The Longest DJ Residency…Ever?

While sweltering in my Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment a few years ago, I started listening to a DJ’s mixes for the International Fountain at Seattle Center. I liked the chill, mostly instrumental vibes; seamless and mildly hypnotic. Best of all I could daydream about frolicking in a fountain in the temperate Seattle summer rather than getting blasted by five hours of direct afternoon sunlight combined with 90/90+ temperature readings and humidity levels. (I did love a lot about my apartment in GP, like walking to Odd Fox Coffee, just…not that.)

Seattle Center International Fountain / photo by jpellgen via Flickr

Flash-forward a few years and I’m back in Seattle. I casually look at an update from James Whetzel, the person behind said DJ mixes, on Mixcloud. Egads! This would be his final mix! After 26 (!) years of music attuned to the choreographed delights of a jetting fountain. I was so intrigued by the length of this gig and the setting that I got in touch with Whetzel and interviewed him about the whole experience. Read about it on SeattleMet:

Who’s Behind the Music at the International Fountain?

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My Morning Oatmeal with Cayenne, Ginger, and Cinnamon

I have strong feelings about the spicy oatmeal recipe I’ve deployed every morning for at least the past two years. The makings of this habit started when I was a contractor at Google’s Chelsea (NYC) office in the old Port Authority Building. I eventually found my way (not easy at first in this enormous building…) to, and settled on, one spot for breakfast featuring a hot oatmeal (and congee) station with numerous accouterments.

Alicia Kennedy (subscribe to her newsletter) dedicated a missive to oatmeal: “On Routine.” It was “an ode to oatmeal, to remembering and forgetting its power.” She says:

Everything gets done when I have these oats. The oats are my tether to reality, to routine, but now I’m calling them ritual. I’m an evangelist for oatmeal right now; it’s like falling in love all over again.

I’ve become mildly maniacal about my oatmeal, home and away. I have everything I need, waiting for me, to make it at my mother’s Eastern WA house when I visit. On my last trip outside of the state, a first-morning Instacart delivery contained its vital building blocks. I cannot, will not go without. Withoat.

Here’s how to make it.

Spicy Oatmeal Recipe

The fruit (and oats) of my labor.

Makes 1 serving because I live alone…but I’m not lonely!

Spicy Brown Sugar

  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 t cayenne
  • 1 t ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon

Spicy Oatmeal

  • 1/2 C old-fashioned oats
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 t spicy brown sugar
  • 1 T wheat germ
  • 1 C plus 1 T water
  • 1/2 C frozen berries
  • 1/2 t honey

Make the spicy brown sugar: Mix the sugar and spices (they are everything, nice!) in a bowl. Use a whisk. Store in a jar with a lid and put proudly on your counter for quick access.

Make the oatmeal: Dump all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

Add the water, berries, and honey to a pot. (Not a honey pot). Bring to a boil. Add the upgraded oatmeal, lower the heat a lot (you want it to go from a rockin’ boil down to infrequent bubbles down to a strong steam) and let it cook for like 5 minutes tops. Check it and stir. Employ the lid to keep the oatmeal going if the activity slows down too much. Don’t walk away. Enjoy this quiet morning moment.

I like my spicy oatmeal on the runny side; it thickens as it cools. And overcooked oatmeal (devoid of any liquid) can get a little pasty and also start sticking/scorching in the bottom of the pan. Serve immediately. Enjoy leisurely with a book.

My Morning Oatmeal with Cayenne, Ginger, and Cinnamon
Butterprint pattern, one of the Cinderella nesting bowls. Most likely 1963-7.

Pyrex Praise

One thing, though, that doesn’t travel with me that’s a crucial part of my ritual is the bowl I use to eat said oatmeal. It’s a Pyrex dish graciously given to me by an ex who bought it off the street in Manhattan, somewhere in the west 180s I think, and noted my enamoredness.

I love the way it looks and it’s a perfect size. (1 1/2 pints)

My rudimentary Pyrex research results:

It’s the Butterprint pattern, one of the nesting Cinderella bowls (#472 1.5 pints). Butterprint was from 1957-68 but I think the turquoise on white debuted in 1963. I don’t have the clear glass lid. (Bottom says 472 | 19)

Read more about it:

Corning Museum of Glass

Pyrex Love

So how does my spicy oatmeal recipe stack up with your preferred take on morning oats? Let me know your secrets, your add-ins/ons, how you cook it. Tell me everything about your oatmeal.

