Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

White Rocks and Turkey Burgers

May 11, 2013

Is it summertime yet?

In Northern California, it sure has been feeling like it.

On hot days like these, you’ve gotta get you some nice, cold, white wine.

Luckily, the folks at Cornerstone Cellars just sent me this sample…

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Stepping Stone 2012 North Coast White Rocks

Stepping Stone is the entry-level label by Cornerstone Cellars.  The Rocks series releases a different red and white wine blend each year.  The goal is to provide interesting, approachable, and affordable food-friendly wines every vintage.

The 2012 White Rocks is a blend of Chardonnay and Muscat Canelli selected from the California North Coast AVA.  It rolls in at $18.

Color: Pale yellow, with a bit of a greenish tint.

Nose: Honeysuckle, pear, lime and minerals.  Nice!

Taste: There is a great viscosity to this wine.  The White Rocks is loaded with citrus flavors of lemon and lime, with just a touch of melon.  There are some subtle grassy notes, as well as a hint of honey.  If I were tasting this blind, I would swear that this was a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend.

Score: This is a fun wine.  It’s got a great balance of fruit, mineral, and acid.  It’s a solid 89 for me, and well worth your 18 dollars.

This wine was great, so you know I had to pair it with some food…

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Mediterranean Turkey Slider with Tzatziki, Lemon Arugula Salad, and Roasted Corn

Now that ROCKS!

Stay Rad,

Jeff

What’s your summertime wine of choice?  Leave a comment, and let us know.

Sit By Me and drink a margarita, amigo: Back to the land of the living.

August 20, 2011

Have you ever seen the movie Stand By Me?

Darlin', darlin' stand by me.

It’s bad ass!

Adventure.

Comedy.

Death.

The 1950’s.

Stand By Me has it all.

The only problem with the movie, is that it puts me in a weird mood.

The film takes place in the last week of summer, when four friends are about to enter junior high.

I hate the end of summer.

Always have.

Always will.

Let me explain…

I was always a good student.  I always loved school.  With a mother who was the first in her family to graduate college (putting herself through nursing school), and a dad who was a math teacher for over 30 years, I was never given the option not to succeed.  Having an older sister who is the smartest person I’ve ever met being the valedictorian of her high school class, the competition to break from her shadow was always there.  I did not need much motivation to try my hardest, and I took a lot of pride in bringing home report cards littered with A’s.

I loved my teachers.  Every single one of them.  Though I probably annoyed the crap out of many, I am certain that they knew how much I appreciated their hard work.

And friends?  Forget about it!  The friends that I made all throughout elementary, high school, and college were some of the greatest people who have ever walked this Earth.

As much as I loved school, I HATED going back to school.

Hated it!

HATED!

There you are.  It’s summer.  And much like Gordie LaChance and his buddies, you haven’t a care in the world.  You’re going on adventures.  Every single day… YOU PLAY!

And then it happens…

The end of July…

The beginning of August…

IT

HAPPENS

You start to see the ads.

Your friends start talking about it.

Your parents start bringing it up.

You start to realize that eventually you’re gonna have to go back to school.

And that is when the fun stops.

And that is when the mood sets in.

No more adventure.

No more taking the bus to the baseball card shop every day.

No more staying up late.

No more sleeping in.

BACK

TO

SCHOOL!

Every year it was the same thing.  From the moment of my back-to-school awareness until the end of the first day of school, I was in a mood.

The mood?

Nervousness.

I was just a bundle of nerves… and I would obsess.

What were my teachers going to be like?

Was I gonna have any friends in my classes?

Was I gonna get that girl to notice me?

I was filled to my ears with anxiety.

And the night before the first day of school was the worst.

THE

WORST!

I was so anxious, that I could not sleep… AT ALL.  I’d just have these thoughts and fears racing through my head.  I was a miserable wreck.

Having never slept the night before, on the first day of school I would always feel like a zombie.  Dragging myself from class to class.  Eyes glazed over.  And drool… There was lots of drool.

It would usually take me about a week to acclimate myself to the daily routine of school life.  And, like I said, I really came to love everything about school.

From a young age, I always admired teachers.  Having a dad who was one sure helped.  And I always kind of knew that I wanted to be one.  I figured that if you were a good student, why wouldn’t you be a teacher?  Why wouldn’t you share what you know?  Why wouldn’t you show people the tricks that worked for you?  It just made sense.

