A Letter To Food And Wine – Do We Need To Break Up?

Hate is a hideous and an unforgiving word. You can’t come back from that.

But food and wine – you let me down.

I bet on you. Not only that, I studied you for years, screamed your name, stayed up nights crying over you, over indulged in your glory, lost relationships because of your conniving nature – in the end, did really bad things just for your approval.

It hasn’t always been a honeymoon, but we had it good for awhile. You made me who I am in a way; teaching me to speak up, have an opinion even if it isn’t popular, combine the artist and the analytic, and to find the humor in the fact that no one really gets me. I guess that is what comfort really means – hence the “comfort food” imagery consistently thrown out to make us feel better about devouring a plate of mac and cheese. We had amenity together – held hands through it all. I was content and flourished with you at my side – total team moment.

But listen, we gotta fix this relationship. Just because you impress the notion that I will be “ok” in your glory doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me. I got your number, even if it took me up until now to realize we aren’t good together. I need you, I get it, but I don’t feel you need me.

Here is the beaten down girl moment; I realize this is my fault. I let you in without any hesitation or concern. I didn’t have a long term idea of what a goal with you really means. I saw it going bad and not only didn’t stop it, but did everything to hasten our untimely departure from one another. There were no boundaries and no concern of my health. I allowed peers to inform me I wasn’t “what they are looking for”, or that there is “another plan out there” for me. You are my plan, you are my intention for all things good in my life, and I’m not walking away empty handed.

As the responsible adult I am, I refuse to shame you. Trust me, I hold myself back every day, and wonder if social media is not the outcome of situations like this. I have the ability to report all of your unseemly stories – don’t forget, I know where the bodies are buried. (I always loved that analogy) But my future beckons, and in the end, nothing comes from sour story telling.

Good comes from different ways of thinking, doing, socializing, working, not working, and being. Good comes from me flipping the coin and seeing your good side. It’s not going to be easy – I’m already in a state of panic. But I’ve put in my time, and I’m REALLY GOOD at managing our stained past. I’m not asking for favors, leads, or a wink of approval from you. You can give that to the one that flirts and uses their “relationship” history better than I ever will. I am raw, naked in a way, but wearing an amour. No more sitting in the board room listening – I’m ready to run the show.

To celebrate, we won’t eat cake. The bottle staring at me on my desk will not get opened. My kitchen will be clean of cheese and puff pastry, as well as my dance card of wine dinners and bar crawls. I may loose some friends, but they probably weren’t the best choice of allies in the first place. (How many have called to say hello? Betcha you answered that quickly…)

But don’t fret – I’m still here and still curious. I AM that girlfriend you can’t get rid of. I’ll answer the questions and ask the questions and figure out all the answers. I’m still going to write about you, read about you, watch you on social media (on occasion), and try to completely take advantage of the good nature that resides somewhere deep in your soul. Don’t believe I am at ease from my blogs, posts, texts, pictures – they are just smoke and mirrors. I am looking for a deeper connection. We can have a deeper connection.

I forgot something – wait for the comeback.

—– my journal, January 1, 2019

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Just A Good Time With Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Hands Of Time

The whole “Time goes by so quickly” line is a dirty lie.

It’s up to you to stop time. It’s up to you to NOT say “I’m good – just busy” – because you are not. I stole this idea from an article I read this morning. I am repeating it because the idea is haunting me. It’s not the cliche idea that you are missing something, or wasting priceless moments. You are being selfish. Well, I am being selfish and lazy with the grabbing of time. I’m scared of stopping – there I said it. I have a hint you are as well. I’m scared to give that open door a shove – open instead of closed I need to point out – for fear of defeat. Yes, yes, I’m the broken hearted. I’m the sour faced expression you see when you tell me your feelings. Allowing time – see that word “allow” – to wash over me chills me to the bone.

Time and decision making are companions in my life. The watching of time is making my decisions dull, lifeless, and all over passive. I grab for the same wine. I look for the same flavors. Time has made my passion lethargic and moody. Enough of the Susan tragedy – you know this life I’m living isn’t all boos and tears in the pillow. I have friends – more like I’m working on relationships – that fill the gap, kick my time dilemma in the ass, and spice up a simple moment. I also have really really good restaurants – I mean the stuff you SHOULD be writing about – just a step away. Time to investigate (couldn’t help myself)…

The description of “New American Eatery” can always be a complete win or a run for your life situation. Don’t collapse my dreams with a crappy chicken liver pate – that is just wrong. Turtle and The Wolf in Upper Montclair – I am now in love with you – let the stalking begin. https://turtleandthewolf.com/

