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.

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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?