A Wine for a Christmas Stocking

In my last post I alluded to the fact I was finishing up a Christmas stocking for my son, a long tradition that started with my mom years ago. A couple of years ago at this time, I was finally finishing up a stocking for my daughter, Lucia, nearly seven years after she was born! I was determined to finish it for her but was torn because I also really wanted to start one for Christopher. My mom said she was looking for a new project and would be happy to start Christopher’s stocking for me, and maybe she might even finish it! I was relieved. I quickly picked out a pattern and delivered everything to her.

She worked tirelessly on the stocking but as her health deteriorated, she just couldn’t cross stitch any longer. The stocking was delivered back to me over the summer to finish. But, that was when she got a lot sicker and ultimately passed away in late August. And, after that, I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the stocking to finish it. There was something about the fact that she held the fabric and pulled the floss through so carefully. I just couldn’t.

But in late October, I decided I had to finish it. It would be special since it would be something she and I made together. Of course, being mom, she left me the hardest part! All kidding aside, she had done a gorgeous job and I had to complete it just as carefully as she did. A week before Christmas I spent the weekend binge sewing to finish it in time for Santa’s arrival. Near the end of the project, I actually ran out of the floss color needed to finish it up! Luckily, my dad found a bunch in her stash of cross stitch paraphernalia. In fact, it was exactly the right amount needed to finish it. Divine intervention?

My husband finished it up, sewing the back on for me. He likes to sew, and I think he wanted a piece of the stocking action, as well. Christopher is one lucky boy to have so many people love him so much that they would work together to finish his Christmas stocking. And, he’s three years old so he didn’t have to wait as long as my middle child!

While sewing I took a break to enjoy some wine, which had an appropriate name, Still and Co. Still always reminds me of Christmas Eve because one of my favorite carols is Still, Still, Still. The winery’s Merlot was lovely and full-bodied, as well, if not a bit tobacco-y.

Still also has a third meaning, in this case. My mom is still with us, helping us complete the stocking, making sure we even had the floss to finish it up! I know she’s watching us all this Christmas season, as we dig our hands into our own stockings from our childhood, so lovingly crafted by her. We all miss her, but she’s still with us and will always be with us. Cheers, and Merry Christmas!

Wine for the Perfect Pizza

Full disclaimer: My loving husband suggested this blog post topic as a tribute to his excellent grilled pizza he made the other night!

Pizza and wine are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together. In fact, I first started enjoying wine in college while scarfing down slice after slice of Mama Mia’s pizza in Geneseo, New York. Still today, I really don’t enjoy pizza without a glass of red. And what’s great about pizza wine is that you can go sweet or semi-sweet or even dry and seldom can you go wrong.

The other night, my husband grilled a pizza for us. It’s been a while since he did it, actually. I was reminded of one of the first meals he made for us when we first started dating. He made a grilled pizza with pesto sauce and all kinds of goodies on top. Yum! But, then, he started to get a bit sour on the whole grilled pizza thing. Sometimes the dough would stick to the grill, or it would burn before the toppings were set. One thing after another and lots of cursing… you get the idea. So, it had been a while.

This time, he used dough from Nichols, a local supermarket, which sources dough from DiLauros Bakery on Syracuse’s North side. It turned out to be the perfect density for a grilled pizza. He added some yummy pizza sauce, pepperoni, peppers and onions and it made for a crispy, Italian style pizza that we all enjoyed.

We had a 2016 Monarch Glen Merlot with our pizza, but I have to confess I ate the last leftover piece just now with a Swedish Hill Viking Red and it was heavenly. I added a salted dark piece of chocolate and it was the finishing touch to what was a long first day back at work and school after being away for a week.

The next time you have pizza, whether it’s homemade or takeout, remember the red wine! And if you need a few more ideas, easy-to-find selections that pair well with pizza are Lucas Vineyards Tugboat Red and Red Truck wine. I typically find them in most local liquor stores. Cheers!


Beware the Ides of March

It’s March 15, also known as the “ides of March.” A soothsayer famously warns Julius Caesar of this time in the middle of March when dark things happen. In Syracuse, New York, we get blizzards in mid March. Twenty-four years ago the Blizzard of 1993 closed schools for days as Central New York dug out of more than three feet of snow. A record-breaking 19.9 inches fell Mar. 14, 1993. Fast forward to Mar. 14, 2017.. when 18.9 inches fell. And as I write this, it’s still snowing. In fact, it’s been snowing since Monday night around 10 p.m. (It’s Wednesday at 1:20 p.m. right now).