As you figured, I’m still thinking about the pate this morning as I write this blog. Creepy but true. We had two wines – Stags’ Leap Winery Viogner and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Hands of Time” Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. You and I have discussed this Viogner – viscous, balanced, full of citrus and slight honeysuckle fruit, sexy, alluring, just everything good in a bottle. The Viogner became slightly metallic with the pate – understood and expected. I love this wine by itself, just standing alone to beguile my stuck in time mood – that’s what it is good for, and more. Better paired with the second course (you eat with me, we eat in courses and share – deal with it) of mussels and fries. And that broth…

We passed these two wines around all night – that sounds kind of kinky, and just wrong, but it was working. My first time with Hands of Time, which was a surprise even to me. I really hate to say this, but in my mind, this wine was always an “easy” sell. Great name, almost half and half Cab and Merlot – no big flavor notes, but no stinky elbows to the ribs either. Just good, simple, straight forward – I can appreciate an effortless yet uncomplicated wine conversation. If we had made different food choices – ones with screaming spices or smokey charred peaks – we would have been screwed. For this bistro style dinning, perfect pairing.

We ended our journey with kielbasa over sauerkraut and braised apples. Polish girl eating house cured kielbasa – could be a train wreck. Skin snapped in all the right places, sauerkraut brined perfectly – win and thank you for not ruining my life.

This meal was very “Napa Valley” in style, so it was perfect to enjoy wines that I feel emulate a notion about Napa. The two Stags sometimes confuse us. They tell us very different stories, how winemakers live their history, and how they want time to pass. There is elegance, there is harmony, even tension where appropriate. I like that. I like being grabbed a bit by the time of the now, and hooking in to what time might unveil. I’m not cured of my “I’m to busy” excuse. I’ll still hide behind that one. But I can bend at the waist a bit, and give time it’s due moment in the sun. We still aren’t friends.

Wine Girl Reflections – The Year Of Extremes

EVERYTHING about 2018 either inspired me to tears or went down the toilet. 

The biggest disappointment will not be reviewed immediately. (professionally speaking; the personal one is way behind me now) More anger, resentment, letting go, and reflection is needed. Your girl is on track, in emotionally recovery, and sees the light – may it be dim. But oh boy, stay tuned. That blog will be on fire.

There were A LOT of trips to California in 2018. Sounds alluring and just a ton of fun – and it is – but a nugget was dropped that wasn’t there before.  The major lesson travel taught me this time around was perception. I am still in a “learning” phase; and thank god for that. I hope to never leave that arena. However, now, I need to start leading. No one will follow me unless I have myself together – and that is more than creating plans, programming activities, and actively selling wine myself. That comes with my energy and my intention; wow, what foo foo words to throw out there. It’s true though. When you KNOW you have yourself together, and I mean when your educated/witty/mature/mentoring/directorial hat is on – you can’t be stopped. This time it came from my gut, not the smoke in mirrors show I am all so good at performing.

I received a compliment years ago from a co-worker – “When someone tells you that the program isn’t possible, you don’t just do the program, you re-create it/make it better/make tons of money/make everyone happy, and then just pretend it was this way the whole time.” I forgot I had that in me. Peddling along with the ride is wonderful when the ride is good; that was never my speed. I get burned up when someone tells me I’m not part of their “vision”. In my mind, they just don’t know it yet. So I did some really great stuff I was told was not possible. Please continue to tell me I am inadequate. I obviously thrive on your limited perception.

One thing that really pissed me off in 2018 was my lack of wonder. Now, I just showed you I am unstoppable – and that is mega true. I’m talking about getting comfortable with what you know and how you know it. And understand, I allowed myself to be defined; and it was nice. It was nice to have a persona that was respected. What I realized is that there is respect that is shown, respect that you mistakenly give with abandon, and respect that bounces right back to you. I put myself in the pot of all three, and got lost in the fuzzy dream state of all three. Wonder allows my mind to transform, and my intensity to shine. I’m abolishing this created noise, drinking more silent wines (thanks Terry Theise for the imagery-you nailed it), and carefully weighing my next step. It’s ok to break things down and become a little analytical. Yes, I said that.

Let’s wrap this up and look forward to what it coming:

  • The pursuit of an authentic voice – real authentic. Time to stop being so polite.
  • Be extremely polite. Polite to me is measured, screened, and a deliberate state of being. 
  • What am I doing with this blog thing? Someone help please. 
  • Keep weeding out the noise. (reminders on the regular from JS always help – thank god for those people who just won’t let go…)
  • Build and MAINTAIN (key word) boundaries where they are necessary and give a knee to the ones that are creeping around the corner.
  • Forgive.
  • The dead are dead. You can’t do anything about this. Move on.
  • Go on a trip, possibly not alone, and understand that you deserve it.
  • Take a step forward in education – does that mean your own, your ability to mentor, your ability to change the world? Who can say.

