Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Zolo Malbec 2014

Funny story about Malbec. A long time ago when some French guys decided to plant grapes in Argentina, there was a shipping mishap on the boat ride from France to Argentina. All the labels on the cuttings that were being transported became wet and the ink bled. The first Argentine vineyard with French vines was a mish-mash because of a little leak. There was a row of Cabernet next to two rows of Merlot, then one row of Malbec and another row of Cabernet. Eventually, the vines grew and they figured out where the Cabernet was. With the Merlot and Malbec, they had a tougher time discerning which was which since they were so similar. New plantings take a few years to produce grapes so they waited and waited. Finally, with some trial and error, they discovered the plants’ true identities and replanted them all so that all the like vines were next to each other. That makes them easier to harvest. What they didn’t know back then was how well Malbec would flourish in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

Malbec in France was a blending grape in Bordeaux. The Americans thought that Malbec would do well since they had a lot of sun and needed cheap grapes to make bulk wine. It wasn’t until a guy named Zapata planted the vines in Mendoza and started making kick ass wines from only Malbec that opinions changed. After that, Argentina adopted it as an unofficial national wine. Zolo has done one better and made their vineyards a sustainable growing region. That means they don’t destroy the earth to bring you tasty wines. Thanks, Zolo.

The Zolo Malbec that I tried recently was great. There aren’t any easier words to describe it. It just tasted great. It is in the medium body range so it was smooth. It has a nice fruitiness that doesn’t come across as a jamosaurus or a fruit bomb. What it does have is a floral essence not often found in red wines. It’s not a noticeable taste but rather a faint afterglow. It was intriguing and fun to sense it. For me, the main component of this wine was currants. A little plum and a little blackberry, but mostly currant notes. I loved it. I imagine if you tried it, you would think the same. Also, this wine is a CATWA. (Cheap And Tasty Wine Alert) Enthusiast, Spectator, and Robert Parker all said the same thing. We can’t all be wrong! Cheers. 

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs

It’s awesome. You should go there.

I guess I could elaborate on that a little bit. My family and I took a short trip to Joplin recently and wanted something different than the usual things we find on Rangeline Road. There are only so many burgers, Chinese buffets, and sandwiches you can eat and not go crazy. I heard about Instant Karma from a friend who had eaten there a few months ago. I squared it away with my wife and daughter and we headed downtown.

Instant Karma is in an old store front that has those classic display windows and a front door that’s tucked back away from the sidewalk. When I went in, the first things I saw were a foosball table, some local art on the walls, about 15 tables, and a full bar. I would later learn from our great waitress that it is stocked with 26 beers, 1 cider, and a wine all on tap. We were told the specials of the day which sounded great but we all wanted one of their standards from the menu. My daughter found her new favorite food on the planet, the Grilled Cheese Burger. Picture if you will two grilled cheese sandwiches. Now imagine those two sandwiches as the bottom and top buns for a big juicy hamburger. She also added some sweet potato fries as her side. I think my daughter shed a little tear of joy when it showed up. She said she might need to move to Joplin because of it. My lovely wife ordered one of her favorite things, a bratwurst with sour kraut and mustard. She said it was very good, but the mustard was hot enough that her spirit left her body for a couple of minutes. I tried it and it was pretty spicy but very tasty. Finally, I ordered the Wiener Cristo. Imagine a Monte Cristo sandwich but with a hot dog. It was served on a plate dusted with powdered sugar and some grape jelly which I prefer above the usual raspberry jelly. To top it off, we ordered a basket (which was actually a giant plate) of cheese fries to split between us. After we had devoured most of what was in front of us, we sat back staring into space because we were all a little food high. The grand total for all of us to eat and drink was a little pricey at $50, but it was a great trip to a new place. We’ll definitely go back to Instant Karma. I’ll just have to remember to schedule the visit after payday. 

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

There are quite a few authors that I really enjoy reading. Most of the time, I like non-fiction. Any subject has the opportunity to grasp my attention and keep me enthralled cover to cover. I knew from an early age that I like biographies. It didn’t matter much who it was but most of the time it was actors and musician since they were the only people I really knew about. When I was unemployed for a bit, I spent a lot of time at the library. I still do spend time there, but for this story, it was the time I was job hunting. After I would scan the paper and internet for jobs, I would walk up and down the aisles looking for books to occupy my time. I happened upon a book that forever left an impression on me. It was A Walk In The Woods by Bill Byson.

At the time, I was wishing for a different life. As many of you know, the only thing worse than having a job is looking for a job. I wanted to escape. I wanted to be somewhere else. I found out that I could do a little escaping through the travels journals that Bill was thoughtful and talented enough to write. It took me about a week to read through it. I always tell people it’s because I have to sound out all the words. In truth, it’s because I like to take my time and really get all there is out of the written word; the humor, the seriousness, the sentence structure, the language and vocabulary. I love it all. Bryson had been writing for quite some time before I discovered him. That meant that I didn’t have to wait for him to write another book. He already had six others waiting for me. All of which the library had on their shelves. When I finally got a job, and paid off a few things to get me current, I invested in hardcover copies of all of his books for my personal library. These are the few books that I can read multiple times. They are packed full of armchair philosophy, brilliant humor, daring adventure, heartfelt love, and above all a complete story. There are no instances of unresolved tales. I appreciate that since I’ve read far too many books that have holes in the story line, time deleted from biographies, and intentional cliff hangers that never get resolved. Bill’s travel journal books are the best. His other books are fantastic. His Brief History of Nearly Everything was a vast undertaking for me but I finished it. Remember, I had to sound out all the words.