I live in Syracuse and I know it snows here. But it’s always rough when we get hit like this so late in the season. Our winters last nearly six months on average. Like a bad penny the snow just keeps coming back. For the first time in my professional life, I had a snow day. In fact, I had two! The first day, I did pretty much nothing but play a million games of Solitaire on my phone. Today, day two, I’m taking the opportunity to grade and am answering emails a bit. Still, a bit lazy.

My husband, anything but lazy, has been out to clean the driveway four times since it started snowing. We’re close to two feet now at our house. But that didn’t scare him from venturing out just before the heaviest snow and wind yesterday to grab some wine. Our corner liquor store never closes. It’s owned by the grocery store next door, a neighborhood place that’s been around for decades. It’s not the best selection but it will do in a pinch. For our snowstorm wine, he chose four bottles, thinking we’d have two yesterday and two today. Last night, we had a 2014 Ravage Cabernet Sauvignon but then went to sleep. As I draft this, I’m enjoying Little Black Dress Merlot, not the fanciest but an easy-drinking red for a snowy afternoon.

The predictions say five more inches today and a couple tonight before it all winds down. I’ll be glad to get back to the normal routine, even though it was nice to share a portion of Syracuse University’s spring break with my husband and kids. Cheers!


Why #WineWednesday Is Important… Sometimes

Those who are astute social media followers know that every Wednesday is known as “#WineWednesday.” The hashtag trends every week and users from individuals to brands capitalize on the fun. Recently, my husband and I decided to cut back on our wine drinking for a variety of reasons. I am searching for a better and sounder sleep. I also often think that wine should be something we do as a special treat not a daily occurrence.

But, last evening, thank God it was #WineWednesday. I arrived home to a pretty organized evening. Dinner was ready in the crock pot. The kids had done their homework and practiced. The toddler was playing nicely. Then, all “you know what” broke loose. From misplacing my iPhone to three full-blown toddler tantrums in a row, the evening quickly degenerated into chaos.

I managed to get dinner on the table and get Lucia to her swim lesson at the YMCA with literally a minute to spare. This after several mini-crises at home that prevented us from leaving on time. Thankfully, the girls independently took care of themselves and did what I asked without being told.

We got through swimming lessons without a hitch. But, by the time we arrived home and I got two of the three kids in bed and lunches made, etc., well, let’s just say I was ready for a glass of wine!

We enjoyed a simple 2015 Monarch Glen Merlot, which was lush and fruity and easy to drink, exactly what we needed after an evening like that one!

#WineWednesday is very much alive and well; and it’s important to keep sane…sometimes.



Indian Summer Wine

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day in Central New York. The sun was high in the blue sky and the trees that have changed color this autumn glowed brightly against the blue hue of the sky. The thermometer topped 80 degrees, at least at our house, and the crisp clean air was delightful. We had a full day of playground action and my husband and father worked on the back deck, which is close to being done before the frost and snow sets in.

I love “Indian summer,” though I’m never sure when it actually takes place. I read the official definition is a warm spell that occurs after the first hard frost, which we really haven’t had but it’s been down to 33 so maybe? Anyway, to me, that’s what this time of the year is – the last remaining warm days before the chill sets in for a long winter.

Although I challenged my Twitter followers to drink a different Merlot each day for #MerlotMe month, I’ve had a hard time keeping up. It’s not like me to drink every night. Normally, due to my work and workout schedule, I tend to enjoy wine on weekends and on Tuesdays, the night before my rest days at the gym. Drinking a glass or two every night has been tough, believe it or not! Anyway, it got me thinking. What kind of wine goes with the last few warm days of fall?

Well, for starters, it’s time to clean out our summer wines from the fridge. We had a Canadian icewine left on the fridge door that added up to a couple of shots for my mom and me. In my house, that was all that was left of summer! Then, it’s time to enjoy the warmer, fuller wines of fall/winter, including Merlot, of course! Before signing off, I’ll leave you with a few shots of our almost finished back deck. I’m sure we’ll enjoy a lot of wine on that deck in the days to come!


Wine Review: Icellar Estates’ Arinna

This morning, I thought I’d review a wine we recently shared that is unique in many ways. While visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada earlier this year we came upon a brand new winery run by a Turkish couple, Icellars Estate. The fledgling winery is already making waves in Canada with top wine reviewers giving it high marks. We enjoyed our personal tasting with the couple, including their beautiful golden retriever!

One of the wines we tasted was called Arinna, named after the Hittite winemaking city in Anatolia, where the winery owners were born. The blend deviates from our #MerlotMe month wine tastings but there is 33 percent Merlot grapes in the wine, which is majority Cabernet Sauvignon. The red wine is interesting because when you first taste it, you taste something very familiar but you can’t put your finger on it. Then, you taste again and it hits you – spaghetti sauce! The matriarch of the estate calls it “spaghetti sauce” wine and it’s named appropriately. The full taste and interesting finish really is reminiscent of your Italian grandmother’s Sunday sauce.