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Around The Year in 80 Books

I didn’t intend to read 80 books in 2021 to make for a nice little headline. It just turned out that way. Thanks to a(nother) year of isolation* both willful and ongoing pandemic-induced, my days are highlighted by three daily bibliotivities:

  1. Early morning walk accompanied by an audiobook.
  2. Early evening (shorter) walk accompanied by an audiobook.
  3. Early bedtime physical book page-turning.

You can have a look at each book via Goodreads.

*I recognize my privilege to have this as an option.

Here are thoughts about some of the notable books and genres, grouped into rambling to specific categories. I don’t have a best or (good lord) a ranking from 80 to 1. Buckle up, and let’s ride. I mean, read.

All links go to Support local, independent bookstores!

For those Who Lovel Extremely Detailed Books About the Most Famous and Transcendent Stars of Music and Movies

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick (audiobook)

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger (audiobook)

In 2002 I got to see Elvis’ original guitarist, Scotty Moore, play with Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats at Schubas in Chicago. To watch Moore play “Mystery Train” was a lifetime musical highlight. It’s hard to understand how insanely popular Elvis was: the amount of records he sold, the frenzied crowds he drew. This is an extremely detailed look at Elvis’ life up to his time serving in the army. There’s also plenty about “Colonel” Tom Parker as well. If you aspire to be Elvis-obsessed, this is where to start.

If Elvis reached unknown and possibly still unreached heights of fame in the 1950s, the marriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made them into the Elvis of couples. Their lifestyle, love, fame, and drinking are something to behold. It also made me curious to see all of the films they made together. I looked for ones on the Criterion Channel and ended up watching a couple movies they did separately: “The Spy Who Came into the Cold” (Burton) and “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (Taylor…opposite Brando!). Both give amazing performances in two wildly different pictures.

For Gut-Wrenching/Heart-Rendering/Unflinching Tales

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart

I was staying at a good friend’s house in Magnolia (Seattle) who has a treasure trove of books. When I went to select a new one, tbh, I prioritized a paperback I could easily carry on my daily walks. Back in the summer days when I would not only listen to an audiobook while strolling, but then sit on a park bench and read a physical book. Double-dipping! (This is how you read 80 books in a year, my friends.) Anyway, Spring Snow takes place in Japan in the early 20th century and was very engrossing and affecting. It’s actually the first of three books and the way this one ended I don’t know if I had/have the emotional fortitude to progress. But this is why you don’t read fluff, eh?

Shuggie Bain came via The Center For Fiction and its A Novel Approach experience, which I gifted to my mom (and myself) last year. A librarian interviewed the two of us separately and then together, picking nine books for each of us to read on our own and three to read together. This was our favorite of the three, though it certainly puts you through the wringer and back again. Bookshop’s blurb says, “A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heart-wrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother, whose love is only matched by her pride.” So while I say it will wrench your gut and render your heart, Bookshop takes a little from column A and a little from column B and says “heart-wrenching.” Anyway, all your vital organs will be wrenched and rendered. Now how’s that for a blurb!

For Those Who Marvel at the Particular Genius it Takes to Write Short Stories

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (audiobook)

I Hold A Wolf by the Ears by Laura Ven Den Berg (audiobook)

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

During my life in wine I knew a lot of people who loved to drink the stuff, but only quaffed reds. Never whites. (Sometimes sparklings during festive times.)

Similarly, many people love to read novels, but not short stories. They just don’t dig them. To each their own.

I love short stories. Collections of them have been among the best books I’ve read over the past few years. My cup runneth over with love for the genre.

Around The Year in 80 Books
Germán Poo-Caamaño via Flickr.

For Those Who Love Trees and The Birds Upon and Within

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate–Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (audiobook)

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght (audiobook)

Do you know trees talk and help each other out? The Hidden Life of Trees is such a delightful trip, greatly aided by the narration if you are into audiobooks like me. I also learned about the BS of culling downed or “dead” trees, which play an important role in forest habitats and ecosystems.