You must know, however, that there was an ulterior motive behind my pursuit of a career in education.  In retrospect, it seems silly.  But, at the time, it made all the sense in the world…

I figured that if I was always nervous about going back to school as a student, and the opposite of a student is a teacher, then going back to school as a teacher must be the best thing ever.

No more nerves.

No more anxiety.

No more sleepless nights.

Well…

I just started my ninth year of teaching this last week, and I’ve got to tell you…

IT’S WORSE!

I love teaching much more than I ever loved being a student, but I would never wish my back-to-school anxiety on my worst enemy…  It’s not like I have any enemies, but you know what I’m sayin’.

My back-to-school mood is so bad that I have been avoiding Stand By Me for the last nine years.  I just don’t want to be in that mood.  And that movie, as good as it is, is a trigger.

The first day with students was this last Tuesday, so of course I did not sleep a wink on Monday night.  I was a zombie.  I think I even drooled on one of my students.

It would have been nice to go straight to bed after school on Tuesday, but I had a softball game that night (we won), so I wasn’t much less of a zombie on Wednesday.

After school on Wednesday, we had a department meeting, so I was still a little drained on Thursday.

And of course I had to hit the gym after school on Thursday to train for my next half-marathon… So it wasn’t really until Friday that I started to feel normal again.

Kara is a teacher too.  She is technically back to school, but her students don’t come back until next week.  She did have some meetings to go to on Friday, so a bunch of her coworkers decided to do happy hour at El Amigo in San Jose.  She called me up to ask if I would join them.

I was all, “Okay.”

Like an old friend... El Amigo.

Happy hour at El Amigo goes until 6pm, but I wasn’t gonna make it until 6:15, so Kara got me a margarita before I got there…

The El Amigo House Margarita aged gracefully for 30 minutes.

Though most of the ice had melted, and the glass got a little sweaty, I was really stoked on this margarita.  Sometimes, margaritas can border on being too sweet or too tart.  This bad boy was neither.  In fact, it had a little richness going on.  Not a profile you would ever expect, but it was definitely appreciated.

Since I arrived so late, I was not in an appetizer type of mood.  I ordered the Plato de Carnitas…

Plato de Carnitas

Carnitas are a traditional form of pork that is marinated and slow roasted.  These thick chunks came with the traditional rice, beans, salsa, flour tortillas, and guacamole.  The Carnitas were very nice.  I used the tortillas to make my own burritos, ’cause that’s how I roll.

As far as restaurants go, El Amigo is all right.  I’ve had better Mexican food.  I’ve had worse.  What’s important here, is that it was time well spent.  Time where I could finally relax.  For that, El Amigo, I thank you.

When I got home last night, I tried to write a blog about my week, but my brain just kind of shut down.  I had something more important to do…

SLEEP!

This morning, I woke up feeling fantastic.

It’s great to be back in the land of the living.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Love/Hate or The proof is in the off-putting.

August 5, 2011

Wednesday was a free day for Kara and me… It was our last free day of the summer, so we decided to hit up a few local wineries.

You’ve got to know that we had an amazing day.

AMAZING!

The amazing 2007 Lila's Cuvee Rhone Blend paired with an amazing view at Clos La Chance.

I could tell you about how much fun we had at Clos La Chance

2008 Biagini Vineyard Pinot Noir side-by-side with the 2008 Erwin Vineyard Pinot Noir at Clos La Chance. Both wines were hella RAD!

I could tell you about our awesome pre-dinner visit to Bubbles Wine Bar

Bubbles?

Hella to the yeah, son!

The only thing better is bubbles and oysters. Dope!

I could even let you know about the Rad Mexican feast we had at Sinaloa Cafe

Come for the margaritas. Stay for more margaritas.

So please forgive me if I don’t.

I’ve been dying to write about some wine that I hated…

I mean HATED.

HATED!

Please alow me to present Fortino Winery

Fortino... unfortunately = (

Fortino is a neat looking venue on the corner of Watsonville Road and Hecker Pass in Gilroy.  We hit it up after Clos La Chance because it was one of the few wineries in the area that was open on a Wednesday afternoon.

Now, you should know that I’ve been to Fortino twice before.  Once was about two years back before I was as passionate about wine as I am today.  It was also well before I would take notes on wine.  The other time was after a long day of tasting during the Santa Clara Valley Passport Weekend, so my palate was shot.  You even read about me having their Almond Champagne at the Garlic Festival.  But this time… This time, I was gonna take it seriously (Not so fortunate for Fortino).

