Wednesday, March 15, 2017

VA Wine Expo 2017

I can't believe that I'm writing this already but - the VA Wine Expo has already happened. Everything that I was looking forward to for so long all came true this past Saturday.

For a wine lover, there really isn't a more amazing place to be than this event. I mean, there are over 650 different wines available to taste during this expo - that is insane! Obviously, it's impossible to taste all 650 wines but you sure can try to get close.

For me, this year was especially exciting because the International guest region for the expo was Spain and Portugal. Some of my most absolute favorite varietals come from Spain and I literally COULD NOT WAIT to try to some new ones.

Of course, the main event is all of the amazing Virginia wineries that come to the event and showcase their delicious wines. One of my favorite things about the expo is that there are often some Virginia wineries that we haven't gotten a chance to try either in person or at another festival. It's also a great opportunity to purchase some bottles from some of those wineries that don't distribute and are a little bit of a drive from home.

There were a few Virginia wineries on my list for this year that I had never tried such as Notaviva, 90+ Cellars, Whitebarrel, Gabriele Rausse, Castle Glen and Cunningham Creek. Don't worry - I'll be featuring some of these wineries in future posts so you can learn all about them. I have to admit that I did not make it to all of these tables - it was a long day y'all. And, it became glaringly obvious that I am not as young as I used to be. Day drinking is ROUGH.

Before you feel too bad for me that I didn't make it to all the wineries I wanted to, let me explain. First of all - we got the VIP tickets which got us in at 10am. You guys...we were drinking at 10am. That is craziness. Also, as I mentioned, I was SUPER excited for all the Spanish wines that were going to be at the expo this year. To me, these tables really were the shining star of our day.

We could not stop visiting all of the tables with the wonderful Spanish flags hanging behind them. We just kept tasting amazing wine after amazing wine. There was such a great variety and SO MANY BUBBLES. We had some delicious sparkling Rose's and Cavas. There was Garnacha, Tempranillo and Monastrell. It was just glorious.

If you get the chance to come to Virginia and attend the VA Wine Expo - do it. It's a day you (probably) won't forget.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Wine Expo Is Coming!

One of my favorite days of the year is almost here and I’m so excited. The Virginia Wine Expo is happening THIS WEEKEND!

Last year was the first time I had been and let’s just say – I was hooked. You’ve never seen so many wineries all in one place. It’s fabulous. It’s mostly Virginia wineries but each year they have a special “featured region” that they celebrate. When I saw what the region would be for this year’s expo, I could barely contain myself.

They are featuring Spain!

Spain is my absolute most favorite wine region around and they produce some of the tastiest varietals. Needless to say I am really looking forward to tasting some delicious new Spanish wines.

In preparation of our visit to the expo this year, I went onto their website to peruse the list of Virginia wineries that would be in attendance. While the tasting is an all-day event, there’s still always too many wineries to hit all of them. So, it’s important to prioritize.

I tend to gravitate towards wineries that I have never heard of, been to or seen at other festivals around Virginia. This year, there are 7 wineries that have made the top of my list as “must tastes” this year.

Castle Glen
Cunningham Creek
Gabriele Rausse

90+ Cellars

Of course we will make it to more than these 7 booths but these are at the top of my priority list!

Another fun thing that I’m debating for the expo this year is something that I saw some people with at the event last year. Pretzel necklaces! I thought this was the coolest idea. When you are wine tasting ALL DAY, sustenance is so important if you are actually going to still be standing when the day is over. This might be just the ticket to keep us going in between food vendors!

I can’t wait to share all of my adventures at the expo with all of you so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Let's Celebrate - Read Across America Day

I love all of these fun National Holidays – especially ones that celebrate books and reading. I was so lucky to be raised in a household that loved and encouraged reading. I think it is so important, especially in today’s tech-driven world, to encourage kids to read. Reading is such a great habit and hobby to have in your life!

Read Across America Day was started by the National Education Association in conjunction with their Read Across America initiative. Read Across America Day is always celebrated on March 2nd – Dr. Seuss’s birthday! This holiday is meant to motivate and encourage children from every community across America to celebrate reading. The first Read Across America Day happened back in 1998.

“Ok”, you say, “I’m in – how do I celebrate?”

Well, it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is pick up a book and read! It’s even better if you have children in your lives that you can read with to celebrate this day. If you are into the social media thing then make sure you share your reading adventures with #ReadAcrossAmericaDay or #DrSeussDay.

If you really want to go all out for this fun holiday, I’ve got a couple ideas to share. Since this is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday – make the whole day Dr. Seuss themed! Cook up some green eggs and ham for dinner. Have craft time with your kiddos and make some cute Cat in the Hat cardboard hats. After dinner, sit down and read together.

Another fun idea to keep the reading celebration going all month – or all year -  is to do some reading challenges. These are great for kids and adults alike!