I love owls! In pre-COVID times, I was planning on taking an owl-watching vacation in Utah (as one does). While said trip would be for spotting tiny flammulated owls, Owls of the Eastern Ice is all about tracking huge fish owls. This book combines my interest in trees, owls, and far-eastern Russia. Now that’s an engrossing troika.

For Those Who Want to Expand Their Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Magical Realism Horizons

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (audiobook)

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (audiobook)

Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon (audiobook)

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Here are author quotes about the inspiration for each book:

Roanhorse (via NPR): “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different. So I wrote it.”

Forna (via Refinery29) : “I actually came up with the idea for The Gilded Ones at Spelman College. It’s just this idea that women, we are seen as objects. It doesn’t matter where in the world we are. That’s why women in my book literally bleed gold. If someone bleeds gold, then you can use that as a basic value, so that’s that metaphor right there.”

Okorafor (via The Verge): “Binti was born out of my own personal struggles with family, my own need to pursue my dreams, my need to see Africa in the future, and my experiences of traveling to distant and vastly different parts of the world in a short period of time. And then that concoction was spiced with several layers of fear — from a fear of my own decisions to a fear of outer space.”

Solomon (via Penguin): “My love of ecology, and reclaiming my place in it instead of outside of it.” 

Moore (via Powell’s): “I knew that I wanted to tell the history of Liberia when I started to write. The goal was to explore Liberia’s history, with its color and complexity, through the written word. In order to do that, I had to, of course, talk about the groups that existed before Liberia was Liberia.”

More books? Here are my favorites from 2019. Including my #2 book of all time! (Whoa.)

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Botanically Delicious Soda

Ready to step it up from flavored fizzy water? Eschewing alcohol but still craving that bittersweet pucker of a spritz or negroni? Chill down a bottle of Casamara Club Amaro Soda. Delicious and very food-friendly.

Four flavors are available; I found the differences quite subtle. (Naturally I got the variety case to sample the quartet.) The Alta caught my attention because it’s the name of the ski resort where I lived (eons ago) for two memorable winters and one underrated summer. Let’s look at its ingredients to give an idea of what Casamara Club is all about:

Sparkling Water, Lemon Juice, Demerara Cane Sugar, and Extracts of Italian Chinotto, Juniper Berry, Orris Root, Mandarin Orange, Allspice Berry, Clove Bud, and Anise, with Mediterranean Sea Salt.

Very little sugar here; just enough to balance the botanicals. The pinch of salt is a nice touch, too. Speaking of salt, these sodas are wonderful with salty snacks. Popcorn, Doritos, all the crunchy things etc.

If you’re looking to get creative with these amaro club sodas, the options are numerous. Hey, if you buy Casamara Club you’re already showing some flavor initiative. All you need is a bottle opener to become a maestro of mid-afternoon. But I do like the recipe on the website for a N/A drink called Tan Lines, which adds a splash of tea bitters to some Alta club soda.

Botanically Delicious Soda

This cocktail is adapted from Julia Bainbridge’s Good Drinks, a book I recently purchased. The refreshing subtitle is “Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason.” I’m just diving into the book, but I will say I like the recipes have a noted “Commitment Level.” Mix up something on the easy-peasy side, prep-wise or buckle down for for a drink involving some kitchen sessions. Let your mood and motivation be your guide.

Casamara Club Amaro Soda: Can-Do

I should also point out you can get the Alta in cans! Woo-hoo! Break out the can koozies. I haven’t had the Alta in this format, but interestingly the website notes the cans are more mellow in the bubbles department. But you’ll look super-cool with these stylish cans at the beach/lake/park/picnic table so don’t sweat it, ok?

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3 Extremely Non-Boring Booze-Free Fizzy Waters

Nothing wrong with plain-old fizzy H2O. But when flavor calls, you are duty-bound to answer with any of these three non-alcoholic sparkling waters. Here variety is the spice of life, imbued into every can of of clear, fruity, subtly savory, low- or no-sugar fizz bev.