This blog was written for me. The pictures chosen where some pictures that only I (and some others) may understand. I am selfish right now – mostly because today is a really really bad mental day. I am deliberate, I am a wacky ass woman, and I can get deep in the pit with you and myself. I  am eager, annoyed, scared to death, always hungry, and totally thrilled at my mess of a life. Let’s jump into a new suit, shall we – what’s the worst that can happen?

I’m Liking What Everyone Else is Liking – Some Silver Oak Love

One of the biggest questions that I get asked, as a wine professional, is my opinion on the wines that have secured their feet in the sand as “wine fan” favorites. I am here to admit that I do not regularly drink Sassicaia, Tignanello, Penfolds Grange (that may be a lie), Caymus – you get it  – the icons that are thought of to be the definition of what is good, great, and expensive. Why don’t I indulge in a wine that is deemed worthy by your creepy neighbor that happens to take on “wine guy” status in your tribe? He is the guy that created the Saturday night “Let’s drink a lot of expensive wine” dinner parties you are slightly scared to attend for the chance you may look stupid.  I’m cheap – that’s the honest reason I don’t hang with that guy. I am also inquisitive and desire that experience of not knowing. What can my level of involvement be if you are already telling me it has to be good? And, by the way, thanks for not giving me an option…

That last statement was a little bitchy, but I get offended when the status of a wine is more important than the end product. Let me fall in love on my own time.

And just like a child’s thrill of Santa, I do get a rush when asked to go to a fancy wine dinner. What is fancy to me? Yeah, the wine counts – main component here. However, there are few times I can stop,  be part of the scene, ENJOY a five course meal, and become a participant in something special. A wine and chef can create all the magic possible – but it’s the vibe, the electricity of the landscape, and the arena the crowd constructs with their opinions, their laughter, and the ohs and ahs that come from filling your belly and palate with abundant flavors.

Thanks Fascino Restaurant http://www.fascinorestaurant.com and Silver Oak https://www.silveroak.com for hosting a night full of food and wine greatness, that really happens every so often. It takes skill, of course, to produce a successful wine and food pairing. However, it also takes thoughtfulness, precision, imagination, cleverness; being obvious is easy, but being creative is memorable. 

Every course – yes, every course – was memorable. Is it horrible to say that one of my favorites was the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna paired with Twomey Cellars Pinot Noir? (Twomey being from the Silver Oak family tree) Obviously California in nature, yet balanced with a pretty earthiness and rounded fruit paired well with the eggplant caponata under the fish.

When the “star” (and I’m being obvious, because all the wines were great) of the evening arrived – the Alexander and Napa Cabs – the crowd began to buzz. Was this what they were waiting for? Was this the only reason they put up with Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot as mistresses before the master? If so, shame on you. But, with a swish of the bottle from the ever so elusive server, we got to compare the two Cabs. Wine and food pairing champion – the Alexander Valley. More acidity was present, the concentration of fruit played with a lingering finish, and a spice was present; important trigger to the short rib braising jus surrounding my sexy polenta. The Napa Cab was typical (not a jab, more of a “definition”) Napa Cab with a life span. You could wear this wine like a fur coat; warming, alluring, silky and pressing on the palate. Thank GOODNESS for the chocolate fudge cake and bravo for that decision. Even though it kept me up all night, it was worth it.

Am I a “sell out” for indulging in the crowd favorite – absolutely not. Bravo to Silver Oak for continuing status in the wine world. How much good juice, and new juice, is out there? Here is an example of a recipe for success, a passion to make something – year after year – that works. I applaud you Silver Oak, and will continue this lovely journey with you. And Ryan DePersio of Fascino – please be my best friend. Your culinary vision is now on my stalking list.

And what the hell, throw in Stags’ Leap Winery Cab as a ringer at the end of the night. It was cold, I was contemplating on becoming an Uber driver, all during the buzz of “save the world” conversations – just needed to continue…

Identity Consequences; Wine and You, Friend – Reviewing Bodegas La Casa Luculo

Identity, hmmmmm… are you living your painful truth?

Is it agonizing to live with your surface thoughts?  How many times have you filtered yourself, sent the over anxious text, flirted on the edge of just being inappropriate? (guilty)  I don’t agree with the fact that you cannot take responsibility, as an adult, for adulting. We’ve come this far for a reason, and now it is time to recognize that you may have become your mother on more than one occasion. And yes, I think the painful part is the crazy amount of stimuli that surrounds us all. How can you make a decision when Instagram is available to show you how inadequate you are? Professionally, emotionally, sexually – all three weigh a selfie down.  