We had been saving this wine for a special occasion, since it was on the pricier side and we knew we would not be able to source more of it here in the states. So yesterday, we cracked it open and enjoyed it with my spaghetti sauce. It was delicious. If you ever find yourself exploring the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, please make sure you stop at Icellars Estate. You won’t regret it.


October is the Month of Merlot – My First Five

For those of you who are not aware it’s #MerlotMe month this October. Wine lovers around the world are celebrating this grape varietal with special releases, tastings and more. I have challenged followers to enjoy a different Merlot every day of October. So far, I’ve tried five and honestly tonight I might take a break (exhaustion is setting in and I need to try to get a solid night’s sleep with no nightcap to interfere with my slumber). But I’m pausing on “break day” to give you the rundown so far:

Oct. 1 – 2013 William Hill Merlot

Oct. 2 – 2013 Crane Lake Merlot

Oct. 3 – 2013 Irony Small Lot Reserve

Oct. 4 –  2013 Fox Brook Merlot

Oct. 5 – 2013 Markham Vineyards’ Merlot

I am just now observing that all five are 2013 vintage. Must have been a good year! All five of these have been very tasty and fruit forward. Two of them were just $5 bottles, which is a nice bonus. All are California wines that were purchased locally in Syracuse, New York. So far, nothing “wowed” me but all were very nice, drinkable wines. Next week, I’ll list my next five, trying to source some from other wine regions, and will try to add tasting notes this time! Happy (Merlot) drinking!


Did you know? October is Merlot Month

I just learned that October is Merlot Month. There is even a hashtag – #MerlotMe. It reminded me that back in the day I was a HUGE Merlot fan. In college, I started with the sweet rose wines but as soon as I graduated and began attending “big girl” work functions, I started to realize I enjoyed red wine, particularly Merlot.

Over time I started to appreciate big, bold, juicy reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and the like more than the lighter-bodied reds. Merlot took a back seat. But I will always look back on it fondly as the wine that turned me into a “grown up.”

So tonight is #MerlotMe eve. Maybe I’ll shop for a new one to try for old time’s sake. Anyone have any suggestions?

#WineWednesday Dinner for Two

This past week, my husband and I were mostly on our own for dinner. Since oSteakFennelur 2-year-old doesn’t tend to eat much of anything, we’ve enjoyed “adult” dinners that we don’t always have with the kids. One of our favorites (even me who doesn’t normally love steak) is this Steak with Fennel and Olives recipe I found a few years ago in Real Simple magazine.

The most interesting part of this dish is the flavors. I mean, who normally eats fennel? Plus, black olives are always a hit. Add some jalapeno and it’s a kick of flavor that melds well with the steak.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered along the way. Make sure you don’t buy steak that is too thick because it just doesn’t cook well in the pan. I usually buy Wegmans Perfect Portion Strip Steaks, which cook perfectly in the timeframe for which the recipe calls. I normally add half of what the recipe calls for in terms of jalapeno. It seems a bit too spicy and not blended well, if you put the whole pepper in.

This dinner pairs very well with a full-bodied red, such as a Cabernet. We splurged the other night, enjoying a wine we purchased at Chateau des Armes in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada a few months ago. Paul Bosc’s 2012 Equules is an exclusive wine the winemakers make only when the three grape varieties used – Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot – achieve at least 23.5 degrees Brix. The blend has a dark chocolate flavor, which goes well with red meat.

We’re always looking for new recipes for two to try. Share your favorites in the comments!



One of My Favorite Cheeseburger Wines

Usually, I limit myself to one weekday night of wine drinking. I work out four times a week and I find that a couple glasses of wine interrupts my sleep too much for me to get the most out of my lifting at 5:30 a.m. the next morning! But this week has been a bit stressful so I decided to add one more night! Plus, we had grilled cheeseburgers for dinner and I love a good red with a burger. My husband went to the local grocery store, Nichols, and grabbed ground sirloin patties and were they ever yummy! We had some macaroni salad from the deli, too.

Our wine choice? Battle Creek Cellars’ Unconditional Pinot Noir. I enjoy Pinot Noirs from Oregon’s Willamette Valley; they’re usually smooth and yummy. I pair them with burgers, pizza and when I need something sweet, M&Ms!

This wine is aged six months in 100 percent French oak barrels. Pinot Noir is not a well-known grape as Merlot and Cabernet and others, but it enjoyed some fame when the movie, Sideways, was released. (GREAT movie, by the way, if you haven’t seen it.) If you’re looking for a lighter red with the same bold flavors as a fuller red, try a Pinot Noir. You won’t be disappointed!