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Black Mass (2015)

Friday was payday for my wife. She was happy to get a little extra cash so she asked if I wanted to go out on a date. I said, “Let me think…a date with a beautiful woman. Yeah, I think I want to do that.” She said that she drove by the theater and saw that Black Mass had just been released. We agreed that a cinematic adventure would definitely be in the evening’s plans.
Black Mass is the story of James “Whitey” Bulger. He was the head of the Irish mob in Boston for years. I had read a few books about Jimmy and the Winter Hill Gang so I knew the players and what their fates were. That didn’t stop me from thoroughly loving this movie. It was so well performed that I forgot to think about who was who and what had happened. I’ve been a casual fan of Johnny Depp for quite some time. I’ve seen all of his movie but I never watched 21 Jump Street when it was on TV. I didn’t usually go specifically to see him, but he was always involved in projects that I wanted to see. In Black Mass, Johnny Depp disappeared into the character of Whitey Bulger. It proved to me without a doubt that he has a wide acting range. Top notch, JD.

The story tells the ins and outs of the relationship between the Irish mob and the FBI. It was a tangled mess to say the least. Since I did know the stories, the film could have been another hour and a half long and I still would have been enthralled by it. As it is, I know Hollywood likes to keep people’s short attention spans in check so it told the meat of the story and not much else. That’s okay. I was glad to have seen it even if it wasn’t long enough. It’s a good movie to go see even if you don’t know who Jimmy Bulger is.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shiner - Ruby Redbird Beer

We’ve just been through a summer that wasn’t too terribly bad as far as the weather goes. Don’t get me wrong, summertime in Oklahoma is still hot, sticky humid, and sometimes tornadic. One thing that helped ease the heat was beer. Mmmm…beeeer. One that I particularly enjoyed this year was Shiner’s Ruby Redbird. It was refreshing. Or as I sometimes say ‘Wefweshing’!

Shiner starts off with a golden colored lager that is light weight, and very tasty. The Ruby in the name is a subtle hint to let you know there is fresh Texas ruby red grapefruit juice in it. If that wasn’t enough of a pick-me-up, they added a faint hint of ginger to give this beer a bit of a zing at the end. When I first brought it home, I was a little apprehensive since grapefruit isn’t one of my favorite fruits. But in the name of experimentation, I grabbed one and put it in the beer fridge. I got it out the next day and poured it into my favorite pint glass. It looked beautiful. It smelled a little like citrus but not too much. I took my first drink and thought twice about not liking grapefruit. It had a light grapefruit taste blended amazingly with the malt. It has a low hop content so you could drink a few and not tax your taste buds. I didn’t actually taste the ginger in the beer, but I felt the twinge of it on the back of my tongue. If you like beers that are a little different, this will pique your interest. I finished this Ruby Redbird pretty quickly and I wanted another one. Alas, I only bought one bottle. I had to wait a whole 24 hours before I could have another one. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Get a sixer. Cheers.  ABV - 4.01 / IBU - 13

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Molly Dooker: The Boxer Shiraz 2014

A friend of mine used to come to my office when he wasn’t out selling newspaper advertising or spending time with his lovely wife. I always keep an acoustic guitar handy for those days when I need some music therapy and one afternoon he came in, sat down, picked up the guitar and started playing. He played the Simon and Garfunkel song “The Boxer” from beginning to end. When the song was over he looked at me and said, “I’m sick.” He passed away a year later and now that song doesn’t mean what it used to mean to me. Now it’s an homage to a great man that I knew.

Flash forward a couple of years and I was searching for new wines to sample and write about, when up pops The Boxer Shiraz from Molly Dooker. My friend instantly came to mind. It was high time to have a drink in his honor. I knew Molly Dooker wines but I had never tried this one so into the cart it went. When it arrived, the label made me chuckle a bit. It has a cartoon of a muscle bound pugilist with a five o’clock shadow and an anchor tattoo on one side of the label and the name, varietal, and vintage on the other.
After a couple of days, I was able to sit down, relax, and open the wine. It has a nice looking screw cap, my preferred closure. No possibility of cork taint! I bought some new Bordeaux style wine glasses so I took one out and poured a half glass of Shiraz. The appearance was a wonderful deep purple (insert Smoke on the Water riff here). The taste was NOT smoke on the water. It was hints of tart red cherry at the beginning and a long finish of blackberries and spices you might find in an aged rum like white pepper and all spice. The tannins were a little softer than what I was expecting from a higher end Australian Shiraz. It comes from McLaren Vale which happens to be one of my favorite spots on the planet. I didn’t know that when I ordered it, but it was a happy surprise. Overall, this wine was brilliantly put together. One of those wines where everything happened exactly as it should have. It was well worth a little higher price of about US$25. I love this wine. It was the perfect way to honor Kip's memory. Cheers, mate.