Your identity is what I see, what I remember, what I crave and sometimes what saves me. When you leave me, I want to know that your watery eyes meant that we went somewhere, wherever that was, and that it can be found again between us. I want to know that our moment among moments has a life beyond – or was it the wine?  We all see through the people that peek outside the curtain a bit. They don’t answer your questions fully, are moody and vulnerable to be noticed, act a little “extra” when in a conversation – and why? Don’t you crave the release of integrity?  Can we lie just a bit to get by? 

Strange bridge, but in the age of extraneous marketing plans, I’m finding it hard to hang on to the key of the Spanish wine region of Navarra. It can be because of the fact that there are complexities of soils, many microclimates, and various impressions of surrounding areas. But damn – just send me the message of who you are! I’ve tasted your whites, your reds, your blends, your lighter reds, your self respecting imagery – that’s a lot of stuff. But I”m still trying – which means you still have me on the hook.  

  • Jumping on the Navarra train again with: Bodegas La Casa, Luculo
  • Grape Varietal: Old Vine Garnacha. Well, Garnacha, but I wanted to beguile you a bit with the Old Vine part. In my research, I’ve found that the sourced vines can be anywhere from 50 to 70 years old. Is that there to entice you; it should be. Truthfully, I would hope they are that old. We are sourcing in Northern Navarra – on the border of France, at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, tiny villages, and tiny outputs to produce gobs of wine. So yes, get excited about the old vine mystery; it may pay off.
  • Eh – the wine itself: And here is where I project something I’m not going to get. I don’t like to research to much before I taste. I don’t want any masks to discourage my opinions. If I had done the research, I would have expected that this wine WAS a lighter in style, and higher in acidity. What I did like was the fresh acidity – it met the opulent fruit as a partner to the finish. A toasty French oak (think Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream) wrapped up this wine and completed a good Navarra journey. Not great, just good.
  • What to do with this lovely: Dinner at La Brace in Little Falls NJ – https://www.labracenj.com – first time, not last time. Great Italian spot in my little home town, Don’t judge me for my neighborhood joint; the place was great. Tiny – if there are 30 seats I would be surprised. We indulged in pasta, seafood – nothing too heavy. I forgot to mention that the fruit on this wine was very “pretty” – a romp of strawberry jam, a bit of cinnamon spice, and silky in texture. In the end, a northern Navarra Garnacha was the perfect pairing for this place; nothing inhibited the delicacy of the comprised indeganeous Ligurian dishes.

What else was there: I hate to do this to you, but we had a winery only wine at dinner as well. (how boushy) Selfish of me to even bring it up, but it was a lovely Pinot Noir from Sterling, located in California. You know – if you read this blog – I’m not a lover of Pinot Noir. However, at times, Garnacha from this area in Navarra is known as the “Pinot Noir of Spain” – if that can even be said. The Sterling did not have the earthiness that the Garnacha did, but similar fruit, similar assent of satisfying mood enhancing powers. Good companion, and a good assimilation if Garnacha is new to you.

You may not agree with my idea that identity, or your true self, is a painful journey. You may be happy living with what you want me to understand – well then, go for it. I’m not judging. But, like the region of Navarra, the reason I’m reaching is because I see all the possibilities.  Navarra will still ghost the hell out of my wine region compilation journey – wow, I really found a similarity here that scares me.  I’ll leave it here – just know that all the things we all see are just that – and that when you are ready to trust, trust will be available. Navarra will still be confusing, but you will have a better step towards clarity than the Garnacha. You are both lovely to me.

Breathing In My Ugly – Drinking Illumination Sauvignon Blanc

I”m told that you can find beauty in all things, that it is in the eye of the beholder, there is beauty in the ugly, that someone will see your beauty deep within you…is this all a crock of shit?

Sometimes, we gotta live in the ugly. In the REAL ugly – not the messed up mascara or pizza night sob fest. I’m talking raw, I’m not holding back, I may hyperventilate from crying, and I may say very very wrong things ugly moments. Does the decision to go there come from a sedimentary feeling of yourself – right at this very moment. In sales, we train ourselves to always be your super star. No matter what is going on personally in our lives, we are here to make you feel like you are on top of the world. Well, I gotta tell you – keeping up with the pretty is tough. Think about all the things stirring in you right now and then push them away, just to make a sensible sale – kind of crappy, right? This is where I am at now, and this is where I don’t see any getting out of right now. Is it ok to be banished to ugly land, or should I think about washing my hair?