Image courtesy Sanzo via Facebook


Paraphrasing its website, Sanzo is an Asian-inspired sparkling water using real fruit and containing no added sugar. I bought the variety pack, which is def the way to go with almost everything. Like underwear, fun-sized cereal, and Post-it Notes. Your VP/sampler comes with three flavors:

  • Calamansi
  • Lychee
  • Mango

First, I love the packaging. The colors and fruit illos. Kinda a shame to slip a can of Sanzo into a koozie/cosy, but in the heat of the day one must prioritize function over form. Anyway, the calamansi is a tart, citrusy delight, splashed with fruit puree and without calories/sugar. The lychee and mango’s outsize verve belie their scant caloric and sugar content* (all from actual fruit puree…not HFCS). In other words, you don’t feel like you drank a damn sandwich** after finishing a can. Nothing cloying here, just a lively, broad fruitiness.

Anyway, each flavor is great and if I was feeling crazy I’d dump all three into a giant goblet, sit under a shady tree, and contemplate my thirst-slaked fizzy landscape as the Ace of Quench. Huzzah!

*For comparison’s sake, a 12 oz can of Coke has 10x the sugar, which is nuts.

**I love sandwiches and bread, but prefer in solid form.

3 Extremely Non-Boring Booze-Free Fizzy Waters

Aura Bora

Slender cans festooned with cartoon animals, anyone? Aura Bora non-alcoholic sparkling waters are built on a two-tone flavor combo, with one component decidedly savory. Thus the “Herbal Sparkling Water” text atop each can. For your consideration: lemongrass, peppermint, lavender, basil, rose (not rosé). Lots of extracts rather than Frankenflavors***. Regarding the variety pack’s cast of characters, however, I can’t recall the 2 “surprises ;-)” included. At least I won’t have spoiled it for you.

All this herbalizing reminds me of how much I like desserts with savory notes. Berries with black pepper. Chocolate and cayenne. Anyway, a can of Aura Bora recalls this predilection in fizzy water form. The only knock I have, and to get back to can koozys/cozys, is the shape of the can does not conform to my standard issue sleeve. Do they make them for cans of this size? Again, I feel like I’m covering up fun when I do so. Which is sad. Don’t cover up fun, folks.

***No offense to Frankenstein, which is my second-favorite book of all time.

3 Extremely Non-Boring Booze-Free Fizzy Waters

DayPack Seltzer (Infused With Hops)

I approached DayPack Seltzer with trepidation. Hops in a non-beer beverage? My feeling is this would be either unbearable or unassailable and thankfully it was the latter.

Do you know what my favorite fruit is? The blood orange. I’d buy/try blood orange anything. Blood orange sandpaper? I’d eat it. Surprisingly, black cherry was my #1.

But you’re here for my hop take. Delivered via hop oil, there’s a subtle grassy/pine thing going on. Not a full-on mega-resiny hop monster extreme bro beer situation. Aesthetics: I like the two-tone colors.

My Targeted Ads Are Now 85% Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Waters

Look, I know how the internet works with its snooping and serving up ads for every permutation of a product once you graze the orbit of its associated world. But I’m not mad to eye-feast on ads for fizzy water and fizzy water-adjacent booze-free beverages. I’m here for it.

NEXT: Amaro-inspired soda(s)

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Overlooked/Underrated: Godello

My latest missive for VinePair takes a look at a white wine grape, Godello. Its home is Galicia, on the northwest coast of Spain. I’ve got the story behind the grape’s preservation, its more familiar friend, and five bottles to check out. Have a look:

vines at Bodgeas Godeval / photo courtesy Valkyrie Selections

Why Chardonnay Fans Should Consider Godello

You’ve probably heard of the former grape (yeah, duh/doy), which I hope will lead you to the latter. Spoiler alert: the trio of experts I talked to on the importer/somm side all mentioned the Big C white grape when queried about a comp.

Reflecting on this specific question, I had a touch of an existential (wine) crisis/hand-wringing episode:

In hindsight, should I feel conflicted touting a grape’s distinctiveness yet craving a familiar touchstone? Based on the responses, it strikes me as a prescient way to encourage drinkers to opt for Godello. The goal being to define it on its own terms: Godello for Godello’s sake.

(Also see my Valpolicella/Pinot Noir comparisons.)

Anyway, this has passed and I’m good. (For now.)

Finally have a look at the Xagoaza Monastery and Church of San Miguel, restored by Bodegas Godeval and about 300 feet from the new winery.