Here’s the breakdown…

Whites:

2009 Chardonnay ($16.95):  Nose of honey, pineapple, apple, and flowers.  Not bad.  The palate was a thick and sweet version of lemon/lime soda.  Not good.  Score it a 75 and trust me… You don’t want it.

2010 Black Muscat Blush ($16.95):  Tropical fruit (mango and guava) on the nose.  The taste was of ridiculously sweet flowers.  This wine is obnoxious.  I’m mad that they served it at the beginning of the tasting, because it’s basically a crappy version of a desert wine.  78.  Pass.

On to the Reds:

2008 Carignan ($18.95):  Here’s where I start to get angry.  Carignan, when done right, is one of my favorite varietals.  Fortino makes a big deal about their estate carignan coming from 80 year-old vines.  The only way you could mess this up is if you don’t know how to make wine, or don’t care how it turns out.  My guess is that Fortino falls into the latter category.  There was this nose of green bell pepper that gave me some hope, but it came with this over-the-top sweet red fruit that destroyed it.  The taste was sweet red cherries with just a little bit of tires and nice acidity.  The problem with this wine was there was no balance.  It was all sweetness.  If I want a sweet red wine, I’ll hit up 7 Eleven.  This is a 79.  In a better mood, maybe I’d give it an 80-.

Non-Vintage Maribella ($16.95):  The bar menu reads, “This off-dry blend named after Marie Fortino offers hints of cherry and raspberry.  Blended from Cabernet, Sangiovese & Carignan”.  Here’s what it should say, “We threw a bunch of leftover grapes from a bunch of different vintages together and came up with this nasty sweet red wine.  We named it after our grandma to guilt you into buying it.”  This wine smelled like sugarfied sweetness with tires and fruit.  It tasted like cherry syrup.  This wine, more so than the others, sucks ass.  58.

2008 Zinfandel ($22.00):  The bar menu reads, “Aged in vintage oak barrels for 20 months, these Santa Clara Valley grapes go great with chocolate”.  It should say, “We went to our local nursery, picked up a few wine barrel flower pots, superglued them together, and were all like, ‘We should put some Zin in here!’  So we did.  It doesn’t taste good, unless you have it with a brick of chocolate.”  The nose is big and chocolatey, with a bit of plum.  It showed some promise, but then I tasted it.  Imagine taking a jar of canned cranberry sauce and spreading it over a dirty ass chair that had been left outside for years.  Now wait for the hottest day of the year, and take a bite of that dirty cranberry covered chair.  Doesn’t sound good, does it?  The wine wasn’t good either.  60.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($28.00):  Cured ham, blackberry and oak on the nose.  Blackberry, black olive, and oak on the palate.  I’m giving it an 81.  The good news is that it’s not horrible.  The bad news is that for $28, I could buy half a case of something better.  What a shame.

Sparkling Wine:

Non-Vintage Almond Champagne ($16.95):  You’ve heard me say it before.  The almond tastes very fake, but the wine is still nice and refreshing.  It’s made from 100% French Colombard.  In making conversation with our server (who was very nice), I asked her where the French Colombard was from.  Her response, “Well… I’m not sure.  There’s this other company that makes it for us.  We just put the label on it.”  That makes sense.  No wonder I’m giving it an 84.  This is worth trying.

Fruit Wine:

Apricot ($16.95):  How can you dis fruit wine?  It’s delicious.  It smells like a bag of dried apricots.  It tastes like apricots.  I would try it with some vanilla ice cream (I gots ta get me some of that).  But, at the end of the day, it’s fruit wine.  I have a physics teacher friend that makes stuff like this for fun.  Take some fruit.  Crush it.  Throw it in a vat.  Add some yeast.  Let it sit for a few weeks.  Bottle it.  83.

Here’s the thing that gets me mad.  There are tons of vineyards in this area.  Tons!  Please check the map.  The fruit, from one vineyard to the next is essentially the same.  And the fruit is good.  There are plenty of wineries in the Santa Clara Valley that are making great wine with their grapes.  The problem is that there are almost as many wineries in this area that just don’t care enough to make good wine.  They use cheap methods (like using “vintage” barrels), and have no problem pushing a crappy product on their customers.  That’s just what Fortino is doing… and it’s off-putting.

