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.

All The Feels and Unfortunate Wine Choices

I”ve been working with a nutritional therapy practitioner in hoping I can clean up my dirty little secret – my lifestyle.  This is someone I know, someone that I am comfortable with, and someone that I can be completely honest with what I have been putting my body through that last few years.  It’s been a mess.  My sugar handling was out of control, I felt nauseous after I would eat, I craved food ALL DAY, and was loosing a sense of my self within all of this ugly behavior.

I’m going to share the outcome (a few TMI moments, but you can stop reading); my gums stopped bleeding when brushing my teeth (I can’t remember a time when they haven’t), my face “changed”, my belly stopped gurgling at every moment, my nails look pretty, my skin is glowing…and, yes, I lost some weight.  Not pounds and pounds (thank you hormones of a 47 year old woman), but my pooch has diminished, I can fit into my dresses, and I feel more comfortable going to bed at night.  Tons of work went into this – a blog post soon to follow on my plan.  What was the main culprit to my demise?  Yes, you guessed it, alcohol.

And let’s just put this out there, as it has been put out there before; I am not a big drinker.  I am actually a terrible drinker.  So when I was told alcohol had to leave my life for a stint, I wasn’t to broken up about it.  You don’t need to guzzle a bottle of wine and still be in the wine business.  I’m not out to judge those whom indulge either – you do you.  I became compliant, and did what was asked of me.  However, there may have been a little slip…

Something else to put out there; I love my time alone.  Even on a weekend evening when I could be with friends, family, dates; I would rather be on my couch.  Thank god for that big brown couch. It’s not the most comfortable thing, and is in a room that is slightly awkward and bizarre, but it works.  Last weekend I turned my back on this great nutrition plan and opened a bottle on said couch.  A bottle I know would top off the evening, comfort, love, and satisfy the hell out of my slightly down mood. I’ve said it before; Stags’ Leap Winery will bring immediate delight.  It doesn’t matter where I am, what I am doing or whom I am with – this is my anchor winery, my “it will be ok” friend, and an all over warming moment shared with just me.

I always open a bottle when I have a desire to taste the wine; not on my mood.  I never feel like I “need a drink”.  That evening, I felt like I needed Petite Sirah to solve my problems – first mistake.  I expected the wine to float me to a place of amenity – what the hell was I doing.  On an empty stomach, I opened the bottle.  Here is a wine that is big (or huge) in flavors, tannic as all hell, with a palate full of crushed blueberries and chocolate, and a high – bracing –  acidity.  All I tasted was that acidity and bitterness in the back of my throat, and then into my belly.  If I had to guess, stomach acids came to play.  I’ve been keeping them at bay, and they now realized they had a chance to shine once again.  The bottle, upon half a glass consumed, went down the drain.

This blog isn’t much of a review, teaching agent, judgement, or guide.  This blog is also not a bash on Stags’ Leap Winery, even though I may be emotionally a little mad at them. This blog is more of an investigation of why we drink wine, why we make the wine choices we do, and do we need to make them at all.  I’m not telling you to stop drinking wine; I’ll be out of a job.  What I think I am examining is how to serve you better choices, and better outcomes to those choices.

I’m thinking of teaching/facilitating/enjoying a few in home wine classes.  Maybe a guided wine dinner?  Maybe a wine focused/led holiday party?  What do you think?

A small documented history of myself and Stags’ Leap Winery….


Rebounds and Getting Played – Real Wine Talk

I cannot disconnect myself with what is happening in my mind and what is happening personally in my life from this blog. This morning I woke up, checked out social media, witnessed a special someone creeping around town like an animal, felt like a brick hit me in the face (or the dead heart that was being slightly revived), and knew I had to write this.

Just like stupid romantic relationships that you find yourself in, wine can be a rebound and a “getting played” moment.  What do these two have in common; they make you feel special for a moment, lost, empty, and really really stupid.  I’m not any of the later, and I’m here to tell you that you are not as well.  Let’s distinguish how we got ourselves here, and what we can do to prevent this:

Getting Played:


My friend Jackie buys a wine because the label is pretty.  This makes her feel special, intelligent, full of hope, confident that she is doing the right thing.  Sound familiar?  The marketing may tell you that you NEED this wine in your life, that this wine will bring you places you never have been before, your life will change if you just involve yourself a little bit…ok, that may not be the wine talking, but you understand where I am coming from.  I insert a picture of 19 Crimes here; a wine I sell, I love, I love selling.  This wine has everything I just spoke about, and does taste good.  You get a bang for your buck, a funky label that your friends will love to talk about, and a good time.  What does that sound like?  Beware, but be a risk taker.  Enjoy the positives that getting played may give your body and  palate.  It’s all just fun, isn’t it?

The Rebound:

IMG_1935I don’t consider a rebound always a bad thing.  It has the best intentions.  If I am feeling lonely, can’t make a decision, want a consistent warm hug, Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah does it for me. (the innuendos in this blog are killing me by the way).  However, rebound wines will take you over the hump, but may not take you all the way.  It’s easy to get stuck with the one thing you know will make you feel good when you don’t want to take that next step into the unknown.  Petite Sirah may be the unknown for you as a varietal – here is the seduction.  The best rebounds are in the lure of what will be, aren’t they?  This one happens to deliver, and deliver.  That’s why it may be my date for New Years Eve…

Where does that leave us?