Overlooked/Underrated: Godello

image via Bodgas Godeval

What’s a wine grape you think is overlooked and underrated? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be curious to see if the grape is something I’ve covered before, and it may serve as a reminder to take another look. And, hey, even famous grapes can seem to fall by the wayside. Or, probably more accurately, fall out of fashion for a small subset of highly opinionated wine drinkers. (Like me.)

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BBQ Beyond Beer

I would never turn down a beer beside my brisket, but there’s a lot to be said for paring wine with your grilled and/or smoked meats. So I was excited to get my copy of of Fire and Wine: 75 Smoke-Infused Recipes from the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings. Even better, my friends Mary Cressler and Sean Martin wrote the dang thing! I’ve had the chance to hang out with them around the grill, spend time with their two awesome boys, and we’ve been on a few wine trips together.

Fire and Wine: A Cookbook with Vindulgent Recipes

photo by Dina Avila

One reason I like wine with BBQ is because each beer is like a liquid sandwich. Very filling. Savor beer while grilling, then move into the wine when the eating starts. That’s when the light reds, rosés, and, yes, sparkling wines really shine. Go ahead, add sauces and sides to the mix. You’d be surprised how versatile wine can be.

Fire and Wine has a concise wine section with a nice introduction to Chardonnay, rosé, and bubbly. The meat of the book is about, well, meat and also tips on choosing a grill/smoker, fire-starting/management, and sauces.

BBQ Beyond Beer

smoked salmon crostini with capers, dill, and goat cheese / photo by Dina Avila from Fire and Wine


There’s also a very Pacific Northwest/Oregon focus on ingredients. Lots of salmon, seafood, and plenty of Pinot Noir. Makes sense, because Sean and Mary lived in Portland for quite a while before settling in the Willamette Valley. Fear not, there’s plenty of beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. But also represented are smoked tofu, swiss chard/hazelnut patties, and pulled mushroom sliders for those who practice meat abstinence. Something for everybody, ok?

Style-wise it’s like hanging out with Sean and Mary: friendly, welcoming, and generous.

Each recipe does have a wine pairing, but it’s not like “Enjoy with a bottle of 2019 Chateau FancyPants Special Blend. If you can’t find that exact wine, your meal is ruined.” Rather, a grape, style, or region is selected so you can actually find something and not go nuts trying to find a particular bottle. A BBQ cookbook shouldn’t provoke wine stress, right?

WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

BBQ Beyond Beer

I ordered my copy of Fire and Wine from my beloved local bookstore, WORD. It’s a nice ten-minute stroll from my place, and I look forward to being able to walk in to this snug little slice of book heaven when it’s safe to open up shops again. In the meantime, I’ve been ordering from their website and getting books shipped. The above photo is my on-deck circle of reading. I love hardcover books!

American Harvest: God, Country, and Farmland in the Heartland, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Braised Pork, by An Yu (fiction, BTW)

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem, A Memoir, by Daniel R. Day

Now back to BBQ:

Watch Mary and Sean’s Pork Belly Burnt Ends Video

Tell me your favorite wine and BBQ pairings in the comments. Better yet, get a copy of Fire and Wine and tell me what you’d like to match with a recipe from the book.

Go back in the time machine and listen to my podcast with Mary and Sean from 2015 (!).

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Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap

I received a message from Frank “Drink What You Like” Morgan about Saturday’s (March 28th) Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night. I thought this would be a good opportunity to lurk a bit on social media and learn (from home) more about Virginia Wine. (Take a look back via #VaWineNight.) Since we’re not going out and attending tastings, sitting at wine bars, and just congregating with friends over a few bottles, this is a great way to get educated and informed about local wines without leaving your domicile.

I’ll give another quick shout-out to Frank for his ongoing Virginia Wine Chats via Facebook. A couple recent guests on this 30-minute video program (with links to their websites):

Walsh Family Wine

Afton Mountain Vineyards 

Jake Busching 

But wait. Lenn Thompson and Gina Shay of The Cork Report having taken this notion (with Frank’s blessing) and expanded it to Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night (#OpenLocalWine). So I checked in on wines from all over the country and saw what people are drinking. I know I missed many wine-producing states and even more bottles. So take some time perusing the two hashtags for innumerably more discoveries.