P.S. Aren’t you glad I didn’t say “this wine has a wicked left hook” or “I could go three rounds with this wine anytime”. You’re welcome.

Here's a link to the Molly Dooker website. It's a trip.

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Grind Espresso Shot

I love coffee. I don’t like more than one or two cups in the morning. I’m also not one of those people that stands in line at a national chain shop waiting for a half decaf mocha soy latte with caramel sauce and extra foam. No, I’m much more of a guy that likes black coffee from my favorite convenience store or diner. I’ll drop in a little French vanilla cream if I’m feeling frisky but most of the time I like it strong and black. I’m sure I could make an innuendo about my girl Serena Williams, but I would never stoop to that level. Love ya' SW.

One of my favorite liquor reps was in town with a few things for me to try. One of the bottles she brought was Grind Espresso Shot. It is made with Arabica coffee from Columbia and Caribbean rum. There are a whole lot of coffee liqueurs out on the market. People even make their own “homemade Kahlua” as most of them call it. There are some good ones, there are some cheap ones, but there is rarely one that fits both of those adjectives. Grind is that liqueur. Hooray for us all. The taste of Grind is pretty straight forward on the first shot. It tastes like sweet coffee. On the second shot…yes I had two! I was doing research! On the second shot, I let it warm up a little then I took a sip. As it swished on my tongue, I picked up all the great subtle flavors that comes with a strong coffee from the hills of Columbia. I was able to pull the taste of almonds and pecans, roasted cacao nibs, a faint hit of vanilla, and cane sugar. Whether those were the actual flavors in the liqueur or not is really irrelevant. The only thing you need to know is that it was super delicious and half the price of Kahlua. Look for it, ask for it, buy it, and enjoy the heck out of it. Cheers. 

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Bogle Petite Sirah Port 2008

If you haven’t come to this conclusion yet, I’m a bit of an oddball. I suppose I’m not special holding that title but I don’t like mainstream things all that much. I like 1950’s jazz on LP, goth women, expensive rum, fart jokes, and wines that not many people have heard of. While I was snooping through my supplier’s website, I happened upon a wine that was a new style from an old favorite. Bogle vineyards makes great affordable wines, Cab, Chard, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauv Blanc, Riesling, Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, Essential Red, and the seasonal favorite Phantom. They’re all good. I know because I’ve tried them all. The one that caught me off guard was their Petite Sirah Port. I saw it and said out loud to no one, “I kinda need to get one of those…for research.”

I’ve consumed a lot of Port wine. Most of it has been from Portugal and made with grapes that I’ll never be able to pronounce. There are about 80 different grapes that Portuguese winemakers can use in any one vintage of Port. They don’t use that many, but they can if they wanted to. There are an ever increasing number of wineries from all over the globe that are making Port from grapes that grow in their area like Cabernet, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Those bolder wines tend to hold up to the process of turning good wine into great Port. Geyser Peak has a fantastic Shiraz Tawny and Elyse has an equally brilliant Cabernet Port. One that can easily keep up with those dessert wines is Bogle’s Petite Syrah Port which is a ruby style Port as opposed to a tawny style. Ruby is young and fresh, tawny is older, tanner, and more complex. (That’s the way too overly simple explanation of Port.)

I received the wine on a Thursday, took it home to my wine cabinet and let it settle down for a few days. I’ve ridden on delivery trucks so I know some of the things that drivers can do while on the road. Shaking up good wine is one of them. Not on purpose, of course, but it happens. I let the bottle rest on its side in the dark cabinet that used to be my grandfather’s 1950’s television cabinet. The black and white TV was removed and wine racks were installed. It is my favorite piece of furniture. It was Sunday night before I opened it and the aroma of old juice from fat grapes smelled quite nice. Petite Sirah, or Durif as it is also known, has a plummy taste with heavy tannins and some black pepper and spice notes to top it off. During the fermentation process, brandy is added to halt the yeast from fully making it table wine. This jacks up the alcohol while maintaining the wine’s young fresh taste profile. This particular wine was the 2008 vintage that they released in 2011. It sat in a barrel for that long breathing the winery air in and out of the American oak barrels. This let the characteristics of the wood blend with the wine as it mellowed. The overall taste was truly enjoyable. The rich plum notes found in Petite Sirah transformed into a black cherry, dark chocolate, and elderberry heaven elixir. It had the faintest of spice notes, but the oak must have sucked the spice out and replaced it with a hint of blonde tobacco. It might sound like a weird combination to some, but I assure you that it made up a wonderful dessert wine. Their website stated that this port could easily be cellared for up to 20 years. I totally believe that. I think I’ll buy another bottle or two and rest them in granddad's old TV cabinet for a decade or two. You can be sure I’ll review this wine again when I pop each one open. Cheers.

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It's a 500ml Bottle!