  • -          Hot Fudge Sundae Challenge: challenge yourself or your kids to read a certain number of food themed books. If they complete the challenge – take them out for ice cream!

  • -          Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: if you are anything like me, you have a number of books on your shelves that you’ve never read. There’s no good reason for this, it’s just how it is. Make it a point to finally read those books! Reward yourself with a trip to the bookstore for a new find.

  • -          Book Club: Start a book club with some of your friends or with your family. Make a night out of it once a month and do pizza (and wine for the adults!) and talk about the book. If you do this with your family, let your kids pick out some of the books that you all will read.

No matter how you celebrate – JUST KEEP READING!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras Wines

Happy Mardi Gras everyone! I love this holiday because it falls during the perfect time of year where we all really need a little celebration. This is that long period of time on the calendar once New Year’s is over that we have to make it all the way to Memorial Day for another holiday off work.
It doesn’t matter that Mardi Gras is on a Tuesday – you can still celebrate!

Here’s a couple of my favorite festive Mardi Gras wines for your party tonight. Even if it’s just a party of one.

Fat Bastard Syrah

This wine may not be called “Fat Tuesday” but it’s close enough! One of the most popular Mardi Gras dishes is Gumbo and this wine pairs perfectly. It’s a flavor-packed, fun Cajun dish that’s sure to complete your festive evening. This dish is traditionally spicy so you want something that can hold up to those heavy, complex flavors and not overwhelm your tastebuds. This Shiraz is just the ticket.

Marques de Monistrol Semi Seco Cava

Another traditional Mardi Gras treat is the King Cake. If you pick one of these up (or make one of your own) for your festivities, you’ll want something a bit sweet and definitely sparkling that can hold up to the sweetness of this dessert. Any sweeter, sparkling wine will do but be sure to avoid any of them that have Brut in their name. Those are typically drier and don’t pair as well with sweet dessert.

Honoro Vera Garnacha

One of my favorite varietals is Garnacha and it also happens to be a perfect Mardi Gras wine. This Garnacha specifically is easy-drinking and fresh and should pair nicely with pretty much any dish you end up serving tonight. And really, you can’t be the price on this one!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cider and Girl Scout Cookies with Buskey!

Do you guys remember that time last year when I did a wine and Girl Scout cookie pairing party? It was awesome. It was also just a really great excuse to eat Girl Scout cookies. “We are PAIRING the cookies with wine. It’s fancy”.

Well, when I saw that Buskey Cider was hosting an evening where they paired their delicious ciders with Girl Scout cookies, I knew that I wanted in on the action.

Buskey Cider opened in April of 2016 in historic Scott’s Addition in Richmond. It’s ridiculously close to where I live and I was ridiculously excited to hear that FINALLY a cidery was opening in the same neighborhood that is home to quite a few craft breweries.

When the hubs and I showed up for the event, we got to spend a little bit of time with Will, the owner. It was really cool to get to hear him tell a bit about his story and why he loves what he does. Richmond itself is rich with history and Scott’s Addition is no different. Buskey laid down its roots in a cool old train car building. When speaking to Will, his desire for both preserving and highlighting that history while at the same time making something new was apparent.

Of course, I had to find out a little something about the name “Buskey”. It’s obviously a name with a story behind it. Much like Richmond, Buskey comes with a bit of history. Apparently back in the days of Ben Franklin, he and his friends used the term “buskey” to describe the tipsy feeling you get after drinking a few too many pints of – you guessed it – hard cider. How can you not love this?!

The cider tasting with the cookies was fun but I learned some stuff too! I had no idea that the cider making process was so similar to the wine making process. I feel like this is absolutely the reason why I love both wine and cider. Cider is a really cool sort of hybrid between beer and wine and makes itself a nice little home in the middle. Buskey does some fun things with their ciders. They aim for a semisweet to dry cider but love experimenting with different flavor combinations and techniques, like Randalling.


I hear you. Now that you’ve gotten your education – let’s talk delicious pairings.

First – let me give a shout out to Troop 4905 for providing the cookies for the event. FANTASTIC collaboration here y’all!

Thin Mints with Nitro Coffee Cider

I love me a Thin Mint cookie. I mean, who doesn’t really? They paired this with their Nitro Coffee Cider which is literally exactly what it sounds like. It’s a cider that tastes like coffee. I’m going to be honest here, this one threw me for a loop. Don’t get me wrong – the cider was not bad. It just played tricks with my mind. I tasted coffee but it was cider at the same time. The cookie was good with it too but I had a hard time moving past the brain games on this one.

Peanut Butter Patties with Cascade Hopped Cider

Next up – my favorite cookie! God I love peanut butter and chocolate. Because I don’t like beer, I typically shy away from anything that says “hopped”. This cider was delicious though. You got all the sweetness from the hops and none of the bitterness that you get in a beer. Peanut butter is usually pretty hard to pair up too but this worked very nicely.