33908720_UnknownGreat question.  Maybe it’s not drinking wine at all.  Maybe it’s about making healthier choices for my body and my mind.  I chose this picture above because it is filled with food and wine choices that make me feel positive and good.   I just realized the wine is a little blurred out; is that a sign?  It’s great to take some risks.  When that risk fails though, should I stay in bed with a pint of ice cream, or go lift weights.  You know the right thing to do, but the “right” thing just seems so hard…

The opening photo is a picture of a wine barrel being “toasted” and treated for wine aging.  I remember taking this photo and being overwhelmed; it was a burning hot, a type of anxiety, a thrilling and tactile experience.  This photo is where I want my heart, mind, and soul to stay.  If I continue to get played, or be the “rebound girl”, so be it – it still makes me feel like the fire.  If I make poor choices in love and wine, so be it.  I rarely notice social media posts about mistakes we may make.  They happen to me at every turn.  Thank goodness they do – I’m learning, maybe closing myself off a bit, but still curious.

Culinary Adventures With MaryEllen

I love the stories of your mother in the kitchen, cooking great meals, you and your siblings sharing in the chores of dinner, stories passed between all of you, aromas in the air seducing you and pulling you in……

MaryEllen Pajak tried; she tried.

There were a few good meals created by my mother in my youth.  I’ll give her that.  However, my mother is not an adventurous eater.  If it is not familiar and agreeable to her palate, it will not be made.  There have been some changes over the years, this is true.  The biggest change has been her new love for wine, and her acknowledgment that there are just O-K wines, and REALLY GOOD WINES out there.  She won’t stray from her chicken parm, but will snub a crappy version of Cabernet Sauvignon.

During my recent trip to Florida, I decided to cook for my mother, each evening, in her beautiful kitchen.  Every day the two of us would discuss the menu, shop for the ingredients, and pair the wine.  Yes, pair the wine.  I involved MaryEllen in all decisions from the focus of the meal, to the styling of the table.  She excelled at styling the table and I believed enjoyed this part the most.  Who wouldn’t with her array of dishes, placemats, cutlery, wine decanters – the list goes on and on….(she can be a bit of a shopper..)

You know how this turned out.  When first viewed as a chore, meal time became what we both looked forward to each day.  The two of us had a common goal and charged ahead together as a unit.  It brightened us.  Meal time became our conversation, and our converstation with everyone we met.

When I spoke to her today, she told me she was missing me.  I know she is, but it is different this time around.  She is missing the companion that oohed and ahhed over sauces.  She is missing laughing in the pool over taking Instagram photos of TBones.  She is missing eating late, (“which a lady should not do” – by the way, dinner was served at 7pm) and planning the meals moving forward.  Food can change us, but food experiences can alter us.

If I have just become the family cook, then so be it.  To see the face of a woman that thinks spaghetti and meatballs is a culinary masterpiece get turned on to stuffed pork chops is worth the effort.  Bravo MaryEllen, and keep on collecting pretty glassware.  We will need it for our next culinary adventure together!

This is a wine blog, right?  Here is your wine review:

Stags Leap Winery Chardonnay – Please don’t think you can’t have chardonnay and meat together.  We paired this wine with stuffed pork chops over yellow rice.  This wine is just gorgeous; the point of this chardonnay is to retain it’s freshness while delivering a purity of fruit and a nice complexity, brought on by the oak.  There is intensity and focus, but balanced with the core of nice citrus flavors.  It is getting hotter, and you are going to want to stray from this varietal; don’t do it – grab a bottle and chill, but not generously.  To much chill will mask this beauty of this wine.

And I can’t forget steak night…

MaryEllen dinner #2

An Affair at Restaurant Nicholas

I’m getting tired of eating at restaurants.

Yes, I said it.

I feel like my connection to food is getting lost. I am uninspired. Bored. I’m seeing the same thing reinvented with a new costume. What happened to originality? What happened to blowing my foodie mind with an experience I can write home about? (or at least in this blog)

I am also the worst diner you want at your table. I’m the girl that pulls the meal and wine choices apart.

“Should we have ordered this?”

“Taste this wine again and see if any spice notes come out.” (sigh)

It’s miserable to be with me. I pull out a camera and video your reactions. I ask way to many questions. Wine notes jotted down in your IPad should not be taken on date night.

However, lunch yesterday was off the hook.

I’ve never been to Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank (Middletown?) before. Like many New Jersey dining freaks, I’ve heard the buzz. I’m not about buzz. If everyone is going there, I am going in the opposite direction. I also have had some “difficulties” in the past selling this restaurant, well, anything at all. This is not because of Nicholas (whom is a very sweet man), this is because of the sheer fact that I was concentrating on the wrong message in my sale. Does this restaurant want the brands you have never heard of before? – yes. Do they want the best pricing on the things you have heard of before? – yes. To be honest, I didn’t have a plan in the past. I thought I could wake up, get inspired, grab a sample bottle and go. That was my plan, and I never understood why it didn’t work. I now see that Nicholas has a focus, a direction, and registers with the guest in a complete way. There is a beginning, middle, and ending. The bar, drapes, table cloths, service, and food leaving that kitchen has all connected with each other, and therefore, connected with me.

Thanks for the lesson sir.

Check out my video below to see what happened during this four hour (Ok, it was a trade thing-Get off my back) luncheon.