something amusing like Fat Bastard or Mommy’s Time Out. Perhaps it’s a funny take on the name of a varietal like Pinot Evil or Marilyn Merlot.

Peter has dreams of owning a winery in Italy. He would produce only Barbera wine and call the winery Hanna. Get it? Hanna Barbera? This is definitely a pun that will play better to the older crowd…

He was crushed (no pun intended there) to discover that his other hilarious idea was taken: Dirty Laundry Winery has already nabbed the name “Kay Syrah”.

Silver Oak Cellars

Sometimes we select a wine to serve because we know the particular winery is meaningful to our guests. We always like to have a bottle of Silver Oak on hand when certain special pals are over because we know it is their very favorite.

Last weekend we were at Notre Dame with our college posse. Peter brought a couple of bottles of wine he had picked up on our trip to Oregon in June specifically to share with this group.  The wines were from Brick House Vineyards.

Thirty four years ago, or so, we were all hanging out at Senior Bar on campus when the Commodores 1977 hit “Brick House” came on the juke box. Arthur grabbed the hand of the nearest gal, who happened to be Elizabeth, and they danced the hell out of the song. It was a an epic performance that is legendary among our group, still.  Peter purchased the Brick House Chardonnay and the Brick House Gamay Noir to celebrate that fabulous dance and the friendships that have enriched our lives.

Wineries often get creative and put great care into the names of their wines, referencing some aspect of the winemaker’s personal life.

I was immediately drawn to Wallis Estate’s “Little Sister” as a great wine to give to our daughter, Annie.  I’m not sure if the wine is named after the winery owners’ second daughter or if it is meant to be the “little sister” to their signature Cabernet but either way, after I tasted the wine I was drawn to stock up on some for myself, too!

The Farm Winery The Big Game

Stanford University graduates might be drawn to The Farm’s wines “The Cardinal” and “The Big Game” named by the winery owners as an homage to their days at business school where they met.

But the grand-daddy of all wine name tales is that of the Owen Roe Sinister Hand red wine. As the story goes, in the 17th century, Owen Roe’s ancestors, the O’Neills and another Irish family, the O’Reillys entered into a rowing competition to see which clan would gain ownership of some very important land. They agreed that whichever team touched land first would win. The O’Neill’s boat was lagging a bit behind so one of the rowers in the boat took a sword, lopped off his hand, and threw it to shore. Since his hand “touched” land first, the O’Neills won the title to rule the land which remains in the family today.

How’s that for a story?!

The story, along with great reviews, convinced Peter to serve Sinister Hand at our wine tasting party a few years ago. It was a big hit.

Are there any wines that you have chosen simply based on the name? Did they turn out to be a pleasant surprise or a one amusement and done?

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