If you look at their website (which looks worse than this blog) or their Yelp Page, it becomes apparent that they are much more into pushing events and weddings than making good wine.  In fact, the only other people in the tasting room that day, were two different couples that were planning to have their weddings at Fortino.  I overheard one couple say, “We don’t normally like Cabernet, but this stuff is great.”  On the other end of the bar, the other couple was all, “This Maribella is great!”  Kara and I just shook our heads.  I could not imagine having to serve that kind of garbage at my wedding.

Now look…

Fortino has a loyal following.  Many more than I have.  If you’re a big fan of them, all the power to you.  You’ve got your own palate, and you should trust it.  I’m sure they put on great events.  I’m sure the weddings there are beautiful.  And hey… The Almond Champagne and Apricot Wine ain’t bad.

BUT…

I’ve got a message for Fortino…

I love wine.

You make bad wine.

I hate it.

You can do better.

Step it up.

Get Rad,

Jeff

When it gets hot, slow down.

June 15, 2011

Back from the run. Let's reheat the coffee and make some brek (That's short for breakfast).

Yesterday, Kara and I noticed on the tail end of our morning (10:00 am) run how hot it is starting to get.  For the most part, during the fall, winter, and spring you can run any time of day outside without the fear of overheating.  As the summer time rolls around, you have to start earlier in the day.  You have to.

Sure enough, later that day (with the temperature exceeding 90 degrees farenheit) it seemed like everywhere we looked we saw people running.  Stupid people running.  Running with sweatpants on.  Running with their big thick-coated dogs.  All of them (people and dogs) looking like they wanted to die.  All of them (just the people here) looking stupid.

“We are not those people,” I told Kara.  “We will never run in that type of heat.  Tomorrow, we run EARLY.”

I woke up this morning at 6:30 am.

The fab four: Mug, Grinder, Beans, and a Coffee Pot

I fed the dog.  I brewed a pot of some tasty Puerto Rican coffee (A special thank you to my sister.  The greatest out-of-the-blue gift I’ve ever been given).  I got dressed.  Walked the dog.  Mixed up some of my electrolyte drink (Gu Brew).  Grabbed Kara.  We got to the trail at 8:15.

The plan for me was to do a mile warm-up, six miles at my tempo pace (~7’30″/mile since I’m training to run a half-marathon at 7 minutes a mile), and a mile cool down.  That’s Eight Miles if you are counting, Eminem.  I felt okay during the warm-up.  When I started my tempo run at mile two, I was doin’ alright.

Then…

The turn-around.

I was 4 miles away from my car, and when I turned to run back toward the starting point, I saw it.  The hot, bright, unforgiving Sun.  It had been at my back during the first half of my run, but now it was going to kick my ass.

My face and chest started to heat up.  I felt beads of sweat run down my forehead, along the side of my nose, under my sunglasses, and now they were pooling up just under my bottom eyelids.  As the ponds of salty water got bigger, they began to drain into and subsequently sting my eyes. What was once a brisk 7’30” per mile pace quickly slowed to a shuffling 11 minute mile.

I was spent, and I still had two miles to go.  Just nearing the end of the run, I caught up to Kara (who was finishing a six-miler).  “How was it?” I asked.

“Hot!”

“We are not the kind of people to run in this kind of heat, Kara.  Tomorrow… tomorrow, we run EARLIER!”

When we got home, I was dog tired… AND HUNGRY.

I still had some left over hamburger meat from the other day, so I figured I’d make my version of a Joe’s Special.  If you’re not from the Bay Area and don’t know what that is, I forgive you.  If you are a local and you don’t know what I am talking about, I will find you and slap you… HARD.

Traditionally, the Joe’s Special is an egg scramble with ground beef and spinach.  Outside of that, you can take any angle that you want.  I didn’t have any spinach on hand, but I did have hella tortillas so…

I threw the ground beef into a hot ass pan. Yes. That is a Rachel Ray omelette pan. It rules. That, and the handle is orange.

I put two taco sized corn tortillas in the toaster and set it to "bagel".

The beef was broken up and given some chopped onions, salt, pepper, and Trader Joe's curry powder. Mucho authentico!

Add egg, and scramble it up. Plate on top of the two interlocking tortillas. Top with half an avocado and 3 tomato slices. Joe's Special? More like Jeff's Rad! Am I right?

Save the leftovers so your wife can have a veggie sandwich later.