Macari Vineyards, North Fork of Long Island / Image via Facebook

My goal with this post is spread some knowledge about, and give attention to, local wineries. As Lenn put it:

This is a tough time for local wineries, no matter where local is for you. Tasting rooms as we know them are closed down. Curbside pickup and online sales are helping keep wineries afloat, but no one really knows how long they’ll need to operate like this – or how long most will be able to, financially.

New York

Staring with Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who are amazing and inspiring. They write “Love By The Glass” for Grape Collective. I’ve been a fan of Macari Vineyards since I tried their Pinot Meunier (which I have a thing for). Not had the chance to try the 2019 rosé, but had a very memorable couple of glasses of the 2018 out of a 15-liter (!) bottle. (That’s 20 bottles-worth.)

One of my favorite wine country trips ever was to the Finger Lakes. The Riesling from dry to off-dry to sweet is all excellent, but there are plenty of other reds, whites, pinks, and sparklings to explore. Fond of Meg’s statement here: “I think the whole ‘I hate sweet wines’ thing is bs, no offense.” I’ll paraphrase/quote Terry Theise here, who says, “Sweetness is not a crime.”

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What are you sipping for #openlocalwine day? Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap… … Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap The Finger Lakes are ~5 hours from Pittsburgh—local-ish, right? NY is PA’s neighbor to the north, so I think it counts! … … Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap Hermann J. Wiemer 2017 Semi-Dry Riesling is a Kabinett-style wine with a touch of sweetness. I specifically picked an off-dry wine because I think the whole “I hate sweet wines” thing is bs, no offense. Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap Pair a wine like this with a cheese plate, spicy food, or brunch and I promise you’ll change your mind!! Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap … … … … Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap #riesling #whitewine #fingerlakes #fingerlakesregion #fingerlakeswine #flxwine #flx #fingerlakesny #drinkny #newyorkwine #nywine #localwine #rieslinglover #rieslingwine #rieslingrocks #sweetwine #wineblogger #wineblog #winebottle #winenight #winenerd

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Nebbiolo from VA? When it’s made by Luca Paschina, who is from Piedmont (Nebbiolo’s home….hello Barolo, Barbaresco) and winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards, yes please. Great-sounding paring here, BTW. (A little recap from my wonderful visit to Barboursville a few years ago is here.)

Ah, Early Mountain. I have really enjoyed their rosé in the past but I’m woefully behind on what they are up to. This Soif (“Thirst”) would be right up my alley. A blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, it’s a quaffable 12.3% ABV.  And made via carbonic maceration (like some Beaujolais), which scientifically translates to fruity fresh fun.


Ten years ago (!) I had my first wines from Pennsylvania. And, sadly, none since. Now that I’m living on the East Coast I really have no excuse. Tantalized by this bottle from Penns Woods Winery, still going strong after 15 years.

PA GV?!? Whoa. Very cool, Nimble Hill Winery & Brewery. This ‘gram also smashes one of the most worthless food and wine pairing “rules.” See my classic (and very brief) post “Asparagus and Wine Blah Blah Blah” (2009 vintage). Gruner (or any zesty white wine) and asparagus are excellent. Fine use of #perfectpairing.


I have not had a Petite Pearl. Shelburne Vineyard‘s website explains why they do what they do, grape-wise:

Temperatures in Vermont can frequently dip below zero. And while our summers are short, they are often hot and humid. Grape varieties grown in our climate must be disease resistant and hardy enough to withstand such extremes of cold and humidity.

And here’s the deal with Petite Pearl:

A very new Minnesota hybrid red wine grape with excellent cold hardiness and disease resistance.  Produces complex wines with soft tannins and low acidity.

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#openlocalwine night felt like the right time to crack into my small stash of 2016 @shelburnevineyard #petitepearl. Thank you @the_cork_report for bringing us together tonight! When I started working at SV 6 months ago, I had no idea this would become one of my favorites. A newer #hybridgrape in the world of #coldclimatewines, Petite Pearl hasn't been vinified as a single varietal very often, by anyone in the world. This bottling honestly wasn't that great until a few months ago…but after nearly 4 years in bottle, something suddenly changed. It became beautifully aromatic, with notes of cocoa, mocha, coffee and blackberry. We sold out of it in January. So what's the takeaway, for me? #vermontwine is surprising. It's in its infancy. There's so much to be discovered and created. It deserves more time. Growing vines and making wine in Vermont isn't big business, it's a labor of love. Coronavirus is a serious blow to this business I love and labor for, and it's hard to express how grateful I am for everyone who chooses to open their local wine tonight, and tell their story. I can't wait to see where we all go together, as a community of Vermonters and wine lovers. #shelburneinplace Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night RecapOpen That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap

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Another cold-hardy grape: Marquettte, this one from Lincoln Peak Vineyard. It was also developed in Minnesota. Read about the work being done at the University of Minnesota:

The University of Minnesota is recognized as one of the top wine grape research programs in the country, with the goal of developing high-quality, cold-hardy, and disease-resistant wine grape cultivars. The wine grape breeding program began in the mid-’70s, and in 2000 an enology lab and research winery opened at the Horticultural Research Center.

Today more than 12,000 experimental vines are cultivated on 12 acres. Thousands of seedlings are produced each year using a diverse genetic base that includes classic Vitis vinifera cultivars, quality French hybrids, and hardy, disease-resistant selections based on V. riparia, Minnesota’s native grape.

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It’s #openlocalwine night. It’s pretty amazing how this idea that @drinkwhatyoulike proposed caught fire and then accelerated once @the_cork_report tossed in support. The effort is meant to show some appreciation for our local #wine growers, and encourage support for them in this time of great strain on small businesses. So many to choose from, and don’t want to play favorites, so the decision was difficult, but meditation on the situation made the selections clear. We are fortunate to have jobs when so many are now out of work. We are fortunate to be sequestered with a pantry when the local food shelf is under pressure. We are fortunate to have our health when others are under threat. @lincolnpeak is currently donating dollars from each bottle sold to a local charity that helps those in need in Addison county #VT. So raising a glass to their efforts in the community and the field with this juicy 2013 #marquette Also pouring a home made 2014 arctic white blend, sourced from the final vintage at the @cornelluniversity #coldclimate field trial vineyard on #lakechamplain in north country #NY. This one in honor of that university alumni Dr. Fauci who has one of the hardest jobs in the country right now. Be well, be safe, and lay low until we can raise a glass together again.

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From the Lake Erie appellation comes this estate-grown Gewürztraminer from Vermillion Valley Vineyards.


Wow, this is a really cool discovery. The first vintage from Michigan Wine Co! Also, yes to white wine and red meat. (Congratulations on getting label approval from the TTB, BTW.)

Blaufrankisch from Left Foot Charley. Big fan of this grape, also known as Lemberger. There’s a Pét-Nat version from a cool Washington winery I dig.


This is a great wine. Kudos to Ryme Cellar‘s Vermentino. Owners/winemakers Ryan and Megan Glaab both love Vermentino, but have a “fundamental disagreement of the most endearing qualities this grape has to offer.” Was détente possible? Yes:

The only compromise was to have separate projects, “His” and “Hers”. “Hers” with a green label harvested for freshness and energy. It is whole cluster pressed and bottled early. “His”, orange label, is fermented on the skins, and requires more time in barrel. 

When I went to Lodi back in 2016, what really surprised me were the white wines. So much more than Zinfandel there. So go from Z to A with this Albariño from Bokisch Vineyards.

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And the winnerOpen That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recapfor Open that Bottle of Local Wine Night comes to you from @bokischvineyards! This 2018 Las Cerezas Vineyard Albariño is sunshine in a glass. Organically grown, this Albariño hails from Bokisch’s “Mother Block” that was planted in 1999 with grape cuttings they sourced from Spain. You could say, this is where it all began—a storied history of one of California’s Spanish variety pioneers! . Also, I just want to say how grateful I am to be a wine club member. With the shelter in place order we are currently experiencing, Bokisch kindly delivered our wine shipments to us yesterday. An excellent example of a big time winery with down home hospitality. #OpenLocalWine #LodiWine #Lodi #lodica #visitlodi #WineCountry #drinklocal #albariño #CaliforniaWine #wine #winery #winetime #vineyard #finefoodiephilanthropist #saturdaynight

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Yes to Savage Grace. A big fan of the lighter touch of Michael Savage’s wines. I’ve enjoyed his Loire-ish Cabernet Franc, but have yet to try his white Cab Franc. Making a white wine from red grapes has got to be a delicate matter, getting that clear juice without color/tannin impact from red grape skins. (Also try Savage Grace’s also Loire-ish Malbec, aka Côt.)