In this immediate atmosphere I am creating, I thought it was funny that I opened a bottle of Illumination Sauvignon Blanc https://www.quintessa.com/illumination . In my mind, Illumination, and the Quintessa property this wine is being sourced from, is one of the most beautiful “Napa feelings” you can get. When I visited this winery, I was told I had to hike up a small hill prior to my tasting; ugly thoughts swimming in my head. What was revealed was a scenic view of the valley, more specifically the hills of Rutherford, with the Vaca Mountain range seen through the mist of a thick as hell fog. Things like this take your breathe away, remind you that you are human – an ant on this planet, and stamp an impression of what you believe true natural beauty to be. At the time, Illumination was not being made, and an overwhelming glass of red was put in my hand – sexy, voluminous, dense, rich, and full of brambly fruit (Quintessa). A small patch of land was pointed out, and I was told that was where they planted a little bit of sauvignon blanc – just for friends and family.  Lucky them.

Fast forward a few years later and you have this beauty of a wine. I remember the launch, rememberer selling this wine to a few restaurants, be needed a refresher:

  • Flavor profile: The fruit in this wine hits your nose before it hits your palate. I kind of love that moment – listening to the pour into the glass (listen next time – it totally seduces you), a bit of a swirl (really not needed with white, but it makes me look alluring), and a big ole’ sauvignon blanc facial is ready for you. This wine is like a bowl of citrus in your face – cooked lemon peels, navel oranges, ripe pineapple, limey rimmed sweetness on the end. I would have liked a bit more minerality that I seem to remember, but maybe that was just a dream. All in all, perfect with dinner, but probably not a “starter” wine – I usually like something a little crispier around the edges.
  • What we did with it: I had a dinner at Salute in Montclair http://salutemontclair.com – a great stand by BYOB with the crappiest parking ever. Suck it up and walk off your meal because it was worth it. Call us creatures of habit, but mussels were necessary and off the hook. At first I thought the meat and cheese plate would be way to much for this wine, but there is a heaviness in the body that is usually not there with this varietal. It can stand up to much more than you think it can. And listen, check out the label. If that doesn’t put you in some kind of mood, I don’t know what will.
  • What do you need in your purse: I found this wine on https://www.wine-searcher.com for around $30. It’s not really out there in the stores; more of a restaurant wine. Expect to pay more in the restaurant, and don’t be “that guy” and complain.  Fun fact; if you do not see something on the shelf, the retailer may be able to order it next day for you. All you need to do is ask!

I’m slapping on some red lipstick and pretending I’m pretty these days. I”m going to fake my pretty, and you will never know the difference. Whatever – it can be done. 


Forcing A Holiday Feeling – And Few Wine Suggestions

I have been drinking everything in sight lately.

Now hold on. I haven’t been drinking in excess, or carrying on like an idiot. I’ve just been indulging much more than I have in months. Well, one sip would be more than I’ve had in months being I had a little stand off with wine for awhile. I highly recommend a break, from so many things – but taking a break from something you study, admire, pontificate, crave, yearn for and have a true affection for is telling.  I don’t need a glass of wine to “take the edge off”, or finish the day, or for help in understanding my crappy attitude. I’m not going to judge if this is you, because, we all run our own lives. However, for me, new suggestions on how and what I drink started to emerge, and my approach in expressing my thoughts on flavors have changed. I’ve begun this study on where your thoughts on flavors are actually coming from.  Why did I have leftover Tres Leches for breakfast this morning instead of a protein shake (this actually happened), why do I seem to date guys that drink beer (known fact), and why do I seem to want a balanced chardonnay every day around 6pm? Where are these feelings coming from? I am starting to recognize they are not so much flavor choices, but rather notions of comfort, satisfaction, and yes love.

In saying all of that, I was thinking what my wine choice would be at Thanksgiving dinner. Let me tell you where I am coming from – I’m the invited guest. Don’t feel bad for me, I’m used to it. My family has other plans (and for good reasons-another blog), and I usually find myself as the orphan at your table. I also have the worst digestive system.  My 40’s have brought rough and tumble tummy issues that I’m still learning how to handle. That’s a lot of drama, I know.  But, what can cure the awkward non-family dinner/toasting to nothing you understand/eat till you puke wine event?  Check out these three choices:

  • The Grape: Grillo
  • Where is it from?: Sicily, Italy. Yes, you heard that correctly. And…it’s a white wine. Hold on…
  • Why, why and why?: This wine was a gift brought to my annual Friendsgiving Party. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE brings wine to my house – EVER.  So, imagine my surprise when not only did this wine appear, but it was actually good! It was the perfect white as a starter when first arriving somewhere where you are the “new guy” and feel a little out of place. Crisp, bright, with bountiful citrus flavors – very similar to your sauvignon blanc, but with a mineral backbone. We stood in my front room and quickly finished this bottle – giggling, exchanging kisses, realizing my house had become a safe zone and feeling like we belonged. Corny, but that is the memory – and I love it.
  • The grape(s); Tinta Roriz Alfocheiro, Touriga Nacional – yeah, there you go…
  • Where is it from?: The Dao area of Portugal. So many of my wine friends have been oohing and ahing over wines from the Dao, and I have been ignoring them. Not only am I beginning to expand my mind on this area, but am willing to open my wallet to the area – very affordable!
  • Why, why, and why?: Honestly, because it is easy. Medium body, plump, full of lush flavors of raspberries, plums, and any other round red fruit. Great “I’m in a conversation” wine – like a let’s chat about nothing while we sip wine. There is a sweetness that usually turns me off, but it is bearable in a way that is reassuring and soothing. Give hugs with this wine, be surface with your thoughts and filter what you say. You know, normal holiday conversation…
  • The Grape: Good Ole’ Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Where is it from?: Good Ole’ Napa Valley California
  • Why, why, and why?: This is my wine dinner choice because I KNOW it will be not only good, but appreciated by everyone that drinks it. Is it a sell out to bring a bottle of Beringer? This is always the conversation that surrounds a brand like this. There will always be the comment; “Oh Susan – did you bring me a jug of White Zinfandel from Beringer as well?” If that was what you were thinking, then I feel bad for you. If you don’t want a glass because of that notion, I feel worse for you. Is it nice to have the greatest example of not only the grape choice, but the area it is grown in? Is it not a wise choice to drink a wine from one of the first wineries created in a country you live in? Think about it. Don’t screw with my Beringer Knights Valley Cab. This wine will over deliver on what you love about a Cab – deep rich black fruit that is just silky and sexy, spicy oak, integrated tannins, and something that lingers. Don’t drink it, I dare you.

However you celebrate within the next two months – do it. If that means scrambled eggs and a bunch of candles on your couch, or something overly boushy – you do you.  I’ve done both and enjoy both almost equally. The truth that has come to me is that whether I am alone, or in a room full of people, I will almost definitely have a hole deep in my being a bit. Don’t fill it with booze – just a suggestion. Fill it with phone call from someone you keep thinking of, fill it with a new pair of shoes, or a really good movie on Netflix. Or suck it up and accept that invitation to a dinner you feel you don’t belong at. Because, you do.

This Happy Takes Work – Pass The Guidalberto

As I sit down this morning to write about the great food and wine I enjoyed last night, I’m at a pause. Do you know why?

I am happy.

Let me explain that – because usually, I’m a pretty happy person. I’m reflecting on how I’ve been expressing myself through this blog, and it seems to be a little, well, sad. What I am seeing my readers respond to is my snarky wine and emotional state comparisons. These comparisons come from some disappointment in my life, maybe a heartbreak or two, being mad at my sister, being mad at myself… Think about it – how many obstacles or failures would you like to see come to life in hopes that you can interpret these situations? That has been the method, and it is working pretty good for me and for you.

So why, now, do I choose to BE happy; it may be fleeting, but let’s discuss. Around 5 AM I realized that  a few people in my life are doing selfless acts. Some are shooting nonsense and welcomed texts, calling even though I am not returning the call – all very nice and neat. Others are doing the natural and easy – showing up. Showing up counts for everything doesn’t it? It is how luck finds us, or how our heart is touched a bit. It is connecting us, and creating a relax of the shoulders.  I’ll just say it – it is nice to hear from you – but when you keep showing up, I feel a little more special than I did yesterday. Thanks for the consistency!

And when you show up with exceptional wine with an exceptional story -it makes life a little memorable. Last night, I revisited the wine from Tenuta San Guido, “Guidalberto”. It would be horrible not to mention where the impetuous for this wine came from – the one and only, Super Tuscan loveliness,  Sassicaia. One of the only reasons Super Tuscans are on this planet was because of the risk of a winemaker to create Sassicaia. Prior to Sassicaia in the 1970’s, NO ONE in Italy was making a blended wine that DID NOT have an indigenous grape in it – by choice or by law. Why can’t Cabernet Sauvignon shine in Tuscany? The thing is, it wasn’t back in the day. However, the connection between the soils of Tuscany and Bordeaux cannot be denied, and the desire to produce something different, special, out there, against the norm, and risky cannot be denied either. Laws were changed, Tenuta San Guido (home of both Sassicaia and Guidalberto) was celebrated. And then the awards came, and awards are great. Awards give you some ether in our screwed up judgement cycle, but, does it mean you are exceptional? You showed up, but was it enough?