I ate this hearty brek while watching Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” on the DVR.  The movie was okay.  Kind of fun.  I think it paired well with the fluffiness of the eggs.

I think the story would have worked out better for the main character if the title was "Don't Drag Me to Hell". What do you think?

After breakfast, Kara and I set out to do a few errands.  The heat was so draining, that we gave up on them about half way through.  With plenty of time left in the day, we headed over to Guglielmo Winery to use our free tasting coupon.  We spent almost two hours there… Just kicking back and enjoying the day.

Sometimes when it gets too hot, you just have to slow down.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

This wine makes me want food… Now!

June 12, 2011

Setting the mood: I have this tempranillo decanting in two huge wine glasses. The candle is for show. It will not be lit.

There are a few advantages to having summers off.  One such advantage is having a ridiculous amount of time to kill.

The other day, I spent almost two hours at the Gilroy BevMo just looking at wine.  Scoping the labels.  Reading the blurbs.  Scouting for deals.

A “deal” is NOT the same as a “sale”.

They are having their 5 cent sale right now.  It’s a scam that will be discussed on another day.

By deal, I’m talking about value.  A Rad wine at an equally Rad (if not Radder) price.  With so much time on my hands, I found that the best deals (on paper) were in the Spain, Chile, and Argentina sections.  I came across hella wines that were highly rated by the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Not Wilfred Wong!  Again… will discuss on another day) that were in the 10 to 20 dollar range.

From that BevMo adventure, I ended up buying 3 bottles of wine.  Of the bottles, the one that I am the most excited to taste is this bad boy…

The Mas Que Vinos 2007 Ercavio Tempranillo Roble cost me $10.99 and was given a 90+ rating by Robert Parker.  Now, Gary Vaynerchuk would tell me to trust my own palate, but I must say that my palate usually agrees with that of Robert Parker.  For 11 bucks, why not try it?

Now, it’s time to taste…

Mas Que Vinos Ercavio Tempranillo Roble 2007

Those smudges on the label are not supposed to be there. I'm that messy.

Color:  This wine is a DARK ruby.  There is a not quite rusty rose color along the outer edge of the glass.

Nose:  One sniff of this tempranillo filled my mouth with cocoa powder.  You know how you’ll be opening a packet of instant cocoa and a cloud of powder wafts up to your nose?  THAT kind of cocoa powder.  The chalkiness of the nose also reminds me of opening the box for a new bicycle tube.  There is a green component to this wine as well.  Slightly minty.  A little like fresh lettuce from the garden.  There is a deep note of plum.

Taste:  I don’t want this to throw you off.  My first thought in drinking this wine was of a grapefruit.  Imagine that tart citrus component of a grapefruit.  Now take away the mouth-puckering sour aspect.  I guess I’d call it essence of grapefruit.

Now, take that grapefruit and dip it in chocolate.  Delicious!

There is a lingering acidity.  A little lime.  There are some nice soft tannins that tell me this is as good as this wine is going to get.

This wine is a solid, confident, beast…

This wine makes me want food… Now!  I want tacos.  I want burgers.  Bruschetta.  Cheese.  It is extremely versatile.

After my initial taste, I jumped up to raid the fridge.  My initial thought was to grab some cheese.  Since I was thinking about tacos, I grabbed some hard cotija cheese from Mexico (Literally!  I flew down to Mexico just now to get this cheese).

While I was cutting the cheese (Childish joke.  Though not intended… appreciated!)  My mouth began to water with this flavor of caramel and chocolate (Rollos anyone?), so I grabbed some strawberries.

The saltiness of the cotija paired very well with the acidity of the wine.  The strawberries did a great job of stepping up those chocolate notes.

This wine is a solid, food friendly, mo fo.

Considering that this is my first official review for this blog, I had a tough time scoring this wine.  I must tell you that I loved it.  You must also know that I doubt it has the structure to last another two years in the cellar.  All I’m thinking right now, however, is that I want to go buy a whole case right now.  I want to drink this wine with as many different food pairings as I can.  It is THAT good.  But… I’ve had better.  But… It’s only 11 bucks.

I’ve got to tell you, I could not have asked for a better wine to score first for you.  This is THE threshold for me.  I’m giving it 90 points, and I’m telling you that you MUST try this.

Rubbery, synthetic cork. Chocolaty, authentic wine.

Stay Rad,

Jeff


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