Let’s head to the cellar for a library wine, this 2005 from Fidelitas. Impressed by the perseverance through a difficult cork extraction here.

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Today we decided to BBQ and celebrate a birthday as well (see next post for details). But for our wine selection we wanted to make it special. So we opened a Fidelitas 2005 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s definitely an older wine and while the cork broke in half when I tried to open it, my skills (that I’ve honed over many years like Liam Neesan) allowed me to easily extract the other half of the cork without complications! This amazing wine was crafted by Charlie Hoppes. What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon BBQing USDA Prime Filet Mignon, boneless Rib Eyes and chicken thighs marinated in a sweet teriyaki sesame glaze. A Perfect pairing that was simply SUCCULENT! This wine was absolutely perfect for the occasion. Thank you Mr. Hoppes! What more can we say?!? From Aaron’s Wine Chronicles to all, Cheers and Stay Healthy! Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night RecapOpen That Bottle of Local Wine Night RecapOpen That Bottle of Local Wine Night Recap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #aaronswinechronicles #pnwwine #wine #winetime #winecountry #winedestinations #wawine #wavineyard #vineyard  #winelover #washingtonwine #winelife #winetasting #wineporn #wineblogger #winestagram #redwine #wineglass #vinolove #winereview #winecellar #vino #wineexperience #wineblog #wineries #winepairing #winesofinstagram #wines #fidelitas #redmountainwine

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A very underrated grape from the Willamette Valley. So much more than outstanding Pinot Noir in this region, and the historic Willamette Valley Vineyards is a good place to start.

Elk Cove Vineyards makes very fine Pinot. But like WVV, don’t sleep on their Riesling. It ages beautifully.

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For #openlocalwine and #drinklocalwine tonight.

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Another Vermentino sighting, this one from Lost Draw Cellars. Nice food pairing.

A rosé in black and white. I dig the wine glass. William Chris Vineyard makes their pink from a blend of 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Malvasia Bianca (very interesting), and 20% Sangiovese.

If you read all the way here, thank you. Feel free to add what you opened in the comments.

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Break Out The Oysters and…Red Wine?!?

I know. Oysters and red wine. It sounds so…unappealing. That is, to my particularly persnickety preferences. I do love white wine and steak. But that doesn’t seem as radical. Hey, I’m a drink-what-you-like kind of person, but bivalves and big reds are one of the very few things I can’t get behind.

So I was surprised while conducting interviews for my latest VinePair missive to hear about a red wine and oyster pairing from a winemaker. (Who heard it from a sommelier.) Valpolicella was the wine. This red blend from northern Italy’s Veneto region was one of my first steady wine loves and a killer, spot-on pizza wine.

If you are into chillable reds, get thee to a bottle of Valpolicella. Unfortunately, lighter versions are a little harder to track down. You might be confronted with the broader-shouldered, concentrated “Ripasso” wines. Nothing wrong with a little heft, but I want to beat the drum for the light and lithe Valpolicellas.  Anyhow, check out my VinePair article about a wine to chill (with).

Why Pinot Noir Fans Should Consider Valpolicella’s Crushable Classicos

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Tender Feelings For My Ancient Slow Cooker

Yes, I eschew the Instant Pot for my no-tech slow cooker, gifted to me by a dear friend. Does this actually makes me a Luddite in the true sense of the word? Lets see:

Hello, gorgeous.

  • one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest
  • broadly one who is opposed to, especially technological, change

Well, spoiler alert, I am not a 19th century worker so that’s out even before the definition ends. But am I opposed to time-saving technological change in cooking appliances? Well, I guess I am. (Though electricity is technology, but you know what I’m getting at.) So I was chuffed to write an ode to my 1970s-era slow cooker for Tenderly. Have a read:

An Old-Fashioned Slow Cooker Is the Perfect Kitchen Appliance

BTW, Tenderly is Friendly, radical, vegan. I highly recommend becoming a reader and subscriber. As a segue, here are a couple vegan recipes. One is for mushroom jerky, The other is for a parsnip pie. Ok, have a bonus: black bean and pepita balls.

Are My Slow Cooker Feelings Luddite-esque? Go deeper into the word:

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