In this instance, the answer is yes. Because of the risk of creating Sassicaia, the launch pad of its baby brother Guidalberto was born. Can I call it a “baby brother” or a thing of its own? It continues the story of vulnerability, of different thinking danger zones, and exposure to the unknown.  Whew, sign this girl up…

  • Grape make up: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. Don’t poo poo the Merlot, because if you do, you don’t know. It is absolute perfection in this blend. It gives this blend a plushy pillow, a bottom to a fruit bowl, a sense of semblance. It’s silky because of that Merlot, it’s almost simplified; like a notch comes down on my palate. Without it, I feel the wine would be overwhelming and just not make sense.
  • Define “special” sister: This wine is fermented in both American and French Oak – yes and yes. Like getting the best of both worlds, and why not. Oh yeah, and I have a memory of sitting in a rock vineyard – because that is what the vineyard in Bolgheri Italy looked like to me – having pasta bolognese, the day just began to cool off, the winemaker was very flirty, and I felt like I was the only one on the planet experiencing these flavors. Outside in the dirty dusty air, clouds threatening rain but lying and just making the moment provocative, and tasting deep black fruits, smokey cigar sweetness, and malty chocolate Christmas candy. How can you not run to the wine shop right now…
  • Food, and it was glorious: I forgot about Fresco in Montclair! I am always hesitant to walk into an empty restaurant – but it was Monday, and who eats and drinks like we do on Monday, so a pass was given. Stuffed artichokes, burrata, mussels – I’m not kidding, so good. Probably not a GREAT pairing, but who gives a shit when it comes to this wine. We tried an ink squid pasta, but were way to full to finish it. That would have been the better wine choice. We were so full we ended the meal with a panna cotta – geez….

I’m going to linger on this happy thing for the moment. Milk it for everything it’s got. I need to recognize that people still want me around, and I still want them. I’m the one that needs to show up – doesn’t that just freak you out?

But screw this wine crap, I think I’m going into food styling. These pictures from last night are amazing…

The Juggling Of Friendship – Can’t We Just Drink A Glass Of Tempranillo?

Lately I’ve been picking up a few bottles of wine just on a whim. I have some design in my head on area of production, grape varietal…but that is really it. This has stirred an idea in my head about wine and friendship; what is attracting me?

Like my wine choices, my friendships usually begin on a whim. Should we say “organically” so we can all agree on a term -it’s all by chance in my life. Individuals waft in, make whatever impression is necessary or needed at the time, and then usually waft out. Is this because I am searching for what feeds me, or can support my nature? Am I drawn to the immediacy of liaisons, or am I scared of how deep it can get? Who can say where my head is at, but something weird is happening. No one seems to stick.

There are A LOT of wonderful people out there, just like there are A LOT of great wine bottles out there.  And like the flow of life, we all want something more than what the other can offer. I admire the souls that know themselves, and can tell me how communication should happen between us. You know those people – like my instagram post, call me every other day, text me in the morning, meet me for a drink but just on Thursdays – that’s a lot of emotional organization. Is there something wrong with my theory of the “whim”? Can two or three or five people agree that we are the tribe, and can that be enough?

The other part is the work. I don’t do the work, but go along with the work. What does that mean – I’ll GO to the dinner, but never organize it. I feel bad about this, but I think it has become my role. Now you are thinking “Should I become friends with Susan and is it worth it?” – I gotta tell you, I commit. (and if you are valuing “worth” and a relationship – let’s ponder that) I will pick you up, bring all the wine, listen to your stories, cry when you’ve told me how you feel about me, and order your meal. I know I am worth it – it’s just a little bit of a Susan journey for you to know that too.

And women friendships are another thing – whoa, that is a toughie. But the two women you may be seeing in pictures throughout this blog are dialed in. There are so many things to say about these women, and so many directions to go in. They have cemented themselves into my stream of wanting, needing, doing and dreaming. I also LOVE showing them the wine world. Even though they tell me they will drink what I put in their glass, they have opinions and things to say.  And I want to hear it! – and maybe exploit it for the blog…