Caramel Delights with Belgian Candi Cider

What about this pairing does not scream AMAZING? Just the words alone are awesome. This did not disappoint. The cider was semisweet and just rich and full of flavor. When you paired the caramel delight with this one – match made in heaven y’all. I could have eaten a whole box with a pint or two of this cider.

Lemonades with RVA Cider

OK, first of all, this was a new cookie for me and holy crap. It was so good. They paired this one up with Buskey’s traditional RVA Cider. I love this cider because it’s not fussy or fancy. It’s just a great, refreshing cider. It can literally quench your thirst. Paired up with this cookie was sweet, perfect harmony and possibly my favorite pairing of the evening. Jury is still out because I loved that Belgian too so I may have to go back for round 2 – just to be sure.

Shortbreads with Cranberry Basil Cider

The shortbread cookie is such a clean classic and Buskey had just the cider to pair with it. The Cranberry Basil is a great example of how they like to play with fun flavor combinations. The cranberry and basil flavors really shone through but weren’t too overpowering. The perfect balance. You could seriously serve this cider with Thanksgiving dinner and it would be a perfect match. Much like the shortbread cookie was!

As you can tell, I had a really hard time deciding which was my favorite. I walked around the event and polled some of the other attendees and the results were pretty unanimous. Everyone really loved the Caramel Delight with the Belgian Candi but an equal amount of people were super passionate about the Lemonades with the RVA Cider. These people all had great taste, obviously!

There’s nothing left to do but go grab some boxes of cookies and head back to Buskey for a final determination! Or maybe that’s just an excuse to go back for some great cider.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Publisher - Picador
Publish Date - September 2013
Genre - Fiction
Buy on Amazon

I received this book as a gift for Christmas from my brother. I love getting and finding books that were never on my radar. I had never heard of this one so I was excited to read it. He knows me well too, because I love reading pretty much any book that has to do with a bookstore or Paris. Don’t ask me why, it’s just how it is.

The premise of this book is interesting. It focuses around Clay who is desperately unemployed in San Francisco. He stumbles across this 24-hour bookstore who just so happens to be looking to hire a night-shift clerk. After a few days on the job, he starts noticing that some of the customers that come in to the store are a bit strange. There is an entire section of the bookstore that these customers do not buy from, but rather check out these very odd, large volumes that don’t seem to make any sense.

Clay gets some of his interesting friends involved to solve the mystery – including his girlfriend who works at Google and a wealthy college friend who tends to invest in bizarre things. It takes them on a wild journey to discover the secrets behind Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore.

I’ll be honest when I say that after reading the summary, the book ended up being nothing like what I expected. That’s not a bad thing – it was just surprising. I didn’t expect the book to delve as deeply into the world of coding as it did. But it made for a fun, modern day twist on a bookstore that seems to be based in a time centuries ago. Even though parts of the book were a bit wordy, this was a quick read, I finished it in one day. It was the perfect “break” book for me in between the Game of Thrones series that I’ve been reading lately.

If you are into mysteries, adventure or computers then check this one out. It’s a fun read!

Pair This With: Mad Duck Zinfandel Lodi

I happened across this wine one day when I was "label shopping" in Total Wine. This 90 point wine is everything you want a Zinfandel to be - rich flavors of black cherry, easy drinking but bold. You can't beat the price either!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Favorites Friday - National Wine Day

Tomorrow is National Wine Day – what a great holiday, right!? I figured this was a great reason to share some of my absolute most favorite wines for this round of Favorites Friday. Go to the store and pick up one (or all) of these wines to enjoy on Saturday. What are YOUR favorite wines that I need to try?

Dreaming Tree – Red Crush

This is one of my go-to wines that I can’t get enough of. It’s not very expensive and it’s just an easy sipping wine that pairs well with pretty much anything.

Alamos – Malbec

This is one of my other favorite go-to wines. I always have at least one bottle on hand. This is always the wine I pop open when I don’t want to think too much about what I’m drinking. It’s smooth and easy to drink and is only about $10 bucks per bottle.

Voulet –  Casorzo

While I don’t typically drink a whole lot of sweet wines, my in-laws really enjoy them. I stumbled across this fun sparkling red wine at a local shop and they absolutely loved it. It’s been the perfect wine to enjoy at all of our family gatherings. It’s not the easiest wine to find but it’s worth tracking down if you have a sweet wine loving crowd to please.

Chateau Camplazens – Marselan

A new restaurant recently opened near our house and my husband happened to randomly choose this wine off the menu. I all but ended up stealing his glass of wine because it was so much better than the one I was drinking. I had never heard of Marselan before and was pleased to find out that it was a cross between a Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache grape. The only place I’ve been able to find this wine is at this local restaurant so if any of you out there can find it – let me know!