What did we drink at Toros Restaurant in Montclair? –

  • The Wine; Vina El Aguila, “Embocadero”
  • Area of Production: Ribera Del Duero, Spain
  • Grape Varietal: In theory, and through recent reviews of this wine, the grape is Tempranillo. Now, I kind of believe this. It is the obvious, being Tempranillo is the Holy Grail of Spanish wines, however, I can taste a few more things making up this blend. By law in the area, 75% MUST be Tempranillo, where most are 100%. There were no noticeable aging requirements on this wine, which leads me to believe this was an entry level wine – and I don’t hate that. Did I taste Tempranillo’s signature dried fig, cooked raspberries, or smokey fireplace love like I usually do?  Sure – but the roundness and sweeter fruit profile lends me to believe just maybe there was something else thrown into the stew.
  • Why Tempranillo for my girls? – A few reasons – I’m obsessed with Spanish wine lately.  Just obsessed. Another reason was the weather – the bite of winter has begun in New Jersey, and I am embracing it. I wanted something a little more spicy, warming, comforting, reassuring, and nostalgic. Yes, nostalgic. This is the first grape I really got to “know” back in the day, and it brings on some great memories. I also chose this amazing Kabab house to dine at – what better pairing than grilled meats with this grape, which could really go with just about anything. I also thought I was going to get much more extraction than I did because of the fact it was from Ribera Del Duero, but I’m over it. Sometimes we don’t get the expected, and can live with that.
  • What did my girls think? – Honestly, we were so into the meat fest going on rather than chatting about the complexities in the wine. We started with a bit of chardonnay, so our palates were already saturated with so many flavors – between the wine and the food choices. I am noticing their questions are changing – they are more interested in where the wine is coming from, what exactly is in the bottle, and WHY I chose to bring it that evening. I would love to get more into the why. I think this is one of the biggest hurdles in the shopping for wine consumers deal with. How can we educate, in a better method, what emotional choices are being made? Regardless, we gave this wine a 3 out of 5 – good fruit, modestly priced ( I picked it up for around 13-15 dollars), and completely matched the ambience and evening.

Choices in wine, people, restaurants, family, spouses, kids – things I think about, or have thought about, and have stopped thinking about on purpose. Yes, on purpose. Do we share a moment, and do you talk about “our moment” with other people when I am not around? Am I invited because it is the right thing to do, or is it just what should be done? Is being alone the better choice? They say you only have a handful of friends – but what if that handful gets juggled?  What if you are the piece that doesn’t really fit anymore? I’m celebrating ME everyday, and I hope you do too. But, how does this party play out?

Consciousness Found In A Bubble

Last week I lost awareness.

Sure of myself, a little cocky, knew things would go “my way”, judge mental of my past, hungry for the next step, and not filtering what I said or did.

It bothers me when I need to begin a statement with “Do you know how good I am?”.  Truth; if you need to say that, the person you are speaking to is probably aware. I’ve also worked way to long and hard on myself, my skill, my business, my wardrobe – obvious I’ve arrived at the table. So, now, how do I shimmy through the crack between success and “you are not what we need at this time” situations.

Here is the issue – sometimes you just know. Sometimes you can not only recognize but feel your superiority. Be obnoxious and admit this, because damn it, you have struggled hard not to be just another shallow wine girl.  My problem was that I grabbed that feeling, but forgot to notice the edges. When I say the edges, in wine and in my life situations, I mean the flavors and  perceptions that are secondary, but more than meaningful. I insulted when not meaning to, I slacked off when I should have been more reactive, and my filter mechanism faulted.

Then last night, while cuddling with Karma, I was told that I missed a “tradition”.  A friend and I always begin a meal with a glass of some kind of champagne – I happen to have missed the dinner I promised I would attend. You may not think this is a “thing”, but the thought of this being a special something was of total comfort to me. It’s like it became an obvious secret, or an indisputable action just known between two people. Coming into the holidays, and always feeling alone at this time, what a great reminder that culture doesn’t need to be created in a room full of people.

A favorite bubble? God, so many. Here is an easy one:

  • The Wine: Moet and Chandon, Rose Imperial
  • The Grape: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay; classic line up for a perfect champagne.  Each grape will bring it’s own character to the blend. Now, to make the wine pink, we can go about this in two ways. We can blend the two red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) to the white one – makes sense, right?  Or we can do something called the saignee method; you may also hear “bleeding” of the juice (translation). With the saignee method, you will be stealing a portion of the red wine juice after it has been in contact with skins and seeds. Basically, something red wine making is leaving behind. That portion of juice is then left to ferment on its own. The result? Better aromas and flavors, better concentration.
  • Is this a yes or no; Big yes. Friends in the wine industry may poo poo the simpleness of Moet, and I can agree at some level. But don’t be mad at this wine; it does more than the job and just can make you happy. And who doesn’t want that.
  • What do you do with it: I always would ask my students this question to get them to think deeper. Ok, we like the wine, but there is more to the wine’s life other than our simple consumption. The BEST and I mean BEST thing about bubbles is that you can drink them with ANYTHING. That is a broad statement; maybe not Mama’s lasagna, or a pot of sausage and peppers – I can think of better. But alone, with cheese, paired with fish, flan for dessert, spicy Thai food, BBQ, watching the sun set; should I go on?  There is versatility where you presume there shouldn’t be – I love that statement so much.

If we have a relationship, I will make a mistake. You will make a mistake. There will be things we should have talked about, and probably will choose to forget. I’m holding on to the reminders that we are not malicious people, and have found each other for a reason. When I disappointed a ex-coworker last week, she told me she knew I had a “good heart”.  So, even in my haste of creating a non reality situation for myself, she saw the acceptable. Remember this moment.